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Get More Early-Season Birds

It weave left, slip right, then disappear through the auburn treetops. It’s not often you get such a clear look at an escaping grouse during the early weeks of the season, but there I was, frozen as the bird slipped through the prettiest shooting lane I’d see on the entire trip. I never pulled the trigger.

ruffed-grouse-flying-down-from-limb-timothy-flanigan

The embarrassing reality of this scenario is that I’d been caught off guard. It was my first grouse hunt, and I wasn’t prepared for the surprise of the flush. That was a tough lesson, but it wasn’t the only one I learned during that trip to the hallowed grouse of NW Ontario’s Boreal Forest. Here are some more hits and misses that, if you’ll consider before you reach the woods, should help you bag more early-season birds.


1.  Being Aggressive

There’s no place for methodical shooting when hunting grouse. There’s no time for the shot to develop, as with long, loping shots on the sporting clays course. Grouse are fast, and they live in dense cover. But you don’t have to be a snap shooter to be successful. You just have to be aggressive. You should have nothing on your mind but finding that bird. The sooner you see it, the sooner you can move for it. Visualize beating the bird to the treetops with your gun.

2.  Going Off Trail
We started our morning busting brush but by midday got lazy and stayed on old logging roads & trails. The result was a half dozen points in cover that we couldn’t reach in time. Our hunt picked up tremendously in the afternoon, when we got back in the brush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

3.  Misjudging Range
Twice I flushed grouse that I thought were out of range, although they were visible, only to realize afterward that they were makeable shots. Part of the fault was how I prepared. Before the trip I had practiced mostly fast, outgoing targets thrown from a few yards in front of me—textbook fast-flushing bird presentations. I was visualizing those shots in the field, and when birds flushed from farther away, I had the impression they were out of range.  Be sure to practice at longer ranges.

4.  Starting With The Gun Up
A solid ready position is a key to hitting fast-flying birds. It gets your body and eyes ready to make a quick, efficient move. When you moved in on birds with the stock up under your armpit and the barrel pointed forward, you will shoot much better.

5.  Relaxing After The Flush
Grouse might not covey up like quail, but they do often travel in close proximity to each other, especially where there’s a good food source. I saw this first-hand when we flushed three pairs of grouse over the course of a day. So when a bird flushes out of range or doesn’t offer a shot, don’t drop your guard. Be ready for another bird to flush.

Evening_Flight-_Ruffed_Grouse_large

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Hunting Bears With Bows – Decoy Tactics

Trophy boars are smarter than your average bear. But even the savviest old bruin has a few chinks in his armor. Using a decoy is an exciting way to exploit them. Even weary old black bears will come in spoiling for a fight. Here are three strategies for drawing a dominant, hungry bruin into bow range.

 1

The Intruder
Big boars are solitary animals and will claim a food source as their own, commonly defecating along entrance trails to warn other bears away. To get this bear’s attention, stake a small bear decoy near the food source, positioned with its head down and its backside facing the direction you expect a boar to approach. Attach a few strips of black cloth to the decoy’s ears and tail for added realism and collect some bear scat from another area—preferably from a boar—and with a plastic bag, transplant it on the entrance trails.

Now sit back. Any wise old boar that might otherwise camp just off the food until nightfall is almost sure to investigate when he sees your “intruder.” Keep in mind that a boar may visit a food site daily or stop by every second or third day while patrolling his home turf. Be patient, and don’t let your guard down.

2

The Easy Meal
Black bears are fond of fresh meat and will drop their guard to capture an animal in distress. Any small, furry decoy, like those used for foxes and coyotes, wiggling about in plain sight is sure to catch a passing bear’s attention. With a little luck, the bruin will move in quickly to finish off what he thinks is hapless prey. If he hangs up, though, add a few squeals from a dying-rabbit call to entice him.

If whitetail deer are prevalent in your area, a fawn decoy can be too much for any hungry black bear to ignore. Try a few fawn contact bleats, and if that fails, go to a fawn-in-distress call. Nock a broadhead and get ready. The bear will come in fast, so be prepared to shoot pronto.

3

The Feeding Female
You’ll have to wait a few months to use this setup, but it’s a good one to have in your arsenal. Black bears rut in late spring and early summer and will visit bait sites, looking for a sow in heat. If baiting is legal in your area, position a small black bear decoy with its head in the bait barrel, and hang a few scent canisters soaked with sow-in-heat urine 3 or 4 feet off the ground nearby.

Big boars are ultracautious around bait, so odor control is critical. As you’re setting up, wear rubber gloves and spray the decoy down liberally with a quality scent remover. The boar will approach the decoy warily. Don’t rush the shot. As he investigates, you should have plenty of time to draw.

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TIPS for Hunting Grouse Without a Dog + video

Ruffed grouse (colloquially called partridge) are the premier upland game bird of northern Ontario and are both delicious and incredibly difficult to hunt. They often dwell in the kind of thick, previously logged, new-growth forest habitat that is nearly impossible to walk through and offers a wall of brushy cover that can make spotting and hitting birds a tall order.

grouse (3)

A hunter with a well- trained canine companion can level the playing field somewhat due to the fact that a good dog can sniff out birds and give the hunter a slight edge. Unfortunately, not everyone is in a position to give a hunting dog the proper home and training it needs and are thus stuck hunting solo. All is not lost, however, and the following tips will improve a hunter’s chances of bagging a few grouse without the aid of a dog.

1. Locate Food Sources

Omnivorous ruffed grouse have a varied diet that includes insects, snails, slugs, mushrooms, and the leaves and buds of trees (usually poplar), but they have a particular affinity for the various fruits that are common to their habitat.

Other fruits that may attract grouse include choke cherries, blackberries (if they are still present at the start of hunting season), and the fruit of hawthorn trees or “haws”.

grouse

2. Stick to the beaten path

Whenever it is possible, safe, and legal to do so, it makes sense for a grouse hunter to stick to established trails and decommissioned logging roads. The primary reason for holding to roads and trails is that these travel ways provide grouse with a convenient source of dust and pebbles. The birds dust themselves to control parasites, and eat small pebbles to aid in the breakdown of food stored in their gizzards. It follows that grouse often stay within easy striking distance of a path or road. Areas where a food source, such as a stand of apple trees or poplar saplings, is immediately adjacent to gravel path or road typically yield a lot of grouse.

Trails and roads also facilitate easy movement through the thick, brushy, and nearly unwalkable new-growth forests that comprise typical ruffed grouse habitat.

3. On rainy days, take to the pines

Grouse, much like any other terrestrial animal in existence, don’t like to be rained on and will seek shelter during inclement weather. This shelter often takes the form of such coniferous trees as balsams and spruces. Stands of pines that are in close proximity to food sources are particularly good places to look for grouse on wet weather days.

4. Keep one eye on the ground and the other on the trees

An easy error to make while hunting grouse is to keep eyes only on the ground. While ruffed grouse are primarily ground-dwelling birds, they do spend an appreciable amount of time perched in trees. A hunter concentrating on spotting birds on the ground will likely miss birds perched in tress and vice versa.

grouse (2)

5. Catch them sitting still

Ruffed grouse are an incredibly difficult bird to wing shoot, especially without the help of a dog to provide advanced warning or a bird’s presence. Not only do grouse take flight in a manner that results in a sudden blur of motion and thunderous wing beats likely to startle an unaware hunter, but the birds are also adept at quickly taking cover by putting trees and thick brush between them and the muzzle of a shotgun. By the time a hunter, surprised by a bird, shoulders his or her gun, disengages the safety, and gets on target, the bird will likely be gone. That’s not to say those hunting sans dog will never hit a flying grouse, it’s just that spotting the birds before they take flight is a surer way to put meat on the grill.

Spotting grouse before they fly is a skill in and of itself as their natural camouflage is just shy of perfect. A good way to spot them is to look for movement rather than trying to recognize their outline on the forest floor. A grouse moves in a very awkward, jerking motion, similar to that of a chicken. This distinctive movement will often give away a bird’s position.

Occasionally, ruffed grouse will also give away their position with sound. The noise that ruffed grouse are perhaps best known for is their characteristic drumming that sounds similar to a distant lawnmower engine starting and stalling. This sound will make a hunter aware of a bird’s presence in a general area, but it is difficult to use it to pinpoint an exact location.  Another sound emitted by grouse is a kind of high-pitched, raspy clucking.  Grouse will occasionally make this clucking sound when distressed a few seconds prior to taking off, thereby giving a hunter advanced warning of its presence in the immediate area.

6. Walk slow, pause often

This last piece of advice is perhaps the single most important.  Most of us have become conditioned to walk through our day to day lives as quickly as we possibly can. This mindset is perfect when navigating the local supermarket, but it will lead to certain failure on a hunt.

Rather than walking quickly and continuously, it is important to move at what at first will seem like a snail’s pace, and to pause every few steps to thoroughly scan the woods. Walking in this manner will not only result in the spotting of more game, but will also result in a hunter noticing other interesting details about the woods that would be missed when hiking at forced march speeds. Noticing such details as a vibrantly colored mushroom, a hawk or eagle circling high overhead, or even just a really cool looking tree are as important to the experience of hunting as bagging game.

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Ozonics: How Does it Work?

DSC_0173
Thankfully, wild turkeys don’t have a sense of smell, like deer, or we’d never outfox one. However, turkeys often thrive in deer habitat. Many seemingly perfect spring gobbler set-ups have been blown by a snorting deer that entered the hunter’s scent stream. A unique device called “Ozonics” can change that by eliminating human odor. It’s especially effective in an enclosed space, such as a turkey or deer blind. This unit works in spring or fall and has captured the interest of sportsmen, yet many aren’t sure how it works. Here’s the explanation from the manufacturer.

ozonics0b00a4ed-2288-483c-8cf7-b8e2d7d42280Neutralize a mature buck’s best defense, its nose, and a hunter’s chances of success rise dramatically. Cover scents, hunting clothes washed in scent-free detergents, avoiding a buck’s core area during the prime time to hunt because the wind isn’t right… Hunters are obsessed with scent, and for good reason. A deer’s nose is truly its best sense.

1041It’s not often a new hunting product revolutionizes the sport. Ozonics is just such a product. O1041zonics is the only scent-control product that deals with your human scent zone. Simply, there is nothing else like it. Ozonics is an in-the-field ozone generator. An Ozonics Unit electronically changes oxygen into ozone, which destroys your human scent zone. Ozonics blankets your scent zone with scent-destroying ozone propelled by a quiet fan. The ozone is unstable, so it will bond with your scent molecules, rendering them indistinguishable to the nose of a deer.Ozonics should be positioned 6 to 10 inches above you and angled downward. Use a wind tracker to detect wind direction, and then aim Ozonics downwind. Heavy ozone molecules generated by the Ozonics Unit fall through your scent zone. The ozone concentration is heaviest in the direction Ozonics is facing and closer to the unit. This is why knowing wind direction is important. Reducing your scent profile means more ozone reaches your scent stream.

Best of all, Ozonics is guaranteed. If you do not experience a dramatic reduction in the number of downwind deer that bust you, Ozonics will refund your money in the same calendar year as purchase.

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How To Prevent Venison From Tasting Awful

I hear people say all the time that they don’t like the taste of deer. Some people say that just because they know what they’re eating and have a preconceived notion that it won’t be good. Others have legit gripes, mainly due to poor handling by the hunter from the time of the kill up until it was cooked. This often results in gamey, tough meat. Here are some tips to help combat bad-tasting venison.

venison

Hunting in the real world is not like the Outdoor Channel portrays it to be. Hunters make bad shots from time to time and the deer has to be tracked for a while. Shot placement and the stress the animal received while being trailed plays a big role in gamey meat. The faster a deer dies, the sooner it can be field dressed. This will reduce the amount of acid that builds up in the deer’s muscles.

Hunters often fail to get the deer cooled as quickly as possible. The first step it to field dress the animal immediately and wash out the cavity with cool water. Be sure to dry the cavity out, as the water can be a breeding ground for bacteria. If the temperatures outside are in the mid-30s or cooler, it’s okay to let the deer hang. Anything warmer than that, and the deer needs to hang in a walk-in cooler (or be skinned, quartered, and put on ice if you don’t have a walk-in).

A whitetail is not a hard to deer to quarter. Because of how their joints and tissues hold their legs on, a simple pocket knife can have a deer quartered quicker than you might think. Some might use a saw to cut through bone marrow and small pieces of bone, but then you’d need to watch that shavings from the saw don’t get mixed in with the meat. Stick with a sharp knife instead, and your meat will be free of small bone pieces that can contaminate the meat.

Growing up, I can remember how much my dad loved the taste of fat from a good cut of beef. The same does not hold true with deer fat. Simply stated, deer fat tastes awful. It is not red meat, so cut it off before it’s made into steaks or burger. This includes all fat and silver skin.

Every year before deer season begins, we call in an order to the local butcher shop for beef suet. Even though we removed all of the deer fat, we need to add some sort of fat, whether beef or pork, when grinding it. If this is not done, the lean venison will quickly fall apart when making burgers, meat loaves, etc. We add beef fat at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds venison per pound of fat).

If you have the means, the time, and the knowledge, I recommend processing all your deer yourself. When you take a deer to a meat locker you can’t be sure how the meat is handled — or if it’s even your own deer that you’re getting back. For all you know, you could be getting back someone elses deer, perhaps one that was gut-shot and not properly handled after the shot. If you have to take a deer to a processor, research the facility by talking to other hunters who’ve used it, and also talk with the workers, who will hopefully be honest with you.

Don’t overcook venison. Cooking deer for too long causes it to become chewy and dry. Venison is best cooked to medium rare, but the outside needs to be cooked. To accomplish this, the grill must be hot enough to quickly sear the outside and lock in the flavors and juices. Turn your venison only once. If there are no grill marks on the meat after three minutes or so, the grate is not hot enough.

Freezer-burnt food, whether it is venison or other food, does not taste good. Some people use a vacuum sealer; if you go this route, buy a good one, as a cheap product will not keep the food fresh. When we butcher our deer, we make wrapping the meat a family affair, with all involved. We put one-pound portions of burger in sandwich bags and the steaks and roasts are wrapped with plastic wrap. After covering it with plastic wrap, we wrap it with good freezer paper and tapes. Writing on each package, we identify the cut of meat, who killed it, and the date of the kill.

I hope this advice helps you create a great-tasting meal. A few more final tips: The younger the deer, the better, more tender it will be (even though this might not sit well with trophy hunters). Thaw venison slowly to prevent toughness, then serve it hot and keep the remainder hot to prevent it from getting a waxy taste.

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Hunting Bears With Bows – Decoy Tactics

Trophy boars are smarter than your average bear. But even the savviest old bruin has a few chinks in his armor. Using a decoy is an exciting way to exploit them. Even weary old black bears will come in spoiling for a fight. Here are three strategies for drawing a dominant, hungry bruin into bow range.

 1

The Intruder
Big boars are solitary animals and will claim a food source as their own, commonly defecating along entrance trails to warn other bears away. To get this bear’s attention, stake a small bear decoy near the food source, positioned with its head down and its backside facing the direction you expect a boar to approach. Attach a few strips of black cloth to the decoy’s ears and tail for added realism and collect some bear scat from another area—preferably from a boar—and with a plastic bag, transplant it on the entrance trails.

Now sit back. Any wise old boar that might otherwise camp just off the food until nightfall is almost sure to investigate when he sees your “intruder.” Keep in mind that a boar may visit a food site daily or stop by every second or third day while patrolling his home turf. Be patient, and don’t let your guard down.

2

The Easy Meal
Black bears are fond of fresh meat and will drop their guard to capture an animal in distress. Any small, furry decoy, like those used for foxes and coyotes, wiggling about in plain sight is sure to catch a passing bear’s attention. With a little luck, the bruin will move in quickly to finish off what he thinks is hapless prey. If he hangs up, though, add a few squeals from a dying-rabbit call to entice him.

If whitetail deer are prevalent in your area, a fawn decoy can be too much for any hungry black bear to ignore. Try a few fawn contact bleats, and if that fails, go to a fawn-in-distress call. Nock a broadhead and get ready. The bear will come in fast, so be prepared to shoot pronto.

3

The Feeding Female
You’ll have to wait a few months to use this setup, but it’s a good one to have in your arsenal. Black bears rut in late spring and early summer and will visit bait sites, looking for a sow in heat. If baiting is legal in your area, position a small black bear decoy with its head in the bait barrel, and hang a few scent canisters soaked with sow-in-heat urine 3 or 4 feet off the ground nearby.

Big boars are ultracautious around bait, so odor control is critical. As you’re setting up, wear rubber gloves and spray the decoy down liberally with a quality scent remover. The boar will approach the decoy warily. Don’t rush the shot. As he investigates, you should have plenty of time to draw.

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Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

TIPS for Hunting Grouse Without a Dog + video

Ruffed grouse (colloquially called partridge) are the premier upland game bird of northern Ontario and are both delicious and incredibly difficult to hunt. They often dwell in the kind of thick, previously logged, new-growth forest habitat that is nearly impossible to walk through and offers a wall of brushy cover that can make spotting and hitting birds a tall order.

grouse (3)

A hunter with a well- trained canine companion can level the playing field somewhat due to the fact that a good dog can sniff out birds and give the hunter a slight edge. Unfortunately, not everyone is in a position to give a hunting dog the proper home and training it needs and are thus stuck hunting solo. All is not lost, however, and the following tips will improve a hunter’s chances of bagging a few grouse without the aid of a dog.

1. Locate Food Sources

Omnivorous ruffed grouse have a varied diet that includes insects, snails, slugs, mushrooms, and the leaves and buds of trees (usually poplar), but they have a particular affinity for the various fruits that are common to their habitat.

Other fruits that may attract grouse include choke cherries, blackberries (if they are still present at the start of hunting season), and the fruit of hawthorn trees or “haws”.

grouse

2. Stick to the beaten path

Whenever it is possible, safe, and legal to do so, it makes sense for a grouse hunter to stick to established trails and decommissioned logging roads. The primary reason for holding to roads and trails is that these travel ways provide grouse with a convenient source of dust and pebbles. The birds dust themselves to control parasites, and eat small pebbles to aid in the breakdown of food stored in their gizzards. It follows that grouse often stay within easy striking distance of a path or road. Areas where a food source, such as a stand of apple trees or poplar saplings, is immediately adjacent to gravel path or road typically yield a lot of grouse.

Trails and roads also facilitate easy movement through the thick, brushy, and nearly unwalkable new-growth forests that comprise typical ruffed grouse habitat.

3. On rainy days, take to the pines

Grouse, much like any other terrestrial animal in existence, don’t like to be rained on and will seek shelter during inclement weather. This shelter often takes the form of such coniferous trees as balsams and spruces. Stands of pines that are in close proximity to food sources are particularly good places to look for grouse on wet weather days.

4. Keep one eye on the ground and the other on the trees

An easy error to make while hunting grouse is to keep eyes only on the ground. While ruffed grouse are primarily ground-dwelling birds, they do spend an appreciable amount of time perched in trees. A hunter concentrating on spotting birds on the ground will likely miss birds perched in tress and vice versa.

grouse (2)

5. Catch them sitting still

Ruffed grouse are an incredibly difficult bird to wing shoot, especially without the help of a dog to provide advanced warning or a bird’s presence. Not only do grouse take flight in a manner that results in a sudden blur of motion and thunderous wing beats likely to startle an unaware hunter, but the birds are also adept at quickly taking cover by putting trees and thick brush between them and the muzzle of a shotgun. By the time a hunter, surprised by a bird, shoulders his or her gun, disengages the safety, and gets on target, the bird will likely be gone. That’s not to say those hunting sans dog will never hit a flying grouse, it’s just that spotting the birds before they take flight is a surer way to put meat on the grill.

Spotting grouse before they fly is a skill in and of itself as their natural camouflage is just shy of perfect. A good way to spot them is to look for movement rather than trying to recognize their outline on the forest floor. A grouse moves in a very awkward, jerking motion, similar to that of a chicken. This distinctive movement will often give away a bird’s position.

Occasionally, ruffed grouse will also give away their position with sound. The noise that ruffed grouse are perhaps best known for is their characteristic drumming that sounds similar to a distant lawnmower engine starting and stalling. This sound will make a hunter aware of a bird’s presence in a general area, but it is difficult to use it to pinpoint an exact location.  Another sound emitted by grouse is a kind of high-pitched, raspy clucking.  Grouse will occasionally make this clucking sound when distressed a few seconds prior to taking off, thereby giving a hunter advanced warning of its presence in the immediate area.

6. Walk slow, pause often

This last piece of advice is perhaps the single most important.  Most of us have become conditioned to walk through our day to day lives as quickly as we possibly can. This mindset is perfect when navigating the local supermarket, but it will lead to certain failure on a hunt.

Rather than walking quickly and continuously, it is important to move at what at first will seem like a snail’s pace, and to pause every few steps to thoroughly scan the woods. Walking in this manner will not only result in the spotting of more game, but will also result in a hunter noticing other interesting details about the woods that would be missed when hiking at forced march speeds. Noticing such details as a vibrantly colored mushroom, a hawk or eagle circling high overhead, or even just a really cool looking tree are as important to the experience of hunting as bagging game.

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