Thursday, December 29, 2011

In Praise of Varmint Hunting

In the past couple of posts here, I made allusions to a desire to get out and do some coyote hunting around my neck of the woods, with an eye to helping out landowners with their predator control.  For the uninitiated, coyotes in Southwest Ontario (much of Ontario really) are in need of controlling.  If you took a random sample of say, thirty rural landowners, and asked them if they’ve lost livestock or pets to coyotes in the past twenty four months, I would conjecture that maybe fully a third of them would say that they have.  I’d also conjecture that well over half would report some kind of run-in with a bold, fearless coyote that may not have led to the loss of livestock or companion animals, but that certainly put the threat of such an event on the landowner’s mind.  This was not always the case, and despite my youth (I’m not even ‘scraping thirty-five’ as one friend of mine puts it) I have heard countless tales from the older generations that comprise my friends and hunting companions that relate the history of the coyote from a once infrequently-seen predator to its current status as a downright nuisance.  Suburban (and in some cases, urban) people also report coyotes in areas that fall outside the animal’s original ecological niche, so much so that national media reports have been printed on the subject.  Clearly, something is up with coyotes.

Now volumes of work and reams of print have been dedicated to the subject of coyote population dynamics and all the environmental and ecological factors that drive said dynamic, so I will defer to the findings of experts in this respect; what I will state is this (and it is based solely on personal observation and anecdotal evidence so take it for what it is worth)...there are a load of coyotes around, and a glut of predators (especially such highly efficient predators as the coyote) will, and in my eyes is, having a negative effect on what could be dubbed the “preferred game animals” of Ontario.

But enough justification.  Despite anything remotely controversial I may have posited as my viewpoint in numerous preceding “Taboo of the Day” posts, I have never received such a venomous response as I did recently regarding my simple statement that I would like to hunt some coyotes this winter.  Now many of them were from apparent non-hunters (which is expected, although I still don’t fully understand the psychology of cruising websites devoted to topics that you vehemently oppose and then sending vitriolic emails to the proprietors of those websites…I, quite frankly, have more productive things to occupy my time with) but I did get a couple posts from dedicated hunters as well.  Unlike the non-hunters (who just got all sweary and rude in their emails) the hunting public that emailed me had some cogent arguments that I simply could not refute, so I won’t try to.  I fully respect the stance these individuals had (and it was unanimous, interestingly enough) that it was against their ethic to shoot a coyote (or fox, woodchuck, or raccoon) because they did not intend to eat it.  I can support them in that stance.  I don’t share that ethic to the degree that they do, because I still find value in varmint hunting, but I can’t find fault in their logic.  I was very happy that they politely and articulately shared their point of view with me.

As mentioned above though, it is not against my personal ethic to hunt and harvest animals that have traditionally been dubbed “varmints” (a term by the way that has fallen out of favour in some hunting circles because it apparently creates a demarcation line between pests and traditional ‘game animals’…it has been replaced in some circles with ‘predator hunting’ or ‘population control’.  I prefer, and will continue to use, the classic term).  Now you, dear reader, may ask why I still see merit in varmint hunting when I have devoted numerous posts to a definition of hunting that weighs heavily in favour of the ethical consumption of game meat.  I can assure you that I intend no hypocrisy in this stance.  However, a large part of my hunting ethic also involves responsible stewardship and continuous, improved enjoyment of the hunting tradition as well.  And this is where I side with varmint hunting.  Many (I would say the majority) of negative interactions with coyotes, raccoons, foxes, skunks, woodchucks (aka, groundhogs), porcupines, feral hogs, and so on down the list are not rooted in hunting.  I would argue that the cause of these issues are more firmly found in over-zealous human development and expansion, ill-advised population introductions, agricultural and ecological practices that are propitious for the animals in question (both predators and prey), and a host of other non-hunting related factors that have  either brought people into direct interaction with wild animals that they previously would not have encountered or allowed the animals in question to thrive and expand their ranges into areas that they had not previously occupied.  Or both.  I work with a very nice man who attributes the loss of his housecat earlier this year to coyote predation.  He and his family were obviously upset and I agree that it is a loss for them, but I could not help but wonder if he understands that purchasing a home in a large executive development in what was once a primarily wilderness area was the key contributing factor.  Frankly the coyote (or fisher, or fox, or whatever it was that killed his cat) was there first.  We could all do well to remember that simple fact when we have ‘problems’ with wildlife; it is a fact that I think many varmint hunters understand. 

Another point I’d like to make is that in the context of varmint hunting, the operative word is ‘hunting’.  We are hunters, not exterminators.  I would urge any and all varmint hunters to embrace this distinction and act accordingly, if only to prevent an attitude of wanton extirpation when it comes to the activity, as this is not really a publically preferable or ecologically responsible alternative either.  What I think many varmint hunters are striving for is a fair chase approach to controlling the way that non-game species interact with people.  The simple wiping out of a predator or non-predator simply because they pose an inconvenience or a legitimate threat smacks of the same irresponsibility as allowing unchecked expansion and unfettered crashes in population.  Some would argue that allowing a species to go about its population cycle ‘naturally’ is preferable to hunting in any way; however I would argue that the animals themselves have no concept of their ‘natural’ state and that they will use any and all artificial, enhanced, or otherwise ‘unnatural’ sources to aid in their survival.  A deer does not understand that a standing corn field is not ‘native browse’; it simply eats to stay alive.  Likewise, a coyote or fisher does not make the distinction between squirrel and housecat; it will exploit the resources of its survival efficiently and with the inhumane calculations of its evolution.  A porcupine doesn’t choose to gnaw on a tree rather than chewing through a barn door or the underside of a home…it just gnaws.  And do not forget to give thought to what happens in a population that has become dependent on artificial sources when that artificial source is removed, poisoned, or protected.  But enough impromptu ecology class; I think this point has been sufficiently explained.  Varmint hunting allows for a means to address some of this imbalance, while likewise providing increased hunting opportunities and time afield.

From a strictly hunting perspective, varmint hunting is challenging, and there is merit there as well.  Either in terms of physically pursuing the animals or in executing an effective, immediate killing shot there is much in varmint hunting to test and refine the hunter’s skill.  Every type of varmint hunt is different and presents its own unique set of difficulties, and associated rewards.  To take on the keenly-developed senses of a coyote in a sit-and-call type of hunt is a supreme challenge, but then again so is using hounds to dog a fox as the little escape artist uses all its cunning to get to safety, which it does more often than not.  Both approaches present different shots and experiences, and both require different skills to be done in an efficient and humane way.  Hunting gophers and woodchucks presents its own unique set of problems, but those hunts often foster good landowner relationships, particularly if the hunter acts responsibly in accessing the property and using good judgment in discharging their firearm.  In this respect accuracy, effective still-hunting, and execution are key; skills that always need practice and that are readily transferable to many other hunting scenarios.  In general, very rarely is varmint hunting a ‘pot-shot’ type of act, and it is almost never easy.

But in general I support and engage in varmint hunting because it is part of the responsible management of wildlife, because for better or for worse the environment is already changed and the animals don’t know any different.  Stewardship sometimes (I would argue oftentimes) is a labour of mud and blood.  Varmint hunting is not as glamorous as harvesting a mature white-tail buck, or arguably as exciting as the full-strut approach of a big boss gobbler on a still and warm spring morning, or is it as esoterically beautiful as witnessing the wide swing of a flock of mallards against a low gray sky as they respond to your enticing calls and parachute into your setup with feet and flaps down.  But, I would argue, it is a necessary and time-honoured part of being involved in the hunting tradition.  And by that alone it is worth pursuing.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Taboo of the Day: Stay In and Go Hunting?

I received some very pleasant emails the last week or so congratulating me on my return to blogging after a self-imposed hiatus, and for the couple of people who said they like my “lighter writing” (that’s a direct quote by the way) I’m sorry to disappoint you, but this is going to be lacking in frivolity.

I was sitting at home nursing a sore ankle that I earned in a soccer collision this week, when a commercial came on for Cabela’s Big Game Hunter video game platform.  Now I’ve played these games (or similar ones before) and before anyone calls me a hypocrite or a Scrooge, or whatever else gamers call people who pointedly disagree with something videogame-related, let me state that I appreciate that this is a game, and I have no fundamental opposition to this game’s existence.  I don’t think first-person-shooter games make people psychotic or desensitized to violence.  Please don’t call me a nerf-herder or something like that (how behind-the-times does that make me sound?)

Now, onto my point, or more accurately, points.  Call me an irrepressible optimist if you will, but I tend to think that marketing has the ability to reinforce positive messages.  Sadly in the commercial I saw, no positive messages were to be had.  In this commercial, a taxidermy deer has been rigged to appear to be playing the game, and with each pull of the trigger it snickers gleefully at “killing” another deer.  The deer shoots four or five I think.  The acts are calculated and methodical, with nothing but a smug, ruthless efficiency being portrayed as the dominant (nay, only) emotions associated with it.  Which I guess is fundamentally okay because it is just a game, or so the argument would be from gamers, advertisers, Activision, and likely Cabela’s.  Again this is okay because I have the ability to delineate between reality and fantasy, as do most other hunters I believe.  Based on the online reviews of the game though, it looks like a gaming public thinks that this is at least a modest portrayal of what hunting is actually all about, which is kind of frightening. 

My first gripe (because let’s not mince words) is that for those not initiated in the tradition of hunting there may not be any realization that hunting is just not like that, period.  But beyond that I made a few other observations that I thought I would lay out more as bullet points to prompt discussion than as arguments in general.  The following items should probably be thought about as we think about digital re-creations of the hunting experience.
·         Hunting involves really killing something, a fact that I bet the vast majority of participants in this game have no stomach, appreciation, or potentially the will for.
·         The video game doesn’t show the work side of hunting (i.e. field-dressing, skinning, transporting game, etc), it just shows the killing and presumably, leaving the animals in the field.
·         There actually are (and I would argue, always should be) a complex network of emotions that a hunter is forced to deal with when they succeed in taking an animal’s life.  The callousness and nonchalance in the product marketing with regards to the simulated ‘deaths’ in the game is somewhat disconcerting to say the least.
·         The pretend killing in this commercial is admittedly “messed up”, but no alternative interpretation of hunting is offered, leaving the public to potentially think that hunters take a “messed up” approach (i.e. remorseless) approach to the act of killing game animals.  But then again I have an almost paranoid concern about hunter representation in the media, so maybe I’m over-reacting….I didn’t really like that sketch on the Muppet Show where the trigger-happy, red-neck hunter stereotypes chased an adorable rabbit around as the rabbit and his woodland friends sang Buffalo Springfield’s “Stop, Hey What’s That Sound” either.  Maybe I don’t have any sense of humour?  I thought I did.
·         Cabela’s likely only endorsed this for market-share purposes.  At least I hope they did; if not they have a heavily skewed view of the type of hunting their generally good corporate name is being attached to, an equally frightening proposition.

So there you have it.  Go ahead, shout “Bah!  Humbug!” at me if you will.  Tell me I missed the point; call me a pedantic reactionary with no sense of humour.  Do whatever you want, I guess.  But maybe, just maybe, instead of buying a game console and this game, spend some money instead on taking a hunter safety class and buying a hunting license.  And rather than sitting in a basement in front of a flat screen with a miniature assault rifle in your hands shooting at pixelated deer, invest your time by seeking out a mentor that will teach how to really hunt and how to actually conduct yourself when faced with even the imaginary prospect of pointing a firearm with deadly intent at a big-game animal.  Because in the end, fresh air is better than recycled mid-winter household air, walking through a forest or field is much more enjoyable when done for real, and shooting a deer, grouse, bear, turkey, or whatever else you are out hunting is more rewarding when the actual legwork is put in.

That said, I’m still not hopeful that many will choose real hunting over videogames this Christmas.  But for those of you that do, you’ve got a willing supporter in this crotchety old curmudgeon, and I hope your days afield are all as good as mine are.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Tis the Season, Part One

So as 2011 slides inexorably towards an end, I’m of a mind to be reminiscent of the year that has past and thought I’d put together a list of some highlights from Get Out and Go Hunting’s inaugural year, as well as document some Christmas wishes I have.  Part Two of this post will entail my New Year’s resolutions, and while it will be written at a future date, I can assure you that it may or may not be written under the heavy influence of that heavenly ambrosia known as eggnog.

Getting Started

Let us begin at the beginning.  In February of 2011 I decided on a whim (and after having been rejected for the umpteenth time by trade magazines as a contributor) that if my work was “too scattered” or that it wasn’t “product-centred” (these are two actual quotes from rejection letters) that I’d just pitch the whole thing and write for my own recreation and for the potential enjoyment of those browsing the web.  It was a little intimidating and even scary at first, but with the support of my wife, my hunting buddies and the emails (both positive and scathingly negative) that I’ve received from literally around the world I began to feel that there was some kind of importance in putting what I wanted to write out there for the world.  First and foremost I’d like to thank all the readers, supporters, and yes, even the detractors for keeping me motivated in this self-indulgent lunatic endeavour.

Public Hunting

This was the first year where I spent most of my turkey season stalking public land.  My experience went from exhilaratingly frustrating to downright irritating but through it all I gained a richer perspective on the opportunities available to us hunters out there that can’t rely on family property or the benevolence of local landowners for a place to hunt.  Even getting sniff of a chance at a pressured, public land bird (or buck for those of you who also hunt deer on Crown Land) is something special, because in my mind, there’s no tougher animal out there than one that has survived the focused efforts of countless hunters.


So I didn’t actually create much in the way of large scale controversy, but it was refreshing to see the response to the series of Taboo of the Day posts.  The first one of these I put up was actually the most nerve-wracking experience not just of having this blog, but of my writing life to date.  My opinions are just that, my opinions, but it was interesting and galvanizing to see the emails come in about these posts.  Some of you were staunchly (and sometimes rudely) opposed to my take on the hunting tradition which is fine because it shows there are other hunters out there that share my passion and feel just as vociferously about their beliefs.  Surprisingly though, the vast majority of responses I received were overwhelmingly supportive which not only validated my beliefs, but also steeled my impression that the vast majority of the men and women out there hunting share my deep respect for the laws, the landowners, public safety, the game animals, and the tradition at large.  Now if we could just get that message and those principles to outshine the damage done by the hunters that don’t share that approach, we’d really be onto something.

Waterfowl Season 2011
If I could be pigeon-holed into the caste of one type of hunter, it would have to be as a waterfowler.  Now of course, there are many sub-groups to that species, including the marsh-rats, the big-water hunters, and the flooded woodlot crews, but geography and convenience have conspired to make me a field-hunter and a puddle-jumper.  I love the esoteric challenge of turkey hunting and the camaraderie of the deer camp, but there’s just some primal draw of chasing ducks and geese that figures strongly in me, and 2011 was one of the best waterfowl seasons I’ve had in all my years of hunting and tagging along with my Dad and uncles before I could wield a shotgun.  As a group we had great hunts with the birds flying well, we created some lifelong friendships and memories, and as an added bonus I was able to document many of the hunts (including two of the best ones I’ve ever been on) right here on the blog, with support from my friend and hired photographer/videographer Lucas Hunter.  It was great that I was able to share this tradition with so many of you, and thanks for the great feedback too!

Now onto my Christmas wish-list; some of it is unbelievably materialistic, some of it is more philosophical.

Dear Santa,

If you could see your way clear to bringing me the following this Christmas, I would be eternally grateful and recommend you to all my friends.

  • A nice, shiny new GPS.  Yes, Santa, I have a compass, it just isn’t as cool as a Garmin
  • New turkey decoys.  Maybe one of those hyper-realistic Zink models.
  • More patience.
  • New boots.  I spent this deer season in some hand-me-downs and they were toasty warm, but not very good in terms of remaining tread life.  Maybe some Rocky Buck Stalkers?Predator calls.  My brother lost my coyote call, so if a FoxPro finds its way into my stocking, I’d be one happy little boy.
  • More time to go hunting.  Perhaps you could have a chat with my boss…and my wife?
  • A 75 yard broadside shot at a standing 10-point whitetail buck.  Tall order I know Santa, but if anyone can make it happen it’s probably you.  My fault, and I won’t ask again if I find some way to foul that up.
  • To have as good a year afield as I did this year.  Better if you can swing it, but 2011 was pretty awesome.
Thanks a lot Santa.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Things That You Never Hear...

Earlier this year I posted about some of the wacky things people have asked me about hunting, and rest assured, many people are still asking me all sort of bizarre and occasionally inane things about it.   But aside from being a good-natured way for me to try to educate some people about the pastime of hunting, it also gets me to thinking about some of the things that I never hear in connection with my hunting experience.  So now, I present to you, a list of phrases that I can safely say have never been uttered during any of my countless hunting trips.  Sure some of them are clich├ęs…who cares?

“You cooked that steak perfectly.”

“Wow, you smell really good.”

“No, I think I’ve had just about enough bacon.”

“I love hunting in the rain.”

“That hair colour really suits your complexion.”

“You did just what I would have done and I don’t have any advice to give you.”

“Don’t bother sweeping the floor.  It will just get dirty again.”

“The government is doing a perfectly good job and they are all competent people with our best interests at heart.”

“You young guys do way too much work around the camp.  Take a rest and have a beer.”

“That toast isn’t burned at all.”

“I don’t think we’ve brought enough beer nuts this year.”

“A wine spritzer does sound refreshing, thanks.”

“I’d love a mock-chicken sandwich.”

“That Stompin’ Tom Connors music is too loud!”

“Cheddar cheese soup?  Delightful!”

“Shawn, that undershirt fits you perfectly.”

“I have no idea what that deer was thinking.”

“I’d much rather use the outhouse than crap in the woods.”

“There’s much less mouse poop in the camp than there was last year.”

“Everybody is talking much too quietly.”

“I think those decoys are arranged perfectly.  We mustn't fiddle with them.”

“Did you ever notice that clouds sometimes look like things?”

“Chip dip?  Well that’s just unnecessary…”

“That fire is big enough and doesn’t need any more wood added to it.”

“You can’t put gravy on that.”

“You’re right; I have hunted enough and ought to stay inside by the fire during this godforsaken blizzard.”

“Sure, you can use my toothpaste.”

“Sure Dane, you can borrow my hunting pants.” 

“Thanks Luke, I’ll clean and return them immediately after the season.”

“No, you didn’t snore at all last night.”

“That story contained exactly zero bullshit.”

“Shawn…I disagree with your viewpoint and have a well-constructed argument prepared that will refute it.  I am not just going to swear at you.”

“I’m sorry, I did fart.”

“You did dishes last night, I’ve got this round.”

“Shhhh, I’m listening to Beethoven.”

“I missed that goose completely.”

“Shawn, you’re not calling enough.”

“That turkey wasn’t the biggest one I’d ever seen.”

“If you shoot a bear I’ll help you clean it.”

“If you’re going out to grab a beer, I’d like a bottle of mineral water please.”

“That knife is too sharp.”

And probably the least likely thing you’ll ever hear if you go hunting with me and my group of buddies…

“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”

This is just a smattering of phrases that I anticipate never hearing anybody use in my hunting camp.  But who knows, maybe we’ll all become sophisticates and someone will crack out the classical music, replace the chips and venison pepperettes with  baby carrots and cucumber slices, and we’ll talk to each other in a refined civil tone appropriate for churches and meeting royalty.  I guess stranger things have happened, but no matter what, we’ll all still probably brave lousy weather and sometimes long odds at success just to get out and chase after wild game.  Because after all the fun and silliness that we love is set aside, that’s just what we’ve always done.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Deer Season Digested

So, through a crippling work schedule, a two-year old son that won’t go to bed in the evening and general laziness on my part I have had plenty of time to mull over the early November period known around these parts as “deer season” and have come to the following conclusion: I can’t catch a break when it comes to hunting deer.  But it is not all doom and gloom in the deer woods, and I thought I’d share with all of you some of the triumphs, comical failures, and general wackiness of what my deer season was in 2011.

Now I know I’ve used the word “digested” in the title so before anyone makes a poop joke and sends it to my inbox, I thought I’d just get it out of the way here.  I’m aware that excretion follows digestion.  So by definition this post may be considered crap.  No apologies.

For the second time in five years, I very nearly hit a deer with my car while driving home after my last afternoon of deer hunting in the Parry Sound district.  Apparently in my car I’m irresistible to deer in that area.  Meanwhile, when I’m in the field in the same geography the deer go full-on incognito.  Despite many, many hours of hunting up there 2011 marked the first time I’d ever even seen a deer in the woods there, much less raised my gun with deadly intent.  This particular deer was a very nice looking buck that just happened to be standing broadside on the trail at 5pm.  There was still just enough shooting light but the buck in question had two key factors playing his favour.  The first was that I could not (and thus, did not) see him until I turned a corner in the trail and our eyes momentarily met.  The second was that I had my gun in a cradle carry and by the time I brought the scope halfway to my eye he had made for another part of the province disguised as a flash of brownish-grey fur and impressive antlers.  His track was as big as my fist, and his first jump (from a stand-still no less) was about 11 feet long.  I never had a chance.

So instead I berated myself for not being ready, tipped my hat to the cagey old buck, and went back to camp so that I could eat some pork chops in mushroom sauce, have a beer, and listen to the camp elders sermonize to me about how to walk while holding a rifle so that if such an opportunity ever again presents itself I won’t be caught flat-footed again.  All things that, coincidentally, happened just as I predicted them.

On the Bruce Peninsula where I spend my first week of my deer hunting, for the first time ever in this tragic odyssey that has comprised my deer hunting career I managed to rattle up a deer.  I was sitting at the Four Ashes stand which is at the base (not surprisingly) of four ash trees that all grow out of the same stump…so I guess technically it is just one big mutant ash tree, but why mess with a cool name for a deer stand?  Anyhow, I had my gun leaning against a convenient but sturdy sapling and was doing a pretty aggressive grunting and rattling routine, because frankly I was bored and my hands were cold.  At the end of the sequence I took a drink of water from the Nalgene bottle I pack in, and was just reaching for my gun when I heard something coming at a dead run through the crisp leaves that blanketed the forest floor in a tapestry of orange, red, yellow, and brown.  I turned slowly towards the sound and saw the unmistakable shape of a deer running towards me through a maze of thick gads and small trees.  No shot presented itself but the deer was hard onto my setup, so I assumed the ready position instinctively.  I heard the deer splash through a small swampy spot in a cedar thicket and with rifle shouldered, heart pounding and fingers poised on the safety, I was swaying ever so slightly looking for an opening.  When I at last found the shape of the deer, I could very clearly see all of its hindquarters and none of its vitals.  This I saw for approximately one steamboat.  Did I mention that the sprinted approach of the deer brought it directly downwind of me at a distance inside of twenty-five yards?  Well it did.  The deer  disliked my odour (as most things do) and with a haughty snort crashed through the thicket, all the while giving me occasional glimpses of its tail flagging, but not presenting even a hint of an ethical or achievable shot.  I cursed that deer’s survival instinct as I listened to it bound away and then sat pensively under those four ashes for another few hours before the call of a hot bowl of soup and a stacked meat sandwich summoned me to abandon the stand.

During the entirety of the season we eat like overstuffed sixteenth-century French kings, but it is one night in particular during that languid week of hunting that holds a special place in my venatorial and culinary heart of hearts: Wednesday night on the Bruce Peninsula hunt.  We get a pile of fresh Georgian Bay whitefish, some Nova Scotia sea scallops, some slaw, some potato salad, some crusty rolls and then deep fry all the fish, butter up the rolls, and chow down.  Literally dozens of other hunters show up as well and bring with them more seafood and drink for the general gluttony.  We tell stories, eat, laugh, play shuffleboard, laugh some more, eat again, and go to sleep happy and full of good food and good cheer.  This year my cousin Lukas and I manned the fryer, which is a first in camp and a sign that the stranglehold of paternal control in our camp is slackening.  I did the breading, Lukas did the turning.  Not surprisingly he got all the kudos and credit…I ended up with raw fish and sticky batter on my hands.  But I’m not complaining because we did all the quality control before anyone else got a dig at the food, which is the sad duty of any camp chef.

But it wasn’t all eating and failure this deer season.  My cousin Lukas shot two deer a little over 24 hours apart, the first a nice basket-racked yearling buck and the second a brute of a nine-pointer that my Dad repeatedly referred to as a “bragging buck” that night.  It was a dandy looking deer, in full rut as evidenced by the grossly swollen neck and the reek of buck urine that wafted from the carcass for the remainder of the week even after the tarsal glands had been removed and disposed of during field-dressing.  His brother Dane shot one early on opening morning as well, just twenty minutes before Lukas shot his first buck.  In fact, with the rest of the camp attending a funeral on the Monday morning, as a group we were (for a brief while anyhow) completely tagged out by noon on Monday morning.  Nothing for those two brothers to do but have a cigar and feel all self-important for a couple of hours; neither really hunted that hard the rest of the week and frankly I can’t blame them.  My dad shot a decent eight-pointer to boot in the snow on the Friday morning of the Spence Township hunt, which was about par for the course; he seems to shoot a nice buck every other year or so, some of which have been real bruisers.  This one was an average 8-pointer which showed up not five minutes into the morning hunt, kicked up towards Dad by my uncle Kim.  I was not far away overlooking a meadow that everyone affectionately refers to as “the swale” and had been sitting for less than fifteen minutes when Dad’s .280 started barking.  In a bizarre twist of deer hunting luck, Dad shot a nice buck at the swale a few years back while I was sitting at the same spot where he shot his buck this year.  Bucks just seem to follow Dad around, at their peril it would seem.  Far away, in the wilds of southeastern British Columbia, my good friend Chris shot his first white-tail, a healthy spike buck, anointing him into the ranks of successful deer hunters.  He shot it on my birthday no less, which is of course an absolute coincidence…or so it would seem.  When we talked the following week I was pretty excited to hear the story; a first deer (or any other game animal, for that matter) is a memory to be cherished but also to be shared, and I was downright happy for Chris.  He’s got me very nearly convinced to book a hunt out West in the foreseeable future as well; he’s just that good of a storyteller.

For my own part I did get some shooting in.  During the Saturday morning stand up on the Bruce Peninsula, I missed two running shots at a coyote, and on the Friday morning up in Spence Township I managed to take a handsome ruffed grouse, which is always a treat because they are so darn delicious.  But for another year the wily deer of Ontario eluded me.  Not a huge problem for me though, because some of my buddies put in a lot more shifts during bow season, rifle season, and blackpowder and they didn’t get one either, which I’m sure is the lot of many other Ontario deer hunters.  But my rifle, all the blaze orange, and the long underwear have been put away for now.  I suppose next year holds more opportunities to scratch down a white-tail, and of course I’ll be looking forward to it.  But for now I’ll turn my attention to working on some landowners for turkey season, maybe one last late season waterfowl hunt, and getting out after a few coyotes through the winter months.

Coincidentally if any landowners between London and Milton need some coyote control done, feel free to drop me an email, I’d be more than happy to help out.