Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Hunting Coyotes Makes Good Deer Conservation Sense

© Othmar Vohringer

The hunting season of 2016 is history here in British Columbia and with that most hunters put their hunting equipment away for the winter. However, there is a hunting season that is still open (in some Wildlife Management Units until June 30th and in others until March 31st). I am talking about coyote hunting. There are several benefits hunting coyotes. They in most areas grossly overpopulated to the point where they have become a nuisance and a danger to pets, livestock and wildlife populations. In a few rarer cases they pose a danger even to humans. It is estimated that coyotes can kill as much as 56 percent of the deer fawns born in the spring, but they also can create havoc on grouse and other wildlife populations. With that said it makes good conservation sense to hunt coyotes after the regular hunting season closes.

Another benefit of hunting coyotes is that the fur prices have increased over the past two to three years. A prime coyote pelt can fetch upwards of 68 dollars for a Western coyote and 40 dollars for lesser quality and Eastern coyote. In other words, by hunting coyotes all winter you could substantially support your hunting budget. But before you can think about selling fur to finance your next hunting rifle or a few boxes of ammunition there are some vital aspects of coyote hunting to consider.

One of these considerations is the firearm caliber you should choose. If you hunt coyotes for fur the deer rifle will render the fur useless. Typically coyote rifle calibers are small to prevent damage to the pelt but with enough power to dispatch the animal humanly. The generally accepted calibers are as follows. On the lowest end of the scale is the .17 HMR. This caliber has an extremely flat trajectory but lacks the punch needed for long range shooting (beyond 100 yards). In the middle of the scale are the .204 Ruger, the .223 Remington (my favourite), the 220 Swift and .243 Winchester. So called “coyote loads” of these calibers with soft-tip bullets in the 55 to 60 grain weight generate enough energy and punch out to 200 yards to kill a coyote instantly with minimal fur damage. On the upper end of the scale would be the .22-250 Remington- a potent caliber for coyotes out to 300 yards. However, the loads used in this caliber would not necessarily be my choice for getting prime coyote fur as the bullets often make quite large exit holes, meaning fur damage.

Hunting tactics for coyotes are different from deer hunting tactics. If you think that deer are wary critters think again. Part of why coyote populations reached such high numbers is because they are extremely cautious critters. Most times when you see them is when they run away from you. Because of this wariness they can’t be hunted by stalking up to them or driving along logging roads. Coyotes are most successfully hunted by setting up on a location where you have a good view of the surrounding landscape yet be camouflaged enough that approaching coyotes can’t spot you from a long distance away. Once set up, coyotes are called into shooting range by imitating coyote welcoming howls and distress calls of injured prey animals such as rabbits, fawns and birds. Other good calls to use are magpie and raven calls since coyotes follow these “air surveillance agents” around to find an injured or diseased animal. It is legal here in British Columbia to use electronic coyote calls that come pre-programmed with a variety of sounds that will get the interest of a coyote. In addition to calling, the most successful coyote hunters use a decoy to provide visual stimuli, and for good reason. As I said above, coyotes are very wary animals. If they come to a call they tend to hang up a long way out to survey the area for the easy meal whose cries they heard. If they can’t see anything they often leave but by using a decoy – this can be something as simple as a strip of fur over the ground moving with the wind – you will add to the realism and convince the coyote to come closer.

If you never hunted coyotes there are many good sources on the internet that provide all sorts of valued information for the beginning coyote hunters, including how to prepare and care for the pelt in order to gain a good selling price.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Respect Private Land

© Othmar Vohringer

To respect private land is part of the hunter ethics creed, but not everybody adheres to it. In conversations with landowners I hear complaints all the time. This is not good because the negative impressions some hunters create will ultimately affect all hunters equally.

At the top of the list of the most common complaints I hear is trespassing without obtaining permission first. According to the “British Columbia Trespass Act” it is an offence to trespass onto land to which you have no permission. This could lead to prosecution, fines and paying of damages if any occurred.

Hunters shooting game on private land from the road is another. Under the Wildlife Act a hunter commits a criminal offense if shooting a firearm from a road and shooting a wild game animal on private land, even if it is during a legal season. This is regarded by the law as an act of poaching. A hunter shooting from a road at game on private land to which he has no permission is a double offense case that will lead to prosecution and a trial in court. Sentences for this multiple offense are the loss of hunting privileges of one or more years plus confiscation of firearms and heavy fines, or even jail time.

Even when landowners grant permission to trespass on their lands it leads to complaints about some individuals. On top of the list is property damage. Such damages include driving vehicles across hay and crop fields, cutting fences, cutting down trees for firewood, shooting at signs and discharging firearms to close to buildings and erecting permanent treestands. Another complaint is that hunters having permission invite family members or friends onto the property. Getting permission to hunt on private land is not a free pass to do whatever you want and, unless negotiated otherwise, only you have permission, not your family and friends. Every landowner has his own set of rules and stipulations that an ethical hunter will obey. As a hunter on private land you’re only a guest, a privilege that can be revoked at any time without having to give a reason, don’t make it a bad reason that will affect others too.

This list is followed by complaints that hunters disregard the conditions the landowner provides with the permission to trespass. Things like not leaving gates the way you found them (open or closed), leaving campfires unattended and leaving bags of garbage behind. In one case a landowner told me of three hunters he gave permission to hunt on his land with the stipulation that a certain easily recognizable buck is off limits to the hunters. The disappointment and understandable anger of the landowner was big when one day he saw the hunters driving past his house with that very buck in the back of the truck. While wildlife belongs to all people, and in this case the hunters acted in a perfectly legal manner by taking that buck, they clearly violated the trust and a promise they made as part of getting permission to step onto private land. The result of this breach of trust and promise resulted in an action from the landowner under which now all hunters have to suffer in that he refuses permission to every hunter. “Burned child fears the fire” comes readily to mind here.

Wildlife management is very important, especially on private land where wildlife often causes damage to crops. Hunters could be a great asset for landowners in controlling wildlife populations and the damage they create. Yet it only takes a few irresponsible hunters to put all hunters into a bad light. Hunting on private land is not a right, it is a privilege based on mutual respect, trust and common-sense manners. As a hunter on private land you’re invited as a guest. That means not only do you have to respect the law but also the conditions the landowner attaches to this privilege. You wouldn’t like it if someone trespasses on your land without permission, neither would you appreciate a guest that takes advantage of you and does whatever he likes. That brings another saying to mind; “Don’t do unto others that you don’t want others to do unto you”. It’s simple really. Show some respect for landowners and the law and we all will be better off for it.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What constitutes huntable land?

© By Othmar Vohringer

It doesn’t matter if you have permission to hunt on private land or if you hunt on public land. There are places that hold deer while others are not or just a few. For example here in the southern interior of British Columbia there are places that you can look for days and count your blessings if you see one or two deer per square mile, while just a few miles in another direction you will encounter deer practically at every step. Why is that so?

In this segment of Whitetail Deer Passion I would like to explain to you what to look for to find a huntable area. With “huntable area” I mean places that hold good deer populations. Huntable areas, or deer magnets as I call it, fulfill the same requirements no matter where you hunt. These requirements are the four basic needs that all animals need to survive and prosper. These basic needs are; food, water, cover and shelter. That’s it, not more and not less. The closer together and plentiful these basic needs are together the more deer will congregate in that area. If the four basic needs are spread further apart or not readily available the fewer deer the area will hold. Any other areas that do not satisfy the basic needs will be void of any deer.

How to find a huntable area

For some it can be a daunting task finding places that are deer magnets. This is a task that can be learned on the internet from the comfort of your home. Even I can’t tell you where you find them. I only can tell what to look for. It takes work and time studying aerial maps and driving around. Granted it can be a daunting task trying to locate these places deer frequent in large numbers. Especially in heavily urbanized areas, heavy hunting competition or where public land is in limited supply it quickly can seem impossible to find good deer populations. But let there be no doubt, it can be accomplished. I developed a system for myself when I look for deer magnets, and it will work for you too.

My system begins with studying aerial maps of any given area I want to hunt. Thanks to Google Earth looking over aerial maps is no problem anymore and can be done by anyone with a computer. The birds-eye view Google provides lets you see land features very clearly. By zooming in on any given area particular features you are looking for can be inspected. I use the zoom feature to find the four basic needs deer need. Once I find them my next task is to find out if that area is public hunting land or private land. If it is private land I will visit the land owner and ask for permission to trespass the property. (Tip; don’t ask right away for permission to hunt. Ask for permission to look around first.)

If the identified area is on public land it’s time to put the hiking boots on your feet and start diligently scouting with binoculars, aerial map (Google Earth printout), note pad and GPS. On private land you obviously have to wait with scouting until you get permission from the landowner to do so. NEVER trespass on private land without expressed permission from the landowner.

Finding good hunting land is never easy and never has been. But with a bit of effort and learning about the requirements deer need, plus a good dose of Whitetail Deer Passion, it can be done by anyone.

 This is what I consider a poor hunting area. While it has lots of cover and shelter the area lacks quality food sources and above all water. Such land has very few deer and they have to travel far to fulfill their requirements.

This is a good hunting area. Here deer find all their basic needs in relative close proximity. Land like this has all the ingredients (food, water, cover and shelter) to support a large deer population.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Picking The Perfect Tree For Your Stand

© By Othmar Vohringer

Once you have found the area you want to hunt you have to find a tree to hang the stand. Not just any tree mind you, but the perfect tree. Some hunters make the mistake to look for the easiest tree to hang a stand but that is seldom the perfect tree to set up a deer ambush.

Setting up on the right spot and choosing the right tree to hang your stand is one of the most crucial ingredients for hunting success.

Here are a few tips on what makes the perfect tree for your stand.

Exit and entry routes

How many hunters consider the importance of carefully choosing an entry and exit route to and from the stand? Unfortunately not too many. Many good hot-spots have been ruined before the hunter arrived on the stand because the access route has not been carefully chosen. Choosing a good access/departure route not only takes the prevailing winds and thermals under considerations but also deer movement patterns.

When choosing entry and exit routes I look at aerial maps. These maps are great for finding ways to and from stands that do not intersect possible deer holding areas and travel patterns. Quite often I find that I have to make D-tours to get to my stand as to not contaminate the area where I think deer will travel to and from a feeding area. Pay attention to entry and exit routes and you are less likely to alert deer to your presence or contaminate deer travel routes.

Wind and thermals

The wind is not your friend, the wind your enemy. That is how I look at winds and thermals. I need to get them figured out in order to make it work to my advantage. When I talk or write about the importance of wind and thermals invariably there will some hunters saying something like; “I wear scent control clothing.” If you’re one of them let me tell you a little truth about scent control clothing. It doesn’t matter. Deer will detect your scent and it doesn’t matter if they get a nose full or just a faint whiff of human scent to draw their own conclusions.

Because of that it is very important to be constantly aware of wind directions and the movement of thermals when you walk to and from your stand and of course during the entire time you’re in the stand. Because of that I often set up two stands, one for each wind direction. Always keep the wind and thermals in mind when hunting.

Treestand height

I am sure you’re aware of the endless discussions held about treestand height. There are still hunters believing in the higher is better mantra. Not true! The height of the treestand is dictated by cover. If you hang a stand higher than the available cover deer will see you. I once entered a public land area and immediately spotted a treestand about 40 feet up a tree. The reason I spotted that stand was because it was placed above the surrounding foliage, I am sure every deer in the area has seen that stand too. Never place a stand in such a way that you’re sky lighted. Always use the surrounding foliage above, behind and to either side as cover to hide from the deer. If that is at 8 or 10 feet off the ground then that is the height your stand should be and not higher. In all my years of hunting almost exclusively from treestands I found that there is never a need to climb higher than 12 to 15 feet off the ground, often even lower. There is another issue arising when going high into a tree. Shooting angles become very steep and that creates another set of challenges that I have discussed in previous articles.

Less is more

Be careful with trimming shooting lanes and don't trim to much. When cutting branches for my shooting lanes I never cut off more than I absolutely need. I keep my shooting lanes as small as I possibly, without sacrificing shooting opportunities (see image for what I consider a perfectly concealed treestand). Some hunters trim every branch below them and to their sides, believing that wearing camouflage will be enough to disguise their outline. While that is true as long as you sit motionless it changes when you move. You have to disguise necessary movement to draw the bow or shoulder the rifle. Leaving enough branches around the stand hanging will go a long way to enhance your cover and conceal movement.

Conclusion

I hope that these tips will assist you in finding the perfect tree to hunt from versus the perfect tree to make for an easy stand set up. As a final note: Please always remember treestand safety. Regardless of what your hunting ambitions are, your main ambition should always be to return home to your family in one piece.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Barometric Pressure And Deer Movement

© By Othmar Vohringer

In an email a hunter asked me if barometric pressure influences deer movement, and if so how?

If you have been following me then you know that I am an avid weather watcher and time my hunts around the weather forecast. With that said, the short answer to the question is; yes barometric pressure does affect deer movement.

For past 20 plus years I make careful notes of all observations in the deer woods, particularly about deer movement patterns at different times of the day and under various weather conditions. Analyzing the notes shows that there is no question that cold, snow, rain, warm and hot weather greatly influence deer movement patterns. Cold, hot, rain and snow are the things we can see and feel. What we can’t see is the biggest deer movement factor of all; barometric pressure. Barometric pressure is difficult to judge, unless you own an instrument, check daily weather forecasts on the Internet or download the Scout Look Weather app onto your smartphone.

In my office, right above the desk, hangs a weather station that shows me current weather conditions and estimated weather condition for the next 24 hours. The gizmo also shows me falling and rising barometric pressures. This weather station is one of the most important hunting investments I have made because it shows me in real time when the best times to go hunting long before it occurs. Forget about moon phase charts. Bring on barometric pressure to determine deer travel activity.

But there is more. While comparing my field notes I noticed that there seems to be an ideal barometric pressure that triggers deer movement which is between 30.00 and 40.00 on the barometric scale. I also found that more deer movement takes place on a rising barometric pressure versus a falling pressure. The best time to see lots of deer moving seems to be exactly at the peak of the barometric pressure.

With all that said there is another truth to be considered. The only time you’re able to shoot a buck is the time you’re out hunting. The more time you spend hunting the higher chances are that you will be successful, regardless of weather and times. In other words, go hunting every time you can.
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