Sunday, June 19, 2016

Alien Fish Invading British Columbia

© Othmar Vohringer

© Ken McBroom. ramblingangler. com
The designation “alien fish” is given to any fish species that is not native to British Columbia. If they are not native then how do they get here? Some fish species have been legally introduced many decades ago for a variety of reasons- mostly for commercial purposes. Others have been introduced illegally, meaning they have been transported from their natural habitat and released in our waters or are disposed-of pet fish, such as the snakehead and the Asian carp.

While not all alien fish species pose a problem to our native fish and aquatic animals (such as crappie and other members of the sun fish family), some do. The small and large mouth bass can become problematic if their numbers take over a smaller body of water. Even worse, the Snakehead, a ferocious predatory fish from Asia, can literally wipe out native fish species in a matter of just a few years and pose a serious risk to other species such as ducks, beavers, muskrat and frogs that live a great part of their life in the water or on the water surface.

Angler’s opinions are divided whenever alien fish species come up in a discussion. There are those that accept them as a welcome addition to the angling sport and others that feel the government should undertake every possible effort to destroy these alien species. Interestingly, the latter segment of anglers often refuses to target alien fish. Yet, if they are that concerned they should try to catch as many of these fish as they can thereby doing their part to reduce the population.

I am one of those anglers that welcome some of these alien fish species as an additional fishery to our native species. Having lived for a number of years in America before making Canada my permanent home I became quite fond of fishing for crappies, large and small mouth bass. There are several lakes in our region that hold small to good populations of these two species and if you’re willing to travel to the Lower Mainland there are even more lakes and streams with good populations as well.

Crappies are not only fun to fish they are also among the best-tasting fish and with generous bag limits of up to 20 per day in regions 2 and 8 you’re bound to stock up on your fish supply fast.

While spring and fall are the best times for fishing this species they are active in summer as well. Crappie live and travel in groups, so chances are that if you catch one there will be others around in that vicinity. Crappie love structure such as weed beds, submerged trees, rock piles and other forms of cover. Finding structures like these are a good start to begin your fishing day.

Crappies have a very small mouth and hits are not often that obvious. Choosing the right equipment is important. My favourite is a light seven foot rod fitted with a small reel filled with 4 to 6 pound test line. Hook size should be small too, not larger than a number 8 hook. Crappie can be attracted with a variety of lures ranging from plastic baits over small spoons to spinners and live bait, such as worms, maggots and, where legal, live minnows. My personal favourite are small jig heads in various colors tipped with 1 to 1 ½ inch plastic curly tails and other plastics that imitate live food sources. Depending on the situation I may use the regular jigging method or float jigging. Other methods such as trolling, casting and retrieving or the good old float fishing can work just as well. Give fishing for alien fish a try this summer. Be aware though, you may get hooked on it.

Talking about fishing; I would like to remind you all that this coming Sunday (June 19th) the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club hosts their annual Father’s Day Fishing event. This great family fishing event is held at the children’s pond between Kentucky and Alleyne Lake. The event begins at 9 am until 2 pm. There will be lots of prizes available for the children plus refreshments and a fish cleaning station where children can learn how to safely clean their catch. At the event there will also be volunteer instructors in attendance to assist newcomers to the fishing sport with useful tips and hands-on-expertise. This is a great event for the entire family to enjoy and have a great time.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Ticks Are More Than Just A Pesky Nuisance

© Othmar Vohringer

Tick season is here and they seem to be more plentiful than in previous years. Health Canada and the health ministers of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia issued warnings that the tick populations in the respective provinces experienced a drastic population increase. The blacklegged tick, also called the deer tick, is of particular concern as it carries the bacteria Borrelia budoferi, which is responsible for causing Lyme disease in humans.

It is assumed that the relatively mild and short winters we experienced over the past few years may have contributed to the unexpected population growth of the ticks. The affected provinces keep monitoring the continued expansion of blacklegged ticks which are most often encountered from early spring through late fall. Lyme disease is passed on to people by a bite from this particular tick. The symptoms of Lyme disease can start within three days of a tick bite and the symptoms range from an expanding rash which then fades away and can include headache, neck stiffness, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes. If you experience one or more of these symptoms it is advisable to get in contact with your doctor and arrange for an examination and blood test. Lyme disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics if it is diagnosed in the early stages. Patients with advanced Lyme disease infections are more difficult to treat and rarely can the disease be completely eradicated and may become chronic.

Ticks are most commonly found in rural and forested areas, where they reside on the tips of grass and leaves in tall grass meadows and brushy areas waiting for a host, animal or human, to come by. In urban areas ticks reside mostly along trails bordered by tall grass and thick brush vegetation. When a host walks by the tick simply crawls on the animal or human as it brushes up against it.

The best prevention against ticks is to avoid areas that are preferred tick habitat. Of course if you’re a hunter, angler, camper or other outdoor enthusiast it is practically unavoidable to come in contact with ticks and you have to take extra precautions to protect yourself.
  • Apply an appropriate tick repellant(containing DEET) to exposed skin and clothing.
  • If possible, wear long thin silk underpants, socks and t-shirts (ticks cannot penetrate silk) and tuck pant legs into the socks.
  • After returning from a trip outdoors check yourself over for ticks on your body; you may need assistance from your spouse or a friend to check your backside and hair.
  • Take clothing outside and spray liberally with a product that contains permethrin that kills ticks. Simply washing your garments will not kill ticks that are hiding in your clothing.
  • Treat you dog regularly with products that kill ticks on contact. Ask your veterinarian for product advice.
To remove a tick from your body that already has attached itself refer to the tick removal procedure information provided on the BC government/ HealthLinkBC website. Caution: if you have never removed an attached tick do not attempt it until you know how it is done correctly. Removing a tick the wrong way could cause a nasty infection if a part of the tick remains in your skin.

While tick transmitted Lyme disease are rare (it is estimated that only one in 500 ticks carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease) there’s always a chance, and it is just not worth taking. Be prepared and enjoy the beautiful weather we’re having now to be outdoors.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A long walk down memory lane

© Othmar Vohringer

On May the 9th my world was turned upside down. The short message I received from Brazil, where my brother lived with his family for over 25 years read; “Your twin brother Gabriel passed away this morning”. I had to read it twice and then again to realize what I had just read. Then it hit me with full force, the person, with whom in spirit I just celebrated our birthday three days ago, is no longer with me. Having had to deal with a few deaths in our family, including my parents, I felt that this was much harder to deal with. Was it because Gabriel is my twin brother and as such we share a closer spiritual bond or was it the fact that we just celebrated our birthday? I don’t know. I just knew I had to deal with it and get the emotional turmoil under control again.

There are many different ways for people to deal with loss. My way is to take a long walk down memory lane and remember shared experiences. The things that stand out the most are outdoor activities- like my first fishing trip with my brothers. Gabriel, my younger brother Roland and I went off on a four kilometer hike at the age of seven to fish on a lake that over the years would become our favourite hangout place during the hot summer months. Back then children were not so much fretted over and pampered as they are today, so it was common for children to undertake their own adventures without constant parental supervision and there were no cell phones back then. Parents trusted their children that they would use what they learned and knew what consequences it would have if they don’t.

There are many memories like this because our parents, despite long working hours, always made sure to spend as much time with us as possible, even if that meant they had no time to themselves . Another such early memory that flooded in my mind was the day my father taught us how to swim at age five or six. My twin brother took to water like the proverbial duck. I on the other hand was not too keen on it but eventually with lots of coaxing I learned to swim. A certain dislike for the water is still with me to this day, although I am a good swimmer. I take my “sweet time” to get wet, much to the enjoyment of my wife, who also takes to water like a duck. The way I look at it water is for fish and as long I can sit in a dry boat and catch them I am as happy as can be to be on the water rather than in it. Besides fishing, swimming, skating and skiing, my parents taught us about nature and how things in nature work together. With that kind of upbringing it was no surprise that we would turn into outdoor enthusiasts.

Another fun memory that readily resurfaces in my mind was the annual friendly competition my twin brother and I had each fall. It usually started with the delivery of the firewood for the winter and which of us two had split more wood at the end of the day. My father used to fuel that competition and it took me a while to realize why…it meant less work for him. Gabriel also had a great sense of humour too and could bring laughter to the dullest place within minutes. He knew how to cheer you up and for him the glass was never half empty, it always was half full; every dark side had a lighter side, not the other way around. One day on a school outing I fell out of a tree. I ended up with a broken arm and collarbone. While the teacher ran off to the nearby schoolyard to get her car to drive me to the hospital my brother and the other kids stayed with me. Gabriel was not like the others making long faces. No, for him it was all about making jokes and fun of the way I tumbled out of the tree and that in turn cheered me up too. I assume my thinking back then was: if my twin brother is not upset and worried, why should I be?

Walking down memory lane has brought many wonderful events back to my mind that I was able to share with my parents and brothers. I am eternally grateful to have had a brother like Gabriel to share our joint love and appreciation for all things nature offered. To this day sharing wonderful outdoor experiences with family and friends remains a vital part of what hunting and fishing is all about.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fishing For The Future

© Othmar Vohringer

Here in British Columbia fishing is without a doubt a very popular outdoor activity, perhaps the most popular outdoor activity overall. This did not happen by sheer chance. Sure, we are fortunate in this province to have an abundance of publicly accessible lakes, ponds, streams and rivers covering a total of 19,549 square kilometers of our total landmass. The real reason why fishing has become such a popular activity is largely due to the efforts put forth by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) in the conservation of the fishery and the promotion of the fishing sport.

The FFSBC is a private organization created in 2003 by concerned anglers as North America’s first private not-for-profit fishing agency. The independent board of directors and professional staff work in partnership with government fishing agencies to ensure the long-term health of our fish population and promote ethical and sustainable fishing practices. In 2015 the BC government announced an agreement that the FFSBC will receive 100% of the annual revenue generated from the sale of freshwater fishing licenses, which amounts to 10 million dollars. The minister for told the media “The additional funding will allow the society to work with provincial biologists to improve angling opportunities in small lakes, large lakes and rivers. This includes angler access improvements, stock assessment to help inform management decisions, and resources to enhance capacity for compliance monitoring and enforcement on both stocked and wild waterbodies.”

Each year the FFSBC stocks thousands of lakes across BC (over 100 lakes alone in the Thomson-Nicola region) with millions of trout. In addition the society stocks many rivers with millions of steelhead. Where do these fish stocks come from? The FFSBC raises over eight million fish annually in six fish hatcheries owned by the society in Duncan, Abbotsford, Summerland, Clearwater, Fort Steele and Vanderhoof. The fish eggs are collected from wild stocks in nine egg collection stations situated throughout the province. The fish eggs are then distributed among the society owned hatcheries. When the fish reach a size that permits them to survive in the wild they are transported in specially outfitted tank trucks to the various lakes and ponds in our province and released.

The money for this large scale operation comes from the licence sale of the 270,000 recreational anglers to the tune of 10 million dollars and though partnerships with other organizations and commercial sponsors. Raising hatchery fish and stocking lakes and rivers with fish is one aspect of the society. The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC also undertakes critical and widespread work and research on fish conservation and habitat programs.

Some may ask “Why stock fish for the purpose of fishing?” The answer to that question is quite simple. Stocking fish goes a very long way towards accommodating recreational anglers who contribute 546 million dollars to the provincial economy and more importantly, it eases the pressure on our wild fish stocks. With such an abundance of fish available through this work the needs of all anglers can be met.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC gets support in the promotion of the fishing sport from the hundreds of clubs across our province. Locally, the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club in Merritt organize FFSBC events such as the “Learn Fishing” and “Fishing the City” programs that are an integral part in educating people about fishing and fish conservation while attracting new and young anglers to this family orientated outdoor activity.

The Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC is a shining example of how to manage a sustainable resource (our freshwater fisheries) by funding acquired through end user license fees rather than the tax payer. The FFSBC is continually working towards ensuring a viable fishery far into the future for generations to come. To learn more about the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the important work they do visit their website; www.gofishbc.com

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Preserving The Memory Of A Hunt


© Othmar Vohringer

© Copyright Steven Beckley
Preserving the memories of a hunt is a long standing tradition among hunters that can be traced back to the famous cave drawings of Lascaux in France, estimated to be about 18 thousand years old. The drawings depict, among accurate animal profiles, hunting scenes and images of hunters posing with game animals they’ve killed. As time went on the memories of the hunt included preserving the skin of the animal and we see the first head and full body preservation of animals in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. In Egypt it was not uncommon to kill and mummify the favourite pet or the prized war horse, of a deceased individual. Diseased Pharaohs were given whole menageries of carefully mummified animals to entertain and serve the King in the afterlife. Some of these mummified animals displayed in museums today look as lifelike as they did two-thousand years ago.

In many early cultures hunters would prepare the skin of an animal they hunted and wear it because they believed that the spirit of the animal would give them strength and wisdom, but also as a memorial of sorts to honour the animal whose life they took, and as a way to thank the Gods for providing them with important sustenance.

Throughout the times and in various cultures the skill to preserve the skin of an animal or bring it “back to life” was a highly respected craft in the hands of priests or shamans. The ancient Greeks called these skilled professionals “Taxidermists”, a title still in use today. The word “taxidermy” is made up of the Latin word “taxis” (arrange, arranging the order of things) and the word “derma” (skin).

Modern taxidermy is a multi-faceted practice that involves a great many skills and crafts ranging from carpentry, molding and sculpting to painting and drawing which requires an intimate knowledge of animal anatomy and movement. All these talents combined are required to create a replica of an animal that looks so real and natural you wouldn’t know the difference at a cursory glance. Good taxidermy work is expensive but the memory of that special animal you took will last with minimal care for many generations to come.

It is common for many hunters to point out that a particular mount on their walls was “shot by my grandfather.” Often there is a handwritten note attached to the back of the mount telling the story of the hunt. Memories don’t get better than that.

I always have been a great admirer of good taxidermy and continually marvel at the skill that it takes to create a replica of a live animal that is the perfect likeness down to the minutest detail. Seven years ago when Heidi and I moved to Merritt I was surprised to learn that this city, with its long and lively hunting tradition, didn’t have a taxidermist in town.

Well the good news is that this has changed. Two years ago Steven Beckley, a very talented taxidermist from Mckenzie, B.C moved to Merritt. Steven began his taxidermist career mainly for the reason of preserving the animals he has taken in North America and Africa and because he was fascinated by the art of taxidermy. Steven loves perfection and that is another reason why he chose to mount his own trophies. A phrase that kept coming up during our conversation was: “It has to look real.” How dedicated Steven is to his work becomes evident when you see the many certificates of excellence and awards hanging on the wall and of course there are the finished mounts and works-in-progress in his garage that look so real that you’re inclined to touch them to convince yourself that they are not alive.

Steven Beckley has learned his trade from the best in the business: Brian Dobson who operates Artistic Taxidermy in Alberta. Brian Dobson is considered the dean of North American taxidermy artistry with a long list of prizes and awards for his outstanding work and craftsmanship. Steven is destined to follow his tutor’s and mentor’s footsteps; his work is an outstanding testament to this fact. To see Steven’s taxidermy, go online to Facebook and see “Beckley’s Wilderness Taxidermy Studio”. I am glad we finally have a good taxidermist in Merritt, it was a long time coming and in this case well worth waiting for. I know who will preserve the memories of my future hunts- welcome to Merritt Steven Beckley.

Monday, February 08, 2016

It’s Show Time


© Othmar Vohringer

The four seasons of the year are a bit different for me than the regular person. The seasons are divided into outdoor trade show season, spring hunting season, fishing season and then fall hunting season. The outdoor trade show season starts right about now and lasts approximately until the middle of April.

Outdoor trade shows are a great way for me to see new hunting and fishing gear that will soon be available in the shops. The trade show season is also the time in which I partake in seminars and various workshops and events. Meeting other hunters, anglers and industry people is always a special highlight of that time. Seminars are another way for me to reach out to hunters and educate them about our rich hunting heritage and our responsibilities as ethical hunters, stewards and conservationists of wildlife, and the importance of passing this honoured tradition to the next generation.

When it comes to outdoor trade shows our province is somewhat of a sleeper. The biggest show in B.C. is the Boat & Sportsman’s Show held annually at the Trade-Ex in Abbotsford. This year the exhibition runs from March 4 th to 6 th; it is also the show’s 25th year anniversary.

For that occasion the show has been enlarged with additional exhibitors from the boating, fishing, hiking and hunting sector. In addition, the archery shooting range will be expanded and the famous hunting and fishing film tour is free of charge and so the many hunting and fishing seminars/workshops presented by some of the most recognized experts in the industry.

Much closer to home, in Kelowna, the BC Interior Sportsman Show is scheduled to open its doors from April 9th to 10th at the Capital News Centre. After two years of planning this will be the inaugural opening for this show. I am particularly honoured that I’ve been slated to appear at this venue with my turkey hunting seminars. I hope to see many of my more regular readers at the BC Interior Sportsman Show… stop by and say hello. Daily admission is a modest ten dollars for adults and youth (13 and older) or you can purchase a family pass for 25 dollars (2 adults and 2 youth); children under the age of 12 years get in free. The BC Interior Sportsman Show focuses on fishing, outdoor recreational activities and hunting.

That rounds up what’s on offer in British Columbia. Alberta and Ontario in contrast have huge and well established outdoor oriented trade shows. If you happen to be in Calgary between February 4th to 7th be sure to take in the Calgary Boat & Sportsman Show at the BMO Centre Stampede Park. Besides the Calgary Boat & Sportsman Show there are affiliated shows in Edmonton on March 10th to 13th at the Edmonton Expo Centre, Northlands and the Toronto Sportsman Show on March 16th to 20th at the International Centre. These three shows are as big as they get in Canada attracting millions of visitors with thousands of exhibitors, activities, entertainment and a long line up of who’s who in the outdoor industry.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and the other provinces have their own outdoor trade shows of various sizes and traditional status. All in all these trade shows are a sign that the hunting and fishing heritage is alive and well in this great nation of ours. For me it is of particular interest to see that each year more young people visit these shows across Canada, a sure sign that our hunting and fishing heritage is being successfully passed on to the next generations and with that will continue into the future.

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To learn more about my seminars and availability please visit my website.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Gradual Evolution Of A Hunter

© Othmar Vohringer

Copyright ©Heidi Koehler Photography 
In the second week of December I planned to go hunting one more time before the season closes. As usual, the night before I got all my gear together and consulted my notes in preparation for the next day. My alarm awoke me at 4:30 in the morning. While the coffee was brewing I started to load up the truck with hunting gear then went back into the house. While sitting at the kitchen table sipping the fresh coffee in front of me I decided I would rather just go back to bed. I unloaded the truck and did just that.

That morning I had reached a certain point in “the evolution of a hunter”. As with all things in life the perspective of a hunter changes as time goes on. These stages are broadly recognized as the “Shooter Stage”, “Limiting out Stage”, “Trophy Stage”, “Method Stage” and finally the “Sportsman Stage”.

As a hunter matures the factors of what he may consider to be a successful hunt may change, so may his goals, ethics and often his role models and hunting companions too.

The “shooting stage” is the phase where a young or new hunter ties his success closely in with getting a lot of shooting done or at least seeing lots of game animals that provide him with exiting opportunities. A young or new hunter is also very inquisitive, constantly observing and investigating everything that happens around him to learn from it. It is at this beginning stage of his evolution where it pays to keep a close watch and guide the hunter in the right direction and tame his or her trigger happy eagerness.

When the hunter reaches the “limiting out stage” the satisfaction is still somewhat guided by the numbers of animals that he is able to take in a given season. It’s called the limiting out stage because at this stage the hunter is driven by the desire to fill his allowable game limits, but unlike the “shooter” this hunter has learned much about hunting tactics and will employ that knowledge with almost religious eagerness to achieve his goals.

The hunter who reaches the “trophy stage” is very selective about what he wants and what he regards as “success”. These hunters look for a very special animal and for that they are prepared to travel far and wait for years until the opportunity arrives to take that very special animal that they have set their mind on. For them the “kill” becomes less important than the search and hunt itself. In this case even a hunt without a kill is a success because “success” is also measured in experiences made.

“Method hunters” have accumulated all the equipment and knowledge they possibly could or would need. The satisfaction for these hunters still comes from the game they take but more so from the methods they employ. Method hunters can spend days, weeks and months planning a hunt or particular strategy. Quite often the planning and strategy becomes more of a focus than the “kill”. They may make it more challenging for themselves simply because they are bored with what they consider the “easy way” of achieving success. At this stage of a hunter’s life it’s often just the knowledge that he could have pulled the trigger if he wanted too that provides the satisfaction.

And finally, when a hunter reaches the “sportsman stage” he tends to mellow out. This hunter has achieved everything and accumulated an immense knowledge about wildlife, nature and conservation. Now it’s time to slow down and smell the roses a bit. This hunter’s satisfaction often comes from the total experience of being out in nature with friends and family. The Sportsman stage hunter does not have the inner urge anymore to go hunting at every available moment at his disposal. If he wakes up on the morning of a planned hunt but doesn’t feel like it anymore he goes back to bed, knowing there will be other days to go out to hunt.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Celebrities Become Conservation Experts

© Othmar Vohringer

(Originally published in the Merritt Herald)

If you read newspapers regularly or watch the news on TV you couldn’t miss all the hoopla about pop idol Miley Cyrus coming to BC, on invitation of the Pacific Wild Organization, to protest against the wolf culling program. You may ask; “Who is Miley Cyrus?” Don’t worry I had to look it up too! She is the daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, and best known for wearing skimpy, if any, clothing on stage, her stage behaviour and song lyrics are explicit to the point that her concerts and music records come with a parental advisory warning.

Miley Cyrus is the latest in a long list of celebrities that came to Canada to protest hunting and try to tell our government what they do wrong. Indeed, it has become somewhat of an ugly tradition here in British Columbia and the rest of Canada that foreign celebrities are invited by foreign interest sponsored organizations trying to manipulate Canadian politics through the backdoor.

In an interview Miley provided her pearls of wisdom to the media and her worldwide fan base on Facebook and Twitter. “When I first spoke out I knew in my heart that the wolf cull was wrong. But after this visit, I know science is on my side, not just on the wolf cull, but also on the trophy hunt issue. Both are unsustainable and both are horrific. Both have to end.” Then she continued to lecture our government on wolf conservation, all the while referring to wolves as an “endangered species”. Like so many of these celebrities, apparently becoming overnight wildlife conservation experts, she didn’t know that wolves are anything but endangered by any stretch of the imagination, not here in BC or elsewhere in North America.

While I do not see eye to eye with Premier Christy Clark on many topics I have to give her credit for her comeback at Miley Cyrus. “If we need help on our twerking policy in the future, perhaps we can go and seek her advice.” Clark explained; “We’re trying to defend an endangered species and population of caribou that will go utterly extinct in British Columbia if we don’t do this. I just hope that they really work a little to understand the issue.” I am glad that so far the BC government has not fallen for these celebrities, hired by interest groups. Instead, I am pleased to say that our government continues to base wildlife conservation on sound science, taking the necessary steps to ensure that future generations will see good wildlife populations, even if that means culling wolves in some areas to ensure a natural balance between predator and prey species.

Not so long ago the federal government was accused of cutting funding for wildlife conservation and gutting the fishery, leaving our salmon and other fish to face an uncertain future. Turns out it was nothing more than a rumour persistently regurgitated by foreign special interest groups and gobbled up here by the opposition and the mainstream media. The fact is, as I found out after doing some research on the matter, that no previous federal government has provided more funding for wildlife and habitat conservation than the Harper government. The fisheries have not been gutted. Instead, more responsibility and authority has been delegated to the provinces, and quite rightly so. Provincial governments are much better suited to address problems with the fishery in their jurisdictions and act faster than a centralized department in faraway Ottawa. The decentralizing of fish and water management with more say and responsibility for the provinces should have happened many years ago.

For Miley Cyrus my advice would be: Stick to singing and twerking. Wildlife conservation is certainly not your thing even if you think that having a picture taken close to bears makes you an expert on BC’s wildlife conservation.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

What Does The Trudeau Government Have In Store For Firearm Owners?

© Othmar Vohringer

(Originally published in the Merritt Herald)

By the time you read this column Justin Trudeau will be Prime Minister of Canada and the question for many is “What does the Trudeau government have in store for firearm owners?”

When the election campaign began I researched the Liberals, NDP and Green party on their stance about private firearm ownership. Since the Liberals have won the election I can spare you what the other parties would have in store for legal firearm owners and instead report on what I found out about Justin Trudeau’s take on it. It was not easy to pinpoint an agenda since Trudeau’s opinion seems to change all the time and was very much dependent on the province where he spoke about firearms. In Quebec Trudeau made a strong point of bringing back the old firearm registry that was in place before Harper scrapped it. The further west he traveled the less outspoken he was about the issue.

Now that the election campaign dust has settled things become much clearer. Although, unlike Chr├ętien, Trudeau does not view sport shooters and hunters as gun-toting criminals in the making, he too has not a very high opinion of private firearm ownership. Trudeau has no intention of bringing back the firearm registration act as it existed under the previous Liberal government but something similar, which in the end, amounts to the same thing. Trudeau wants to establish a paper trail through gun shops which would require that the store owners have to keep detailed information about every customer purchasing a firearm or ammunition which then has to be forwarded to the RCMP.

When the Conservative government under Harper scrapped the firearm registry act he replaced it with Bill C-42, also called the “Sensible firearm act”. Bill C-42 streamlined the whole firearm ownership licensing process and classified firearms in a much more common-sense way that made for less bureaucracy and thus speedier processing. Bill C-42 also put the blame on firearm related crime on the ones that violated the laws and not on law-abiding firearm owners. The law made provisions for long prison sentences for those that use and own firearms illegally, even for first time offenders. Interestingly enough, Trudeau found the prison sentences unreasonably hard although violent crime involving firearms went drastically down across Canada. Yet, at the same time Trudeau seems to be okay with advocating firearm control laws that would be regarded by many quite rightly as an invasion of privacy and the right to remain innocent until proven otherwise.

It remains to be seen what the Trudeau government eventually will come up with but after reading all available information there is little doubt in my mind that once again firearm owners will be singled out and presented to the crime-weary urbanites as the solution to combat drive-by-shootings and drug gang violence. Three indicators are a giveaway for the Liberals plans. Trudeau hired William Sterling Blair as an adviser.
William Sterling Blair is the ex- police chief of Toronto who has an established record as an outspoken anti-gun advocate using his time as police chief to come up with all kinds of schemes to make life difficult for legal firearm owners. Trudeau also announced a few days ago that: A.) He will abolish Bill C-42 and replace it with a new law and B.) That he will sign the UN’s Arms Treaty- which wants a global abolishment of all private firearm ownership, including guns for the purpose of sport shooting and hunting. After nine years of freedom for law-abiding firearm owners and laws that made sense it looks like that we are again in the crosshairs of party political ideology lacking any real-life evidence.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The most exciting time of the hunting season is still ahead of us

© Othmar Vohringer

For hunters the colder days ahead mean that more deer are moving about during daylight hours, especially bucks. You see, just about this time of the year deer start to feel amorous; bucks are starting to search day and night for receptive does. The “rut”, as it is called, is an exciting time for hunters.

Much has been said and written about the rut and yet it still is an unsolved mystery for many. The rut is broken down into segments called “pre-rut”, “rut” and “late rut”. Some hunters are of the mistaken belief that these are three entirely separate events. That is not so. The rut begins when the females come into the first estrus cycle and ends when the last doe is bred or the buck’s antlers fall off sometime in late December. The activity pattern of the rut is related to the estrous cycle of the females. It is during the first estrus cycle that most rutting activity ensues because all older females come in heat more or less together. As the first estrus cycle slows down it takes 28 days for the remaining does that have not been bred the first time around to come into an estrus cycle again together with the younger females. This results in another spike of buck activity. This cycle of 28 day intervals continues until all receptive have been bred. Of course the more does are served, each consecutive estrus cycle level becomes weaker and buck activity slows down. That, in a nutshell, is how the deer rut works.

There is much hunter folklore and myth about the rut that still is in common belief today. I will attempt to debunk the most common one first. “The rut is triggered by the first full moon after the fall equinox.” It’s an old myth that has been completely disprove by science. The rut is triggered by the first females coming into estrous cycle and that is triggered by the change of daylight hours available and a number of other aspects such as climatic differences between south and north. Another long-held belief is that the best time to get a buck is during the peak of the rut. The fact is that this is the worst time of all. The best time to hunt bucks is right around mid-October during the pre-rut when bucks travel day and night in search of receptive females. Once the rut kicks in the bucks stay with the females and just wait until one after another come into estrus. However, they do not stay with the does in the open during prime hunting times. Bucks will hole up nearby in thickets waiting for nightfall until they join the does in the open fields and pastures. Here in BC we have so many does that once a buck finds them he just stays with the group of does, breeding them all as they come in heat. Because of that fact the best time to hunt bucks is the pre-rut when bucks still travel searching for females. A traveling buck is a vulnerable buck.

What hunting tactics you employ depends very much on the deer species you’re after. Mule deer are quite different from Whitetail deer. A Mule deer buck can be here today and somewhere entirely different tomorrow. Mule deer often travel vast distances in a single night. When I hunt for mule deer I like to get up high to a place where I can overlook a big area below me. There I sit for hours using my binoculars to look below me for any buck cruising around. Once I spot a legal buck the challenge is to get undetected within shooting range of the animal. With whitetail deer it is different. They are territorial and will stay in the same general area all their lives. My preference is to set up ground blinds or portable treestands that I set up along little-used trails in the thick vegetation near field edges and crossing points that show the typical buck signs such as scrapes in the dirt and rubs on trees. It is these secondary trails the bucks use to travel between female feeding and bedding areas to scent-check the does for their readiness.

So get ready for the most exciting time of the hunting season, plan on staying all day out, you never know when and where that lovesick buck will show up. Good luck to you all.

For more information on rut hunting tactics:
Scouting for hunting success
Mapping out deer hunting success
Understanding the rut
Rut myth debunked (Series)
Timing the whitetail deer rut
Using Decoys to bring in big bucks
Calls and scent for the rut
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