Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fun in the Snow

Anna, my 5-year-old daughter, is pictured above in the woodlot on my parents' property. We had a great afternoon of sledding and exploring. First, the girls went sledding on the hills around my parents' house. My brother joined us and helped the girls get going at the top, while I made sure they stopped at the bottom before hitting any trees. Everyone's favorite slope was on the driveway side because it is the steepest and therefore, fastest. Once a groove was established in the snow, the bobsled-like sled went even faster. I had to be on my toes to grab the sled before it hurtled into the trees on the far side of the driveway!

Next, we went for a walk in the woods between the house and the road. The girls had fun walking and crawling around, over, and under trees and fallen branches. We found some rabbit tracks and followed them for a while. The tracks must have been old, for we failed to jump up a cottontail during the search.

For the girls, the afternoon ended with hot chocolate and an Eric Carle (Hungry Little Caterpillar, etc.) video with Grandma. My brother and I went for a walk behind the house. We inspected the recent deer tracks, finding the trail of a decent-sized buck. We discussed the sizes of trees that would be big enough for a deer stand next fall, and I took down a climbing stick.

I was not surprised to look in the rear-view mirror and see my girls snoozing on the drive home. It's so satisfying to take the kids outdoors and see them enjoying nature as much as I do.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Missin' AP

It's been 5 months since my last Algonquin Park canoe trip. It's cold, snowy, and the lakes are frozen over. I catch myself staring at my monitor background (the picture featured in the post announcing the trip log published on, wishing it was summer and I was camping. At the time, I thought it was a bit too hot for AP in mid-August. I'd love to have one lazy day of summer tripping right about now...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MLK Day Rabbit Hunt

Yesterday I went rabbit hunting again (remember the n+1 rule?), this time with Aristos AND Biobandit. We all had the day off from work so we met around 8 a.m. at Aristos's house. Our destination was the same farm Aristos and I hunted on January 1st. This time there were a few changes: Biobandit was with us, no kids were tagging along, and it was considerably warmer (about 10 degrees F). My hands still got cold early on, but switching from lighter gloves to a heavier pair solved that problem. We searched the whole area that had been covered during the previous hunt, but we didn't find a single rabbit. Plenty of sign, but no bunnies! I led Biobandit through some great grassy areas, including where I jumped two rabbits on the previous hunt. Nothing! Discouraged, we decided to cross the frozen creek and try the woods on the other side. This is typically a good area, as we almost always find a few rabbits there. Aristos once again found the first rabbit, and once again missed the jump shot.

After putting the beagles on the scent trail, we spread out with the goal of intercepting the rabbit somewhere along its loop back to the brush pile under which it started. What actually happened was the rabbit slipped past us as we wandered through the brush for an hour. After we met up at the other side of the woods, Aristos headed back to the brush pile. I headed in the opposite direction, and Biobandit split the difference. The sound of another shotgun blast signaled that Aristos had found his rabbit again, in the same brush pile. Again, he missed.

I was the next to jump a rabbit, out of a clump of tall grass. I took two shots with my Marlin .22 rifle as it fled, but the third round failed to fire. Chloe, my beagle, was right behind me, and it didn't take her long to find the scent trail. I cleared the action of my rifle, chambered another round, and waited for Chloe to chase the bunny back to me. I found a place under a crabapple tree where I could see at least 30 yards in the direction I thought the rabbit would return. I saw movement, what looked like a rabbit staying ahead of Chloe, heading in the right direction. I waited anxiously, ready to raise my rifle and aim. After several minutes, I realized that either what I had seen was not a rabbit, or it had circled around me out of sight.
Naala, Aristos's beagle, joined Chloe and picked up the scent of the rabbit I was pursuing. She chased it down and caught it! Biobandit caught up to her and called me over. I could hear the distinct wail of a wounded rabbit as I came closer. We inspected the rabbit and discovered that I had indeed wounded it with one of my jump shots, hitting it in the left hind leg. The blood trail had made for easy tracking by the hounds, and the leg wound slowed it down enough for Naala to catch it. Aristos came over to see what had happened, congratulate me, and praise his dog. We loaded the bunny into my game vest, and set out to find Aristos's elusive hare once again.
Aristos broke the cycle on the third try by pulverizing the rabbit he had missed twice before. Biobandit and I met up with him in a clearing close to where he had dispatched the bunny, and we all decided that it was time to head for the truck. We hunted half-heartedly all the way back along the frozen creek, stopping to investigate rabbity-looking spots. We reached the truck and loaded up our gear. Two tired beagles found spots in the back and curled up, while three exhausted men found seats up front. A quick stop at Burger King broke up the drive to Aristos's house, then Biobandit and I hopped in our vehicles to finish the journey home.
Although my rabbit was smaller (I'm man enough to admit to that; plus, it was a smaller target, and I scored 1 hit out of 2), it had long, meaty legs and plenty of back meat. Aristos's rabbit was of good size, with nice big hind legs and thick backstraps. Rabbit stew will be on the menu!
As usual, plans for the next trip were already discussed.
Note: the picture above is from Jan. 1st, not the 18th. I didn't have it when I posted about that hunt, and we didn't take any pictures on this one. The rabbit I shot in the picture was pretty much the same size that Aristos bagged on this hunt.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

While responding to a comment on an earlier post, I remembered something I read on (a very informative and welcoming site for those with extremely small tripping groups). The forum member was explaining how to figure out the proper number of canoes one should own. The answer:

n + 1, with n being the number of canoes you already own.

That made me chuckle, but it really fits how I feel about canoe trips and rabbit hunting. I always want to get one more in each season. Sometimes, the number is as low as 0, and I suffer severe bouts of cabin fever or landlubberitis. It's been a long time since I felt fully satisfied with the number of canoe trips or rabbit hunts in one season.

Is it the end of the world? No, just the state of my personal feelings of well-being based upon preferred avenues of recreation. Not very important at all in the big picture.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Trip Log Posted on!

A few days ago, I sent my recently-finished trip log of a trip this past August to Algonquin Provincial Park. Barry Bridgeford, the founder of, has graciously formatted it for me and posted it on his awesome site. This is the same trip featured in the slide show I posted earlier. The trip log has 55 pictures, about 1/3 the amount of the slide show, but has detailed text explaining the events of the trip day by day. So check it out, because I wrote it to share with you. I bet you can't read it without wishing it was warm, and you were putting a canoe into Cedar Lake!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What should I get?

I received some nice gifts for Christmas this year. Since becoming a father, my expectations for gifts has dropped significantly. Now, it's more about the kids than what I want. But I still made out okay. Among the gifts were a lot of shirts and a nice pair of leather gloves (dressy). My brother generously bestowed upon me a gift card to Cabela's. And here is where the dilemma lies: Cabela's has good gear for every season, and I enjoy the outdoors nearly year-round. Should I get something for the winter, when I go rabbit hunting in freezing temperatures? Do I buy camping gear to use in the summer, including trips to the best place on earth, Algonquin Provincial Park? Or do I focus on the fall, and find something I can use for deer hunting? The card has $50 on it, so I do have limited options. I don't want to spend any more than that; I'm still recovering from gift shopping. There still a lot of choices in the monstrous Cabela's industry. Help!

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Rabbit of 2010

I went rabbit hunting today with my good buddy Aristos and his son, Mark. We were joined by Aristos's brother-in-law and niece. We hunted a woodlot at the back of an old family farm. It was cold! My hands were uncomfortably cold right from the start, and remained so for about an hour. It was about 20 degrees F at 1 p.m., with winds of 10-20 mph out of the northwest. Brrr! I began by walking west, on the north side of a hedgerow, so the wind was blasting me the whole way. It was bearable once I gained the cover of the woods and the wind died down.
Aristos was the first to jump a rabbit, and he fired once as it ran away. Our two beagles, Chloe and Naala, began following the trail. The two kids were being too chatty, so we split them up by sending them off with different adults. I took Mark with me to find a spot in the woods, hopefully to intercept the rabbit the dogs were trailing. Mark's cousin stayed with her dad and watched for a bunny at another location. I tried to head towards the barking dogs, but they seemed to be having a difficult time staying on the rabbit's trail. Also, Mark and I were making too much noise crashing through the brush. Eventually, we turned around and found the rest of the group. Nobody had seen a rabbit since Aristos initially jumped the first rabbit.
We decided to try a new strategy. Aristos and I headed into the thick brush from two points, while the kids stayed with their uncle/dad and waited for a rabbit to run past. I found the perfect hiding spot for cottontails, an area of knee-high grass and fallen trees. The dogs found plenty of scent and began working under the limbs looking for bunnies. A rabbit darted from a patch of grass and I raised my .22 rifle. Click. An easy ten-foot shot ruined by a misfire! I called out "rabbit!" and spent the next few minutes extracting the dud cartridge, and feeding in new rounds until I found one that fired. By this time the rabbit was long gone, and the shot went harmlessly into the ground a few feet from me. But the shot excited the dogs, who began searching even harder.
Naala followed a scent under a fallen tree, and within minutes of my misfire, I was firing two shots at a fleeing rabbit, this time with bullets actually leaving the barrel. Naala found the scent trail, but showed trouble staying on track, and I feared it would be another rabbit escape. I moved to a more open area nearby, and saw that Aristos was doing the same. The other three members of our group were waiting in the other direction. Naala followed the trail in a big loop probably close to the size of a football field while I found the perfect spot to wait. I could see 50-100 yards in a 180 degree arc. Suddenly, Naala let out an intense series of barks, and I knew that she had seen the rabbit she was trailing. Soon I could see it fleeing, heading straight towards me! I readied my rifle, but waited for a shot where the dog was not nearby. But then Chloe left the brush and headed towards the running rabbit. The cottontail stopped and froze, a beagle behind it and to its left. I crept forward a few steps, hoping for a clear shot at a still target. Instead, the rabbit lost its nerve and ran past Chloe, offering me a running shot. I shot twice, hitting it on the second from about 20 ft. away. It flopped around for a while, then lay still.
Aristos reached me as a began inspecting my kill, and we were soon joined by the rest of the group. Mark volunteered to fillet the rabbit right there, but the adults decided he was not knowledgeable enough about rabbit anatomy to do a proper job. Your day will come, Mark! You'll be wishing you never said anything when the job of cleaning all the rabbits falls to you! After looking at the rabbit for a while and taking some pictures, Aristos's brother-in-law said he was going to take the kids and go home. They had lost their zeal for tramping around the woods in the cold. Aristos and I, along with the dogs, resumed our hunt. We knew there were more rabbits around.
Before we could get very far, my cell phone rang. My wife informed me that my older daughter was having trouble breathing. I agreed to meet her at the urgent care center, then set off to find Aristos. I told him of my dilemma, and we set off for the car, just minutes behind the kids. Aristos and Naala ended up going home with the others, and Chloe and I drove to meet my family. In the end, my daughter was fine after a treatment at the center, and we were all home in time for supper. I thank God that I was able to get out for a successful hunt, and that my little girl received the medical aid that she needed.