Monday, August 1, 2016

Bear Hunting - Secrets of the Long Sit and Killing MORE Crows

Bear Hounds
At the end of August, I will be sitting on a bear bait in a remote corner of Washington County. Not being my first rodeo, there are certain things I understand I must do to achieve success in seeing bears and being offered a good shot opportunity. While scent control is important, an even more critical factor leading to success is a hunter’s ability to effectively control movement while at a bait site.

Many people these days lack the ability to intently and quietly sit. Fortunately, with practice, hunters can greatly improve on their ability to sit motionless for longer and longer periods of time. Over the years, I have come up with a comprehensive list of elements guaranteed to help hunters be more comfortable sitting for extended amounts of time. Of primary importance, when preparing for a long sit, is bodily comfort. If possible, hunting in a ground blind seated in a portable “camp” chair is a great option. This set-up hides a hunter, allowing for limited stretching and movement when needed. Just be sure to select a chair that doesn’t squeak or make any unnecessary noise. Also, chairs equipped with head rests and lumbar support allow for the longest sits. Taking over the counter pain relief products like Ibuprophren or Aleve and wearing loose fitting clothing work in tandem to ease circulation, additionally guarding against discomfort. Before sitting down for the evening, clear away leaves, sticks, rocks and any other material around the feet that may make noise should it be necessary to switch position.

Sitting in tree stands can be a benefit, if they are well concealed, however this is not always the case on bear bait sites. Hunters should anticipate being somewhat exposed on tree stands and because of this, it is necessary to employ even greater steps to control movement. Several millions of years of evolution have provided mankind with the ability to quickly distinguish movement in our peripheral range. Use this trait, to scan areas on the right and left without moving the head, the less movement, the more likely a bear will not notice a hunter’s presence. A term, I heard last season, well worth mentioning is “managed dehydration”. This means that as a hunter prepares for a long evening sit, they should avoid caffeine (no morning coffee) and consume no more than a few small glasses of water throughout the day. This leaves a persons body at a point of “managed dehydration”, where during a 5-6 hour afternoon sit they should not need to urinate. This can, however, leave a person with a dry throat so bring a small amount of water and have a few cough drops (honey flavored) handy to ensure a coughing fit doesn’t ruin the evening. Some hunters bring along media such as a book or magazine to read, while the more technologically advanced outdoorsmen bring smart phones. Either approach will allow less “boredom” while hunting, which hopefully increases the chance of the hunter encountering a bear. While allowing some to hunt longer, these distractions can also cause missed shot opportunities. For me, it has always been easier to sit and enjoy the simple pleasures Mother Nature has to offer. My advice is put away the smart phone!

Over a dozen different guide companies lead bear hunts within the borders of Washington County. While all inclusive hunt, meal and lodging plans can be pricy, typically ranging from $1,800-$2,200, some outfitters provide budget conscious hunters with “hunt” only plans where the sportsman provides his/her own food and lodging. This option drops a bear hunt into a price from $800-$1,000, a much more economically feasible option for some. When considering the costs of maintaining a bear bait site, including the fuel, bait and guides time cutting lanes, setting up and maintaining stands and baiting, the “hunt” only plan is a deal! If offered, most guide companies list this option on their website.

Kill More Crows
In the 1940's a biological survey, conducted by a Canadian research team, showed that crows consumed an average of 120 duck eggs or fledglings per year. The survey also indicated that crows took a heavy toll on upland game bird populations, including at least 5 percent reduction in ruffed grouse reproduction rates. Shooting crows can make a real difference in providing farm crops, nesting waterfowl and upland game birds a small degree of relief from this crafty scavenger. With healthy numbers and no limit to the number of birds taken per day, crows provide excellent shooting opportunities.

In its basic form, crow hunting requires decoys and a crow call. Decoys are essential as crows expect to see other crows as they approach the call. Hunters should deploy a minimum of six flocked plastic decoys, more decoys add realism. Motion decoys like the wing flapping “Mojo Crow” work to help bring set-ups “alive” additionally bolstering crow confidence. Place decoys in a field and a few in the nearby trees as “sentinels”. Dead crows can also be placed on the ground or hung on tree limbs, and used as decoys.

As hunters get more advanced, an owl decoy set on top of a fence post, or hoisted up into a tree works well to fire up large groups of crows. An electronic remote controlled game call adds yet another dimension to decoy spreads and increases success. Beginning calling sequences, the volume should be kept low. As shooting begins, gradually turn the volume up slightly every 10 to 15 minutes until the volume is adequately pulling in distant crows. It pays to have a rifle handy in these set-ups, as on occasion, I have had coyotes run in to investigate the crow calls.

The most common methods of hunting crows are “run and gun” and “still” hunting from a blind. During run and gun hunting decoys generally aren’t used and hunters spend only a limited amount of time in a single place. Simply get hidden, call, shoot and leave. In colder weather, sitting in a permanent or portable blind near a feeding area is highly effective; just remember to bring plenty of shells! Crows tend to be destructive and cause considerable crop damage.

Much open farmland exists along Route 1 between Danforth and Topsfield in northern Washington County (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 45, D-5, C-4 and B-4). Most farmers/landowners understand this problem and are happy to have hunters eliminate crows from their properties. Just please remember the cardinal rule of “leave only foot prints” when accessing someone else’s land to ensure it remains accessible to future hunters. Crow hunting start on August 1st and goes to September 23rd.

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