Showing posts with label Gear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gear. Show all posts

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Don't Laugh, But Crocs are the Best!

I love my Crocs so much that they deserve their own post.  I'm not going to lie and claim that I came up with Crocs as being a critical piece of hunting gear.  No, that honour belongs to the Rookie Hunter Podcast.  Fuck! They were right!

Not only do I use my crocs around the house for taking out the trash or doing home renovation, but they are part of my critical kit whenever I am camping or hunting.

After a long day in hunting boots, it is great to take off the boots and pad around camp in a pair of Crocs.  They let your feet and boots air out, reducing moisture and the chance of blisters, and give you space to let your toes wiggle while you're sitting around the fire.  With a pair of wool socks, they are plenty warm for even sub-zero nights sitting around a fire, and as a bonus, they are quick to slip on for a midnight pee.  I've even used them to wade through a river crossing.  They weigh nothing and make no noise so you can strap them to the outside of your pack on backpack hunts.

There is one downside of bringing Crocs hunting.  You might get teased relentlessly.  Trust me, they are just jealous.  You won't be disappointed with having a pair of Crocs, and before you know it, others will be wanting their own too. 

Tuesday 6 August 2019

First Hunting Trip and Gear List Part 2: Hunting Essentials

It's summer and we're all looking forward to the upcoming fall hunting season.  Last summer I wrote the first part of a guide for hunting-curious people or new hunters who might be accompanying an experienced hunter into the woods for the first time.  Click here to take a look and read Part 1: Looking After Yourself.

For Part 2, we'll assume you now have a PAL (Possession and Acquisition Licence, ie. gun licence), have taken your CORE course (Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education), and have all the basic skills and equipment from Part 1.


So, you've been invited along on a multi-day hunt where the plan is to set up a base camp with wall tents and trailers and strike out daily from there.  What do you need to know and what do you need to bring?

The goal of it all is to have a good time and be invited back.  On the show MeatEater, they call not being invited back OTC, or "Out of The Club".  There are lots of reasons you may become OTC.  Here's some tips on how to avoid that.

Things to Know


Committing to the Trip


If you're like most of us, you have limited days of vacation per year that you can spend on a hunting trip.  By committing to a trip, it's not just you relying on others, but they are also counting on you.  They may not have invited someone else in favour of taking you. They may have prepared or made special arrangements on your behalf.  They may be counting on your help to deal with logistics.  While flaking out may seem like it's not a big deal to our generation, for a group trip like a hunting trip, flaking can result in serious bad blood.

If you are going to agree to go on a hunting trip with someone then you need to be onboard 100%.  That means you need to prepare for the trip adequately, perhaps physically training, learning about the area and perhaps also procuring the right gear.

Spots, Locations, Campsites are Closely Guarded Secrets


The saying "loose lips sink ships" applies to hunting as much as anything.  People and groups guard their spots, locations, and campsite as precious secrets to prevent them from becoming overrun with other hunters.  Finding a good spot to hunt and camp can take years of scouting and trial and error.  If you are being invited to join then the expectation is that you will hold the group's locations secret.  Posting on social media or even telling a close friend the location of a hunt is crossing a line and totally uncool.  Personally, if I am told of a spot, or invited to join a group, I don't even like to say what management unit it is in and I will certainly never take someone there. In fact, if I am going to go hunting with someone, I'll avoid going anywhere near spots that I was shown or told about. 

When I am telling someone about a hunting success and use a vague term like "South of Vanderhoof" some people are very good at effortlessly and casually inserting pointed questions about where exactly and how far along the road with phrases like "Oh yeah, past ####" expecting you'll say yes or no.

If you are "in the club" and have been let in on some prime hunting spots then it is your job to keep those spots a secret, not just for you, but for the group.  I made the mistake of telling people who were camping in the same rec site as our group where I was successful with my first deer and for the next 3 days they hunted my spot.  It was a lesson I learned the hard way and won't make again.

Carpooling and Cargo

Before planning your trip with the group, you should find out who is riding with who and how much space you have for your gear.  If you are sharing a ride with someone it is good to find out early how much space you have for your gear.

Sleeping Arrangements

No one will have any fun if they don't get a good night's sleep.  It's really important to know where you'll be sleeping.  Do you have to bring your own tent? Do you need a cot? Can you just get away with a sleeping bag?  Pro Tip: Bring earplugs, either for yourself or for your tent-mates!

Trip Preparation and Packing

Different groups do things differently.  You may be expected to bring pre-prepared meals to share.  You may have to look after yourself.  You may do a group shopping and have to cook from time to time.  You may have to help pack group equipment.  Ask questions and pull your weight, and then some, if you want to be invited back. Pro Tip: Prepare a tasty dish or dinner for the group.  Everyone likes a good cook!

Know the Current Rules

A few years ago while hanging around the campfire a debate broke out about bag limits, regional vs. provincial, for deer.  There were as many opinions about the rules as there were people around the campfire.  As the newbie of the group, I was pretty sure I had the most recent knowledge from my CORE course the previous year, but rather than make an fool of myself I decided to go get the regulations and read them aloud for the group.  After that, more than a few people were surprised at the current rules.

Rules change from year to year.  Most recently, one of the changes was the rules about evidence of sex and species for deer and ungulates.  Each time the regulations are printed, the changes are highlighted in bold green text, but nevertheless, people often miss the rule changes.  Ignorance of a rule change is not an excuse in the eyes of a conservation officer, so don't put your group-mates in a difficult position by making a mistake because you aren't aware of the current rules.

Meat Sharing

Every group has different practices and traditions when it comes to sharing meat.  Don't expect to keep all of your own meat nor share in anyone else's.  It can lead to a lot of bad feelings if there is a misunderstanding about if/how meat will be shared. It's best to ask the question and sort out any confusion before the trip, or at the very least, before an animal is hanging back at camp.

Cost Sharing

A hunting trip costs money.  It might be fuel, butchering fees, camp consumables, motels on the way, or any number of things.  Make sure you contribute your share, especially if your host is providing a lot of the camping gear.  If you have an opportunity to cover the cost of the wear and tear on a host's gear, you'll certainly endear yourself to them and the group.

Gear Coordination


 It's a good idea not to assume that everything is being provided for you.  Ask your group-mates if there is gear that you could bring for the group to use.  It's kind of funny when you show up and everyone has an axe for chopping wood when obviously the group could have shared a couple.  It's frustrating when everyone assumed someone would bring an axe, so no one has one.  Talk with your group about these kinds of things and offer to bring things you have or procure items if you can afford it.

Camp Chores are Not Optional

Well, they are optional if you don't want to be invited back again.  Camp chores involve everything from cutting firewood, preparing meals, cleaning up, doing dishes, fueling vehicles, and much more.  Every group has different traditions and expectations.  If you don't step up, ask how you can help, and volunteer to do more than your share, don't expect to be invited back.

Know the Area

Don't expect to be shown the best spots to go.  If you are lucky the group might point you in the right direction.  If you really want to do your part, use Google Earth to scout the area ahead of time and have an idea of where you want to hunt.  Be sure to communicate your intentions to go and hunt an area each day with the rest of the group so that you're not hunting someone else's area and they know where you are for safety.

Also, it is very important for your own safety to know the lay of the land.  It is a good idea to know which way to hike to find a landmark like a road or creek which will bring you to safety if you get lost.  No one wants to have to perform a search and rescue for the newbie.

Know the Animals 

Be sure to have a solid understanding of your quarry, its habits and the best hunting tactics.  No one likes someone who expects to be hand-held the whole time.

If you are going after an animal that is best hunted with the help of calling, YouTube is great!  I learned how to moose call from YouTube and learned how to use my elk calls from a DVD. MeatEater is also a great source of tips and tricks.  It isn't hard to learn to call and it is impressive if you show up with mad calling skills.

Knowing the animals includes knowing how to field dress and skin the animals in preparation for transport home.  Be aware that there are as many ways to do this as there are people on earth.  Expect experienced people to have strong opinions about the best way to field dress, quarter, and skin game.  Go with the flow and accept advice, but ultimately, with a little practice and advice from YouTube, you'll be better than many of the people you encounter in the bush and likely others in your group.

Dylan from EatWild has put together great videos for field skills such as field dressing and meat care which can be easy accessed through the EatWild app.  I strongly suggest downloading it or signing up for one of his courses.
Also, if you want your butcher to like you, you'll want to do a very good job cleaning every last hair and piece of dirt and debris from the carcass long before it gets to them.  I recommend spending the time on the day you get the animal to make it perfect.  After it is hung and cleaned, use game bags to keep birds, bugs, and tree bark from dirtying your hard won meat.  Obviously watch the temperature and keep the meat cool and in the shade.  If you're worried about your meat, get it to a cooler or butcher ASAP.

Know How to Be Uncomfortable

Steven Rinella says hunting teaches you how to be uncomfortable.  It is often cold, rainy, hot, or tiring to go hunting.  No one wants to deal with your discomfort, so as prepared as possible to cope with discomfort without complaining.  Better yet, be as prepared as possible to minimize your discomfort. Pro Tip: Use Moleskin well before you get a blister.  If you feel rubbing or a hot spot on your foot, stop and deal with it right away!

Keep Your Spirits Up

Everyone who goes hunting wants to be successful in harvesting an animal.  It's only natural to suffer a decline in moral when things don't go to plan. However, that's no excuse for moral to drop so low that it ruins the trip.  The best advice I ever received was to go out into the woods with the mindset that you're there to practice and improve the many skills of hunting, and that just seeing an animal, let alone shooting one, is just a bonus.

It's better to see success in improving your ability to climb a ridge quietly, keeping the wind in your face, glassing, or remaining patiently still, than focus on whether or not you saw an animal or sign. If you improve your abilities as a hunter the animals will end up in front of you eventually.

Nevertheless, after days of not seeing animals, there are times when you need to take your mind off your quarry to get a fresh perspective and renew your resolve to hunt hard.  This is when it's great to have a .22 LR along with you so that you can go after some grouse that you may have seen while driving to a trailhead.  Alternatively, you might spend a morning fishing as a change of pace.  Often, the high tempo reward of a side hunt, or some good fishing, can lift the spirits of even the most frustrated hunter. 

Nail the Social Game


It may seem obvious, but being fun to hang out with is part of the experience of a group trip.  No one likes a complainer or a braggart.  No one likes a know-it-all or someone overly opinionated. It's annoying when someone over-indulges in booze or other substances and makes the evening around the campfire less enjoyable for others.  Be yourself, but make sure to be the best version of you. When in doubt, showing humility and holding back a little is better than talking big and being obnoxious. 

Be Present; Leave the Phone Alone

Most people go hunting to get away from it all, catch up with old friends, make new ones, and experience nature.  There is nothing more annoying than someone who spends more time on their phone than hanging out with the group around the campfire.  If your significant other is needy, tell them that you'll be out of cell phone coverage and turn your phone off.  Short of a death in the family, don't expect the group to go home early just because your significant other is getting lonely.  You're there for the experience, so experience it.

Be Ready to Hunt

It kind of goes without saying, but make sure you have the required licence and tags, physical fitness, and expect to get up very early, spend the whole day hiking or hunting, possibly alone, and have a mental plan of what to do when you see a legal animal.  Make sure you are ready to hunt, both mentally and physically.

Things to Bring




While it may seem obvious, people often forget to get their tags.  With the current rules, you need ALL OF YOUR TAGS FROM THE CURRENT SEASON, EVEN CANCELLED ONES, NO MATTER WHAT YOU ARE HUNTING!

There is nothing more annoying than someone wanting to stop on the way to pick up a tag or worse yet "shoot on your yag".  Don't be that guy or gal who inconveniences people with an unnecessary stop along the way to get tags you should have bought weeks or months ago, or worst of all, makes everyone uncomfortable with a request that is illegal. 

Firearm or Bow

Be sure you have firearm or bow that you know inside out, backwards and forwards, and in your sleep.  You should be so well practiced that if you see a legal animal that is within range and not moving, it shouldn't be a question whether or not you can take it.  Come prepared with an abundance of practice.

Choosing a rifle is not easy.  Check out the post about choosing a rifle.  I am sure choosing a bow is even more challenging, but I don't have any experience with that.


It is both illegal and unethical to point your rifle at something until you are certain it is a legal animal to hunt.  It is critical that you have decent binoculars to identify game.  A 10x magnification is more than adequate.  I strongly suggest you choose something with a good warranty.  Also, it is a good idea to get a binocular harness to keep your binos close at hand and reduce the pull on your neck.  I use Vortex Diamondback 10x and an Alps Outdoorz bino harness.
Vortex Diamondback 10x42mm, $350

Alps Outdoorz Bino Harness $70

Sleep System

A "Sleep System" is a fancy term for sleeping bag and mattress.  If you aren't sleeping well you'll have a miserable hunt.  It is far better to be too warm than too be cold.  If you are sleeping in a wall tent or trailer, it is a good idea to assume that the heat will die out during the night.  If there is a wood stove and a guy over 50, then you are likely to have someone who will feed the stove throughout the night when they get up to pee, but don't count on it.

If you are going hunting in the fall or winter, you can expect sub-zero temperatures.  The rating of a sleeping bag is typically 10 degrees C colder than is comfortable.  If you expect it to be - 5 C, you'll want a -15C bag to really feel comfortable. If you are doing backpack hunting, a low temperature sleeping bag that is light weight can be very expensive, but if you have the luxury of space in a truck for a large and heavy bag, it is not very expensive to get a -30C bag for wall tent/trailer hunting.

It is important to also point out that there are a lot of strong opinions about down vs. synthetic sleeping bags.  Generally down is more expensive and lighter than synthetic, but the downside with down is that it loses its insulative properties when it gets wet or packs down.  Down relies on "loft" which is a fancy term for fluffiness.  Moisture immediately eliminates loft, while even normal use slowly decreases it as the down packs together more tightly until you can put it in the dryer to fluff it back up.  Synthetic bags are heavier and bulkier, but keep you warm even when moist and don't suffer from a loss of loft.  

Pro Tip: If you have the space, bring an extra sleeping bag.  A spare sleeping bag doesn't have to be special or even very good, but I have been on several trips where after a day or two you find out that one of your friends is really cold at night and sleeping poorly.  Lending them a second bag to double up with will make you a friend for life.  On the other hand, if you need it for some reason then it's there.

-29C Ascend Whammy from Cabelas $180. Better for backpacking.  Takes up less room, but more restrictive while sleeping.

-29C Outfitter XLFrom Cabelas $230.Great when space is no issue.  Lots of room to sprawl out.

If you are in a trailer, it is likely that you'll have a mattress provided. In a wall tent you'll likely need a cot and perhaps a mattress.  It is actually more important to have good insulation on your mattress than above you.  As a mattress and sleeping bag compresses it loses its insulative properties.  It is actually the air which trapped by fluff that provides the insulation.  It is just as important to have a good mattress as it is to have a good bag.  If you are sleeping in a cot or on the ground, get the highest R-value mattress you can find.  R values from 4 to 6 are for below freezing.

Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad $100, R4.4
Cabelas Outfitter XL Cot $150


It is not a bad idea for beginners to bring a couple radios and give one to your closest hunting buddy.  Have a protocol such as that you'll turn it on after dark if one of you hasn't come back to camp or if you hear a shot.  Some waterproof radios for under $100 will serve you well.

Bear Spray

You may think that your rifle is the best bear defence there is.  Studies suggest bear spray can be as much as three times more effective in deterring a charging grizzly than a firearm (over 90% effective vs. around 30%).  Think about it.  Let's say that you have maybe 4 or 5 rounds in your rifle and a grizzly comes out of nowhere charging at you.  First, you have to decide if you are trying to kill the bear or scare it off with the noise.  If you feel like you have the time to scare it off, then you're using up both time and one of the rounds.  When a grizzly charged my father in law, the first shot made it charge faster.

Then, if you deciding to attempt to kill the bear, you need to aim and fatally shoot the bear.  Bears often don't charge in a straight line and in all likelihood, you have time for one, maybe two shots.  How confident are you that you will hit it in the central nervous system (brain or spine) and drop it in its tracks?  Even a heart or lung shot will still give the bear several minutes of life to maul you.   That is why the research suggests it is much less successful than bear spray.  Last of all, even if you are successful, you now need to report yourself to the conservation officers and prove your life was in danger to justify your actions in self defence.  All that said, if you make the decision that trying to kill a charging bear is your only option then keep shooting until you finish the job.

From the recent bear safety presentation at a BHA Region 2 Pint night, we were told that once the bear is down, don't approach it.  Check yourself for injuries, reload your rifle, compose yourself, take photos of the area and write down what happened and why you were justified in self defence.  Only after you are confident that the bear has expired, should you consider approaching the bear.  Follow the latest regulations for what to do if you have shot an animal in self defence or by accident.  If it says to field dress the animal and preserve the hide and meat, do so, and report the incident to a conservation officer in accordance with the rules.  An investigation will likely follow and they will likely look for holes in your story as part of a reason why you may be lying.  If you have acted in self defence and documented what happened it is less likely that you will face prosecution for unlawfully killing an animal.

Bear spray, on the other hand, is only useful if sprayed as a fog or cloud between you and a charging bear. Check out this video from Parks Canada for guidance for how to use bear spray.  Make sure it is easily accessible in a holster on either your hip or front backpack straps.  Bear spray will not help you if it is inside your pack or in a difficult to reach pocket.  If a bear charges, you will have scarce seconds to react, so you will want it within reach.  One nice thing with bear spray is that you don't have to be as accurate with the bear spray since it makes a cloud of deterrence between you and the bear.  You're more likely to be able to put the fog in between you and the bear than you are likely to fatally hit the bear with a bullet. 


Snacks, Food, Booze and Supplies

Everyone has to eat, drink and answer the call of nature.  Generally speaking, eating and drinking is a social event back at a hunting camp.  People tell stories, exaggerate (lie haha!), and tease each other to pass the time around a campfire.  Whether or not you drink, many of the other people will be drinking and so it's a good idea to have your own beverages or snacks along for the evenings.  Snacks also play a significant role in keeping up the moral when you are away from camp, cold, wet, tired, or just feeling down from seeing no animals.

Make sure you always have a toilet roll and Wet Ones in your pack and around camp when nature calls.  Trust me, Wet Ones are just friggin' magic for spending time in the bush without a shower.


There are some things you can do to really help your chances of getting invited back.

Camp Skills


If you know how to chop wood and make fire and you take initiative in the mornings and evenings to get the fire going and have split wood on hand for the campfire and stoves you'll be very valuable to have around.

If you know how to use a chainsaw that can also be a valuable skill to share the load of gathering wood.



Some people think that "If you can't tie knots, just tie lots,".   As a former sailing instructor, that makes me sick to my stomach.  There are only two knots anyone really needs to know to get by.  Everyone should know how to tie a Bowline (pronounced boh-lin) and the Half Hitch. With these two knots you can set up a game pole, hoist game, and lash down or haul anything.

Vehicle skills

If you are using ATVs, trucks, snowmobiles, horses, or boats, it is great if you have experience in the operation and finesse the various modes of transport.  It is a great idea if you know how to drive in snow and ice, while towing a trailer, in poor conditions, using a manual transmission, operation of outboards and inboards, and possibly even how to ride a horse.  Knowing your way around the various modes of transport can come in very handy.


Being able to operate and maintain generators can come in very handy.


Being able to whip together a fantastic meal from limited ingredients and improvisation skills will endear you to most groups. 

Saturday 20 July 2019

Gear I Can and Can't Live Without

Everyone has gear that they love and gear that didn't live up to expectation.  Sometimes it can be quite costly to figure out what gear works for you.  Over the last 5 years I've tried to build my kit with a budget in mind and there are certainly some great scores and some things which have been disappointing.

Can't Live Without

Obviously my boots and rifle are critical, so here are some of the unsung heroes that I can't live without.

Under Armour UA Enduro Pants

These pants are semi-waterproof and incredibly durable.  I struggled a lot in the beginning with finding pants which didn't limit flexibility in the crotch and knees.  These pants are quite good for the price ($90).  I do plan to upgrade one more time and spend whatever money I need to get durable and flexible pants when I find the right ones, but for now these are definitely an 8.5/10 and way better than any other paint I have tried.

Saxx Long Leg Underwear
If you have muscular or thick thighs like I have, chafing is a serious concern.  Saxx long leg underwear are a life saver, and best of all, they are Canadian.

Wet Ones


No question, the best thing to ever happen to shitting in the woods.  Honestly, I might be cleaner when I am hunting.

Can Live Without


ALPS Outdoorz Crossfire 


This is really hard because I like ALPS Outdoorz products, but this pack has been disappointing if I'm honest. First, the top corners of the pack wore through within one season where the wire of the frame pushes them out.   I wish I could say I used it hard, but it happened from being put down on the grown and picked up a few times.   Second, this pack is just too small.  The frame pushes the bag so far off your back and that really eats up all of the internal space of the bag.  This bag can barely fit a sweater in addition to some essentials like TP and Wet Ones.  If I have to take a layer off I am almost always strapping it to the outside of this pack, where it can get wet.  In the store, this pack looked good and had so many features I liked.  It's too bad, but I'll be replacing it for sure.

Currently I am struggling with two options.  Option 1 is to get the Cabela's  2500 cubic inch bow and rifle pack to use for my day pack.  Option 2 is buying a top end backpack hunting pack and using it for both backpack hunts and as a day pack. 

Cabelas MT50 Pants

When I bought these pants I wanted Gore-Tex pants but didn't want to spend a ton of money.  These pants seemed like a good compromise.  They aren't terrible, but they have poor flexibility in the knees and crotch and I just find myself getting tired whenever I am hiking in these pants.  The worst part about these pants is the lack of fly.  It is such a hassle whenever you have to take a leak.  Definitely replacing these with better, more flexible, pants which have a fly.

Primos Trigger Sticks Tall

The concept is great, but they are lacking some key features and quality.  I bought the bipod version and it became clear in the field that the collapsed length is too long.  If you strap them to your pack they are either hitting branches above your head or clattering on your legs as you walk.

Next, the leg spread doesn't lock.  I have had it several times when the handle suddenly starts to tilt over and almost lets my rifle fall off.  You have to steady these too much for them to be good for steadying a shot.  Lastly, they seized up after a few years.  I took them apart and found that they had rusted inside where the mechanism allows the legs to telescope.  I ended up just taking off the yoke and adapting it to use with my much more compact spotting scope tripod so that I could use it as a shooting rest when I am not glassing.

When I looked at the new generation the overall weight is much heavier than a lightweight spotting scope tripod and the length of the bipod version is still just as long.

Thursday 11 July 2019

Choosing Your First Hunting Rifle

There is so much information on the internet about rifles that trying to choose your first one can seem like a very daunting task.  Much of what can be found out there has either a sales pitch or falls into the category of people arguing over irrelevant nuance.  Before I bought my first rifle, I waded through countless forums and articles trying to find some insight into what to choose.  Then I went to Reliable Gun in Vancouver and Nick helped me choose my first rifle back in 2013.  I had such a good, no pressure, non-intimidating first experience there that it has become my go-to place for all things hunting and shooting.  Shane, Nick, and the rest of the staff consistently make me feel welcomed and are very patient with my questions.

Here, I'll try to summarize it all and separate fact from fiction.  For this article, we'll assume you've taken the firearms safety course and have a basic familiarity with calibres and types of actions.

What are you hunting?


Most articles on this topic will tell you that different cartridges are best for different animals.  In short, that's crap.

For hunting in BC, there are small game rifles, big game rifles, and shotguns.  If you're going after small game such as rabbits, grouse or squirrels, then you should probably consider a .22 LR or other small, low recoil cartridge.  If you are going after waterfowl or upland birds, then a 12 gauge shotgun  with a 3" or 3 1/2" shells with a 26" to 30" barrel and changeable chokes will suite you well.  However, for hunting big game, meaning from deer to bison, you'll need a big game rifle.

For big game, there are really two approaches to take.  The first is choosing a rifle which can do it all, and the second is to choose the best rifle for a particular animal.  If you are budget constrained like me, then the first approach is likely best.

Choosing a do-it-all hunting rifle is not as hard as some would lead you to believe, but it does come with a few potential drawbacks.  A do-it-all rifle will come at the cost of being slightly more powerful than is required for smaller "big game animals" like deer.  This means that a poorly placed shot might result in more meat damage than might have been avoided with a smaller calibre.

A second potential drawback of a do-it-all is the increased recoil which could dissuade you from practicing at the range as much as you should or worse yet, could cause you to develop an accuracy robbing flinch.  Generally, most people can shoot a few boxes of ammo in a practice session through rifles up to 300 WIN MAG.  Beyond that, many people find the recoil too punishing with larger cartridges and consciously or subconsciously prefer not to shoot more than a couple rounds.  Having a firearm you dislike firing means you won't practice enough to be able to take ethical shots at animals. That said, the do-it-all cartridges are great and most people find them to be more than adequate for hunting any big game on the continent.

The do-it-all cartridges include 270 WIN, 7mm REM MAG, .308 WIN, .30-06 Springfield, 300 WIN MAG and many others in between.  All of these cartridges are capable of sending a 150 grain (grain is a measure of weight) bullet down range with plenty of speed and power for most game in BC.  The one exception being bison, where hunting rules mandate a 175 grain bullet with has retained at least 2000 ft-lbs of energy after flying 100m.  That rules out the 270 WIN, and limits the choices for ammo for a 7mm REM MAG, so if you are serious about bison then you'll need at least a .308 WIN or larger.

There are many other cartridges in and around the size of those I've listed, but they are less common which means that if you need to run out and get a box of ammo at the local sporting store in a remote corner of BC, you may be out of luck. For cartridges smaller than 270 WIN, most people start to consider them a deer only round.  For cartridges larger than a 300 WIN MAG the recoil becomes more and more punishing meaning people are less likely to practice and might develop a flinch, while they provide little to no benefit to hunting. 

If you are wondering about the difference between the do-it-all cartridges the answer is nothing.  Well, not nothing, but very little.  The animal doesn't know the difference.  It is a complete myth that any one of them is more or less accurate than another.  The larger ones have more recoil and the ones that send the bullet out of the barrel faster shoot a little flatter.  If you want the best accuracy, get the best rifle and optics you can afford, try a bunch of different brands and types of ammo, and practice a ton.  Shot placement is far more important to ethically shooting an animal than what bullet you choose or rifle you buy.

If you really twisted my arm, I would say it's a 3-way tie between .308 WIN, .30-06 Springfield, and 300 WIN MAG. 



Generally, you can get a good rifle from $600 to $1400 and comparable optics in the same range.  You should generally budget about as much for optics as for the rifle itself.  Anything below about $600 is likely inadequate and you'll come to regret your purchase when it doesn't perform or you outgrow it.

Also, consider the cost of practice. Most do-it-all rifles cost about the same amount to shoot and a lot of that comes down to the brand and type of bullet you choose.  If you want to get in some additional inexpensive practice, consider getting a .22 LR to practice the basic.  Ultimately, you'll still need to practice a lot with your hunting rifle so you develop the skill and muscle memory to take ethical shots at game.



Bolt action rifles are simple and by far the most common for hunting.  There are certainly semi-automatic hunting rifles, but they are typically heavier and more expensive.  I would stick to bolt action for a first hunting rifle.



For a hunting rifle, remember, you'll be carrying this rifle all day, up and down hills, and may even have to hold for an offhand shot for several minutes without moving.  Many manufacturers make light weight rifles and they are very much worth considering, even at a slightly increased cost.


Stainless or Blued

If you are hunting in BC, you are likely to face changing weather, sudden storms, and moisture.  Many people have blued rifles which they have used in all weather conditions for years, but if neglected and left wet they can be susceptible to rust.  I prefer stainless for that peace of mind, never having to worry about moisture damaging my rifle.  Nowadays, you can get stainless rifles which are coloured black if you dislike the colour of a silver barrel.  Stainless also costs slightly more on average, but again, I think it's worth it.

Browning X-Bolt with stainless barrel and composite stock ~$1350 CAD

Browning X-Bolt with blued barrel and wood stock ~$1100 CAD


Detachable Magazine

In Canada it is illegal to have a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle, therefore, all rounds need to be removed from the firearm when in a car or on an ATV.  While we all want that picturesque experience where we hiked, stalked, and succeeded in getting an animal, it can easily happen that you see a legal animal while driving to and from the trailhead.  I have watched people fumble trying to load a round into their rifle's internal magazine and regret not having a detachable magazine when they miss an opportunity at game.  A detachable magazine is very much worth it.

Detachable magazine


Wood or Synthetic Stock

Mostly a matter of style preference, synthetic stocks are less susceptible to neglect than wood.  If you're like me, I prefer the look and love the durability of a synthetic stock, but to each their own.



Honestly, you get what you pay for.  Don't expect a $400 rifle to perform like a $1200 rifle, and the same goes for optics.  Personally, I really like Browning, Tikka, and Weatherby.  The best thing to do is handle the rifles at the gun store.  Feel the bolt cycle, dry fire it to see if you like the trigger, inspect it closely for defects and overall quality.  I went into the store thinking I wanted to buy a Remington 700, but much preferred everything about the Browning once I had it in my hands. 



As a rule of thumb, you should spend half your budget on the rifle and half on the optics.  That's a pretty rough rule of thumb.  Generally, you get what you pay for with optics.  The low end optics won't hold their zero, leading to inaccuracy, and the high end optics will give you excellent clarity in the sight picture.  In the vast middle ground there are many good manufacturers.  Most people who hunt opt for a 3-9 times magnification scope. Generally that provides a good balance between field of view and zoom. Objective lens size makes little difference other than weight, so consider a smaller diameter lens.  These days, many manufacturers are offering unlimited warranties, but some others aren't, so consider that some time in the future you may drop your rifle and damage the scope.

Next there is reticle style.  Z-Plex reticles are zeroed at a point (usually 100m or 200m) where anywhere between you and that zero range the bullet's arc is within a couple inches of the centre, so for hunting that's good enough.  BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensator reticle which gives you marks for approximately how far your bullet has dropped at different ranges beyond where you zero'ed it.  The zero point for a BDC is often 100 yards and the marks below are approximately how far your bullet will drop beyond that distance for a specific type and weight of bullet.  If you want to use a BDC reticle then make sure it matches your firearm's cartridge. MIL dot or MOA reticles use miliradians (MIL) or minutes of angle (MOA) marks to let adjust your aim based on what you have calculated for how far your bullet will drop due to gravity or how far it will drift due to the wind.

Beyond about 200m, wind and the arc of the bullet due to gravity start to make a difference that is significant enough to mean you could easily miss or wound an animal if you don't know what you're doing.  It is arrogant foolishness to shoot at an animal further away than you have practiced shooting. 

For a beginner, a Z-plex is more than adequate, a BDC if matched for your rifle is good if you want to practice out to 400m, and an angular measurement reticle (MOA or MIL) is great if you want to really put in the time at the range to perfect your shooting and learn the science of ballistics. 



Often overlooked, rings connect your scope to the rifle.  If they are poor quality then your accuracy will suffer.  Don't cheap out on rings.



I like having a bipod,  It means I have more options to rest my rifle and get the best accuracy.  As a side benefit, when nature calls, you can put your rifle down on the ground without it getting dirty.  As an alternative to bipods, people shoot off their packs or camera/spotting scope tripods or shooting sticks.  Bipods are heavy, but I think a good quality Harris bipod is worth it.


Carry Straps

Honestly, I rarely use my strap, but many people swear by them.  I usually ready carry my rifle or cradle it in my crossed arms.  If I am with someone then I might strap it to my backpack during a long hike or climb.  The strap I bought is too wide and while you might think it spreads the load, I just find that it slides off my shoulder.  Ideally, my next strap will be narrower and sit nicely between my backpack strap and neck rather than span that distance and slide off.



Choose a rifle you like and one you will practice with at the range.  Most people will not practice nearly enough with their rifles to maintain or improve their skills.  Most of the decision making comes down to personal preference.  Generally, for a good first rifle you should expect to spend between $800 and $1200 for the rifle and between $600 to $1000 for optics.  I would pick a Tikka or Browning in either .308 WIN, or .30-06 Springfield, with a stainless barrel and synthetic stock and a 3-9x scope with a good warranty.

After getting the rifle, go to the range with as many different boxes of ammo as you can afford.  Pick different bullet weights, types, brands, and price points.  Set up a targets at 100m and shoot 4 bullet groups of each type of bullet, letting your rifle cool between groups.  You'll find what ammo your rifle likes best.  Then, just practice practice practice.

Monday 6 August 2018

First Hunting Trip and Gear List Part 1: Looking After Yourself

It's August and many of us are scouting, going through our gear, sighting in rifles, and getting mountain ready for the upcoming fall season.  One of the things I am trying to arrange this year is to recruit some new hunters to come with me for a weekend outing in between my bigger trips.  From the people I have spoken to who are interested in coming with me, one of the biggest barriers is the overwhelming complexity and cost of being prepared for a day of hunting.

BC has this very interesting licence option called an "Initiation Licence" where a person 18 or older can get a one time licence to go hunting with a mentor, where that person doesn't need their PAL or CORE, but will need to be under the constant and direct supervision of the supervising hunter and shooting on their tags.  The initiation licence is a great way for someone to try out hunting without having to go through the whole process.

So here's the scenario.  You've been invited to go with a well established hunter or hunting group and you need to prepare yourself.  You don't need all the skills or gear that make a hunter, but you need the mandatory basics to look after yourself for the day.  The goal is to be comfortable, not be a burden, and start learning to hunt.  For those who already have the shooting skills, you may get an opportunity to take a shot if you have the initiation license.  Here we go!



Before we get to the gear list there is one mandatory skill every new initiation licence hunter needs to master.  No, it's not shooting.  The most important skill, that failing to acquire would spell certain doom, is being able to shit in the woods.  There are no toilets out there.  We are not going to town just to poo.  It's going to be a long day, so you need to be prepared for this. 

The biggest trick to squatting is not pulling your pants down all the way.  If you have them bunched up at your knees then it will lessen the risk of getting yourself.  Your "business" is going to land somewhere from between your ankles to a foot or so back from that.  If you have your pants bunched around your ankles, guess what...
In the above diagram, the top and middle options work, from first hand experience.  The bottom one, is probably going to be a horrendous mess, but hey, whatever works for you.  My only opinion is that if you need a log that will be when you can't find one.  I suggest getting comfortable with the first two.


The reason I say pooping in the woods is the only mandatory skill is because you can still come along and hike with me if your shooting skills aren't at the point where you would be the person taking the shot.  It is unlikely we'll be successful anyways, so most of what we are going to do is just spend time in the woods looking for animals.

Silence and Motionlessness

While it may seem obvious to most, it isn't obvious to everyone.  When we're walking in the woods looking for animals, the more noise we make the more likely animals will hear us and flee.  When we see an animal, remain silent and motionless.  Animals will notice motion and sound easily and if alarmed by it they will surely take off.


Overall, the principle is that you need to be prepared for a cold, rainy, fall day of hiking in the mountains.

Hiking boots

For your first trip this may be your biggest investment unless you already have a pair.  Keep in mind, we are unlikely to be on well established trails and the weather is likely to be wet and cold.  Bad footwear, wet and cold feet, and the blisters that result, will ruin the day.  That said, for my first hunting trip I picked myself up a pair of inexpensive boots because I really didn't know if I would like hunting.  They served me well for a few years before I replaced them with a far nicer pair.  That's all you need.  Any hiking boots that are comfortable and hopefully broken in will do.  If you are buying some, then ankle support and waterproof are critical features.  You can get yourself an entry level pair of adequate boots from Cabela's for under $80.  Just make sure they fit your foot well without your heel lifting as you walk.  Make sure you get some good quality wool socks as well.

Cabela's Iron Ridge. These are the first boots I bought, $160, on sale for $127.  I still use them as my alternate boots.  More than good enough for your first boot.

Cabela's Denali Boot by Meindl.  Regular $399, on sale for $319.  These are my current boot.  They are fantastic.  More than you need when starting, but if you have deep pockets they are worth the price.  The all around rubber bumper will prolong the life significantly.

Rain Jacket and Rain Pants

You definitely don't need to run out and buy camo.  Deer are colourblind, so the colour isn't even that important.  If you see a deer, silence and motionlessness is far more important than what you are wearing.

You'll need to bring a rain jacket, because the weather can turn really quickly in the mountains.  If you have rain paints as well that would be a huge plus to bring along.  When you are choosing what to bring, put it on and walk around while wearing it.  If it makes a swooshing sound as you swing your arms or as your legs pass each other, that's less than ideal.  Animals can hear that and won't stick around.  Depending on the time of year your rain jacket and pants may live in your backpack for most of the day, and if that is likely to be the case then you can get away with some loud clothing.   If you have a choice, choose the quieter option.

For my first trip, I went to Canadian Tire and bought a jacket and pants for less than $100 each.  They were fine for my first two week long whitetail trip.  Since that trip I upgraded to GORE-TEX gear.  Where I really notice that inexpensive clothing lets you down is in the knee mobility.  Even the Cabela's MT050 gear I have now has poor leg mobility.  Whatever I get next, knee and leg mobility will be my primary focus to make hiking easier.

Anyways, if you feel like getting quiet hunting clothing, Cabela's has some really inexpensive gear on sale.  HA! It must seem like I have a deal with Cabela's.  I don't! Honestly, they are just crazy good for getting you the basic gear on a budget.

Cabela's Rain Suede. Regular $75.  On sale for $60.
Cabela's Rain Suede. Regular $60.  On sale for $48.

Layers of  Non-Cotton Clothing

Cotton kills.  Fact.  When cotton gets wet, from rain or sweat, it stays wet and sucks heat from your body.  If you want to get hypothermia then cotton is very effective.

Any non-cotton clothing will work for hunting.  Check the labels.  Good things to consider for using on your first hunting trip is any ski clothing you have, those ugly turtlenecks at home on the ski slopes of the 90s are great, cycling clothing, sports wear, workout or running cloths, yoga wear, and as funny as it sounds a lot of polo shirts you may have gotten for free at a conference are non-cotton. Anyways, pile up all your non-cotton clothing and choose the most muted earth tones you have and gather up enough layers to keep you warm even when it is below freezing.

Once you have chosen your layers, run them through the washer without any laundry detergent.  The goal is to remove any scents and UV brighteners which are normally in laundry detergent.   Avoid putting them in the dryer with a dryer cloth for the same reason.  You can buy scent free detergents and dryer sheets from hunting stores or online if you are so inclined.


For rain or sun, you are going to want to have a hat with you.  This can be a baseball hat, brimmed hat, or toque.  It is really your choice, but trust me, you don't want to forget a hat.  If you have one that works well in the rain, keeps your head dry, and doesn't inhibit your hearing or vision, that's a winner.  If you are going to wear something bright orange, the best thing for it to be is your hat.
$12 hat from Cabela's


You'll need a pack that is large enough to hold all the clothing you are bringing with you, plus some other essentials.  If it gets warm, or if while you are hiking you begin to sweat, you will need to remove excess layers and store them in your pack.  It needs to be large enough to allow you to remove excess layers.

In your pack, you should have enough water for you for the day, a lunch, snacks, a lighter, toilet paper, and wet wipes.  I also highly recommend moleskin in case you get blisters and also a one of the many pre-made survival kits which can be purchased from any outdoor stores.  Being able to make fire is very important to safety int he woods.  I suggest buying a pack of lighters and shoving one in ever pocket of your pack.  Over time they'll go missing and when you want one they are always hard to find in your pack.  Having several lighters in there in various places means you are more likely to find one if you need it.

$70 at Cabela's.  Similar packs available at Canadian Tire for $70.

Head Lamp

You are most likely to see game at dawn or dusk.  As a consequence, there will be a lot of time spent hiking in the dark.  Most modern head lamps are pretty good.  Avoid the dollar store ones because they are too poor quality.  I have a Petzl and it is pretty good.  You can get this Tikkina for $25.

Available for $25 at


Everyone should have a basic knife.  There are lots available and they are all fine.  I really like the Leatherman Wave II because it gives me a lot of utility in a small package for survival situations.  Honestly, if you want a multi-tool, don't bother with the knockoffs. From what I have seen they are all crap.  Leatherman or nothing.

$125 at
The one other recommendation I have is to avoid knives that are camo or completely black just in case you drop it.  If you drop it you are far more likely to be able to find it again if it is silver or brightly coloured.  For a first knife, I recommend a fixed blade with no serrations.  They last forever, won't accidentally fold on you if the latch fails, and they are easy to sharpen.

A simple $40 on fixed blade Buck BuckLite Max knife is more than enough.

Compass and Map

A compass is the last piece of essential gear.  I am not going to explain all the nuances and skills required to fully use a compass here.  For beginners in the back country, here is the easiest way to be safe.  When you start hiking in a new area, use a map or the GPS on your phone to identify a geographic feature which crosses the whole area where you will be.  For example often there is a creek or road which crosses the area you are in.  When you set out for day from where you parked your vehicle, you know that the road runs, for example, north-south.  That day you have decided to hike a ridge that is on the west side of the road.  Therefore, you know that no matter what happens, as long as you head east, you will encounter the road eventually and be able to get back to your vehicle.  That day, in this example, east is your safe direction.

On the compass shown below, you would turn the yellow ring until the E for east is at the top, where there is a white line, near the hinge.  That is your direction of travel.  The red arrow for north would now be pointing left.  To travel east, hold the compass in front of you so that you can see the black line in the mirror line up with the middle of the compass.  Think about it like you are looking at the compass and its mirror as if it is a makeup mirror and you want to see your own face.  Now, while you can still see your face in the mirror, start turning your whole body around until the red needle lines up with the red arrow.   When the red needle lines up with the red arrow then you are facing east.  As long as you have the red needle in line with the red arrow and the direction you want to go is in front of you then you are going in the right direction.  It is important to practice compass navigation with the experienced hunter you are going with.  If you ever need to use your compass always trust it.  Compasses never show the wrong direction.  People get seriously lost when they stop trusting their compasses.

I hope this list helps give new hunters an insight into how to help make sure you have the basic gear to go out hunting with an established group or experienced hunter.  If you show up this well prepared for your first trip I am sure they will be truly impressed.  For my friends who I am trying to encourage to come hunting with me, if you can keep yourself warm, dry, and happy for the day, then you'll get invited again.  If there is one item you need, it would be adequate boots.

Well, that summarizes what you'll need for the first day to look after yourself.

In Part 2, we'll go over all the stuff you would need if you were going to hunt on your own, as part of a larger group that has the camping essentials, assuming you have your PAL and CORE at that point. 

Saturday 28 April 2018

Bear Viewing Tourism and My Family

Gear that I am lending my family
So, I have a rather extensive family in the Netherlands.  My maternal grandparents came to Canada in the 1950s, when my mother was very young.  They have maintained a close relationship over the years and now, with social media, it is easier than ever for me to stay in touch with some of my uncles, aunts, and cousins in Holland.  Over the years we have visited family in Holland and they have come to visit us here in Vancouver.  Without exception, one of the goals of any family member who is coming to visit us in Canada is to see a bear.

Family from Holland coming to see a bear has caused us plenty of concern over the years.  Much of Europe is so densely populated and devoid of real wilderness that there is no need for basic survival gear, let alone the deeply ingrained sense of caution most Canadians have when it comes to bears.  In Holland, towns are so close together that you really cannot get lost.  It's wonderful to always be within a few minutes bike ride of a cafe or cold beer.  It is in total contrast to the vastness of Canadian wilderness.

My grandparents like to tell a story about how when they first came to Canada and settled in Edmonton, they went camping in Jasper and spent the first night listening to bears tipping over the garbage cans all around their tent.  At one point my grandfather got out of the tent and tried to chase off a black bear so they could sleep.  My grandmother was a lot more concerned, but they really had little appreciation for the fact that bears are wild animals which deserve a fair dose of preparation and caution.

Fast forward to now.  Yesterday I welcomed some family from Holland at YVR and as I drove them to my parent's house, where they are staying for a few days, and on the way we discussed their holiday plans.  My uncle, aunt, cousin and her two kids are definitely excited to go and try to see a bear.  My uncle is an ecologist in Amsterdam, so he is really interested in wildlife.  Last time I was in Holland we chatted about how wolves are starting to migrate into the northern parts of the Netherlands from Denmark and repopulate their former ranges.  So, we discussed the basics of bear identification, and safety, but like each time family comes to visit and wants to go see a bear, I was left feeling like, are they sure they know what they are getting themselves in to? I remember as a kid seeing tourists getting out of their cars and trying to walk up to bears and elk in Banff and it left a strong sense of the fact that a lot of people just don't know that wildlife is wild.

So, I decided to send an email to my relatives last night with links to the government website from Parks Canada about bears, along with some YouTube videos about what to do if they charge, and how to use bear spray.  My email read:

Typically, bear charges occur when a mother grizzly is trying to protect her cubs.  Most grizzly charges are false charges.  Rarely is it an attack charge.  Black bears don't generally charge or attack.  Here are some videos of what can happen if there is a grizzly charge.

Tomorrow I am seeing a friend of mine in the area near my parent's house, so I will bring for you my Bear Spray.  Please take it with you if you go into the woods to look for bears.  This shows you how to use it.

Be careful.  It is very very powerful and   I will drop it off at my parent's house if you are away.  It can be used for bears as well as cats like a cougar.

I don't mean to worry you! It is fun to see bears.  However, it is good to be prepared with bear spray.  I think you will not be anywhere where you would see a grizzly, so there is much less to worry about.
As I went to get my bear spray I saw my GPS, survival kit, first aid kit... hell, I'll just put together a few things.  I got carried away according to my wife, but when you hear about all the tourists who go missing in the back country because they are unprepared, how could I not loan my family the minimum of what I would take.  I hope they get their wish and see a bear and I will sleep a lot more easily knowing they have some basic equipment to stay safe in the woods.  My wife points out, rightly so, that they will likely stay on well marked trails, but you never know.  People get lost in Lynn Valley all the time, so anything is possible.