My hobbies are backpacking, hunting, angling and mountain-biking. I am passionate about sustainability, evidence-based conservation and living a simple, local lifestyle.

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Lightening Up

Learning to hike with less with a poorly-fitted backpack in Jasper.

Learning to hike with less with a poorly-fitted backpack in Jasper.

In the next following few posts I will be walking through how to lighten one’s backpack using the spreadsheet created for Northern British Columbia-Yukon 2014 trip. The last time I calculated the weight was in 2012 when I was getting ready for a trip to Finland. The initial list was inspired by Sam Haraldson’s list for the Pacific Northwest Trail. However, the list has not been revisited. Although, it feels like the pack has gotten heavier since the first Finland trip.

After doing a series of day-hikes, I realized the versatility of using a 11L backpack instead of a 65L and how almost everything except for shelter and sleeping system fitted into the pack. The calculation is long over-due. The weight reduction will stem from the combination of woodcraft, bushcraft, ultra-lightweight backpacking and knowledge about backcountry hunting.

woodcraft-cover

Historical texts such as this can be found under public domain hosted on websites such as Project Gutenberg

Today, the average outdoorsman is expected to be self-sufficient, and the paradigm shift pioneered by George Washington Sears, Horace Kephart, and E.H. Kreps at the turn of the 20th century to be equipped with man-portable tools and skills to allow a person to to travel through the wilderness by himself. It is due to these early authors, people were able to survive in the woods without fire. Much of the equipment would undergo technological innovations thanks to periods of expeditions and military investment.

Beyond-Backpacking

Jardine’s book.

However, it would not be until after the Second World War, people when people had more time for leisure and began thinking about lightweight backpacking. Many attribute Emma Gatewood who made national fame and did a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 1955 with only sneakers, raincoat, a duffel bag, army blanket, plastic shower curtain, an umbrella and many simple gears. She would later to go on to do many other trails up until her death in 1973. The term was not coined until later by Ray Jardine in his 1992’s book PCT Hiker’s Handbook (now republished Beyond Backpacking) which kickstarted the movement which later became mainstream. Much of the innovations which allow someone to be self-sufficient out of his own backpack only occurred in the last decade.

However, the modern fantasy of living off the land can easily be dissuade by watching documentaries about the harsh life of the Russian taiga. Even today, the ones who still live off the land often adopt labour-saving technology such as motorized boats, snowmobiles, amphibious vehicles and chainsaws. Additionally, Ross Gilmore summarized 18th and 19th century woodsmanship and defined the modern woodsman. While it is good to acknowledge the value of bushcraft and other skills such as hunting and trapping, it is also important to acknowledge these preparations were done with the help of a community, through laborious work which takes months to complete or with pack-trains and canoes. Those who did not have such a system in place eventually perished or got lucky.

Paradoxically, Andrew Skurka in 2012 criticized the trend of competitive downsizing to the bare minimum by calling the “super ultra-lightweight” class (SUL) and “extreme ultra-lightweight class (XUL) “stupid light” when an individual who traded weight for efficiency, sacrifice comfort and puts himself at great risk by leaving crucial survival items at home. So, one must always match the gear to where one is hiking and the weather conditions expected.

Now that being said, the requirements for hiking changes circumstantially. For instance, the kind of gear one may carry in the Pacific Northwest is similar to Alaska’s coastal region, but still differ in some aspects. Similarly, what may be required in a constant changing climate is not required in a stable climate and vice versa. For those who live in a climate which changes on the whim, there is the saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. The same applies everywhere.

When I first got into light-weight backpacking, it wasn’t for hiking but rather was inspired by Ralph Diaz’s Complete Folding Kayaker and taking advices from Folding Kayaks and West Coast Paddler forums. Most of the gears were copied from Alm’s experiences which can be found at: https://sites.google.com/site/alexm221100/. Initially, purchasing a Feathercraft was in the work, but priorities changed and never came to fruition. While the kayaking community often borrowed ideas from the ultra-lightweight backpacking community, the base pack are often heavier since the risk factors are much higher and being caught after dark, capsizing or hypothermia are very real possibilities.

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Hiking in Lapland.

My first experience of lightening the load began the year before I left for Finland. While I was able to find a comfortable weight for the West Coast, those same weight became unnecessary in Finland where the climate was steady with hardly any winds. The gears only began to come into play only after we arrived in Finnmark, Norway. There was very little point in packing half of the stuff in my backpack. However, it was there I learned about the value of using a framed backpack for heavier load, and smaller frameless for lighter loads. A large frameless backpack is counterproductive without a packboard.

One shouldn’t let others dictate the pack-list. For instance, while hiking near Christina Lake, British Columbia, the heat became unbearable and the pack was too heavy. Most of the gear was contributed by someone else, and felt guilty about not taking them along. Ironically, most of the equipment donated could had been purchased for less weight at Mountain Equipment Co-op and other venues for equal or less value. Only one knows his own true comfort level.

Sharing a sleeping system between the human and dog works quite well.

Sharing a sleeping system between the human and dog works quite well.

In contrast, mostly due to the adverse reaction of being over-loaded in a hot climate a few months prior, I also under-dressed while staying in the forest in -20 overnight. The experience would not be so unpleasant if I had packed tighter gaiters, better boots and tighter woolen socks instead of two layers of thin woolen socks. Perhaps bear-paw snowshoes would had been more efficient than longer ones; or maybe it is more efficient to import skishoes from Siberia than to support one’s own backcountry-skiing industry Also, I know first-hand what is like to have an unexpected wildlife encounter in middle of the woods with a territorial bull moose.

So, there should be a relative balance between checking one’s own assumptions and the comfort of a lighter load. When one gains more experience, he gets a feel for what limit he can push and what he cannot. So the pack will lighten up in some areas, and become heavier in others.

While the skinned-out weight for autumn hunting differ from hiking, spring and summer provides excellent opportunity to test out new gears and loads. While the hiking, hunting and bushcraft communities tend to snub each others, there are lots to learn from each others. Backpacking North has an excellent guide to how to lighten one’s load and offered a series of posts entitled “Ultralight Makeover”:

Similarly, there are many forums available such as Folding Kayaks, Alaska Outdoors Forum, Long Range Hunting, Rokslide, Bushcraft Finland and Winter Trekking which are invaluable. There are also commercialized paid-subscriptions such as BackpackingLight. Also, there are many organizations which exist such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers which try to merge the two lifestyles and are worth joining.

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Settling down on top of a Scandinavian fell.

For the purpose of the next few posts, the loads are divided into: clothes; cooking and hydration; first aid and toiletries; electronics; miscellaneous; packing, sleeping and shelter; and consumables. Micromanaging makes it far more convenient to evaluate each gear and their purpose and give one the time to rationalize the justifications, removing them or upgrading. The big threes which weighs the most and easiest to reduce are: the pack, the sleeping bag and the tent. After which there can be either significant weight-saving made, or very negligible.

Northern British Columbia-Yukon 2014
Gear Metric (kg) Imperial (lbs)
Clothes 3.22 7.11
Cooking and Hydration 2.18 4.81
First Aid and Toiletries 0.48 1.05
Electronics 1.18 2.61
Miscellaneous 2.88 6.36
Packing 2.87 6.34
Sleeping and Shelter 5.62 12.38
Worn or Carried 3.00 6.62
Base Pack 15.43 34.02
All Gears 18.44 40.65

 

My goal is to fit the entire system into a 30L backpack for the corner seasons. In the summer in northern Rockies climate, it would be nice to have all of the gears under 7 kg (appx. 15 lbs). For hunting and winter-trekking, 11kg (appx. 25 lbs) would be considered ultralight. Although an ultralight can be had for 4.5 kg (10 lbs) or less, it would be nice to have some wiggle room for extra insulation, rugged boots and more durable products.

By |August 10th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments|

Juhannus

Yesterday marks the beginning of the biggest holidays in Finland which is the summer solstice. Traditionally, Finns get drunk, go to the sauna, eat atrocious sausages or makkara which is a class of its own then go swimming and drown.

midsummeralcohol

In traditional Finnish manner, we drank ciders and beer last night. There is no sauna, but at least there was the barbecue. My girlfriend got a taste of apple cider from Molson Canadian, which is generally considered to be a low standard for Canadian booze. Grainville Island and Unibrue were selected for taste-testing to determine which is the better beer to bring to Scandinavia to hunting hosts which is customary.

Unibrue La Fin Du Monde would be a hit amongst the ladies, but perhaps too fruity for men without sophisticated taste-buds. The maple ale was not sampled since 9% AV 750mL is equivalent to about 5 or 6 cans of 5% beer. However, we will bring a bottle on the road to be sunk into the lake before consumption.

Midsummer is perhaps the perfect time to start our journey on the Alaskan Highway. Today, we will depart for Dawson Creek to start at the Mile Zero. Updates to the blog for the next four weeks will sparse, but hopefully regular.

By |June 21st, 2014|Log|0 Comments|

Gear Review: Canine Equipment Ultimate Trail Pack Revisited

At one time, the Ultimate Trail Pack from RC Products was reviewed favourably and was purchased on recommendations from other deer-hunters.

Now, in most parts of Europe with a strong hunting culture, dogs must be kept on a leash for the duration of the summer. However, in North America, there is no such national laws and in the wilderness areas, dogs can be off-leash. The catch is the dog have to be under control and does not chase game or livestock. Now, there are two options for keeping a hunting dog during the off-seasons: keep it on a leash, or give an off-cue.

The best off-cue is to fit the dog with a backpack for those off-leash moments.

The problem with Ruffwear backpacks is they are produced in Vietnam. Likewise, Wenaha and Wolfpacks are produced in United States. Canine Equipment is the most readily available Canadian product which can be purchased off the shelf. Other ones on the Canadian markets are offered by the cottage industry within the hunting world.

image

First tear.

During the first winter in Finland, the Ultimate Trail Pack worked fine. At times it was unbalanced, but a minor issue. However, during the first summer in the Canadian Rockies, there were times where it is necessary to leash the dog on the trail. Unfortunately, the D-ring tore and the backpack became fundamentally useless for a hunting dog. Now, Gear4Dogs was courteous enough to send a replacement. However, the second one which was sent also tore under the same condition. Upon inspection, it became clear the stitching is not a defect but rather lack of foresight in the design.

image

A second tear on the backpack.

Now, it is an okay backpack if one wants a Canadian-made product and doesn’t put their dog on a leash. However, if that is the case, then Wenaha from Black Ice Dog Sledding Equipment is much better bang for the buck with better quality-control and doesn’t feature a D-ring. However, a backpack without a sturdy D-ring is fundamentally useless for a hunting dog.

In the end, a retailer took the two broken backpacks and exchanged a Ruffwear Palisades Pack with a $30 discount on kibbles.

Would this be purchased again? No, not unless the manufacturer brings its standard on par with Ruffwear and Wolfpacks. Someday, I would like to review the other Canadian brand on the market: Wilderness Wanderer Dog Packs which has favourable reviews from sheep-hunters.

By |May 30th, 2014|Log|0 Comments|

Preserving Functions

In North America, there is a drive to import exotic breeds for the affluent middle-class strictly for showing or as pets. There is also a drive to import better hunting dogs from Europe as more and more sportsmen move into urban centers. There is a wedge driven in-between the show-community and the hunting- slash working-community. Consequently, overseas kennels are uncertain who to export to. This often leads to confusion why some breeds are still hunted with or worked with and why others are only kept as pets. In many instances, there are many individuals and families who keep multiple kinds of dogs for different purposes.

Keeping one breed as pet and a different breed as hunting or working dog is not intellectual dishonesty nor is it cognitive dissonance. To understand this, let us compare and contrast the histories of two breeds.

Not much is known about Swedish Vallhund prior to the writings of Björn von Rosen. Despite the speculations by amateur breed historians regarding the connection with the corgis of Wales, the genetic evidence does not exist. Nor are the anecdotes of  Swedish Viking colonization confirmed as most of the colonizers were Norwegians or Danes and never managed to grab a foothold in England or Wales; only in Ireland and Scotland. Archaeological evidences are scant, and subjective to interpretation. However, there are still many elderly people in Sweden who still remember dwarf-like dogs on small farm-holds prior to World War II.

After World War II, rapid urbanization occurred and industrial agriculture began to take a foothold in Sweden in order to compete with the robust American, Australian and British economies. Although Border Collie was first imported to Sweden in 1927 and the first sheepdog trial was arranged in 1941, it was during the 1950s, Border Collies were introduced to Sweden as a working breed. Gradually, local strains of herding dogs began to be phased out and only survived as a collectivization in a handful of newly-created breeds such as Swedish Vallhunds and Norwegian Buhunds. Over the next decade, the native breeds were completely displaced by foreign industrially-bred herding dogs.

However, during the 1980s, Swedish Vallhund began being bred for the show-ring after Domarringens Frej won several Best of Show titles during the 1970s. This particular male specimen started the trend of breeding for shorter legs standing at 30.5 centimeters or 12 inches tall. According to old-timer Peter Erlandsson, this caused a strife between breeders and judges who disagreed on the ideal model. Those who remain loyal to the old type jokingly mock the shorter-legged varieties as “Västgötapembroke”. Effectively, Vallhunds fell into agricultural obsolescence and underwent gentrification.

In contrast, West Siberian Laikas are descended from dogs kept by aboriginals and indigenous tribes in northwestern Russia, the Urals and West Siberia. During the late 19th century, Russian hunters purchased these dogs from tribes and re-purposed them for their own benefits. In the aftermath of the October Revolution in 1917, newfangled Soviet Union began assessing its economic situation and and required a foreign currency which was not being boycotted to trade on the global market in which fur accounted for anywhere between a tenth to a quarter of the exports prior to World War II. To meet the quota, the government began developing four different types of Laikas for finding squirrels, martens and sables. After the Second World War, cynologists developed an assessment system with urban-hunters in mind. Those who live in apartments and small houses require universal dogs. Imports of dogs which are not  one of the Laika types into commercial hunting and trapping areas were forbidden and strictly observed up until the 1970s. By 1980s, West Siberian Laika became firmly established as a breed for Communist sportsmen. By this time, the breed was being exported outside the Warsaw Bloc as a hunting dog. Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain, Laikas have been widely enjoyed by sporting hunters world-wide.

While a handful of Swedish Vallhund breeders claim to sell to working homes, the majority of the gene-pool is still in the hands of breeders who do not breed for work. The fastest growing demographic for Vallhund-owners is young adults in urban areas.

In recent years, Sweden  and Finland have been hosting cattle-herding instinct tests for dairy-cattle. They are fundamentally different from the stockdog trials held in North America utilizing beef cattle which assess the functions of Australian Cattle Dogs, Kelpies, Hangin’ Tree Dogs, Australian Shepherds and certain strains of Border Collies re-purposed into cattle-dogs. Some Vallhund breeders who participate in these instinct tests regard sheep testing as merely livestock chasing and not symbolic of herding instinct. Since only a third show no interest and another third of the examined Vallhunds have good instinct, these kind of trials can hardly be called as preservation but rather restoration.

Even though West Siberian Laika have been removed from its original intention of being bred for commercial-hunting, they still very much remain in the hands of recreational hunters. Re-purposing of a breed for a similar function from commercial hunting to recreational hunting is a form of evolution and a reflection of a fundamental shift in society.

Some West Europeans managed to grab ahold of Laika breeds with the intention of keeping them as pets, however countries which do not have friendly hunting regulations are blacklisted for exports by hunting clubs. Effectively, a breed warden system is derived to ensure guardianship over the functions. To honor preservation and to gain respect from others, it is best keep the breed as close to the hunting styles practiced in countries where they are widely used.  The price for violating this unwritten code is being severed of accessing the greater gene-pool and forcing a few, select group of breeders to work with very few individuals and inbreeding on the existing dogs. In order to gain the privilege of importing Laikas from abroad, one must show sincerity of hunting with them. Simply being a supplier is not sufficient as many hunters are skeptical of unproven dogs even if they have pedigrees filled with outstanding champions. Hunting with the breeding stock is a true test of character and dedication.

There is a significant difference between a breed which lost its original function in the country of origin and a breed which still retain some kind of purpose throughout the world. One simply cannot compare working with a breed being bred as pets for almost half a century to a breed still being used for hunting.

By |May 1st, 2014|Ethics|0 Comments|

Canned Hunting: a more humane alternative to factory-farming?

screenshotboarhunt

A still image from the YouTube clip mentioned below.

Recently, on Truth About Pet Food, Susan Thixton launched an investigation into the sources behind Orijen and Acana brands. One of the suppliers of Champion Petfoods happened to be Hog Wild Specialties of Mayerthorpe, Alberta in Canada. It was noticed on the website the company offers a hunting package.

Much of the controversy is over the concept of “hunting preserve”, “fenced hunting” or “canned hunting” which is a heavily-debated topic in the American hunting community and most of it is centered around the ethic of privatization of native wildlife, size of enclosure and topic of baiting with feeders.[1] The debate can become so heated, some hunting clubs already took on a strong stance. Even then, there is lots of grey area behind this and sometimes hunting preserve can make sense.[2] So, the issue is not as cut and dry as it may seems.

In addition to the prejudice against trophy-hunting and canned-hunts (or “canned-shooting”), many of these operations are now under attack for introducing invasive species to the surrounding area. Now joining Manitoba and Saskatchewan in the war against boar, Alberta is following suit with British Columbia in tow.[3][4] There is a severe and inevitable ecological consequence for keeping common non-native game-species which has potential to be naturalized.

Champion Petfoods has long been celebrated for being local, natural, humane and ethical kibble-brand. Regional Red dog-food and Wild Boar dog-treats contain wild-boar, and are often seen as a healthier, more ethical alternative to factory-farmed pork and beef. Now, in most parts of Canada, it is illegal to sell wild-meat.  So, commercially-sold elk, venison, bison, pheasant and boar on the plate are all sourced from game-farms. It does not involve a mental acrobat to figure out some of these game-farms also sell their products to the highest bidders who pay for the privilege to shoot an animal with guaranteed success. After all, hunting preserve is built on the already existing commercial infrastructure livestock-farming is based on.

Most of the objections surrounding the use of wild-boar in dog-food is the ethical treatment of the animals. However, the ethic of “humane kill” and ethic of “fair chase” are not one and the same. It would be a mistake to conflate the two. Oftentimes they are in conflict with each others.

In context of this controversy of using farm-raised boar, let us take a look at the principles of animal-welfare. One common indicator is the Five Freedoms developed in 1979 by the UK Government’s Animal Welfare Council: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.[5] Many other definitions of animal-welfare follow more or less along the same line.

So let us compare factory-farming to hunting preserves. How are hunting preserves any less humane than factory-farming? The animals are allowed to free-roam within the enclosure; and if one search for videos on YouTube, the animals appear to be calm and are not threatened or stressed by the presence of humans. There is no suffering and the animals are killed humanely with a rifle on their own browsing-grounds. Based on the evidences provided by images and videos, one can conclude the hunting preserve meets the five principles of farm-animal welfare. One cannot say the same for majority of cattle and hogs in feed-lots or slaughter-houses in North America. The ethical treatments of animals on a hunting preserve is non-sequitur.

A public relations stunt by Bonnie at customer service was released:

On March 24th, 2014, Susan Thixton made an inquiry with our Customer Care team asking for additional information on one of our local suppliers of wild boar.  Our team promptly responded to Susan and requested she allow us time to thoroughly investigate her questions to ensure she receive an accurate response. We expected and understood that we would be allowed the time needed to provide a complete response, and regret that time taken has caused concern.

We value the trust of all pet lovers, including Susan. We respect much of the work Susan does in helping ensure pet food makers are honest and transparent.  We regularly respond to her inquiries, support the First Alert program, and are working on her Pledge to Quality and Origin.

We’re also committed to using local ingredients that are sustainably and ethically raised. Hog Wild Specialities supplies us with fresh Wild Boar that is raised on open pastures in Mayerthorpe, Alberta.  Susan’s concerns were regarding ‘canned hunting’, or hunting animals in a confined space, such as in a fenced-in area.  While Champion does not endorse hunting of any kind, Hog Wild Specialties does operate a separate business that offers hunting, which is run on 25 acres of land. Champion is working with Hog Wild to better understand their hunting operations.

It is also important to note that Champion does not utilize any meat from any hunted animals. All animal ingredients featured in ORIJEN and ACANA are processed exclusively in federally licenced facilities regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, all are from animals passed fit for human consumption.

We value your trust and we’re dedicated to upholding the highest standards of authenticity. If you have any questions regarding any of our ingredients suppliers, please feel free to write back.
Kind regards,
Bonnie
Customer Care Leader
Champion Petfoods LP

According to the company, Hog Wild Specialties has two separate facilities: a game-farm and a hunting preserve. It is asserted the meat sourced for Orijen and Acana are not from the preserve, but rather from the game-farm which is a separate meat-production line. It is not exactly clear if they condemn hunting, or they just don’t publicly endorse it. The other murky issue is Champion Petfoods defined the hunting preserve in question as being 25-acre, but the land-usage of the game-farm is never clarified. Amending the statement would put the customers’ concerns at rest.

With a bit of Google Kung Fu, it does not take much to find out the game-farm is a quarter-section, or ¼ of a square mile.[6] That is 160 acres or 0.65km2. The controversy is over-blown if the game-farm is being kept separate from the preserve. Hunted meat are part of the package which goes home with the person who paid for it.

People who are concerned about the sources behind their kibbles are tackling the wrong issue. Instead, the focus should be on the environmental or ecological consequences of keeping wild-boar in Alberta. Now, this blogger has long been advocate of replacing non-native domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs and others with native game-animals which can be farmed such as white-tailed deer, reindeer, bison and elk appropriate to the region of the ranch. However, since most people find game-meat a bit too strong for their liking, it is unlikely the market-demand would opt for a more sustainable method over our current preference of today’s selection of meat. Nevertheless, this is an issue which should be explored more deeply.

The ethical implication of using humanely-shot boar should never been a question. Husbandry of free-range animals, even if penned in a 25-acre enclosure, is far much more humane than the agricultural-industrial complex. The issue probably would be less controversial if the boars are not being commercially sold to thrill-seekers and are instead harvested with mobile processing facilities on free-range game-ranches for stress-free meat. In the overall picture of ethical kill, however, it does not make a difference if the animal was processed on a game-farm or on a hunting preserve.

  1. Jim Tantillo (2012, July 8). Fair Chase Hunting: Canned Hunts, Fair Chase, and the Sorites Paradox. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from http://fairchasehunting.blogspot.com/2012/07/canned-hunts-fair-chase-and-sorites.html.^
  2. Fieldsports Channel (2014, Janurary 22). Why shooting rare animals can make sense [Video file]. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GEfWmbuu10.^
  3. Canadian Broadcasting Company (May, 6 2013). The Current – Boar Wars: Controlling the wild boar population [Video file].^
  4. (2014, March 20). Feral pigs: B.C. allows hunting ‘anywhere and at any time’ CBC News. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/feral-pigs-b-c-allows-hunting-anywhere-and-at-any-time-1.2580279.^
  5. Five Freedoms (2009, April 16). Retrieved April 5, 2014 from Farm Animal Welfare Council: http://www.fawc.org.uk/freedoms.htm.^
  6. Liane Faulder (2011, October 18). Going Hog Wild Edmonton Journal. Retrieved April 5, 2014 from http://www2.canada.com/life/food/going+wild/5568967/story.html?id=5568967.^
By |April 5th, 2014|Ethics|2 Comments|

Lessons Learned from Hunting Season, October 2013 Edition

To be frank, although I have went on a few bear-hunts, I have never owned or trained a treeing breed. So, this dog is subjected to newbie mistakes.

And the lessons I have learned so far for this hunting season are:

  1. Or maybe he was destined to be be a bear-dog. Photo: Scottie Westfall III

    Or maybe he was destined to be be a bear-dog.
    Photo: Scottie Westfall III

    Start them young. Start them on the game, which is appropriate for their age: squirrels, birds, martens and other small game to wake up the instinct early on. The older the dog becomes, the harder it is for them to prefer small-game over big-game.

    Delaying hunting plans makes it more difficult to transform a puppy into a multi-purpose universal hunting dog. Unlike out-dated beliefs of three or four decades past about hounds, gun-dogs or police-dogs not being trained until a year old not seeing field-work until two years old, it is not unusual for a treeing dog or baying dog to start on small-game as early as 3 to 6 months old. The onset of realized instinct will occur unexpectedly.

  2. Old dogs can learn new tricks. Don’t give up on older dogs if they have never had a hunting season under their belt. They have a steeper learning curve and it will be more difficult to train them; but once the instinct is awakened, they can learn very fast. However, keep in mind, older dogs with previous hunting seasons with no drive or desire are often washouts.
  3. Dogs are snobs. Freeze-dried pheasants, treated hides, scented dummies are not substitutes for the real things. Dogs have higher drive for the untreated fresh or frozen pelts, bird carcasses or deer-legs.
  4. Girlfriend learning how to shoot her grandfather's rifle from instructors at ANS Safety. Photo: Kevin O'Toole

    Girlfriend learning how to shoot her grandfather’s rifle from instructors at ANS Safety. After this lesson, her fear about not hitting the vital organs during moose-hunting dissipated.
    Photo: Kevin O’Toole

    Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of firearm ownership or hunting. Usually, the courses are based on common-sense. There are lots of idiots out there who should have their privileges revoked. If they can pass the exams, so can you.

  5. Buy a firearm. Archery seems like a great alternative to the scary prospect; however bow and arrow requires lots more practice and the dog needs assurance from his handler the game will be shot. Usually, people with no prior experience with firearms finds their fears to be unfounded and the bogey-monster under the bed disappears once instructed by a certified firearm-safety officer or instructor at their first time at the shooting range.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the perfect rifle. Get whatever is affordable. Most of the time, the top-of-the-line equipment is not required in hunting with a dog. Firearms are nothing more than a sophisticated rock-throwers and we have not evolved much since chimpanzees. And to some, a gun is just a 4-foot penis which shoots lethal wads. Worry about your own needs and not the rants of others.
  7. Invest in inexpensive ammunition. The more practice at the shooting range, the better the shooting skill becomes. There is a reason why folks with 6mm or .25 calibres hunting varmints and rabbits all year-round are often better sharpshooters with all the available calibres than those who dedicate themselves only to big-game.
    Near-obsolete ammunition such as .222 Remington, .45-70 Government, .30-40 Krag and .303 British are classics, but they hurt the pockets and reduces the window of opportunity to practice unless the person reloads. .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield, .223 Remington and .243 Winchester are very economical choices. Don’t discount rim fire cartridges such as .22 Long Rifle or .17HMR as well. The more expensive specialty rounds will come in play later once the process of refining hunting methods begins.

    Start with a reasonable calibre and work your way up to the über-class magnums. Despite the debates over ethics of clean-kills, it is actually a disservice to gut-shoot an animal because a bad shooter developed the flinch while shooting a .338 Winchester Magnum or .375 H&H. Remember, there is a reason why outfitters recommend large calibres to clients who never go out while smaller rounds such as .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield and 6.5×55 Swede are the staples of residential hunters. Get the right tool for the job. Barring that, it is always nice to stockpile for the zombie apocalypse.

  8. In hunting courses, they teach the 5 stages of how hunting changes over the years and his or her perception of “success”: shooter, limiting out, trophy, method then sportsman. No matter how much anyone want to skip to the end in their heads, they will go through all the stages in reality. There is no shame in going through this process.
  9. Keep a shotgun handy. There are many places where it is either illegal or unwise to use a rifle for safety reasons such as being close to a residential area or to an oil-well. The last thing anyone wants to do is end up wasting a month worth of hunting season waiting for a new shotgun at the last minute to come to the front-step, learning how to use it and adjusting it through a gunsmith or after-market products. While 12-gauge is the most economical and most widely available, consider a 20-gauge. The spread is similar and the felt recoil is not as severe for the same cost and the same availability as the 12-gauge. While it is common for people to recommend 28- or .410 for beginners, they actually have a steeper learning curve due to the smaller spread and the ammunition are very rare or expensive to find.
  10. Always carry a firearm. Learn all the legal hunting seasons. If the regulations don’t apply to all hunters, ask landowner’s or government’s permission for those exemptions. A dog will always surprise you on your walks together with unexpected game. There will be times where one starts regretting not having a gun. Combination rifles such as Baikal or Valmet or drillings are wonderful for these kind of scenarios. However, for those who cannot afford an expensive rifle, shotguns are the working men’s guns for a reason.
  11. Keep a surplus in the bank account for seemingly insignificant and potential impulsive necessities such as an electric collar. Scolding a puppy for chasing game or livestock where pursuit of is forbidden by law is often the way to do it. In general, verbal correction is enough for reasonably trainable dog in check. However, there are the dogs who haven’t seen any game for about three or four months and goes crazy upon sight of the first game it sees− and sometimes that might be a deer. Most of the time electronic collars are not needed to train a dog. Remind your parents of all the missed birthdays, or sell your grandmother’s panties. Receiving the juice once or twice in a life-time is better than running the risk of having the dog shot.
  12. Don’t rely on the GPS. It is easy to lose track of the dog and it is easy to overlook a silent dog treeing something. This handy tool should only be used in the thick bush where it is unknown which direction the dog might be in. In fact, a radio collar is oftentimes more useful in rough terrain due to the poor signals of the GPS’s transmitter despite limitations of directional radio-waves.

    Bet you can't see the wolfish dwarf.

    Bet you can’t see the wolfish dwarf.

  13. Invest in a high-quality visible vest for hunting. The cheaper ones snag easily in the bush and they will tear. Replacement ones of the same product will tear as well no matter what. In addition, the more expensive products tend to come in multiple colour. It is highly recommended to have orange on one side and yellow on the other. There will be times where orange is not visible, but yellow is and vice versa; or neither are visible and only the reflective parts are.
  14. There is no shame in fitting the dog with a wider collar or making him wear two or three visible collars, no matter how much he hates it, protests or becomes depressed. He will perk up when it’s time to go out for a run. The more visible the dog is, the easier it is to find him in the thick brush. Fluorescent colours such as blue, green, purple, yellow and blaze orange are common choice for hunting collars. Don’t forget to tie different coloured ribbons to the collar(s). He will look ridiculous, but on those cloudy days or during the last lights in the thick stuff, it’s a clincher.
  15. Keep the dog fit. Exercise him on a bike or road him with a truck. Be sure to go through rough terrain to build muscles. When game is scarce, expect the dog to cover up to 40 kilometers in a day. The last thing anyone want is a dog tired out after two hours of leap-frogging through a mire searching for a bird in the tree-line.
  16. Consider a light-weight firearm. Hunting with dogs can easily cover 10 kilometers or more, and excess weight can turn leisure into a downer. Most of the rifles and shotguns are meant for stand-hunting or blind-hunting. Youth models are superb choice and single-shots are often the go-to beaters in someone’s truck. Although the pull may be a bit short, they can often be extended with a slip-on recoil pad. The recoil pad would help with the increased felt recoil which comes with lighter bush-guns to feel more like the heavier counterparts without the extra weight.
  17. Be certain of the hunting party. To some people, hunting is a time to socialize and they may not be interested in hunting with a dog. This can lead to reckless activities such as plinking pop-cans for fun while the dog should be hunting. However, the dog shouldn’t always hunt alone since it is crucial for dogs to be used to strangers during the trial. Lay out the rules, but don’t go over-board with them.
  18. Take advantage of no-vehicle zones, closed forestry roads or deactivated roads. There is nothing worse than a service-road which is being patrolled by a half-dozen truck-hunters in a half hour time span. Game are scarce, and time is scarce. The dog deserves to have all the training time available to it since the opening day.
  19. Be a ninja, not a drunken redneck. Consider investing in a mountain bike. They don’t spook the animals as easily as motorized vehicles. In many instances, it is entirely possible to get within 20 meters or closer to a game before it perceives you as a threat. Invest in the highest-quality brake-sets for those gnarly hills and in fat- and knobby-tires for soft terrain such as marshlands and snow.

    Warning: Fatal bloat upcoming.

    Warning: Fatal bloat upcoming.
    Photo: Halla Seppälä

  20. Keep the dog on a high-fat, adequate protein diet. Beware of the wolf on the bag. Unlike what raw food theorists advocates, the dog doesn’t need that much protein to build and maintain muscle. Crude protein does not need to be much higher than 35%, but not lower than 30%. Fats should be a minimum of 18%. Do not be afraid to add Greek yogurt (≥10% fat), coffee cream,
    soft cheese, sardines, mackerel or salmon or other fatty sources to increase the calorie if needed. Performance-based kibble brands with high amount of fillers such as corn are used to keep the cost down on maintaining large sled-dog teams. For only a few dogs, invest in kibbles with higher quality ingredients.
  21. You get what you put in. If the dog only goes out once a month, then it will be a very mediocre hunting partner.
By |October 20th, 2013|Log|0 Comments|

From Which He Flushed

Today is one of those days I wished I had a shotgun for rabbiting. We usually see more game along the edge of forest with pheasants, squirrels and other critters which Pavel flushes out of the bush.  This time, he flushed a lagomorph and gave chase. However, unlike the Vallhund’s previous attempts, the Laika didn’t catch it. While Riley the Vallhund was able to catch rabbits in rainy Vancouver, it was too hot outside (+21C to +23C) to go full-throttle.

Now, it is almost unheard of Laika being used to hunt rabbits. While I am already familiar with “beagling” or “corralling” because of my grandfather, there was very little discussions about how to hare-hunting with a larger dog. However, I know distant cousins and uncles in the northern territories who regularly rabbit with their random-bred huskies by sitting them at the end of the burrow and bolting the hare with smoke; or by training them to sit outside a bush before giving the cue to give chase. So, I asked a friend of mine whose family have had shot rabbits for their beagles, retrievers and Norwegian Elkhounds.

He recommended starting with a 20-gauge shotgun. If lamping is not allowed, then early morning or late evening is the best time to hunt snowshoe hares. Only shoot if one has a clear view of the rabbit and the dog is not closing in on it. With a Laika, not every shot will be taken and the Vallhund would be a better choice for rabbiting since by anatomical  design the Vallhund is a slower dog.

He also mentioned smarter breeds which are reared with rabbit-hounds will learn to intercept the hare at the half-circle. So, the dog might be running the hares too close to allow for clear shot. However, hunting on a hot day will slow down the dog significantly. If one is really concerned about shooting a dog, then whistle-stop training should commence to slow down the dog enough to take a safe shot of the quarry.

By |May 17th, 2013|Log|2 Comments|

Noisy Forest

Everyone is worried about the disappearance of frogs these days with pollutants in the environment, chytridiomycosis, climate change, industrial and urban development and so forth. A few years ago, my grandfather while staying in Cranbrook for the summer spoke about the silence of the frogs; which is much more disturbing than the silence of the birds. However, that year he saw a few frogs and he was excited to see them since it means the ecosystem is recovering from the exploitation of mining which comes with hazardous dumping of waste-water and heavy water with disregard for the health of the streams and river systems. He have not heard frogs or seen frogs for roughly 10 years. This conversation was about 5 or 7 years ago.

While out for a walk with Pavel and Riley, the sand-forest we walked in was especially nosier than usual. Last year in the fall, the area frequented was just a meadow where one can spot mule deer. Since we had a long and unusually cold winter, the ground took a long time to thaw out and the water has nowhere to drain except to sit and become stagnant. As the result, many meadows are now flooded.

The wood frogs love it though.

By |May 5th, 2013|Log|0 Comments|

The Sheep and the Wolverine

wolverinehunt

From avid Norwegian hunter, Eirik Krogstad, addressing the concern of hunting denning animals:

For those of you who are not familiar with this kind of behaviour, I will explain something.

To hunt large predators is, in my opinion, okay: either for the hunt itself or to protect property from the danger they may cause sometimes. But in Norway, hunters hired by the government also locate wolverine dens up in the mountains to neutralize the female and also her babies.

Why?

The reason is: sheep farmers let millions of sheep out in the mountains and forests all over Norway for the whole summer, and naturally predators will affect this stupid tradition. Sheep are nothing but fast food for them. Easy to find and easy to kill.

Most of the sheep which are lost die due to a number of reasons. Predators included. The county can approve to neutralize single individuals, and this is mostly done by local hunters or government hunters, and in a fair way. A regular hunt which give both the predator a chance to survive and the hunters a chance to succeed.

Nothing wrong in that; but when a mother and children are regularly pulled out of the safety in their dens and put down to “protect sheep for the coming summer”, I really want to vomit.

I have nothing but the highest regards for those hunters who pursuit large predators and are successful in their hunt; but to hunt predators in their dens, I sure don’t approve of.

The above passage has been modified for grammar and leixcon usage.

In most places in North America, most sporting hunters would not even dream about touching hibernating, nesting or denning animals. While the topic concerning depredation of coyotes, foxes, bears and wolves is heavily debated, it is seldom people discuss about what to do with pups or cubs or a weaning mother. Back in the days of the bounty programs, it was not uncommon for people to cull litters mercilessly for an additional income for the household, but those days are long gone.

Coming from a Norwegian hunter touching on the topic of sheep husbandry concerning the wolverine, I cannot help but draw parallel the conflicts hunters and non-hunters have with the grazing rights of ranchers on public lands in the United States, Crown land in Canada or the reindeer area in Finland. The topic of predator control is rather interesting since public grazing is often subsidized by tax-payers; and typically ranchers and farmers don’t like it when tax-payers tell them what to do.

Although I do not claim to understand the complex dynamics between Norwegian sheep shepherds and wildlife. However, the issue in Canada and the United States is far from simple. Since livestock owners and predators are in perpetual conflicts since the Agricultural Revolution 10 000 years ago, it is not difficult to fathom the same problem exists in every country.

Firstly, trapping in the 21st century as a livelihood is on the decline. Since the value of the fur pelts is no longer as what they were two or three decades ago, most of the trapping is done recreationally  Those who still trap for a living are often seasonal workers taking on construction or trucking jobs during the summer. In addition, vast tracts of trap-lines are inactive and left to fallow and unused in British Columbia. While there are many persons with a trapping licence in Canada, trying to secure a purchase or even a lease is difficult to obtain since sometimes the line-holders are tricky to contact. Also, it is becoming more popular amongst recreational hunters in North America to purchase trap-lines so they can legally build a small cabin without leasing or zoning and developing the land as agricultural. The purchases by recreational hunters push the value of the trap-line beyond what is economically feasible for anyone with a trapping licence. Nowadays, there are very few trappers who still are managing the fur-bearing populations. Without the support of trappers, the wildlife biologists, ecologists, population geneticists and government cannot calculate an accurate census for wildlife.

Secondly, although tax-payers and ranchers do not always see eye-to-eye, non-hunters and hunters do not always see eye-to-eye either. The majority of North Americans support subsistence hunting. Hunting for fur fall under subsistence hunting, but more commonly the John Q. Public views the scenario as putting food on the table. The support for subsistence hunting is in opposition to trophy hunting, which is frowned upon in today’s society. In effect, predator hunting seen synonymous with trophy hunting. In such cases, predator hunting is sometimes banned, as seen in Washington state and the Southwest. Where effective predator-hunting is restricted or banned, tax-payers’ dollars end up being spent on government-employed hunters using the same methods as recreational hunters; or sometimes crueler. Consequently  when the budget for Fish and Wildlife department is slashed, then hazing programs and depredation programs designed to protect threatened or endangered populations from public outcry are no longer active, then increasingly predators learn not to fear humans and often cause public scares and knee-jerk reactions. Not allowing regular hunters and trappers to participate and relying on government-funded hunters or trappers to resolve human conflicts is a waste of tax-dollars; and not instituting hazing programs for protected populations also leave unresolved issues.

Thirdly, the interests of guided outfitters do not always coincide with the interests of the resident hunters or the locals. For instance, it is not uncommon for outfitters wishing to maintain a monopoly to report residential cougar-hunters as poachers even though the licences, permits and tags are legally purchased. Over time, the resident eventually gives up in frustration and leaves the sport altogether. Since trophy animals are highly sought after, often times the population is protected by the guides and outfitters in the region which puts other users of the land at risk of the younger predators. Also, when something other than the traditional blame has been demonstrated to be the problem, it is not uncommon for people to turn the other eye. In this case, when research has shown young grizzly bears heavily impact the moose population more so than wolves, many Alaskans still do not support predator control of grizzlies to supplement the moose population since the grizzly trophy hunt is an economic powerhouse in the North. Oftentimes, the wrong predator or game-animal is targeted in management programs for the sake of profit.

Lastly, livestock compensation programs are not always in the interest of the ranchers. It is common for the government to only pay out half of the market value for a carcass. In a rancher’s mind, a 50-cent bullet or a 5-dollars cable-snare will ensure full profit of the herd. Also, it is not unusual the government will not cover certain types of predator attacks such as coyotes or feral dogs which leave ranchers cynical with a dim view of the bureaucracy if the claim of a wolf-attack is denied. Foreign ways ranchers have no experience with such as electric-fencing, using livestock protection dogs, steel or spiked collar for livestock and other methods recommended by wildlife biologists are not heeded since the government do not subsidize the expenses. Even if the rancher tries new methods out of his own pockets, there is insufficient mentorship on how to accomplish their goals. When the ranchers or farmers are left to own device and try to control the predators with the methods they know best, then trappers and hunters often take the blame from urbanites and environmentalists who do not always sympathize. If it is in the best interest to protect both the wildlife and the livelihood of agriculturalists and pastoralists, then the government should be fully committed to their compensation programs and not leave conflicts half-resolved.

Even though the Norwegian hunter in question addressed the concept of “fair chase”, there are several other issues which must be raised. Personally, I do not believe in micro-managing predators so road-hunters can be satisfied with the over-population of deer, elk or moose to the point where the local ecosystem is over-grazed and stripped bare of natural habitats for small-game animals. However, after witnessing many animal-lovers suddenly changing their views once cougars, coyotes, wolves or bears start strolling into town and eating pets or attacking small women and children, predators should have natural fear of mankind; and demonizing hunters and trappers will not alleviate the conflicts. Making access and affordability more difficult for other hunters and trappers to participate for someone else’s selfish reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, enable human-predator conflicts in the long run. While everyone is entitled to have food on the table, even if subsidized by the government, there need to be a healthy relationship between human and the natural world, which means providing education and supplies  as well as compensating fully for the livestock or land damage. Unless all these points are addressed, the misuse of our natural resources will continue.

Please feel free to share the campaign awareness against the misuse of Norway’s natural resources through the extermination of a sensitive keystone species by launching preemptive strikes and unfair hunting of denning animals. Since the population density of wolverines tend to be low, they should be given a chance to learn to avoid humans and their settlements.

By |March 25th, 2013|Nature|2 Comments|

For One Allele

uutisia_paimennus2010_2

Image courtesy of Konnunkodon Kennel

 

One Allele to rule them all,
One Allele to find them,
One Allele to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.

− Adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Fellowship of the Ring”, Chapter Two

For two years, “Prick-Eared” was a platform for research in Swedish Vallhunds. However, over time, the dog-circles became more or less the same flavour as the troubles concerning exotic hobbyists; albeit with different incentives: the former being authoritarian and the latter being monetary.  As the result, this blog would be discontinuing discussions on the welfare of dogs. Rather, it is much better to hand the rein over to someone who has devoted her life to the welfare of the dog-breeding.

Historically, breeders would keep their safely-guarded secrets to themselves and seldom anyone heard anything negative about any breeds. As the result, numerous train-wrecks can be seen across the spectrum in the dog-fancy and trial worlds. In the new Millennium, came forth a new generation of breeders who were dealt a rather odd stack of cards.

Among the new generation, a Swedish- and Finnish-speaking Västgötaspets breeder with two decades of dedication has decided to start a new blog in two languages:  “Vain yhden alleelin tähden” and “Only for One Allele“. In her hands, she has the complete database of Västgötaspets within every dog can be traced back to their foundation. Also, over the years, many articles on the breed were gathered from the old-school; and she  has had wrote many articles to the Finnish local breed club, Länsigöötanmaanpystykorvat ry, which the club publishes a magazine quarterly. In January 2013, she has decided to make the information publicly-accessible.

Halla Seppälä of Konnunkodon Kennel has been witnessing changes in her breed ever since her first acquired dog eighteen years ago; and she is bent on conserving the breed the way historical texts have defined the Swedish Vallhunds and maintaining the clade into the post-modern era utilizing the latest scientific knowledge and advancements branded with the new-found ethics. Her intentions are good-hearted and the breed will profit from sharing of information.

It will be most intriguing what sort of data-sets on the Swedish Vallhund will be published. It will be even more interesting to see how many people would be participating in the open discussions about the issues in the breed. However, while her audience would primarily be from Finland and Sweden, and the blog would be best written in Swedish for most impact, it still does not change the fact that English is the lingua franca of contemporary world. It is with much hope, the discussions will remain civil and open-minded. Here to good luck to “Only for One Allele” blog.

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By |February 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments|