Grouse Hunting Report 09/25/2015 — 09/27/2015

Half a year ago, I made the aim of blogging about my trips to increase my outdoors credentials. Keeping records and taking photographs is not my forte, but am working to change that to make it a habit. At times, it is easier just to use Facebook to keep everyone updated, and upload pictures and gear list for the blog instead of writing out everything.

I have gone out on several trips this year, but failed to write about them.

But there are good reasons for keeping a log. It allows us to reflect on our mistakes and gives materials for us to work with in the future. Also, we get to understand the area of our travels in much further depth by comparing them to others’.

Now who is qualified to write about the outdoors is subjective. Professional and avid hunters often brag about 150 days in the field; this is no small feat and anyone who could pull it off should be applauded.  Others feel 20 to 24 days in the wilderness is sufficient. On the other hand, some feels it is the number of hours spent outside which quantify someone’s experience such as the Maine Guide Program requiring 240 hours in a calendar year or a minimum of 80 hours per year spread over a 5 years span. Whether the case, it is very clear that I need to put more time under the belt.

This year is not a great one. The trip to Finland got cancelled in part to family affairs with a lot of emotional drama involving relatives and also dealing with Finnish police’s bureaucracy. Initially, I was under the impression one can simply apply for a parallel permit and borrow one from a friend, but the process is far from simple and must be done months in advance. Taking one’s own firearm over is a headache and can take a month or two to sort out without prior preparations. Now, I understand why international hunters use bows and arrows instead of a rifle: less headache, and less paperwork.

Hunting with a dog in northern Alberta is limited to 60 days of the year before the traps are down when fur is at their prime, it is time to start putting in hours. Genetics may play a big factor in how a good dog will be at hunting; but without experience, having good genes is worthless. It is said a hunter who only goes out for one or two weekends out of a month will not have a great dog on his hand.

Since vehicular thefts and vandalism is common in the Peace country, I have started arranging to be dropped off and picked up in a designated area much like any family with only one vehicle shared amongst themselves or a travelling hunter on a DIY hunt who cannot afford to have a rental car broken into. The last thing I need is to return to a truck which disappeared.

I have two dogs which do play quite frequently, but also fight over resources. Predicting what an individual perceives as valuable is next to impossible and taking both on a camping trip is not feasible. Co-existence is all about management and understanding the dogs’ needs and wants. A babysitter needs to be arranged.

My mother is away in Edmonton for her jaw replacement surgery and unable to take in one of the dogs until she is fully recovered. Since the landlord does not like strangers coming over, hiring a dog-walker was not an option. The better kenneling facilities in the region do not take in dogs at the last moment notice, and the ones that do have subpar track records of clean or safe husbandry.

One proposal was to take the trailer out and leave Riley the Vallhund behind for the day and returning every four hours. The only problem with this scenario is less time spent setting up camp and practicing wilderness skills as with such an arrangement is very much like being at home. Not my idea of a weekend.

Given the constraints, we began discussing the idea of borrowing a trailer to set up out in the middle of nowhere. Got everything set up: a bicycle for emergencies, trolley lines to keep the dogs separate when needed. Then the owner of the trailer conveniently got time off work, and tagged along for the outing. This made the whole scenario more awkward as having someone around creates social expectations. Also, since not everyone has stellar dog-handling skills, a social situation puts more pressure on the dog owner.

My partner wanted to bring along the new Norinco JW15A, a Chinese derivative of the Brno No. 1 and Brno No. 2, which I bought off a guy from Dawson Creek a few weeks prior. Uncertain how accurate the iron sight is and not yet done research on what would be a decent scope, without any .22LR in the cabinet, we reluctantly left it behind. Besides, the only store open after-hour was Canadian Tire and sometimes it can take an hour for a staff with a valid PAL licence to come and open up the display.

Due to miscommunications, we stopped at the 50 km mark instead of the 21 km mark south. This area has seen intensive logging, and grouse reports are sparse.  However, they were in the region since we saw two on the road near the area where we set up camp.

The following nights were cold, and the furnace kept coming on. I am used to the cold and was prepared to rely on my own body heat, but my partner was not and needed an external heat source. Since the dogs were not habituated to the trailer shaking all the time, they whined and barked throughout the night.

In the morning, he kept complaining about the cold, but the temperature during the day or at night was no worse than Willmore north of Jasper or Monkman in British Columbia two months prior. The complaints persisted for the night and day following after.

In the first morning, we headed north where the burns and clearcuts were according to Google Earth hoping that there would be some growth to promote the grouse population. There is no way to tell how old some of these sites are, and the imageries were last taken in 2013.  Since I did not have a topographical map for the area so far south, I stuck mostly to the roads since the area is featureless without any predominant hills or tall trees to be used as landmarks. My initial plan was to use to known rivers, creeks and marshes to navigate the landscape. Without a map, knowing where these are would instill more confidence. I have learned a few years ago not to rely on GPS, and only printed maps.

Not knowing the area is rather unfortunate since the roading habit does not need to be reinforced and would be much better to encourage Pavel the West Siberian Laika to search in a zigzag pattern more often. This is not an incorrect hunting behaviour depending on the context, as sometimes running in a straight line is a more productive way of searching, but will explain why in another discourse.

The cuts were too recent for anything other than black bears to show up, but Pavel did find one game which he barked at for four minutes. Visual was unconfirmed since by the time I crossed the cut, the game disappeared.

Just before lunch, we headed south to another clearcut which appears to be older. He found one game, barked at it for a few minutes then ceased. We continued further south, scouted the area and affirmed the habitat was more useful for moose than grouse based on the vegetation and the terrain. On our return, Pavel treed a grouse, probably the same one as earlier given the event occurred in the same area, and barked for a good ten minutes before making visual confirmation and affirming that it was a legal game species. In these parts, Sharp-tailed Grouse are restricted only to the month of October and one must take great care not to confuse them for another grouse species. One bird down.

Except the carcass got hung up in the tree since it was an aspen with four diverging trunks. The dog, understandably confused, persisted barking at it for another 15 minutes while I tried everything to get it down.

Later in the evening, he found another game up north on the road toward the burn. Since it was getting dark, it was hard to tell if it was some kind of fur-bearer such as a squirrel or marten or if it is a grouse. Taking a fur-bearer with a trapper’s licence or a trapline is considered as poaching.

Since fitness was not a priority until last winter, one begin to realize they must choose their hiking or hunting clothes based on their fighting weight when the waist is at its narrowest and the shoulders are their broadest. Otherwise, one can reasonably expect to encounter chaffing of the worst sorts. My pants, Kuhl Convertible, which I bought two summers ago, kept causing hot spots even with a belt to pull them up with. They were simply too loose. and one size too large.

On the following morning, the dog barked at something twice for about two to four seconds each. Then after running down a logging road, he stopped, turned back, seek affections and refused to continue searching. It could mean one of three things: either there’s a wolf in the area; he is getting sore; or there is an oncoming storm. Not wanting to inflict overuse injury or being stuck in the mud, which can take days to dry out, we headed back home. Sure enough, it started raining an hour after everything was packed up then snowed another hour later.

At this point in time, it is not worth putting up a gear list since only a synthetic baselayer from Mark’s, rain jacket from Marmot, Baikal shotgun, Garmin GPS and DeLorme inReach SE were carried on my person. Several observations were recorded for future blog posts which I wish to explore at a later date.

Without careful screening of partners, the trip is not something I wish to experience again. Most of my peers have a much tougher mindset and are willing to put up with the wet and cold late in the year in much more extreme environments.

Wish Lists: 5 Years in Review

Once every five years, it is generally a good idea to stop and take a hard look at one’s life and do an assessment. In this case, self-reflecting direct a person what they would like to do in the next five years and whether or not they are evolving.

So let see what was desired in the past and some of the current thought upon seeing these items:


External frame — Substituted. On the list for packrafting, and ULA EPIC was recommended by Hendrik Morkel, used by Andrew Skurka in the Yukon-Alaskan epic, and by the team in Arctic 1000. Stone Glacier KRuX will do in a pinch. Would like to try HMG Porter some day. The reason for the substitution is the use of Paradox Unaweep in packrafting by David Chenault.
1/2- or 3/4-length axes — Not yet purchased. Not necessary for winter camping if one has a batoning knife and folding saw. Popularized by Ray Mears and Paul Kirtley, and quickly became the standard in bushcraft community. Winters are long and the nights are dark. Would be a nice tool for the pulk.
Folding saw — Substituted with Silky Pocketboy which is a higher quality product and more readily available locally. Suspected Bahco Laplander is only more popular in the bushcraft community because of Ray Mears.
Tenkara rod —  Not yet purchased. Technically, Daiwa Kiyose SF is not a tenkara rod but rather a keiryu. BackpackingLight Hane is no longer available, and Kiyose SF is a close substitute. More versatile for a backpacking rod. Fixed length lines make it unideal for fishing in the lowlands where walleyes and pikes are more common.
Telescoping rod — Not yet purchased. Shimano Catana is probably the lightest backpacking rod which can handle predators. Still doing research on flyfishing, backpacking, and northern pikes.
Packraft — Not yet purchased. Considering two packrafts: one for hauling meat up to the size of a caribou or moose upon the recommendation of Becca and Luke Moffat; he other for recreational purposes such as fishing and whitewater rafting up to Class III or IV courtesy of articles by Roman Dial and Luc Mehl. Weak currency as the result of Harper administration’s insistence of transforming Canada into a petrostate led to second thoughts.
Canoe — Moved away from the coastline in 2012. Instead of kayaks, a raft or canoe would be a better investment. ALLEY Canoe is the lightest skin-on-frame on the market. There are strong criticisms of inflatable kayaks, and one might as well use a packraft instead based on analysis of kneel speed.


Adventure camera — Not yet purchased. GoPro is the most accessible one on the market. Only want this for filming proof my dog can hunt. The high bar of standard was established by Scandinavian hunters thanks to frauds committed by Russian, American and Canadian show  fanciers claiming the dogs can hunt, but were caught for staging pictures. Not a priority as other gears are more conducive to the user experience.
Shovel — Purchased SnowClaw for landscaping during winter camping. Advertised as the lightest snow shovel on the market. Need an avalanche shovel for more serious terrain.
Electric fence — Not yet purchased. Recommended by elk hunters in the northern Rockies to guard against predatory bears after a rifle shot. Bears developed a habit of charging people off of downed game.
Mountain rifle — Not yet purchased. Not high on the priority list since already has a Sako. Would like to get another rifle with stainless steel and synthetic stock to preserve the existing rifles with wooden stocks. Still undecided between Sako, Tikka, Kimber and Forbes. Need a lefthanded model.
Upland gun — Not yet purchased. Bought Baikal MP18 which was very unpleasant to shoot. Benelli Ultralight ended up on the wishlist based on media coverages. Considering a Yildiz instead based on pricing.
Rimfire rifle —  Not yet purchased. Need a rifle to practice with. Plinking with .222 and .308 get expensive. Had the opportunity to inherit a CZ and regrets passing it up. Still looking for an affordable .22LR with transferable skills to the same action used by popular mountain rifle manufacturers.
Remote stove — Purchased. Kovea Spider based on reviews from Hikin’ Jim and Woodtrekker. Very good stove for the money. Should have gone with FMS 118 for an off-the-shelf lightweight stove. Roger Caffin offers custom work with BRS 300T or FMS 300T for the cost of parts, shipping and $110 to $130 for labour.
Winter mattress —  Not yet purchased. Winter camping with Jervenbag was unpleasant. Snow kept melting and freezing. Need some cushion between the bag and snow.
Winter rucksack — Never purchased. GoLite Jam 70L seem to be highly recommended in lightweight backpacking community for winter hiking, but the company went bankrupt. Don’t see a reason to buy a separate winter backpack after purchasing Stone Glacier KRuX. Should not be difficult to MYOG bags.
Thru-hiking pack — Not yet purchased. Have not planned my first thru-hike yet, so this is on the backburner.


Hunting Backpack  — Substituted with Stone Glacier Solo. Mystery Ranch recommended by Brad Anderson. Changed mind to Kifaru Bikini frame the year after due to comfort and lighter frame. Decided upon Stone Glacier or Paradox Evolution after reading an article about the definition of ultralight hunting by David Chenault. Looking at purchasing 6200 cubic inch or 7400 cubic inch bags for those packrafting hunting adventures.
Kicksled  — Purchased ELSA kicksled from Quebec for keeping dog active outside of hunting season. Very well made. Has not yet used much due to unpredictable weather and deep snow.
Duck gun — Not yer purchased. Browning BPS recommended for left-handed shooters.
Combination gun — Not yet purchased. IZH-94 recommended by Sergei Bogatov in an issue of Primitive Aboriginal Dogs Society. Considering Haenel JAEGER 8.10 upon a suggestion by Teemu Siikamäki, but too cost-prohibitive. Not a priority at the moment. Most people in Alaska, Yukon, and British Columbia get by with a .30-06 and downloading them for small game.
Sled harness  — Not yet purchased. Got husky harness from Finland. Wheel harness from Howling Dog Alaska was recommended by Kevin Roberts of Skijor OxfordDogs. Unpredictable corner seasons and sudden snow dumps are the reason for disuse.
Skishoes — Not yet purchased. Started with a discussion about Altai skishoes. Поскряков was recommended by forum user “alpom”. Considering hunting skis from Finland, or using aboriginal wooden snowshoes which are said to be superior to Russian skishoes by Canadian trappers.


Compound bow — Not yet purchased. Need to build up the confidence with a bow and arrow. The recurve at the local archery club were not easy to learn on.
Tracking collar — Purchased. Garmin Astro 320 is recommended by Nordic hunters with dogs. Nordic model is legal in Canada; American model is not.
Bear gun — Never purchased. Bear paranoia is unwarranted and was too easily influenced by peers and family.
Skinning knife — Purchased Piranta EDGE. Recommended by backpack hunting communities such as Rokslide. Razor sharp. Buying the Bolt for a friend in Finland.
Ground blind — Purchased Jervenbag Extreme for moose-hunting in Alberta. Recommended by Brad Anderson. Found still-hunting to be too boring. Only used it a few times for winter camping. Too insulated for use as a blind. Considering replacing with -10°C sleeping quilt and an eVent bivy.
Dog vest — Purchased a Norwegian GPS vest from an unknown company. Recommended by Eirik Krogstad. Very good, would buy again. Considering one with capability for camera to be mounted.


Kayak —  Never purchased. Moved inland. Don’t have a use for it anymore. Better off with ALLEY Canoe or a packraft. See 2015 wishlist for alternatives.
Mattress — Purchased. Therm-a-Rest ProLite Woman’s was recommended by West Coast Paddlers community. Not very comfortable. Closed foam SOLite is better.
Water bladder — Purchased. MSR Dromendaty was recommended by community due to fear of puncture and abrasion from reefs. Heavy. Replaced with Platypus SoftBottles.
Alcohol stove — Purchased. Trangia was recommended by West Coast Paddlers community. Bulky. Replaced with a homemade cat can for free. Willing to experiment with Trail Designs Caldera Cone and Zelph’s StarLyte.
Woodstove — Substituted. Neufeld MK I was suggested by West Coast Paddlers. Bought Vargo Titanium Hexagonal Woodstove and never used it due to fire bans and too much snow. Backcountry Boiler would have been more useful.
Seawater filter — Never purchased. Moved inland. Don’t need this complicated and expensive device.
Drysuit — Never purchased. Moved inland.
Waterproof camera — Never purchased. Nikonos was recommended by wildlife photographers and war photographers. Moved inland.
Crab trap — Never purchased. Moved inland.
Hammock — Purchased. Hennessey Hammock was recommended by West Coast Paddlers and for rocky coastlines. Sold when moved inland due to lack of good trees and rocks.
Paddling shoes — Never purchased. Moved inland.

As one can see, the list is dominated by unsupported wilderness travels. If there is a bit more interest in trail hiking or thru-hiking, the list will be radically different.

Gear Wishlist 2015

This year, we see a departure from the interest in firearms. In hindsight, there is only really two which would be considered important. This year, we see more interest in wilderness travel  and less in thru-hiking or winter-trekking.

Essentially it’s the time where we begin to focus on transportation methods.

Let us see what is on my mind for 2015:


ULA Epic

Recently, the interest in pack rafting became a subject at the back of the brain. Many of the solutions for attaching a 2.5 kg object to the pack seems awkward. Hendrik Morkel has a workable solution.

Pack-rafting would expand the potential wilderness which has not been visited by too many people. There are still valleys in the Rockies where potentially no one have stepped a foot in for more than five decades. Being able to cross rivers and lakes would enable these kind of actions.

Other potential competitors include Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter. Based on reviews, and the dense bush in Canada, it is most likely that HMG Porter would be preferred.

Gränsfors Small Forest Axe

A small forest axe is a decent trade-off between the portability of a hatchet versus the usefulness of a full axe. We have a few felling axes for chopping up firewoods while camping in the trailer, but none for backpacking purposes.

There are several competitors which also include Collins, Garant, Council Tool, Cold Steel, Snow & Nealley, Bahco/Sadvik, Condor Tool, Husqvarna, Hultafors, Penobscot Bay and Wetterling

bahco-laplanderBahco Laplander

A folding saw is much more verstiale than an axe when it comes to combining bushcraft with long distance expeditions. With such device, one can procure just enough dry wood and tinder to start a small fire, and to set up a few poles. Anything more laborious would into the set-up time of establishing and breaking camp.

While it is 2 oz heavier than the Gerber Kershaw, the quality control of the latter is questionable.

kiyose02Daiwa Kiyose SF

This one came to my attention while browsing through Ryan Jordan’s blog looking for tips how to lighten the pack in the Mountains environment. When I first encountered the lightweight backpacking community a few years ago, there was a fantasy of thru-hiking. Some of it is still retained. In the last few years, it is more about lightweight wilderness excursions such as fishing and hunting as well as other activities such as bike-packing.

Most of my fishing usually take place on a lake and going around in the boat trolling. The idea of being able to take a light rod is really appealing, and it is very neat to see the Japanese style of fishing being adapted for westerners’ use. The biggest problem would be trying to figure out the length of rod required. Of course, for backcountry use, it will take time time to determine whether a keiryu rod or a tenkara rod would be more suitable.

There are a few manufacturers available such as Nissan, Suntec, Shimotsuke, Daiwa and Shimano. The caveat would be we have many lakes with northern pikes, and if one accidentally snag one then a spinner would be the best way to land it without cutting the line. The idea of going up to an alpine lake or a mountain stream with a simple rod is entertaining though.

ab3a6d9b5a4b29954371f039d1bc3b8cShimano Catana CX Telespin

It’s always nice to have a set of spinnign rod which is backpackable. They may not be as light or as compact as a tenkara rod, but they serve their own specific niche. Oddly enough there seems to be a bigger market for quality backpacking rods in Japan and Europe than in North America.

There are no shortages of manufacturers who produce telescoping rods world-wide and it woul dbe too numerous to list them all.

alpacka-66-1Alpacka Alpaca

Years ago, folding kayaks were of interest due to portability and compact nature which makes renting apartments easier on the West Coast. Ever since moving inland, the interest in sea-kayaking dwindled. It is a bit difficult to justify owning a 15 to 20 kg aluminium-framed kayak with a skin when the Alaskans figured out how to go down rapids with inner-tubes and devised packrafts for as little as 2 kg and as much as 6 to 7 kg. The Alpacka is considered the gold standard in packrafting, and other variants have specific niches.

Other contenders include Supai, Feathercraft, Ruta Locura and Klymit. Some are for white-water and some for flat-water. The only way folding kayaks would enter the picture if I live next to the sea. Folding canoes such as ALLY are intriguing as well.

PR49 HD collagePR-49 Alaskana

Back in 2007 and 2008, the K1 or K2 Expedition from Feathercraft was highly coveted since I had fantasy of circumstancing the entire Vancouver land. Nowadays, there is not much interest in kayaking other than around the bay and visit Haida Gwaii. The primary interest in the PR-49 though is not for expeditions, but its potential for hauling moose, caribou and elk from the bush by floating it. The raft is too bulky for any kind or realistic backpacking expedition, and for that there are wide assortments of other companies.

There do not seem to be a contender which can handle a 850-lbs load.

ALLY Canoe

The Ally is a throwback to the time when sea-kayaking was of interest. Packrafting and kayaking is a western thing, and canoeing is an eastern tradition. Very few in the East use skin-on-frame canoes, whoever, since they do require repairs and many prefer hardshells to retain their value over the years. The ones who are most interested in skin-on-frame kayaks and canoes are the ones who do extensive wilderness travel where weight becomes a problem.

Technically, the best way to combine boating and hiking is with a pack-raft with many being about 2 kg. There are lighter models, but often deemed too fragile for wilderness travel. The ruggedness of the packraft is why they dominate the scene in white-water, along with plastic kayaks.

The main appeal of the Ally Canoe is mostly from Lars Monsen’s documentaries such as Across Canada, Hiking in Norway and  Nordkalotten 365. He often used them as vessels for hiking with his dogs. If he was doing them solo, then a folding kayak would be more suitable. Paddling with a dog is possible in a kayak if it can be trained to stay in a deck hatch or if the design is an open hatch. Some kayakers have gotten around this by training their dogs to stay under the deck, or by attaching a sheet of Condura to the front or back of the canoe for the dog to lie down on.

Since the Ally weighs 21 kg, other potential alternatives to the Ally include Pakcanoes, Nautiraid Rando, Folboat Yukon and Edisto, Feathercraft Huron and Whisper . If we ignore the weight comparison, then the market  for single-paddlers opens up to Nautiraid Grand Raid IIFeathercraft Klondike, Folbot Kodiak, Klepper Aerius 1 and Longhaul Mark 1. Some also use the Folboat Greenland and Klepper Aerius II. The biggest concern would be the durability of the skin in shallow rapids which are common-place in Canada.


Self-Criticism of 2015 Northern Rockies Gears

After every trip, there is an entry in the spreadsheet commenting on the pluses and minuses of each of the gears carried. Since summer is coming to an end, and hunting season is coming up, consideration for each of the tested gears must be held close and roll over into the next trip. To view the spreadsheets, visit the entries about Willmore Wilderness Park and Monkman Provincial Park.

Here are some of the notes, so others can learn from it:

Stone Glacier Solo – Most obvious and probably the heaviest item (1.7 kg) in the whole setup. This has more to do with financial limitation than anything else and needed a meat hauling pack for autumn this year.

Lighter and stronger than Osprey Ariel 65L with 10 litres less, but can always switch to a frameless pack or one with aluminum stays for somewhere between 265 g and 1 kg depending on the load (9 kg to 27 kg), volume (30L to 75 L) and durability required for the trip. Many backpackers’ favourite are between 500 g to 700 g.

But again, it’s not unusual for someone to own about 5 to 10 backpacks for different purposes.

Locus Gear Khufu — Great tent, but need some more experience with using a flat tarp with 7′ × 9′ solo or 8′ × 10′ for two. The Hapi variety would spare the social awkwardness of having to get permission to go over another person. Would like to give Mountain Laurel Design Trailstar or its little brother a try for tundra expeditions. Cowboy camping in a bivy is another alternative and doesn’t require poles.

Sea to Summit Nano Pyramid Double Mosquito Net — Halla is not a fan of the having the floor and mosquito net separate. The decision on purchasing the net was an impromptu decision without the 8 to 10 weeks waiting time of getting a proper mesh system compatible with the Khufu.

Coghlan’s Ultralight Tent Stakes Generic 9″ Y-stakes (14 g each) from the local store are made from 6061 aluminum and bends easily. MSR Groundhog made of 7075-T6 aluminum is roughly the same length and the same weight (16 g each). 6″ length reduces 30% of the weight. Titanium shepherd’s stakes (5 – 8 g each) are the lightest, but versatility is limited to hard grounds.

Window shrink insulation film — Great if camping solo; except the material tears easily if a dog comes along. Experimentation with Tyvek is required. Unfortunately, Home Depot stopped selling them by the foot circa 2007.

Evernew ECA252  900mL is plenty for two and can be a blessing sometimes. A mug made of the same material is half the volume and three times (roughly 40 g) less the weight. A pot made from Foster’s is even less at roughly 20 g albeit more fragile.

Katadyn Micropur — Aquamira is not widely available in Canada. Sawyer Mini or Steripen Adventurer would simplify the kit. Chemical filtration is a pain over several weeks. Plus consuming 4 L a day means the tablets become very expensive quickly.

Love the simplicity of dropping in tablets. For a week-long hike or longer, the expenses are not worth it.

Petzl e+Lite — Without the strap (7 g), the lamp is about 21 g. Fenix LD02 is 16 g and has fewer moving parts. Got the Petzl on discount.

Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock Bit heavy with the foam grips and aluminum. Could try to lighten it up by stripping it and adding cork from Gossamer Gear, or buying Locus Gear CP3 for 296 g a pair or Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork for 490 g a pair.

Canon PowerShot SD980 IS The quality on this one is not as great as the Canon PowerShot A590 IS. Considering PowerShot was obtained on discount and as a gift, one can’t really complain. Sony RX100 is a good benchmark for point-and-shoot which should satisfy most DSLR users.

Merrell Moab Ventilator — Owned for a few years, but was never subjected to rain or creek crossings until recently. Shoes never dried out properly. Ended up getting blisters due to improper fit. Switched to Saloman Ultra X 2 and didn’t encounter any new issues even while breaking it in.

Clothes — Not much can be expected from clothes bought from Zellers or Mark’s. Should have put a bit of money aside for 100-weight Polartec, merino baselayer and down-filled jacket for summer use.

UDAP Chest Holster —  There should be an alternative somewhere which is more practical than these. Creative thinking is required.

Here’s to next year. Hope everyone had a good summer and gained some more experience under their belt.

Gun Control, Hunting and Politics

With the elections underway in Canada with what will be the longest and most expensive campaign in history, every hunter in the country is carefully considering their votes. Due to economic turmoils and angst, pundits are not sure if the nation will vote for an NDP-Liberal coalition or if the Conservatives will be swoon in once more with a minority government.

There are two concerns put forward by hunters: gun control and land access. The hunting community is strongly divided on the two issues.

Gun control

The Long Arm Registry put forward by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien followed the Montreal Massacre of 1989, and is the source of today’s discussions. Gun control became a heavily debated topic in Quebec, and federalists wanting to retain in the Quebecois nationalists appeased to them by imposing more restrictions under the Firearms Act created by Bill C-68. The provincial governments across the nation contended a federal registry is overstepping the bound power divisions and would be too expensive to maintain. The Supreme Court, however, ruled in favour of the Government of Canada.

Struggles to force gun-owners to comply was difficult, and various divisions did not enforce the mandatory registration. Red tapes had to be established with new purchases.

With bill C-68 passed, the debates ensued following the promise of a registry, rural Liberals MPs became anxious about losing their seats and warned the party not to follow through or risk losing every election afterward. Except the MPs were whipped. Consequently, the Conservatives became more popular amongst rural voters.

None of the mainstream political parties are pro-firearms. Only the Libertarian Party of Canada takes the stance of being lassiez faire.

After all, the Conservative Party of Canada did not fully repeal Bill C-68 and only portions of the registry. Non-restricted longer have to be registered and data pertaining to non-restricted were scrapped in 2012. Registration of restricted and prohibited firearms are still in place. The Conservative Party of Canada is only interested in maintaining the status quo.

After the Long Gun Registry was thrown out, the federal parties quickly dropped the topic from their platforms. However, Quebec became worried about the registry and petitioned for its maintenance. Overnight, all the parties adopted regionalism as their talking point. The notion of a federal registry vanished. Strangely enough, Ottawa gave the go-ahead for a provincial registry to be created in Quebec.

In recent years, New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair gave conflicting answers. Leading up to the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre in 2014, the following speech was given outside the House of Commons:

“I mean I have nothing against seeing honest farmers and duck hunters be able to have their weapons, but you know, that honest hunter who goes out with his pickup truck, it’s a registered pickup truck, and he’s carrying his 4×4 in a trailer and the trailer’s registered and the 4×4 is registered. Heck, his dog is registered.

I think that it is possible to provide the police with the tools to better protect the public and themselves by making sure they’re able to follow every gun, and it doesn’t have to be the registry as it was before. But it does have to be a form that allows the governments, federal and provincial, to keep track of those guns. That’s our bottom line.”

Since the NDP only gained its Opposition Status by usurping the seats from the Bloc Quebecois in the last election, one should not be surprised at the stance. What’s not clear is what kind of registry did Mulcair had in mind.

Does he mean the same kind of decentralized registration process in Scandinavia where they don’t have a national registry, but the gun is still registered at the local police office? No one knows.

Unsurprisingly, the caucus revolted and disagreed with their own leader and many of the MPs threatened to break ranks. The rural-urban divide still cuts through all the parties. The quick reversal of Mulcair’s stance is demonstrated at a rally in Thunder Bay several months after.

The problem is the NDP did not drop the topic of gun control from the policy platform (3.9d, pg. 15). Given the speech was made in Quebec at the time, and the provincial registry is underway, the attempt of brushing the speech under the carpet might be trying to win over voters in western Canada, Ontario and the Maritimes where the Long Gun Registry was strongly opposed. In fact, the party knows that installing another federal registry would be fruitless as Saskatchewan rejected the notion the first time around. Instead, the NDP is promoting the idea of empowering provinces’ right to self-determination.

The position taken by Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau is not reassuring either:

“I have said very clearly and I will repeat it that the Liberal Party will not bring back a gun registry. Jurisdictions around the world are looking into gun control. A lot can be done around classification, a lot can be done around proper review of the people looking to purchase firearms. There are many different ways of doing this and the Liberal Party is taking this seriously because Canadians are united in their desire to see less violence with guns.”

There is no clear, concise answer of what models the Liberal Party are researching. There are many different models around the world and if gun owners want to understand what they are voting for, the answer should be explicit. Otherwise, the voters will look to the party’s track records.

Given the Liberal Party of Canada’s history on gun control extending back to 1870s with the temporary registry established under during World War Two under Mackenzie King and Bill C-150 and C-51 creating firearms acquisition certificates and firearms classifications under Pierre Trudeau being recent memories, many firearms owners are are skeptical. Only one thing is clear, the party has a history of maintaining federalism at any cost since the beginning of confederation.

Voting for a certain ideology is not foolproof either since the former Progressive Conservatives of Canada (before being renamed as Conservative Party of Canada) were the ones who introduced Bill C-17 under Brain Mulroney’s successor, Kim Campbell, which further restrict what firearms can be owned. Additionally, conservative governments around the world throughout history, time and time again, shown they are in favour of gun control as long the measures keep the firearms out of the hands of landless or powerless and remains only in those of the landowners and urban gentry.

This is certain: the Quebec question will not go away anytime soon. The reason why the measures were enacted in the first place is because of Quebecois votes. As long the subject is a public debate in the province, gun control will always be brought up in parliament. Their wishes will be inflicted upon the rest of the country. French Canadiens will get what they want come hell or high waters.

The federal firearms registry for non-restricted guns is dead. The promoters quickly learned touching the topic is a surefire way of losing an election. What comes next, however, is uncertain.

Land access and the environment

In the past decade, the Government of Canada opened up the country to resource exploitation and the industry became much more intensive. At the moment, both Liberals and Conservatives are supporting Trans-Pacific Partnership with the Pacific Rim, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe and Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China. Witnessing corporations bullying Canada’s environmental regulations under the North American Free Trade Agreement, hunters and anglers have every reason to be concerned about TPP, CETA and FIPA.

And one should be concerned. Right-leaning governments and neoliberals across the country are fast-tracking or streamlining regulations so regulations do not slow down development. The Navigable Water Protection Act, the oldest wilderness conservation law in Canada, was stripped and left 89% of the waterways unprotected. At all levels, both historic right of ways and environmental laws are being nullified so Canada can be the leading producer of raw materials.

The battleground is best illustrated in British Columbia. With the residents quickly watching their province becomes a playground for the rich multinationals, hunters and anglers became vocal with creating a chapter under Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and establishing Resident Priority.

With Nestlé being a controversial issue in B.C. during the drought combined with the Liberal Party of British Columbia opening up the provincial parks to outside interests, hunters and anglers are becoming more vocal. Indeed, much of the environmental activism in northern half are being led by hunters.

However, B.C. is no stranger to being ruled by corporate interests as huge chunks of Vancouver Island was sold to a coal baron Robert Dunsmuir which is now divided up and owned by TimberWest, Island Timberlands, and Hancock Timber who are now logging the island intensively and flipping the property for real estate. As the result, the corporations are refusing access. The fight about land access is becoming province-wide as people are questioning the rights of forestry companies and ranchers gating the roads. Unfortunately, some of the offenders happened to be foreign.

And the same stories are being repeated across Canada and the United States. Hunters and fishers say access used to better in decades past, and now the opportunities are becoming fewer and fewer.

What is at stake?

The election in October 2015 will be a very difficult one for hunters and fishermen. Should they listen to the gun lobby, or should they vote for their own economic future?

Traditionally, we have associated firearms ownership with hunting rights. These days, the equivalence no longer holds true. Perhaps the greatest threat of all is losing our heritage and our access.

Unfortunately, none of the parties has touched on the topic of what they can do to improve sportsmen’s access. While it was a Conservative MP who proposed Bill C-655 which criminalizes harassment of anyone lawfully hunting, fishing trapping or shooting, the bill received support from all four of Canada’s major parties including the Green Party. If a party is sincere about supporting hunters and anglers, then they should make hunting access part of the platform.

So far, none of the parties has demonstrated they are on the side of hunters and anglers. About time they should.

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