Category Archives: lists upon lists

Things That You Never Hear…

Earlier this year I posted about some of the wacky things people have asked me about hunting, and rest assured, many people are still asking me all sort of bizarre and occasionally inane things about it.   But aside from being a good-natured way for me to try to educate some people about the pastime of hunting, it also gets me to thinking about some of the things that I never hear in connection with my hunting experience.  So now, I present to you, a list of phrases that I can safely say have never been uttered during any of my countless hunting trips.  Sure some of them are clichés…who cares?

“You cooked that steak perfectly.”
“Wow, you smell really good.”
“No, I think I’ve had just about enough bacon.”
“I love hunting in the rain.”
“That hair colour really suits your complexion.”
“You did just what I would have done and I don’t have any advice to give you.”
“Don’t bother sweeping the floor.  It will just get dirty again.”
“The government is doing a perfectly good job and they are all competent people with our best interests at heart.”
“You young guys do way too much work around the camp.  Take a rest and have a beer.”
“That toast isn’t burned at all.”
“I don’t think we’ve brought enough beer nuts this year.”
“A wine spritzer does sound refreshing, thanks.”
“I’d love a mock-chicken sandwich.”
“That Stompin’ Tom Connors music is too loud!”
“Cheddar cheese soup?  Delightful!”
“Shawn, that undershirt fits you perfectly.”
“I have no idea what that deer was thinking.”
“I’d much rather use the outhouse than crap in the woods.”
“There’s much less mouse poop in the camp than there was last year.”
“Everybody is talking much too quietly.”
“I think those decoys are arranged perfectly.  We mustn’t fiddle with them.”
“Did you ever notice that clouds sometimes look like things?”
“Chip dip?  Well that’s just unnecessary…”
“That fire is big enough and doesn’t need any more wood added to it.”
“You can’t put gravy on that.”
“You’re right; I have hunted enough and ought to stay inside by the fire during this godforsaken blizzard.”
“Sure, you can use my toothpaste.”
“Sure Dane, you can borrow my hunting pants.” 
“Thanks Luke, I’ll clean and return them immediately after the season.”
“No, you didn’t snore at all last night.”
“That story contained exactly zero bullshit.”
“Shawn…I disagree with your viewpoint and have a well-constructed argument prepared that will refute it.  I am not just going to swear at you.”
“I’m sorry, I did fart.”
“You did dishes last night, I’ve got this round.”
“Shhhh, I’m listening to Beethoven.”
“I missed that goose completely.”
“Shawn, you’re not calling enough.”
“That turkey wasn’t the biggest one I’d ever seen.”
“If you shoot a bear I’ll help you clean it.”
“If you’re going out to grab a beer, I’d like a bottle of mineral water please.”
“That knife is too sharp.”
And probably the least likely thing you’ll ever hear if you go hunting with me and my group of buddies…
“I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
This is just a smattering of phrases that I anticipate never hearing anybody use in my hunting camp.  But who knows, maybe we’ll all become sophisticates and someone will crack out the classical music, replace the chips and venison pepperettes with  baby carrots and cucumber slices, and we’ll talk to each other in a refined civil tone appropriate for churches and meeting royalty.  I guess stranger things have happened, but no matter what, we’ll all still probably brave lousy weather and sometimes long odds at success just to get out and chase after wild game.  Because after all the fun and silliness that we love is set aside, that’s just what we’ve always done.


I got into a heated debate the other day with someone about the concept of “underrated “.

We were discussing underrated drummers and the person in question asserted that Neil Peart was the most underrated drummer of all time.  Now this is patently ridiculous, since Neil Peart is underrated only in comparison say, John Bonham or Keith Moon, insofar as drummers go.  Some drummers who are actually underrated, I argued, were Stewart Copeland or John Densmore, or other guys you’ve never heard of who are absolutely sick, tehcnically gifted drummers who just toil away behind the kit and don’t get tricky nicknames.

But as usual, a conversation not related to hunting is being applied to hunting.

Maybe it is the dirty, windy, rainy, cold weather in this part of Ontario that’s got me itching to chase some ducks, or the fact that deer season is rapidly approaching, or that my family and friends are moose hunting and I’m secretly envious of them all.  Whatever it is, I’ve been thinking about the underrated aspects of hunting and how great they are.  Some of them are becoming casualties of the modern approach to hunting, others (like moustaches) are experiencing a renaissance that is both interesting and disconcerting.  So here’s a list of some of the things that don’t get the respect or attention they deserve.

Pass-Shooting Waterfowl

Perhaps it is the focus on all the paraphenalia that must be sold to waterfowl hunters these days, or maybe it is a symptom of our sedentary, “everything should be easy” approach to modern life, but nobody gives pass-shooting any respect.  I don’t want to get more angry emails from waterfowlers so I will admit that ultra-realistic decoys, layout blinds, and breakthroughs in camouflage have made waterfowling more accesible, successful, and has arguably, with severely reduced ranges becoming the norm (don’t believe me?  Find one outfitter that doesn’t boast shooting inside of 20 yards) cut down on crippled and lost birds.  But reduced ranges and super-fast shotgun loads has also basically killed the arts of wingshooting, especially pass shooting.  There used to be a mathematical precision, a feel, a sweet spot to shotgunning ducks and geese.  Now, you almost don’t even have to bother with leading the birds…this has been a boon to myself and others who are terrible wingshooters, but its still kind of sad.  I also contend, with no evidence other than empirical observation, that the decline in shooting ability has actually increased sky-busting.  Shooter confidence is sky-high, and it leads to shooting at birds that are exactly that.  The older generation can just plain old shoot, and I attribute that to pass-shooting practice.

Walking In

A sound that I have almost become deaf to (because it has become so prevalent) is the distant hum of an ATV.  Once again, I’m not some reactionary traditionalist.  ATVs are great when you’ve got a moose, bear, or deer down in some godforsaken swamp or cedar thicket that is as impenetrable as a Vietnam jungle.  But for many they have become the default means of getting into their spots, which is too bad.  There’s so much that goes unappreciated when tearing through the bush on four wheels; things that the hunter who hikes in gets to see and hear.  I like an extra couple minutes of sleep as much as the next hunter but a still, early morning walk into a dimly lit forest is an experience worth getting up for.  Hearing the metallic ‘snick-snick’ of rifle cartridges sliding into place, stopping to listen for a deer with your breath hanging heavy around your head on a crisply frosted morning, and exposing the forest around you to the narrow-eyed peregrinations of a hunter stalking their prey all speed past in a blur on an ATV.  Not to mention the damage to fresh sign and the pastoral tranquility of the hunt that the ATV wreaks.  So this season, put some miles on…your boots.

Eating over a Fire

There was a time, so the deer camp elders say, when the hunting stock from which I am derived would have an outdoor fire on almost every suitable day of deer season (and even on a few unsuitable days) and toast some bread and meat on a split stick in the middle of the day before retiring for a brief nap under a tree.  I get the impression that my great-uncles, grandfather, and other deer hunters that preceded me hunted all day long and only returned to camp for dinner and sleep.  Keep in mind that these are deer camp recollections so their veracity is debatable at best, but it seems to me that lunch starts earlier and earlier every year we go deer hunting, and although we’ve done it once or twice in my deer-hunting career, we don’t often pack in a lunch and have an impromptu early November cookout.  The times we’ve done it have been exceptional; building the fire up, whittling down a long, forked twig, using an old stump as a cutting board/prep table, squatting next to a fire with a sandwich balanced in the ‘hot-zone’ over some glowing coals, leaning against a tree, fallen log, or maybe the above-mentioned stump and savoring a toasty treat.  All memories to cherish.  I vote we do it more often.


I covet my cousin’s GPS.  There’s one on my Christmas list this year.  But I also get a smug sense of satisfaction from navigating my way through the woods with a compass.  Sure it isn’t orienteering by the sun (I’m just simply not that hardcore) but picking out a landmark, navigating to it, and then picking out another landmark and doing it again as a means of getting to a destination has me at least under some semi-delusions that I have some skills as a woodsman.  And I like that feeling.  Still a new Garmin would be pretty kick-ass.

Gas Lanterns

It is nice to have a deer camp that is fully wired and generator compatible.  We can play CDs, charge batteries for digital cameras, power a water heater, and run a ceiling fan that keeps the heat from the woodstoves (and the reek of a dozen unwashed men) circulating through the camp.  But late in the evening, when hunters tired out from bushwhacking start to slip off to bed and the generator is switched off, some of us stay up, sip brews, and tell lies to each other.  Our constant companion is the hiss of a Coleman lantern.  My dad brings one of the old “pump” models and the sadly departed Frank Sweet had an even older one that was pitted, rusty, and absolutely effective at casting light and a modicum of close-quarters heat.  I think old Franko’s lantern had also seen a few hairy trips by sailboat around Georgian Bay and the Great Lakes, and with those gas lights hissing away the log walls breathed ambience.  Many a laugh and a story has floated over the tops of those old Colemans.  They are also the sole source of light in the early deer camp mornings (since we all see little point in running the generator for that short a time) or when the generator breaks down, which has in reality only happened once.  There’s a new, battery operated Coleman in camp, which is fine because it acheives the same functional purpose as its fuel-driven predecessor, but it is found to be sorely lacking in what it adds to that nebulous and ill-defined concept of “camp-feel”.

There’s so much more about hunting that is underrated.  Living alone in the forest.  Turning a tree into firewood.  Getting soaked to the bone and suffering martyr-like for the opportunity to take a turkey, duck, or deer.  I’m sure I’ll find the time to write more about it soon.

Funny Things You Hear Sometimes

My thanks to those of you who have emailed me to wonder if I’m doing okay.  Yes I am, but the drop in blog productivity is with good cause.  A couple of good causes actually.
First and foremost, it is July.  There’s not much to hunt in July (other than hunting for a cool place in the shade…not surprisingly, I am not a warm-weather creature).  Since it is the high summer, there just aren’t the stories that I had in the run-up to, and duration of, the spring turkey season.  Secondly, and the inspiration for this post, is that I’ve started a new job in the bustling metropolis of Toronto.  Some of the time I had previously spent writing is now spent driving home, but please do look forward to increased output from me as I slowly descend into the madness associated with chasing ducks and geese.
Now onto today’s ramblings.  As mentioned, I’m now in a new office…an experience not altogether different from one’s first few days of school.  There are new faces, names, and social cliques to navigate.  There are meetings and training sessions to attend.  And there is my personal ‘brand’ to establish.  Of course my brand is good-natured consultant who happens to love hunting and the outdoors.
This love of the outdoors did not take long to shine through (maybe the framed photo of my wife and I on her only hunting trip piqued the curiosity of my new coworkers, who knows?) and immediately I was attacked with questions from a number of people who, through no fault of their own, have never experienced the outdoors outside of a televised beer commercial.
Here’s a list (in no particular order) of the most ridiculous, charming, and downright wacky questions and statements I’ve heard since my arrival in the urban business world.  My responses (or what I had hoped they could have been) are italicized.
It’s illegal to shoot Canada Geese isn’t it?  I mean they’re on the $5 bill!
Nope, completely legal and downright delicious.  In fact bag limits are liberal so in a way it is encouraged.  Polar bears and loons though…strictly off-limits.  Thus your monetary-based system of valuing animal life is somewhat accurate.
That mean you own weapons right?
Yes, but only because I’ve grown too old to continue to chase down and tackle things.
Can you talk to animals?
Yes, but they rarely listen.
Can I go hunting with you?
You can come and watch if you want, but you’ll mostly just see me sitting still and being quiet.  You can do that in the office if you’re so inclined, and if you stay inside there is less likelihood of you being bitten by a tick…so that’s win.
What did that duck/goose/deer/turkey/rabbit ever do to you that you can just kill it?
Nothing.  That’s why I’m not trying to kill it out of spite.  It is just a challenging thing to do, which happens to have very tasty results if I’m successful…which is not very often.
When you eat an animal, do you gain its strength?
No, but if I don’t brush my teeth afterwards I do get breath that would terrify a grizzly bear.
Does this mean I shouldn’t make you mad?
I think that you are asking if you enrage me will I hunt you like a wild animal?.  Really, you shouldn’t make me mad but only because that would just be a mean thing for you to do to me; that I go hunting shouldn’t enter into it.  If you do make me mad, rest assured, I enjoy hunting and the outdoors far too much to jeopardize that privilege by doing something thoughtless and violent.  I likely will go hunting, but in a nice calm forest far away from such silly questions and where whatever you did to make me angry will be washed away by the relaxing sounds of the wilderness surrounding me.
It is too bad that stereotyping of this sort still goes on, but it does and I’m sure this is just the start of some of the hilariously absurd things that people are going to say to me.  I’ve already gotten some funny looks when I told my coworkers that I usually reserve a week or more of vacation for the dead of November.  Maybe they think I’m a skier.  This list will probably grow, and this is nice outlet for it, since I usually have to just politely answer in a neighbourly sort of way that won’t make my interrogator feel ridiculous.  After all, if they took the time to ask, the least I can do is give them an answer.
Well, actually, the least I could do would be to walk away silently shaking my head…but that would really make it hard for me to make friends in the office.

The Right Tool

The inspiration for this post came from a stapler.
I have a cheap, generic black stapler at work, but that bland corporate appearance masks the fact that in reality this stapler is a beast.  It is not very big, but it tears through paper with two powerful steel fangs.  I’ve stapled as many as forty pages of together securely with it, and I think some of my coworkers are getting stapler envy.  It consistently succeeds where lesser staplers would undoubtedly fail.
The stapler is an outwardly simple design, with a humble lever and a couple of springs operating in unison with the sole end of fastening together papers.  I think many inventors would be hard pressed to improve on the stapler, although without a doubt I’m sure many have tried.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen.  The stapler.
Where is this going?  Good question.
I am not a craftsman so I lack any ethic of intrinsic appreciation for the finer points of mechanics or manufacturing.  Like most of my ilk, I’m just concerned with what works.  Yes, I am aware that the craftsman’s life is much richer than mine.  Stop bragging.
But to that end, in honour of my desk stapler, here’s a brief list of items that hunters can use that offer the esoteric pleasure of pursuing game with tools that are simple but almost flawlessly effective.
A Break Action Shotgun
My first youthful rabbit hunts as a teen were carried out with an absolutely gorgeous 20 gauge Ruger over-under shotgun with a break action.  Even for a gangly and awkward fifteen year old it swung like a dream.  Now that I’m a grown man, it is the most balanced gun that I’ve ever had the pleasure of pointing at game.  I’ve shot it at grouse as they exploded out of snow drifts and rabbits that made mazy runs through bottomlands.  I’ve never gone after waterfowl with it, but I think it would make an exceptional gun for decoying mallards, and at this very moment I am picturing a smooth left to right swing on a plump greenhead as it drops into some secluded backwater and then pulling the trigger crisply as I move the barrel past the drake’s beak with a deft, painter’s brushstroke.  Beauty and handling aside, there is a ritualistic satisfaction that comes from loading and unloading this gun, thanks to the simple machinations of the break action.  Pop two shells in, snap shut, fire twice, and pluck two shells from the extractor while savouring the pungent aroma of spent gunpowder.  Also, when I shot that gun I somehow found myself a better and more focused shooter, likely because I knew that I only had two shells in the gun.
A Fixed Blade Knife
I do not actually own a fixed blade hunting knife; my two knives are clean, compact lock-back folding jobs.  I have however used the fixed blade knives of friends and I can say that I am a fan.  A reasonably sized (no need for Crocodile Dundee here) fixed blade knife has clean classic lines, possesses exactly zero moving parts, and when a sharp, gleaming blade is fixed atop a smooth wood (or better yet, bone or horn) handle…well, you can’t get any more simple or effective than that.  Period.  Full stop.
Rubber Boots
They go by many names.  Gumboots.  Wellies.  Rain-boots.  Barn-boots…call them what you will: I am a devoted, and shameless, rubber boot enthusiast.  Perhaps we’ve all been fooled into believing in the scent-proof, space-age fabric, elaborate lacing systems, moisture wicking, $250 a pair voodoo that we are sometimes told, and those products certainly have their merits.  After all, I don’t think I’d like to hit the high Arctic in a pair of Wellies, nor would I want to go chasing Mountain Goats in the Rockies without some real mountaineering footwear.  But for the rank and file of us, do we really need anything more than a pair of well constructed rubber boots?  I say no.  For the average turkey hunter (except perhaps for those in heavy rattlesnake country) rubber boots offer exactly what is most needed; light, un-insulated, reliably waterproof footwear.  Fall waterfowl hunts?  Outside of hip or chest waders for the deep water crowd, I can think of no better boot to have than a rubber boot.  But what of the late season deer hunter?  Not warm enough for November and December you say?  I think rubber boots are great then too, especially quality name brands that won’t freeze, rot, and crack in the cold.  Still worried about insulation, eh?  Well then, just layer up and put on some wool socks.  What?!  You don’t like wool socks?!
Wool Socks
How can you not like wool socks?!  They’re great.
A Compass
I suppose that before compasses hunters determined direction by the sun, and so long as you know what time it is, the sun does give a general bearing on east versus west.  Still, a simple compass (and the know how to use it) is not only a great, self-satisfying way of finding your way around, but a sight cheaper and easier to use than even the most basic of GPS units.  I fear that in some ways, good old fashioned woodsmanship might be dying out thanks to the advances in GPS units, that now not only tell you where you are, but how you got there, where to go to get out, the location of nearby eateries, history on interesting tourist attractions in the vicinity, the time of sunrise and sunset, the corollary calculation of minutes of daylight, the number of days until the next full moon, and so on and so on.
Open Sights
I won’t spew on this too much, because I’m not of the mind that progress has no place in hunting.  I did have a pretty upbeat conversation with a man once who thought the use of scoped rifles was tantamount to cheating and that the widespread use of rifle scopes only contributed to extending a hunter’s idea of “range” into untenable territories, leading to an increase in unethically distant, longer is better, “hero-type” of rifle shooting.  I haven’t really seen evidence of this in my circle of hunting amigos but, like everything, I’m sure there is an element out there that views themselves less as hunters and more as special-ops snipers.  So be it.  But still, open sights are pretty great.  By “open sight” I mean any kind of iron style sight, whether that is a bead, a peep-sight, a tang sight, or a buckhorn.  Of course, even open sights have made the technological leap forward into the world of fibre optics.
There are dozens of other simple, effective tools out there for all types of hunters including wooden snowshoes, natural blinds, single reed duck (or goose) calls, bolt action rifles, and turkey box calls…but to espouse the benefits of all the gear out there that is both useful and elegantly simple would take posts upon posts.