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Article: Winter Hunting

Winter Hunting

Before we look at my journey in developing heated shelters for man carry let's pause for a discussion on hunting in winter.  I've practiced the skill and art of living off the land in the backcountry my entire career, filling the pot with whatever is in season, small game-wise. Since I ramble all year round-—traditionally on XC skis in snow conditions-—this has meant I collect squirrels and snowshoe rabbits (technically hares) in winter. And somehow the delights of providing food for ones camp from the land itself is amplified in the cold and snowy months. The additional challenge is quite satisfying.  I collect small game with the very same rifles I use for large game. Since I hand load my ammunition, and have for decades, I've developed small game loads for all the center fire rifles I own. Typically the small game recipe is concocted of faster burning powders, a magnum primer, and inexpensive bullets. The idea is to reduce muzzle velocity to the point where ,say, a rabbit or squirrel is anchored but not blown apart. The ideal speed is around fifteen hundred feet per second. With an expanding bullet this results in the bullet just beginning its expansion as it exits the critter; the result is similar to a standard velocity .22 caliber wound, small entrance hole and a nickel size exit hole. Little to no meat damage.  For example, the recipe for small game loads in my mountain rifle chambered for .300 Weatherby is 18 grains of IMR 4227, any magnum primer, and a 150 grain Hornady spire point bullet. (Note that H 110 and W 296 powders work just as well and burn cleaner; I simply have plenty of 4227 and continue to use it.)  This practice of using the same rifle for both small game and big game means that when big game season rolls around you will have become much more lethal with your big game accuracy. This is especially true in off hand mode, as virtually all your many shots at small game will be offhand. Being capable of reliable hits at some distance off hand is priceless when the big game animal of your dreams can only be downed in this manner. It will require experimentation to get your big game/small game loads compatible if you want to leave the sites the same for both-—thus allowing for collecting small game for the tipi while on a big game hunt-—which is a real treat.  Hunting off skis or snowshoes is extremely satisfying to your humble correspondent I recall a late season elk hunt on skis. There were sixteen inches of fresh snow (on top of about a foot of older accumulation), and the temperature was stuck at minus 16F. Hunting afoot was so exhausting, and slow, that I resorted to my skis. Far faster at getting around and far less tiring as well. When I encountered my elk I sat back on the skis and made the longish shot from sitting. (The processing was done with a warming fire at hand. Much needed and appreciated!). There are other examples of hunting in deep snow and serious cold to cite. A thirty five below caribou kill in Labrador comes to mind.  And etc. Suffice to say that winter big game hunting provides an extra satisfaction to the whole adventure. A very useful side benefit is the meat can be removed from the field at complete leisure. No spoilage concerns at all. One can linger in the tipi and eat a good portion of the kill with confidence it will stay fresh. When I've hunted in warmer conditions I've always taken note of where the creeks are and have resorted to stowing my meat in them while ferrying out the meat, camp and etc. No need for that if you hunt late enough. And you will encounter far fewer fellow hunters. I have had the entire area wholly to myself on many occasions.  So there is a brief account of the joys of hunting in winter. I must say that the practice got much more enjoyable after I invented my tipis and stoves! And we will get to that story next time.... To view Patrick's original post and subsequent comments please click here

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