June 04, 2014

Hunters build skills and friendships

As published in Dufferin Sideroads Magazine

Fishing and hunting provide a unique blend of satisfactions for those that get hooked – the serenity of outdoor relaxation, the comfort of friendly company, the challenge of unpredictable prey and the hope of a fine meal.

With 125 acres of pristine woodlands, ponds and trails just north of Orangeville, the Dufferin Northern Peel Anglers’ & Hunters’ Association (DNPAHA) offers its members an opportunity to improve their skills and an escape that is much closer than a cottage.

Since 1932, they have promoted conservation and responsible hunting, providing stocked trout ponds, camping, target ranges, competitions and social events. Membership is limited at 300, with an annual fee of $200, and there is a waiting list of 60 hoping to join.

“It’s a cottage atmosphere – all for one and one for all,” said President Murray Johnston.

Members can enjoy two large fishing ponds within the Credit River Watershed. There are rainbow trout supplied by the Humber Springs Trout Hatchery in Mono, as well as speckled trout. The association has its own fishing permit system – $80 for 30 fish. The ponds are also suitable for swimming, including an enclosed kids’ area with a sandy bottom.

Pond Chairman Pat Black
For a low fee, members can also arrange to use seasonal or short-term campsites near the ponds, complete with firewood. There are woodland trails, a large pavilion for barbecue events, and a playground area. Members can bring guests three times per year. New members pay a $100 initiation fee and provide eight hours of volunteer work to help maintain the site.

Ice fishing is also popular on the upper pond, with the association supplying huts, and a new cabin on-shore for people to get warm. This past winter there was so much snow that they had to cut paths to the fishing holes with a snowblower. In February they held a Family Day event with skating and bonfires.

The association has a Conservation Fund that provides three $1,200 scholarships annually for students going into environmental studies. They also support school educational projects about fish, and funded a special dock for the disabled at Island Lake Conservation Area.

Some members are primarily interested in archery, and many meet on Saturday mornings. The association has a figure-8 trail with 43 targets in the shapes of various animals, including deer, elk, moose, turkey, wolf, wolverine, coyote and even alligator. These are placed among the trees, 20-40 yards from the shooting stations, and are embedded with concentric target areas, rewarding accurate shooters with higher points.

John Hunter

Groups of four or five archers follow the course together, like a group of golfers, taking turns at each station. It takes about 3 hours to complete – including time to retrieve arrows that miss the targets completely.

Different competitions are held based on three main types of bows, including traditional or recurve bows, where the archer has no special devices to guide the shot. Then there are compound bows with sights and stabilizers, and crossbows that mechanically pull and hold the string, releasing it with a trigger. Crossbow hunting has a longer season than regular hunting.

Bows used for hunting must have at least 40 lbs. of pressure when fully drawn to ensure their effectiveness said Jim Donnelly, an experienced archer.

“The last thing any ethical hunter would want to do is just wound an animal,” he said.

About 130 members participate in archery, and the sport seems to be gaining popularity with young people, said Johnston.

The DNPAHA clubhouse is a meeting place for members, and it is also made available to community groups such as Cubs and Brownies.

The facilities are located on Dufferin Road 16 at Blind Line, just west of the Cardinal Woods subdivision, where there has been concern about sound from the shooting ranges.

DNPAHA has brought in soil this year to raise the berms surrounding the ranges by 8 to 9 metres to reduce the sound. This will have the added benefit of creating a more consistent visual background for trap shooters as they try to hit their moving targets.

Trap shooting dates back to 1750 in England as a method of practice for hunters, and has been an Olympic sport since 1900. Originally, live birds and later glass balls were used as targets. The standard now is a clay disk, but they still call it a “bird”, with the shooter yelling “pull” when they are ready to have the target released.

DNPAHA has two fields and nine above-ground machines to throw the birds in fixed paths. There are also two machines in bunkers that vary the angles left and right, one at a standard height and the other wobbling to produce a more challenging variety of unpredictable trajectories.

“This simulates the idea of hunting in the field,” said Trap Chairman Dale Krushel. The counter on the second machine has reached 1.68 million.

Trap Chairman Dale Krushel
Dale Krushel shooting, and below, instructing reporter Phil Gravelle

Competitors normally take turns firing five times from each of five shooting stands, and scorers determine whether each bird has been struck or missed. In addition to a single target, variations include two birds thrown in quick succession or two simultaneously.

Trap shooters gather on Sunday mornings at 10 am, and on Monday nights, while Wednesday is Ladies’ Night.

Training is available to new shooters to help them learn etiquette and safety procedures (which include ear and eye protection), plus firearms and hunter safety courses to help members meet government regulations.

DNPAHA and its members are affiliated with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, which not only advocates for their activities but also invests in education, conservation projects, fish and wildlife research and anti-poaching efforts.

The Dufferin shooting range, for both rifles and handguns, is one of the safest in Ontario, said Krushel. It is narrow trench surrounded by high earthen berms, with a building for target shooters at one end. Paper targets are set at 25, 50 and 100 yards, in front of bunkers that trap the bullets.

There is pair of high wooden baffles in front of the shooting windows. Participants can see the targets while sighting below the baffles, but they cannot see the sky from their positions, eliminating the possibility of high, stray shots escaping the range. Targets can be suspended below the baffles for close-range handgun use.

Some members only do target shooting, but others consider it essential practice for success in hunting animals.

“I want to be as good a shot as I can possibly be – I want to be able to hit a target the size of my thumbnail at 100 yards,” said Krushel. “A one-shot harvest is ideal.”

For more on the association, go to www.dnpaha.org.