I have the fortune of working for the English subsidiary of a Swedish farm-machinery manufacturer and have done for the las t 8 or 9 years. As a result, I've made some good contacts over there and spend a fair amount of my spare, as well as work time in that beautiful country. I have one particular mate over there that has become something of a 'hunting brother' and we make regular weekend hunting excursions together to persue a wide range of English and Swedish game. We don't mind what it is really, but it's the fun of the hunt......
In this thread I wanted to give you a brief overview of what has now become an annual pilgrimage over to the western part of Sweden, near to the Norwegian border in the pursuit of BEAVER! Now I'm no journalist, so apologies in advance for the low quality of the article/report/story or whatever you want to call it. The pictures should be ok though! If it's boring, that's just me I'm afraid!
We try to go in early May, when the Beaver season is coming to a close. This gives us the best chance of them being well out of hibernation and actively feeding as well as making it a bit more pleasant to sit out during the early mornings and evenings. I can't sit still very long when it's minus 10!
We head up to the cabin on a Friday and drop the gear off before heading out on a recce mission for the forthcoming outings. The Cabin is in forest that is owned by a local farmer and there is a stretch of river and lake that he owns where we hunt. He gives us a map when we get there, tells us what's been going on on the run-up to our arrival and leaves us to it.
Now I'm not sure what experience anyone else has of hunting beaver, but it's certainly different to the techniques I developed during my time at University, in and around the local pubs and clubs! The Beavers set up their homes in partly-submerged piles of sticks and branches and emerge into the open water and swim off in search of food or light entertainment, whichever takes their fancy at the time i guess. They swim with only the very top of their heads and nostrils exposed and don't make a sound. The only time that they present an opportunity for a shot is when they climb out onto the bank and then it is important to wait until they are well clear of the water, or at least on the level ground - if they fall into the water, you've got a swimming session to look forward to. The thing is that they often SINK when dead and if wounded, disappear as quick as a flash. One old theory is that they swim down to the bottom of the river, bite hold of a submerged branch and die in that position, never to be seen again! Now, I'm not totally convinvced by that, but I do try to make sure that I give them a positive whack in the shoulder/neck to stop them making any ground. I use my 6.5x55 R93 loaded with Norma Oryx 156grn softpoints. A little overkill for these things perhaps, but like I said, if you don't kill them where they sit, it's unlikely that you'll see them again. My mate uses a 7x57JRS double rifle or his 8x57/12g combi.
One of the main reasons that they cause a problem and need to be controlled, aside from the usual population, food and disease problems is that they have the ability to damage large areas of farmland by flooding. They do this by felling trees and use it as a means to travel further from the natural river, without leaving the safety of the water. The obvious damage to the valuable timber crop goes without saying.
(Possibly the gayest shooting picture ever - Brokeback Mountain eat your heart out!)
The best policy that we have found, is to do a good recce of the area before hand and select several likely looking areas; where the fresh tree damage is and where the most regularly-used slipways are, that are used for leaving and entering the water.
We see loads of other wildlife when out walking around (there's a moose cow in the centre of the above picture) and last year a Roe buck walked right up to me and sniffed my shoulder whilst sitting waiting for Beavers one evening. As soon as i reached for my camera he buggered off!
It is good when there has been a rainy period followed by a day or so of dry weather - then it's possible to examine the undergrowth along the waters edge, next to the slipways to look for fresh mud that has been deposited on leaves and grass etc. That way, you know it can't have been there long. These things look as though they 'slither' along the land, a bit like a Badger with no legs, and leave a wide, U-shaped gulley in areas that they use regularly. They don't stay in one place forever though and move their homes up and down the river in search of fresh growth and hence food.
The Scenery in this part of the world is fantastic and that makes it even more enjoyable. I can't fail but have a good time, even if the Beaver's a bit thin on the ground, so to speak.
We get out into our pre-selected positions well before it gets light and sit under a tree (I hate carrying a stool) where there is a good view of the river and clear lines of sight. The ranges are normally pretty short as it's a sort of 'ambush' approach and I have had them come as close as 10m to me. Shots are normally taken at 25-35m on the opposite bank of the river.
There is a canoe for retrival purposes, but you can guarantee that you've got a reasonable hike to fetch it - it never seems to be in the right place! The trees down accross the river can slow your progress a bit too.
Most of the animals that we have shot here over the last few years have been around the 15-20Kg mark, but the one pictured below topped the scales at well over 25Kg!!
The skins, although not worth much like they used to be, are really nice and we try to make as good a job as possible of skinning and tanning all but the worst damaged ones to use as rugs and ornaments. I have this one on the back of my favourite armchair at home! The Skulls of the big ones we boil and bleach, much the same as a deer head, but leave them whole, with the teeth being the 'trophy' part. I have seen pictures of them mounted on a sheild like a set of Wildboar tusks and might try that with the next set i get. I keep threatening to do something with the tail off one of them like make a wallet or something, but that hasn't happened yet.
You can eat the meat, but in the words of Mick Dundee "you can live on it, but it tastes like s**t". I have tried it and it's very gristly and quite strong tasting. The farmer seems to like it though, so we leave it with him usually!
The best part of the weekend for me is being out in such a remote area and living like a red indian for the weekend. We cook outside regularly and spend the times when we aren't shooting either napping on the porch like a couple of rednecks or picking mushrooms and checking out the 'beaver hotspots'!
So next time you see some bloke wandering round a gamefair with a Davy Crocket style fur hat on - it could be me!
If you managed to make it this far - thanks for reading!!!