High Performance Mufflers Dyno Tests

Do high performance mufflers make horsepower gains or are they marketing pipe dreams? It might seem strange why I am writing about this subject on a nature related blog, but it will become abundantly clear below.

One of my hobbies is tinkering and building automotive engines, transmissions, and other drivetrain to increase performance, and more recently to increase fuel economy. Aftermarket muffler manufactures such as Dynomax, Thrush, Flowmaster, Magnaflow, Cherry Bomb, and others all make a good deal of money selling their performance mufflers. They advertise that their mufflers increase performance quite dramatically from a stock muffler, but never seem to have dyno tests to provide proof. They often only quote muffler flow rates in comparison to a “stock” muffler. The question should then become how much flow is required and how much does more than good enough make? 

Finally, Horsepower TV on Spike TV (episode HP2010-07) did a dyno comparison test of some Cherry Bomb mufflers for sound levels and horsepower. I will ignore the sound level tests they did as they have no real world relationship to being inside an enclosed dyno room. They compared Cherry Bomb’s glass pack, turbo, pro, and high priced Vortex brands to a stock muffler on a test engine running headers and dual exhaust. A common stock style muffler gave 472 horsepower, the glass pack gave 480 horsepower, the turbo style muffler gave 477 horsepower, the short pro muffler gave 476 horsepower, and the Vortex muffler gave 480 horsepower. At the very best, the gains were less than 2% and only 1% for two of the mufflers. This proves that more muffler flow is not needed to make performance gains. Performance gains of 5% are barely noticeable, and certainly not worth it for any other than competitive racing.

What these aftermarket mufflers are good for is increasing, quite dramatically, the sound from the engine. Increasing engine sound has a psychological effect of feeling like the vehicle is faster. Now you know that it isn’t from the above dyno tests. The muffler manufactures are truly selling a pipe dream.

When I was younger, I bought into the hype and used loud mufflers, but it was always irritable to drive around a loud vehicle that could be heard from a few miles away. Now that I am much more sensitive to noise pollution, I use high flow stock style mufflers. I can sneak around the back woods and my tires rolling on the gravel make more sound than my engine.

I am writing this article to emphasize that loud mufflers do not help performance and will only make those that use them a menace on the roadways. Believe me, almost nobody wants to hear loud vehicles, especially while relaxing in a country or forest setting trying to enjoy the wonderful sounds of nature. Loud mufflers are technically illegal, because of the disturbance they cause, and at anytime when an officer wants to stop you, they can on sound alone. Save your ears and everyone else’s by using stock style mufflers. Dynomax sells Walker HushFlow mufflers that run very quiet yet offer improved performance than the worst stock mufflers.


Baby Raccoon Sounds

I recorded a displaced baby raccoon while out looking for opportunities for frog photos. This video show the little raccoon calling and searching for it’s mother. After the first clip, the mother found it and got it to climb a nearby tree.

The video was recorded with a Panasonic FZ-50 digital camera at the Tinker’s Creek Nature Preserve in Northeast Ohio. Not the best camera to shoot video with, but that is what I had in my hand at the time. I didn’t have time to get the video camera out of my backpack.


How to choose Binoculars

How to choose binoculars

Making a selection from the wide array of binoculars available can be daunting. There are a lot of manufactures and lots of models from each manufacturer. This article will help you make a binocular buying decision by explaining some terminology and features. Then, comparing models will be easier. Research the binocular features online from the manufacturer information. If you can, visit a larger hunting store, like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops, or a specialized birding store to compare some different models and price ranges.

How much do you want or need to spend

Binoculars range in price from 10 to 1000’s of dollars. What is the big difference between them you may ask? There is quite a bit of difference in quality between the price ranges. More information about the features are below. The typical price range for decent quality binoculars is $100-$400. Anything lower than around $80 is more of a toy than something you will be happy with. Binoculars in the medium price range have sharp, quality optics. When you start getting above the $400 range, things get a little murky. The question is how good is good enough? Most people can’t discern the difference between a mid priced optics and super expensive optics, so why would you need them? Your best bet is to go to a store that carries a large selection and do an actual comparison for your eyes. Swarovski is a great name, but I have seen some where I can not discern any difference from a mid priced Eagle, Bushnell, or Vortex binocular. Another thing to think about is that you are carrying an expensive piece around your neck. If you drop or loose your binoculars, how much money are you going to be out to replace it?

Roof or Porro Prism binocular body types

There are two major body styles that are named after the prism they use inside the binocular. The porro prisms are larger, easier to manufacturer, and cause the weight of binocular to be heavier than a roof prism design. Porro prisms, being heavier, also tend to be knocked out of alignment easier than the more rugged roof prism design. There isn’t a real difference in quality between the two body types, either can be made of similar quality. It is more about weight and portability. Roof prism binoculars are more compact, lighter, and can be sealed better from dust and water.

How much binocular magnification

There are some balances to be made for your intended use, skills, and the power of the binocular you choose. Most binoculars range from 7 to 10 power. In general the lower the power, the greater the field of view and ease of holding them steady. A binocular with 7 power would be good if you have trouble following or finding your subject, like a bird flying from branch to branch, or if your hands are a little on the shaky side. An 8 power is a balance between a 7 and 10 power, while it will give better magnification, it will still have a reasonable field of view, and may be the limit for those who don’t have a steady hand. More experienced birdwatchers can use 10 power binoculars, since they are skilled in finding birds with binoculars, and need the greater magnification to discern fine details for bird identification. For glassing, a term often used describing a hunter scanning long distances for game, an 8 to 10 power binocular would be best for viewing long distances. I would stay away from “zoom” type binoculars, as the mechanisms to achieve the zooming degrades the overall quality of focusing and typically narrows the field of view greatly.

Binocular objective lens sizing

The objective lens of a binocular is on the opposite end that you view through. In general the larger the size, the greater amount of light is gathered. A 50mm lens allows about 42% more light, than a 42mm lens, to reach your eye. This becomes important when viewing in overcast, dim, or night conditions. That being said, most of the roof prism body types use 42mm lenses, but they will out perform a cheaper 50mm lens due to quality coatings, and better prism material. So, you can not judge by size alone. Common power/objective lens sizes are 7×35, 7×50, 8×42, 10×42, 10×50. Anything under 35mm should be considered only for pocket binoculars. In my opinion, pocket-type binoculars usually don’t work much better than your eyes and have poor light gathering.

Binocular prism glass and coatings

First, there are two grades of glass used for binocular prisms, Bk7 and Bak4. Only inexpensive binoculars will use Bk7 prisms, as it is a less expensive material. Good quality binoculars use Bak4 glass, as it is a higher grade of glass that produces better light transmission and better images. If the manufacturer doesn’t mention which type of glass used, it should be assumed it is Bk7. Better quality binoculars apply a coating to color phase correct the prisms to enhance the accuracy of color alignment that reaches the eye, called PC or Phase Correction. I have noticed binoculars with phase corrected prisms to have better contrast and perceived image crispness. Some manufacturers will even coat the prisms with silver for better light reflection, but compare them with others before buying into marketing.

Binocular lens coatings

Manufacturers have many names for coatings and you have to be careful with the exact wording to know what you are getting. Lens coatings increase the amount of light that is transmitted through the glass by reducing light reflections. There can be single coatings or multiple coatings. Fully Coated (FC) means only one coating is applied to often only one side of the objective lens. This is the least expensive coating. Next, there is Multi-Coated (MC) which amounts to more than one layer of coatings applied to usually only the objective lens. Most good quality binoculars are Fully Multi-Coated (FMC), meaning all the lens are coated with a number of layers of anti-reflection coatings, thereby increasing the amount of light to your eyes. Coatings can make a significant difference in how brilliant the binoculars are able to pull in a subject under dim conditions and overall make viewing much better. Many manufacturers have developed their own coatings to enhance the light transmission of their binoculars. Some manufacturers are also using better quality lens glass, like Extra Low Dispersion (ED) and Fluoride containing glass, which allows for thinner glass, better light transmission, and lighter weight. But, you will have to compare those expensive lenses to a mid-priced binocular to see if they make a difference to your eyes.

Minimum Focus

Expensive binoculars make a big deal out of focusing within 4 feet, but how often can’t you see something 4 feet away? Maybe if you are studying insects, that is important, but a reasonable good minimum focus would be around 10-14 feet for most subjects. Any further than around 15 foot minimum focus starts to become a problem, especially when trying to view/identify hummingbirds and warblers.

Low Light Optics

Astronomical binoculars are in a special category. These binoculars are optimized to gather as much light as possible by having large objective lenses for their magnification compared to general birdwatching or hunting binoculars. Common combinations are 7×50, 8×50, 10×63, 20×80, 25×100. Look for the specification of exit pupil size. For daylight viewing, the exit pupil can be 2.5mm to 4mm. For best night viewing, the exit pupil should be 5mm to 7mm. Anything over 7mm is no better, since the human pupil doesn’t dilate any more, and therefore it wouldn’t be useful. All the information above on lens coatings and prism glass types are also relevant to low light optics.

Other Features

Other features found on binoculars add to the value. Rubber coating the outer shell is nice to provide grip, comfort, and shock resistance. Another valuable feature is being waterproof and filled with inert gas like nitrogen or argon. This is not only useful for keeping water out of the binoculars, but it keeps them from fogging on the inside, and keeps dust from getting inside the optics. Some binoculars are promoted for birdwatching or hunting, but they are really very similar. The only difference with hunting versions are that they are camouflage in color. Speaking of color, it would be best to keep the shiny material off any binoculars for wildlife viewing. Anything shinny, may spook animals. You may paint over any shiny material, if needed.

Quality binocular manufacturers

Here is a list of manufacturers who make quality models of binoculars. Please note that some of these manufacturers also make inexpensive binoculars that aren’t very good, such as Bushnell and Barska. Alpen, Barska, Brunton, Burris, Bushnell, Celestron, Eagle Optics, Fujinon, Kowa, Leica, Leoupold, Meade, Minox, Nikon, Pentax, Steiner, Swarovski, Swift, Vortex, Zeiss, and Zhumell. Some brand names I consider with having a high value for the price are Swift, Bushnell, Zhumell, and Nikon.

Discount Binocular Online Retailers

Here are a few bargain online retailers with a good selection of binoculars.



I hope this article helped you make your binocular decision. May you enjoy birdwatching, wildlife viewing, or hunting for many years with your new binoculars. If you find this article helpful, please let your friends know of it or otherwise link to it across the Internet. View my website article for an enhanced version of this article about how to select binoculars.


Does a tree make a sound when it falls?

We all heard the question before. Does a tree in the woods make a sound if no one is there to hear it? The answer is yes, the tree indeed makes a sound when it falls. Just because a person isn’t there to hear it, doesn’t mean the sound goes unnoticed by the creatures in the woods. Even the trees can feel the impact of the tree fall, from the impact it makes contacting another tree to break limbs, to the light that is now available for the young trees and plants to grow which were underneath the tree. Everything is heard and everything makes an impact.

Now, consider this– does anyone hear my yell if no one is there to hear it? Ah, so you think no one is around to hear you? Making noise, or carrying on loudly anywhere is heard. Even in a “remote” area, there could be people nearby. Those other people may be there to find peace and quiet and may be upset to hear the noise someone is making. Not only that, but the forest creatures will be irritated by noise, which will disrupt their patterns, and maybe even force a bird to leave a nest long enough to kill their young. The moral is that if you want to make noise and yell, consider others around you, and maybe you are better off screaming at a rock concert or game where your sounds will be more welcomed.

I often notice when people go to parks, forests, backpacking, and so forth, they feel they can be loud and no one will notice or complain. In actuality, the quieter the environment, the further sounds carry, and you maybe upsetting more people and creatures than you know are there. I think people should be more respectful, when in a quieter environment, that is actually the time to be quieter. There is no need to yell when someone is next to you. Try to be quieter next time and start enjoying the sounds of nature.

Enjoy the sounds of birds, creeks, insects, frogs, coyote, deer, elk, and more. The sounds of life are beautiful, enjoy them.


Best time to hear Coyotes, Wolves, and Owls?

Animals and birds are typically quiet except around their breeding season, within family groups, or in defense of their nest or territory. More social animals, like wolves, can often be heard as they use calling to keep in touch and communicate with others in the pack throughout the year. But the peak time to hear wolves howling is still in the breeding season.

The breeding season for coyotes, wolves, and owls is generally in the time frame of January through February, although I have often heard them starting from November. At this time they will vocalize more freely. As far as I know, the breeding season is the same time no mater if you are in the southern or northern states. If you know differently, please leave a comment. At this time, these animals will be very responsive to call broadcasting, and thus, this is the time frame that population censuses are conducted on these animals. Typically, a researcher will broadcast the common call of the bird or animal with loudspeakers, and listens for the number of responses throughout a planned course of travel, calling about every quarter mile or so. You can try to imitate the calls with your own voice and many times get a response. Be aware, that coyotes and wolves may run to you location to fend off a potential intruder in their territory. The best time to hear these animals vocalize naturally is after sunset, since there are nocturnal. I found the most common time to hear them are starting about a half hour after sunset until a few hours after sunset.

The next time, of the year, it is common to hear coyotes, wolves, and owls is when the young start to move about, during the months of May through July for owls, and April through August for coyotes and wolves. At this time, the young accompany the parents to learn hunting. Young owls often screech more than use the typical call for many months.

I should note, that with coyotes, there is a distinct difference between the Western and Eastern states in the way they vocalize. In the Western states it is much more common to hear coyotes throughout the year. Coyotes in the Eastern states are much less vocal. The theory is that the higher density of people, and domestic dogs in the Eastern states have caused the coyotes living there to be less vocal.

Go out and take some walks during the darkness and experience the calls of coyotes, wolves, and owls. It can be spine tingling spooky to hear a pack of coyotes or wolves, but an almost friendly reminder that others roam the darkness. My favorite owl is the Barred Owl, which is known for a vast repertoire of vocalizations from hoots, screams, whistles, and cackles.


Venezuela Lightning Phenomenon

The Catatumbo region in Venezuela has the world’s most lighting storms. The lightning storms occur an amazing 140-160 nights per year, may last up to 10 hours at a time, and have up to 280 strikes per hour. Almost all the lightning is cloud to cloud lightning, is reported as having almost no sound of thunder, and can be seen for hundreds of miles away.

The reason for the lightning storms is thought to be from methane gases rising from the swampy area and strong upper level winds from the Andes Mountains, causing storm clouds. What is neat about this phenomenon is that it maybe the world’s greatest ozone generator that replenishes the earth’s ozone layer. It is reported that the storms produce  1,176,000 kW of atmospheric electricity per year.

The region is trying to get UN protection and attention to this rare phenomenon to help bring in tourism to the area. It must be an amazing sight, but the almost no sound part puts the dampers on it being an awesome audio recording location.

For more information:




North Dakota Trip, June 2008

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird

After being bitten half to death by mosquitoes and black flies in Canada, my brother and I ventured to our next main stopping point on our trip, North Dakota pothole country. Potholes are gouges left by the receding glaciers during past Ice Ages. These potholes today are many small lakes within the grassy plains. These have been a tremendous breeding ground for many water birds and a migration route for many other waterfowl that breed further north in Canada. The pothole region is essentially along the north-south line in the middle third of North Dakota. The area is bursting with all kinds of wildlife and is a favorite place of mine to visit. In good years you can roam around and see ducks even in every puddle. Unfortunately, the cold, dry, Spring in 2008 really created havoc on the bird populations here. The numbers were at least 30% of what we saw two years earlier, and the most of the grassland birds were non-existent. It was rather shocking, but very wonderful to have absolutely no mosquitoes!

We spent most of the time about 20-30 miles Northwest of Jamestown, roaming the back roads. We also visited the Arrow Wood National Wildlife Refuge, which is a good area. Yellow-Headed Blackbird, American White Pelican, Bittern, Snipe, Avocet, Upland Plover, Ring-Neck Pheasant, Blue-Winged Teal, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Marsh Wren, Northern Shoveler, Pied-Billed Grebe, Western Grebe, Cormorant, Red Head, and more are very common here during the month of June.

The first night was spent near a larger lake that had a wooded area left over from an old farmhouse windbreak. I recorded near the lakeshore as Avocet, White Pelicans, and Blue-Winged Teal fed near a reed bed. When it got dark I was able to record some Western Chorus Frogs along the roadway. I could hear lots of Coyotes yelping, but it got real windy and started to rain, so I wasn’t able to record them. While eating a late meal, we saw two Great-Horned Owl perching on some old grain silos.

Earlier the next morning we roamed around a bit to see what was around, which wasn’t very much. It was very windy. Wind is typical to the area, so getting great recordings is always difficult. There were amazing numbers of Marsh Wren calling from some of the reed beds. Yellow-Headed Blackbirds were a bit scarce. We spent some time at the Arrow Wood NWF, but then some large storms came in. We then drove to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Little Missouri National Grasslands for a day, where the weather was very nice. The Little Missouri Grasslands are very scenic, but are mostly an open range cattle area. Sharp-Tailed Grouse, Turkey, and Pronghorn are common here, except I noticed the numbers were down since two years previous. Again, the Spring looked very late and the grass barely started growing for the year. The Bison and Pronghorn still had their full Winter coats on.

The next day we drifted back towards the potholes with a good idea exactly where the best spots were. The weather was now perfect and there was no wind. What a perfect rare day. In the evening we found a no hunting region near some smaller potholes. The music of chattering Marsh Wren, Yellow Warblers, and Yellow-Headed Blackbirds was beautiful. As the sunset, two packs of Coyotes hollered group choruses. It made a perfect recording. A little later nearby another small pond, I recorded ducks feeding, splashing in the water, and flying in, sounding like jets coming in for a landing. Snipe were putting on aerial displays and winnowing. Western Chorus Frogs were calling, a Bittern is heard in a nearby swamp, and a Marsh Hawk was screeching from it’s nest. This was another perfect recording. These recording will be in a new Natureguy Studio CD coming out before the end of 2008. I will also have some sounds from the grassland areas around the potholes.

Listen to a sample from the North Dakota album.
Natureguy Studio – Lakeside Evening EX

You may listen to more samples and purchase the North Dakota album from Natureguy Studio’s website.

Red Fox kit
Red Fox kit

We left the area the next day. I continued to snap photos of the area. We even found a Red Fox den near one of the dirt roads and I was able to snap some really great photos of one of the kits. It was a beautiful area, but we had to venture off to our next destination, Minnesota in search for Loons.


Kentucky Elk Trip, Sept 2008

Kentucky Elk
Kentucky Elk

Kentucky has been reintroducing Elk into their state for about 10 years. I heard ranges between 7,000 and 25,000 Elk now roam the southeast counties. I finally decided to visit southeast Kentucky to scout around hoping to find large herds to record Elk bugling. The weather looked good around the 19th-22nd of September, so my brother and I loaded up the vehicle and took off.

We first tried to visit the area near Jenny Wiley State Park in Floyd County. We drove on SR 194. It was a nice wooded area, with narrow, winding roads, which were very hazardous to drive on with other drivers crossing the centerline many times. The area was quiet enough for nature recording, but it is not a likely place to see Elk due to the lack of open fields. From satellite maps, it appeared that there are reclaimed strip mines just northeast of Jenny Wiley State park that would make better view areas, but we didn’t have enough time to explore there. We wanted to get to Knott County well before dark. I noted some of the side roads were closed for private recreational parks.

We arrived in Knott County, labeled as the “Elk Capital East of the Rockies”. While at a gas station I asked where the best places to see Elk were. They told me to go to the place I already was planning on going to, CR 1098, and Elk View Drive beside Sutton Memorial Park. I read on the Internet, Robinson Forest was one of the best places for Elk in the state, and that was adjacent to CR 1098. Sutton Memorial Park and the near area are on reclaimed coal lands. Large tracts of open fields are found here. Many horse and ATV trails are found throughout the area. We found Elk tracks and brush damaged by bull Elk, but we didn’t see any Elk. I wanted to visit another Elk viewing site in Breathitt County along CR 1098. That viewing site was on a hilltop, beside a cemetery. The only thing I saw was a couple of wild horses at dusk, anda Timber Rattlesnake along the road. We drove back to Elk View Drive to see if we could hear any Elk bugling that may have come out after dark. We heard nothing. We were going to camp here, but people started streaming in with their ATV’s to camp, and for what I am trying to do, record nature sounds, loud ATV’s don’t mix. So, we drove back north and drove on some back roads in the reclaimed coalfields just north of Robinson Woods, and camped. We heard one Elk bugling in the distance. At sunrise, two bull Elk came near camp, bugling. They got quiet after someone came along and started shooting rifles nearby. I didn’t see any cows, and the bulls looked like maybe 3-4 years old. We drove around the area, and northof CR 1098. We only saw wild horse roaming around. There were plenty of Elk tracks around and many turkeys. The horses looked absolutely famished, which isn’t a good sign of viable food sources in the area. There is a lack of grasses growing in the general area; mostly weeds filled the open areas. We left Knott County. The county didn’t live up to its namesake this time, but again, it was quiet enough of an area to record. The jet traffic even seemed low enough to get stretches of 15-30 minutes free of jet sounds.

We ventured off to the Begley WMA around the borders of Bell, Harlan, andLeslie Counties. We found a nice reclaimed coal land withopen fields of grass. This area is the second area, I read as being one of the best areas to view Elk in Kentucky. This is just on the southern edge of the Daniel Boone National Forest, so there was lots of wooded cover next to fields. It looked perfect. We again found lots of Elk sign here. Unlike many states, Kentucky seems to allow ATV’s andvehicles drive the trails around the Wildlife Management Areas, so there wassome really great access to the area. Beautiful views of the rugged terrain were awesome. Near sunset we were glassing the open fields for animals. We saw a large Black Bear about a mile away. Then we started to hear a bugle or two from some Elk. Other people were in the area looking around as well. We asked a gentleman, who walked up to say hello, about the area. He thought the peak of the bugling wouldn’t be until the first and second week in October. He said it was still too hot. We stopped beside an area we thought was one of the best areas, and it was. This was the west side of the area along a trail that appeared to go to CR 2011. At dusk three, large bugling bulls emerged from the deep, wooded valleys. I saw with the aid of night vision that there were also cow Elk with two of the bulls. Later, the cows disappeared from view. A group of ATV’s drove through scaring the Elk away for a while. We drove to a location to get closer the action, as it appeared that the bulls were closing in on each other. We were a little late. We caught a large bull and a group of cows heading to the grassy field along the road and had to cut them off, pretty much causing the bull to retreat further away. I started audio recording at an overview where two bulls were in a grassy area. It didn’t make the most exciting recording, but at least I finally got something and the sound of insects were good. The Elk bugled most of the night, intermittently, as they roamed the area. Later in the night, one of the bulls came within 60 feet of camp, bugling. Once the sun rose, all the Elk disappeared. The Elk in Kentucky appear to be very nocturnal, probably due to the hunting and general human pressure. This is in contrast to what is like in Pennsylvania, where the Elk can often be seen moving about during the daytime, and lingering in the open areas during the evening and morning hours. Audio recording in the Begley WMA has promise. It is quiet from highway and road noise, jet traffic is low enough not to be a big issue. The only issue is active mining is in the area andcan be heard from the hilltops. But, once you descend a little over a hill, all is quiet.

I am sure we didn’t scout all the areas to find the best locations during this brief trip. There are probably better areas to view Elk and where Elk are more plentiful. I really didn’t see the herds I was expecting to see from the numbers given. The Elk herds are better seen in Pennsylvania if you ask me, probably due to more open areas are available, but the jet traffic in northern Pennsylvania is very bad for audio recording.

If you would like to hear some excellent examples of Elk bugling, Natureguy Studio sells a CD and MP3 album titled, Pennsylvania Elk. Here is a just a short sample from the album.
Natureguy Studio – Titans-Battle

We almost could have gotten stuck in Kentucky. Gasoline supplies were suddenly limited in the region. Some gas stations were closing their pumps andmany were limiting customers to 20 gallons. We found out when we got back that a major supply line to the Southeastern states was disrupted during Hurricane Gustov and Ike. It was a sudden surprise to everyone that gasoline supplies were running out. We were lucky we got back in time. Stations in Tennessee and Georgia were running on empty. It was a surprise to me, because I specifically tried to see if there were any fuel concerns before I left due to the two hurricanes. This makes me want my 200-MPG vehicle even more…if only I could figure out how to get it licensed. The EPA is the biggest hurdle to new, high-mileage vehicle developments as odd as that sounds.


Chapleau Crown Game Reserve

Huge Black Bears
Huge Black Bears

Ever since I noticed this reserve in Ontario Canada on a map and learning that it was the world’s largest game reserve, I was interested in visiting. It is difficult to find information about this reserve and to hear from people who have visited so I will write about my experience in June of 2008.

The 2 million acre, Crown Game Reserve is larger than any in Africa. The reserve holds the highest density of Black Bear in Ontario, of almost 1 bear per square kilometer. Believe me, this place is loaded with bear. Other animals that reside there are Moose, Snowshoe Hare, Wolves, Canadian Lynx, Martins, and Fisher. The reserve was established in 1925 to have a hunt-free zone to recover the huge losses in the unregulated fur trade, which nearly wiped out many species. Lying in the middle of the reserve is the Missinaibi Provincial Park, which offers regulated camping and canoe access to the Missinaibi River.

I visited the reserve in early June 2008 with my brother while on a general trip through Ontario for recording nature sounds. We came from Wawa on highway 101. Highway 101 was a rather lonely road. We arrived in the very small town of Chapleau to find many of the businesses have gone out of business. The main employment of the town was the large logging operation and mill. As we headed into the reserve we couldn’t help but to notice the logging trucks running back and forth on the main route through the reserve at high speed. The trucks apparently ran 24/7, and a road grader maintains the road for high-speed truck traffic. As we drove along the main western route, we found many of the trees were clear-cut and this didn’t look good. We drove further to find areas that haven’t been logged in a while. But, the western route had way too much truck traffic, so we ventured on the very remote eastern main route. There is supposed to be a circle route through the reserve, but we never really found the main route. There are a lot of very large roads left over from logging in years past which can you can get lost on.

It was cool to roam around on the old logging roads. There are a lot of trails where ATVs can explore as well. There were lots of moose and bear tracks and sign along the roads. We also saw wolf tracks. I have never seen so much bear activity before. We saw about 8 bear in the 18 hours were there, and we weren’t looking very hard. We also saw bears with cubs, and two of the largest Black Bear we have ever seen. The bear here are very different than the bear we ever encountered. These bear were not very afraid of humans. One of the bear we saw with cubs didn’t run from us, but approached our vehicle. It was sure to place it’s self between us and it’s cubs. Usually, all Black Bear run immediately. My brother got out of the vehicle hollered at the bear, jumping around, but the bear was pretty much un-phased. It came within 15 feet of the vehicle before it was more startled by a logging truck racing past. This is something like you might encounter at Yellowstone National Park. In the evening we encountered an amazing sight. While driving down a road, two large bear got spooked and ran over a hill. But, we stopped to see if we could see them more. What do you know, two of the largest Black Bear we have ever seen, came waltzing out to feed on the grass along the road. These bear could care less about us watching them. They must have weighed at least 600 pounds and looked more like Grizzly Bear. One was lighter brown in color, which is very rare in the east. My guess is that they were two related males. It was amazing to just sit there watching them eat in complete comfort. I took about 15 minutes of video of them until it got too dark to film. It may just be me, but I think this reserve can be quite dangerous with the bears not having fear of humans. We had bear mace with us, but never had to use it. I think it would be a very good place to carry bear mace with you at all times. You can’t avoid coming in contact with bear here. Even though we saw a lot of Moose tracks, we weren’t lucky enough to see any. Nor did we have the luck of hearing wolves.

The Chapleau Game Preserve is a very unique area to visit. There are lots of potential wildlife viewing, filming, and photography here. The bird life wasn’t exactly abundant, but there were a number of species common to the Boreal Forest. There are a number of beautiful lakes and swamps in the area, many with fantastic clearings for camping. The biggest problem with the entire area is bugs! They were hideous! During daylight hours you could not avoid swarms of black flies. At night, or in the shadows, you could not avoid swarms of mosquitoes. Later in the night, in clearings, the mosquitoes would let up. The bug problem made it rather difficult to enjoy the area. We were trapped in the vehicle much of the time. We had to eat what we could cold, since it was impossible to cook outside. If you wanted to go out, you had to wear ample bug protection and head net. Never the less, we were very bug bitten from the experience. I wasn’t able to do much audio recording in the area. It was very windy much of the time. When the wind died down, I had to invent a new way to get my equipment out of the vehicle. I couldn’t open the doors for long or the vehicle would fill with black flies and mosquitoes. I ran along the vehicle as my brother drove, and then quickly opened the door to grab a couple things. We would continue this until I could get my equipment out and back inside. You only have about 4-5 seconds before the swarms find you. Oh, if you have to answer nature’s call, well, your eaten alive by the swarms. We asked a gas station attendant what time of the year doesn’t have as many bugs, and he said the bugs are always around. I suspect times around or below freezing don’t have many.

The Chapleau Game Preserve is a remote area. Plan on having everything you need before venturing there and make sure you can do some repairs on your vehicle yourself, if you have to. Not many people visit the area, so you can be on your own. If you are on a main route, where the logging trucks travel, you can probably flag one. With the high cost of fuel, it is a difficult place for many people to reach. Gasoline in Ontario was running about $5.50 per US gallon in early June 2008. The high cost of fuel in Canada has shut down much of their road travelers. If you go and stay away from the logging traffic, it can be a place of many wildlife-viewing opportunities. Just be ready for the bugs!