TIPS FOR EARLY SEASON WHITETAIL HUNTING   Leave a comment

Early Whitetail

Early season bowhunting requires tactics needed are different from those in the late fall and early winter. Daytime temperatures are much higher and the deer move less.

Warmer daytime temperatures lead to more sluggish deer activity. They might even become fully nocturnal to escape the heat. This makes for a challenge.

In Illinois, the archery season opens the first of October and hunters often migrate to southern Illinois taking advantage of the vast areas of public hunting. Many state public hunting areas, the Shawnee National Forest, and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge provide Bowhunters with less crowded hunting opportunities.

Bowhunters key their hunting to water sources. The theory is that the amount of water consumed by a deer is inversely proportional to the amount of water in their food. If the deer can not get enough moisture from vegetation and surface water it will go looking another source.

Early in the season deer do not change their patterns of activity for weeks if left undisturbed. During this period they are less nervous and easier to get close to than later.

The deer’s primary concern in the early season is building up reserves of fat for the winter. Bucks eat heavily building up for the rut period during which they eat virtually nothing at all. Early in the fall they visit good feeding areas each morning and evening unless disturbed. Later they will consume berries, flowers and leaves. They prefer hickory nuts and early acorns, and the so called soft mast. Where available they feed on browse and agricultural crops. They travel long distances to find them. Later they seek crops, such as soybeans, corn and alfalfa.

Although understanding the relationship of food to water for the deer is vital, it is also important to understand scent. The heavy doe-in-heat and rut scents should be avoided. They are unnatural this time of the year and tend to spook deer. The key for hunters is being absent any scent at all. Hunters should wash clothing in unscented soaps, bathe before dressing and use scent retarding products if possible.

On the subject of clothing, camouflage clothing used in the early season tends to be light weight. As the sun begins to head for the horizon it can get chilly on a deer stand. Take a lightweight jacket along in your day pack for use when the temperatures drop. Also take along some good insect repellant as the mosquitoes come out as the day begins to end.

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to harvest a deer, recover it as quickly as possible. Get it out of the woods and into some refrigeration. If that is not possible, skin the deer and cut the carcass into quarters. A quartered deer and an ample amount of ice will fit in a 48-quart cooler until you can get to a meat processor.

Early season deer hunting in hot weather is different but can be just as productive as those rut hunts later in the fall.

FALL WHITE BASS FISHING   Leave a comment

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Fall fishing for white bass is just the opposite of the spring pattern. In spring they move to staging areas and then into the spawning areas of lakes and rivers.

As the water temperatures begin to fall below the mid-fifties the white bass seek deeper water at the end of summer. Generally they suspend over structure or on the bottom of creek channels. This is when vertical jigging comes into play.

White bass are a cousin of the saltwater striped bass and as such have much of a savage instinct found in their brethren. They hit light tackle and give the angler more than he can handle.
The average size fish taken by anglers tends to run about 3/4 of a pound. Some will go over 2-pounds.
Catching white bass is easy. Finding them is the tough part. Good electronics and the ability to use them are vital.

White bass are active fish that feed constantly. Whites prefer to spend their time in water deeper than 10-feet. But they often move into shallows to feed. Their favorite meal is shad. If the angler can find large schools of shad chances are white bass are near.

On warm days they tend to feed on the surface. Concentrations of seagulls pinpoint the location for the fisherman. At close range he can find them by spotting the splashing water caused by the feeding fish breaking the surface as they chase the shad. At times the fish will stay up for 10 to 15 minutes. More often they feed for only a minute or two and then dive back down to the safety of deep water. Usually they surface again a short distance away.

Later still the whites become more difficult to find. The easiest way to find them is to go where all the other boats are and join in the action. If you do not have someone else to follow it is possible to find white bass by trolling small deep-diving crankbaits. Begin in the mouth of the feeder creeks and work back up river until you find the fish. Once you find the white bass dig out the jig and minnow combinations.

Light tackle is a must for white bass. Small jigs are good with line in the 4 to 8-pound test range. Small tube jigs tipped with plastic grubs do a good job. The grubs should be ones with contrasting dark and light colors.
Perhaps the best rig at this time of year is the tandem rig used often by crappie anglers. Tie the main line to a three-way swivel. Next tie leaders of different lengths to the other parts of the swivel. Some good lengths are 12 and 24 inches. To each of these leaders tie a jig with a small minnow attached. With this rig one can fish on the bottom and also just off the bottom at the same time. It also allows one to set the hook when a fish hits one jig and then wait for another white to hit the second jig. The astute angler will notice the size of the bait fish and match his lure to that size.

Angling success tends to be dependent on year hatches. A year with incredible numbers can help carry the population over lean years. The best fishing in a particular body of water is likely to be about two years after a large year hatch.

Patrick Sebile and Crankbaits   Leave a comment

Shallow running crankbaits like the Sebile Bull Minnow are effective in fall.

Shallow running crankbaits like the Sebile Bull Minnow are effective in fall.

One need only follow his exploits on Facebook to realize that this designer of fishing tackle is a dedicated angler of vast world wide experience. One wonders when he finds time to design his lures.

As we move into fall crankbait season the Sebile Action Series crankbaits that came in the mail today are a welcome addition to this angler’s war chest. The floating Bull Minnow is for depths of 2 to 5-feet, just right for those suspending bass of early fall. The Suspending crankbait Star Shiner works just a little below those depths.

The particularly attractive feature of these baits is that they are precision tuned right out of the box. As one who hates to tune crankbaits, that is a great feature.

Shallow water cranking is an effective fall technique. As the water cools the surface swarms with schools of bait fish. Working crankbaits just under the forage fish on the surface produces action from the predator fish preying upon them.

A blue September sky and relatively clear water sends anglers in search of darker water. Easing a boat into shallow coves allows for the use of crankbaits. If the water is slightly stained and there is a lot of wood to be found so much the better.

Cast crankbaits beyond submerged trees and brush. Then slowly twitch them into position on the edges of the wood. Letting it sit still for a minute entices wary fish that cannot help but attack this invader of their space.

Start cranking with small light colored lures. Color is less important than size. By beginning with small white, green or chartreuse colors you locate the fish. Then change to the larger crankbaits. The larger crankbaits take any size fish. Smaller lures tend not to attract many large fish.

The length of a cast, line diameter and the design of the lure all affect the depth at which a crankbait will run. Do not just cast and crank casually retrieved. Change the speed allowing the fish to react to it. Manufacturers mark the package with the depth a lure will run.

Once out of the package use a marker pen to write the running depth on the bill of the lure for future reference. A shallow running crankbait will run 3 to 4 feet down and is used to fish over the top of weeds or in shallow water. Deep running crankbaits run 8 to 10 feet down and in dirty/deep water.

Anglers count on a bait with a larger lip running deeper than one with a less prominent lip. It is possible to trim the lip on a deep diving crankbait to find a depth to make it run just right for the fish present. In this way you have a lure that will run between the zones of the traditional shallow running or deep running baits.
Another way to vary the running depth of a crankbait is to add weight inside the body of the lure. The more weight added makes the lure suspend or run deeper.

Colors are the preference of the angler. Subtle colors seem to work best in clean water. Bright colors are preferred for dirty or stained water.

The most important factor is having the lure in the fish’s strike zone. Lure speed does not significantly affect the depth at which it runs. In fact some lures actually run shallower at faster speeds. Be consistent and learn from experience just how deep the lure is running.

Line diameter does affect the running depth. For each two pounds of line weight subtract about one foot from the lure’s depth.

Crankbaits are great tools for covering a lot of water and finding fish. By finding a good pattern, knowing the lure color to use and the right cover to fish, a fisherman covers more water with a crankbait than any other type of lure.

FALL BASS FISHING IS DIFFERENT   Leave a comment

Photo by Jason Johns

Photo by Jason Johns

The transition from summer to fall bass fishing patterns is difficult for some anglers. Actually is it just different.

The weather is the chief factor to consider. Cool nights cause fish to move shallow, but hot days will move them back deep. Scott Pauley of the Missouri Division of Tourism and avid tournament bass angler points out that Missouri experiences a turnover of the lakes in fall.

“Turnover,” explains Scott, “is when the colder, top water layer is heavier than the warmer, lower water layer.” The lake actually flips over bringing a lot of moss and slime to the surface and the water’s oxygen changes. The fish react in different ways. Some go shallow and others very deep. This makes fishing a little crazy and tough to get a bite.

This change in the habitat allows you to try a variety of lures. You just have to find what the fish want. On the same day you might catch fish on one lure in the morning and another in the afternoon or mid-day. They make want one lure in deep water and another in shallow water. You just get to try everything in your tackle box.

DECOYS DUCKS AND GEESE   Leave a comment

Duck Hunter 0001

Huntable water comes in two categories: open water and ponds. This allows us to have a plan for water wherever our hunt is to take place whether or not it is a place you have been there previously.

A basic set up in a pond situation consists of two bunches of decoys, separated by about 20 to 30 yards.

Set them up with the wind quartering over either shoulder of the hunter. Try to avoid dead away or sideways and never with the wind toward your position.

Unless the wind is going away, the result will be that you will spend most of the time pass shooting. The theory is that birds will land in the gap between the decoys.

Prepare for mallards that are notorious for landing at the edge of a set. With two sets of decoys you effectively establish three landing areas. The idea is to position birds for a shot as opposed to giving them a landing area. Hunters need to know exactly where ducks are going to land.

Good hunters like to use a duck/goose spread in the majority of locations. For a set up on a bank, run about 30 to 50 goose decoys in a kind of rectangle shape just slightly above the blind. Begin just to the side of the shooting position about 15 yards and then run them four or five deep out about 40 yards. That way if the honkers decoy to the edge they are still in range.

Begin placement of the decoys where they come up to within ten yards of the bank. Place the ducks heavy right up to 10 or 15 yards from the blind. Then tail them off out to 60 or 70 yards from the bank. The spread gets thinner until it is just a single line. The result is an L or the old “Diver Hook” with a heavy concentration right in the pocket.

Mallards tend to decoy to the back of goose decoys. The set up is not natural but it works well for both mallards and geese. It is not anything you would see in a marsh, but then you are setting up for a position to shoot. If you are not in an open water situation, you can forget the goose decoys.

Early in the migration run an even number of hens and drake decoys. Later run 80 percent hens 20 percent drakes. The hens lead the migration and the big drakes are the last to migrate.

If planning to hunt geese in an open field keep the majority of decoys behind you. Most open field goose hunting occurs early. The hunter sits on the downwind end of the spread. The spread is a shallow wide horseshoe. Place four or five sentry goose decoys just down wind of your position. It simulates geese that have just landed and are walking their way into the flock.

All of these spreads demand a large number of decoys and some maintenance on them. A tip for waterfowlers is to use a little soap and water and some Armor All instead of repainting and buying new decoys every year. They will be a little shiny at first but after a couple of outings their perfect.

THERE’S BASS IN THEM THAR RIVERS   Leave a comment

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River fishing is really a kind of hunting for “fishy water.”  To be successful in finding bass, the river angler must know how to read the conditions.

Water conditions and structure available are important to the river bass angler.  Heavy current and a lack of structure generally mean no fish.  Bass generally lack the energy to fight a swift current for more than a few minutes.  To overcome fast water bass will stay behind some structure in the slack water or eddy and wait for the current to wash food to them.

The environment on big rivers is forever changing.  Every flood re arranges the bottom structure by changing deep channels and washing along new obstacles.  A good rule of thumb is that unless you fished a certain are recently you may never have fished it, as it exists today.

That is not to say that you cannot have a honey hole.  Honey holes are where water temporarily slows or stops.  These can be areas such as eddies behind snags, below sandbars or following a cut in the river bank.  That is where the fish are likely to hide.

Along the shore line it is important to look for shady areas on water.  It can be beneath a tree overhanging or a boat piling.  Areas around old boats or wrecked barges attract bass.  Wooden structures and brush piles are especially good locations for bass.

Water temperatures do not vary much in rivers as they do in lakes and ponds.  Because bass are cold-blooded they react differently in the cool water of a river than in the ever changing water temperatures of more still water.  In warm water bass cannot remain active for long periods of time without undergoing stress.  Therefore they are inactive for periods of time and then feed in short “feeding frenzies.”

In cool waters of rivers the flowing and mixing action of current oxygenates the water and allows the bass to feed for more extended periods even on the hottest days of summer.

Water clarity is an important factor in river fishing.  Seldom is the water really “clear.”  Subtle presentations seldom are a choice for such water.  Big, bright, noisy lures seem to be more productive.  Big bass in rivers like to take advantage of wounded baitfish or unfortunate creatures that fall into the river.  They hit them fast and hard in order to beat other fish to then or catch them before they wash away in the current.

Lures such as jointed minnows, buzz baits, and an occasional rubber frog are effective.  Anglers on some river systems seem to prefer crankbaits and ringworms.  For the no-competition angler the ever popular minnow is good for bass bait.  Just hook it through the back and “live line” it.

For plastic worm fisherman it is probably a good idea to work them more slowly.  One just keeps the slack out of the line and works the lure over the bottom with a slow retrieve.  Be a “line watcher.”  Try to set the hook when anything unusual happens to the line.  Many pick-ups will be subtle.

Plastic worms work well when exploring sandbars.  Bass will move back and forth over submerged sandbars.  Patience is the key to fishing this location.  It is a good idea to visit such places several times during a day on the water.

You may catch several fish in a few minutes and then nothing.  Thirty minutes later you may catch several more and then again nothing.

Most bass anglers seem to prefer six- to 6 1/2-foot medium-action rods with bait casting reels.  For river fishing perhaps a heavy rod or two might be in order for those snagy areas.  Line probably should be on the heavy side.

Perhaps something in the 12-pound test class is called for.  One can experiment to find what works best in the river conditions he is mostly likely to encounter.

It is no secret that lakes and impoundments are a bit crowded on the weekends when most people want to fish.  Switching to rivers can alleviate that problem.  Most anglers live but a few minutes from a lake or pond.  We tend to concentrate on such water and ignore river bass.  Rivers have improved in water quality in recent years.  Most now contain bass.  Now is a time to try river bass fishing.

FINDING FISHING ACTION IN AUGUST   Leave a comment

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Summer sunshine in August is often a sure sign that the fish will not bite during the day. Most anglers switch to night fishing or at least early morning and late evening. That is not the whole story.

Change your program and some nice fish will get caught.

In southern Illinois, fishing 90-degree water calls for a change of tactic. These southern lakes and pounds contain smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, white bass, walleye, crappie, bluegill and some assorted sunfish. Focus on the channel and blue catfish in the daytime and the flatheads at night.

Lakes and rivers experience a thermocline effect in the water during the hot summer months. The water below that level lacks adequate oxygen for most species of fish. As a result most fish suspend above the thermocline usually at a depth of about 20 feet.

The thermocline is a band of water in which the temperature is 5 to 10 degrees cooler than the water above. Below this band the water is even cooler. The fish will be in the water above the thermocline all summer but tend to hang close to it.

Catfish are usually at about 20 foot depth and other species above them. They relate to any structure at those depths. For instance humps and sunken islands attract catfish. These fish are active in hot weather contrary to popular belief that they might be inactive in response to the lack of oxygen in the water.

The shad in a lake will be in the top section of the water column. White bass force them there. Seagulls fly over the shad breaking the surface. It is the bird’s presence that alerts fishermen to the presence of potential action. Below the white bass is where the catfish lurk.

All the traditional catfish baits and lures work in August just as they do the year around. Channel catfish will take almost anything but the blues and flatheads prefer live bait such as a sunfish or shad. It is important to place the bait/lure at the right depth. The slip bobber rig is the choice to keep the bait off the bottom. In the case of crankbaits one can count down to a desired depth before retrieving the lure. A deep diving crankbait trolled at 2 miles per hour should run at about 18 feet down.

Crankbaits in shad imitation shapes and colors work in clear water. In rivers work the slack water behind structure as well as hollowed out holes in the bottom. There is more current above them and less deep in the hole. In river situations you probably will have to travel more to find schools of fish.

As for color in the use of crankbaits adjust according to water clarity. Murky water calls for orange, chartreuse or yellow fire tiger baits. In clear water blue or the more natural colors including brown and black are good.

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