MAXIMIZE YOUR OUTDOOR SHOW DOLLARS   Leave a comment

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Going to the outdoor show is always a hoot.  It is a chance to see what anglers from all over are buying.  It brings up visions of upcoming trip opportunities and it is a learning experience.

The key to maximizing knowledge from a boat show is advance preparation.  A game plan will allow you to learn with a minimum of exhaustion.  Begin on the Internet.  Most all of the exhibitors web pages.  So too do the sponsors of the show itself.

Most shows are composed of thousands of square feet of products, places to go, and other bits of knowledge.  Covering the entire show and still being able to focus on your favorite aspect of outdoor recreation takes effort.  Some shows are so large that one feels the need of a GPS just to get around.

Once you select the show, check the ads that appear in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television for specific information as to when the show coming to town.  Look for the products and seminars that interest you.  If planning to make purchases, make a list of the items you are seeking.

Make two lists, one that you have to buy and the second of things you would like to examine.  Perhaps you will buy something from the second list and maybe you just want to see it.

Week day traffic is lightest and exhibitors can spend more time with you.  Arrive early to allow maximum time to spend getting the information you seek.

If you are with a group make arrangements to meet at a specific location and time.  You may want to see different things.  Kids do not want to spend the same amount of time at a booth as an adult.  Wives want to see different things than do husbands.

Once at the show, take time to look over the program you usually receive as you enter.  It often has a floor plan and list of the exhibitors.  Use a pen or highlighter marking pen to mark the exhibits and seminars of major interest to you.  Make check marks beside the names of exhibitors who might stock the things you want to purchase.

Make note of the time and location of seminars you want to attend.  Some shows announce the seminars as they are taking place while some do not.  Be sure you have a watch so that you do not miss your favorite speaker.  Make note on the program of any last minute substitute seminar speakers or exhibits.  Look for such changes the entrance to the show or at the seminar area.

Take a cassette tape recorder to the seminar.  Most speakers have no problem with your taping their speech, but it is important to ask permission first.  Take notes in a spiral notebook.  You might even have some questions that you hope the speaker will answer, prepared in advance.  That way if he does not cover the subject, you can ask during the Q & A that usually is part of any seminar.

Pay attention and avoid side conversations with your companions.  If the subject is one in which you are intensely interested, sit near the front so that you can concentrate.  If you are only passively interested, sit in the back or on an aisle.  That way if you decide to leave during the presentation, you will disturb only a minimum number of other people.

Wear comfortable shoes.  You will spend most of your time walking on concrete.  Hiking boots or a new pair of athletic shoes is a good idea as they provide support and cushioning for the feet.  Older athletic shoes are not a good idea as they lack the support necessary to cushion your feet.  They are like walking barefoot and can lead to foot problems as well as fatigue.

If the outside weather is cold, then you need to do something with your coat.  Carrying it is a nuisance.  If the show provides a coat checking service, it is worth the cost.  If not, perhaps you might want to leave it in the vehicle.  A third alternative is to put it in a backpack.

Backpacks are also a good place for brochures that you pick up at the show.  You can acquire a considerable number of them in the course of visiting all the booths.  Although the weight of a brochure is not much, the weight of many brochures is a lot.  If you do not remember to bring your backpack, then look for a booth that is passing out plastic “shopping bags”.  Look around at the other people carrying bags and check for reinforced handles.  They are the ones you want.

Another help is to take frequent breaks and examine what you accumulate.  Sometimes it is stuff that you do not really want.  You can stop for a soft drink and a hot dog while culling your materials.  If after reading the brochure you still have some questions, go back to the booth and get answers.  It is easier than calling or writing from home later.

Finally, check your notes.  Did you miss anything that you had intended to see?

Attendance at sports shows is a great opportunity to gain a maximum benefit from your money.

 

ICE FISHING TIPS   Leave a comment

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Winter brings a different brand of fishing to many waterways. Here’s what to expect from this year’s hard-water season.

Ice fishing is basically a sport practiced in the northern half of the country due to weather conditions. The southern half does not reach sustainable temperatures to form enough ice to support ice fishing.

The northern areas sustain the sport from December to late February.

Hard water anglers get as much fun out of planning forays on the ice any other fishing. They begin by selecting an area.  If it is a forest preserve near home, obtain the stocking tallies from local websites.  That way you have an idea as to what species to expect.

It often becomes a family project to gather as much information about the proposed trip(s) on the ice. Anticipation is a large part of the fun for a family.  Do not just wander out on the ice.  Check on maps for structure and bowls in the water.  Again turn to the Internet.  Often a local park of governmental website will have topographical lake maps.

Also search Google Maps (www.google.com) for photos of the same body of water. By combining the information from both, you can plan fishing locations.   Look for sharp turns in the shoreline, weed edges and timber.  By recording the GPS coordinates for the waypoints you have 10 to 12 locations to begin the search for fish.

Punching a lot of holes seems to be a premise for kind of fishing

Many ice anglers use artificial lures almost exclusively. Some use natural bait only as a last resort.  By experimenting with different colors on various bodies of water they find that glow jigs with glow tails are best for crappies bass and bluegills.  Sometimes they get some success with an orange/red combination for bluegills.

When choosing a color experiment by using a glow jig with a different color tail. If all else fails go to a black jig head with a red tail on 1-pound line.

Post-season finds many picking several accessible lakes to explore as possible ice fishing locations for the next year. Check the maps and mark them with notes on breaklines and structure.  Successful anglers always fish structure.  They will fish on all sides and the top.  The larger fish seem to be on the outside edges of the structure while the smaller ones seem to go into it for concealment.

Due to the clarity of winter water, fish the water column from the top down two feet at a time. This is contrary to traditional ice fishing lore but it is successful for most ice fishermen.

If permitted in site specific regulations make use of electronic fish locaters and cameras in some of the location you like to fish. Fish locaters and cameras are very effective in locating structure in the clear water of deep lakes.

By keeping track of the stocking information on each lake during the year you gain an idea of species and numbers of fish.

LAKE TANEYCOMO FOR WINTER TROUT ACTION   1 comment

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The overcast skies begin to clear. On the shore of Lake Taneycomo in Branson, MO there is little wind as we put the boat in the water but that changes an hour or so later.  Temperatures are around freezing but they seem colder once the wind picks up.

The winter spawn for browns is just over last month. But the rainbows are just entering theirs.  We actually catch fish full of eggs and sperm in the pre-spawn.

Trout have a lateral line like all fish. They respond to movement, vibration and sound.  The lateral line allows them to pinpoint a direction from which those things emanate.  They move toward that sound and then use their sight to zero in on it.

Trout have tiny scales because they live often times in a moving water environment. This coupled with their slime coat allows them to go nose into the current with less energy.  They are also very slippery to handle while landing.

Lake Taneycomo contains both rainbow trout and brown trout.  Rainbow is the prominent stocking fish.  That is because they are the easiest trout to grow.  They take to the food and the overcrowding better than a brown trout.  Although the water here is quite clear they take to polluted water a bit better than brown trout

Some anglers prefer to use dry flys because it is more fun but it is not the only way. We are using artificial lures cast from spinning gear.  The jigs suspend about 4 feet below a small float.  Their eyes are mid-range.  That means they are comfortable looking up for food as well as down.  They are multi-directional feeders.

Trout in the wild like cold moving water with a rocky bottom. This describes much of the lake bottom here.  Out best success comes in water flowing over gravel.  They can survive in pond water but on a more limited basis.  Trout prefer water in the 40 to 55-degree range.  This can vary by sub-species.

On rivers where water levels change during the day, they will survive through adaptation. When the current is fast, they will be near the edges of the river system.  As water levels lower and current decreases they will go more toward the middle or anywhere.  They will range the river system.

Trout relate to structure only to conserve energy and preserve calories.

We hook into several brown trout but only landed one. The rainbows are numerous and we landed a number of them.

Toward the end of our 4 hour trip fingers get numb but it is a trip well worth the effort. To paraphrase a famous World War II general, I shall return.

 

HUNTABLE RABBIT POPULATIONS   Leave a comment

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Every year country roads and farmsteads show abundant populations of rabbits. Yet when hunting season comes around they all seem to have vanished.  Estimating rabbit populations are difficult for the best of small game biologists.

The winter just passed was the warmest on record. There was above average rainfall which should transfer to abundant rabbit populations.

One rabbit in ten ever lives to be a year old in the wild. It seems that everything works against their growing old.

Like most small game animals and birds, Mother Nature allows rabbits to rise 30 to 50 young each year. But the odds are just against their survival.

Rabbits do well in heavy cover and in remote areas of overgrown fields. Hawks and other flying predators present danger to these furry bundles.  For this reason they like cover that conceals them from overhead sight.  Weather during the birthing times also effects rabbit populations.  They young of the year need favorable weather in their early stages of life.

Here in Illinois the best locations to find rabbits are those with good habitat. Weather in the central and southern locations is not what has hurt the rabbit populations.  But rather habitat loss is the problem.

Rabbit hunters have to work harder each year to find suitable habitat containing the “smallest whitetail.”

For the past 10 years or so the populations have remained steady but at a low level. Much of the blame for habitat loss in those years was high commodity prices for corn and soybeans.  Land that might otherwise go to set-aside programs like CRP went into grain production.

The loss of CRP land is a major problem as more and more land does not go into CRP and other set aside programs. Rather it goes to produce grain crops.  The once abandoned farmsteads that were popular with rabbits are being cleared as seemingly every inch of land is too valuable not to be placed in production.  Landowners are clearing trees and brush piles in an effort to make every acre productive.

With the commodity prices softening some of that land may be going back into habitat production and rabbit production will follow. Should this trend continue for the next two or three years it is possible that rabbit production looks good for the future.

GENTLEMAN BOBWHITE IN ILLINOIS   1 comment

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The explosion of the flush, fast darting flight and the fact that they are excellent table fare makes the Gentleman Bobwhite a popular game bird in the southeastern part of the nation including southern Illinois.

Their adaptability to a variety of habitats helps in their development.  Modern forestry practices provide habitat for quail not previously found in some areas.  Studies show that clear-cut areas provide excellent habitat for as long as five years until the young pine and hardwood seedlings close the overhead canopy shading out quail food plants.

Nationally, the quail is the number one gamebird.  This is due to stocking of wild birds and the raising of birds for the preserve shooting market.

Quail live on the seeds of weeds, berries, insects and green vegetation.  They prefer vegetation that is neither too dense nor too thin.  Well managed habitat produces an abundance of quail for years.  The population replenishes itself within one or two years.

Extremes in weather can have some effect on the population. Illinois mild winter and slightly above average rainfall throughout the spring has seemingly aided in the survival of this year’s chick production. Predator control has a limited effect on the populations.  Probably more detrimental is the effect of free roaming cats or dogs.

Perhaps one of the better things to happen to the quail population has been the Federal government set aside programs which pay farmers to take marginal land out of crop production, sow them in grasses and leave them un-grazed and un-mown for years. In recent years fewer acres are now in place with the set-aside programs of CRP and CP42 Pollinator Habitat.

Proper fence row management provides cover as can a narrow strip of tall grasses or weeds.  Ditches, gullies and other such areas are manageable by letting vegetation grow to produce habitat.  It is important to quail populations that mowing be limited or even avoided from May 1 to August 1 each year. It is during this period that the hens are at most risk as they hunker down to protect either their eggs or chicks from the mower. The result is that the hens die and the destruction of the chicks and eggs takes place.

A bird of the edges, quail feed in more open areas but do not stray far from the safety of cover.  They would rather walk than fly and avoid anywhere that does not contain food, water and overhead cover.

Water to meet the needs of quail does not have to be standing water.  According to studies, quail will thrive on green plants and insects that result from damp soil.  Given green plant material and the insects that such growth attracts, quail metabolize enough water to survive and successfully reproduce.

The best place to hunt quail is where the quail are.  Hunters have limited options.  They have to know someone who has land available for hunting or belong to a club that manages for quail.  The minimum acreage is about 500-acres to hold enough birds to last an entire season without additional stocking.  With a stocking program, and the release of additional birds for shooting purposes during the season, less land will suffice.

 

DOVE HUNTING TIPS FOR THE LATE SEASON   Leave a comment

The key to late season dove hunting seems to be habitat management. It is not like shooting on opening day when there is a lot of attractive feeding sources in grain fields as yet un-harvested.

Here in Illinois hunters focus on grain fields and watering holes. With most of the land use dominated by agriculture that makes reasonable sense.  However, this land use can include such diversity in the habitat as to involve hedgerows, prairie, riparian and upland forest, timber draws and cedar glades in addition to the cropland.

The great habitat creates a potential for good wintering habitat and hunting. However, cold weather often causes the dove population to migrate south.

Fields planted to attract the late comers usually include such grains as native sunflowers and wheat. Fields usually nonproductive become productive by planting native feed-seed mixtures.  These seeds not only attract doves but they also benefit other birds native to the area.

The Illinois dove season usually begins in early September and continues for 70 days. Often dove hunters only hunt for the first few days.  Veteran dove hunters know that with planning and luck they can often find action for the entire 70 day season.

As the daylight hours become shorter, doves tend to feed earlier until in November when they are feeding in the early afternoon shortly after 1 P.M. Hunters tend to move to the prime feeding and watering areas.  These can include those nearer buildings such as grain bins.  They seek out spilled grain from harvesting operations.  The birds prefer watering ponds with bare shores as they provide a source of grit for digestion and security from predators that might be waiting.

Although late season dove hunting can be an iffy proposition there is also the possibility of a big flock of migrating birds arriving overnight.

A 12 GA shotgun equipped with a skeet choke and loaded with No. 7 shot can knock down doves up to 40 yards away. Steel shot is federally required for hunting all migratory birds including doves.

Late season dove hunting can be frustrating in that there are usually fewer birds available. However the temperature conditions are more comfortable for the hunter and often one has the hunting area to himself.

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FALL FISHING ACTION MOVES TO THE SHORE   Leave a comment

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An excellent adjunct to the fall hunting seasons is fall fishing. Anglers do not have to possess boats and all that goes with them to enjoy some great fishing.

The key factor is finding an area with abundant shoreline access. Scout the area for clues as to promising locations of fish.  Natural vegetation, manmade structures and natural structure are often keys to good fish habitat.

Most bodies of water have forage fish. They can be minnows, shad, shiners or any number of other fish and crustacean.  The big predator fish movement follows the aquatic forage.  In early fall, they tend to move into the shallows and coves to find warmer water.  The predators follow them.  The action seems to move near the bank.

Promising locations include such areas as may be windblown and those areas near the entrance to bays and coves. A good location is one made for an ambush.

Veteran boat less fishermen obtains maps of the areas they plan to fish. On the maps they mark the location of structure, vegetation and depths of water.  They also search out natural situations such as overhanging branches, fallen trees, submerged timber and flooded brush.

Man-made structures also provide fish habitat. This includes marinas, docks, deriving platforms, rip rap, spillways and dams.  One angler of reports he has an old refrigerator marked on his map.  He claims to have taken some big bass off that appliance.

Areas where streams and rivers enter or exit lakes and ponds attract predator fish. They use the adjacent structure for concealment and then move to the faster water to feed.  Eddies in rivers and streams serve a similar purpose.

Before embarking on a fishing trip along one of these shorelines, be sure to have the landowner’s permission. Assure him that you will respect his property, close gates and not break fences.

Also be sure to take all your trash out with you. It helps to carry a plastic garbage bag for this purpose.  Pick up any other litter you might finds along the way.  Leave the land better than you found it, and you will be welcomed back the next time.

As for your tackle, it is important to rig your equipment to match the targeted fish species. Bank anglers should use a rod stiff enough and line heavy enough to control your cast in the shoreline environment.

A variety of jigs, spoons, crankbaits, topwater lures and live bait rigs will cover most situations. A small tackle box is good so you maintain the ability to be mobile.  A selection of lures smaller than 1/4-ounce are a good choice.  Light color jigs are good as they are representative of a number of bait species.

Chest waders are a good choice for bank fishermen. Using waders allow allows the angler more flexibility as to where he can go along the shoreline.  Bank anglers are usually most successful if they can quietly and efficiently cast to key locations for feeding fish.  These areas may not always be available from land.

Patience is an important element in bank fishing. The angler must wait for the fish to come to him.   The good thing about fall fishing is the fish are hungry and ones does not have to wait too long to be in feeding fish.

 

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