Like most people who hunt deer species in North America, I have a minimal knowledge of the disease known as CWD. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal (to deer species) neurological disease. A misfolded protein called a prion causes the disease.
It passes from one deer to another through animal to animal contact. The shedding of prions through bodily fluids and/or the decay of infected animals creates a contaminated environment which allows the spread of the disease.
The disease does not pass along to humans or domestic livestock. But it can have a devastating effect on deer herds, especially if they are concentrated in a location such as those yarding up in winter and those in a breeding facility.
Biologists have tried numerous programs to limit the spread of the disease but as yet there is no known cure.
Most programs involve isolating infected areas and the sampling of brain tissue to find infected animals.
Last fall produced the harvest of the best deer of a 60-year hunting career. When told testing for CWD is required, anxiety set in. Visions of some college kid working for the game officials butchering the cape to get at the brain tissue came to the fold. Such was not the case.
Squaw Mountain Ranch where the deer was taken is also a deer breeding facility for sale of deer to ranches across Texas. In order to protect their property and herd, the ranch participates in a number of studies with the wildlife officials of the state. It is no near any of the areas where CWD has been found in the state and the hope to keep it that way.
Any deer that dies on this ranch is checked.
Concerns about damage to the cape are unwarranted. Watching the process turned out to be a good learning experience. Dusty, a guide on the ranch follows normal capeing procedures. However as the cape is rolled toward the head, an incision is made at the joining of the spinal column to the base of the brain.
With some specialized tools he is able to remove a two inch section of the spinal column. He places the sample in a container and sent out for testing. At the lab they section the sample and examine it under a microscope for any folded prions.
After two years of sampling every deer, this ranch has not found a single infected animal.
For many ducks and other waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway, western Tennessee is a wintering location. They may leave occasionally but always seem to return. The duck migration is prominent but some geese are also present.
Late season includes teal (both blue and green-winged) ring-necks, shoveler, gadwall, widgeon, pintail, mallards and occasionally some Canada and speckled belly geese. Not all the species are there all the time. They move out and maybe travel to warmer areas for a few days only to return.
Waterfowl hunting is a major wintertime activity around Reelfoot Lake and area ponds and small lakes. They provide field, open water and pot-hole hunting. Area resorts and camps provide hunters with needs such as guide, blinds, and boat rentals.
Hunting continues until the end of January for all species. Special seasons for snow geese run until early March.
Born of the violent earthquakes of 1812-13, the lake and surrounding area consists of some thirty to fifty thousand square miles that underwent dramatic topographical changes visible today. During the quakes left sunken areas, fissures and land domes. The reversal of the flow of the Mississippi River flooded much of the area creating the lake as well as flat fertile land for agricultural purposes.
As the migrating flocks arrive the birds feed heavily on protein rich grains. They rest at night on large water areas for protection from predators. By day they move to the grain fields available in the area. Once they have rebuilt sufficient stocks of protein they turn to the invertebrates found in more shallow water areas including pot holes and ponds.
The birds hold in big water during colder air temperatures as the big water stays open longer and is not prone to freeze over.
When hunting small areas of water near large areas, the late season birds pitch out of the air and decoy easily. By watching live ducks, and how they react to other live ducks, one finds they the flocks are composed of even numbers of birds. This may mean that combined with their becoming so territorial, they have already paired up. They do not want to endure any harassment from other members of the flock.
Using this information, you may want to change your use of decoys in the small water. Try scaling back the decoy spread and constantly change it each day.
Waterfowl tend to be a little more active before weather fronts. A change in barometric pressure occurs right before the front comes in. Right after the front the pressure rises.
The birds become more active after a front passes because they can fly at higher altitudes. The hardest part of a duck’s exertion is the exhaling part. In high pressure situations birds can fly higher and it is easier on them to make long distance flights. The long distance flights make hunters want to pull their hair out. The hunting in any one given spot becomes hard.
Late season waterfowl hunting and calling is a constant case of analyzing what is going on with the birds. You may never figure it out completely but you might get a little bit closer.
Being cooped up for a couple of days due to weather is rather depressing. Today is clear but very cold. Coming home from the Post office I stopped about a half block away to view two adult bald eagles soaring over the house.
This is one of the nice things about January in southern Illinois. The waterfowl winter here on the refuge and the eagles have followed them on their migration as the clean-up crew. The eagles prey upon the sick and wounded birds as well as eating the dead ones. On sunny days the surface water of the lakes and ponds warm slightly attracting the carp. Eagles can spot the fish from far and swoop down upon them.
All along the Mississippi River Flyway various local groups have “Eagle Days” in which they promote the local economy by offering tours to view the birds.
Eagles are not strangers to this neighborhood. They sometimes sit on the ground in the back yard as they munch on some hapless small game animal. Today is a pleasure in that they are soaring around in a clear blue sky. They have moved off for now but they surely will come again another day.
In any event watching eagles go about their daily chores is a great way to push away the winter blues.
Bad weather in the form of ice and snow has caused cancelation of plans to attend Dallas Safari Club Show for this writer. But something good did come of staying inside for most of the day.
Serendipity resulted in accidentally coming upon an essay by Craig Boddington, world famous hunter and outdoor writer, about his philosophy of life as it relates to his career in hunting and writing about it.
It caused some reflection on this writer’s career in the hunting and fishing field. Although I usually like to keep my personal involvement out of the article, I am making an exception today.
The first commercial success occurred in the 4th grade when the prize for an essay on a local bank’s new signage produced the princely sum of $3. It would be about 15 years before the second sale came along.
That was about 50 years ago. In between I produced a lot of articles that did not sell as well as some freebees for law journals and social work magazines. I even edited an in-house journal for the social service department of a court system.
The real turning point came with a chance meeting at an outdoor show in Chicago. Gene Laulunen had just started MidWest Outdoors. At that time both he and his wife were still teaching school in the suburbs and put the magazine together on their kitchen table in the evening.
He was looking for someone to write about bowhunting. He had a writer on target archery and a friend had told him of me. I wrote a couple of pieces that appeared in the 3rd edition of MidWest Outdoors Magazine. I did not write any more for him for some long forgotten reason.
In the interim I did write some article for other magazines such as Archery World and Bowhunter. In the mid-70’s I became editor of a journal for the Illinois Chapter of Safari Club International and we contracted with MidWest Outdoors to print and distribute it on a monthly basis. Gene then encouraged me to get serious about writing about the outdoors.
Since then I have sold hundreds of article to him and to other publication throughout the upper Midwest.
In 1996 I retired from social work and corrections work. Six months later retirement became boring. I returned to writing, appearing in outdoor shows, a couple of videos and sponsorship of a youth goose hunting contest that occurs annually during National Hunting & Fishing Days.
I will turn 75 in a couple of months. Writing about hunting and fishing has opened a lot of doors. The field is well-known for a lot of freeloading. For that reason I have been reluctant to accept gifts of trips and gear. It just makes me uncomfortable. Most of my trips whether to Africa or around North America are paid for by me. If I do accept some hospitality in any form it is with the understanding that if it turns out to be a good trip, I will write about it. If not then I will not write anything about it. I do not do negative stories or reviews.
I have met, hunted with, fished with some of the greatest people in the outdoor industry. Many are gone now while the rest remain my friends for life.
In recent years health problems have caused me to cut back on some of my activities. It is heck getting old. Sitting here today has cause me to reflect on the past (a great time) and begin to set goals for 2017 that include more travel for hunting and fishing.
Those goals when accomplished will appear in this journal. Stay tuned!
Perhaps at no other time of the year do anglers enjoy a larger variety of fishing opportunities. Weather conditions can vary significantly.
Whether fishing open water of power plant lakes or partially iced-up lakes and rivers, the water temperatures govern winter fishing. Some areas will be warmer due to warm water discharges or underwater springs affecting the temperature of the water surrounding them. Some lakes and rivers receive water from slowly meandering feeder creeks that pick up warmth as they flow through open country.
So it is that anglers can still be ice fishing in one area and other anglers looking forward to pre-spawn activity. Add the conditions in the power plant cooling lakes and there is the opportunity to experience fishing for many species using a variety of techniques.
Ice fishing anglers use 2- to 4-pound fluorocarbon and small jigs to seek out primarily yellow perch, bluegills and crappies. For bait they prefer small jigs with plastic grubs are the best bet. White bass and crappies prefer jigging spoons with spikes (maggots) or Fathead Minnows. The bite is always a light one.
Open water anglers on the Great Lakes find the salmon species are a good bet using spawn sacks slowly jigged just off the bottom. An alternative is a white jig tipped with wax worms for the yellow perch.
Panfish anglers, in open water situations, prefer small plastic jigs or jig/minnow combinations with light line on long crappie poles. Good colors for the plastic jigs are white, pink/green and chartreuse. Catfish anglers find their best results using cut bait, dough baits and nightcrawlers.
The larger cold water species (walleye and muskie) in open water will take spinnerbaits and some shallow running crankbaits, such as bladeless rattling lures.
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.
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.