CHUKARS ARE CHALLENGING   Leave a comment

Most hunters are familiar with the fact that Ringneck Pheasants came to North American through efforts by. But, there was another exotic introduced a few years later in l893 that has not received as much notoriety.  They are the Chukar Partridge or Chukars which came to at least 4l states and six Canadian provinces.  The stockings began with just five pairs but now include millions of birds that are available in the wild in l0 western states as well as on hundreds of shooting preserves throughout the country.

In the wild, these imports from India are not difficult to hunt, but the areas they choose for habitat are difficult to negotiate. They love hilly areas and run uphill and flying downhill when flushed.  They do not hold well for a dog because they are a nervous bird that likes to keep moving.  Because of its choice of habitat it does not displace any of native birds and it provides a gamebird in areas where none existed previously.

Chukars do not do well in all areas due to their particular dietary requirements. They are members of the Phasianidae family which includes domestic chickens, wild fowl such as Francolins, guinea fowl, partridges, peafowl, pheasants and snowcocks.  These birds feed primarily on the ground even though they will take food from shrubs and low tree limbs.  The young feed on insects while the older birds tend to feed on what is available.  They prefer such things as buds, fruit, roots, and seeds but will eat insects, snails, worms and other small animals.  It is this eating of worms, slugs and snails that is their downfall in most of the country.  This food supply is often the host of disease organisms that kill the Chukar.  They eat grubs and worms where they are available and as a result tend to die out in such areas.

Early attempts to establish huntable populations of Chukar in the eastern states met with failure due to the bird’s inability to avoid eating grubs and worms. Shooting preserves met with moderate success raising them on wire.  Flight pens with mesh floors kept the birds off the ground where they could not get access to worms and grubs.  But, the birds became too accustomed to the presence of humans.  As a result, they seemed to lose much of their wildness.  This made the birds less suitable for hunting preserves.  Breeders overcame the problem by the raising of the birds in isolation.  They do not have human contact and thus retain the wildness that makes them flush when approached.  The end result is a very good game bird for the shooting preserve.

Chukars are about the size of a ruffed grouse with a striking appearance. The back and breast are a subdued olive-gray tone set off by the deep crimson of the bill, feet, and legs.  The white throat and cheeks separate from the breast by a jet-black necklace which loops upward to form a mask across the eyes.  The sides are buff colored and barred with dark black and chestnut vertical stripes.  The tail is a rust-brown color.

In the wild, the chukar is as much a covey bird as the bobwhite quail. On a shooting preserve they are often in groups of 3 or four.  When flushed they burst into the air, their short, broad, cupped wings enable them to attain a speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour in just a few seconds.  As soon as they reach top speed the chukar glide.  Upon landing, they tend to run uphill and hide in the nearest cover.  Once the hunter is out of sight, chukars will reassemble the covey.

Flushing dogs are the ticket to hunting these little uphill racers. Pointing dogs will often point to a spot where the birds were as they race away through the cover.  The flushing dog will charge through the birds sending them scattering into the air.  After they have been scattered, chukars will often hold tight in the tallest grasses or in clumps of grass and brush.

As for what gun and ammo to use, the best gun will have an improved cylinder and modified choke. A lightweight, fast handling shotgun is best.  12 or 20 gauge with 26 inch barrels is a good choice.  No. 7 1/2 shot is ideal.

If you would like to take the challenge of the chukar contact any shooting clubs. Many of them will offer chukar shooting in addition to the pheasant and quail shooting.

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SOUTHERN ILLINOIS NATIONAL HUNTING AND FISHING DAYS CLELEBRATION   Leave a comment

 

An estimated 30,000 people will flood onto the campus of John A. Logan College, Carterville, Illinois over September 23 and 24.  Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a southern Illinois tradition for the past 30 years.  The purpose of the event since its inception has been to introduce the public to the outdoor experience and ethics.

The huge crowds mean the two hundred plus vendors will present everything from food to hunting and fishing equipment for sale. Each year the vendor space expands due to increased demand.

Fishing activities include weigh-ins for both the popular King Catfish Contest and the High School Team Fishing tournaments. Fishing experts on a variety of species will present seminars for anglers from all levels of expertise.  The 5,000 gallon Bass tub contains a variety of Illinois fish.

A myriad of dog demonstrations include retrievers, foxhounds, coon dogs and pointing dogs. Other dogs include search and rescue dogs, agility dogs, and dock dogs.

The “dock dogs” display is one of the most interesting to visitors. There is a competition by the “pros” for the longest distance covered by a jumping dog and in between contests other dog-handlers can train their dogs in the sport.

Popular activities in the Kids Village sponsored by McDonald’s restaurants of southern Illinois include such things as fishing and nature seminars, BB gun shooting, and archery shooting. Children fish for stocked fish in the campus pond and win prizes such as bicycles.

Another popular activity at Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a variety of waterfowl calling contests. Held each year they attract callers from across the nation to compete with the best of the best.

Waterfowlers compete in the popular waterfowl calling contests each day beginning with the youth contests and winding up with the World Open contest on Sunday afternoon. Contestants compete for pride, money and merchandise.

Archers can shoot in a field archery course set up on the campus. A smaller target range is available in the Archery Tent.  Dick’s Sporting Goods, sponsor of the tent, will have free drawings every hour.

In the Deer Tent the “Tucker Buck”, the largest non-typical buck ever harvested in North America is on display. Also the Tennessee state record typical buck is on display.  Inside the college the Illinois state record Hybrid Black Crappie, caught at Kinkaid Lake this year will be on display.

Artists, taxidermists, and other artisans display their work in the campus gym. Food venders are available across the campus.  Recreational vehicle (RV) and boat dealers will also be displaying their products.

Make plans now to attend the 30th Anniversary of the Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days September 23 -24, 2017.  You and your children do not want to miss this one.

 

FALL HUNTING IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS   Leave a comment

Fall hunting trips bring out the hunter in all of us.  Just such a trip to southeastern Illinois is an excellent idea for an extended weekend or even just for a day afield.

Excellent wildlife habitats and thousands of acres of public access land, make southern Illinois a paradise for the hunter.  The combination of state, federal, and county lands provide hunters with more than 400,000 acres in which to pursue game and enjoy the outdoors.

Weather and habitat conditions during the hunting season affect wildlife.  Farm production schedules’ do also affect the presence of game in certain areas.  If the crops have all been harvested the game may move to another area.  Game is usually common in and around the agricultural fields.

Although not abundant, quail are present in larger numbers than most of the rest of the state. Quail like areas with a good mix of row crops, small grains, legumes and grassland.  Land connected by wooded fencerows and forest edges is best.  Turkeys also like this type of cover and they are much more numerous.

Illinois deer population owes its numbers to programs that brought back their numbers from a time when they were devastated by over hunting. The programs began in southern Illinois.  Deer like grain crops but seek those fields located next to heavy edge cover and forests.  They like to feed in the fields and feel more secure in the heavy cover as they rest.

Rabbits prefer the abandoned farmsteads with their mix of row crops, small grain and shrubby fencerows.  Southern Illinois contains probably the largest numbers of cottontail rabbits. Old pastures and forest edges provide the right combination of open areas with an overhead canopy that protects them from flying predators.

Fall hunting trips also provide sportsmen with an opportunity to wet a line in one of the many lakes and ponds of southeastern Illinois.  Such adventures are Cast & Blast trips.

For a complete listing of the public lands of southern Illinois check the IDNR Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations available wherever hunting licenses are available.  It is also on line or from the IDNR offices around the state.  The booklet lists the properties, the game available and any special site-specific regulations that apply.  It is fall and time for hunters to trek to base camp in southeast Illinois.

 

FALL ACTION AT REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Fall comes later to southern Illinois.  But it is still a great time of the year.  The trees change colors weeks after the northern part of the state.  Chilly nights often give way to a hot clear sky during the day.  Fall is a study of contrasts for the hunter and angler.

The fishing for crappie is terrific on Rend Lake during fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter it continues, anglers willing to brave cooler temperatures continue throughout the fall.

Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the state park boat ramps exit at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north on the road.

The fourth quarter of the year in southern Illinois is a great combination time in the Rend Lake area.  There is archery deer season beginning the first of October and yet fishing action is still great.  By the third week in November the duck season begins and still the fishing continues.

Fishing into December is not unusual. But, the main focus is waterfowl hunting and the firearms deer seasons.  In early November hunters enjoy rabbit and quail hunting as the Upland Game seasons open.

The quail hunting is for wild birds. Rabbit hunting is with beagles. If you have never experienced the beagle hunt is it worth doing just to see those little dogs in action.  There is commotion everywhere.  It is just a fun thing to do.

Fall is actually a great time of the year for the outdoorsman. He can pretty well do it all.

A fisherman need not necessary to get out on the water as early as might be the case in the late summer. In the fall one can usually have breakfast and be on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

Deer hunting can be on both public and private land. The ample public land available in southern Illinois provides many deer hunting opportunities.  Private land hunts are for quality deer hunting and clients enjoy some pretty spectacular results.

 

TIPS FOR TRAILING A WOUNDED DEER   Leave a comment

You have scouted the property, stalked your trophy, waited endless hours in a treestand for the right moment, and shot true for a quick, humane kill.  Now you have waited to make sure he is down and it is time to see your deer up close.  Your breath comes in short spurts as you move closer to the place where last you saw him.  But, there is nothing there except some ground that was disturbed by his leaving the area.  What now?

The first thing to do is “don’t do anything.”  Look around.  Wait for at least a half hour.  This gives the animal time to bleed, stiffen up and to die.  Is there blood on the ground?  If not, it is time to reconstruct your shot.  You owe it to your quarry to make every effort to recover any wounded animal.

Relive that fateful moment when you first shot.  Where was the animal standing?  Use makers of trees and bushes to be precise as to location.  Remember that the land looks a different at ground level than it does from a treestand.  That is why it is important to use marking points such as trees, rocks and shrubs to pinpoint locations.  What did the animal do when you shot?  When you last saw it, which way was it going?  As you listened after it disappeared from sight, did you hear it crash.  If so in what direction did the sound seem to come from?

As you rerun the incident in your mind, remember how the deer reacted.  If it jumped straight up or fell and then ran off low to the ground with its tail tucked down, the hit was good.  It will probably expire immediately and is lying close at hand.  It is a good idea to wait about a half hour before following up just to be safe.

If the deer hunched its back and ran or walked away, it is probably gut shot.  If left alone the deer will usually remain where it first beds down and will expire there.  However, if disturbed before it expires, the deer may run off and you stand a chance of losing it.  You might even have to follow it for miles.  It is better that you leave it alone for several hours before following up the trail.

The third scenario is one where the deer runs a few yards and looks around.  It might even continue feeding.  You probably missed.  If there is no blood on the ground or bushes, you missed.

Once you decide that there is blood of hair on the ground in the area where you last saw the deer, it is time to analyze the hit.  Following a wounded deer is a slow and deliberative process.  If it is night time, a gas lantern is best as it highlights the blood spots on the ground.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on the side of the lantern toward you.  It helps direct the light toward the trail and out of your eyes.

In the case of hair, it is important to decide where the hair came from on the animal.  White hair usually means a chest or belly hit.  Darker hair means a vital or muscle area hit.

If there is blood on the ground, examine it.  If there is the unmistakable odor of feces in the blood, then you have gut shot the animal.  The result is that you should wait several hours before proceeding to follow the trail.

If you find blood that is thin and pale, it probably came from a superficial or flesh wound.

Blood that is bright red with bubbles means that you have a lung hit animal.  Look for tracks and stirred up leaves. Your deer is probably nearby.

As you follow the trail, mark each place where you find blood or tracks.  Blaze orange surveyor’s tape or toilet paper comes in handy for marking.  At some point you may lose the trail or the blood might just quit leaking out of the animal.  You will be able to go back to the tape or paper trail and start again using the trail to steer you in the right general direction.

Large pools of blood on the trail usually mean that the deer stopped or even lay down at that spot before moving along.  Often the animal may change directions.  It is important to look in all directions from the pool of blood for a trail to follow.

Another factor that might cause the deer to change directions is a steep hill, roadway, fence line, or open field.  They will usually follow where the land is flat or downhill and with cover.  Often they will lie down in that cover.

If you cannot find the blood trail, try working in circles from the last spots.  Begin with small circles and work into ever enlarging ones.

All of the above supposes that the weather does not change radically and snow, rain or heavy wind conditions move in to conceal the trail.  Other hunters, dogs, coyotes can also stumble upon the animal and it will run off when it would otherwise lay down and die.

Animals such as crows, magpies and jays can alert the hunter to a downed animal.  They are attracted to the carcass and make a lot of noise.

Making a clean humane kill is the goal of all hunters.  Sometimes things go wrong and you might have to follow up on a wounded animal.  It is a challenging experience but a rewarding one when you are able to find the deer and bring it out of the woods and home to your family table.

 

DOVE HUNTING TIPS   Leave a comment

Dove hunting is a great warm up to the other small game and bird hunting coming later. Here are some tips for preseason preparation.

Decoys are vital to hunting doves. Use them creatively.  The most common placement is with a few on the ground and others on fences or bare tree limbs above water holes.  Another technique is to bring an artificial tree with you.  It can be commercial or homemade.  With your decoys already placed in the tree you can place it wherever the flight path of the birds seems to be on that day.

To make decoys more lifelike cut a small hole in the underside. Insert some BB’s and seal the hole.  On the upper side attach some fishing line that goes back to a rod and reel.  You can cast the decoy over a bare branch and reel it into a point where the belly of the decoy looks like it is perched in the tree.  The BB’s keep the decoy upright and looking like it is perched on the branch.  This allows you to place decoys higher than would normally be possible.

Doves are cautious birds. Approaching a water hole it is common for them to land on nearby power lines or the bare branches of dead trees.  From there they can survey the area for danger before landing on the ground to feed or drink.  The cunning hunter will place himself concealed in full camo or in a blind within range of the area.  As the birds fly down they present a slower target than as they do flying past.

Wait until the birds are within 25 to 30 yards from you position. This saves on ammunition and also provides the opportunity for a second shot before a missed bird gets out of range.

Use of a retriever dog aids in fewer birds lost on the ground. The dog will follow wounded birds wherever they hide.

Instinctive shooting is better than trying to lead the bird. The birds dip, dive, and seldom present a shot for which you can set up.  This is point-and-shoot hunting.  Early in the season number 8 or 9 shot seems best.  Later when not hunting local birds but rather migratory birds come into play you can move to number 7 shot.  The latter extends the distance for an effective shot.

The less you move around the less the chance of a scaring birds away. Sometimes staying still is difficult due to the presence of mosquitos.  Use effective repellants to keep away the bugs.

Two final tips are to use the latter days of the season when hunting pressure is lighter and to hunt alone with your dog. Early on with pressure from big parties of hunters the birds are flighty and the shooting difficult.  Once the early pressure lessens doves tend to get careless and present some fine hunting action.  Frankly late season hunting is a more pleasurable hunting experience.

LURES FOR FALL CATFISH   Leave a comment

It is no secret that catfish will eat almost anything. Anglers are adding the artificial lures to their arsenal of more traditional catfish baits.  There are the plastics impregnated with attractants.  And then there are the chemical mixtures of both natural foods and various other ingredients.  Even crankbaits and other hard body lures are coming into use.

Both flathead and channel catfish will attack artificial lures.  Beginning in late summer as the water temperature gets into the 80’s and low 90’s channel catfish move to the shallow water up tight against dams.  The flatheads move to the deep holes.  In both of these areas, catfish will take an artificial lure.

Using bass fishing techniques to catch flatheads, a fisherman begins by trolling with a trolling motor on his Jon boat.  By trolling over holes modern electronics help him spot fish on the bottom.  Experience says flatheads about to go on a fall feeding spree.

Look for structure in the holes.  Submerged trees, rock structure or any other kind of “home habitat” that flatheads are known to frequent.

Bounce jigs right on their nose.  Use a 2 ounce jig with a salt craw attached.  In order for the fish to take it the jig has to be right on him.  Not being a bottom feeder by nature, the flatheads eyes are located to find food slightly above it.

Late summer also means low water conditions on most rivers.  Cats, be they flathead or channel, seek out deep water, fast running well oxygenated water, or both.  Beneath most dams are deep holes created by the water cascading from one level to another.

Anglers have long known that casting up under the dam they can catch fish.  But, few try it with a small jig.  A 1/8 ounce leadhead with a dark plastic grub body will do a good job enticing channel catfish.

With care, the shore angler can catch nice cats, holding in the highly oxygenated water found below dams.  One needs to exercise extreme care in this fast flowing water with all the washed out holes.

Over on the Ohio River flowage, some anglers use crankbaits to catch fall cats.  They get their boats right up in the shallow water at the dam and then cast floating Rapalas.  The river flow helps to provide action to the lure.  The #13 and #18 are most used.  Blue is the preferred color.

The use of artificial lures to catch catfish is relatively new. But we will probably hear more about them in the future.

 

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