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.
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.
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.
As the colors of fall become apparent and temperatures cool, the challenges to anglers also change. Early daytime temperatures can vary considerably from morning to evening. Cool mists appear as colder air moves across the water whose temperatures lag behind those over the land.
Some species of fish gorge on the forage base in preparation for a winter when they eat less often. Threadfin shad begin to ball up and many start to die, as they are unable to adapt to colder weather. Other forage moves into shallow water found near shore, in buck brush and the backs of coves.
Anglers often find larger fish in the fall. They have feasted on forage species all summer. In the southern Illinois lakes they have been active almost all year munching on shad and other forage. Anglers often find that they are catching fewer fish but the ones they find are often larger than they found last spring.
As an example, with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, bass leave the shallows to suspend some 6 to 12-feet down in the water column. They move back to the shallows in search of food but are more comfortable away from there. Crankbaits and spinners in the natural colors of crawfish and shad produce better results than the plastics the bass angler has been using all summer. Baits with gold and copper hues work well in stained water. In clear water blue, silver or white lures are better.
As fishing for warm water fish like bass and crappies slows late in the month look for action to pick up for walleye and muskies. The latter like colder temperature zones in the water column. September seems to be a transition month for fish and the anglers who pursue them.
Usually when one talks about Illinois catfish lakes, they are Channel Catfish waters. Baldwin Lake, in St. Clair and Randolph counties, does have a channel catfish population it is not the one producing large fish. The competition for food is too great in this lake. Catfish action here is with the Blues and Flatheads.
Blue catfish in this lake run from 8 to 60 pounds in weight. Sixty-three pound fish have been caught. Flatheads tend to be from seven to 30 pounds with 63-pounds being the largest caught. It is believed that 70-pound plus fish live in the lake.
The blue catfish feed on the extensive shad forage base and are most often taken by anglers using shad for bait. There both Gizzard Shad and Threadfin Shad are present. Both populations do well in the warm water of this cooling lake. Threadfin shad die in other lakes when the water temperatures reach 47-degrees and lower. As a result, some IDNR fisheries managers from other parts of the state will capture threadfin at Baldwin and transfer them to lakes in their areas.
The Flatheads also like the shad but will feed just as well on bluegills. Because of the flathead consumption of bluegills the bluegill population is just OK. No real large fish are caught. However, another sunfish is doing very well.
Redear sunfish have flourished since being reintroduced into the lake. They are about 10-inches in length at this time which has surprised biologists. The Longear sunfish and Bluegills are not doing as well.
Largemouth bass in the 3 to 5-pound range are present but they are not caught by anglers in any great numbers. Hybrid bass, a cross between white bass and stripers, were once a great species in this lake but they have not been stocked in the lake for a number of years and do not reproduce. Some hybrids are caught each year but not in large numbers.
Smallmouth bass were introduced to the lake and have adapted well. Today they are found all over the lake. When water is being pumped into the lake on the south end from the Kaskaskia River smallmouth tend to be attracted. If smallmouths are not present in that area you can check at the hot water discharge area. It is where water is pumped out of the plant in the north end of the lake.
The smallmouths are up to 5 pounds in size and 22-inches in length. Most are in the three to five pound class.
Most people tend to fish the north end of the lake near the levy at the hot water discharge in the fall and winter. Most of the south half of the lake is closed then as a refuge for migrating waterfowl.
Parking for levy anglers can be found in the northwest portion of the lake area. The boat launch is just south of the parking area.
Baldwin Lake is found in the Baldwin Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area. The 2,018-acre perched cooling lake is owned by the Illinois Power Company but is leased to the IDNR to manage for recreational use. Illinois Route 154 runs through the town of Baldwin. In Baldwin, anglers can turn north on 5th Street and travel 4 miles to the intersection of 5th and Risdon School Road just past the power station. Turn west and the park entrance is about a mile.
Square billed crankbaits and spinners in the natural colors of crawfish and shad produce better results than the plastics the bass angler has been using all summer. Baits with gold and copper hues work well in stained water. In clear water blue, silver or white lures are better.
If the weather continues to be warm, then Texas-rigged plastic worms should continue to produce. If the water cools try moving to crankbaits.
If the water is clear try a swimbait. This is sight fishing at its finest.
In weed choked bays and coves the use of a frog or weedless spoon is required.
Carolina rigged finesse worms work on occasion worked parallel to the shore over a changing bottom structure.
Many deer hunters see deer hunting as going to the same area each year and sitting in a tree. They hope for a deer to walk past and that they shoot straight. Successful deer hunting requires study of the quarry, its biology, and the effect that man has had on both.
White-tailed deer disappeared from Illinois around the turn of the last century. Reintroduced to Southern Illinois in the early 1930’s, reintroduction came in three phases:
The first deer came to southern Illinois and allowed to reproduce. The idea was to get sufficient numbers to allow the program to move to step II.
Step II involved the trapping and translocation of deer to a suitable habitat in other parts of the state. This was so successful that by 1957 some 33 counties opened to deer hunting. By 1975, some 98 counties had deer seasons.
Step III became the over population that has caused depredation of crops and homeowner landscaping. It also involves an increase in auto-deer accidents on area highways. By the 1980’s over population of deer in many areas of the state was becoming a significant problem.
In the 1990’s wildlife officials decided to stress maintenance of deer density that would be capable of sustaining deer hunting. It had to take into account the carrying capacity of the land.
Today there is emphasis in some areas to maintain trophy quality in the deer herd. But, deer hunting is more than just shooting a big deer. Deer hunters seek size and symmetry.
First is the preparation and anticipation of a hunt. Some say it is the most fun part of a deer hunt. Then there is the isolation of sitting in a cold treestand waiting for a deer to come past. Finally, there sometimes is the disappointment of being unsuccessful in getting a deer. To the deer hunter these are all part of the game.
Deer hunting is about leveraging experience and knowledge. All knowledge is cumulative. The more one hunts, the better hunter he becomes. The more he reads about hunting, he becomes a more informed hunter. The more videos about hunting he views, the more discriminating he is in selecting his quarry.
As knowledge accumulates, one sorts out valid theories to test in a specific type of habitat. One tests theories in the field. Then the hunter begins to develop his own theories and test them. That is how one becomes a better hunter. One can always learn if he just keeps an open mind.
This year, study your deer hunting area. Does it present the habitat that will attract and keep deer? If deer are present, why are they there and where do they regularly travel. By knowing why deer do what they do, one improves his chances of being able to be in position for that all important shot.
The huge expanses of public and private land available in southern Illinois attract hunters. The lack of overcrowding makes the area an excellent place to hunt. The Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations contains lists of all the public land hunting areas. It is available free from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices though out the state. It is also available anywhere place selling hunting and fishing licenses.