Archive for March 2011

FIND THOSE SPRING TURKEYS   1 comment

Huntable populations of turkeys can be found in most states.  Yet, some hunters continue to look for them in all the wrong places.  Suitable habitat is easily identified if one just learns a little about the birds.

Turkey habitat is usually a combination of good edge habitat with big oaks.  It usually has a mix of farmland, fields, and upland forest.  These areas provide brood habitat with plenty of insects for young birds to eat.  Adult birds are mobile and can find their own feed, but the poults need their food close at hand. 

In the spring, adult birds feed on invertebrates and greens. They will also eat soft fruits and mushrooms.  During cold weather, they turn to acorns, beechnuts, wild grapes, corn, soybeans and small grains.  The acorns are the preferred food of the adult birds.

 Grain crops such as soybeans, cowpeas, oats, buckwheat, sorghum, corn and millet will be eaten by turkeys.  However, deer often get to these crops before the turkeys.  It seems that deer tend to leave the oats alone until the turkeys can get to them. Therefore, oats become the favorite grain food of turkeys in the early fall. 

As a bird of the upland forest, turkeys are dependant upon trees, both conifers and hardwoods and a good supply of water.  They use the clearings for loafing and dusting areas in addition to the food supply.  They also use them for nesting and brood range.

Studies have found that the abundance of insects is much higher in old clearings than in the adjoining brush or timberland.

Successful hatchings result in good gobbler results.  They reach their peak as a gobbler at age two. 

 Young male birds leave the adult hen and young hens in winter. The male birds band together with other males of their same age.

 Each year‑class tends to chase off younger birds until the number of older birds reaches a low level.   The hens on the other side form more stable flocks.  As their flocks get large, they break up into smaller flocks.

Excellent habitat and good weather will provide an abundance of turkeys for the hunter to pursue in the spring.

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Posted 03/30/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Bowhunting, Hunting Small Game

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DOGWOODS AND THE START OF CRAPPIE FISHING   2 comments

Here in southern Illinois it is always a harbinger of springtime when the Dogwood trees begin to bloom.  The rest of the forest is full of dark grey shafts of wood rising toward the sun.  Upon them are the beginnings of green leaves.  They are enough so that one knows they are leaves, but not enough to provide the green mantel that will come in a few weeks. 

More importantly the sighting of blooming dogwoods means the crappies are on the beds.  Crappie season is here.  Out on Rend Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Devils Kitchen Lake, and Lake of Egypt boat loads of crappie anglers suddenly appear.  These and other southern Illinois lakes are crappie hot spots during April and early May.

There are some basic tactics that help catching crappie this time of the year.    

It means long poles with ultra light reels and two-pound test line.  The long poles enable one to dip an offering into the flooded buckbrush for the big ones.  Spring is a time of rising water on these lakes.  They are watershed lakes. 

Jigs are popular offerings.  They can be tipped with a minnow (known locally as crappie minnows) or some brightly colored plastic bait.  White, chartreuse, and black are popular colors.  Hair jigs or marabou jigs are also popular.  One sixteenth or 1/32 ounce jigs are favorites.

Remember these are predator fish and they relate to structure.  Since they feed on insects and small fish it is important to not work your bait too quickly.  Work jigs slowly in a bouncing motion.  The idea is to imitate an injured food source.

It is recommended that one probe around any area of wood, rock, or concrete structure below the surface.  In some areas brush piles have been placed to attract fish.  Wooden stakes driven into the bottom in groups are good attractors.  If no structure is visible from the surface all is not lost.

Some people who put out brush piles hide them so as to have the honey hole to themselves and their friends.  A boat with electronics can locate these areas.  Late in the spring the crappie will visit submerged structure more frequently.  Early in the spring they tend to stay in the more shallow areas as they approach the spawning season.  Fish the shallow water early in the morning and later move to the deeper water.

 Anglers can the fish were biting and then quit.  Sometimes they quit because they get wise to the color of the jig.  Other times it is because they have moved a few feet away.  If fish quit biting suddenly move about 2 feet and try again.  Keep that up for a little while.  If that does not work go back to the original location and follow the same pattern with a different color jig.

 An old crappie killer technique is to use the scales as an attractant.  The angler scales one of the fish already caught and sprinkles the loose scales on the water.  He waits a minute or two.  Then begin working the jig in the same area.  The idea is that scales simulate bait fish and stimulates the crappie to begin feeding again.

 It is crappie and dogwood time in southern Illinois.  Let’s go fishing!

USE FOWL LANGUAGE FOR TURKEYS   Leave a comment

Chris Parish breaks down the hen call note by note in an attempt to perfectly imitate it.  He believes if you are that good at breaking it down then you are also capable of knowing what that calling means.  There are so many subtleties in turkey communication that breaking down the call will tell you what that hen is saying to the gobbler. 

Chris Parrish of Centralia, MO has been a long time competitor in turkey calling contests throughout the country. 

There is no way that a human can sound better than a hen turkey.  But, it is possible to sound almost as good.  In the woods, turkeys do make a lot of mistakes in their calls.  They are not always perfect in their calls.  The hunter who listens to the hens and does not worry about the gobblers is the one who will be successful. 

What is important to Parrish is the rhythm of the call not specially the notes.  Whether high pitched, low pitched or raspy it does not make a difference.  

A good woodsman can kill turkeys and never use a call.  But, calls add to the experience and challenge of the sport.  Calling does make the outdoorsman a better rounded turkey hunter. 

A caller can make a gobbler’s temperature rise and have him seek out what he believes to be a hen.  Or he can get aggressive with a hen and make her so mad that she will seek him out.  Some callers can actually sound like multiple birds.

 Some hunters have trouble with mouth calls.  They do not fit the hunter’s mouth comfortably. Sometimes they do not get a proper air seal.  Everyone’s mouth is different and no single call will fit any two people the same.  This results in differences in sound between two callers using the same call.

 What is the best call to buy?  Parrish recommends buying one of everybody’s call and try them all until you find the one that works best for you.  Then stick with it.  Do not worry about which brand name is on the call. 

Hunters will put toothpicks between the reeds to let them dry out nice.  Some hunters will dip their mouth calls in a small cup of Listerine and then wash them off quickly.  If done every two weeks it tends to prevent getting colds and sore throats from calling. 

A good call will last you three or four years if you take care of them. 

One good way to learn how to mock a turkey is to use a CD of the birds and learn how to match your calling to their vocalizations.  It helps to copy the little soft subtleties that turkeys do.  

Callers need to open their mouth when using a mouth call.  Although birds can be called in with the mouth closed down, the open mouth calling is more clear and distinct.  It makes for a sound of a more excited hen.  Opening the mouth and dropping the jaw give you that realism to the call. 

People are reluctant to open the mouth for fear of movement that will scare the bird away or that they will spit the call out.  But, once you learn to call with the jaw dropped you begin to get realism in your calling. 

Birds in the woods will yelp just one time.  Callers do not seem to want to do that.  They want to go through a routine.

HUNTING AMERICA’S BIRD   Leave a comment

Peering thorough the early morning mist, it is difficult to determine if that object is a stump, bush or a turkey.  The later is preferred.

No one really knows just how long hunters have pursued the wild turkey.  Suffice it to say that throughout recorded history in America, this bird has provided food and sport.  Here in Illinois, it is one of the most popular game animals available.  In 2010 hunters took an all time record number of birds. 

The birds thrived in the 1800’s.  Early settlers lived off them.  But, the agriculture practices of the settlers destroyed most of their habitat and the birds vanished from the scene.  Illinois wildlife officials tried restocking them in the 1950’s with very poor success.

Early in the 1970’s a new method of management was attempted.  Beginning with a few birds obtained from other states, Biologists began trapping the offspring and relocating the birds.  Since that time, they have transplanted some 4,751 birds to 278 release sites across the state. 

Today they are found in all 102 counties of the state even though they were released in only 99.   

Much is made of a turkey’s intelligence.  That is probably more due to instinct than to actual smarts.  The turkey has fantastic eyesight and they are afraid of everything.  It is not a super bird.   He can be taken if one does his homework and pays attention to detail in the woods. 

The wild turkey weighs about 21 pounds and is a fast runner as well as a strong flier.  They routinely fly across the Mississippi River, no small task for such a large bird. 

Turkey hunters must learn the habits and habitat of the quarry.  Some hunters each year are successful without preparation.  They are not the ones who take birds year after year.  

Most birds are taken during the spring hunts even though some are harvested in the fall.  In the spring, the male or gobbler has love on his mind and is less aware of other things in the woods, such as hunters.  

This is not to say that the turkey will ignore a hunter.  Quite the contrary, he will be long gone if he spots a hunter’s movement.

In the spring, the hen will mate with a gobbler each day until she conceives.  She then begins to lay one egg per day for 10 to 15 days.  Once she has her eggs, she will stop breeding with the male.  This means that each gobbler has fewer hens to mate with as the season wears on.  Late in the season, gobblers are more vulnerable as they seek hens with which to mate.  They find fewer available.

Gobblers are solitary animals.  Sometimes they will be found with another male.  These are usually brothers.  Siblings will travel together but their functions are different.  One will be a strutter and a lover while the other is a fighter, warding off other gobblers in the area. 

To overcome the instinctive defense mechanisms of the wild turkey, a hunter must pick a hunting area with birds.  Simple, but it requires some advance field work.  Hunters must also prepare their equipment for the job at hand. 

Hunters must begin prior to the opening of the season.  It involves scouting and practice with the weapon to be used.  It takes legwork to find a good area to hunt.  Talk to locals about birds they might have seen. 

Topographic and other maps are handy for marking where one has seen birds as well as sign of them.  A pair of binoculars is good for use from the roadway.  One can drive a lot of roads and scout without having to actually walk all over the countryside. 

While scouting, look for birds, droppings, feathers and tracks.  They are rather opportunistic in their feeding habits.  Turkeys all types of seed, grain, acorns, insects and small reptiles. 

Turkeys will often respond to a Barred Owl call.  Turkeys hate Barred Owls and will often gobble in response to just hearing their call. 

Pre‑season practice with a shotgun should include patterning the gun.  Remember the smaller the shot the more pellets in the load.  The idea is to get most of the shot in a 30 inch circle at 40 yards.  Most hunters are comfortable with number 4 or number 6 shot.  Illinois limits shot size to Number 4 to Number 7 1/2.  It is best to check local regulations in case of changes.  Two ounces of shot per load is the best.  

Experiment with different loads, size of shot, and manufacturer’s ammunition. 

Full camouflage of both the hunter and gun are a necessity.  Once in the woods sit against a tree wider than your shoulders.  This helps to conceal your outline and also is a protection from shots made from behind by another hunter. 

A word to the wise at this point.  Hunt defensively.  Never stalk a turkey.  Someone may be concealed to you and about to shoot in the direction of the bird.  Never wear the colors of red, white or blue in the woods during turkey season.  All of these could mean turkey to some other hunter.  

It is best to set up on a side hill and make the bird come to you by calling.  One can set up 75 to 125 yards from the bird and then call him into range.

There are six basic types of mechanical calls on the market.  They are the box call, diaphragm, corn cob‑slate call, push button, wing bone, and tube call or as it is sometimes called, the snuff box call.  Each has its advantage and disadvantage.  Try each and make up your mind as to which works best. 

Box calls are probably the easiest to master and are thus the most popular.  Diaphragm calls are popular because their use frees up the hunter’s hands for use of the weapon.  They take much practice.  All of them will bring in birds. 

Turkeys respond to seven or eight basic calls from a hunter.  They are the Yelp, the mating call, the assembly call, cluck, purr, cackle, cutting call, and the fighting gobbler.  The latter is a combination of purr, cluck, and broken gobble that is made by using two push button calls at the same time.  

It is a two man operation to be used in mid to late morning. 

Another call the turkey hunter carries with him is the Barred Owl call mentioned earlier.  It is used at first light.  The call is a “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”.  Gobblers in the area will often gobble in response to this call, thus giving away their location.  A crow call used later in the morning will sometimes elicit the same response.  

As with all calls, it is important to learn the proper use and to practice frequently before the season begins.  

Turkey hunting is an interesting sport for the early spring.  It is probably the fastest growing hunting sport.  Study the sport, practice with the calls and weapons, and study the quarry.  If one does his homework. Chances are good for a successful and safe hunt.

A NEW KIND OF FISHING CRAFT   2 comments

Hobie leads the field in watercraft when it comes to kayaks.  The Mirage Pro Angler is the ultimate fishing machine in that field.  I have had several opportunities to try out this little craft but none under fishing conditions.  That is scheduled to change in a couple of weeks when I attend a press outing sponsored by Hobie and a number of other outdoor recreation companies.

I will be reporting here on my success, or lack of same, with the Hobie Mirage Drive Kayak on Lake Barkley in Kentucky.  In the meantime here are some of the basics of the craft.  The above photo is courtesy of the company and comes from their website.

 Although the Mirage is not exactly a traditioonnal kayak it looks like one above the water line and it is propelled by the patented Hobie MirageDrive drive.  The MirageDrive is just drops into the well and clicks into place.  Fishermen place their feet on the pedals and push to propel the craft with flippers that come up flush with the bottom of the boat to allow for skinny water fishing.  A finger tip rudder control offers hands free steering and still allows for casting to those special spots. 

The hull design is wider (38 inches) and more stable than most kayaks yet is still as light and portable as the smaller boat.  The 13-foot craft has a sculpted hull sporting a double hollowed out area.  Fully rigged the Pro Angler weighs 138 pounds and carries 600 pounds of cargo.

Above the water line the craft has a very comfortable, wide seat with screen type fabric to allow for air flow that keeps ones back and backside cool.  Storage areas fore and aft allow for fishing gear and a small bait box for live bait.  The storage area directly in front of the angler holds a number of clear plastic lure boxes.  It also provides a cutting board for working with live bait. 

On either side of the pedals are mounting boards on the gunnels.  These allow for the mounting of accessories such as fish locators, GPS, lights, down riggers, etc. 

One can carry a lot of gear with the use of Bungee tie-downs.  The optional livewell or cooler can be held in place with them.  The additional below deck storage area is accessed by use of a twist of the handle to open and close a water tight hatch thanks to an o-ring seal.  The hatch is on a hinge so it will not be dropped into the water. 

There is room for six rods stored horizontally as well as vertical rod holders for two more rods.  The vertical rod storage also accommodates a gaff or landing net.  The deck is wide enough and the craft stable enough to actually stand up to cast such as in fly fishing.  The grab rails at mid boat aid in handling the boat to gain access in launching.  But, they also are handy for those wanting to rise to cast once at the fishing location.

Posted 03/21/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Boats, Freshwater Fishing

PATTERN YOUR WAY TO TURKEY HUNTING SUCCESS   1 comment

Have you patterned your shotgun for fall turkey season?  Kevin Howard of Elsberry, MO, knows just what needs to be done and how easy it is to do. 

Kevin points out that it is important hunters know the exact point of impact of their shot.  If the bulk of the shot is not going where the gun is pointed, then the shooter needs to adjust accordingly. 

The first point of consideration is the gun and load.  The most popular turkey guns 10 or 12 gauge.  The average turkey hunter shoots 4, 5 or 6 shot.  A survey of guides and turkey hunters finds that the ammo with the fastest velocity out of the barrel is preferred. 

“The faster load does translate to more recoil,” says Howard, “But most shooters think it is worth it.”  A load that contains 1 3/4 ounce of shot in the 5 or 6 size is ample to put down the largest of gobblers. 

Once the gun and load are selected, it is time to pattern the gun.  Patterning a gun is a very simple and inexpensive way to make sure it shoots where the hunter is aiming.  All that is  needed, in addition to a gun and shells, is a sheet of plywood, some targets with a turkey head on them, and ear protection.  A bench rest is helpful in being consistent from one shot to another. 

The targets, available at sporting goods stores, usually consist of a large white sheet a paper with a turkey head in the middle.  They are generally about three foot square but the Birchwood Casey Company has come out with some turkey head targets that can be stuck on any large sheet of paper.  These targets are brighter in color and stand out more but are realistic in size when compared to the head of a bird.  The company also has targets that are black with a lime green outline of a turkey head.  When struck by shot, the area around the hole also becomes green making it visible from longer distance. 

Kevin uses two plywood boards for two targets.  He fires one number 5 load at the first target and one number 6 load at the second.  The difference in pattern from the two different size loads is obvious.  The mix of the pellets from different size shot is different with each gun.  That is why it is important to know just where your gun is shooting. 

If the shooter is shooting at the center of the target and the bulk of the shot is consistently hitting off to the side, then perhaps it should have the fit of the stock adjusted.  This can be done by a gunsmith. 

If the bulk of the shot is just a little off from center, then the hunter can adjust his point of aim to compensate for it.  If he is shooting a shot gun with a scope, then the sight can be adjusted to compensate.  The idea is to deliver at least six pellets to the head and neck area of the turkey target. 

In shooting to see where the pellets will hit, it is a good idea to use different chokes.  Most modern shotguns have the screw‑in chokes to allow the hunter a variety of shot patterns.  Most turkey hunters seem to prefer the full choke, but is another one will work more effectively, now is the time to find out. 

Once the pattern of the gun is established at a specific range, it is important to test it at other increments.  For instance, if the hunter knows where the shot is going at 30 yards, then it would help to know where it will be at 10 and 20 yards as well.  Turkey hunters seldom get a shot at turkeys that are in excess of 30 yards.  Additionally, most loads begin to loose there effectiveness beyond that distance. 

Patterning a turkey gun will go a long way toward becoming familiar with its performance.  That in turn aids the hunter in putting a bird on the table.  A few dollars spent on shells and targets, can pay big dividends.

Posted 03/18/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Firearms, Hunting Small Game

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NEW MARINE WEBSITE   Leave a comment

I received the following note from Mike Walker of The Walker Agency in Phoenix, AZ.  It announces an interesting FREE website.

A new kind of website, one designed to provide the consumer with information about boats, power sports products went live today.  It is the first such resource for the industry.
 
Similar to sites in the automotive market, See Dealer Cost is not a selling site, but provides product information, including prices, features and specifications. Site users will be able to configure products and save configurations in their account, or print them out.  In addition, a wide range of supportive information will be available, including financing, insurance, relevant articles, and pre-owned value information.  For participating companies, See Dealer Cost is a lead generation and/or advertising site.
 
According to the company, in addressing the recreational products industries, new boat, power sports and recreational vehicle sales are down significantly over the past 4 years. They say that the way the marine, power sports and RV industries do business must change because price destabilization has caused the “floor” to shift dramatically.
 
“Today’s buyer requires high value, technologically advanced products, great service, ease of doing business and the best deal possible,” they said. “The problem is customers don’t know what the best deal possible is.” The auto industry, however, reports a higher closing rate when the customer is better informed.
 
The information gathering process is time consuming and frustrating to the potential customer, and does not instill trust or support customer satisfaction. The company says its solution is to give customers all the information they need to make a more informed purchase decision in an easy to navigate site.
 
The information is free to visitors of seedealercost.com.

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