Archive for September 2011


Regular cleaning of a firearm is not only a responsibility of gun ownership but a necessity for reliable performance.   We have a significant investment in modern firearms and depend upon their accuracy.  It is important to pay attention to their condition.

 One of the most neglected times when care is needed comes after the hunt.  We get home from either an extended trip or just a day in the field.  It is easy to put the cased gun in the corner and go about normal tasks.

 Guns can rust whether they have gotten wet or not.  Those of us who live in areas of high humidity with changes of temperature can find guns rusting right in the case.  As a minimum, a gun should be removed from the case, a light coat of gun oil applied and the weapon stored out of the case.

 It is best to completely clean the weapon before storing it away for the next season.  If you did not do that last fall, then it is time to dig out your gun and clean it now.

 The first step is to be sure the gun is unloaded and the bolt, if any, is removed.  Next the gun should be cleaned from the breech end.  If you have to clean it from the muzzle end, as in muzzle loaders, use a caliber-specific muzzle bore guide to prevent damage to the muzzle end of the barrel.

 You can begin the cleaning process with a clean patch soaked in solvent to soak the build up before cleaning with a brass brush soaked in solvent.  A newer and perhaps more effective way of cleaning during this step is the use of “USP Bore Paste” ( which is made of Garnet.  This mild natural abrasive is softer than steel so that it cannot scratch the bore.  It is harder than the fouling found in the barrel, so it removes it.

 Bore paste is made to be used in a 15-30 minutes application.  Solvents can take much longer to complete the same task.

 If using solvent continue the process of brush soaked in solvent, and clean patch swabs until the barrel appears clean.  The usual procedure is two or three passes with the brush followed by the swabbing to remove the lose gunk.

 The next step is to scrub the bore with a patch and a good copper solvent.  Immediately swab the barrel again.  Keep this procedure up until there is no sign of blue or green on the patches.  This can take time but is well worth it.

 It is a good idea to use a gun cleaner or degreaser next.  This is applied not only to the bore but also to the bolt and action.  It usually comes in an aerosol can and air dries on contact leaving a clean surface.

 The final step is the use of a gun cleaning oil.  It is best to use oil specifically made for gun cleaning.  It will protect all metal parts from rust for three to six months, depending upon the product.

 If there is still some rust showing on your weapon, try Birchwood Casey’s gun scrubber ( to remove all the grease right down to the bluing.  It works well on surface rust, but if the gun is pitted there is nothing you can do except to have it re-blued or live with the situation.

 A bit or preventative maintenance before leaving home should take care of the weapon until you get back.  Some hunters like to take a small field kit along for cleaning in the field.  Birchwood Casey does make some little packets with sheets that are coated with gun oil.  They are throw away sheets that can provide some temporary protection.  The important thing is to never put away a gun wet.

 In addition to cleaning the surface, bore, bolt and action, shotgun hunters need to protect the choke tubes on their weapons.  During the cleaning process it is good to pull out the choke and clean the threads and inside of the barrel.  Lightly lube the choke before putting it back in the barrel.

 Guns are sentimental, financial and a practical weapon for the enjoyment of hunting and shooting.  Provide protection and care, and the weapon will give years of service.  Fail to provide it and you may end up with a piece of rusting junk.


Plump Crappie Like This Are To Be Found Throughout Southern Illinois This Fall

Southern Illinois offers great fishing opportunities for catfish, crappie, bluegill, bass and trout.  In the fall anglers often ignore this fishery in favor of hunting.  It is a good time to hunt in the early morning hours and spend the rest of the day on the water.  Not a bad combo for the outdoorsman. 

 For the purpose of this entry, I will focus on the “Great Lakes of Williamson County.”  These lakes are within minutes of my home base.

 Crab Orchard in Williamson Countyis a 6,900-acre impoundment with good crappie action.  Located four miles southeast of Marion and Interstate 57, the lake is owned by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  It is a big part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  After October 1st the area to the east of Wolf Creek Causeway is closed to humans so that the migrating waterfowl rest undisturbed.

 The better fishing is usually in the western part of the lake.  Crappie will be found at varying depths dependant upon the water temperatures.  The black crappie and white crappie are about equal in number.  Locating them is not difficult as they are found near structure often in the form of fish attractors placed in the lake by the IDNR and locals.  A map of their specific locations by GPS can be obtained from the D-22 Fisheries Biologist at IDNR, 9043 Route 148, Suite B,Marion,IL62959. The preferred bait seems to be minnows and jigs. Additional angling action seems to be along the rip rap areas and near bridges.

 Catfish anglers find their prey in the wooded areas all over the lake.  Most of the fish are taken on cut bait and minnows.  Bluegills are found in the wooded areas.  Bluegills are also found near rip rap and the bridges with the crappie.  Most bluegills are taken with wax worms and red wigglers (red worms).  Bluegills over six inches in length are about one-fourth of the population.

 Southeast of the Crab Orchard Lakeis Devils Kitchen Lake.  The lake was so named because the odor of sulfur could be detected during construction of the dam.  This 810-acre impoundment contains some of the clearest water in southernIllinois.

 The lake can be reached by taking Spillway Road along the west edge of Crab Orchard Lake about 2 miles south near Grassy Lake Road junction. 

 Each year fisheries officials stock the lake with trout.  The fall stockings are done to augment the lake’s ample population of the fish.  This time of the year they are suckers for the small in-line spinners and shallow water Rapalas.  A piece of nightcrawler on a trout (#10) hook has always been a standby for rainbows on this lake.  The best action tends to be on the north end of the lake in the area near the dam.

 Largemouth bass in this lake are a different story.  These infertile waters have resulted in bass in substandard condition.  Most of them are in the 8 to 13-inch length with some fish in the 7 to 9 pound range.  Only a few of the later are taken each week.

 Redear sunfish out number the bluegills.  Over 70 percent of the redears are over 7 inches and about half are over 8-inches in length.

 To the southeast of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge is Lake of Egypt.  This Williamson County lake is about seven miles southeast of Mariona nd just off Interstate 57.  Just look for the smoke stack of the power plant.  The plant is located on the shore of the lake.

 A well-known crappie and bass lake, Lake of Egypt will has crappie holding in weed beds at about 15 feet.  Locals use minnows and jigs about equally well during the fall for these fish.  Crappie anglers are often pleasantly surprised when a bass takes their bait while fishing for crappie.  The bass will mix with the crappie in these weed beds.

 For those fishing just for bass, the plastic worm or jig works well in about 10 to 12 feet of water.  Late season catfish will also take nightcrawlers in the fall in and around the rip rap and other structure.


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

 Crappie fishing is terrific onRend Lake during the fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter the fishing continues, anglers willing to brave cool temperatures continue through the fall.

 Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the Rend Lake Resort with its marina one exits at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north to the end of the road in the resort complex.

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

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

 The quail hunting is for wild birds.  Rabbit hunting is done 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 and 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.

 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 get on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

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

 For information about the hunting and fishing packages offered check with Rend Lake Resort at 800-633-3341 or contact Todd Gessner at 618-513-0520.


Wicker Bill And Friend

Swooping down, Bronte captures her prey in the air above the grasslands nearPierre,South Dakota.  Bronte is a young Anatum peregrine falcon from theNorthwest Territories.  She is the hunting partner of Bruce Crist.  Crist and his English pointer find the quarry and it is up to Bronte to capture it.

I was recently reminded of the day I spent with Crist and his partner on the grasslands of South Dakota near Pierre.  I was fishing near home and saw an osprey dive and recover a fish from the lake.  As the bird rose, it turned the fish so that its head was forward allowing a more streamlined flight.  The raptors are a fascinating bird and that day in the open inSouth Dakotaremains vivid in my mind.

Crist, a taxidermist and guide fromPierre, spends countless hours working with and caring for the bird.  His car has the rear seat removed and perches installed to carry his falcons.  Where Bruce travels, so do his birds.  At home, he has been known to keep the birds in the studio or his bedroom.

At present, on that day he had Bronte and a Gyr‑peregrine hybrid called Cyrus.  Cyrus was conceived using artificial insemination in a Minnesota program.  He likes falcons due to their tendency to fly high and swoop down on their prey as speeds from 160 to 200 miles per hour.

Falconers must first apprentice to a master for many years.  Crist apprenticed to four great falconers prior to becoming a master himself.  He will take on an apprentice at some time in the future to help ensure the future of the sport.

Falconers get their birds from one of three sources:  capture in the wild, raised from eggs, or purchased from a breeder.  The sport is heavily regulated by state and national governmental organizations.  The purpose is to ensure the health of the birds.  Pesticides are the greatest enemy of the falcon and hawks.  Approximately 60 percent of captive reared birds test positive for some pesticides and 100 percent of wild birds.

The sport requires considerable time commitment on the part of the falconer.  Only the falconer can feed and exercise the birds.  The exercise, or conditioning, of the birds is vital.  They must be flown regularly to maintain good strong muscles.  Crist spends three to four hours per day training his birds so that he can then hunt them three to seven hours per day.

Watching these magnificent birds do what comes naturally was an inspiring experience.



When considering hunting deer this fall with a pistol take this advice on choosing a firearm from Paul Pluff of Smith & Wesson.

 Basically with deer hunting you have several different considerations.  They can be taken them with a .357 magnum which is kind of a staple in deer hunting since the mid 80’s.  It does very well and is very accurate.  The .44 magnum is popular with guys who like to shoot.  Paul tends to recommend S&W’s Model 460.

 A .460 caliber raises handgun hunting to a whole new level.  The hunter now has the ability with that .460 round to have a basically .45 caliber slug coming out at a velocity of about 2300fps.  That is flat shooting trajectory.  If the gun is sighted in at 120 yards it has a point of aim out to about 180 yards.  This provides the ability to shoot within a 10-inch kill zone without shooting over or under.  That is how flat the round shoots.

 Although it is not recommend there are people who take deer out at 280 – 290 yards with this gun.  It gives shooters the possibility of hunting deer with a handgun at ranges one would only think possible with a rifle.

 Pluff still recommends people get their deer within 100-yards.  But the gun is extremely accurate.  Another good thing about the .460 is its versatility.  If you do not want to hunt with the .460 caliber round the gun is also capable of shooting a 45-Colt as well as a .454.

 It provides the ability to do a lot of different things with one gun.  It is Pluff’s number one pick for whitetail hunting. 

In selecting bullet weight the right one depends upon where one is shooting and how big the animal.  S&W has anywhere from a 270 grain Hornady Ballistic tip bullets that are extremely accurate up to a 380 grain hard cast.  The later is good if hunting something very large (elk) or thick hide (bear).  The former works for Whitetails.

 One of the nice things about the .460 is it’s built in compensator which is actually removable.  The compensator comes in several different types depending upon what type of round is to be shot.  It can be hardcast, jacketed or ballistic tip.  A specific compensator can be set up to gain accuracy and improve the muzzle brake.  It reduces the recoil.  That is part of the advantage of the gun.  When shooting the design of the gun, as big as it is, it is very comfortable to shoot and control.  If a second shot is necessary the hunter has the ability to do it fairly quickly. 

 The gun itself weighs about 72 ounces on purpose.  With higher calibers the weight differential helps offset the recoil of the gun. 

 Compared to the .44 magnum, the .460 has a smaller grip.  Ergonomically it changes the position of the recoil of the gun.  Instead of trying to come back up at you it has a tendency to nudge backward keeping the barrel in alignment.  The synthetic grip has an absorbing pad in the back.  Up in the rubber where you hand fits is where all the recoil is really taken. The grip has a little shock absorber to it.  The gun is much more comfortable to shoot than people expect.  It is much more comfortable to shoot than a standard .44 magnum.

 The gun is made of stainless steel and is very weather resistant.  With inclement weather one needs to be careful understanding the gear.  It is no different than when shooting a rifle.  In very cold weather people have a tendency to want to wear gloves.  Pistol hunters need proper equipment to access inside the trigger guard and not have something too big that interferes with pulling the trigger. It is important to be safe.  Do not risk firing the gun because your glove is too big and causes it to go off at the wrong time. 

 It is not wise to shoot the gun single action when in a hunting situation. The reason is if you practice with it you will find that you shoot that gun better with double action. When pulling through double action with that little trigger pull it forces you to focus on those front sights or on the sights.  If you are using optics it forces you to focus on the optics and make sure you stay on target.  People shooting single action have a tendency to have short trigger pull and tend to jerk the trigger.  They shoot down or left or right.  When pulling double action the shooter is pulling through and can focus on the optics or sights.  It keeps the muzzle on target all the time.

 You tend to be able to shoot more accurately double action.  Sometimes it takes a few rounds double action practice.  It is a safer way of doing it.  If shooting double action you have to cock the gun and it can slip and go off unexpectedly.  When shooting double action it will only go off when you want it to.

 In terms of scopes for pistol hunting, pistol scopes are the basic choice because of the eye relief.  When using a rifle scope you have a closer eye relief.  One does not want to be holding a handgun that close to their face due to the recoil.  Companies like Leupold, Bushnell are bringing out a whole new breed of pistol scopes for the larger caliber pistols.  The average pistol scope in the past was either 2 power or four power.  Some companies had a 2 ½ to 6 power model.  Leupold now is builds variable scopes that go 2 ½ to 9 power.  They are even considering scopes that go from a 4 to a 16 power.


Deer Management Includes The Taking Of Antlerless Deer


Hunters have learned that they do not always have to take a buck.  Shooting of does is an idea whose time has come.  Hunters seek bucks because they are the potential trophy animals.  Some hunters feel they were leaving the does for future increases in the breeding population of the herd.  Biology resulted in an abundance of does to the detriment of the resource.

 Deer diseases spread faster in herds that are over populated and those under stress from the depletion of the habitat due to over grazing.

 Since 1991,Illinoishas offered antlerless permits to firearms hunters.  Bowhunters had the same option for many years prior.

 Without the taking of does, deer populations can theoretically double every second year.  A doe with a life span of eight years can potentially produce 15 offspring in that time.  Many does live longer.  If all of those young live to the same age and produce a like number of offspring, as many as 150 deer could result.

 TheIllinoisdeer herd is a tribute to modern game management.  It is an expanding population that is in excellent health.  But, this situation cannot continue unchecked.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to take a big buck.  It is just that doe hunting for meat has had a bad reputation.

 Some hunters feel they should apologize for taking a doe, as if they did not have enough skill to take a buck.  Any deer taken is a trophy.  It is an accomplishment matching hunting skills against the smartest animal in the woods, and winning.

 The taking of antlerless deer ultimately leads to better quality of the overall herd and to bigger bucks down the line.  The ideal stable population would be a mix of one to one buck to doe.  For trophy management, the ratio should be more skewed toward 60 percent bucks and 40 percent does.  For recreational and meat hunters, the ratio could be skewed toward a surplus of does.  In that way, there would be a large breeding population to make up for those taken in the yearly harvest.

 In the management of a deer herd, three objectives should be kept in mind: providing a healthy deer herd, offering quality recreational hunting, and preventing agricultural crop damage. Illinoishas seemingly added the avoidance of deer/vehicle accidents.

 If does are not harvested, then the pressure on the buck population results in a crop of younger biologically inferior animals.  Hunters then shoot the first buck to come along.  Soon fewer bucks to grow trophy size.  The genetically superior animals are soon depleted in the herd.

 The idea of hunting as a management tool is to prevent chronic overpopulation. The continuing increase in the doe population in a genetically inferior herd can over populate to the point that the herd is damaged and severe crop damage becomes the rule.

 If a herd has reached the carrying capacity of a given area, it is possible for it to still increase 35 to 40 percent.  That increase makes it necessary to harvest a large number of does to keep the population in check.

 In all probability, most deer hunters would rather take home a big buck than a doe.  But, realistically, the chances of getting a record book buck are slim.  If one has to have a big buck, in order to feel his hunt was a success, then perhaps he needs to reevaluate why he is hunting in the first place.

 Most deer hunters know what deer hunting is about.  It is about being in the outdoors, having an enjoyable time with friends or on your own.  It is taking a trophy that you regard as a trophy not what some record book committee says is trophy class.

 Any deer taken is a trophy whether it has protrusions on its head or not.

 Deer hunting is a game management tool as well as outdoor recreation.  Hunting does benefits the herd and it is a step toward hunter involvement in the wildlife management. 




Despite all the additions and improvements, the key to successful bow hunting is still draw, aim and release.  These seven steps for fall bowhunting success are common sense practices that apply to all bowhunters.

 Accessories popular with many hunters can enhance basic bowhunting skills.  They are not a substitute for those skills.  If you follow these suggestions this fall you will be a more confident and successful hunter.

 Step One – Begin by shooting a lot.  Shoot at different distances and varying angles.  The quality and quantity of your practice is important.  Set up a schedule and stick to it.  Begin by shooting one hour per day three days per week.  Muscles used in shooting need to be strengthened with practice.  Overdoing it in the early part of the practice season can result in injury.  The next week add one day or one hour to the schedule.  Soon you can be shooting daily.

 Step Two –  Pay attention to the release of your arrows.  It is important to be as smooth as possible in order to get correct arrow flight.  In order for an arrow to be consistently accurate it is vital that you use the same anchor point.  Varying it up or down will cause the arrow to shoot high or low.  If you use your jaw as an anchor point one time and the corner of your mouth the next time the arrow will not get the same amount of energy from the release.  The result is a shorter flying arrow.

 As your practice schedule gets more active you will build your arm and shoulder muscles resulting in your finding it easier to draw the bow.  This can allow you to pull the arrow back further than you intend and will result in more energy being transferred to the arrow.  That in turn can cause the arrow to hit the target higher.  Being consistent with the anchor point will keep you from overdrawing your bow.

 Concentrate on drawing, aiming and releasing in one fluid motion.  Soon this will become an automatic reflex.  When that big buck steps out you will shoot correctly and automatically correctly.

 Step Three – Every time you pick up your bow check all the aspects that can change.  Check the sight, rests, string, string serving, cables, wheels, etc.  Murphy=s Law works in bowhunting too.  What can become damaged or out of adjustment will.  If you make this preparation a regular part of your preparation for shooting you will not find any surprises at the wrong time.


 Step Four –  Today there are a number of foam targets on the market that are not all that expensive.  Buy one and use it.  The 3-D targets get you accustomed to shooting at a specific point on the animal, an important factor in hunting.  But the targets with concentric circles and a bulls eye work the same.  You just have to learn to envision that bulls eye on the animal in the field.


 Step Five – When shooting at targets move around and shoot from various angles.  If you will be hunting from a treestand practice from an elevated location.  The roof of the garage or a step ladder works well.


 Step Six – It is important to practice on days when the weather is unfavorable as well as good ones.  Once in the field you will not have the choice of picking the weather under which you hunt.  Get to know all aspects of your hunting equipment.  Shoot while wearing your hunting clothing so that you can tell if it will adversely affect your skills.  Learn how to do basic bow repairs.  Things can break and a good hunting trip can be ruined if you do not have the ability to do a repair in the field.


 Step Seven – If you have a second bow take it along in the field.  Practice with it as well prior to the season opener.  The bow might be the one you had before you purchased a new one.  Having a back up bow can be additional insurance against having to sit in camp while others hunt.  Even if you are hunting near home the back up bow can mean not losing a weekend of hunting because you cannot get yours immediately repaired.


 In short, it is important to practice all of your hunting skills all summer leading up to the fall hunting season.  Practice and analyze your abilities as you do.  Practice with the same intensity with which you hunt and you too will bring home the venison this fall.


Placement and use of deer decoys is a multifaceted aspect of deer hunting that is simple to master.  One needs only pay attention to the surroundings and details.

 To be scent free wash your hair, clothes and body with scent elimination products.  Also use them on your equipment.

 The idea is to get rid of bacteria that cause odors.  Once rid of the bacteria you are whipping the deer=s basic defense system.

 During the season keep the decoy clean.  At the end of the hunting season repaint it.  Before putting the decoy away for the year let set it outside for at least a month to eliminate any scent.  Then go back and wash it using a scent eliminating soap. 

Another step is to learn where the deer likely will be found.  Sites include such things as scrape lines and routes to and from bedding/feeding areas.  Knowing which way the wind is blowing is vital in the use of scents. 

Using scent canisters or scent stations that come in a packet of several works well.  The packets ones have little wicks in them to be hung on tree limbs. 

Sometimes you might want to mix lure scents during the rut.  Deer identify each other by their scent rather than sight.  Some hunters believe that deer have a memory for scents.

 Choose one of the many good decoys on the market in which you have the most confidence.

 Some people are reluctant to use decoys feeling that they are too difficult to pack in and out of the woods.  The bottom line there is just how dedicated a hunter you are and do you want to kill a big buck?  During the rut the bucks are cruising and if you want to kill a big one carry a decoy.

 Preseason scouting will influence your actual placement of the decoy in relation to the stand or blind.  A lot of people do not have success because they assume.  There is a difference between assuming and knowing what is going to happen.  That is where scouting comes into play.

 Setting up in a transition or travel area that you know deer have to travel is knowledge of the situation.  You seek that knowledge and know it is good because you have watched them every day for three days straight.

 Sit is important to set up the decoy dependant upon which way you know the deer will be traveling.  You know it because of the scouting you have done.  Place the decoy broadside to you.  Deer usually confront a decoy from the head.  Sometimes if the deer is planning to charge the decoy he will approach from the back.  Either way, the deer is broadside to the hunter.

 Additionally, always try to keep the sun at your back and the wind in your face when in the blind or stand. 

 Use of a grunt call and a rattle bag brings realism to the situation.  If a deer sees another deer that may have been fighting and has heard the sounds of a fight he does not hesitate to charge into the area.

 There is some debate among deer hunters as to just what kind of eyesight deer have and how good.  Some deer appear to have better eyesight than others.  They do see movement quicker than a human and notice things that are not normal.

 You should try to blend into the scenery when deer hunting.  The use of camouflage clothing including a headnet and gloves betters your chances of not being seen by the deer.

 For safety sake always carry some kind of visible blaze orange when carrying a decoy.  It can be an orange vest wrapped around the decoy.  It is not a good idea to use a decoy on public land where access by others is not controlled.  Also do not use them in close to campgrounds where they can attract attention.

 The decoy is for use on private land and away from other hunters.  It is not a good idea to place the decoy where it might be visible from roadways.  It is best not to tempt passing hunters who might fire a shot from the roadway.

 A white handkerchief and a thumbtack will make a good movable tail as it blows in the breeze.  Deer see the movement of a tail as a security factor.  The flick of white distracts approaching deer and provides a bit of realism.

 Scent security, calling ability, scouting and patience are all part of the use of deer decoys. You might feel sure that a buck will approach from a certain direction, but if he decides to circle around you it could present a problem.  If you are not clean of scent the buck of a lifetime could be history.  If you have placed the decoy properly, scouted your quarry well, and cleaned up your act, you could be in for a chance at a really fine trophy.


The creeping darkness draws me back to the task at hand.  While I had been daydreaming, several deer approached my treestand location.  They were all looking toward the base of my tree.  A fat 6-point buck sniffed the tree. 

It was then that I realized the nylon cord; I use to pull up my bow and pack, was dangling down and moving slightly in the evening breeze.  The deer were investigating it.  Looking at the buck and the cord, I realized that he presented a clear target.  Seconds later, the woods echoed with the smack of an arrow striking home.

 On that day I realized an often neglected aspect of deer hunting is the appeal to the animal’s curiosity.  The bowhunter who is alert to this vulnerability can score on some otherwise missed opportunities.

 At times deer seem smart.  On other occasions they exhibit dumb behaviors.

 Like humans, deer have the same basic senses of sight, hearing, smell and ability to communicate.  In a deer the senses of sight and smell seem to attract the interest of hunters.  But, all the senses can be vulnerable.  Maybe there should be another sense, a sense of curiosity.  It is the sense of curiosity that has been the undoing of many.

 A woodland habitat is the deer’s living room.  Just as you know where all the furniture is in your living room, the deer knows where everything is in his woods.  When something new appears, he is both spooked and curious at the same time.  His first response, like all prey species, is to run.  Once satisfied that the new addition to the area is not a threat, he becomes curious.

 When spooked, deer frequently return to satisfy their curiosity. But, they will circle the “problem” to get downwind.  They try to confirm whether danger exists or not.  Usually it is the dominant buck or dominant doe that will most often explore the new object.

 Does are more curious early in the season and button bucks more so later in the season.

 During the rut, bucks are very territorial and regard everything as a threat to their dominance.  The use of decoys is popular with deer hunters.  Much is made of the sex angle to this type of hunting.  Often it is curiosity that draws the deer to a decoy.

 Bucks are drawn to it because it appears to be a stranger in the area.  Does check it out because it is there.

 The same applies to the use of scents.  Cover scents just conceal the hunter’s scent much like the camo conceals his appearance.  Lure scents inspire the buck’s interest in what appears to be a new doe on the block.  Does are attracted by anything that is new in the environment.

 Consider that deer are prey animals.  They live in a dangerous world, where being unaware of your surroundings can mean death.  Man is one of the dangers for the deer.

 The hunter’s challenge is to keep them unaware of his presence, present an environment that appears natural and safe, and keep them comfortable in their habitat.  One can learn something valuable every time he enters the environment of the deer.  One of those things is that deer are curious animals.  Their curiosity helps them to locate danger in their surroundings.  Used by the hunter, it can also mean a clear shot and quick humane kill.

Posted 09/10/2011 by Donald Gasaway in Hunting Big Game

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Listening to the hum of mosquitoes in the cool mists of a warm fall morning takes me back to my childhood.  Most of us began our hunting careers hunting squirrels, rabbits, pheasant and quail.  These small game species fell out of favor in the late part of the 20th century, but they are back.

 Hunters have turned to turkey and deer hunting in recent years to the neglect of small game hunting.  Squirrel season became pre-season scouting for deer.  Quail and pheasant hunting gave way to deer season.  Rabbit season became the post rut or time for late season deer hunting.

 Changes in agricultural practices destroyed much of small game cover making them more vulnerable to predatation. In the 60’s city folk became less interested in natural furs and the value of predator fur fell dramatically.  With less pressure on predator populations, the small game numbers declined.  Hunters and trappers could not afford their sport any longer and gave up in favor or more lucrative ventures.

 But, the times they are a changing.  Fur prices are increasing but are still not to the level of pre 1960.  Trappers are finding a renewed interest in their skills.  Organizations like Quail Unlimited, Pheasants Unlimited, Whitetails Unlimited, Quality Deer Management Association, National Wild Turkey Federation and others support habitat restoration.  They work with fish and wildlife agencies to develop habitat for small game as well as the larger species.

 Small game hunting is a way to teach new hunters the skills and ethics needed to perpetuate the sport.  It is also a way for us older folks to recall those pristine days of our youth.  In the fall, squirrel season is the first hunting season for small game.

 Squirrels are most active on days when the moon has been dark and the temperatures rise above 50-degrees.  They do not like the rain or snow.  These are good days for all small game hunting, especially so for pursuit of the king of the treetops.  Conversely, the worst days are those following a full moon with temperatures below 30-degrees.  Especially if there is a strong wind and some snow falling.  They cannot get around well in deep snow.

 Early season squirrel hunters will find conditions good for active squirrels.  However they are difficult to spot in the leafy treetop canopy.  Often they have to move in order for the hunter to locate them.

 Early season tree rats are found in the hickory trees.  Along rivers some of these trees are 50 to 100 feet in height.  Elsewhere, when mixed with other hardwoods, the hickory is usually shorter.

 The shorter trees make the squirrels more accessible.  In the larger forests, good stands of hickory can be found isolated.  These islands are more seldom hunted by the casual hunter.  The hunter willing to work will find these trees a goldmine.  There are usually oak trees near by to supply mast for food and preferred nesting sites.

 In seeking squirrels, the hunter should not overlook signs of past squirrel activity.  Clippings of twigs, partially eaten shells or nuts and acorns, are signs of squirrel activity.  To store vast quantities of nuts to eat during the winter, the squirrel will first remove the caps off of acorns.  Finding them on the ground is another sign of activity.

 Early season is a time of a food bounty for the squirrels.  They make many trips between their nests in the oaks and sources of food.  These travel lanes show claw marks on the bark of trees.  Do not overlook areas near corn fields as corn is another favorite food of the squirrel. 

 Squirrels are notorious for moving around a tree trunk to keep it between the hunter and himself.  An old squirrel hunter’s trick is to throw a branch to the other side of the tree.  Hearing it hit the ground the quarry will move around to the hunter’s side and present a shot.

 Hunters in full camo can move around and get a good location for a shot.  It is best to move slowly but when the squirrel is barking away, he does not seem to fear the hunter.

 Warming up on squirrels, hunters can next move to quail or turkey as the next small game challenge.  That is then followed by rabbit and pheasant.  But, squirrels are the beginning and the warm up of hunting and shooting skills each fall.

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