Archive for October 2011

TIPS FOR EARLY SEASON RABBIT HUNTERS   5 comments

The early part of rabbit season tends to be one when the weather is mixed as are the chances of success.  It is a time when planning and stealth are important.

 Many hunters do not pay attention to the moon phases but perhaps they should.  The best time to hunt rabbits is when the moon is in a dark phase and the worst time is during a full moon.  Common sense suggests that with a full moon the rabbits are out feeding all night and sleeping in during the day.

 Because of the rather limited insulating properties of rabbit fur, they tend to be more active when the temperatures are above 50-degrees and there is not wind.  Rabbit hunting is at its worst when temperatures fall below freezing and the wind is high.  Snowing weather also makes for bad rabbit hunting as they tend to just hunker down.

 Early in the hunting season, rabbits can find plenty of food in the cover.  Later as the food is consumed, they have to move around more in search of grain crops such as wheat and Milo.

 It is a good idea to hunt the edges of shelter belts and CRP lands.  The animals will dart in and out of the heavy cover as they feed on spilled grain along roadways.  They will move from cover to the remaining crop fields and grassy areas.  Open areas offer the hunter some clear shots.

 In years with heavy predator populations, rabbits become scarcer.  The remaining animals will be very wary and tend to stay in the heavier cover for protection.  If the rabbit population in a specific area is greater, they will tend to be found in more open areas.  This makes them easier to hunt.

 Rabbits that are well hidden will often sit tight and allow the hunter to walk past.  It is a good idea to walk and stop periodically to make them more nervous.  Rabbits cannot stand the pressure of hunters stopping near them.

 Another good idea is to keep possible travel routes in view at all times.  As the animals scurry along fence lines, ditches or little streams, they may stop on the edge of cover so as to not expose themselves to danger.  Good rabbit hunters soon learn to spot their prey in the thickest cover.  They call it looking for the eye.  The large black shining dot is a sure fire giveaway as it stands out giving the hunter an edge.

 Always take a second or two to look back over your shoulder at the area you just covered.  Rabbits are notorious at sneaking around a hunter and beating a hasty retreat out of the area.

 If the area in which you are hunting does not contain a lot of “pills” and prints then the odds are that it does not contain rabbits.  If there is no telltale sign of rabbit activity it may be a good idea to just move on to another area and not waste time.  You might find a few animals there but not enough to make it worth all the time and effort.

 There are fewer rabbit hunters these days.  That can be a good deal as it becomes easier to gain landowner permission. Rabbits are not as pressured as might be in a pheasant hunting area.  Line up a number of hunting locations before the opening day of rabbit season.  That way you do not have to waste valuable hunting time gaining permission to hunt.

 Finally, it is important that a rabbit hunter wear comfortable clothing and boots.  Choose your clothing according to the weather.  Boots should be properly broken in prior to the beginning of the season.  Wear them around home or walking in the neighborhood so that they toughen up your feet and become more flexible.  A blaze-orange hat and vest are recommended to make you more visible to other hunters who might be in the field.  Rabbits do not react to blaze-orange on their own.

 Heavy duty brush chaps or reinforced pants are good.  Rabbits tend to sit tight in heavy brush and thorns.  You might have to go in after them in order to get the little rascals to move into more open areas that presents shots.

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TIPS FOR WINTER BOAT STORAGE   Leave a comment

A survey done by BoatUS marine insurance found that most damage done to boats in storage is done by four legged vandals rather than two legged one.

 Bass boats are likely to be damaged by critters during the off season.  This is probably due to the fact that they are put away uncleaned.  Carpets, live wells and upholstery hold smells from the many fish that have been landed.  They smell like lunch to a hungry raccoon, squirrel or mouse.

 Most bass boats are kept in backyards or other locations that are attractive to critters.  Once the four legged vandals get on board they find that fabrics used in upholstery, life jackets and seat foam make excellent bedding.  They are inclined to just set up housekeeping for the winter until evicted by the owner in the spring.

 Squirrels will use the fiberglass as chewing material which they need to maintain their dental health.

 What can you do about this?  Begin by giving the vessel a through cleaning before putting it in storage.  You can take it to one of those spray car wash places or give it a pressure wash at home.  Take all your gear out and remove the drain plug.  Spray the boat inside and out.  By the time you get home most of the water will have blown off the boat and the plug can be replaced.

 Place all gear removed in a warmer dry storage area.  The family garage is a good location but so are rental storage places.  This includes batteries, trolling motors, PFD’s, emergency gear, outboard motors, removable fuel tanks, etc.  This not only protects them from the elements but also from theft.

 During storage make frequent visits to the boat to evict any critter than has taken up housekeeping.  There are commercial repellants available.  You can make your own by placing a large jar of ammonia in the boat.  Just punch holes in the top of the jar to let the scent come out.  Mothballs also make a good repellant.

 If all else fails, try one of those low voltage electric pet fences that you can get at the pet store.                                                    

No matter how careful you have been, the gelcote finish of most bass boats does get nicks and scratches.  Lee Robertson, Event Support Manager for Skeeter boats has some tips for repairing the damage prior to winter storage.  “As far as fiberglass goes I like to have it real clean” he maintains.  “I use products that most people probably won’t use.”  He uses a McGuires product called Quick Wax.  The reason is because it is easier to apply and does not turn white when you get it on the rub rail or some of the rubber parts on the boat. 

Wax is good because wax it is a protecter and helps protect against UV damage.  

Gelcote is just like it has been for the past 20 or 30 years other than some changes in chemicals and some added chemicals to help UV resistance.  It is the outer layer of a fiberglass boat that gives it the shine and color.  Gelcote is a hard resin that is more durable than just paint.  It will last quite a long time and can be refinished. 

You can buff it out.  Small scratches and imperfections can be removed with a good compound for buffing and sanding with a very fine grade of sandpaper.    That can be done until the point where you clear off the top of the metal flake.  When you get to that point your basically into the paint.  Get through the flake and you are basically done refinishing the boat unless you want to go have it clear coated.

 With a little care and elbow grease, you can put that boat away this fall confident it will be looking good in the spring.  It will also save you some time in the spring when the fish are waiting to be caught.

BALDWIN LAKE’S FALL CATFISH   1 comment

Usually when one talks about Illinois catfish lakes, they are Channel Catfish waters. BaldwinLake, 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.

 BaldwinLake 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.

TOPWATER KEY TO LAKE FORBES FALL ACTION   3 comments

Fall bass fishing is kind of an iffy proposition on any lake.  Find the schooling bass and you have good success.  Fail to find schooling bass results in a tough bite.  Topwater action on Stephen A. Forbes Lake heats up in the fall.  The excitement of bass smashing topwater lures increases as the vegetation of the lake increases each year.

 This Marion County542-acre lake lies about 14 miles northeast of the east‑central Illinois community of Salem.  It is within the boundary of the 3100‑acre Stephen A. Forbes State Fish and Wildlife Area.  The surrounding forest is composed of oak and hickory trees which provide a colorful back drop to fall fishing activity.  The lack of cottages and docks on this lake make it popular with anglers in search of some solitary fishing.

 Completed in 1963 the lake has a maximum depth of 31 feet with 48 miles of shoreline.  The base of the lake is limestone.  The relatively shallow lake has an abundance of areas less than 8 feet in depth.  The average depth is about 15 feet.  The shallows on the north end offer good vegetative cover for largemouth bass.  The water’s pH level of 7.8 is ideal for fish habitat.

 In the fall Gizzard and Threadfin Shad move to the shallows for warmer water and in search of plankton upon which they feed.  It is also an attempt to avoid predator bass that drive them into coves and shallows.

 Natural reproduction of bass in this lake is supplemented with additional fingerlings each year.  The stocked fish tend to make up about 25 percent of the total bass population.  They come from brood ponds within the park.  The ponds are operated by the Illinois Natural History Survey with the assistance of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Most of the bass found in the lake seem to be in the 2- to 3-pound class.  Fish up to 7 or 8 pounds have reportedly been found.  The forage in the lake is primarily shad.

 Other species in the lake include: channel catfish, bullhead, crappie, bluegill, sunfish, hybrid striped bass, tiger muskellunge, warmouth and suckers.

Finding good weed growth seems to be the key to finding fall largemouth bass.  The fish tend to be found somewhere in or near weeds.  The two main types of vegetation are coontail moss and duckweed. Topwater lures such as Moss Boss, Frog and the Rat can be worked over any surface vegetation.  The explosion of fish from the water beneath the vegetation is enough to excite even the most jaded of bass anglers.

 Any lay downs along the edge of the weeds should be worked with 7 inch plastic worms and salt craws.  Just flip lures into the branches and along any tree trunks.  It is advisable to position your boat so you can work parallel on the outer edge of the weeds.

 Spinnerbait and buzzbait anglers often find fish over main lake and secondary points.  While working these points keep alert for bass forcing shad to the surface in a feeding frenzy.

 For topwater and shallow water action fall is a difficult time to beat on Stephen A. Forbes Lake.  There are slips and boat ramps available as well as a concession stand offering rental boats, meals, bait, tackle and a variety of other services.  For more details contact the Site Superintendent, Stephen A. Forbes State Fish & Wildlife Area, R.R.1, Kinmundy,IL62854.  The phone number is 618‑547‑3381.

ROAD TRIP AND WATERFOWL GUIDEBOOK   Leave a comment

Regular followers of this blog may have noticed that I have been missing in action for the past two weeks.  That is because I have been on a road trip of hunting, fishing and visiting with my friends in the media.

 This trip will produce a number of blog entries and magazine articles in the following months beginning with this tidbit from the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association in Branson,MO.

 I ran into friend Tammy Sapp from Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc.  The company provides official recreational safety and educational materials for all 50 states.

 In talking about the upcoming waterfowl seasons I happened to mention the problems I have always had in identifying incoming ducks.  I have always admired others ability to spot and identify birds from much greater distances.  Tammy produced a small pocket size booklet entitled, “Ducks at a Distance.”

 The book is a handy pocket guide to waterfowl identification according to plumage color, flock patterns, silhouette and sounds.  It is set up for quick reference by the hunter.  It will be in the pocket of my hunting coat this season.

 The book cost is $3.50 and it can be purchase on line from the Kalkomey website at www.Kepubs.com.  Just click on the subject line of waterfowl guides on the right side of the home page.

WHY BLAZE ORANGE DOES NOT SCARE DEER   10 comments

Deer do not view the world the same as do humans.  This is not just because they are a different species of mammals.  They are just built differently.  I have often wondered why deer do not react to such a vivid color.  A little research and an interview with a biologist friend resulted in the following information.

 Sitting in a treestand or stalking through timber deer do look at the hunter.  Yet there is no difference when I am in a blind and wearing blaze orange.

 They do not seem to react even though there might a hunter easily within their vision.  On other occasions, we all have seen a deer look at a hunter in the tree and suddenly bolt from the scene.  What is the difference?

 Mammals have eyes that contain a retina on the back of the eye ball.  There are about a quarter billion photo receptors in the retina.  They are called rods and cones.  The rods and cones absorb different wavelengths of light. 

 We use the rods for dim-light and vision to the peripheral areas surrounding us.  Although they are more sensitive to light, they do not provide either sharp images or color vision.  That is what makes low light images appear fuzzy as does the images to the sides of our field of vision. Rods are very sensitive and respond best to dim light.  They absorb all wavelengths of visible light but their input is perceived only in gray tones.

 The cones work in bright light to give us great color vision.  Cones need bright light for activation but have pigments that furnish a vivid color view of the world. 

The addition or lack of light as when we move from darkness into bright light is adapted to automatically as the retina adjusts to the amount of light present. 

Deer have more of a concentration of rods (best for night vision) than man but a lesser concentration of cones (best for day vision.)  Additionally deer have a pupil that opens wider than man and allows more light to be gathered in by the eye in low light.  They also have a reflective layer in the back of their eye called the tapetum.  It is what makes their eyes shine at night.  They use it to absorb twice the light a human can under the same conditions. 

 Unlike man, deer have no red-sensitive cone cells in their eyes.  This means that they cannot tell red or orange from green and brown.  In addition they have different sensitivity to various wavelengths of light.  Deer see short wavelength colors such as blue and ultraviolet (UV).  Humans cannot see the UV light.  They are less sensitive to orange and red.  The end result is that red and orange look darker to deer than to humans. 

With this situation, bright colors such as blaze orange look bright to humans. The human eye is protected by a filter that blocks about 99 percent of UV light from entering the eye.  It is like sunglasses. 

Blaze orange absorbs UV rays that humans cannot see and turn them into longer wavelengths they can see.  The orange reflects less UV that deer sees well and more of the rays they do not see well.  The end result is that deer see a greater difference in UV treated fabrics than humans.  Fabrics become UV treated when they are washed in modern dyes and brighteners.  There are products on the market that will do away with most of the UV that modern dyes and brighteners implant. 

The UV problem is only present during low light conditions.  This would generally mean early morning and late evening, times when most deer hunting takes place. 

Products to the market this fall use a patented combination of high intensity UV chemical in combination with legally approved daylight fluorescent safety orange to equally stimulate the blue-sensitive and yellow-sensitive cells of a deer eye.  This color correction perceived by the deer becomes a neutral gray.  It is still highly visible to other hunters and legal to wear in states that require hunters to wear unbroken blaze orange. 

Because deer are better able to see the UV spectrum, they also see less fine detail.  Hunters could be better off using camouflage pattern clothing.  Blaze orange clothing in a camo pattern would probably be the best choice from a hunter’s standpoint.  However, blaze orange camo is not legal in some states.  

Scent and movement are probably more important in deer hunting than is blaze orange clothing.  The deer’s vision is designed primarily to detect motion.  That is why those deer will stare at you a treestand and not panic.  If the objects in their view do not appear to be a threat, the deer will move his head from side to side to increase his dimensional perception.  It makes objects stand out from the background.

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