Archive for June 2012

THE MAN IN THE GILLY SUIT   Leave a comment

Central Illinois bowhunter Marc Anthony is known for his taking of mature whitetails in the north-central part of the prairie state.  He has been doing so for over 30 years. 

Many of his trophy bucks are recorded in record books.  The most recent ten bucks all average over 160 P&Y points.  Marc prefers ground hunting as opposed to use of a treestand. 

Marc prefers the dryer years in his pursuit of mature deer.  Anthony likes it when water is sparse as its location is a key factor in his hunting plan.  He also prefers food, water and bedding areas to be within 200 yards of each other.  In his early season scouting Marc places trail cameras in prospective hunting areas in order to get a handle on just what deer are using which area. 

Early season as deer are easier to pattern according to Anthony.   “If you bust a big buck during the scouting trips,” says Marc, “do not worry as he will return.”  What attracted him to the place will cause him to come back when he thinks it is safe.  “Do not set up too close to his bedding area and remember his habits,” cautions Anthony.  This bowhunter maintains that the deer will feed late and come home early in the morning.  Marc also plays the wind.  He wants all factors to be in his favor. 

It is commonly believed among bowhunters that a deer’s ability to smell is 100 times greater than we humans.  A deer will pick up scent that a human cannot detect.  They are constantly monitoring the air for particles of scent.  The wind is the key factor in where the hunter’s scent will travel. 

Once you have established the deer’s routine, do your homework early and get a wall hanger early, according to Anthony.  He maintains waiting for the rut is a gamble. 

During the rut bucks are moving around and hunting for big deer is a game of roulette.  At that point one has to sit in one location and take a chance that a buck will walk past.  The bucks follow the does and deer can be scattered all over. 

Beginning in late August Anthony spends time in the field scouting the activities of the deer in his hunting area.  He strings yards of string between trees at about 60 inches above the ground.  It is hoped that a big buck will break the string showing giving a picture of his travels.    

Marc also looks for broken spider webs that could show a deer passed this way on his journey to a bedding area.  He does not waste his time with any broken spider webs at a lower location as it is not broken by a big buck. 

Marc places his blinds in advantageous locations where he can move into and out of the area without disturbing the deer.  He never goes in and out by the same trail on a given day.  Once in place he never moves his stands unless forced to do so.  

An unconventional aspect of Marc’s game plan is the wearing of a gilly suit.  This type of camouflage clothing was designed to resemble heavy foliage.  It is a cloth suit covered with loose strips of cloth made to look like leaves and twigs.  

Originally designed for the military, hunters are adopting the suit to blend into surrounding vegetation.  It presents a 3-D breakup of the hunter’s image.  The strips move in the wind the same as surrounding foliage. 

Marc has worn the gilly suit for some ten years and swears by it.  It’s most important feature is that it breaks up his image.  “It turns you into a blob as far as the deer is concerned,” explains Anthony.  He also finds it conceals any movement he makes as a bowhunter.  Marc has adapted his suit by trimming the arm and one knee.  This way the string of his bow does not strike strips of cloth on the suit and he is able to kneel when shooting.


You spend the summer training with you bow and feel that it is “good enough” for a deer season.  To make sure, try paper-training it. 

Paper training is paper tuning.  It is a simple way to diagnose arrow flight problems.  It is a chance to correct a variety of physical and mechanical reasons for poor arrow flight.  Paper training significantly narrows down the source of any problem.  You might even find a problem that you did not know existed. 

When you release an arrow from the bow, it will often travel in an up and down flight pattern or fishtail from side to side.  The reasons for this seemingly erratic flight are several. 

Arrows that are traveling up and down may be due to either a nocking point that is too high or too low.  It can also be due to a fletching that is not clearing the arrow rest properly.  This up and down flight is porpoising after the swimming habits of that a marine mammal. 

Fishtailing is more common.  It usually means the arrow is striking the bow or arrow rest as released.  The result is a side-to-side motion of the arrow in the air. 

Critical bow problems vary from one set up to another.  Traditional shooters will experience less correctable problems than some one with a more sophisticated compound bow set up.  Overdraw bows, bows with a quiver attached, and high-energy cam bows are the most critical. 

To diagnose set up problems one can construct a wooden frame about three feet on a side.  Across the frame is stretched some paper.  It can be newspaper, butcher paper, or even some left over Christmas wrapping paper.  It needs to be one large sheet. 

Place the frame down range at about 15 yards distance.  Then using the smoothest release you can muster, shoot a single arrow through the paper.  Examine the arrow hole carefully.  If it is a symmetrical hole, you have a perfectly tuned bow.  Go hunting with it. 

However, that is seldom the case.  Usually, the hole has a tear to one side or another of the center.  That tear will help you diagnose the problem. 

If the area where the fletching pierced the paper is below or above where the point went through, the nocking point is either too high or too low.  Adjust accordingly.  It could also be that the fletching is striking the bow.  Sprinkle a little baby powder on the area around the arrow rest and see if it is knocked off by the flight of the arrow. 

Fishtailing is the most common bow/arrow problem.  When released, the arrow bends slightly as it goes around the bow on the way to the target.  If it bends too much or not enough, the arrow will fishtail all the way to the target.  On the paper, this shows up with the fletching going through at an angel to the right or left of where the point passes. 

The first place to look for a cure for fishtailing is with the spine or stiffness of the arrow.  Be sure to check the arrow shaft manufacturer’s chart to make sure that you have the correct spined arrow for the weight at which you are drawing the bow.  You could have bought the equipment to shoot at one weight but changed the draw weight by adjustment on a compound bow or by drawing longer than you think you are drawing. 

A person who changes his draw length by holding at the base of his jaw as opposed to the corner of his mouth is changing his draw length by as much as an inch.  Make sure you know the draw weight at the proper length of your draw as it is now. 

If the spine of the shaft is not the problem then work on the arrow rest.  Space does not permit a discussion of all rests here.  By moving the rest in and out from the bow, you can change the arrow flight and Fishtailing characteristics. 

By use of paper training, you can adjust your arrow flight to the point where the fletching cuts the paper in a perfect pattern around the point hole.  From there it is a matter of practice to get the bow to shoot an arrow exactly where you want it.

OFF SEASON HUNTING   Leave a comment

It is summer and you put away the hunting gear until fall.  NOT!  For the dyed in the wool hunter, the season is never over.  Just the quarry changes from season to season. 

Flexible hunters with a good imagination can always find another quarry to pursue.  They just have to keep an open mind.  True, hunting rats or pigeons is not as glamorous as hunting that big whitetail.  However, it can be equally as challenging and helps to hone skills that might come in handy next fall. 

One must also remember that dispatching a woodchuck with a clean, humane shot still is vital to the hunting experience as would be a trophy whitetail deer.  It is a self-imposed moral responsibility to maintain the same high standard of ethics all year round. 

When one speaks of varmint hunting, the mind conjures up a view of a coyote coming to a call.  Nevertheless, there are other varmints out there to hunt as well.  Do not forget the pigeons, rats, gophers, and woodchucks that are available.  Coyotes are in this same group.  Except for the woodchuck, up can hunt the year around.  Some states do have a specific, if not generous, season for woodchuck hunting.  Usually it does not conflict with other hunting seasons. 

Among the game birds that are huntable in what is traditionally the off-season, is the turkey.  With both a spring and fall season, this bird provides many opportunities to polish those hunting skills and a chance to be in the woods. 

For the bowhunter, there is also bowfishing for rough fish and frogs.  Frogs have a specific season in most states but the rough fish are a year round target.  The extra tackle for bowfishing can be purchased at a local archery pro shop or by mail order.  The cost is minimal and the equipment provides years of enjoyment. 

Coyotes are probably one of the most challenging of the off-season quarry.  They are available in good numbers the entire year.  The sundog requires skill in hunting, scouting and calling.  It is a chance to try out that new camo pattern and perhaps a new deer rifle or bow.  The small size of this canine makes proper shot placement a must. 

Pigeon shooting helps to control their numbers and is a good warm up for pheasant, partridge, dove and quail season.  Their darting flight presents and interesting challenge to even the most skilled of shooters.  Pigeons are available to the hunter all year around.  They make an interesting fill in for the more popular game birds. 

As if there are not enough game animals available, one can also go to a shooting preserve to pursue such game animals as wild boar.  This European immigrant to the country is available in a number of locations across the country.  It is one of the most popular big game animals hunted by bowhunters.  If the preserve is large enough, a very challenging hunt is available for a minimal cost.  In most states, feral swine are not a game animal with a specific hunting season.  They are a nuisance animal and are hunted all year. 

During the summer months, the “grass rat” is king.  In addition to the woodchuck, other rodents in this category include Norway rat, thirteen-lined ground squirrels, and gophers.  All of these rodents present difficult and challenging targets.  Hunting them benefits landowners, upon whose grain crops, they feed. 

Only your imagination limits your off-season hunting opportunities.  For the truly dedicated hunter, off-season hunting is fun and worthwhile in itself.  Additionally it gets one away from the lawnmower or painting the family home.


Bass tournaments yield valuable about the bass fishery. They can tell one about the size of fish as well as numbers and how they were caught.

To some, watching a bass tournament weigh-in is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  To the contestants and their families it is very important.  To other bass anglers, it should be too. 

Bass tournaments are an excellent source of information about the health of the fish population within the lake.  In recent years, that information about Crab Orchard Lake in Williamson County, Illinois was rather foreboding.  Fish had declined in size and number for several years. 

A combination of efforts on behalf of local bass clubs and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources attempted to change the situation of this lake that was once known as southernIllinois’ “bass factory.” 

About 10 years ago, catch figures began to decline. 

Surveys by the IDNR resulted in recommendations to decrease minimum fish size and creel limits.  They also recommended the supplemental stocking of Gizzard Shad and the Crab Orchard Lake Bass Club stepped up to the plate with funds to pay for the stocking.  The funds came from a portion of the entry fee for their tournaments. 

Beginning in the spring of 2007, the average size of fish began to increase each year. 

In addition to the size and numbers of fish, tournament weigh-ins produce, information about fish taken in deep water structure, weed beds, near wood, and along the rip rap.  Crankbaits work in the deep water.  Jigs produce in the weed beds and rip rap.  Dark colors seem to produce the most fish. 

The fish are in shallow water early in the morning, but move to deep water near the shallow water as temperatures rise. 

There is a pattern for finding fish in Crab Orchard Lake during the post spawn period.  All one has to do is spend a little time at a tournament weigh-in to get all the information necessary. 

Crab Orchard Lake is located in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Williamson County.  It can be accessed via Interstate 57 at exit 53 (Old Route 13 orMain Street) and traveling west to the refuge.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service charges a nominal daily access fee.  Information about the lakes of the refuge and payment of the day fee can be obtained at the refuge Visitor’s Center on Route 148 about two miles south of Route 13.  Tournament information is also available at the refuge offices (618-997-3344) as the Service must approve all tournaments. 

Bait and tackle is available at Cooksey’s Bait Shop on the corner of Route 148 and Old Route 13 at the stop light as well as local bait shops in Marion, Illinois. 

Information about the area attractions and accommodations is available from the Williamson County Tourism Bureau at 1-800-GEESE99 or on line at: or their web page.


The most skillful float to explain neutral buoyancy is the waggler. This quill shaped float is an import from European fishing and readily available in our bait shops. They are made of balsa wood and shaped like a long straw.

The finesse of the float action is accomplished through split shot attached below the float to achieve neutral buoyancy. Neutral buoyancy is achieved by the weight below the float being enough to counter the floating tendency of the float but not enough to pull it under the surface.

With most floats (bobber or cork), the fish will pull it under the surface and the angler sees that as a chance to set the hook and retrieve the fish. However, this type of approach misses perhaps a third of the fishing opportunities.

When a fish takes a baited hook one of four things is happening. They will spit it out, run with it, stay where they are, or allow the float to rise up.

When the fish spits out the hook, the float may move and is thought of as a nibble. If the fish runs with the bait, then he will pull the float beneath the surface. This is probably the most common point at when a fish takes the hook and young people learn it as the time to set the hook.

In some situations, the fish will take the bait and hook into his mouth and not move at all. There is very little visible action of the float. If the fish rises up from the location where he originally took in the bait, the float lifts up in the water. With a pencil shaped float, it results in the float laying over on the surface.

The extra buoyant waggler requires more lead split shot that gives it more casting distance and stability. They usually work best in waters at a depth of 1 to 10 feet. Under windy conditions, one would use a waggler with a little larger body. They can be used as either a fixed or slip float. Anglers tend to use them according to the conditions of the moment.

Place a small split shot on the line above the float.  It is at the distance from the hook equal to the depth at which the angler wishes to suspend the bait. Fasten the waggler to the line and attach a hook to the end of the line. About ten inches above the hook, apply enough split shot to make the float suspend upright in the water. In windy conditions, only the tip of the float is to show as a strike indicator. This would require more weight below the float than more calm water conditions. If only the tip is showing, the wave action does not affect the float.  It gives a more accurate response to a fish attacking the bait.

If the float is properly applied and used, one experiences more bites than a traditional bobber. It allows the angler to respond to what is actually going on below the surface.


The event was for kids but it was one of the more pleasant experiences of my life.  Yesterday, I attended the Annual Free Fishing Days Kids Derby at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in southern Illinois.  The event was staffed and sponsored by local merchants, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and local volunteers. 

The sunny day was hot but coolers of bottled water were placed along the shore at strategic locations.  Participants were encouraged to help themselves and no one suffered any ill effects of the weather. 

The only expense to the families in attendance was the cost of gasoline to get to the site of the old marina on Route 13 that is now Prairie Creek Recreation Area. 

Worms were the most popular bait among the young set.  They catch almost any kind of fish.  Worms are not difficult to put on a hook.  Adult assistance for fishing techniques and in baiting a hook was available if required. 

The first 200 children to register at the site received a free T-shirt and a package of goodies.  Other prizes were for the biggest fish, smallest fish and most fish in each of the age categories.  Fishing began at 8:00 A.M. and continued until noon when the participants got a free lunch and the prizes were awarded. 

The idea was for the youngsters to have a positive experience.  Then they will want to return.  They might even bring an adult with them. 

For more information about this event, contact the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Visitor Center at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The telephone number is 618-997-3344.  The center is located at 8588 Route 148,Marion,Illinois62959.


Night fishing for catfish is a relaxing and peaceful pursuit. The whine of the reel as line pays out to a spot in the structure or vegetation. It seems so much louder in the night. It is a beautiful sound as the bait hits the water with a muffled splash. Placing the rod in the rod holder the angler sits down to enjoy the experience.

Y-e-o-o-w! comes a cry across the water. Sitting on fishhook can bring home to one that organization is also important in nighttime angling.

Night fishing becomes important this time of year for two basic reasons: weather and recreational pressure. The heat of the day is often oppressive and the cooler temperatures of evening bring out feeding fish and angles looking for relief. Recreational boating pressure from non-anglers makes the daylight hours less productive for the angler.

A fish’s metabolism during summer is at a high point and he feeds frequently. The weather may be hot but there is a distinct lack of fronts going through to upset his lifestyle. Lush vegetation provides ambush points for the catfish to lay in wait and allow the hapless minnows come to him. Competition for the food source from other fish is less.  Weeds tend to scatter the fish of all species.

The water near the surface is warm and tends to be uncomfortable for the catfish. Smaller fish as they try to escape the big guys who are trying to eat them generally inhabit it. The larger fish are deeper in the comfort zone that is best of them.

Sitting on bait is not the only reason for organization in night fishing. Safety is another. It is important that the angler know the body of water well. If not already familiar with it, perhaps one should spend a day or two scouting during the daytime hours.

Learn where navigational dangers are located. This can be things like abandoned bridge or dock pilings. It also should include shallow water areas and submerged logs.

Once back at night, it is important that the angler is sure his night vision is in working order. Do not look at any bright lights, as that will temporarily spoil the night vision for several minutes.

It is important to close tackle boxes and stow unused rods out of the way. The fewer objects you have around the deck, the better for safety. Any tackle or coolers are best located about an arms length from the angler. This lessens the need to get up and walk around. You do not want something that could lead to trips and injuries in your area. It is a good idea to wear a PFD (personal floatation device) in case of an accidental fall into the darkness.

Night fishing is not all that productive right after sunset. One can use those hours to get into position for the nights action. That way one can be sure of finding just the right location for the evening’s activities.

Night fishing is more comfortable from an angler’s point of view. It also is a time when his senses become more alert and fine-tuned to the environment. Try it you will like it!


With the expansion of match type fishing to American shore fishing; our anglers incorporate many of the techniques from Europe. The use of groundbait is one of those innovations.

Match fishing in Europe is competitive fishing in which anglers have to stay within a short distance of a stake on the shoreline and fish for a specified length of time. The idea is to catch pounds of fish regardless of species. The total weight of the basket of fish determines the winner.

Groundbait is a mix of breadcrumbs, flour, cornmeal, sugar, spice and other compounds that will cloud the water. The idea is to attract fish to a specific area and then get them into a feeding frenzy. The groundbait does not satisfy them. Into the clouded water, the angler drops a worm or maggot on a small hook. The result is a strike from the frustrated fish.

Since very light hooks, line and bait are used, the angler also needs a delicate balsa wood float or bobber. Anglers use cane poles in long lengths because they are very sensitive.

Sensitivity is necessary as often very small fish take the bait. The small hooks are easily removed form all fish with no harm to them. Quick and efficient hook removal makes for more time for fishing.

Shore anglers have all but abandoned the large American bobber of years gone by. In its place has been substituted the euro-style balsawood floats and small American floats of similar style made of plastic or Styrofoam. These floats can detect a bite because they are so sensitive to light pressure. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes according to the situation.

A float used on a windy day is different from one used on a calm one. One used in a fast flowing river is different from one used in a pond or lake. Choosing the right float has become as important as choosing a bait.

The use of groundbait has found respectability. In the past “chummers” were looked at with disdain by many anglers. The basic difference is that the chummer tended to use garbage baits while the groundbait used biologically sound formulas that do not pollute the water.

Anglers in search of a variety of different species now use use maggots and other worm-like baits used in the past by panfishermen.

Ground pounders have adopted the match fishing dip net with a long handle. The use of such long handle nets allow the angler using light line to land larger fish without breaking the line.

Shore anglers respect all species of fish and have adopted a respect for all fish having their place in the angling scene. That ethic came over fromEurope with the groundbait and match style fishing tackle.


By following a few guidelines, one can have a great day in the outdoors as a ground pounder.

Tip 1 No matter what the gear or the bait for that matter, the key to catching fish from shore is to find structure and vegetation in the water. Fish follow pathways along and around structure. They will follow one type of structure to another.

Tip 2 Seldom will fish cross large expanses of open water. It makes them vulnerable to predators. If an angler eliminates the large expanse of open water, he reduces the search area.

Tip 3 One good choice is an area where two or more kinds of structure meet. This could be where weeds meet each other, a fallen tree or rocky area. Areas around rocky points, dam faces, or jetties can also have vegetation near by that will attract fish.

Other good locations can be where feeder streams or canals bring in warmer water, oxygenated water, and wash in insects from flooded areas upstream. Creek channels provide pathways between structures. Fish often use old creek channels when they move from weeds to brush or shallow water to deep water.

Tip 4 Deep water drop offs are popular with fish. It allows them the security of deep water and yet the opportunity to move up into the warmer water of the flats to feed.

Tip 5 More good locations along the shore are partially submerged trees or those that have fallen into the water. Stump fields, logs and broken tree branches that have fallen into the water will attract fish. Vegetation such as willows, cattails, weeds, and lily pads provide food, shelter and a place of safety to fish.

Tip 6 Bait can be a major factor in shore fishing. For smaller species, such as bluegill and crappie, live bait is best. The bait can be small minnows, and pieces of night crawler. The amino acids in live bait are an attractant to fish coming out of a long winter of minimal activity. They also will be feeding on zooplankton and insects found in or near vegetation.

Tip 7 For the larger predator fish, such as bass, an artificial lures are popular. When working a lure through and area it is important to work it through. Fan cast a dozen or so times. Retrieve the lure at different speeds and work it in different depths.

Tip 8 Be flexible and portable. If a given location is not producing in 15 minutes, it is time to try another one. Go where the fish go.


An estimated 30,000 people will flood onto the campus of John A Logan College, Carterville, Illinois over September 22 and 23.  National Hunting & Fishing Day is a national holiday.  There are many celebrations held across the nation.  None is as large as the one at John A. Logan College.  The purpose of the event since its inception has been to introduce the public to the outdoor experience and the ethics that goes with it.  Admission and parking are free. 

The huge crowds the Silver Anniversary (25th annual) means the two hundred plus vendors will present everything from food to hunting and fishing equipment for sale.  Additional vendor space will be available this year.  Each year the vendor space expands due to increased demand.  For information about vendor space, both in the tents and in college buildings contact Ron Allen at 217-725-7602 (cell), 217-787-8862 (home) or by email at

In honor of the 25th year, fifty limited edition, engraved and numbered Daisy BB guns are available of purchase.  Profits will benefit the Hunting & Fishing Days celebration.  Ordering them early to secure a low number.  To order one or more contact Dwight Hoffard (618-985-2828 extension 8208) at the college. 

Fishing activities include the popular King Catfish Contest weight-in on Saturday morning.  Fishing experts on a variety of species will present seminars for anglers from all levels of expertise.  On Saturday afternoon, the weigh-in for the High School Team Bass fishing contest with some 40 area high school teams. 

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

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

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

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

The Don Gasaway Youth Goose Calling contest, The Tim Grounds Open and the Illinois State(meat) Duck Calling Championship are held in the campus auditorium.  There may also be a novice goose calling contest if a sponsor is located. 

Archers are going to shoot in a field archery course set up on the campus.  Another shooting area will specialize in clay target shooting. 

Successful whitetail hunters can bring their mounted heads or antlers in for scoring by official measurers for record book inclusion.  Scoring will be by the Southern Illinois Buckmasters and will include both archery and firearms record books.  A display of the mounts is popular with the public viewers.  A special highlight this year is the appearance of the full body mount of “Ginormica” the 31-point Williamson County deer taken last fall. 

Artists, taxidermists, and other artisans display their work in the campus gym.  Food venders are available across the campus. 

Make plans now to attend the 25th Anniversary of the Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days September 22 -23, 2012.  You and your children do not want to miss this one.

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