Archive for July 2012


Early archery deer seasons present hunters with weather conditions that challenge them when trying to find and stalk whitetails.  Placement planning of ground blinds and treestands requires some scouting at this time.  Conditions in heavy vegetation make a sneak and peak approach virtually impossible. 

The bulk of archery killed deer are taken early in the season.  Temperatures are higher and cover is still plentiful.  The archery season continues into the cold weather.  However, during that time the firearms hunters also take to the field.  Many bowhunters hunt both types of hunting seasons. 

Next to breeding, food, shelter, and water are the deer’s most important interests.  Since the early season hunter can leave out the rut in his scouting considerations, the most important factor remaining is water.  Deer consume between 1.5 and .5 quarts of water per day.  The figure varies due to the availability of succulent vegetation, humidity and temperature. 

In hot weather, deer stay close to a water source.  Later in the year, they can find water in the form of snow almost anywhere. 

Early season deer are easier to pattern.   What attracts them to a place will cause them to return if spooked by something.  Deer will feed late and come home early in the morning.  Keeping this in mind, also take notice of the wind. 

It is a common belief among bowhunters that a deer’s ability to smell is 100 times greater than a human.  A deer will pick up scent that a human cannot detect.  They are constantly monitoring the air for particles of scent. 

Established the deer’s routine, do your homework early and get a wall hanger early. 

Waiting for the rut is a gamble.  During the rut, deer move around.  Hunting big deer becomes a game of roulette.  One has to sit in one location and take a chance that a buck will walk past.  Bucks follow does and they can be scattered. 

Beginning early spend time scouting the activities of the deer. 

Look for broken spider webs that could show a deer passed that way on his journey to a bedding area. 

Place blinds in advantageous locations where you can move into and out of the area without disturbing the deer.  Never go in and out by the same trail on a given day.  Never move blinds unless forced to do so.


A systems approach to turkey hunting is simple but necessary.  It involves scouting, knowing the habits of fall birds, calling skill and shooting accuracy.  

Scouting involves such things as visually locating birds.  This can best be done by use of binoculars.  You can observe birds from a distance and yet not disturb their activities.  Sound is also important in scouting.  Listen for birds to vocalize.  This can be in response to a crow call or just listening for birds to gobble. 

Fall turkey hunters are best served if they talk with landowners, rural postal carriers, and others who are in the field with the birds all year.  They are a wealth of knowledge as to just where the birds are moving and at what times of the day they can be found. 

Locating a flock consists of finding scratching sign in the hardwoods.  The scratching tells the story of the direction the flock is traveling.  Droppings tell the story of just which sex birds are in the flock.  Hen droppings are like a popcorn kernel while the jakes leave a long J-shaped dropping. 

Feathers that are found also tell a story.  Breast feathers that are dark are from gobblers or jakes.  The feathers for a hen or jenny will be brown and buff in color.  The feathers are often found in dusting areas.  These are areas of very loose dirt where the birds take a dust bath to rid themselves of parasites. 

Around water one needs to look for tracks.  Gobbler tracks are much larger than those of the other birds.  In dry years birds will roost near the water, a good place to look for them. 

Another way to have birds where you want them is to create your own hunting area.  The hunter with a specific plot of land can plant food plots of red top millet, clover and wheat. Birds will stay in the area as long as there is food available.

Fall turkey hunting is for jakes and jennies’.  That is the birds usually taken in fall are the young of the year either male or female.  Young jakes are more vocal in the fall.  More jakes are taken in the fall than Jennies’.  The young of the year are still in family groups of hens and the pouts of the year. 

Hen turkeys will maintain contact with soft contact calls such as the soft yelp.  It is a call with emotion and is soothing to the young birds. 

Once a flock is located scatter them by running through them without a firearm.  Once they are scattered return to the place where you first contacted them and set up.  It is a matter of sitting and waiting for the birds to return.  One can also bust up a flock at night and then hunt them in the morning.  Young birds that have been isolated all night are anxious to get back to the flock at first light. 

Going back to the flock busted during the day usually takes about 5 minutes before they begin to regroup.  The first bird starts it out with a kee call.  Answer with a kee call.  The use of a hen call is necessary to attract the youngster.  For this use a 6 in 1 waterfowl call because of it=s high pitch.   Use a high pitched call then a cluck to attract the young birds. 

Never uses a gobble call when hunting on public land.  It is too dangerous as you do not have control of the other hunters on the land.  Gobbles should only be used on private land where you know who else is sharing the woods with you. 

Two other safety considerations in fall hunting is never chase a bird with a loaded gun and to be careful in carrying a bird.  You do not want to be mistaken for a live bird. 

Mature gobblers can be taken in the fall but the approach is slightly different.  Gobblers respond better to aggressive calling.  Begin with a cluck to establish contact.  Then use a soft purr as a feeding call and move leaves around to simulate feeding birds. 

Gobblers have a pecking order.  When they hear a gobble they will gobble back as a means of establishing dominance. 

Knowledge of the turkey vocalizations is vital to fall turkey hunting.  Many turkey hunters have a favorite diaphragm (mouth) call but also carry box and slate calls as well.  You can never have too many calls.  Some also carry a tube call or two.

Turkey hunting is great fun either spring or fall.  But, in the fall the hunter needs to be more pro-active in scattering and then calling the flock back together.  In the spring, it is a matter of finding a lovesick gobbler and getting him to come to you.  Fall turkey hunting is another opportunity to harvest a bird using your skills.


On the high end is the cost of bows for the more sophisticated competitive archer.

Buying an inexpensive bow may not be the best way of getting the most for one’s bowhunting dollar. 

Money on the initial purchase is often lost on the expense of getting it tuned and learning to shoot properly.  It may be set up properly.  If it is not, valuable practice time or even time in the field is the cost of gaining the proper set up. 

Those of us who were self-taught were at a disadvantage.  Today, by going to a professional archery shop can vastly accelerate the learning curve in both shooting and hunting skills. 

Professional sales personnel and instructors are students of archery.  They are skilled in the use of motivational tools to develop their skills through what is often years of hard work.  They are willing to help the novice avoid mistakes they themselves have experienced. 

Professional archers are more than just sales clerks who sell bows and arrows.  They are a source of information and support.  They have information on what tackle is new and the latest information on what is going on to preserve and protect our sport. 

The better pro shops have practice ranges right on the premises.  If they do not have a range of their own, they know where one can go to practice in the area.  Many shops will provide some instruction on a formal or informal basis for those customers using the range. 

It is important early to get good professional instruction.  It saves time correcting mistakes.  It may even prevent the bowhunter becoming disillusioned with the sport and giving up.  The pro wants his customers to learn to shoot well and be satisfied with their skills.  If the archer gives up, he will not be a repeat customer in the future.  Repeat business is vital to staying in business. 

A good pro is a problem solver.  He is skilled in recognizing the needs, desires, interests and any limitation of the customer.  He can help the customer learn to “know their bow.”

If you purchase a bow from an “out of the box” business, it still needs tuning.  It needs to be in tune to your specific needs.  Taking it to a pro for help with tuning is about the best way to make sure you get a reliable job done.  Expect to pay the pro for the service and his time.  He has bills to pay and a family to feed just like you.  If he does not charge, remember that he also has tackle that you can purchase and make sure you buy future tackle from him.  Buying from discount retailers has drawbacks.  In many an instance it is more expensive in the end. 

Pro shop people are informed on all sorts of new developments.  He has to be, it is his livelihood. 

Pro shops are the best place to get tackle repaired and primed for the hunting season.  They have the specialized tools and experience necessary for the tasks.  Beginning archers need help from someone in the know.  A well-meaning friend may or may not know what he is saying.  Even old timers need some help sometimes with things they think they know and maybe do not.


Squirrel hunters prowling the woods of southern Illinois’ public land will find ample action.  There are, after all, some half million acres of public land in the southern nine counties of the state. 

The perception of over hunted public land leads hunters to ignore some areas.  Many hunters refuse to accept that there is good hunting on public land. 

Good squirrel habitat is all over these southern counties.  Much of squirrel territory is in the control of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Other lands belong to the U.S Forest Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.  There are site-specific regulations and the hunter must check them before taking to the field. 

Copies of the regulations are available from the site superintendents at the areas involved or from the IDNR in Springfield.  The address of the latter is Office of Public Information, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702‑1271.  Just request a copy of the Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations and any information on the specific area you wish to hunt. 

The following southern Illinois areas are open to squirrel hunting.  Sometimes the hunter is required to sign in on a clipboard and out as he leaves.  Hunters record the bag numbers as they leave and the information helps to study the squirrel numbers of the area.  The data supplements other studies to help the IDNR biologists maintain healthy populations in balance with the habitat. 

Because public lands are areas available to hunting, sometimes they can be crowded.  The wily hunter will use this hunter pressure to his advantage. 

It may be wise to find an area with squirrels and take a stand.  Then as hunters move through the area, the game is distracted.  As the squirrels move through the treetop canopy to evade hunters, they can move into the range of the stationary hunter.  Moving hunters also force squirrels into the thicker areas of land.  Smart hunters will start hunting there instead of sticking to well worn trails. 

An area with many trails into hunting areas is the ShawneeNational Forest.  The forest spreads over parts of Jackson, Union, Alexander, Johnson, Williamson, Massac, Pope, Hardin, Gallatin and Saline counties.  It is composed of acres of hardwoods, food plots, and brush spread over all the counties. 

Hardwood ridges provide good mast crops of oak and hickory nuts.  Squirrels migrate to such areas like metal to a magnet.  The obviously good squirrel hunting locations do have some pressure.  The secret is to check those areas that do not look good at first glance.  A wise hunter scouts through the poor prospects to the good areas beyond them. 

There are a number of hardwood ridges in Shawnee Forest accessible only by passing through heavy brush and briars.  The squirrels in these islands of hardwoods have not been disturbed.  They tend to multiply quite readily. 

There are maps of the Shawnee National Forest available.  It pays to use the map to find areas of ridges that are not readily accessible from roads and trials.  Mark the map and scout the area.  Look for cuttings and good mast crops.  Keep notes from year to year as to where the squirrels live.  Keep the maps, and they will save valuable hunting time next year. 

For further information about Shawnee National Forest, contact the U.S. Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest, Route 45 South, Harrisburg, IL62946.  They have information regarding camping, fishing and hunting opportunities. 

Further north, squirrel hunters can hunt in the southern portion of Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion.  The woods are much the same as in the Shawnee and the squirrel hunting patterns are the same. 

Operated as a refuge for waterfowl, the refuge does have some site-specific regulations.  One of those is the requirement that anyone using the land for any purpose must pay a vehicle user fee.  Hunters check-in at the Visitor’s Center on Route 148 just south of Old Route 13 before going into the hunting area. 

The refuge itself is about 43,000 acres of land with 23,000 acres open to hunting.  Most of the hunting is for deer, turkey and waterfowl.  Some areas are open for any species open to hunting by state law. 

The areas that are open to general hunting have public hunting signs.  For more detailed information regarding squirrel hunting at the refuge contact:  Refuge Manager, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, 8588 Route 148, Marion, Illinois 62959. 

Regardless of where in southern Illinois someone wants to hunt, there is public land squirrel hunting available.  All one needs to do is find it.  A mentioned earlier, the IDNR lists public hunting areas in the Hunting Digest published each year.  It is available anywhere hunting licenses are sold. 

Once on the property, locate a promising location far from the roads and, if any, the crowd.  With a little advance work and some common sense, one can enjoy squirrel hunting on public land.


Vocalizations can play a factor in early season squirrel hunting.  The animals are difficult to spot in the treetop canopy.  Often they have to move in order for you to spot them.  They are suckers for vocalizations. 

A vocal squirrel is an aggravated one.  He sounds off and displays a flickering tail as a threat to potential enemies.  The noise and tail movement gives away his position.  Getting a squirrel to give away his position often requires a call. 

Calling squirrels is not designed to get the animal to come to the hunter.  Squirrel calling is designed to aggravate the animal and get him to expose his position.   Then it is your problem to get an angle for a shot.

Squirrels are notorious for moving around to the opposite side of a tree trunk or limb when avoiding a hunter.  They like to put something between themselves and perceived danger.  The only exception is when they are angry. 

There are two basic types of squirrel calls on the market.  Both work in their own way.  The most common one is the reed call with a small rubber bellows attached.  The bellows is struck against the body or some other solid object and a clucking kind of sound is made.  This imitates the sound of another squirrel trespassing on the territory of the resident quarry.  The resident then responds angered and gives away his position. 

Another call is the squirrel whistle which is designed to imitate the distress call of a young squirrel.  It is a small metal whistle that is placed on the lips and you suck air through it making a whistling sound.  Coupled with the rattling of branches or swatting of branches against the ground imitates the sound of a hawk catching a squirrel.  Together they provide the sound of a hawk striking and the squirrel crying out in fear. 

The exact routine is five whistles with the first whistle longer than the following four.  The first whistle is about three‑quarters of a second and the rest about one‑half of a second.  The bush or branch is struck against the ground during the first three whistles then continues with the last two whistles.  A green, leafy limb is best. 

The technique works best in the morning after the squirrels have fed and are dozing.  It also works on alarmed animals.  It makes them come out of their nests or dens.  The little rascals become very excited and run all around giving away their locations.  They seem to respond in anger and will bark away toward the location of the call. 

In full camo you can move around and get a good location for a shot.  It is best to move slowly when the squirrel is barking away.  He does not seem to fear hunters as his mind seems to be on locating the hawk that is attacking. 

Besides the heat of summer early season hunters must also consider the problem of insects.  There are a number of good insect repellents on the market.  Some are unscented and they are probably preferred.  But, squirrels are not repelled by scented varieties.  The only problem with the scented products is that mosquitoes seem to be attracted by them. 

There are also summer insect proof camo suits on the market which work well. 

Moderately priced they can be bought as whole suits or in parts as pants, headnet, jacket, and gloves.  For squirrel and turkey hunters they could be a good investment.  The suits are available from most sporting goods stores or by mail order from the well known outfitters like Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops. 

Summer squirrel hunting is a great way to get tuned up for fall hunting season.  It is fun and squirrels are great eating in a slow cooker.


This is not what I planned for today’s entry.  However, an article in the local newspaper caused me to re-think my plans.

The article was about a burglary ring in a town near here that was using Facebook to plan their jobs.

I guess things that I just take for granted do on occur to most people.  After all I spent 30 years interviewing criminals in the world’s largest court system.  In that time, I learned a lot about how criminals think and plan.  Facebook and other on-line forums have often proven to be great tools for burglars.  They use them to tell when someone is not home, when they have valuables in the home un-protected, etc.

Here are some tips that I use to protect my property from these dirt bags.

1.  I subscribe to a security system that monitors the house and grounds all year around.  I do not post a sign saying I have the system as that only alerts the criminals to look for the sensors and cameras.  I also have an internet system of video cameras and software that allows me to monitor the grounds and home for intruders or any potential damage from weather of fire.  I just pull up the site on the internet with my lap top while I am on the road.  I also use the new trail cams so that anyone on the property will be photographed and have to explain their presence later.

2.  When I am going to be away, all valuables including guns are stored off site with friends and relatives.  When I am home, my S&W .460 pistol is close at hand for protection.

3.  My neighbors on all sides have a copy of my itinerary when I am on the road.  They know when I leave for a trip and when I should be back.  They also know how to reach me in case of an emergency.

4.  While on Facebook or here on my blog, I do not mention my physical presence.  I never say where I am going, how long I will be gone, or when I will return.  I do not mention that I am in progress toward a certain destination.  Plenty of time for that after I return.  I also continue to add my blog entries as is my usual schedule.

5.  Finally, I sometimes hire (or beg) someone to “house sit” my place while I am gone.

I hope that maybe these ideas might help some of you to avoid the heartbreak of a burglary.  Just use common sense.

Posted 07/18/2012 by Donald Gasaway in Shooting


Obesity and lack of conditioning are the prime causes of deaths in hunting dogs.  Obese dogs have the same health risks as humans.  They can develop diabetes, heart disease and other ailments that lead to premature death. 

So how can you protect your favorite hunting companion in the field?  Dr. Jill Cline, Ph.D., Senior Scientists for Purina PetCare, has some ideas.  Purina PetCare’s scientists completed a 14-year study with Labrador retrievers.  They looked into the effect of feeding 25% less food than would typically be feed to such dogs.  They followed the dog’s progress from 8-weeks to natural death.

“What we found,” reports Cline, “is that dogs that were fed to be very lean lived approximately 15% longer than their litter mates.”  In the lab that translates to about three extra years. 

They also found that it delayed the onset of chronic disease.  “It delayed the onset of arthritis by three years,’ says Dr. Cline.  “It delayed heart problems and muscle problems by about two to 2.5 years.” 

“Generally, we found that by keeping dogs lean they lived longer and healthier lives,” concluded Cline.  “We saw a difference in the way they aged physically.”  They noticed the delay in the growth of gray hair.  The lean dogs did not turn gray until about 10 or 11 years of age.  Other dogs turned gray at eight years. 

Is your dog obese?  The best way to check is to look at his figure.  The ideal weight for a dog is when you can feel the ribs.  Viewed from the side, the belly tucks up.  Viewed from above, there is a noticeable waist in front of the hips. 

Dogs that are overweight and poorly conditioned could get in a life-threatening situation on a hot day.  Dogs in somewhat this body condition will have a longer career.  They not only live longer but their effective time in the field is greater. 

“Additionally, what you find in over fed dogs is not necessarily obese,” says Cline, “but, you will see retrievers in the field that are over weight and out of condition.”  It seems unusual for a dog food company to advise that you feed your dog less.  On the other hand, if you feed them three years longer, they are going to come out OK. 

Getting rover in condition takes a little time and effort.  If you set your mind to the need, you going to hunt that given dog in September for a half or whole day.  The Purina dog trainers, like Bob West, have found that it takes six to eight weeks to get a dog in shape for hunting season.  “If you begin with a couch potato, who is a little overweight, you can start with 10 to 15 minutes per day kind of exercise,” reports West, a veteran dog breeder.  He is describing walks on leads. 

West maintains that you need to do different kinds of work with your dog.  Repeated retrieves in water, playing with a Frisbee are good fun things.  Sporting dogs know to heel when wearing a collar.  During conditioning, with a harness, they can be allowed to pull a little.  As you walk, putting a little pressure on the dog uses a little more energy.  “It is the weight lifting part of training,” says West.  “It helps build the back, loin and rear end.” 

In conditioning, you have to work different muscles.  The muscles are either contracted or relaxed.  You cannot do any one exercise all the time.  West recommends working uphill or downhill as it takes a completely different set of muscles.  At the same time, you are also doing cardiovascular and you are not boring the dog. 

Cline agrees and maintains that it is important to keep the dog’s head in the game is a big part of conditioning. 

West gives the dogs what they can take.  Dogs are like people, some condition better, some enjoy conditioning, some work a little harder at getting in condition and they look forward to that kind of work.  You can tell when they lose interest. 

On a hot day, swimming work might be appropriate.  It does cool them, but he has taken dogs out of cool water and found they had a body temperature of 105 degrees.  It can fool you. 

West recommends that you get use to their normal rest heart and respiratory rate.  He checks it for 15 seconds and then multiplies by four the minute rate.  It gives you what is normal for them.  Then you can exercise them.  Pay attention to when they begin to look like they are beginning to stress a little bit. 

The dog will give you signals when he is under stress.  You will begin to see a little less animation.  They get a little bit of an apprehensive look on their face.  “The glands right under their eyes begin to change,” says Dr. Cline.  “There are salivary glands up there.”  “You will see them kind of squinty and puffy eyed.” 

Another sign of stress according to West, is the dog beginning to sweat up.  Their gums begin to turn to a darker color.  The tongue will turn a little darker too.  “It is due to more blood flow coming to the surface.  The veins in the face will also start to pop out. 

West explains that moisture on the tongue tends to evaporate off cooling the tongue.  It cools that blood back down and it goes to the core and to the brain.  That is how the dog’s body tries to protect itself. 

West recommends carrying water with you in the conditioning and hunting situations.  He carries a little bicycle bottle and flushes out the mouth of that slimy stuff for more efficient cooling.  If you rest the dog and give them a shot of water every 15 to 20 minutes on hot days, they will be OK.  At the same time, he checks their eyes and face. 

“Dogs are such tremendous athletes,” says Cline, “that they can still work hard for their masters without any preconditioning.”  However, they will harm themselves in an effort to please their masters.  She points to the things that happen on those short weekend hunts or bursts of exercise as an example.  The dog will give you clues as to when he is over stressed. 

Hunters with lots of dogs can change them out frequently.  Most hunters do not have that option.  If you let a dog fatigue or overheat to the point where they are starting to fail or stagger then you have lost him for the rest of the day.  It might even mean a trip to the veterinarian to re-hydrate him.

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