Archive for August 2012

BUSHYTAILS AS A DEER HUNTING WARM UP   Leave a comment

During the late summer steamy mornings in the woods squirrels are frantically storing up nuts for the winter ahead.  I am also there.  It is time to pre‑scout my favorite whitetail country.  Often these tasks will overlap. 

I can always use some practice in scouting and stalking.  Squirrel hunting can help.  It is not that I lack the stalking skills and do not have the patience required for stand hunting.  It is just time to hone those skills before the deer hunting begins in earnest. 

Squirrels, like deer, are very wary creatures.  When they detect the presence of humans, both run or hide.  It is this wariness that must be overcome in hunting either animal.  We need to enter the woods undetected.  Otherwise, I not see nor do I get a shot at either quarry. 

Following a few trips afield I try to remember where the most mast trees are concentrated.  Both squirrels and deer feed heavily on acorns in the fall.  Feeding squirrels are found where there are cuttings or shells.  Stripped corn cobs also indicate the presence of both deer and squirrel. 

Stealth and patience, are required in hunting squirrel hunting and honing on squirrels can pay dividends later during deer season. 

Sneaking into the woods slowly is a real skill.  It is important to work slowly enough to avoid spooking small birds.  Their alarm calls will alert squirrels to the hunter’s presence. 

A good way to begin a hunt is to sit down and wait for normal woods activity to begin.  This usually only takes about 30 minutes.  It allows one to find out just how obtrusive he is in the woods.  I become aware that what was thought to be slow was in fact rather rapid and noisy movement. 

Hunting squirrels requires a lot of stopping and looking.  Each footstep must be deliberate and silent.  Make no sudden moves or noise.  A good aid is the use of binoculars to spot the quarry before it spots mer.  Major companies make small binoculars that are ideal for this type of hunting. 

Full camouflage clothing aids in blending into the surroundings.  Face make‑up or a net will prevent the reflection of the sun off the face.  Such reflections alert both squirrels and deer. 

Sitting is another method of hunting both species.  Find a likely spot, sit down, and wait them out.  Sitting develops patience a vital skill necessary in hunting.  With patience one can wait for the right shot making a more successful hunter.  

A challenge of early fall hunting is the canopy of leaves still on the trees and vegetation on the ground.  Both deer and squirrels make effective use of it.  It conceals their movements.  

Both deer and squirrel feed in a rather random manner in early fall as opposed to the structured patterns that emerge later. 

The common denominator in feeding habits is that both species look down when feeding.  If up in a treestand it provides the opportunity to draw down before the squirrel even knows of the hunter’s presence.  

Squirrel hunting provides the advantage of enjoying the chance to spend one more day in the woods with all the tranquility that involves.  Squirrel hunters can use their day afield to make their deer season more productive and enjoyable.

AVOID BOWHUNTING BLUNDERS NOW   Leave a comment

Bowhunting blunders can ruin a hunt for anyone.  Advance thought and preparation can make all the difference in the world. 

Most important is to know your equipment.  There is more to bowhunting than just pointing and shooting.  One needs to know what the tackle is capable of doing under different temperature and hunting conditions. 

Arrow shafts and broadheads must be matched to each other as well as the bow.  Some hunters take to the field with a collection of mix and match arrows.  Some are new and others are leftovers from previous hunts. 

It is a simple matter to match arrows to the bow.  Manufacturer’s charts take into consideration, arrowhead weight, arrow length, the archer’s draw length, and the arrow stiffness or spine. 

While shooting in practice, one should use the arrows he plans to use under hunting conditions.  With modern arrowrests the bow can be adjusted so that arrows will fly straight and true.  Just jamming a bunch of arrows in a quiver and taking to the field will guarantee frustration and disappointment. 

Before leaving the subject of arrows, here is a word about arrowhead sharpness.  If the cutting edge of the arrow is not razor sharp, it will not do the job.  The idea of bowhunting is a clean humane kill. 

Most factory‑sharpened broadheads are sharp as they come from the package.  However, once they are shot or allowed to rattle around in a quiver or tackle box, they need to be re‑sharpened, replaced or otherwise refurbished.  Shooting a broadhead more than once, without re-sharpening, asks for problems. 

Check the bow before taking to the field.  It needs camouflage just as one wears camo on the rest of his body.  Shiny surfaces of bow limbs and other parts, such as sights, will scare off game.  Nothing on the bow should reflect sunlight.  The hunter should examine the bow from all directions.  If the bow does not come from the factory with a camo paint job, then add one. 

Check the string and cables for fraying.  If a new string is installed, one should remember that all strings stretch during the first two weeks.  The stretch can lower the power of the bow and affect arrow flight.  A bow with less power will not cast an arrow as straight horizontally, nor as far.  Once the string stretch settles in, the archer knows just how much he as to compensate for the slight decrease in kinetic energy.  A good rule of thumb is to leave the string on the bow for 4 weeks prior to the hunt. 

Once in the field, the distance between hunter and quarry is vital.  The hunter must be able to estimate that distance.  It takes practice.  One way to practice is to take a walk, stopping periodically to estimate the distance to a stationary object.  Then pace it off to see just how close the estimate was to the actual distance.  With practice, the estimates and actual distances will become closer to one another.  A range finder is also a good purchase. 

In the field, many hunters make mistakes due to a lack of skill in woodsmanship.  Many hunters spend too much time riding around in their vehicle.  Once in the bush, it is important to move very slowly and quietly.  Some move through the woods as if they are on a stroll down the street.  They shuffle their feet and work up a sweat.  Noise and human scent are danger signs to deer. 

The best way to conceal scent is walk into the wind to a stand that is downwind of where the game is expected.  Many hunters mistakenly think that because they put on a cover or attractant scent, they do not have to worry about the deer detecting them. Wrong! 

The successful hunter also varies his tactics to fit weather conditions and the lay of the land.  Some think that the only way to take a deer is from a treestand.  Some days it is better to still hunt or stalk.  Other times a ground blind is the way to go.  It is important to analyze the situation and adjust the hunting tactics to the situation. 

Patience is a key to bowhunting.  Hunters who are patience and do not move at all, will see game.  Those that get uncomfortable, and move or twitch too much will not.  It is important to be as comfortable as possible so that one will not have the need to be moving.  Movement in the woods gives away the position of the hunter and the deer move around that area. 

Once a shot, it is important that the hunter remain still and silent.  If the hunter shouts to his companions or immediately takes up the chase, chances are he will spend the better part of the next several hours doing it.  The hunter who remains quiet for 45 minutes to an hour, will probably only travel a few yards to recover his downed deer. 

Arrow shot deer do not run very far unless they are spooked by a human following them.  Once they recover form the initial shock of the hit, they lay down until they succumb.  This is a clean humane way for the bowhunter to take his quarry. 

By remembering these essential principals, bowhunters can avoid those bowhunting blunders that ruin hunts.  Think about it.

CHOOSING A BULLET FOR HUNTING SEASON   2 comments

Recently at the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) business meeting in Tunica, MS, I had the opportunity to meet with some of the folks from Brownells.  They are a company that supplies firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools.  One of their divisions is Sinclair International, (www.sinclairintl.com) a supplier of items for the precision shooter. 

Never having been much of a target shooter, my knowledge of such things is quite limited.  Target shooting for this hunter is limited to sighting in scopes and practice with them prior to hunting season. 

While talking with the Brownells folks (www.brownells.com) they intrigued me with the idea of choosing a bullet for hunting.  For many of us older shooters, the choice of bullet for a particular species usually comes from friends, fellow hunters, and ammunition companies.  Seldom is any real thought and planning likely to go into the selection.  Often it is a matter of going to a gun store and asking for ammo for a particular species. 

That is not always bad, but perhaps we should look more into the selection process. 

Sinclair lists FOUR BASICS that should go into choosing the proper bullet. 

1.  WHAT IS THE INTENDED USE?  The choice should relate to the size of the quarry.  For instance, small game considerations should factor into consideration the ranges are usually short and expansion should be limited.  The later is to avoid excessive meat damage. 

With varmints, where you may not be trying to save a hide or meat, as in ridding a ranch of prairie dogs, quick expansion is good. 

For medium size game such as deer and antelope, quick expansion provides quick kills.  You might also consider terminal velocity and energy but it is not critical.  Most modern bullets will do the job. 

With large game, penetration and controlled expansion are critical.  Terminal velocity and energy are important.  A flat shooting bullet that does result in a quick humane kill is not a good idea. 

For dangerous game, they recommend what ever it takes to stop the animal.  Here big heavy, controlled expansion bullets or solids are the choice.  Again, terminal velocity and energy are factors. 

For the competition shooter, the choice depends upon paper or steel targets and down range distances.  Such items as knock down power, penetration, and expansion are not usually considerations.  The exception might be steel plates at great distances in which case knock down power becomes important. 

2.  WHAT IS THE YARDAGE?  For unknown ranges, a flat shooting bullet is best.  If the range is known and you can adjust the scope or sight, you want the most accurate available. 

3.  WHAT IS THE TWIST RATE OF YOUR RIFLE BARREL?  Fast twists allow greater accuracy with long or heavy bullets.  However, try various bullets to find out which works best with your rifle. 

4.  IS PRICE A CONSIDERATION?  For the high volume shooter this can be important.  For hunters just sighting in rifles, it is a good idea to use what you plan for the field.  Serious competitive shooters can often get away with low cost, bulk or seconds for practice and saving the good stuff for matches.  For assistance in finding the right bullet, Sinclair sells Bullet Sample Paks containing 12 bullets for the handloader.  They come in popular brands and calibers.

SHOOTING AT THE WILLOWS   Leave a comment

Getting out of the car in the parking lot of Willows Sporting Clays and Hunting Center brings back visions of the small country club where I caddied as a kid.  It is blacktop-parking area with a stairway to the clubhouse on a hill. 

The clubhouse and pro shop contains rental guns as well as an array of ammunition, clothing and shooting accessories. 

An array of golf carts are parked around the area.  An employee offers a golf cart to get to the shooting fields. 

I was there as part of the shooting camp component of the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) annual business meeting.  Others were already out in the fields as I had missed the bus earlier and had to drive my own vehicle. 

Willows is a 666-acre piece of wetlands, and forest inside the Mississippi River levee at Harrah’s Tunica.  The total complex contains a casino, hotels and a convention center as well as a children’s play area.  Willows has been closed for two years following a severe flood. 

Recently re-opened, the facility contains areas of trap, skeet, automated sporting clays station with three levels each, rifle and pistol range as well as hunting areas for quail and dove hunters and guided deer hunting in season.  The clay target range also includes a duck flush that simulates a Mississippi Delta Duck Blind and 5-stand set up. 

On 14 stations of the clay target range are realistic hunting environments.  One can shoot rounds of 25, 50 or 100 targets on the two fully automatic courses. 

The day spent at Willows is quite enjoyable and educational as various manufacturers of weapons offer the opportunity to handle and photograph their products.  The event also allowed members to network informally away from all the technical seminars we are attending. 

For information about Willows Sporting Clays and HuntingCenter, contact Harrahs Tunica at 662-357-3154.  Their website is www.Harrahstunica.com.

BUILDING A RIFLE ON THE AR PLATFORM   2 comments

I have to admit to a certain initial prejudice when it comes to the AR-15 platform rifles.  However, it is a fact that all of our sporting weapons began life as a military tool.   Go back to the bow and arrow or even further back to spears.  As humans developed the ability to use them in warfare, they also learned to convert their use to the acquiring of food. 

The AR-15 is the latest in that long line of military/sporting weapons.  Cosmetically it looks like the military rifle but it does not function in the same manner.  Today they are the most popular firearm on the market.  Contrary to popular belief, the “AR” does not stand for assault rifle.  It stands for the company that invented it in the 1950’s.  It is an Armalite rifle. 

The rifle is not an assault weapon, as the ignorant and anti-gun crowd would like you to believe.  It functions just like other hunting weapons by firing one cartridge at a time with each pull of the trigger.  They do however share the military reliability in that they function well in all weather conditions. 

One key advantage to this rifle is the immense number of variations that one can build in a number of calibers with the basic AR-15 platform.  It is possible to build a big game, varmint or small game, service rifle, match rifle or other competition rifle on the basic platform.  The difference between the types of rifles is in the components used. 

Companies such as Brownells (www.brownells.com) offer parts and technical assistance via the web or by telephone (800-741-0015).   Based in Montezuma, Illinois JJ Schroeder, Technician for the company introduced the expansive market for the variations available. 

At the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) annual business meeting a few weeks ago in Tunica, MS, JJ had a couple of the rifles available for examination and trial shooting.  

Brownells has website http://www.AT15builder.com that contains information on the internal and external components and offers a chance to view the parts assembled into a whole gun.  The builder can select one of several receivers depending upon the ultimate purpose of the weapon.  To which he adds the components to personalize it. 

The components include such items as aftermarket triggers to improve accuracy.  Sight systems and optics to improve accuracy are important.  There are a number of stocks available in adjustable or fixed cheek piece configurations.  Add to that the assortment of forends of aluminum in various configurations and you have a custom-made rifle for your specific needs. 

The final step is assembly of the components.  Brownells also has that covered.  A complete video series that walks you through this process and a list of tools needed is available at www.brownells.com/buildanar15.  A PDF of instructions based on the video is available for downloading as assistance while working on the weapon.

PLAN A LABOR DAY FAMILY FISHING TRIP   1 comment

The last holiday weekend of summer presents an opportunity to reinforce the fun of fishing in the minds of youngsters.  School begins soon and they need fond memories of the summer past. 

For children to enjoy fishing, it is important to know the child.  Pre-school children are more interested in chasing minnows and casting rocks than they are in spending a day “chunkin’ and winding” a bass rod.  It is important adults recognize the short attention span of young children.  To them fishing is something that you do for a little while until bored. 

Adults need to watch for signs of boredom and then switch the activity either temporarily or for the day.  It is important youngsters catch fish in order to maintain interest in the activity.  Just sitting and watching a bobber float on the water will get old in a hurry.  That is why bluegill and sunfish are such a great fish for kids.  They are also easy to find in the late summer and early fall.  Youngsters can actually see the fish swimming in the water.  Small sunfish are voracious eaters and will take a piece of night crawler presented by young anglers.  The tug on the line is exciting to the novice angler even if it is not from a giant bass. 

Regardless of how many fish the youngster catches it is important to be able to recognize the opportunity of teaching “catch and release.” 

Picnic lunches and snacks are good alternatives to fishing for the bored child.  Remember that children get hungry more quickly than an adult.  Talk along a cooler with snacks and plenty of liquids.  Be sure that everyone stays hydrated.  Nothing can ruin a future fisherman’s love of the sport than a trip to the hospital for an IV to combat dehydration. 

A bat and ball or football to throw around can be a break from the rigors of fishing. 

It is important to have and use sun blocker.  Fond memories of a trip will be ruined by sunburn.  It is also a good idea to have any child near water wear a personal floatation device.  You cannot watch them every second.  Kids have a way of finding a way of falling into the water when you are not looking. 

The ultimate idea is to make fishing a fun time and then youngsters regard it as an experience they will wait with anticipation all winter to repeat.

I HATE MOSQUITOES   2 comments

Mosquitoes are probably the chief anguish in my life as an outdoor writer.  Here is the mid-south are some of the buggiest areas according to a survey by SC Johnson, the makers of OFF products.  

Eighty-five percent of people prepare for mosquitoes when engaging in outside activities ranging from picnics, fishing excursions to back yard parties.  Once the flying terrors appear on the scene, 23 percent of people seek the refuge of buildings, 54 percent use insect repellents, and 22 percent tough it out by doing nothing. 

When asked what is most likely to ruin a summer’s trip, 38 percent say mosquitoes and other biting insects.  In second place with 32 percent is sunburn. 

Seventy-eight percent of Midwesterners wither use some form of mosquito repellent or go inside when flying insects appear on the scene.  Add to that the fact they are known to spread the deadly West Nile Virus and you have an insect you do not want around. 

Outdoor activities at the recent Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) Business Meeting provided an opportunity to test out some of the OFF products.  Summer in Mississippi where we were meeting is one of high humidity, rain and high temperatures.  The mosquitoes are legendary. 

I tried several of the products.  One thing I noticed on the packaging was the contents.  These products contain 25% DEET while ones I have used in the past were nearly 100%.  I found the Dry Insect Repellant the most effective but the Clip-On Mosquito Repellant was the longer lasting and easiest to use.  I normally would have 15 to 20 mosquito bites and countless Chigger bites following such an experience.  This time I got away with just a couple of Chigger bites and about 5 or 6 mosquito bites. 

For more information about OFF products check out their website at www.off.com or http://www.keepsbugsoff.com.

CRANKBAITS NEXT BEST THING TO CRAYFISH   Leave a comment

My line cuts through the water on this warm summer eve. I crank three of four times on the bait cast reel then pause. Three or four more cranks and another pause. I jerk to the right and then to the left before beginning the scenario again.

From a nutritional standpoint, crayfish is probably the best food source for the bass. That is probably why it is the most popular forage. They also feed on shad and bluegills.

Probably the most versatile and least understood weapon in a tackle box is the crankbait. Often an imitation of crawfish, they are the next best thing to the real McCoy. They come in so many colors, shapes and sizes that we just forget them in favor of something less complicated.  Sometimes we try to make them more complicated than need be.

There is just no time like the present to fish a crankbait. They are suitable for virtually any bass fishing situation. Crankbaits allow you to quickly cover a lot of water. The tendency is to make long casts. That is not necessary. Casts of 30 to 40 feet are just the ticket.

To those not sure what exactly makes up a crankbait, it is a hard wood or plastic buoyant lure that will dive and wobble. Most have two sets of treble hooks sometimes making lip grabbing of a bass a bit of a thrill. The depth at which the lure runs is directly related to the lip size on the front of the lure. Generally speaking, the bigger the lip, the deeper goes the bait. This can be varied by retrieving the lure slower or faster to get the desired depth.

Lipless crankbaits, such as the popular Rat-L-Trap, are meant to just retrieve with a steady and fast reeling of the line. This keeps it above any vegetation or structure and out of snags.

With all those hooks, one would suspect that snagging on underwater objects and vegetation would be a problem. Surprisingly enough that is not always the case. If you feel a heavy contact with an obstruction, quit reeling for a second or two. The bait will normally float upward enough to avoid getting hung up. Give it a little slack keeping aware that this is often the time when a fish will attack. They see it as a forage animal in distress and an easy meal.

Crankbaits come in an endless variety of colors. Most are designed to imitate a bait fish, usually shad, crawfish or bluegill.  Novices should start with a couple of shad color, bluegill color, or shad imitations.

Your rod can be fiberglass or graphite. Most of us find that the solid graphite is a bit to fast. A rod that is 70 percent fiberglass and 30 percent graphite seems about right. It should be light to medium action, depending upon the size of crankbait to be used. The 7-foot length rods are the most popular with the pros.

The reel can be either spinning or bait casting spooled with 10- to 12-pound test monofilament line. High visibility line is popular as it can be seen to tighten or move to the side.

The most important key to fishing crankbaits is finding the right size and color lure that will work best at the depth of the water in which you are fishing. Factors such as water clarity and color of lure are important but the depth is the key. Because crayfishes are seldom found deeper than 6 feet, the odds are better if you stay in shallow water.

A basic rule of thumb is the clearer the water the smaller should be the lure. A 1/8th ounce lure is fine for clear lakes and when fish are spawning. It will stay shallow and give off good vibration. For deep lakes, try 1/4 and 5/8 ounce with 3/4 and 7/8 ounce lure being the best on in stained water of big reservoirs.
Here is a final tip in fishing crankbaits in shallow water for bass. The main idea is to bump something with it. It might be the bottom, stumps, rocks, boat docks, logs, old pillars, or sunken boats. Bounce off of it, hesitate, and then hope for a strike.

 

ADVANCE PLANNING FOR HUNTING SUCCESS   1 comment

Planning now and goal setting are keys to successful hunting.  Unless you are satisfied to just be away from home, in which case do not plan.  Sometimes the latter is a goal.  However, most of the time we are seeking a big buck, or a full brace of birds for the hunt to be successful.  Attaining such a goal requires advance planning. 

Would you purchase a home built by a contractor without the use of a blueprint?  The answer is of course not!  However, that is exactly how many of us approach out hunting activities.  We do not set a goal or make a specific action plan.  The result is often frustration at not find game or game that is inferior to what we seek. 

Step one is to decide the species that is the target.  This could be as complicated as a foreign safari or as simple as a rabbit hunt.  Are you planning a simple hunt near home?  Then the plans are simple. 

Choose the date and duration of the hunt.  Are you to hunt alone or in a party?  Is a dog required, as in waterfowl and upland hunting?  Are accommodations required?  If so, where?  Where will you eat?  If it is a day outing, then take along food, water or snacks.   Is water available for the party and any dogs?  Not a big problem to plan such a hunt, but a little common sense will permit you more time in the field and less running around taking care the of necessities. 

Regardless of where one plans to hunt, it is important to check the harvest figures to see if there is a reasonable possibility of success.  For the trophy hunter, or person in search of a big buck, studying record books is vital.  Search for places that account for multiple trophy animals.  Some areas offer better habitat, food, and nutrients for producing larger animals.  Decide what is an acceptable bag of birds or size of deer for you to be satisfied. 

Maps are a great help in planning a place to hunt.  Topographical maps are available from the U.S. Geological Survey and on the Internet.  Local maps are available for purchase from county clerks in the area.  Many maps are available from G.P.S. companies and programed into the hand held G.P.S. units. 

After you choose the area, write or telephone county agents or wildlife officers in that location.  Ask for the names of landowners in or near your hot spot.  Contact them, in person if possible, or by phone to seek out their permission to trespass. 

In many states, if you plan to hunt turkey or deer, it is necessary to make your basic plans long in advance to get the right permits and licenses.  Now is the time to decide where you will hunt, line up the landowner permission, and to put in for a license in that area. 

For those wishing to hunt out of state, and then contact the local fish and game commission.  Most states have deadlines of license applications, particularly for non-resident hunters. 

For many species, you need a guide.  It is not always possible for you to visit the location scout it.  Guides usually live in the area and have a through knowledge of it.  Often they have exclusive hunting rights to the area you desire to hunt.  They do not come cheap but if time is a problem for you, the guide might be the way you want to go. 

Guides advertise in outdoor magazines and at local sports shows during the winter months.  Most state game departments also license guides and have lists of licensed outfitters and guides.  Contact the guide and ask for references of hunters that have hunted with them in the past two years.  Then call them.  Do not just ask if they had a good time.  Inquire about equipment and accommodations.  A good question to ask is, “If you would change anything about the hunt what would it be?” 

Find out how many hunters are in camp at the same time.  How are the accommodations and food?  Sitting in a leaky cabin eating bad food will spoil the best of hunts.  Ask about the percentage of hunters who were successful in taking the animal they hunted.  How many more saw game but passed on it or were not in shape enough to stalk into range?  On the other hand, maybe could not shoot straight. 

These are a few of the elements needed to make a fall hunt successful.  Taking the time to do the homework will go along way to enjoyment of the hunt.  Begin now as it takes a lot of time to plan a great hunt.

MIKE WALKER PASSES AWAY   2 comments

 

A man died today and his passing diminishes us all.  In life he was a father, husband, grandfather, business partner, writer, or public relations expert.  To all of us who knew him, he was most importantly a friend.  James “Mike” Walker passed away following a long battle with liver disease. 

 

I met Mike through some of the outdoor writer meetings we both attended.  He headed the public relations agency that bears his name.  Mike established The Walker Agency in Phoenix, AZ but he was always a Kansas Jayhawker at heart. 

 

The man’s accomplishments are legend.  It was not enough for him to be CEO of the premiere Public Relations agency in the business.  He served in virtually every position of every outdoor writer organization.  He constantly gave to others his experience and his energy. 

 

Others will write of this man and his many accomplishments.  Perhaps they will do so better than I have here, but none will miss him as much.  Mike was my mentor in the outdoor business and a close friend during a particularly bad six months when I lost both parents.  From the first time you met him it was impossible not to be impressed by the relaxed way he approached every problem.  He would analyze it, apply his knowledge and experience, and come up with a solution. 

 

This man inspired many people in his lifetime and I am happy to say that I knew him.  It is with tears in my eyes that I say God speed old friend as he sets sail for the final voyage.

Posted 08/16/2012 by Donald Gasaway in Boats, Freshwater Fishing

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