Archive for September 2012

MUSINGS ON AFRICA   Leave a comment

My thoughts on Wednesday were on Africa.

I began the day with an email reporting that some friends who have lost two rhinos to poachers.  The bodies of the animals were discovered with their horns hacked off. In addition to this wanton waste of life, my friends will have to shell out about $80,000 to replace them on their reserve.

My friends are devastated by the loss but will work hard to reestablish the herd animals back to the balance with the land.

The second item that caught my interest was a seminar I attended at the annual meeting of the Southeastern Outdoor Writers Association in Johnson City, TN.

Ashley Lutto is an undergraduate student in Zoology at ColoradoStateUniversity who is pursuing a career in large carnivore conservation ecology.  She has been involved in projects to study wolves in Colorado and spent last summer in Zimbabwe studying wild dogs and leopards.

Lutto’s particular interest is in conserving any species by working with local people who interact with the animals on a daily basis.

Because leopards are such elusive and solitary animals, tracking them is difficult.  She and her advisors used trail cameras to view the nocturnal activities of the animals on Save Valley Conservancy.  They tried a variety of conservation techniques and she presented the pros and cons of each.

Ashley is positive about the future of wildlife in Africa if locals can benefit from its preservation.  When an animal reserve is established, usually the locals living on the land have to move to the outside of the reserve.  The result is too often that they see the reserve as a source of protein and money from poaching.

If they can find another way to receive income, the locals are likely to leave the wildlife alone.  Often they find jobs as guides, trackers, etc on the reserve.  But, those jobs are limited.

It appears to me that the indigenous people of Africa are struggling.  Some live in poverty and turn to crime.  Others move to big cities and do what they can with their limited education.  Some become domestics.  Others go on public assistance if it is available.

Perhaps the future of many Africans lies with the preservation of wildlife.  The consumptive (hunting) and non-consumptive (tourism) uses may be the future of the sub-Sahara countries.  My friends who lost the rhinos do employ a significant portion of the local population and still they were the victims of criminals in search of a quick buck.


Once your quarry is on the ground, the emotion of the scene becomes a strange mix of pride and sadness that floods through your very being.  Seeing an animal down on the ground is not all that there is to hunting.

All that went before and all that you observe in the woods is part of the scene.  Recalling those memories can be rewarding in terms of knowledge and reliving that precious time spent with nature.

Keeping a hunting journal is a rewarding way of preserving memories of a hunt.  It can be as simple as just recording the events of the day.  On the other hand, it can be more sophisticated.  The later might include feelings about the day or observations of animal behavior.

Making a hunting journal is very simple.  To begin, go to any stationery store, office supply store or bookstore.  Purchase a bound book.  This can be a ledger that accountants use to use, a spiral notebook or one of those bound hardcover books with blank pages.

Next, make an entry for each day of the hunt.  This could be the date, time, location or time of the year.  If you want to make a database of information about your regular hunting area, you might want to include weather information (high and low temperatures, moon phase, sky conditions, wind direction and barometric pressure.)  All of these are things that affect animal behavior and you can establish patterns of behavior on you land during specific conditions.

Make notes about the behavior and species of game observed.  It helps you to understand your quarry.  Some people like to include what they feed on and what time of the day they move from bedding to feeding areas, etc.  The more you know about the animal, the more likely you can develop a game plan to intercept them along the way.

For the more esoteric among us, one can record how he feels about being in the woods and close to nature.  You can include observations of animals and plants and the joy of just observing them.

If you just like to relive past hunts, then it is possible to record who hunted with you, how they did, and the over all success of the trip.  This comes in handy on a cold winter evening when you want to think back and relive the hunt.  It also could come in handy to settle an argument about who got what and where.  Time tends to make one remember situations a little differently and that big buck gets bigger with time.

Some journal keepers like to have everyone in camp make a notation in their journal.  It is kind of fun to look back and see what they said about you or the hunt.

Hunting journals are an escape for the hunter who cannot spend a lot of time in the field.  They are also a chance to record vital information so that you can formulate a future game plan for the next hunt.  It is better to make the plan at home with the notes than to take valuable time in the field to form one from distant memories.

The journal will be a joy to read in years to come.  Start keeping one right now.


The annual Don Gasaway Youth Goose Calling Contest was held this morning at the southern Celebration of National Hunting & Fishing Days in Carterville, Illinois.  Some 18 youngsters competed in two divisions (12 and under and 12 and over).  There were 9 entries in each divisions.

The event is held on the campus of John A. Logan College which supplies not only the grounds but significant financial and man power including security with their campus police force.

The contest is judged by 5 volunteer judges who are experts in contest calling for waterfowl.  Most are from out-of-town but one exception was made this year.  Mike Ritter, a college student and employee of the college judged.  Mike began competing in the contest himself at the age of 8.  He went on to win it 4 times before he became too old to enter.  He has gone on to win several national championships.

The winners received a large amount of merchandise donated from some community and waterfowl industry companies.  The first place winner in each division received an engraved shotgun.  The over 12 winner received a 12 Gauge and the under 12 was awarded a 20 Gauge.  Every contestant received a prize just for competing.

The winners in the Junior (Under 12) division were Clay Schultz, Dongola, IL in first place.  Second place went to AJ Carey of Grafton, IL.  Third place went to AAron Duke of Pulaski, IL.

The winners in the Intermediate (12 to 16) division Gabe Evard, Marion, IL in first place.  Second place went to Robert Dick of Holland, MI.  Third place went to Alex Ciraulo of Buford, GA.

DECOYING WATERFOWL   Leave a comment

In separating huntable water in to two categories: open water and potholes.  You have a plan for water wherever you hunt whether you have been there before or not.  Then you set up your decoys without guessing the right situation.

A basic set up in a pothole situation consists of two bunches of decoys, separated by about 20 to 30 yards.

Set up with the wind quartering over either shoulder.  Do not set up so much dead away or sideways and never with the wind toward you.

Unless the wind is going away from you, you will spend all your time pass shooting.  The birds will land in the gap between the decoys and in most applications that is what happens.

You do have to prepare for mallards.   They are notorious for landing at the edges of a set.  With two sets of decoys, you effectively establish three landing areas.  It is advisable to position birds for a shot.  Do not give them a landing area.  You want to know exactly where they are going to come in.

Use a duck/goose spread in the majority of places.  Set up on a bank.  Just slightly above the blind run about 30 to 50 goose decoys in a kind of rectangle shape.    Begin just to the side of your position about 15 yards and then run them four or five deep out about 40 yards.  That way if the honkers decoy to the edge they are still in good range.

Where the honker decoys come up to within ten yards of the bank, start the duck decoys placement.  Put the ducks heavy right up to 10 or 15 yards from the blind.  Then tail them off out to 60 or 70 yards from the bank.  The spread gets thinner until it is just a single line.  The result is an L or the old “Diver Hook” with a heavy concentration right in the pocket.

Mallards tend to want to decoy to the back of goose decoys.  The set up is not natural but it works well for both mallards and geese.  It is not anything you would see in a marsh but then you are setting up for a position to shoot.  If you are not in an open water situation, you do not need the goose decoys.

Early in the season, run an even number of hens and drake decoys.  Late in the season run 80 percent hens and 20 percent drakes. The hens lead the migration and the big drakes are the last to migrate.

If one plans to hunt geese in an open field, keep the majority of decoys behind you.  Most open field goose hunting comes during the early season.  Sit on the downwind end of the spread.  The spread is a shallow wide horseshoe.  Place four or five sentry goose decoys just down wind of where of you.  It simulates geese that have just landed and are walking their way into the flock.

All of these spreads demand a large number of decoys and some maintenance on them.  A lot of hunters repaint and buy new decoys each year.  It is amazing what a little soap and water and a little ArmorAll will do.  They will be a little shiny at first but after a couple of outings they are perfect.


As the cold weather begins to set in it become time to protect one’s boat from the elements.  Illinois anglers and boaters have conditions that vary from the severe weather problems of the north to some who leave their boat in the water all year in the southern part of the state.  Still there are some common sense measures we should take to protect our investment.

Most boat insurance policies do not cover ice and freeze‑related damage which makes it vital that boats be properly prepared for the cold.

Some of these suggestions are from the technicians at Yamaha Marine and others from practical experience.

Begin by topping off the fuel tank and adding a fuel conditioner and stabilizer.  Oil tanks should also be toped off with a high quality oil so as to prevent condensation from forming inside.

Flush the cooling system by fogging with fogging oil.  Remove the spark plugs and spray a 10‑second spray of the fogging oil into each plug.  Apply an anti‑seize compound to the spark plug threads.  They can then be re‑installed and torqued.

With the engine kill switch lanyard disconnected use the starter to turn over the engine.  This works the fogging oil onto the cylinder walls and piston rings.

Remove and check the fuel filter/water separator.  Replace it if necessary.  Check all fuel lines for cracking or leakage.  Next lubricate all grease fittings with a water resistant marine grease.  Lubricate the steering cable.

Remove the battery and top off with distilled water.  Charge the battery completely and store in cool, dry place away from the boat.  During the off season it is a good idea to recharge the battery monthly while in storage.

Drain and refill the lower unit with gear case lube according to the owner’s manual.  Remove the propeller as described in the manual.  Clean the shaft and hub spines.  Apply marine grease to the shaft and hub spines.  Once that is done, reinstall the propeller and tighten according to the specs in the manual.

If the water in your area is prone to freezing store the boat ashore.  Be careful to support the hull, bulkhead, keel and motor.  Cover the boat to protect its gel coat and to prevent ice damage.  Wash and wax the boat before covering it.  Be sure to allow room for ventilation to prevent mildew from forming.

Moisture can do a lot of damage if a boat is stored for long periods.  Water trapped beneath floors or in livewells can freeze and cause damage.  Remove the drain plugs but be sure to put them in a location where they will be easily found in the spring.

It is a good idea to open storage compartments to air them out.  Rodents and other varmints can cause damage to a boat in storage. They like to make themselves at home under seats and in storage compartments.  They will chew on wiring and floatation materials.

It helps to remove everything from compartments and substitute some mothballs in open plastic containers.

If the boat is being stored in the water, all seacocks and gate valves, except for the cockpit drains, should be closed or the boat could sink during the off season.  Take home all electronic equipment and other valuables.

If you are leaving a battery on board to power a security system or bilge pump, fill the cells with water and make sure they are fully charged to prevent freezing.  Visit the boat every few weeks to make sure lines are secure, fenders are in place and the bilge is dry.

A little time spent this fall preparing the boat and motor for winter will save a lot a time and heartache next spring.


Posted 09/21/2012 by Donald Gasaway in Boats


Fall bass fishing can be pretty tough.  Clear October skies and relatively clear water sends anglers in search of darker water.  The shallow and slightly stained are best.  Changing temperatures in the air and water seem to confuse fish until the weather stabilizes.

Even though shallow water cranking is considered a spring technique, it is equally effective as the water begins to cool in the fall.  As the water cools, the surface is often swarming with schools of bait fish.  They go on one last desperate search for warmer water.  One idea is to fish a crankbait just under the forage fish on the surface.

Begin cranking with small light colored lures.  Color seems is less important than is size.  By beginning with small white, green or chartreuse colors one is able to locate fish and then change to a larger crankbait.  The larger crankbaits take larger fish as well as the smaller ones.  The smaller ones tend not to take as many large fish.

The crankbait’s running depth is affected by the length of the cast, line diameter and the design of the lure.  It should not be just cast and cranked casually back to the boat.  The speed should be changed allowing a fish to react.  To help anglers know quickly the depth each bait will run, most manufacturers mark the package with information about the depth zone.

As a rule of thumb, an angler can count on a bait with a larger lip running deeper than one with a less prominent one.  The most important factor is that the lure remains in the fish’s strike zone.  Lure speed has been found to not significantly effect the depth at which it runs.  In fact some lures actually will run shallower at faster speeds.  It is important to be steady and learn from experience just how deep the lure in running.

Line diameter does affect the running depth.  For each two pounds of line weight, an angler can subtract about one foot from the lure’s depth.   The angle of the rod during the retrieve does not vary the depth at which they run.

Crankbaits are a one of the best tools for covering a lot of water to find fish.  By finding a good pattern, knowing the lure color to use and the right cover to fish, an angler can travel over more water with a crankbait than any other type of lure.

However some times fishermen fished above the big ones with surface lures and below them with the deep running crankbaits.  The strike zone and be in between.  Once one finds that zone, it is just a matter of culling to find the big guy.


Often thought of as a fish of summer, Flathead Catfish can provide some great angling in the fall.  From their lair on the bottom of our lakes and rivers, they await the presentation of bait fish and bluegills the current presents.

Flatheads are flat between the eyes and the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper one.  They are a fish designed to attack their meals from below.  Their small beady eyes are constantly looking up for food.  Flathead catfish frequently reach sizes in the 20- to 40-pounds in size.  Some exceptional fish can get into the 100-pound class.

They feed primarily on live or freshly killed bait with Bluegills being a particular favorite.  They occasionally hit artificial lures or cut bait if it is moving.  Catching a Flathead on crankbait, salt craw, spinner or a jig and grub combination can be a real ball.  One can cast a salt craw and then doing a fast retrieve can cause a fish to take it just like live bait.

Most of the river systems of Illinois and Missouri contain these aquatic monsters.  They prefer clean fresh water with a current.  During the day they lay up in holes washed out by the river current.  They will be found in the upstream side of the hole waiting for food to wash down to them.  On the downstream side of a dam, they will be found in the tailwaters.  They like the water around snags and wing dams.

Tackle for this type of fishing is usually pretty heavy.  A Muskie type rod with 20-plus pound line is recommended.  Hooks are usually 3/0 to 4/0 in size and are rigged with egg or slip sinkers up to 5 ounces in size.  Worm or circle hooks work well.

The basic rig is a large hook on an 18-inch leader.  Wire leaders are good as the line can be worn on the mouth of the fish as it twists in the water.  Above the leader is a metal swivel, a bead and a large egg sinker.  The bead prevents the sinker from fraying the knot at the swivel.

Here are some tips for catching a trophy Flathead this fall.

1.  Fish the evenings or early mornings when the water is warm.  That is between 70 and 80 degrees.

2.  Fishing is best during the dark of the moon when the fish will leave their hiding places and cruise the flats in search of food.  Gravel points work well at this time.

3.  The best Flathead fishing is on large bodies of water with current.  In lakes, the area near where feeder creeks enter is often good.  In rivers the outside bend is recommended.  Any area where baitfish can be washed toward the waiting predator is one to be explored.

4.  Invest in good heavy tackle.  Level wind reels and stiff rods make good Flathead catchers.

5.  Be a night owl.  Fish during the time of low light conditions.  Late evening or very early in the morning is when most big fish are taken by anglers.  One theory is that the low light times present the catfish with an advantage.  That is, the low light does not give away the Flathead’s presence in the deeper water but does silhouette the baitfish in the upper portion of the water.

6.  When baiting the hook use only live fish for bait.  Do not bury the entire hook in the bait.  Slip the hook once through the baitfish’s lips leaving the end of the hook exposed.  The same is true if hooking the bait through the tail.  It makes for better hook sets.

7.  Once a fish is hooked do not try to horse him into the boat or up on shore.  Play him by holding the tip of the rod high and letting it tire out the fish.  Be patient and land the subdued fish with a landing net.  A big strong one is mandatory.

Flathead Catfish will never win a beauty contest but they are one of the most fun game fish to be found in Midwestern waters.  With patience and persistence they can be taken all year around.  But they are the most fun in the fall.


Dry summer weather conditions present an opportunity for anglers.  A lack of rainfall causes rivers and lakes to have lower water levels.  In some reservoirs water levels are lowered late in the summer and early fall in anticipation of winter run off.

Whatever the reason for the lower water levels fishermen are presented a clear view of shoreline structure.

To the more sophisticated angler this is a time to cruise the shoreline and plan next years fishing trips.  The lower water exposes all of the structure in shallow water near the banks.  In the spring the higher water floods the structure.  Fish seek it out to wait in ambush for hapless baitfish.

Lakes and rivers vary in the amount of their structure.  For the angler smart enough to get out and record the viable structure it is an advantage for the following spring.  Fall is a time to take a picture or video tape and mark G.P.S. locations of the structure on maps for future reference.  It is also a good idea to note the specific kind of structure that is found.

On some lakes there boat docks, old piers, pilings, sunken boats, chunks of concrete.  Old seawalls of wood or concrete are difficult to find.  Rotting wood provides areas for growth of algae which in turn attracts bluegill and other panfish.  Bass feed on these and other bait fish.

Concrete and rip rap provide rocky structure.  Old wooden piers that are bad for people are good for fish.  Fallen trees dot shorelines of many lakes.

Brush can often be found in channels and feeder creeks.  Any brush with 12 inches of water under it is a good place to look for fish.  Water so shallow is often overlooked by the angler not accustomed to fishing such an area.  During scouting of low water in the fall for spring fishing locations if the trolling motor is not turning up mud then you are not shallow enough.

Do not ignore junk in the water.  The seasoned angler will not pass up such structures as old tires and other man‑made junk.  Patience is the key to finding fish structure.

Good maps are available locally for virtually all lakes.  Most local bait shops and marinas have them at a nominal cost.  Some can be downloaded from the Internet.  Mark the maps with the location of the structure so that next year you can go right to it.  You can find them even though they are underwater in the spring.

G.P.S. units are also good for marking structure.  The maps on some of the newer units can be so site specific that one can mark a fallen tree and return to it within a few feet even though covered with water.  In the spring when the water tends to be a little muddy it may be difficult to see what is then submerged.

With the help of maps, video, photographs and G.P.S. systems you do not have to waste time seeking hidden structure in the spring.  You can go right to it.


During an interview about fall fishing locations in southeast Illinois, IDNR Fisheries Manager Curt Daine recommended Lake Glendale in Pope County.  Pope County is one of the prettiest counties in the state during the fall color changes.  The lake is located in the Shawnee National Forest and is part of the Lake Glendale Recreation Area.  It is located three miles north of the junction of Illinois Routes 145 and 146 and about 25 miles south of Harrisburg via Illinois Route 145.

The heavily forested area near the lake provides excellent campsites for the fall hunter/fisherman.  Because the lake waters come from a heavily forested watershed, it is clean and clear.  This makes it popular with swimmers, boaters and picnickers.  Swimming is limited to the beach area only.

The lake itself is 80-acres with clean clear water and an abundance of vegetation that is home to some nice bluegills and channel catfish.  The largemouth bass are present but only about 12 to 14-inches in length and below the 16-inch legal size limit for keepers.  Regular stocking the lake by Daine has resulted in a steadily improving fishery.

There is a boat ramp at the northeast side of the lake and a 10 horsepower limit on motors.  Anglers can access the lake from a variety of locations along the shore.  Boat rentals are available.

For those wanting to fish additional waters, Sugar Creek Lake is located just west of Lake Glendale near Dixon Springs.  Daine reports that the crappie, catfish and bass are good in Sugar Creek Lake.  Shore fishing is good and boating is allowed with electric motors.

Outdoorsmen fishing and camping at these two lakes can easily take advantage of the ample hunting lands of the Shawnee National Forest.  Deer, squirrel, quail and turkey are found there.

For the hunter/anglers who wants a quiet place to camp and participate in hunting or fishing activities these two locations are ideal.  They are perfect for a day or several days cast and blast vacation.  For more information contact the Lake Glendale Recreation area at 618-949-3807 or the U.S. Forest Service at 618-658-2111.


Cast and Blast is a description of a trip that allows the angler and hunter to come out in all of us.  Southeastern Illinois is an excellent area for outdoorsmen and women to enjoy just such a trip on an extended weekend or even just for a day afield.

Excellent wildlife habitats and thousands of acres of public access land, make southern Illinois a paradise for the hunter.  The combination of state, federal, and county lands provide hunters with more than 400,000 acres in which to pursue game and enjoy the outdoors.

Weather and habitat conditions during the hunting season affect wildlife.  Farm production schedules’ in certain areas can also affect the presence of game.  If the crops have all been harvested the game may move to another area.  Game is usually common in and around the crop fields.

For instance, quail like areas with a good mix of row crops, small grains, legumes and grassland.  Land connected by wooded fencerows and forest edges is best.  Turkeys also like this type of cover.

Deer like grain crops but seek those fields located next to heavy edge cover and forests.  They like to feed in the fields and feel more secure in the heavy cover as they rest.

Rabbits prefer the abandoned farmsteads with their mix of row crops, small grain and shrubby fencerows.  Old pastures and forest edges provide the right combination of open areas with an overhead canopy that protects them from flying predators.

Cast and Blast trips also provide sportsmen with an opportunity to wet a line in one of the many lakes and ponds of southeastern Illinois.

The 70-acre Dolan Lake in Hamilton County Conservation area is a good choice for a cast and blast outing.  It has hunting programs as well as the camping and fishing.  The conservation area is just south of Illinois Route 14 about eight miles east of McLeansboro in Hamilton County.

In 2005, the lake was drained and the fish removed.  The next year IDNR restocked it with largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegills.  There is a 17-inch length limit on largemouth bass and the fish are presently in that range.  Basically, this makes the lake a catch and release situation for the present leading to lots of catching of bass.

The channel catfish are now about 3 pounds in size and make an excellent meal over the campfire at the end of the day.  The bluegills also do well in this lake.

Another choice is Lake Glen O. Jones in the Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area.   Located a few miles south of Equality it is on the edge of the lowlands that border the SalineRiver.  This 105-acre lake contains good fishing for largemouth bass, crappie and channel catfish.  Its close proximity to the Shawnee National Forest lends itself to being a good place to camp while hunting.  Camping is tent style as there is no space for large RV’s in the campgrounds.

The addition of fish attractors in the lake has proven helpful for locating fish.  A map of the location of each attractor is available at the on site office.


For a complete listing of the public lands of southern Illinois check the IDNR Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations available wherever hunting licenses are available.  It is also on line or from the IDNR offices around the state.  The booklet lists the properties, the game available and any special site-specific regulations that apply.


It is fall and time for hunters to come to base camp in southeast Illinois.



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