Archive for October 2012


Squeezing a household spray bottle strengthens the finger and wrist muscles

For as long as I have owned it, my S&W 460 has presented me problems in shooting.  Accuracy is not a problem on the bench at the range but I have a damaged wrist that just does not have the stength to hold it steady in the field.

The writst was broken during a fall off a chair at an outdoor show as we were taking down a display.  I hit it on the edge of a table. For those not familiar with the S&W 460 is is not a light handgun.  But, I like to hunt big game with it.  Therin lies my problem.


Big game does not sit still on a range with a bench rest.  Last month at the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) I spoke with Bill Booth a rep for the Smith & Wesson company.  The first response from him was that he always uses shooting stick in the field with his handguns.  I do too but I still have trouble holding the weapon steady.  He suggested two other tips which I am presently using.


Tip One is to use a household spray bottle full of water as an exercise device to strengthen the movement for trgger action.  Booth  suggested filling it with water and “shooting” water until the bottle is empty.  Repeat daily and as often as necessary until the strength comes back to my wrist.


Tip Two is one I never thought of.  He suggested I look into the purchase of a bowler’s glove.  It has steel supports that give extra strength to the wrist area.  I am on the way to the bowling alley.


Sometimes shooters just have to improvse and borrow from other sports.


To the casual observer, Illinois does not seem to have a sizeable population of rabbits.  Last year saw a small spike in the number of rabbit hunters as they increased by 2% with a harvest that decreased by 6.3% over the previous year.  One need only look across the vast fields of the state and notice the lack of heavy cover.  Rabbits are normally associated with the heavy cover of grain fields, wood lots and brambles.

Every year the Illinois Department of Natural Resources biologists report that the areas in the south central part of the state contain significant populations of cottontail rabbits.

Scratch a hunter and you will find a rabbit hunter.  Most hunters began hunting careers chasing these ghosts that vanish before our eyes.  As an adult, or as a starting point for children, the ghost of the prairie is an excellent first quarry.

Like bass, one can seek this quarry anywhere there is wood.  Rabbits are tolerant of man and are often located in farm yards and anywhere there are wooden buildings, occupied or not.  They like the brush found in most areas of the state.  They seek heavy cover areas for protection from the elements and from predators.

Slews, swamps and weed patches are a favorite loafing area.  Rabbits tunnel under abandoned farm equipment and buildings.  They adapt to almost any type of cover available.  Rabbits do have to fear all sorts of predators, from coyotes and house cats, to man and hawks.

On cloudy days a rabbit will remain motionless in the most remote part of their cover.  On sunny days hawks cast a shadow on the land but on cloudy days there is no such warning.  They become prairie ghosts which appear as a last resort or when they become too wet and hungry.

The most popular method for hunting rabbits is the walk-up method.  By walking slowly and stopping frequently, hunters alone or in a group can flush rabbits.  It is a good idea to post a blocker at the end of the cover.  Work toward him or her.  That will head off a sneaker otherwise overlooked.

The use of dogs is a popular way to hunt rabbits.  Any specie of dog can be a rabbit dog.  The most popular rabbit dogs are hounds and in particular the beagle.  A rabbit pursued by a dog will circle wide and return to the spot where he began the chase.  A hunter will find trying to keep up with a rabbit, an impossible task.  Only a dog can do such a thing.

Dogs push the rabbit to complete the circle more quickly.  How quickly depends upon the hunting pressure, numbers of predators in the area, and the size of the rabbit.  Dogs never quit looking for the rabbit, even though he might have gone to ground or slipped away.  The dog will stay on the trail.  If rabbits stayed on a straight trail, the hunter would have no need for a dog.   Rabbits do not stay on straight trails.

If there is snow on the ground, the work of the hunter is easier.  Stalking and flushing are good techniques in snow.  An abundance of tracks in an area is a good sign of the presence of many rabbits.  Rabbits use well-traveled runs to return to the point where they began the chase.  Without a dog, it may take a little time, but he will return.  Rabbits flush, circle around a hunter and are often back in their burrow with the hunter being unaware he has been snookered.

On warm days, rabbits are almost anywhere there is a food supply.  On cold days they tend to stay in heavy cover and make a hunter’s job more difficult.  Regardless, the wily rabbit is a worthy opponent for a weekend afternoon when other game seems to be scarce.  They are out there one just has to work a little to find this ghostly apparition.


In the 1960’s we began to hear about a rifle the army was issuing called the M14.  It was to replace the M1 Garand introduced in the 1930’s, and used extensively in the Second World War and the Korean War.  Some also saw action in the early days of the Viet Nam conflict.  The M14 was the meat and potatoes rifle for the military in the 1960’s and early 70’s

Growing up in Iowa we did not have anything one could hunt with a high powered rifle.  Even the first deer season did not happen until I was in high school.  Rifles with other than Mauser actions were not in the picture.

Fast forward to a month ago.  There an annual meeting of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association in Johnson City, TN.  During the shooting day activities, Susan Johnston, Public Relations Manager for Daisy Outdoor Products introduced the Model M14 Winchester Air Rifle.

The air rifle was an instant hit with the “boomers” who had extensive experience with the original M14 while serving in the military.  Not a vet, nor much of a rifle expert, I was intrigued by the stability and accuracy of the M14 air rifle.

The .177 caliber pellet (or BB) gun is a CO2 semi-automatic that can do a job on busytails in the woods.  The clip holds two standard 12-gram cylinders to produce a maximum muzzle velocity of 700 feet per second.  It is the old iron sights that hold me back.  The weapon has a blade front sight and an adjustable rear sight, about as basic and you get.

The clip also holds an ammo magazine with an 8-shot cylinder at each end for a total of 16 shots.  You load the pellets, or BBs, or a combination of both, into a magazine that fits into the clip.  Shoot 8 times and then flip the clip to continue with another 8 shots.

The airgun has a maximum shooting distance of 280 yards.

The realistic semi-automatic salute to the M14 is an enjoyable airgun for those who are looking at its historical significance or just want some backyard fun with serious marksmanship.

For more information about this and other airgun products from Daisy check the website


Watching those expensive prescription sunglasses sink away into the clear depths of Lake of Egypt is not a pleasant experience.  In fact it gives one a sickening feeling in the pit of the stomach.

It was on the first cast of a bass fishing trip that they just slipped off nose before anything was possible to stop them.  Attempts to snag them with a crankbait proved unsuccessful.  If only I had not taken the eyewear retainer off because it was a nuisance.  Besides somehow it just did not fit the image.

Fast forward to October 2012 and the annual fall conference of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association breakout day.  J. Kevin Spencer was there as a rep for FloatEyes ( a Little Rock, Arkansas company specializing in eyewear retainer systems that actually float.  He explains, “The retainer adds enough buoyancy to keep glasses from sinking.”  They also go around the back of the head to help avoid having them fall into the water or in the boat.

Another of their products is a vinyl Coated Steel Cable system.  It is lightweight, durable and ridged.  The later keep the system off of the neck and avoid irritation to a sunburned area.  It holds a semi-circle shape allowing its use for both active and casual wear.  It is available in both black and clear coated steel.

They hold glasses from becoming a nuisance when boating a fish or just casting.  The system allows hands free hanging the glasses around the neck clear of the face during camera sessions.

The vinyl Coated Steel Cable system shown in the photo above is really neat.  Virtually no weight and not very visible, the system protects sunglasses on the water and has reduced sun glass replacement costs significantly.

A HIKE FOR ANGLERS   2 comments

Probably the oldest symbol of fishing is the barefoot little boy walking along with a cane pole and a can of worms.  Many modern anglers are beginning to find that enjoyment again.  No they are not barefoot, but they are hiking and fishing.

The large tracts of land in public areas contain small ponds and streams with fish populations available to hiking anglers.  State parks and national forests are another area where opportunities exist.

Fall is a good time to hike in the woods.  The days are warm and the nights cool.  The insects can be a problem.  Fishing can be good all year around.

Often there are a number of marked trails in the woods as well as miles of gravel and blacktop roads.  Some of the marked trails lead to or near fishing areas.  More detailed description of trials and fishing areas are usually available locally from highway departments as well as local fish and game officials.  Local county highway departments often have maps available for a few dollars.

Most trials in national forests are easy to moderate in difficulty.  Hiking is not a strenuous activity if one takes a few precautions and is in moderately good physical shape.  Most trails will pass through valleys and level terrain with hills and ridge tops.  This is not to say that there is not rough terrain, or that the trails are not rough.

Due in part to fiscal considerations, some trails could be better marked.  That would be a good project for a conservation or church group to consider.

Still with a map and common sense, the hiker/angler can find some excellent wilderness fishing.

Assuming you select a place to hike and fish it is time to consider the gear for your use.  One of the first considerations is the feet.  Hiking boots are a good idea, and there are a number of very fine ones on the market at moderate prices.  They should be well broken‑in before hiking.  Wear them for everyday wear.  A number of short hikes around the neighborhood will help break them in as well as increase your own stamina.

Other clothing should include cotton or acrylic stockings and loose clothing.  Long pants and sleeves are best to prevent insect bites and scratches from the vegetation.  A wide-brimmed hat is preferred.

Insect repellent is good during those times when the mosquitos and ticks are a problem.  A pocket sized first aid kit or at least a couple of Band‑Aids are a good idea.

As for the fishing tackle the lighter the better.  A small backpacking rod and reel is a very good idea.  There are a number of them on the market.  Most are ultra-light spinning rod and reel set‑ups.  They do not take up much room in a day pack and are just for such a purpose.

Usually, a line of two‑ to six‑pound test is best.  Heavier line does not work well casting from these rods.  Small plastic tackle boxes (4X6 inches) are ideal for holding the terminal tackle.  They have small compartment to hold jigs and small crankbaits as well as floats, hooks and sinkers.  Live bait is a bit of a problem to carry while hiking, so one would be better off with plastic lures.

One rig that seems to work well wherever one travels is a white curlytail jig.  A few leadhead jigs and a bunch of white curlytails will last a hiker a long time.  Fish the jig in a slow presentation.  Retrieve it so slowly that the curlytail barely has motion to it for good results.

Some water or soda, and snacks round out the equipment needed to enjoy fishing and hiking in the woods.

Hiking and fishing have both traveled a long way since the days of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.  One can still enjoy this pastime wherever you live.



Hunters this time of year are out with trail cameras to explore the wildlife on their hunting property.  These relatively new additions to the hunting arsenal can be a tremendous scouting tool.  Probably a person most aware of this is Rodnie Beckham, Product Manager for Bushnell Trophy Cam.

Speaking to writers at the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers recently in Branson, MO, he outlined some salient points for Trail Cam users.

Before taking your trail camera into the field it is wise to gain an understanding of which features it offers and think about way you can take advantage of that technology.

A popular feature is time lapse imaging which allows you to monitor activity not captured by the sensor on the camera.  The Bushnell 2x Field Scan feature allows you to select two windows of time to capture images at a programmable time interval from one to 60 minutes.  You can use it to scout a food plot or field at both dawn and dusk.

Using high quality batteries saves time and money in the long run.  Beckham recommends Energizer Advanced Lithium batteries.  They last longer and are more durable in extreme temperatures.

If you are about to hang a new treestand hang a camera with it.  It gives you a better idea or what bucks are passing your shooting lanes and what brush needs to be pruned in order to give you a shot at that deer.

In order to get spot on photos of deer, it is important to hang the camera no higher than 40 to 48 inches.  Above that you get only pictures of the woods through which they are passing.  Below that you will see their legs and feet but will not know if they are bucks or does and certainly will not see any racks.

Once in place, trigger the camera a few times to see what it is actually taking an image of.  It will give you a view of the entire “field of view”.  You might find that it is necessary to make adjustments to the camera to get it on target.  Or it may be necessary to trim some limbs or grass so that its movement will not keep triggering the camera without any wildlife present.  It would help to take advantage of the entire field of view too.

Rain on the camera as well as sun rising and setting can also trigger false images.  One common problem is the straps used to hold the camera in place.  If allowed to hang down they can blow in front of the sensor and cause false triggers.

Consider using time lapse technology to ensure that you capture animals further away from the camera as they feed, approach a feeding area or pass on a game trail.  The distance away from the camera also factors in when setting the flash to illuminate the animals.  If they are 30-40 feet away, you may want to set the flash to high.

Finally do not over check your game camera.  You can disrupt the habitat to the point that you leave too much scent and scare away animals that see you moving into and out of the area.  Take the same precautions with regard to scent and travel that you would when hunting.



Having recently celebrated their 50th Anniversary, the Mossberg Company has introduced a shotgun package for a variety of uses.  It is a modular shotgun and accessory system.  The weapons are equally usable for military, salt-water, freshwater, waterfowl, deer and upland game situations.   The interchangeable components and barrels provide the sportsman the opportunity to tailor his shotgun to specific hunting and shooting situations.

It allows the shooter and hunter the chance to customize his weapon to specific uses.  It also makes for a compact home defense gun.

Linda Powell, PR person for Mossberg, is a veteran shooter and hunter.  At the SEOPA (Southeastern Outdoor Press Association) annual conference in Johnson City, TN earlier this month she demonstrated the system and allowed writers to shoot it.

One of the components she demonstrated was the selection of 3 different size recoil pads.  This feature makes it possible to have a different pad for warm weather shooting (with light clothing) and for winter (heavy clothing) use.  It aids in making the stock the right length without having to go to a gunsmith and cutting up the gun stock.  The change is actually possible in the field without special tools.

Four synthetic forends and nine stock positions including both standard and a pistol-grip or tactical choice add to the variety of configurations for this FLEX system of shotguns.

The changes have no loose fitting parts despite the lack of special tools.  Without special tools, the shotgun can easily be multi-purpose built with a wide range of accessories that feature the TLS connector system.

An interesting option is for the saltwater hunter.  A sea duck hunter can get a coating on the metallic parts resisting the effects of salt sea spray.  Salt from the spray has long been the bane of the sea duck hunter.  Salt spray requires frequent complete cleaning after every day in the field.  Even then it often damages the weapon.

The package also offers camouflaged components in the form of the stock and forearm.  It is available with other metallic parts coated to provide a great “Turkey gun.”

The shotguns come with a variety of barrels from 20 to 28-inch vent rib “ACCU-CHOKE” ported barrels with matte metal finishes or the all-weather Marinecote fishing.

While the total package of options is too large for complete coverage here, it is possible to find more information on the Mossberg website at




Mark Strand is a longtime friend and veteran outdoor writer from Minnesota.  When he first announced the formation of School of Outdoor Sports my first reaction was that it was a duplication of the many Hunter Safety and other outdoor education programs.  But, that is not the case.

Mark has combined his efforts with Foley-Belsaw Outdoors (FBO) to produce a series of DVDs that introduce the novice and not so novice to the real world of fishing, hunting and shooting.  In clear simple to understand language he presents information hat teach one to use the best skills and ethics in the woods and on the lake.

The School of Outdoor Sports is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing participation in traditional outdoor sports.  In addition to inspiring people to take up these activities, they also answer questions so they remain interested.  Additional activities support ongoing outings, including matching young beginners with mentoring groups.  They also inspire, recruit and teach mentoring.

Foley-Belsaw is a nearly 100 year old company that has long produced marketing programs and how-to instruction for a variety of outdoor industries.  Their sound financial situation allows the School of Outdoor Sports to produce DVDs.  The two organizations share a vision for helping grow participation in outdoor sports.

“We found a true ally in FBO,” says Strand.  “This is a company that understands it must generate profits to remain in business but also cares about people and wants to contribute to the cause of getting more newcomers into fishing, hunting and shooting.”

All 5 DVDs are available for a nominal cost from FBO ( with all proceeds benefiting the nonprofit School of Outdoor Sports.

BASS IN COLD WATER   Leave a comment

Perhaps it is cold weather bass act differently.  They require fishing different baits, techniques and locations.  Biologists in the laboratory monitor bass activity in cold water situations.

Air and water temperature changes affect the metabolism of fish.  It slows the way they absorb nutrients from what they eat.  The liver and digestive functions are reduced.  What they digest at one temperature in a day may take four days to digest once the water temperature is lowered.

Although they look OK to the fisherman, when temperatures fall below 60 degrees bass begin to struggle physiologically.  Once in the 30’s behavioral changes become major.  They do not want to move at all.  Often they sit on the bottom with other bass dormant with only their pectoral fins touching the bottom.  Their gills show little sign of movement with perhaps a movement of the gill plates at a rate of one time per minute.

Although cold bass do not swim fast, some individuals will exhibit short bursts of activity in search of food.  If successful, they do not feed again for as much as a month.

Couple this lack of activity with clear water conditions and there is a need to change fishing patterns.  Winter water is clear because all the vegetative matter has died.  With it gone, there are problems for bass to find cover and for bait fish to find food.

With mild winters experienced the last few years in the Midwest, fishermen are finding they can fish for bass during the winter months.  The key is warm sunny days.  Even then it is better to fish in the late afternoon than in mornings.  The sun warming the shallows all day can raise the temperature there a few degrees.  Minnows are attracted to the water and the bass follow.  This also is the case with rocky shores or rip rap that have a southern exposure.

Big bass often can be found on main lake shorelines and just inside main lake points that lead to coves.  They will chase minnows and warm water into water so shallow that it barely covers their bodies.  Usually there is deeper water close by and the fish move into the shallows from deeper water to feed.  Days with a slight ripple on the surface of the water tend to be better.

You can twitch crankbaits or use grubs and jigs along main lake ledges and at the base of bluffs that extend into the water.  The rock formations warm faster than the water in general but provide warmth to shallow areas.

Bright shad imitations tend to be the best bet.  When the sun is out, use bright colors and when it is cloudy work the darker shades of green.  Smaller baits fished fast seem to work well in winter.  They cover more area in a shorter period of time.  If small crankbaits are not producing small plastic worms might.  The key is small baits worked fast in clear water.

Fishing in the clear water of winter always presents a problem with spooking fish.  Dead or brown vegetation still will provide some cover for bass.  But wood is a better place to seek them out.  It can be old docks or other man made structures are good.  Private docks on the shoreline or in marinas often hold bass.

Just because the weather has turned cooler do not give up on your bass fishing.  A poet is often quoted as saying that God does not count against your life span those days spent fishing.  If so why not add some days to your life this fall fishing for cold water bass.


Each fall as hunting begins to occupy the thoughts of hunters, the controversy about wearing blaze orange rears its ugly head.  Some see it as a way to prevent suffering a gunshot would or a wound from an errant arrow.  Others regard it as just a nuisance that costs additional money better spent elsewhere.

Upland hunters need to wear it on certain occasions by law.

Regardless it is the law in many situations and so we comply or get a ticket from a conservation police officer.

Perhaps the main reason we deer and upland game hunters wear blaze orange is due to the laws in many areas we hunt. Another reason is that we hear over and over that it is safer than not wearing the color.   I once interviewed a man recovering from a shooting accident while leaving his treestand at dusk.  He wished he had worn an orange vest to alert a trespasser on his property who mistook him for a deer.  What really is the reason?

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

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

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

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

With humans bright colors such as blaze orange look bright. A filter that blocks about 99 percent of UV light from entering the eye protects the human eye. It is like sunglasses.

Blaze orange absorbs UV rays that humans cannot see and turn them into longer wavelengths they can see. The orange reflects less UV that animals see well and more of the rays they do not.

This color correction perceived by game becomes a neutral gray. It is still highly visible to other hunters and has resulted in blaze orange being required of hunters in the field.

Lawmakers are not in the business of creating a clothing industry.  Blaze orange laws are the result of scientific study and intended to promote hunting safely.  In some areas they have made a significant contribution in the reduction of hunter injuries.


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