Archive for December 2012


Lucas Oil team lands a nice winter crappie.

Lucas Oil team lands a nice winter crappie.

Moving ever so slowly, Matt guides the boat using electronics.  The combination of side scanning and depth location technology presents a picture of the bottom structure.  On the bow Kent watches the poles mounted in a spider rig for any sign of movement.  As the bait rig bounces off the side of a deep channel, a crappie sucks in the minnow.

The Indiana based Matt Morgan and Kent Watson is demonstrating a deep water double minnow rig for fishing cover.  They are professional crappie anglers, sponsored by Lucas Oil, who use a variety of trolling rigs.  This one is the killer.

The rig comes at the end of heavier line not usually associated with crappie fishing.  But the heavy line is necessary to straighten out light wire hooks when they hang up.  The hooks are long shad wire hooks that straighten out easily.  You can bend them back to the original shape when retrieved.

The main line ties to a three-way swivel.  To one of the other eyes is tied a drop line of about six inches length terminating with a wire hook and minnow.  The third line is 30-inches in length with a half-ounce egg sinker about a foot up from another wire hook and minnow.

In the water, lower the lower hook/minnow/sinker combination to the bottom.  Then raise it off the bottom two turns of the reel.  The total rig moves around and into any structure that shows up on the electronics.  It is important to move very slowly.  It helps to bounce the rig off of any structure found.

This is a very effective trolling rig for crappie.  Anglers sometimes feel the use of a trolling motor scares fish away from structure.  Fish do not seem to react to the continuous use of the motor according to John Neaporadny who has studied the subject.  Or at least they react less to the continous use of the motor.  He recommends avoiding an intermittent use of the motor as that does seem to stimulate a reaction by crappies.  John has found that the very slow and continuous use of a trolling motor is best.

Matt Morgan finds the deep water trolling rig for fishing cover is particularly effective in channels.  As the depth changes from the sides of the channel to the deepest part, the angler lifts and drops it to keep the same distance off the bottom.  When trolling channels, Matt recommends banging the rig off the sides of the channels.  He explains that most of the bites come as the rig bounces off the side of the channel wall.



Biologists tell us in the early part of the migration birds build up on high protein food sources.  Later in the season when the temperatures warm a lot of ducks hit the shallow water areas feeding on invertebrates.  Many grain crops are not as attractive to them.  In a sense the late season duck’s food source changes slightly.

Hunters see a lot of good movement in the warmer weather.  The main element is wind.  It seems to take wind to get ducks to move.  On still days when it is warm, clear or cloudy, they just do not want to fly.  When it gets warmer, they seem to head out to the smaller areas with water.  Ducks will hold during colder temperatures on big water.  Additionally big water stays open longer.  It is not likely to freeze as quickly.

Hunters tend to use more decoys during the early part of the season.  Once birds are in the area change the decoy set up every day.  Scale back to a smaller decoy spread if hunting near a large body of water.

Before weather fronts move through the birds tend to be a little more active.  They know the weather is about to hit and the change in the barometric pressure becomes the key.  It starts changing before the front arrives.

A high pressure system pushes fronts through an area.  Ducks migrate more frequently in high pressure weather than with low pressure.  They can fly at higher altitudes with high pressure.  The hardest part of a duck’s exertion is the exhaling part where with a human it is the inhaling.  In high pressure situations birds can fly at a higher altitude and it is easier to make those long distance flights.

Early in the season ducks respond better to calls and decoys because more juvenile birds are present.  If there are a couple of juvenile birds within a flock they will respond better.  There are going to be more of them than later in the season.  Calling wise it is tougher going later in the year.  Watch how the birds respond and how they are behaving.  If there is no wind scale the calling down.  Less is best.

Some final advice is to always check what they want to hear first.  If you do not get the first or second flock, change tactics. With the next flock try calling a lot and try other scenarios.  If they still do not respond change it again.  Soon you will probably find a fit.  Then the rest of the day is going to be more productive.

You have to be always aware to trying to figure it out.   It can be difficult but you might get a little bit closer.


Hunter 0001

Tiny Whitetails provide excellent hunting with a long season and generous bag limits.  They afford ample opportunity for enjoyable days in the field and the promise of good eating for the effort.

Many farmers regard rabbits as pests, therefore gaining access to private land is usually pretty easy.  A polite request is often all you need to gain access.  Choosing a good location is sometimes another matter.  Areas with clean fields and pastures lush with fescue are usually devoid of rabbits.  Fescue offers poor cover and as a food it can cause problems that effect reproduction.

Because they are the top of the menu for just about all of nature’s critters, a rabbit’s first consideration is cover.  They are concerned with cold and wetness first and wind second.  Rabbit fur is not warm, and when it is wet it tends to mat.

Rabbits want to have an area where they can get sun for warmth and still be out of the wind.  On sunny days, they are fond in direct sunlight.  They preen and fluff their fur to maximize its protection front the cold.  If the ground is wet in some areas and dry in others, they will go to the dry, bare patches with cover nearby.  However, if the day is cold and windy, they move deep into the cover, shielded from the wind.  They burrow deep into brush piles or seek ditches and culverts for protection.  If the sun is shining, they will move to the side of a brush pile bathed in sunshine.

Some good locations are clear cuts and powering right of ways.  A mix of hardwoods, run‑down farmland and brush piles worth exploring.  If you can contact local rural letter carriers, they often know where they have seen large populations of rabbits all summer.

Rabbits will inhabit woodlots, hedgerows, slews and weed patches.  They tunnel under abandoned farm equipment or buildings.  They are very adaptable and can live almost anywhere.  If cats are around, the rabbit population is usually not that good.

Other predators that attack rabbits include the hawk.  On cloudy days, rabbits are very nervous and tend to stay in the deepest part of their cover.  On sunny days hawks cast a shadow on the land that alerts the rabbit to their presence.  On an overcast day there is no shadow.  Rabbits react to this vulnerability by hiding in heavy cover out of the reach of any winged predator.

Public hunting lands are often a good place to rabbit hunt after the deer season is over.  Often they have been overlooked all through the deer season.  Hunters have been so concentrated on the deer that they have left the rabbits alone.  Wildlife management areas in the public hunting program are examples of public lands which offer good hunting for rabbits.

The most popular method for hunting rabbits is the walk‑up method.  By moving slowly and stopping frequently, lone hunters and groups alike are likely to flush a rabbit.  If hunting hedgerows, or where cover is thin, then it is a good idea to post a blocker to intercept a sneaker.

If there is snow on the ground, then the work of hunting is easier.  Stalking and flushing tactics work well in snow.  An abundance of tracks in a given area gives away the presence of several rabbits.  Well used rabbit runs are used by a flushed rabbit to return to the point from which started.  It may take some time, without the persuasion of a beagle, but all rabbits circle back to the original point from which he flushed.  In this way, they often are able to circle around a walking hunter and are securely in their home as the hunter goes on in frustration.

In warm weather, rabbits can be jumped almost anywhere there is food.  However, in cold weather they move to the thick cover.  That usually means a tough trail for a human to follow.

It is then that a good beagle is worth his weight in gold.  Beagles are great rabbit dogs, as they will stay on the trail, baying to tell their master where the trail is leading.  The hunter often has only to wait and as the rabbit circles around, the sound of the beagle alerts the hunter to the approach of the rabbit.

Weapons for rabbit hunting range from the ever popular .22 to 12 gauge shotgun.  Bowhunters also have also taken up rabbit hunting.  To the shotgunner, shot sizes of 6 or 7 lead, and 4 steel, are good.  The small size shot gives a good wide pattern to cope with the zigzag run of the rabbit.

The hunting archer can use the same bow that he uses to hunt other game.  His arrows can also do double duty thanks to the interchangeable arrowheads that most deer hunters now use.  The broadhead is removed and a blunt or similar head is substituted.  Bowhunting rabbits is very difficult, but also quite a rewarding experience.

Whatever the weapon, a small game hunting license is required.  But, there are no special permits or stamps required to hunt the Tiny Whitetail.


Coyote 0004

One of the best and least used tools in hunting coyotes is scent.  Volumes are available on the subject of scent as it relates to deer hunting.  The following is an attempt to clarify the picture as it relates to late season coyote hunting in Illinois.

Predators rely heavily on their sense of smell to lead them to food as well as to keep them out of harms way.

There are two basic types of scents: cover scents and attractant scents.  Cover scents conceal the natural odor of man and the odors his body can absorb.  Cover scents divided into mild and strong scents.  Examples of mild scents are the scent wafers that generally smell like acorn, pine or cedar.  Such scents are for use in areas where such scents occur naturally.

Strong scents come from the urine of other mammals, such as deer, fox, skunk or bobcat.  As the name implies, the odor from such scents is strong.  Never place it directly upon the hunter or his clothing.  To do so may cost you your happy home.

Apply strong scents to cotton, cloth or a pipe cleaner and place downwind of the hunter.  Dip the absorbent fabric into the scent and place downwind because coyotes tend to approach their prey from that direction.  They rely on their nose to tell them exactly where the prey is located and if some other animal is in the area.  The strong scent blends with and camouflages the scent of the hunter.

Hunters should also attempt to make themselves as human scent free as possible.  The best way to keep a coyote from becoming alarmed due to human scent is to eliminate the human scent before ever entering the field.  But, it requires dedication, commitment and extra time.

The first step is to wash all hunting clothing with a scent‑free laundry detergent.  One such product is Scent‑A‑Way by Hunter’s Specialities.  Dry the clean clothing without using any scented fabric softener.  Using those scented sheets in the drier add fragrance which defeats the purpose of using the scent‑free detergent.

The clothing must then be stored in a bag that will keep them from absorbing other odors.  Early attempts usually involved placing them in plastic garbage bags with such things as dirt, leaves and other assorted items that smelled like the hunting area.  Today, you can use the commercial bags and include with earth scent wafers.  It keeps the clothing odor free and still clean.

Just being scent free or just using an attractant alone is not enough.  Combine the two to produce a certain effect.  Coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will prey upon young deer.  Using a doe urine product can fool them into believing that there is an easy meal in the area.  The attractant scent of doe urine, combined with a fawn bleat can fool ole wily coyote even though the does are not dropping fawns at that particular time of the year.

The hunter himself should also take care to avoid absorbing odors.  Natural body odor comes from bacteria release by the body in perspiration.  It is a good idea to take a shower just before going into the field.  It helps to use an unscented soap such as Ivory or any of the other commercial products on the market.  Some of the odors we absorb from our environment are cigarette smoke, gasoline fumes, after shave, hair spray or oil, and cooked foods such as bacon or other animal products.

To avoid the food and other odors, there is just no other way to go than to avoid them.  Do not smoke prior to going into the field and once there definitely do not smoke while calling.

The combination of lack of human scent, addition of attractant scents or cover scents; coupled with an effective predator or fawn call, can fool coyotes.  They have fantastic senses you can be fool.



Flying Goose 0004

With fog so thick you can scoop it up and throw it against the wall like a tennis ball hunters can see the decoy spread before them.  On the horizon are small specks of black that mean birds coming in.  This is the kind of anticipation and excitement that is waterfowl hunting.  Decoys play a vital part in the sport and are a simple aspect to understand.

Deployment of decoys is an often discussed subject wherever hunters meet.  Do you place the spread in an “I,” “J,” or “V” pattern?  Do you place a couple dozen dekes or just a few?  Are full body ones essential or can some silhouettes be integrated into the spread?  More recently the question of kite decoys and motion decoys add to the equation.

Following some several seasons of interviewing some of the foremost callers and guides, resulted in a conclusion that nobody but the waterfowl know what works best.  There are so many variables to the situation.  Are they on migration of just returning from a feed run?  Are they resting birds or are they actively seeking a feeding area?  Are they flight birds in huge numbers, or just a family flock exercising their flight muscles?  Is it early in the season or late?  What is the weather like?

For a hunter the answer seems to be the spread that is working today is best.  It might not work well tomorrow.  One has to be flexible and adapt his spread to the wants and desires of the birds he is hunting.

The following basic information from which hunters begin provides ideas being that will adapt later.

One basic of waterfowl hunting is that birds like to land into the wind.  This is especially true when there is a wind.  On a dead calm day, you have a problem deciding just where the birds will approach your position.  Then you must consider factors like feeding and loafing locations.

Birds that loaf on a refuge and fly out each day for food will follow a pattern going and coming from the refuge and you must place decoys accordingly.  Migrating birds coming in ahead of a storm will often land right into the decoys without circling.  Less stressed birds will circle and find a place to approach the decoys from downwind.

On windy days you can manage their approach.  They approach into the wind and you can arrange your decoys to encourage them to fly right to your position.

So the basic set up is into the wind.  Leave space so that the birds are encouraged to land in a “kill zone.”

With geese it is a good idea to mix up the types of decoys with the dekes in a variety of positions.  Generally speaking you mix five to 10 feeding decoys with one sentinel bird.  The sentry decoy goes on the outside edge of family groups.  Place full body decoys with most of them facing into the wind.  Geese tend to feed into the wind.  For variety and placed cross wind to the hunter you can use silhouettes.

Early in the season, fewer decoys are best.  Perhaps four to 5 dozen would be an ideal number.  Later in the year the birds tend to become more social and you might need eight to 10 dozen decoys.

Most hunters seem to prefer the full body decoys.  However, the use of silhouettes has become popular.  These can be the basic black decoy or some of the more modern ones with birds in a variety of positions to present a lifelike presentation.  The silhouettes attract the approaching birds’ attention and then vanish in favor of the full body decoys as the birds get over the set up.

Late season birds tend to prefer oversized decoys.  Waterfowl do not seem to judge size very well.  The oversized decoys catch the flock’s attention more quickly from a longer distance.

Another attractant for geese is the kite decoy.  This works well with a good caller.  The kite attracts the attention of approaching birds and the caller provides the sound that helps sell the situation.  The kite presents movement that is more natural looking.  It can dive, swoop or just hang motionlessly in the air.  Perhaps seeing the “flyer” land safely in the decoys provides a sense of safety to the approaching birds.

Most hunters seem to agree that it is important to move your dekes around from day to day.  The idea is present a variety of situations.  This helps avoid educating the birds to the fact that you are there.  You can also adapt to changing wind conditions or to the fact that birds travel one direction in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Windy days keep the birds flying low as it is easier to fly where the wind is less due to physical conditions on the ground.  On calm days they often fly very high and require more work by the caller to lure them down.  Being cognizant of the weather conditions, the hunter must adapt his spread and technique to those conditions.

The science of decoy spreads is really more of an art.  An art fine-tuned by hours of observing the birds in action and trying to determine what best will attract their attention.  It is what makes waterfowl hunting the enjoyable pastime that draws hunters out of warm homes on cold winter days.



Fish Survey 0020

A quick look at creel surveys for Kinkaid Lake shows that Muskie action seems a forgone conclusion for the crankbait angler.  This is probably due to a variety of reasons, stable water conditions, less recreational boat traffic, and cooling temperatures that bring on bait fish activity.  Regardless Muskie hunters should take a look at this fishing opportunity.

Muskies were first stocked into this 2,750-acre lake in 1985 and a number of supplemental stockings have taken place since that time.  The combination of deep water with cool temperatures and huge forage base of gizzard shad and spotted sucker provides good habitat.

For those who have never fished for this “alligator with fins” they are easily distinguished from any other fish swimming in southern Illinois waters.  Muskies have an elongated body with a duck like mouth full of large teeth.  The gill covers are only scaled on the upper half.  They may grow as large as 50 inches in length and weigh more than 40 pounds.

Located in Jackson County, five miles northwest of Murphysboro, this lake is reached via Illinois route 149, then on route 3 and finally route 51.  An irregular shoreline of 82 miles is covered with boulders and timber cover.  The average depth of the lake is 18 feet.

Two marinas, in addition to two U.S. Forest Service recreation areas, provide ample camping, beach and picnic areas.   Camping and a boat ramp are available at Johnson Creek Recreation Area (618-763-4233).  Another ramp and marina services are available at the Kinkaid Marina (618-687-4914.)  Bait supplies are available at Top of the Hill Bait Shop (618-684-2923.)  Veteran Muskie guide Al Nutty can also be reached at the bait shop.

Jerkbaits seem the most productive if fished around shallow weed edges.  Over the top of the weed beds try small bucktails.  Most successful anglers will concentrate on the main lake points and humps while trolling.  For those who prefer to use live bait, an 11 to 12 inch sucker on a slip bobber rig is a good idea.

Nutty recommends that angler fish “northern style.”  He explains that such fishing entails fishing off the banks and over deep structure.  Nutty recommends live bait and heavy line.  He fishes over that deep structure that is as deep as the 70-foot bottom near the dam area.  He also finds fish over the soft bottom with old plant material and narrow areas which increase current flow.

Al will try topwater baits along the wed edges and over the points during low-light conditions.  He uses diving crankbaits or jerkbaits throughout the day.

As the water cools and fall approaches the weed beds are dead and gone.  Then one can move into the backs of bays with standing timber.  The muskies corral the shad and feed heavily as the school of bait is trapped.  Short casts, aimed directly at the main trunk of exposed timber will help you to avoid hang ups.   Look for lanes where you can get a clear retrieve.  As the lure hits structure, pause to allow it to float free before continuing.  Pick your way through the timber slowly.

According to Nutty one should pick a bait and stick with it.  He prefers to keep throwing or trolling the lure until the fish take it.

By fishing deep Nutty reports clients regularly pick up a few walleyes.  Nutty is intrigued by the whole experience of Muskie fishing.  It combines thousands of casts and the opportunity to fish one of the most beautiful lakes in the state.  He equates it to winning the lottery.  “When one wins, he wins big.”

There is a one fish per day limit for keepers.  Keeper fish also must be a minimum of 48 inches in length.



When cold temperatures hit anglers have to fish deeper for those largemouth and smallmouth bass.  With this technique, they can catch some nice bass as well as an occasional sauger or bluegill.

The float-n-fly presentation is popular with winter anglers plying the deep water structure of large lakes and rivers.  It works best in water in the mid- to low 40’s.

In such waters the threadfin shad swim in circles and twitch erratically as they fight for life.  The predator species take advantage of the situation by eating the easily captured bait fish.

Using 8 to 11 foot spinning rods or fly rods, anglers are able to present the light terminal tackle great distances from the angler.  These rods allow the angler to fish very light line of less than 6 pound monofilament.  Monofilament line, and a good flexible rod, permits the fisherman to play large fish because of the stretch in the line.  The flexibility of the rod allows the angler the ability to lift the fly from the water on the back cast.

The typical terminal set-up involves small float (½ to 7/8-inch long) mounted on the line 8 to 13 feet above the fly.  The practitioners of this style of bass fishing do not like the slip float and use only a slight weight if any at all.

The fly is usually a tiny-feathered fly that will pulsate below the surface as a dying shad imitation.  Duck feather flys work best in the cold water.  Weights of the flys vary from 1/16th to 1/32nd ounce.  Colors tend to be combinations of chartreuse, white, pink, blue or gray.

Fishermen suspend the fly on monofilament line about 8 feet under the bobber to begin a day on the water.  If the water has some wave action, the float will provide some action the fly beneath it.  Once cast out, allow the float to bounce on the waves.  If no strikes from a fish, then one reels in about 5 feet of line and allows the rig to float once more.  Repeat the action until a fish strikes the fly.

In a calm water situation, the angler can provide some action on the fly by moving the rod up and down.  Allow the float to sit for a few minutes before repeating the action.

The depth up or down can be adjusted depending upon the location of the fish.  Trim the fly to parallel the bend of the hook.  The slimmer profile gives the lure a more subtle action.  Scent applied to either the body or head of the fly results in varying degrees of success.

Some of the larger fish will rise from the depths to mouth the fly and not move.  In this case the float will lie over and the angler should set the hook immediately.

The float-n- fly is most effective in clear water that is between 38 and 48 degrees.  Bluff banks, rocky points, sloping rock or clay banks are the first areas to probe with the rig.  It is most effective in areas of a lot of rock.

Regardless of how the float-n-fly rig is presented, it is an effective way to entice those big predator fish from their winter homes deep in the river or lake.  It is also a great break from those winter doldrums between waterfowl season and pre-spawn bass action.

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