Archive for July 2013



Posted 07/30/2013 by Donald Gasaway in Misc.



The two most important things in selecting a hunting club are good birds and good cover.  Everything else is secondary.

You can go to a lot of hunting preserves that have gorgeous clubhouses, expensive landscaping and all that.  But if the cover is not adequate and if the birds do not fly well, it is a big disappointment.

The science of raising birds has advanced so much that it is difficult to find bad birds anymore.  There are some really quality bird farms that raise really good birds such as pheasants and chukar.  If you have good cover at your club the hunter is going to have a very good experience in terms of good flight birds.

Remember that today’s birds are for the hunter to find.  The club has no control over whether or not you can hit them.  It is important for you refrain from having the attitude that it is like shooting fish in a barrel.  You still have to be a pretty good shot.

Although every club has its own bird dogs, some like to have clients bring their own with them.  It is important that the club have the very best dogs possible.  But the hunter can enjoy the experience so much more with his own dog.

You never want to talk about a guy’s dog.  “You might talk about his wife, but never his dog.

Early in the season most dogs are not in top physical condition.  This means that they tend to not last long in the field.  When that happens, the club owner can offer to bring out one his dogs.  They hunt every day and are in good physical shape.  They tend to last longer.

Placement of birds differs from club to club.  At some they place the birds and if the hunter has his own dog he just goes out on his own.  The club staff will check on the hunters and pick up the harvested birds.  They might also provide water for man and dog.

Many hunters fail to bring along enough shells.  Bring what you think you need and then add one box.  Inevitably anyone who goes out with one box of shells runs out.  We are just not as good a shot as we think.

Shooting safety is another consideration.  Does the club have an active program of gun safety?  Some clubs will demand that each hunters view a gun safety video prior to going out in the field.  It can really ruin a day if you shoot somebody or you shoot a dog.

The size and composition of shooting fields varies from state to state and club to club.  Some might have smaller fields with heavy timber and brush surrounding them.  Others might have huge fields of grain.  In the smaller fields the birds get up and go right to the timber.  In the larger fields with no surrounding cover you still have to be quick to get the bird before he is out of range.

Finally, does the club have a good way of preparing the birds for the trip home?   It is the hunters responsibility to have a cooler so that the birds will not spoil.  Most clubs will clean the birds and package them for the trip.  They should be marked with the date and the name of the club.

Modern hunting clubs are a far cry from the old preserves of the past.   Do some comparison shopping to find one that meets your needs.


Dove 0013

The opening day of dove season is fast approaching.  It is usually hot, humid and all the problems that such conditions bring to the sport.  But, to the hunter who is prepared, it can be a fun time.

Generally, hunters tend to focus on all the shots they take coupled with the few birds they harvest in comparison.  The quickly darting target presents a great challenge to the wing shooter and good practice for the upcoming waterfowl or upland hunting.

The basics of a dove hunter’s survival kit can be contained in a folding stool, gun and ammo (lots of it), a small ice chest and a goodies bag.  The goodies bag can be a knapsack, book bag or gym bag.  The ice chest could possibly double for the folding stool for someplace to sit during those slack hours.

In the ice chest should be some ice to keep birds cool for the ride home and to cool soda and water for use in the field.  If hunting with a dog, it is important to have a jug of water for him to drink.

The gun of the hunter’s preference and ammo are the things not usually forgotten.  However, because of all the shooting and so little hitting, it is important to have several boxes of shells.  A friend once kept track of what he spent on shells and all the other things associated with this sport.  At the end of the season he totaled it up and divided by the number of birds actually taken.  He figured those birds cost about $56 per pound.

Shot size of 6 or 7 are probably best for dove hunting.  The goodies bag and contents are probably the most often neglected by the hunter in a hurry.  Insects are still a problem early in the season a good insect repellent is a must.  Also we are still in the allergy season and many people do suffer to some degree from the pollen in the air.

A good antihistamine, either prescription or over the counter, will help to alleviate the problem.

The goodies bag is a good way to carry the shells.  Plastic bags for the birds can also be place in the bag.  A book or magazine will come in handy when the birds are not flying.  A small camera in the bag can record the hunt.  Because the sunlight often is a problem a good pair of sunglasses is helpful.  The birds always seem to fly right into the setting sun.

Some helpful things to carry in the goodies bag are goodies.  That is, things like a lunch or snacks.  Fresh fruit, candy, chips, etc. go over well in the hot early fall sun.



Posted 07/23/2013 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing


Long-ear Sunfish popular quarry for summer anglers

Long-ear Sunfish popular quarry for summer anglers

Taking sunfish is not difficult, nor expensive.  The theories on how to catch them are numerous.  To that end here are some thoughts of some local anglers.  They fish for these delightful little fish most of their lives and study their habits and habitat at length.

Basic tackle for fishing sunfish and bluegill includes light line and a light wire hook.  In areas of heavy timber, an 8-pound line is better.  It allows the angler to pull snagged hooks from the brush by force.  You can reel down until the rod is pointed right at the hook and then pull straight back.  The hook will straighten out and come loose.  Then check to make sure the point is undamaged.  If need be, bend the hook bent back into shape and use again.

To get the hook down to the feeding level of the fish, use a small split shot.  Place it on the line about 15 inches above the hook.

Sunfish are a bottom feeder.  They turn their tails upward to feed below themselves.  The bluegill feeds on the same level or above.  Out in the deeper water the two different fish approach the bait in the same manner.  Bluegill relate to vertical structure and sunfish to horizontal.  Sunfish prefer a hard bottom with some weed nearby.

The unusual clarity of some southern Illinois lakes allows weed growth as deep as 12 to 18 feet below the surface.  But, fish are also near the surface if the water temperature is in their comfort level.  Cast a piece of night crawler skewered on the hook and allow it to sink to the level where the fish will take it.  Slowly jig the bait across the bottom and in wood structure during the retrieval.

Fishing for panfish is an exciting sport all year around.  It is for all members of the family, not just children.  Their propensity to multiply helps to keep their populations high regardless of the fishing pressure.  It is these large populations throughout the area that makes them an excellent choice for a day of fishing action.


058063-R1-33-33Keep in mind that the bass are not suspended in open water in the middle of nowhere.  They usually are relating to the end of a deep point, a channel, ledge, sunken island or whatever underwater structure they can find.

Largemouth bass do not want to stay in open water.  They prefer the shoreline or on emergent structure.

Suspended fish in open water are very difficult to catch.  It is best that one follow whatever underwater structure available and trace it back toward the shoreline.  Chances are good that some of those fish are moving back looking for something to eat.  That makes them vulnerable to lures.

You may find a concentration of inactive fish off shore but a few of them will move back and forth to feed.  If the weather and feeding conditions are prime, then many will make the move toward the shore.

In late summer, the schools of bass that are feeding on forage fish will respond to lipless crankbaits that provide noise.

An interesting study done a few years ago by Cetacean Research Technology of Seattle, Washington opened some new views into bass behavior.  We had long known that bass do respond to noise but just why and what noise was not clear.

Cetacean found that the noise from a lipless crankbait is nearly the same as that made by a schooling shad.  Bass and other game fish return to feeding activity by this sound.

Some fish will respond to small, shad color topwater baits and shallow running lures.

There will be times when the bass just seem to reject any presentation.  It is at this time that one should consider lure size.  Try downsizing the weight of the lure.  In the fall, they may be feeding on very small shad and a lure as small as ½ inch in length might be just the ticket.

Schooling usually takes place in open water.  The key to catching them is probably matching the size of the lure to the size of the forage fish.

The larger bass herd the forage fish to the surface and then strike them in a feeding frenzy.  The lure should imitate the wounded forage fish that were victims of the drive.

After the foraging frenzy is over, the bass return to structure in the area and hole up until their next meal.  An electronic fish finder will often locate them on some major structure.  Often they can be enticed out of seclusion with jig and minnow, grub, or spoon lure.

On larger bodies of water, bass relate to any structure in deeper water.  The fishing is more erratic as the water cools.  Nevertheless, during the feeding frenzy periods they are great fishing action.


IL Whitetail 0045Jeremy is a wildlife biologist who was instrumental in the development of Buckscore a computer program that aids in the ageing and scoring of deer from photographs.  Speaking to a group at the Quality Deer Management annual meeting, he presented Buckscore’s basic theory and development.

Today’s deer hunting community has developed an obsession with aging and scoring deer on the hoof.  They often refer to deer by the total inches of antler.  But there is a difference between a 150-inch 3-year old and a 150-inch 6-year old deer.

It is more appropriate to describe a deer by both antler size and age.  We need to thin when looking at a buck, is this deer old enough for harvesting and is it big enough to meet management goals in the area.

The recent explosion of the use of trail cameras has created voluminous collections of deer photos.  Managers can gain information about buck to doe numbers, fawn production and deer density.  In terms of bucks, we can learn the number of points the deer has as well as information on deer inventory of the management area.

In the past we used the ear, eyes and nose as reference points in measuring tine length, spread and beam length.

When it comes to aging a deer we tend to use the neck, the chest, the stomach curve.

Jeremy and the staff of Mississippi State University took these elements and put them in a user friendly computer program.  Regardless of ones skill or education you will be able to collective the data.  This led to the development of Buckscore.

There are three issues encountered when they began to score deer with photographs.  The first was the distance between the camera and the deer.  It is impossible to work estimates that are pure guess work.  They have to use physical features that nature provides.   Physical features on the deer.  This could be the distance between the eyes, upper and lower nostril width, the ear width, and the eye ball width.

Deer cover a wide geographical range.  Deer in Illinois are different than those in south Florida.  Buckscore partnered with a number of state and private agencies and sampled the five physical and facial features from almost 2,000 deer.  The data went into the program.

Still it is not as if they have the deer in hand.  Because they have a two dimensional picture they lack depth perception and curvature.  The photos cannot account for that.

They created a mathematical formula that corrects for depth perception and curvature.  That gives the measurement as if you have the deer in hand running a tape along the beam.

The last thing they had to account for is the angle of the deer to the camera.  It means they had to correct much more for the angle.  They developed a program for angles.  They program uses a straight on view, an angle or 45-degree view, and a side or 90-degree view.  If you can paint a picture of a deer in any of these three angles you can get a score of that deer.

The most consistent and most accurate physical feature to use in antler measurement seems to be ear width.  So that is where they recommend beginning.  Then the program takes you through a number of physical and geographical considerations with a final result that is very accurate measurement of the deer’s score.

In aging a deer the program considers 9 physical features.  Once you enter the nine features and you hit “go” everything is automatic and there age estimation is very accurate.  It bases he estimation on percentages and high probability factors.

The deer photo goes through a series of steps automatically presented as each step is completed.

There is a learning curve in the use of this program.  Flinn recommends running 5 or 6 photos through it to polish your skills in using Buckscore.

This is a simplified description of the program.  For more information on Buckscore refer to




Catfish are thumping those tasty morsels that anglers present to them.  Summer is the prime time for fishing for this muscle with fins.

A staple of southern cooking, catfish are also available in restaurants as well as local lakes.  But, it is more fun to catch your own.  Here are some tips for catching your own in Williamson County.

Top catfish producing lake in the county is Crab Orchard Lake in the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge near Marion.  According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the catfish population of this 7,000-acre lake is self-sustaining and has not required supplemental stocking to maintain the fishery.

The Crab Orchard Lake contains both channel and flathead catfish.  It also contains a good population of bullheads, a member of the catfish family that does not gain the large size of the others.

Fishing for catfish is a laid back type of angling.  The rigs are simple and the baits, although often smelly, are simple as well.

It is a good idea to remember that catfish like cover.  They are bottom feeders that hold around rocks and stumps.  Once one sets the hook, the fish will do its best to break off the line.  Veteran catfish anglers prefer a line that is of at least 12-pound test.

The tough line helps prevent the sandpaper-like teeth of the fish from wearing or weakening the line causing a break.  With high quality tough line, anglers can fish around rocky, stump infested, underwater terrain.

Most often the rig for catfishing is simply a baited hook suspended beneath a float, cork, bobber or whatever you call it.  Cast to a probable location and allowed the rig to sink to the level where you believe the fish are located.

Bait can be live or dead.  Popular baits include minnows, leeches, crayfish, catalpa worms, leaf worms, red worms, nightcrawlers, frogs, and cut bait.  Cheese baits, popular in the spring, are less successful in the summer heat.

During periods of overcast or drizzle, catfish cruise the flats in search of food the same as they do at night.  Under such conditions, a three-way rig works well.  Attach one swivel to the line that goes to the reel, the second to a drop line of about eight inches with a heavy sinker on the end.  Attach the third swivel to a line of about 30-inches with a hook and bait at the end.  The rig allows the bait to float just off the bottom a location popular with catfish.

There are catfish in most of the other Williamson County lakes.  Another popular place to fish for catfish is Little Grassy Lake a1200-acres body of water to the south of Crab Orchard Lake but still in the refuge area.  It produces many channel catfish on a regular basis throughout the summer.

Whether fishing from shore or boat, in the evening or morning, night or day, catfish are a marvelous fish for action.  They can be as finicky as any game fish, and yet do not require a lot of expensive tackle to pursue.


DSCN4025Decisions, decisions, decisions.  What is the right rod to produce satisfactory results on your next fishing expedition?

As an angler becomes more and more proficient he soon decides just what works.  And what is less successful.  Then there are those of us who can spend lifetime fishing and not get it just right.

On a recent fishing expedition with Rick LaPoint the subject of rod choice came up.  It was a perfect time to pick the brain of this rod czar of Razr Rods LLC (  With some 18-years experienced in guiding fishermen across the Midwest, Rick has tried all sorts of rod made from an infinite choice of materials.

For a bass set-up Rich recommends a 6 or 7 foot medium to medium light action rod with light line and light lures.  For flipping he finds medium heavy to heavy action rod of 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 foot is his choice with heavier line and lure choice.

The bigger guide holes are good for largemouth bass fishing.  Rick likes to use a Redfin #1 topwater lure.  For the slightly smaller spotted bass he tends to use a finesse presentation.

Later in the year he will use a drop-shot rig of a 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium light rod.  The idea is that when the bass grabs the lure, the tip of the rod loads up creating less stress on the line.

The generally smaller smallmouth bass seem to prefer tube jigs.  LaPoint prefers colors like green/pumpkin, purple flakes, and mustard.  For smallmouth bass Rick likes a 6 1/2 foot medium rod with 8-pound line.  He also recommends a 7 foot medium heavy rod with 10-pound line.

When seeking crappies, Rick’s choice is a two-piece 8 or 9 foot rod.  His light action rod is especially for crappie fishing.  He uses the long rod to make the float he prefers dance by jigging it with the very flexible end.  LaPoint prefers the action of a stationary float over the slip-float often preferred by crappie anglers.  His theory is that the stationary float with a jig suspended below will travel more horizontally and the jig moves more like a minnow.  He does not like the slip float because it causes the jig to hop up and down vertically.  As proof of his preferences he offers his success in catching 5 times more crappie with the stationary float rig.

Getting back to rod selection and turning to bluegill and sunfish Rick says his choice of rod length and action is basically the same as that of the crappie rods.  However he does make a different choice with shore fishing.  There he likes a 5 1/2 foo to 6 foot rod.  He still uses the stationary float and a jig with a piece of worm attached.

For those walleye and sauger Rick lies to use a 6 1/2 foot medium light rod or a 7 foot medium heavy rod.

The longer and heavier rods are Rick’s choice for northern pike and Muskie.  He likes 7-foot medium heavy rods or a 7 1/2 foot heavy rod.  The 7-foot extra heavy rod is for use in casting those large wooden Muskie plugs.

Virtually all of the rod choices mentioned above are of graphite construction.  For those people really looking for high end components, Razr Rods makes a graphite rod wrapped with Kevlar and scim cloth.  Called the Platinum Rod, it features rod guide inserts of steel to prevent guide failure.  It is 30% lighter than traditional graphite rods “for the fish you have been missing.”




Many kids begin their fishing careers with hand‑me‑down tackle. Gear tackle whether it is a rod and reel or terminal tackle, to the size and age of the child.  If it is theirs the tackle means more to the child.  Purchase modern tackle just for the child is not so expensive.  He/she can be involved in the purchase.

The purchase is not just an expense.  It is an investment in some of the most rewarding moments you will ever experience.

When going shopping for a rod and reel, be sure to take the youngster along.  You would not purchase running shoes without the youngster trying them on.  The rod and reel should also fit the youngster’s hands and the rod should be about the same length as the child’s height.

There are a number of kids-size fishing kits on the market.  Many relate to cartoon characters that are familiar to youngsters.  The kits come complete with rod and reel, line and a casting plug for practice and instruction.

Terminal tackle is all the other stuff at the other end of the line.  It includes, but is not limited to, hooks, lures, and sinkers.  Exactly what tackle is used depends upon the age of the child. You can give younger children crankbaits with the hooks removed until they are old enough to safely use them.

If the kit does not come with a tackle box, it is a good idea to get one.  Kids love to organize their tackle.  The box can be a small plastic box with compartments.  The smaller boxes intended to hold small lures or nuts and screws work best.  Tackle manufacturers also make colorful little tackle boxes that are shaped like Dad’s, but smaller.  The box can contain some lures, hooks, sinkers, rubber worms and grubs.

The basic terminal tackle is the hook, sinker and float (bobber).  Kids love floats as they can watch them and see the fish nibble on the bait.  Floats are for still water conditions such as those in lakes and ponds.  Place it about 1 to 2 feet above the bait and thrown out a few feet from shore.

Two sure fire baits are the worm and minnows.  Worms are the most popular bait among the young set.  They will catch almost any kind of fish.  Worms are not difficult to put on a hook.  Most books on fishing show several ways to put the worm on a hook.

Minnows require a minnow bucket to keep them until needed.  A coffee can or other container is a good substitute of little hands.  With an inexpensive minnow dip net, kids can catch their minnow before dad puts it on the hook.  Besides kids love to fool with the minnows between bites and the net comes in handy.

Some final items to take along on fishing trips with youngsters include items that are common in all trips to the outdoors with the family.  They should include a small cooler with water, juice or soft drinks.  Some sandwiches are handy, as are small bags of chips or other snacks.  A plastic bag with some veggies can be a welcome cure for the munchies.  There is something about adventure in the outdoors that stimulates the appetite.

Insect repellent, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion are important.  Kids will not look back so fondly on a trip where they got sunburned and eaten by bugs.  The idea is to have the total experience be a positive one.  That way they will want to go back again and might even be willing to take you along.

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