Archive for December 2013

DOG DAYS OF WINTER   1 comment

coyote/south dakota

Coyote hunting is a great off-season hunting experience.

The cold crisp days of winter, cause canines (fox and coyote) to look for sunny and protected exposures out of the wind.  Dogs love sunshine and will curl up in protected areas.  They are particularly vulnerable to hunting during winter.

As with all types of hunting, the hunter who learns all he can about his quarry will be the most successful.  In Illinois, there are two kinds of fox, the red and the gray, as well as coyotes.  Gray foxes are less widespread and tend to be more nocturnal.  Hunters are less likely to encounter them.  Grays are probably only about 20 percent of the total fox population.

Your chance of seeing a Red fox is more likely. They possess a well developed sense of smell, hearing and eyesight.  Their senses help them to locate food as well as provide protection from other predators.

Coyotes range throughout the state in ever increasing numbers.  Often mistaken for the domestic dog, they are really easily distinguished.  Domestic dogs run with their tails in the air.  Coyotes always have their tail pointing toward the ground.

Coyotes are the largest of Illinois dog population with the red fox second and the gray fox the smallest.

The wild members of the dog family feed on small rodents, rabbits, birds and eggs.  They will also eat fruit, berries and other vegetation as well as carrion to survive.

The fact that they love sunny exposures, in sheltered places out of the wind, is an established fact.  Fox hate the wind.  It makes them nervous and they will leave a sunny area is the wind becomes a factor.

Hunters can scout out an area on a sunny winter morning with a pair of binoculars.  Carefully look over possible bedding areas along wooded edges.  Other places to check are brush, stumps, known den sites, and sheltered ravines.

Once you can see fur, it is time to stalk.

Stalking canines is the same as stalking any other animal.  One moves out of sight of the animal and into the wind.  These two actions conceal the hunter from the keen senses of sight and smell.  By walking quietly, you thwart the sense of hearing.  Once in position for a shot, the rouse the animal from his slumber by a single call from a predator call.

Predator calls are an effective way to get a shot.  The plan includes a good call, camouflage clothing, and some type of cover scent to mask human scent.  As the hunter moves, it is important to work into the wind and not make any unnecessary noise.  Wear camouflage from head to toe.

Choose a pattern of camo that blends into the area.  If there is snow, then white is the color.

To camouflage the hunter’s scent, a cover scent or scent elimination spray is used.  Do not put the cover sent on clothing but rather on a cotton pad placed slightly downwind from the hunter’s location.  Most cover scents are natural to the environment and will not spook the quarry.

Both electronic and mouth calls can be used when hunting a small grain field surrounded by woods.  In larger areas, the electronic call may be better.  The sound from an electronic call will travel greater distance as the call volume is adjustable.

Wild canines are opportunistic feeders.  They will come a running at the sound of a wounded rabbit.

Begin with a soft call.  By starting with low volume for five minutes and then increasing the sound, a dog concealed near by, will not be spooked.  Blow the call for about 30 to 30 seconds and then wait four minutes.

Gradually increase the volume and repeat the action.  If nothing appears in 30 minutes, move to another location.  If one is spotted, continue to use the call.  This will maintain his interest.  Slightly lower the volume as the animal gets closer.

Typically, they will not come directly to a call.  By circling the area they insure that there is no danger.  But, if the hunter has done his homework, the quarry will approach.

Wild members of the dog family are crafty animals.  Hunters have pursued them for hundreds of years in an attempt to wipe them out.  Still they flourish and expand their range.  A hunter who pursues them and is successful in taking one, has a trophy that is one of which to be proud.  Hunting them in winter is interesting and challenging.  Give it a try this year.



coyote in winter

Coyotes have a tough time finding food in winter but wildlife watchers are more apt to see them.


A red fox dives for fleeing mice in field of brown grass.  An eagle soars overhead calling to its mate with a shrill scream.  A white-tailed deer browses on the edge of a thicket.  Canada geese rest in the wetlands.  This is Illinois at its wildest.

The woods and fields are alive with wildlife.  Nature lovers can find all sorts of birds and animals to watch throughout the county.  Especially popular is bird watching and eagle tours.  But, other areas can provide equally interesting viewing.

A variety of vegetation and terrain in this area attracts and holds numerous species of birds and mammals.  Two hundred and thirty-seven species of birds are resident, migrants, or frequent visitors.

Watching wildlife does not take a lot of expensive gear.  Binoculars and some guide books are a good beginning.  Field guides assist in identification and help at home when reviewing ones notes from a day afield.

When heading out, be sure to take a notebook.  Field notes should include the date, location, weather conditions and animal behavior, along with any unique observations.

Beginners must learn to identify animals and birds by sight and sound.  Noting the color, shape and other outstanding observations make it easier to identify species.

Familiarize yourself with animal behavior and favored habitats.  For example, deer tend to prefer thick cover until late in the day when they move out into fields to feed.

Learn to recognize animal habitats.  This knowledge assists in identification and helps to eliminate species not associated with a specific habitat.

Advanced wildlife watchers learn the calls and songs of mammals or birds.  This helps to identify those species hidden in dense cover.  By familiarizing oneself with bird songs and mammal calls, one can chase down each sound until he discovers the source.

The direct approach is not the best way to seek out wildlife.  Wild animals must always be wary of possible danger and when an intruder comes straight at them it usually signals a threat.  By acting disinterested while sneaking a glance now and then, you may be able to observe the unfolding drama of their activities.

It is important to be patient and avoid direct attention to the animal encountered.  Appear disinterested.  Fiddle with vegetation, look away from the animal while moving slowly closer and you will be able to approach much closer than you would think.  Staring at an animal causes them fear and uneasiness.  Quick looks are much less obvious and less likely to make the animal nervous.

Some animals such as ducks and geese can become very approachable due to constant association with human activity.  Other animals are so skittish that the first hint of the presence of humans sends them fleeing.

Generally, however, the use of patience in observing wildlife works well.  It will result in closer views for you and less intimidation for the animal.  Watching wildlife can be challenging and educational.



dock shoting/lake kinkaid

Russ Bailey admires crappie caught in the marina at Lake Kinkaid using technique called dock shooting.

Other than an occasional ice-fishing trip, most fishing gear is stored at the beginning of hunting season.  It is does not come out until time to prepare for spring.

South of St. Louis, occasionally crappie anglers appear on open water in winter.

Illinois average crappies reach a weight of about a quarter pound by their third year of life.  By the fifth year they are one half to three quarters of a pound.  The average creel contains fish that are three years of age.  Larger fish are older and usually seem to come from further south due to milder temperatures and longer feeding periods.

Maneuvering the boat just off a dock housing pontoon boats, Russ Bailey explains how the metal of the tubes can warm the surrounding water by a degree or two.  This is as important in cold weather as are sunny areas between docks and piers.  An expert in dock shooting, Russ begins to probe the areas between boat and dock.

Dock shooting is a finesse technique that allows one to place a small jig or Road Runner under tight structure where crappies seek refuge from the sun and find warmer water in winter.

It requires a 100% graphite rod with a solid backbone.  The rod must have the right flexibility.  Bailey’s 5 1/2 foot Sharpshooter rod from BnM Fishing has the ability to move the cork handle to a position most comfortable for him.  In case the guides begin to ice up in very cold weather, he sprays a little Reel Magic on them.  Bailey uses six-pound Hi Vis line.

Finding a comfortable stance, Russ points the rod at the spot he believes fish to be lurking.  Then holding the lure in one hand he bends the rod down in an arc before letting go.  Sounds simple but it takes a special rod and practice to master the technique.

In winter, Russ seeks pontoon boats moored in marinas.  The aluminum of a pontoon boat warms faster than other materials such as fiberglass.

“I have found different size fish under each of the tubes of the same pontoon boat,” exclaims Russ.  One tube might attract small fish while the other tube might have lunker crappie residing beneath it.  Bailey stresses that you never know until you catch a couple exactly what size fish are lurking under a specific tube.

As a tip, Russ points out the cobwebs between boat and dock are a location where no one has fished recently.  He also uses a float when fishing a jig but not when using the Road Runner.  The Road Runner drops down with the blade fluttering like a wounded minnow.

The float Russ uses is an ice fishing one.   It must be small but barely able to suspend the jig at a depth desired.  The type of float that is large at the top and tapers toward the end of the line is Bailey’s preference.

As the float to settles into position, Bailey watches for any sudden change in its position as an indication of a bite.  The float sink beneath the surface or it might just tip over.  The first indicates a fish is taking it to the bottom while the second tells you that a fish took it and is moving toward the surface.  Any side movement also indicates it is time to set the hook on a fish.



Dan's Power-Pole system is aided by the attachment of Power-Pole Drift Paddles for control of the boat while moving.

Dan’s Power-Pole system is aided by the attachment of Power-Pole Drift Paddles for control of the boat while moving.

Perhaps one of the most innovative additions to fishing in the past few years has been the Power-Pole (  Recently as we cruised around a cove in southern Illinois, Dan Dannenmueller and I were enjoying a bright sunny fall day.  The fishing was slow and out conversation turned to the newer developments in crappie fishing.

Dan has a pair of Power-Poles in the back of his boat.  These are a system of hydraulics that hold a maximum force to keep your boat pinned in position regardless of the bottom composition.  They work equally in sand, rock, mud and grass.  They hold a boat in position and the bait steady.

Having seen them on saltwater craft the idea of using them in freshwater was new.  They are originally for use by in-shore anglers in search of redfish and the like.  But, they would appear to be just the ticket for river catfish anglers who need an anchor in current to probe those hidy-holes catfish seem to love so much.

The technology of this system allow for quiet and quick stopping.  The pushing of a button allows you to hold the boat in position despite heavy current or wind.  No longer do catfish anglers need double anchors to hold a boat in position.  No longer is there the possibility of scaring fish dropping an anchor into the water.  This system is silent.

The Power-Poles on Dan’s boat have another feature that is new.  The Power-Pole Drift Paddles on each aid in controlling the drift speed and angle of the boat.  It slows the boat by up to 50% as the angler casts.  The speed reduction is so precise with the main motor that the need for a kicker motor is in doubt.

It also shortens the boat’s turning radius so that the angler can follow tight shore contours.

Perhaps the most ingenious thing about this system is that it is programmable and controlled through an App on your I-phone, leaving you free to cast freely.



Hall of Famer Chris Kudak (right-front) says with right clothing and some added heating components, ice anglers can stay warm all day.

Hall of Famer Chris Kudak (right-front) says with right clothing and some added heating components, ice anglers can stay warm all day.

By Chris Kuduk

Back in the old days, surfing the fine line between discomfort and frostbite was part of winter fishing. But with today’s ice fishing innovations, there is no excuse for risking frostbite. New, high-tech materials for clothing, plus refined shelters, heating tools, and safety equipment allow anglers comfort outside all day, even in bitterly cold weather.

Achieving that result requires planning because once your body becomes cold it is nearly impossible to warm back to a comfortable level without retreating inside.  Maintaining heat is more than comfort it is life-and-death.

Part of being safe is to know where you’re going.  During short days of the year darkness approaches quickly. On an overcast day in late December or early January, you’re coping with twilight conditions by mid-afternoon.  A long period of dusk produces more fishing action for walleyes and other species but you can get yourself lost.

Always carry a couple of light sources. Zippo’s new Rugged Lantern works great for locating honey holes.

An added bonus is that any ice angler who uses glow lures knows they demand frequent recharging, and this lantern tunes them up nicely.

Arguably the best tool is a one pair of Zippo’s Hard Warmers for any activity from October through April. Simply fill the hand warmer with lighter fluid and it provides up to 12 solid hours of warmth.  Keep one in each glove and usually another in a muffler.

They burn very clean.  Watching thousands of fish per year on underwater cameras, I have never seen them react to me using these handwarmers. My style of fishing is very hands-on so I avoid big chopper mitts and stick with gloves. That permits holding the line directly to detect subtle bites.  With the Zippo Hand Warmers I can fish all day.

As for more traditional gear, consider shelters. Sure, there are increasingly immaculate permanent houses and some new wheelhouses that cost a bundle. You can enter the shelter market at a significantly lower price point.

Pop-up blinds slice the wind. It is amazing how much heat the wind draws from your body.  Cutting it via a pop-up shelter immediately extends your ice fishing by hours.

Combined with a portable heater and enough fuel you have a recipe for affordable, all-day fishing.

We have come so far from the early days of portable heaters when we melted plastic buckets or clothing by accidentally leaning up against them. Today you do not worry about burning when fishing with a modern ice portable heater.

Even in a heated shelter when exploring and drilling new holes you need a clothing regimen that handles the elements. Two tips are to layer and own quality outerwear.

Regarding the latter, Ice Armor Clothing from Clam is windproof, waterproof and breathable.  It has padded knees and bottom for active, all-day warmth and comfort.

Different Ice Armor suits are available for varying temperature ranges. The company’s new Lift cold-weather suit provides added buoyancy. It is quite advancement in the ice-fishing scene.

Underneath the shell always wear at least two layers of fleece, a flannel shirt, plus some quality long underwear.

We got off to a seriously cold start this year, but that means a long, productive ice fishing season! With the right equipment one is warm even during a challenging winter like 2013-14.

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame inductee Chris Kuduk is a member of the Ice Team and has guided on Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota and surrounding lakes for more than 30 years.

Posted 12/18/2013 by Donald Gasaway in Freshwater Fishing


Travis Bunting proudly displays crappie caught using his new bait while Charlie Bunting looks on with admiration for his son.

Travis Bunting proudly displays crappie caught using his new bait while Charlie Bunting looks on with admiration for his son.

Sitting in the sports bar at Rend Lake Resort waiting for other anglers to come in off the lake, Charlie Bunting began talking about his son’s new business venture. Travis and his father are partners in their professional crappie fishing endeavors.

They took the 2012 National Championship title on the Crappie Masters tournament trail as well as many local contests.

Today the reason for the gathering of anglers is a media event sponsored by BnM Fishing Poles and Road Runner lures. The purpose of outdoor writers being present is to learn about new products and gather story material. To that end each writer fishes with a fishing pro(s) for various periods of time during the next few days.
Once in the boat with Charlie and Travis the discussion immediately turns to the Muddy Water baits.

Travis explains that he dislikes having the tail of his bait fold back on the hook point. Sometimes it actually became like a weed guard that keeps the crappie from firmly grasping the hook. Worse yet, it sometimes causes the fish to spit it out before Travis has a chance to set the hook.

Following much experimentation Travis has developed a plastic body strong enough to take quite beating and yet remain soft enough and realistic enough for the fish to hang on to it and not spit it out. The body is about the size of small shad and presents a similar profile.

Travis believes that scent is also a factor in consistently catching crappie. He adds garlic to all his baits despite no shad ever smelling like it. According to Travis the garlic helps trigger strikes.

Recommending a worm nose jig in the 2/0 size Travis likes 5/16th ounce jigs for most applications. But when dock shooting, he will downsize to 1/16th ounce. He uses 10 to 12 pound test line with an 8-pound leader. He rigs a jig at the end of the leader and a drop line just above it with another jig at the end of it. Travis does not use any swivels. Instead he prefers to tie all lines together.

Travis uses Power Poles on his boat. This allows him to lock in on structure and hold on it even in windy conditions. He also has Drift Paddles on the Power Poles that can act like planner boards when required. Although he was initially skeptical of these rigs Travis has become a believer. They allow him to hold his hooks and baits steady.

Muddy Water baits are available in some 30 color combinations from Grizzly Jigs through their online catalog

Muddy Waters 1

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Posted 12/14/2013 by Donald Gasaway in Misc.

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