Archive for the ‘Bowhunting’ Category

LATE SEASON DEER STALKING IN SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST   Leave a comment

Early settlers to Illinois country found the diminutive Virginia white-tailed deer.  It supplied food and the hides provided shelter.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the deer were fewer and more difficult to find.  The transplanting of whitetails from other states and a wise use of the resource strengthened the deer gene pool during the 21st century.

The deer of Illinois began as an experiment in wildlife management that took place in the Shawnee National Forest.  Wisconsin deer transplanted in the forest bred with the smaller Virginia subspecies.  The Biologists of the then Illinois Conservation Department transferred their progeny to other areas of the state under controlled conditions.

Illinois has major river bottomland country that is typically very fertile.  The silt deposits result in good soil.  The rough ground along drainage is difficult to clear for agricultural purposes and thus remains good deer habitat.

Deer hunting in the Shawnee National Forest is great and the public access is extensive.

Stretching from Cave-in-Rock on the east to Grand Tower in the west, Shawnee contains parts of some ten counties.  The hills of Bald Knob (elevation 1,048) and Williams Hill (elevation 1,064) cap some 277,000 acres of hardwoods and pines.  In fact, the forest area is a transition zone between North and South, East and West.  It consists of a variety of habitat.

Deer typically travel river bottomland corridors.  The travel forces them together for a good genetic mix.

Good phosphorous content in the soil of the western part of Illinois coupled with the availably of forage in the Shawnee National Forest, affects antler growth.  For deer, grasses, weeds, browse, fruits and mushrooms are as important as acorns and other nuts.  Most hunters neglect weeds as food sources for deer.  But, they digest easily and provide high levels of protein and phosphorus.  The same is true of mushrooms a popular springtime food for deer.

In winter deer seek high carbohydrate foods such as corn and acorns.  The Shawnee has a high number of oak trees combined with scattered agriculture fields often containing corn and soybeans left from agricultural practices.

All of these food sources are in abundance in the forests of southern Illinois.  The additional factor of mild winters leads to a low winter kill.

The Shawnee is the largest tract of public hunting land in Illinois.  Its appearance is more like the Ozark Mountains to the west than the flat agricultural fields usually associated with Illinois.

Trophy potential of the area is good and each year provides several Boone and Crockett bucks.  However, the general body size of the deer is slightly less than one would find in central or northern counties.  This is simply because they do not have as easy access to corn and soybeans that the deer in those agricultural areas.

Counties such as Pope in the Shawnee can be as much as 70 percent wooded with rolling grass and crop fields intermixed. The large expanse of wooded wilderness means that a hunter will have to walk as much as two or three miles before coming to a road.

Hunters do not usually experience crowded conditions after the end of the firearms season.  Leasing of private ground around the forest is becoming more common.  If a hunter spends time in the area knocking on doors, they might find landowners receptive to hunting.  Orchard farmers take a beating from deer populations and are anxious to rid themselves of some of the animals.

For more information about the Shawnee National Forest and the hunting regulations of the State of Illinois, contact Illinois Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, Illinois 62702-1271.  For information about the forest contact the United States Forest Service Office, Harrisburg, Illinois 62946 or 800-699-6637.

 

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CHUKARS ARE CHALLENGING   Leave a comment

Most hunters are familiar with the fact that Ringneck Pheasants came to North American through efforts by. But, there was another exotic introduced a few years later in l893 that has not received as much notoriety.  They are the Chukar Partridge or Chukars which came to at least 4l states and six Canadian provinces.  The stockings began with just five pairs but now include millions of birds that are available in the wild in l0 western states as well as on hundreds of shooting preserves throughout the country.

In the wild, these imports from India are not difficult to hunt, but the areas they choose for habitat are difficult to negotiate. They love hilly areas and run uphill and flying downhill when flushed.  They do not hold well for a dog because they are a nervous bird that likes to keep moving.  Because of its choice of habitat it does not displace any of native birds and it provides a gamebird in areas where none existed previously.

Chukars do not do well in all areas due to their particular dietary requirements. They are members of the Phasianidae family which includes domestic chickens, wild fowl such as Francolins, guinea fowl, partridges, peafowl, pheasants and snowcocks.  These birds feed primarily on the ground even though they will take food from shrubs and low tree limbs.  The young feed on insects while the older birds tend to feed on what is available.  They prefer such things as buds, fruit, roots, and seeds but will eat insects, snails, worms and other small animals.  It is this eating of worms, slugs and snails that is their downfall in most of the country.  This food supply is often the host of disease organisms that kill the Chukar.  They eat grubs and worms where they are available and as a result tend to die out in such areas.

Early attempts to establish huntable populations of Chukar in the eastern states met with failure due to the bird’s inability to avoid eating grubs and worms. Shooting preserves met with moderate success raising them on wire.  Flight pens with mesh floors kept the birds off the ground where they could not get access to worms and grubs.  But, the birds became too accustomed to the presence of humans.  As a result, they seemed to lose much of their wildness.  This made the birds less suitable for hunting preserves.  Breeders overcame the problem by the raising of the birds in isolation.  They do not have human contact and thus retain the wildness that makes them flush when approached.  The end result is a very good game bird for the shooting preserve.

Chukars are about the size of a ruffed grouse with a striking appearance. The back and breast are a subdued olive-gray tone set off by the deep crimson of the bill, feet, and legs.  The white throat and cheeks separate from the breast by a jet-black necklace which loops upward to form a mask across the eyes.  The sides are buff colored and barred with dark black and chestnut vertical stripes.  The tail is a rust-brown color.

In the wild, the chukar is as much a covey bird as the bobwhite quail. On a shooting preserve they are often in groups of 3 or four.  When flushed they burst into the air, their short, broad, cupped wings enable them to attain a speed of 35 to 40 miles per hour in just a few seconds.  As soon as they reach top speed the chukar glide.  Upon landing, they tend to run uphill and hide in the nearest cover.  Once the hunter is out of sight, chukars will reassemble the covey.

Flushing dogs are the ticket to hunting these little uphill racers. Pointing dogs will often point to a spot where the birds were as they race away through the cover.  The flushing dog will charge through the birds sending them scattering into the air.  After they have been scattered, chukars will often hold tight in the tallest grasses or in clumps of grass and brush.

As for what gun and ammo to use, the best gun will have an improved cylinder and modified choke. A lightweight, fast handling shotgun is best.  12 or 20 gauge with 26 inch barrels is a good choice.  No. 7 1/2 shot is ideal.

If you would like to take the challenge of the chukar contact any shooting clubs. Many of them will offer chukar shooting in addition to the pheasant and quail shooting.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS NATIONAL HUNTING AND FISHING DAYS CLELEBRATION   Leave a comment

 

An estimated 30,000 people will flood onto the campus of John A. Logan College, Carterville, Illinois over September 23 and 24.  Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a southern Illinois tradition for the past 30 years.  The purpose of the event since its inception has been to introduce the public to the outdoor experience and ethics.

The huge crowds mean the two hundred plus vendors will present everything from food to hunting and fishing equipment for sale. Each year the vendor space expands due to increased demand.

Fishing activities include weigh-ins for both the popular King Catfish Contest and the High School Team Fishing tournaments. Fishing experts on a variety of species will present seminars for anglers from all levels of expertise.  The 5,000 gallon Bass tub contains a variety of Illinois fish.

A myriad of dog demonstrations include retrievers, foxhounds, coon dogs and pointing dogs. Other dogs include search and rescue dogs, agility dogs, and dock dogs.

The “dock dogs” display is one of the most interesting to visitors. There is a competition by the “pros” for the longest distance covered by a jumping dog and in between contests other dog-handlers can train their dogs in the sport.

Popular activities in the Kids Village sponsored by McDonald’s restaurants of southern Illinois include such things as fishing and nature seminars, BB gun shooting, and archery shooting. Children fish for stocked fish in the campus pond and win prizes such as bicycles.

Another popular activity at Southern Illinois Hunting & Fishing Days is a variety of waterfowl calling contests. Held each year they attract callers from across the nation to compete with the best of the best.

Waterfowlers compete in the popular waterfowl calling contests each day beginning with the youth contests and winding up with the World Open contest on Sunday afternoon. Contestants compete for pride, money and merchandise.

Archers can shoot in a field archery course set up on the campus. A smaller target range is available in the Archery Tent.  Dick’s Sporting Goods, sponsor of the tent, will have free drawings every hour.

In the Deer Tent the “Tucker Buck”, the largest non-typical buck ever harvested in North America is on display. Also the Tennessee state record typical buck is on display.  Inside the college the Illinois state record Hybrid Black Crappie, caught at Kinkaid Lake this year will be on display.

Artists, taxidermists, and other artisans display their work in the campus gym. Food venders are available across the campus.  Recreational vehicle (RV) and boat dealers will also be displaying their products.

Make plans now to attend the 30th Anniversary of the Southern Illinois Hunting and Fishing Days September 23 -24, 2017.  You and your children do not want to miss this one.

 

FALL HUNTING IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS   Leave a comment

Fall hunting trips bring out the hunter in all of us.  Just such a trip to southeastern Illinois is an excellent idea for an extended weekend or even just for a day afield.

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

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

Although not abundant, quail are present in larger numbers than most of the rest of the state. Quail like areas with a good mix of row crops, small grains, legumes and grassland.  Land connected by wooded fencerows and forest edges is best.  Turkeys also like this type of cover and they are much more numerous.

Illinois deer population owes its numbers to programs that brought back their numbers from a time when they were devastated by over hunting. The programs began in southern Illinois.  Deer like grain crops but seek those fields located next to heavy edge cover and forests.  They like to feed in the fields and feel more secure in the heavy cover as they rest.

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

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

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

 

FALL ACTION AT REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Fall comes later to southern Illinois.  But it is still a great time of the year.  The trees change colors weeks after the northern part of the state.  Chilly nights often give way to a hot clear sky during the day.  Fall is a study of contrasts for the hunter and angler.

The fishing for crappie is terrific on Rend Lake during fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter it continues, anglers willing to brave cooler temperatures continue throughout the fall.

Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the state park boat ramps exit at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north on the road.

The fourth quarter of the year in southern Illinois is a great combination time in the Rend Lake area.  There is archery deer season beginning the first of October and yet fishing action is still great.  By the third week in November the duck season begins and still the fishing continues.

Fishing into December is not unusual. But, the main focus is waterfowl hunting and the firearms deer seasons.  In early November hunters enjoy rabbit and quail hunting as the Upland Game seasons open.

The quail hunting is for wild birds. Rabbit hunting is with beagles. If you have never experienced the beagle hunt is it worth doing just to see those little dogs in action.  There is commotion everywhere.  It is just a fun thing to do.

Fall is actually a great time of the year for the outdoorsman. He can pretty well do it all.

A fisherman need not necessary to get out on the water as early as might be the case in the late summer. In the fall one can usually have breakfast and be on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

Deer hunting can be on both public and private land. The ample public land available in southern Illinois provides many deer hunting opportunities.  Private land hunts are for quality deer hunting and clients enjoy some pretty spectacular results.

 

TIPS FOR TRAILING A WOUNDED DEER   Leave a comment

You have scouted the property, stalked your trophy, waited endless hours in a treestand for the right moment, and shot true for a quick, humane kill.  Now you have waited to make sure he is down and it is time to see your deer up close.  Your breath comes in short spurts as you move closer to the place where last you saw him.  But, there is nothing there except some ground that was disturbed by his leaving the area.  What now?

The first thing to do is “don’t do anything.”  Look around.  Wait for at least a half hour.  This gives the animal time to bleed, stiffen up and to die.  Is there blood on the ground?  If not, it is time to reconstruct your shot.  You owe it to your quarry to make every effort to recover any wounded animal.

Relive that fateful moment when you first shot.  Where was the animal standing?  Use makers of trees and bushes to be precise as to location.  Remember that the land looks a different at ground level than it does from a treestand.  That is why it is important to use marking points such as trees, rocks and shrubs to pinpoint locations.  What did the animal do when you shot?  When you last saw it, which way was it going?  As you listened after it disappeared from sight, did you hear it crash.  If so in what direction did the sound seem to come from?

As you rerun the incident in your mind, remember how the deer reacted.  If it jumped straight up or fell and then ran off low to the ground with its tail tucked down, the hit was good.  It will probably expire immediately and is lying close at hand.  It is a good idea to wait about a half hour before following up just to be safe.

If the deer hunched its back and ran or walked away, it is probably gut shot.  If left alone the deer will usually remain where it first beds down and will expire there.  However, if disturbed before it expires, the deer may run off and you stand a chance of losing it.  You might even have to follow it for miles.  It is better that you leave it alone for several hours before following up the trail.

The third scenario is one where the deer runs a few yards and looks around.  It might even continue feeding.  You probably missed.  If there is no blood on the ground or bushes, you missed.

Once you decide that there is blood of hair on the ground in the area where you last saw the deer, it is time to analyze the hit.  Following a wounded deer is a slow and deliberative process.  If it is night time, a gas lantern is best as it highlights the blood spots on the ground.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on the side of the lantern toward you.  It helps direct the light toward the trail and out of your eyes.

In the case of hair, it is important to decide where the hair came from on the animal.  White hair usually means a chest or belly hit.  Darker hair means a vital or muscle area hit.

If there is blood on the ground, examine it.  If there is the unmistakable odor of feces in the blood, then you have gut shot the animal.  The result is that you should wait several hours before proceeding to follow the trail.

If you find blood that is thin and pale, it probably came from a superficial or flesh wound.

Blood that is bright red with bubbles means that you have a lung hit animal.  Look for tracks and stirred up leaves. Your deer is probably nearby.

As you follow the trail, mark each place where you find blood or tracks.  Blaze orange surveyor’s tape or toilet paper comes in handy for marking.  At some point you may lose the trail or the blood might just quit leaking out of the animal.  You will be able to go back to the tape or paper trail and start again using the trail to steer you in the right general direction.

Large pools of blood on the trail usually mean that the deer stopped or even lay down at that spot before moving along.  Often the animal may change directions.  It is important to look in all directions from the pool of blood for a trail to follow.

Another factor that might cause the deer to change directions is a steep hill, roadway, fence line, or open field.  They will usually follow where the land is flat or downhill and with cover.  Often they will lie down in that cover.

If you cannot find the blood trail, try working in circles from the last spots.  Begin with small circles and work into ever enlarging ones.

All of the above supposes that the weather does not change radically and snow, rain or heavy wind conditions move in to conceal the trail.  Other hunters, dogs, coyotes can also stumble upon the animal and it will run off when it would otherwise lay down and die.

Animals such as crows, magpies and jays can alert the hunter to a downed animal.  They are attracted to the carcass and make a lot of noise.

Making a clean humane kill is the goal of all hunters.  Sometimes things go wrong and you might have to follow up on a wounded animal.  It is a challenging experience but a rewarding one when you are able to find the deer and bring it out of the woods and home to your family table.

 

DEER DECOY A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD   2 comments

White-tailed deer are social as well as territorial animals.  A popular tool in the hunt for trophy whitetails has become the deer decoy.  Do they really work? The answer is yes on occasion but they may also create a problem situation.

Sitting in a treestand overlooking a flood plot with a buck decoy standing guard is a perfect scenario. That is until out of nowhere a rutty buck springs into action.  From out of the brush he charges the decoy.  His antlers lowered, he smashes into the foam decoy scattering pieces in an explosion.  The incident takes only minutes and the surprised deer is gone back into the concealment of the brush.

Arguably the decoy worked but not in the way the hunter planed. Planning in the placement of a decoy is still an effective tool.

Decoys that are a part of the environment and have a natural look to them certainly fool deer.  The more techniques one uses in placement and blending of a decoy the better the chance it will fool a deer.

Perhaps the best time to use a decoy is during the rut. During the rut, deer are very territorial.  Bucks constantly make and check their scrapes.  Near a scrape is a great place to place a decoy.  Be sure to place the decoy so that it is not looking at your stand.  Any deer approaching will look in the direction that the “stranger” decoy is looking.  You can use the decoy to divert the attention of the other deer away from a stand.  It is important for the hunter to pick camo that blends into the background, not the foreground.  The idea is to keep the deer focused on the decoy, not the hunter.

Placement of a decoy can maneuver the deer into a position for a shot.  One can use a blowdown or other structure to move the deer as he tries to get a good look at the decoy.

A bedded doe decoy is good for this type of action.  Bedded doe decoys have a calming effect on an approaching buck.

Another set up is to place a buck and doe decoy together on the edge of a corn stubble field or grass field.  By placing them at the edge of the field it is possible to pull in a deer that is entering an open area.  With the buck standing and the doe bedded it presents the appearance of a buck trying to get a doe to stand.  During the rut, bucks breed does as long as they will stand.  A dominant buck will attempt to run off the buck decoy so as to be able to take over the doe.

It is important that the decoy buck have a small rack so as not to intimidate any arriving buck.

Although decoying is basically a visual situation, scents and calls are sometimes used.  It is not essential to use scents or calls.  Some hunters just like to cover all the bases.  If using a scent the best one is from the tarsal gland or a mild buck scent.  It is important to wear rubber gloves when handling the decoy so as not to leave a human scent on the decoy.

Human scent is scary to a deer.  Some hunters leave their decoy out in the elements just to reduce the chance of human scent on it.

In using a call, again the best plan is to use it as little as possible so as not to scare off an approaching buck.  When a big buck comes to a call, it is expecting to see another deer.  If it does not, then he becomes suspicious.  The best plan is to use a doe bleat interspersed with a buck grunt.  If you get a response from another deer, quit calling immediately.  You don’t want to distract the deer from the decoy.

Decoying deer is another tool, not an end all, for the deer hunter.  With a little common sense the results it brings is a pleasant surprise.

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