Archive for the ‘Bowhunting’ Category

CWD AND ME   3 comments

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Like most people who hunt deer species in North America, I have a minimal knowledge of the disease known as CWD. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal (to deer species) neurological disease.  A misfolded protein called a prion causes the disease.

It passes from one deer to another through animal to animal contact. The shedding of prions through bodily fluids and/or the decay of infected animals creates a contaminated environment which allows the spread of the disease.

The disease does not pass along to humans or domestic livestock. But it can have a devastating effect on deer herds, especially if they are concentrated in a location such as those yarding up in winter and those in a breeding facility.

Biologists have tried numerous programs to limit the spread of the disease but as yet there is no known cure.

Most programs involve isolating infected areas and the sampling of brain tissue to find infected animals.

Last fall produced the harvest of the best deer of a 60-year hunting career. When told testing for CWD is required, anxiety set in.  Visions of some college kid working for the game officials butchering the cape to get at the brain tissue came to the fold.  Such was not the case.

Squaw Mountain Ranch where the deer was taken is also a deer breeding facility for sale of deer to ranches across Texas. In order to protect their property and herd, the ranch participates in a number of studies with the wildlife officials of the state.  It is no near any of the areas where CWD has been found in the state and the hope to keep it that way.

Any deer that dies on this ranch is checked.

Concerns about damage to the cape are unwarranted. Watching the process turned out to be a good learning experience.  Dusty, a guide on the ranch follows normal capeing procedures.  However as the cape is rolled toward the head, an incision is made at the joining of the spinal column to the base of the brain.

With some specialized tools he is able to remove a two inch section of the spinal column. He places the sample in a container and sent out for testing.  At the lab they section the sample and examine it under a microscope for any folded prions.

After two years of sampling every deer, this ranch has not found a single infected animal.

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MAXIMIZE YOUR OUTDOOR SHOW DOLLARS   Leave a comment

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Going to the outdoor show is always a hoot.  It is a chance to see what anglers from all over are buying.  It brings up visions of upcoming trip opportunities and it is a learning experience.

The key to maximizing knowledge from a boat show is advance preparation.  A game plan will allow you to learn with a minimum of exhaustion.  Begin on the Internet.  Most all of the exhibitors web pages.  So too do the sponsors of the show itself.

Most shows are composed of thousands of square feet of products, places to go, and other bits of knowledge.  Covering the entire show and still being able to focus on your favorite aspect of outdoor recreation takes effort.  Some shows are so large that one feels the need of a GPS just to get around.

Once you select the show, check the ads that appear in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television for specific information as to when the show coming to town.  Look for the products and seminars that interest you.  If planning to make purchases, make a list of the items you are seeking.

Make two lists, one that you have to buy and the second of things you would like to examine.  Perhaps you will buy something from the second list and maybe you just want to see it.

Week day traffic is lightest and exhibitors can spend more time with you.  Arrive early to allow maximum time to spend getting the information you seek.

If you are with a group make arrangements to meet at a specific location and time.  You may want to see different things.  Kids do not want to spend the same amount of time at a booth as an adult.  Wives want to see different things than do husbands.

Once at the show, take time to look over the program you usually receive as you enter.  It often has a floor plan and list of the exhibitors.  Use a pen or highlighter marking pen to mark the exhibits and seminars of major interest to you.  Make check marks beside the names of exhibitors who might stock the things you want to purchase.

Make note of the time and location of seminars you want to attend.  Some shows announce the seminars as they are taking place while some do not.  Be sure you have a watch so that you do not miss your favorite speaker.  Make note on the program of any last minute substitute seminar speakers or exhibits.  Look for such changes the entrance to the show or at the seminar area.

Take a cassette tape recorder to the seminar.  Most speakers have no problem with your taping their speech, but it is important to ask permission first.  Take notes in a spiral notebook.  You might even have some questions that you hope the speaker will answer, prepared in advance.  That way if he does not cover the subject, you can ask during the Q & A that usually is part of any seminar.

Pay attention and avoid side conversations with your companions.  If the subject is one in which you are intensely interested, sit near the front so that you can concentrate.  If you are only passively interested, sit in the back or on an aisle.  That way if you decide to leave during the presentation, you will disturb only a minimum number of other people.

Wear comfortable shoes.  You will spend most of your time walking on concrete.  Hiking boots or a new pair of athletic shoes is a good idea as they provide support and cushioning for the feet.  Older athletic shoes are not a good idea as they lack the support necessary to cushion your feet.  They are like walking barefoot and can lead to foot problems as well as fatigue.

If the outside weather is cold, then you need to do something with your coat.  Carrying it is a nuisance.  If the show provides a coat checking service, it is worth the cost.  If not, perhaps you might want to leave it in the vehicle.  A third alternative is to put it in a backpack.

Backpacks are also a good place for brochures that you pick up at the show.  You can acquire a considerable number of them in the course of visiting all the booths.  Although the weight of a brochure is not much, the weight of many brochures is a lot.  If you do not remember to bring your backpack, then look for a booth that is passing out plastic “shopping bags”.  Look around at the other people carrying bags and check for reinforced handles.  They are the ones you want.

Another help is to take frequent breaks and examine what you accumulate.  Sometimes it is stuff that you do not really want.  You can stop for a soft drink and a hot dog while culling your materials.  If after reading the brochure you still have some questions, go back to the booth and get answers.  It is easier than calling or writing from home later.

Finally, check your notes.  Did you miss anything that you had intended to see?

Attendance at sports shows is a great opportunity to gain a maximum benefit from your money.

 

HUNTABLE RABBIT POPULATIONS   Leave a comment

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Every year country roads and farmsteads show abundant populations of rabbits. Yet when hunting season comes around they all seem to have vanished.  Estimating rabbit populations are difficult for the best of small game biologists.

The winter just passed was the warmest on record. There was above average rainfall which should transfer to abundant rabbit populations.

One rabbit in ten ever lives to be a year old in the wild. It seems that everything works against their growing old.

Like most small game animals and birds, Mother Nature allows rabbits to rise 30 to 50 young each year. But the odds are just against their survival.

Rabbits do well in heavy cover and in remote areas of overgrown fields. Hawks and other flying predators present danger to these furry bundles.  For this reason they like cover that conceals them from overhead sight.  Weather during the birthing times also effects rabbit populations.  They young of the year need favorable weather in their early stages of life.

Here in Illinois the best locations to find rabbits are those with good habitat. Weather in the central and southern locations is not what has hurt the rabbit populations.  But rather habitat loss is the problem.

Rabbit hunters have to work harder each year to find suitable habitat containing the “smallest whitetail.”

For the past 10 years or so the populations have remained steady but at a low level. Much of the blame for habitat loss in those years was high commodity prices for corn and soybeans.  Land that might otherwise go to set-aside programs like CRP went into grain production.

The loss of CRP land is a major problem as more and more land does not go into CRP and other set aside programs. Rather it goes to produce grain crops.  The once abandoned farmsteads that were popular with rabbits are being cleared as seemingly every inch of land is too valuable not to be placed in production.  Landowners are clearing trees and brush piles in an effort to make every acre productive.

With the commodity prices softening some of that land may be going back into habitat production and rabbit production will follow. Should this trend continue for the next two or three years it is possible that rabbit production looks good for the future.

ILLINOIS PUBLIC LAND WHITETAIL HUNTING   Leave a comment

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Many deer hunters see deer hunting as going to the same area each year and sitting in a tree. They hope for a deer to walk past and that they shoot straight.  Successful deer hunting requires study of the quarry, its biology, and the effect that man has had on both.

White-tailed deer disappeared from Illinois around the turn of the last century. Reintroduced to Southern Illinois in the early 1930’s, reintroduction came in three phases:

The first deer came to southern Illinois and allowed to reproduce. The idea was to get sufficient numbers to allow the program to move to step II.

Step II involved the trapping and translocation of deer to a suitable habitat in other parts of the state. This was so successful that by 1957 some 33 counties opened to deer hunting.  By 1975, some 98 counties had deer seasons.

Step III became the over population that has caused depredation of crops and homeowner landscaping. It also involves an increase in auto-deer accidents on area highways.  By the 1980’s over population of deer in many areas of the state was becoming a significant problem.

In the 1990’s wildlife officials decided to stress maintenance of deer density that would be capable of sustaining deer hunting. It had to take into account the carrying capacity of the land.

Today there is emphasis in some areas to maintain trophy quality in the deer herd. But, deer hunting is more than just shooting a big deer.  Deer hunters seek size and symmetry.

First is the preparation and anticipation of a hunt. Some say it is the most fun part of a deer hunt. Then there is the isolation of sitting in a cold treestand waiting for a deer to come past.  Finally, there sometimes is the disappointment of being unsuccessful in getting a deer.  To the deer hunter these are all part of the game.

Deer hunting is about leveraging experience and knowledge. All knowledge is cumulative.  The more one hunts, the better hunter he becomes.  The more he reads about hunting, he becomes a more informed hunter.  The more videos about hunting he views, the more discriminating he is in selecting his quarry.

As knowledge accumulates, one sorts out valid theories to test in a specific type of habitat. One tests theories in the field.  Then the hunter begins to develop his own theories and test them.  That is how one becomes a better hunter.  One can always learn if he just keeps an open mind.

This year, study your deer hunting area. Does it present the habitat that will attract and keep deer?  If deer are present, why are they there and where do they regularly travel.  By knowing why deer do what they do, one improves his chances of being able to be in position for that all important shot.

The huge expanses of public and private land available in southern Illinois attract hunters. The lack of overcrowding makes the area an excellent place to hunt.  The Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations contains lists of all the public land hunting areas.  It is available free from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices though out the state.  It is also available anywhere place selling hunting and fishing licenses.

 

 

 

DO NOT FORGET FALL TURKEY SEASON   Leave a comment

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In fall high turkey numbers provide the opportunity and hunters need only provide the preparation. Success is when opportunity meets preparation.

The changing seasons mean an anticipation of fall turkey hunting success throughout the entire country. Midwest turkey hunters have hunted spring turkeys with great success and look forward to fall birds.

Many of the tactics used during the spring season also work in fall. The birds are just as wary and frustrating.  Hunters are quick to discover all hunting can be just as heart pounding.

There are a few more wrinkles to fall hunting. Turkey hunters should shoot their shotguns to make sure they are delivering the kind of pattern needed.  It is not unusual for identical guns and ammunition combinations to throw different patterns.

One of the turkey patterning kits made by Birchwood Casey simplifies the job. It contains turkey head targets at which the hunter shoots.  Once the turkey head is the center of the pattern, the hunter knows where his point of impact is in regard to the sight or scope of the gun.

Once the point of impact is determined, hunters can shoot shells with different pellet sizes, or from different manufacturers, to find the best load combination. Many companies make special turkey loads that have the right pellet weight combined with velocity needed to penetrate the vitals of a turkey.  These loads deliver a pattern density that is superior and places more pellets in the vital zone of the turkey target.

If shooting with a bead sight, the hunter might want to make the sight more visible. Birchwood has touch‑up pins in white or fluorescent red.  Once painted the sight is brighter and more visible in low light conditions.

The calls, box, slate, glass and diaphragms, will work well in the fall, as they did last spring. Turkeys still yelp, cluck, purr and gobble.  The one addition is the young turkey’s “kee‑kee”.  This is the sound made by young‑of‑the‑year birds that are lost and looking to regroup.  You can produce this high pitched call with a diaphragm call or one of the aluminum calls.

Fall hunters begin by looking for birds where they found them last spring. The most difficult part of hunting turkeys in the fall is finding them.  Food sources such as acorns, corn or soybeans are a lure of fall birds.  During dry periods, water is a major attractant.  The fall birds tend to roost in the same areas they use in the spring.

Drive back roads, check harvested fields and talk with local landowners. The best times to locate turkeys are in the early morning and early evening.

Hunters who traditionally use a decoy in the spring leave it home in the fall. The turkeys usually ignore them except during the spring mating season.

Once a flock of birds, usually a family group of hen and young‑ of‑the year, are found they are “rushed”. The flock scatters as each bird takes an “everyone for himself” approach.  Once the action has quieted down, the birds begin to call to one another in an attempt to reassemble.  These flocks are large and can contain as many as 40 birds.

There are two other types of flocks in the fall. Males group in the summer and stay together until the following spring.  More rarely found are groups of barren hens.  The male groups can range in size from 3 to 15 birds and the hen groups are small and more difficult to find.

Once adult hens begin with their assembly yelps, the hunter takes up a position and allows the woods to calm down. He then begins calling by using yelps and kee‑kees to let the scattered and confused birds know where to find him.  As they begin to re‑assemble, the hunter can pick his quarry and concentrate on getting it into the range of his shotgun.

The fall season is usually an either‑sex hunt but one should still be sure of target identification. A safe and responsible hunter is sure of his target before aiming a gun at it.  Adherence to safe gun handing skills is an utmost priority.

While hunting fall birds is different, it is usually more successful from the hunter’s point of view. With advance preparation fall turkey hunting is an excellent way to get a bird for the Thanksgiving table.

 

 

DEER HUNTERS ASK YOURSELF THESE QUETIONS   Leave a comment

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When evaluating land for deer hunting, here are some questions you might ask yourself.

Does it present habitat that attracts and holds deer? Are there ample food, shelter and water sources present?

If deer are present, where do they travel and why? In the morning deer travel toward bedding areas and toward feeding areas in the evening.

If water is present close to the bedding areas they will not move from them during the day. If not they will get up occasionally and move to creeks, puddles, ponds and rivers for a drink.  Learn what they are doing.

Regardless of the time of day, deer leave well-worn trails in the areas they frequent. Study those tracks and learn their patterns of behavior.

If you know why deer do what they do, it improves chances of being able to be in a position for that important shot opportunity.

 

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE FOR BOWHUNTERS   1 comment

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Is it time to kick the cobwebs out of you favorite hunting bow? Every year we all hear stories of the buck that got away because of equipment failure.  But it is one part of hunting failure that can be avoided with a little effort and common sense.

By doing the maintenance early, you can work with it longer and really be prepared for the hunting season in the fall.

The purpose of maintenance is to ensure that you have a bow that will launch the arrow that will have good smooth, stable flight and accurate results at the target. Generally speaking, good flight will have good results.

Begin by placing the bow on a table or in a bow vice with a white cotton cloth. The white cloth helps when if you have to look for a dropped screw or other small part.  Examine the bow beginning at one end and working toward the other.  Make note of any unusual wear of a part of the bow.  Look for dirty wheels, frayed string or cable, loose arrow rest, loose nocking point or peep site, or any broken parts.

After the initial inspection, look at your notes and order or purchase the parts you are going to need to fix or replace these parts. If it has been a year or more since you replaced the cables or string, you will probably need to do it again now.

Unless you have replaced a cable or bowstring on your bow previously, it is probably a good idea to have the pro at your archery shop take care of it. He has the equipment to do so without throwing your wheels out or alignment.  Remember that a compound bow is under tension all the time.  When you release that tension, the wheels move as do the limbs, cables and string.  Getting everything back together again can be a bit tricky.

While the bow is apart, check the wheel bearings and axles. Make sure they move freely.  Pull the axles and lube them as a preventative measure.  It is also a good time to lube the limb bolts.

Once these parts are taken care of you can do the rest of the maintenance yourself. Check the tiller.  The tiller is the distance between the base of the limb, where it enter the limb pocket, and the bowstring.  If you shoot a release, the tiller distance for the bottom and top limbs should be the same.  Some archers prefer a slightly longer distance at the top limb.  But, never more than 1/8th inch.  The advantage to always having the limbs at equal tiller is that if there is a difference, you know that something moved and should be checked.

Next check the synchronization of the wheels. For accuracy, the wheels should both turn at the same time.  Have someone draw the bow while you check the turning over of the wheels.  If they are not turning over together, check your owner’s manual or with archery pro-shop to see how to get them back in alignment.

Examine the condition of the arrow rest. If it shows signs of unusual wear or is broken, it should be replaced.  If it has adjustments for tension, now is the time to work with it.  Do so slowly so as not to over adjust it.  The instruction sheets that come with many rests, give information on adjustment and fine tuning.  Otherwise seek advice from a pro.

Once you are satisfied with the rest, it is time to install nocking points and peep sights. The location of the nocking point is dependent on the type of rest.  Shoot‑through models work better with the nocking point at one angle while plunger models and launchers require higher nocking points.

To adjust the location of nocking points, peep sights and kisser buttons requires the assistance of another person. The owner of the bow draws it with the release and arrow that he plans to use later.  The other person, adjust the points, peep and kisser.  Once the location has been ascertained, they are then installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Finally, check the bowsight for loose or broken parts. Repair or replace as necessary.  Wipe down the bow with a soft cotton cloth and you are ready to take to the field.

By paying attention to the details of bow maintenance, you are prepared to take to the field fully confident that it will perform satisfactorily. Practice with it and periodically check it out during the season to make sure nothing has changed or broken.

Posted 06/13/2016 by Donald Gasaway in Bowhunting

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