Archive for the ‘Hunting Small Game’ Category

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.

 

DOVE HUNTING TIPS   Leave a comment

Dove hunting is a great warm up to the other small game and bird hunting coming later. Here are some tips for preseason preparation.

Decoys are vital to hunting doves. Use them creatively.  The most common placement is with a few on the ground and others on fences or bare tree limbs above water holes.  Another technique is to bring an artificial tree with you.  It can be commercial or homemade.  With your decoys already placed in the tree you can place it wherever the flight path of the birds seems to be on that day.

To make decoys more lifelike cut a small hole in the underside. Insert some BB’s and seal the hole.  On the upper side attach some fishing line that goes back to a rod and reel.  You can cast the decoy over a bare branch and reel it into a point where the belly of the decoy looks like it is perched in the tree.  The BB’s keep the decoy upright and looking like it is perched on the branch.  This allows you to place decoys higher than would normally be possible.

Doves are cautious birds. Approaching a water hole it is common for them to land on nearby power lines or the bare branches of dead trees.  From there they can survey the area for danger before landing on the ground to feed or drink.  The cunning hunter will place himself concealed in full camo or in a blind within range of the area.  As the birds fly down they present a slower target than as they do flying past.

Wait until the birds are within 25 to 30 yards from you position. This saves on ammunition and also provides the opportunity for a second shot before a missed bird gets out of range.

Use of a retriever dog aids in fewer birds lost on the ground. The dog will follow wounded birds wherever they hide.

Instinctive shooting is better than trying to lead the bird. The birds dip, dive, and seldom present a shot for which you can set up.  This is point-and-shoot hunting.  Early in the season number 8 or 9 shot seems best.  Later when not hunting local birds but rather migratory birds come into play you can move to number 7 shot.  The latter extends the distance for an effective shot.

The less you move around the less the chance of a scaring birds away. Sometimes staying still is difficult due to the presence of mosquitos.  Use effective repellants to keep away the bugs.

Two final tips are to use the latter days of the season when hunting pressure is lighter and to hunt alone with your dog. Early on with pressure from big parties of hunters the birds are flighty and the shooting difficult.  Once the early pressure lessens doves tend to get careless and present some fine hunting action.  Frankly late season hunting is a more pleasurable hunting experience.

PUBLIC LAND HUNTING PLANS   Leave a comment

Hunters should not look to public land hunting as a last resort. As someone who does not have access to private land and not the time to manage a private lease, there has been a need to resort to making productive use of public lands.  The average hunter ignores many acres of public land.

Public land located near home can be a savior of quality time spent afield. Maybe we could call them “stay hunts.”  Many of us are familiar with the “staycations” that have become popular due to the present economic situation.  With proper planning and care to details quality hunting opportunities are available.

Pre-season scouting is helpful. However, it is not always possible to get out to the hunting area ahead of time.  No matter where it is located all hunting areas are on a map.  It can be a topographical map, GPS map, highway map, county highway department map or even something published by local wildlife agencies.

Become familiar with the land regardless of species sought. Learn the location of natural structures that effect wildlife.  Find food plot locations and in general find areas game is likely to prefer.

Maps also aid one in locating the most remote portions of the property often overlooked by hunters. Game is not likely to stay near parking lots and roads.  Hunters quickly use those areas first.  Search out the dirty, thick cover where game hides during times of hunting pressure.  Cattail swamps, briars, weed fields and such are where most public land hunters will not readily enter.

It is common logic that would lead one to hunt public areas during the week. On the weekends and in the early days of any species specific season you find the heaviest hunting pressure.  Toward the very end of the season you may even have the entire area to yourself.

If you cannot hunt during the week, use the hunting pressure to your advantage. Movement of other hunters often drives game.  Figure where that game is most likely to move and set up your hunt accordingly.  It helps to be aware of any hunting that is likely to be going on in adjoining land.  Hunters there may drive game onto public land.

Know the exact boundaries of the public land to avoid trespassing fines. Trespassing can get expensive if the landowner is not understanding of your mistake.  Fines are high.  It is good to know the location of buildings and livestock areas.

Just because it is taxpayer land does not mean that you can do anything you want to it because your taxes paid for it. We all share the land.  In most cases it is first come first serve on a hunting spot.  It you are hunting an area and come across another hunter, do your best to avoid him or interfere with his hunting.

On the flip side, if you are hunting in an area and see another hunter approach, make sure he knows you are present. The best practice is to whistle or shout.  Once you have his attention, wave you hand to make him aware of your location.  If he is considerate, the other hunter will move off and make way for both of you to have your own areas.  Do not let rude behavior, yours or his, ruin your day.

Some hunters stay away from public land hunts and that is their right. But, just because it is public land does not mean that it is not a good place to hunt.  Common sense and courtesy go a long way toward you and other hunters enjoying a great day afield.

FINDING A PLACE TO HUNT WATERFOWL   1 comment

 

Soon waterfowl hunters will be sneaking into their blinds as the black and orange streaks of the pre-dawn hours begin to appear in the sky. They have planned for this day in anticipation of great shooting opportunities.

Many hunters spend the early fall days driving roads and making calls to landowners to get permission to hunt their land. This is sometimes without much success.  Others plan to hunt public blinds in hunting areas owned by governmental bodies such as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and various federal lands.  Sometimes in the latter case due to demand exceeding supply they are unable to find a place to hunt as supply often exceeds demand.  They can still turn to private hunting clubs.

Throughout Illinois there are private waterfowl hunting clubs. Access to some is limited to members while others are open to the public on a daily fee basis.  Lists of clubs are attainable from local tourism bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, their websites and advertisements in newspapers and hunting magazines.

It is a good idea to talk with people who hunt there before making a commitment.   It is also a good to talk with others who live in the area such as employees of sporting goods stores and anyone in the hunting goods business.  It is impossible to go into an area and know what bird hunting success you might expect.  But, you can talk with people who live in the area and they can tell you what birds are present and what they are doing.  You can do this both before and during the season.

Many clubs welcome hunters bringing their own dog to retrieve downed birds. Other clubs prefer to use their own dogs and still others do not feel a dog is necessary.

Most hunts are from blinds on land and/or water or from pits.

The amenities provided at clubs can vary significantly. Most clubs provide transportation to and from the hunting sight, set up of the decoys, heated sheltered blinds and often provide snacks or even meals.  Most provide a caller who is a combination guide, sometimes teacher, and is in charge of the hunt.  He usually works for tips.  All the hunter needs to provide is his shotgun, shells and warm camouflage clothing.

All hunters are required to possess an Illinois General Hunting license, an Illinois Waterfowl Stamp and Federal Migratory Bird Stamp. It is a good idea to purchase them prior to the hunt as not all clubs have access to them and it is usually too early in the morning to purchase them locally.  The Illinois license and stamp are available online but the Federal stamps are available the US Post Office or most other federal offices.

 

 

PLANNING A DOVE HUNT   2 comments

September dove hunting begins just prior to the teal and other waterfowl seasons by just a few days.  It provides a warm-up opportunity for the waterfowl hunter.

With backswept wings and long pointed tails, these little gray rockets have a cruising speed of 30 to 40 miles per hour and can reach 60 in short spurts.  Couples that with their ability to bob and weave at the same time and you have a very tough target.

Estimates are that the hunter fires three times for each bird he hits.  Many hunters, if they are truthful, will not do that good. They are a bird that can humble the best shotgunner.

Perhaps the three basic elements of dove hunting are location, concealment, and patience.

Understanding the flight habits of the birds the key to selecting a stand location.  In the morning they fly into water or areas containing gravel for grit.  In the evening they fly to the water again and then to trees to roost for the night.  Advance scouting an area prior to the hunt helps to learn the flight path of the birds.

A good pair of binoculars comes in handy.  You can scout a number of locations more quickly if you do not have to travel all the way into the fields.  A drive down nearby roads can allow the hunter to look over a variety of locations in less time.

On the day of the hunt study the flight of the birds already traveling in and out of the field.  Then choose a location that best allows you to be within 40 yards of that flight path.  Forty yards should be a maximum shooting distance.  Such things as wind direction and structure on the ground influence flight paths.

Avoid locations that require you shooting into the sun.  Nothing spoils a shot than swinging into the sun just before you pull the trigger.

Once you select the shooting position find a place for concealment in that location.  The good locations are often on the edge of grain fields or beneath a large tree with bare limbs.  Doves like to land in such trees to survey the field below for danger.  Once satisfied that there is no danger, they then drop down into fields to feed or to water holes to quench their thirst.

Some hunters prefer a hill near the fields allowing better vision of approaching birds.  But, that also exposes them to approaching flights.

Wherever one choose to set up camouflage is important.  That is both clothing and the surrounding vegetation.  Bushes and tall grass are usually good to help conceal the hunter.  Camouflage clothing must match the surrounding environment.

The spot must be comfortable so you do not fidget.  It is vital to sit still as movement often spooks approaching birds.  A cooler is often a chair of choice.  It not only provides a place to sit, but can also store, soft drinks, and sandwiches. It also can hold harvested birds.  Be sure to bring plenty of water.  If you are hunting with a dog, double that amount of water.

On the subject of water, in hot weather dehydration it is very easy for both you and your dog without being aware of it.  There is a saying among desert hunters that fits very well.  “Once you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated.”  For that reason take regular sips of water even if you are not thirsty.

Dove hunting is not physically demanding sport.  But, it does demand shooting skill.  Trips to the trap and skeet ranges are a good idea.  They not only sharpen shooting skills but they also help to train the eye to spot small targets flying at fast speed.

 

CONCEALED CARRY AND THE OUTDOORSMAN   1 comment

Kevin and his two pre-teen sons find a scenic camping location with a waterfowl in a remote location. As they pitch their tent, have dinner over an open fire and settle in for the night, four drunken teens announce their presence.  The location is a favorite drinking location for them.

The teens, embolden by their drinking decide to evict the family. As the discussion becomes more threatening and the teens encroach on the campsite.  Kevin pulls his pistol and points it suggesting that perhaps the teens may want to find another location.  They decide to leave rather than risk a shot from an angry father.

Once the invaders are safely out of sight, Kevin packs up his children and gear. They safely leave what could have been a very serious situation.

This parent protected his family thanks to his right to concealed carry.

Stories such as this spotlight the need for concealed carry for the outdoor recreationist as well as potential victims of crime in urban areas.

However, before you carry your concealed weapon on your next outing there is some precautions needed.

To begin with some states have laws prohibiting carrying while in the field. For instance a state might ban bowhunters from carrying a firearm in the field regardless of the reason.  Some governmental agencies prohibit handguns at all times on their parks and refuges.  Still other states do not recognize concealed carry permit from other states.  This is reciprocity.

If you are traveling from one state to another it is important to know the law in all the states through which you are traveling. Your permit might be valid in your home state and the destination state but you might be traveling through another state where it is not valid.

How can you keep up with the ever changing laws that might affect your carrying protection while in the field? One of the best sources of current information regarding concealed carry is the website of United States Concealed Carry Association (www.USCCA.com).

They also have an App there as well so that you can access the information on your phone while in the field.

One of the easiest ways to get information on reciprocity is the State Reciprocity Map (www.usconcealedcarry.com/travel/).

Another valuable website is the Safe Gun Travel site (www.safeguntravel.com/).

OUTOOR WRITING – A WONDERFUL LIFE   Leave a comment

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Bad weather in the form of ice and snow has caused cancelation of plans to attend Dallas Safari Club Show for this writer. But something good did come of staying inside for most of the day.

Serendipity resulted in accidentally coming upon an essay by Craig Boddington, world famous hunter and outdoor writer, about his philosophy of life as it relates to his career in hunting and writing about it.

It caused some reflection on this writer’s career in the hunting and fishing field. Although I usually like to keep my personal involvement out of the article, I am making an exception today.

The first commercial success occurred in the 4th grade when the prize for an essay on a local bank’s new signage produced the princely sum of $3. It would be about 15 years before the second sale came along.

That was about 50 years ago. In between I produced a lot of articles that did not sell as well as some freebees for law journals and social work magazines.  I even edited an in-house journal for the social service department of a court system.

The real turning point came with a chance meeting at an outdoor show in Chicago. Gene Laulunen had just started MidWest Outdoors.  At that time both he and his wife were still teaching school in the suburbs and put the magazine together on their kitchen table in the evening.

He was looking for someone to write about bowhunting. He had a writer on target archery and a friend had told him of me.  I wrote a couple of pieces that appeared in the 3rd edition of MidWest Outdoors Magazine.  I did not write any more for him for some long forgotten reason.

In the interim I did write some article for other magazines such as Archery World and Bowhunter. In the mid-70’s I became editor of a journal for the Illinois Chapter of Safari Club International and we contracted with MidWest Outdoors to print and distribute it on a monthly basis.  Gene then encouraged me to get serious about writing about the outdoors.

Since then I have sold hundreds of article to him and to other publication throughout the upper Midwest.

In 1996 I retired from social work and corrections work. Six months later retirement became boring.  I returned to writing, appearing in outdoor shows, a couple of videos and sponsorship of a youth goose hunting contest that occurs annually during National Hunting & Fishing Days.

I will turn 75 in a couple of months. Writing about hunting and fishing has opened a lot of doors.  The field is well-known for a lot of freeloading.  For that reason I have been reluctant to accept gifts of trips and gear.  It just makes me uncomfortable.  Most of my trips whether to Africa or around North America are paid for by me.  If I do accept some hospitality in any form it is with the understanding that if it turns out to be a good trip, I will write about it.  If not then I will not write anything about it.  I do not do negative stories or reviews.

I have met, hunted with, fished with some of the greatest people in the outdoor industry. Many are gone now while the rest remain my friends for life.

In recent years health problems have caused me to cut back on some of my activities. It is heck getting old.  Sitting here today has cause me to reflect on the past (a great time) and begin to set goals for 2017 that include more travel for hunting and fishing.

Those goals when accomplished will appear in this journal. Stay tuned!

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