Archive for the ‘Hunting Small Game’ Category

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   Leave a 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   1 comment

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!

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.

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