Archive for the ‘Duck Hunting’ Tag

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.

TEAL HUNTING REQUIRES PREPARATION   Leave a comment

 

Decoy spreads for teal with blues and green-winged decoys are set out in small groups of three to five.  Set them in a well-defined fly and kill zone with some 5 dozen of the groups spread out to maximum the kill zone.

An open area allows the teal to fly in and still does not intimidate them.  When the decoys are properly in place the teal will drop low and fast right onto the water.

A teal call emits a very high pitched, single reed sound like a mallard hen call.  Teal seem to work very quietly. Uses a few soft feeding chuckles and a few short hen quacks.  Then he let the call drop on the lanyard around your neck and prepare for shooting action.

The birds on the water rise straight up in a tight group and out of range at what seems the speed of light.  The report of a gun only seems to encourage their departure.

Early teal season does not attract a lot of hunters.  The birds are apparently very susceptible to cold weather causing them to migrate early.  They seem to prefer hot, muggy weather and mosquitoes over frost and ice.

Teal are dabbling ducks.  They frequent fresh water marshes and rivers and feed by dipping or tipping.  They will feed on the surface or only as far underwater as they can reach without submerging.  Their diet consists of vegetable matter.

Here their menu consists of water hemp, nut grass, millet, smart weed, insects and mollusks.

Although hunters may use a teal call, most hunters should leave their calls at home.  Decoys are all one needs in a way of attractant.  Teal, like other ducks, are social idiots.  They want to be with other ducks.

Most teal hunters use to much gun.  A 20‑gauge with a modified or improved cylinder works well.  The shot should be #6 steel as pattern density is more important than pellet size.  The average size of a picked teal is about the same as a bar of soap.  It does not take a lot of shocking power to down them.

In preparation for teal season, it is a good idea to go to a clay target range.  Ask them to throw some “midis” (90mm) and some “minis” (60mm) targets.  Learn to shoot fast, crossing targets.  They are the kind that if you think about the shot, they will be gone.

If you do not have a trap range make one using a hand thrower. The Super Sport Hand Thrower from Champion Traps & Targets in Wisconsin (www.championtargtet.com) is a very serviceable alternative to the more cumbersome mechanical machines.  They are inexpensive, portable and easy to use.  The adjustable hand thrower is adjustable to throw standard, midi and mini clay targets.

Preseason scouting is a good idea a few days before hunting.  Teal hunting hot spots are fairly predictable from year to year if the habitat does not change.

Teal hunting is fun and they are good on the table.  This year why not get out and give them a try?

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.

 

 

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.

 

DR BOBBY DALE ON HYPOTHERMIA   Leave a comment

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Dr. Bobby Dale, emergency room physician finds problems with hypothermia to be a significant risk to the outdoor public. It results in over 700 deaths per year.  It develops slowly in a deer stand but a fall into cold water can cause rapid hypothermia.  Hypothermia can happen any time of the year when there is a sudden change in temperatures of the surroundings.

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls below 95-degrees F. The first level of hypothermia has the patient shivering or sleepy.  Treatment is by adding clothing and getting them to a warm place.  You can also do isometrics to generate heat.

The second level involves a slowness of reflexes and impaired judgment. It also includes shivering and sleepiness.  The subject may feel warm and want to shed clothing.

Severe hypothermia results in a loss of consciousness and ridged muscles. Cardiac arrest can occur.  It is important to pile blankets on the patient and immediately get help.

In all cases of hypothermia make use of blankets, sleeping bags, warm liquids, build a fire and get into shelter as fast as possible. Group hugs are helpful.

Preventative measures recommended by Dr. Dale include know your physical limits, avoid wearing cotton clothing, (cotton kills) be prepared for a night out if required, get out of the wind and off the ground, carry fire starting kit, have a bivy bag or plastic trash bag at least 3 ml thick and carry a SPOT locater.

SPOT GPS messenger provides the ability to notify Search and Rescue or your family if you are in trouble. It provides your exact location which saves time in getting help to you.  They are available from outdoor stores.

The life you save may be your own.

 

TIMBERRR FOR DUCKS   Leave a comment

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Perhaps one of the more interesting ways to hunt ducks is in flooded timber. It can be cold for the unprepared as often the water temperature is slightly above freezing and often you have to break surface ice.  But, one quickly forgets the cold when a flock of mallards appears out of no here to zigzag through the trees and sets down in a pool in front of you.

Beginning in late summer, far to the north in the breeding grounds, a feeding frenzy begins as ducks step up their food intake. They need the fat for sustaining energy during the annual migration.  The rest of the year ducks use carbohydrates to build their energy.  Muscle tissue used in migration requires fat reserves.  As the migration progresses, they use up the fat and have to go on another feeding frenzy to rebuild it before continuing.  They pig out and then take off again.

With water tending to be about 1 or 2 feet deep it requires boots or chest waders for hunting. On public land site specific rules do not allow permanent blinds.  Hunters usually get into the area at least an hour before sunrise.  Each hunting party should have at least one dozen decoys.  Hunters carry decoys into the area in bags attached to backpack frames.  Regulars have this down to a science and often carry more than a dozen dekes.  Hunter success is usually better with more decoys.

Due to the wide variety of duck species frequenting such areas hunters need to know how to identify huntable species

Being able to call ducks is important in all duck hunting. In timber hunting or other heavy cover hunting it is vital.  By calling the hunter is able to convince them that his area is the best one.  In a public hunting area competition is heavy for the available ducks.  If another hunter is a better caller, chances are he will also get more shooting.

Call the ducks right up until the time one starts shooting. Reduce the volume, as the birds get closer.  Another advantage of calling right up until shooing is in the heavy cover of timber shooting it is possible that another flock you did not see will come in ahead of the one you did see.

In waterfowl hunting it is important to stay dry to avoid hypothermia (a sudden loss of body temperature that can be fatal) a good pair of insulated waders are a must. Waders tend to be better than hip boots because you never know when you might trip or step into a hole.  Waders keep you dry when boots might get you wet.  Warmer than usual clothing is also a good idea.  Standing in 35-degree water for long periods is a lot colder than standing on dry land in the same weather.

The best kind of weather for duck hunting is any kind that is available. Go any time you can.  There are those who prefer overcast days considered traditional duck hunting weather.  Others maintain that the best weather for timber hunting is on bright days.  The idea of the second theory is that birds partially blinded by reflection of the sun off the water look for shaded timber for safety.

WATERFOWL HUNTERS ARE ADJUSTING THEIR TACTICS   Leave a comment

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The past ten years have meant a significant change for waterfowlers. The migration of geese and ducks changed and hunters had to adjust. The huge flocks of geese that once flowed into the southern Illinois refuges for the winter have diminished.

Birds still come but they are fewer and smarter. Ducks that did not stay long in the past are now flowing into grain fields and staying for the entire season. They once moved further south once the geese arrived.

Hunters now combine an awareness of the habitat and technological advances with hunting opportunities open to the public.

Many hunters seek both geese and ducks over flooded grain fields. They place goose pits on the edge of the fields and floating duck blinds out in the water.

Communication between guides and hunter as well as between hunters is important. Sometimes misunderstandings happen when it is one person’s turn to shoot and everyone does not get the message. Regardless, hearing protection is important to prevent hearing damage from muzzle blasts. Especially useful are electronic ear muffs that protect from muzzle blasts yet allow one to hear anyone talking. They are part of the technology for satisfying waterfowl hunting.

Today many of the birds hunted are local birds whereas a few years ago they were many more migrators. The locals are quickly educated as to the location of refuge areas. They quickly learn where hunting pits and clubs are located and avoid them.

Ducks present their own problem. As individual species are usually only present for a month or so, the hunters have to learn their locations and flight patterns quickly.

Both ducks and geese can become call shy as the season progresses and the hunting pressure increases on the migration path. Often call shy birds can be attracted to the decoys with a minimum of calling by a hunter.

Hunters put out decoys in an X-pattern which seems more natural. It sometimes requires up to 1,000 decoys of several types for goose hunting. Later in the season they might cut back to 80 to 200. Duck hunters will use 80 to 200 decoys.

A key to decoy spreads is motion. Using full-bodied dekes with motion stakes, wind socks, Robo-ducks and decoys involving bodies that represent feeding ducks diving like the real thing hunters present a more lifelike presentation.

Late in the season hunters change some of the tactics. Using fewer decoys they place them in a tighter pattern. This works well on public land.

Late season hunters on public land tend to quit calling as soon as the birds appear. You do not need to call as much. Continue the calling until the birds begin to look your way. Ducks need the noise to feel safe and locate feeding ducks. Once they are coming your way it is time to back down to a feeding chuckle.

In hunting on public land it is important to have the right set-up. That means keeping your back to the wind. Ducks, and geese, prefer to land into the wind. If the wind picks up to the range of 15 to 20 mph it becomes important to set-up in protected areas. Make your decoy set-up look realistic.

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