Archive for the ‘Habitat Management’ 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.

Advertisements

CWD AND ME   3 comments

dsc04594

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.

img_0111img_0114

GENTLEMAN BOBWHITE IN ILLINOIS   1 comment

057823-r1-80-80

The explosion of the flush, fast darting flight and the fact that they are excellent table fare makes the Gentleman Bobwhite a popular game bird in the southeastern part of the nation including southern Illinois.

Their adaptability to a variety of habitats helps in their development.  Modern forestry practices provide habitat for quail not previously found in some areas.  Studies show that clear-cut areas provide excellent habitat for as long as five years until the young pine and hardwood seedlings close the overhead canopy shading out quail food plants.

Nationally, the quail is the number one gamebird.  This is due to stocking of wild birds and the raising of birds for the preserve shooting market.

Quail live on the seeds of weeds, berries, insects and green vegetation.  They prefer vegetation that is neither too dense nor too thin.  Well managed habitat produces an abundance of quail for years.  The population replenishes itself within one or two years.

Extremes in weather can have some effect on the population. Illinois mild winter and slightly above average rainfall throughout the spring has seemingly aided in the survival of this year’s chick production. Predator control has a limited effect on the populations.  Probably more detrimental is the effect of free roaming cats or dogs.

Perhaps one of the better things to happen to the quail population has been the Federal government set aside programs which pay farmers to take marginal land out of crop production, sow them in grasses and leave them un-grazed and un-mown for years. In recent years fewer acres are now in place with the set-aside programs of CRP and CP42 Pollinator Habitat.

Proper fence row management provides cover as can a narrow strip of tall grasses or weeds.  Ditches, gullies and other such areas are manageable by letting vegetation grow to produce habitat.  It is important to quail populations that mowing be limited or even avoided from May 1 to August 1 each year. It is during this period that the hens are at most risk as they hunker down to protect either their eggs or chicks from the mower. The result is that the hens die and the destruction of the chicks and eggs takes place.

A bird of the edges, quail feed in more open areas but do not stray far from the safety of cover.  They would rather walk than fly and avoid anywhere that does not contain food, water and overhead cover.

Water to meet the needs of quail does not have to be standing water.  According to studies, quail will thrive on green plants and insects that result from damp soil.  Given green plant material and the insects that such growth attracts, quail metabolize enough water to survive and successfully reproduce.

The best place to hunt quail is where the quail are.  Hunters have limited options.  They have to know someone who has land available for hunting or belong to a club that manages for quail.  The minimum acreage is about 500-acres to hold enough birds to last an entire season without additional stocking.  With a stocking program, and the release of additional birds for shooting purposes during the season, less land will suffice.

 

ILLINOIS PUBLIC LAND WHITETAIL HUNTING   Leave a comment

IL Whitetail 0047Edit

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.

 

 

 

WHAT ARE EXOTICS AND WHY DO WE HUNTING THEM   Leave a comment

Perhaps one of the more popular exotics is the Blackbuck Antelope.  Thanks to hunter dollars breeding programs in Texas have been able to return them to their native India and Pakistan where they had been wiped out by subsistence hunting.

Perhaps one of the more popular exotics is the Blackbuck Antelope. Thanks to hunter dollars breeding programs in Texas have been able to return them to their native India and Pakistan where they had been wiped out by subsistence hunting.

At a recent gathering of hunting and fishing writers the subject of exotics came up. One man mentioned that he probably has the most complete collection of images of exotics.  It was at this point that he and I realized that we were probably the only two people in the room that knew what he was talking about.

To most of those present the term either meant strippers or those aquatic invasive species found in many freshwater lakes and rivers.

To some hunters the exotics are those species (generally ungulates) introduced beginning back in the 1920’s. They were often zoo animals purchased by the owners of vast ranches mostly in Texas.

Later in the 1950’s they began to view the exotics as an alternative crop for ranches through breeding and limited hunting practices. Many sheep and goat ranches became in need of another source of revenue.

At the same time it became apparent that the wild deer in central and southwestern Texas were suffering from malnutrition. Twenty to 40-percent of them would die off during the winters.

There was a problem with a lack of protein in their diet. Biologists and landowners discovered that they must manage the wildlife.  Mother Nature was being too harsh and needed some help.

Following the introduction of protein pellets that contained at least 20-percent protein, the deer began to thrive. Soo too did the exotics that had just been hanging on up to that point.

Today the production of many exotic (or introduced) species has thrived in the all of Texas. Vast ranches are home to game animals from around the world, many of which are no longer present in viable numbers in their home lands.  Their meat is in demand and often available in local stores and meat processing shops.

Estimates are that there are 1.3 billion exotics now and they provide employment for thousands. For every dollar spent on hunting alone there is an added benefit to the local economy of 9-dollars.  Breeding programs provide for the preservation of many formerly endangered species.

FEE FISHING AND THE OUTDOOR SCENE   Leave a comment

BWKid 0001

To many the idea of fishing a fee pond is like fishing a swimming pool. To them it is not even fishing.  To others fee fishing is a necessary addition to their fishing scene.  Who is correct?

To some a fish raised in a hatchery on a diet of commercial food is no challenge. Still others find it difficult to catch these same fish.

Fee lakes and ponds provide a place for new anglers to learn the skills necessary to take up the sport. Others use such areas to sharpen skills and develop successful patterns.  It also can be a confidence builder to the novice.

Such lakes are popular with residents of larger metropolitan areas who might otherwise not be able to finds a place to fish close to home.

A close cousin of the pay lakes are those stocked by fish and wildlife agencies. These can be in forest preserves, parks, reservoirs and private ponds.  The fish usually come from commercial hatcheries or state owned facilities.  Some come from the same hatcheries that sell to fee ponds.

Regardless of the type of fishery involved, stocked lakes are good locations to involve youngsters. Kids lose interest if they do not catch fish.  Most of these lakes contain species such as trout, catfish and bluegills.  In most states the daily fishing areas do not require a fishing license.

The quality of this fishing experience is dependent upon the management of the water. Some can be more challenging because some areas practice catch and release.  They seem smarter the second time around.

Those who want to learn from the experience of this fishing need to stop and examine the surroundings. Where did the fish come from?  Why was he there?  What bait or lure di he prefer?  What is it about the bottom of the pond, vegetation, structure or water clarity that attracted the fish to this spot?

Establish a pattern you can use again in similar situations. These patterns work well in non-fee lakes as they do in fee lakes.  Fee lakes are often subject to intense fishing pressure.  Fish react differently under such circumstances.  Once one learns what to expect in these conditions it is easy to transfer the skills to other bodies of water.

By downsizing lures one might not catch a lunker but he will catch more fish. The more fish caught the more learning that takes place.

Do not copy the tactics of those around you. Be different.  Experiment and compare your success with theirs. Fish under pressure in one area will sooner or later move.  That move might bring them to your area.  If others are throwing the same lures, then change yours and offer something different.  Just because others are not catching fish does not mean the fish are not present.

Experiment with a variety of colors. Perhaps others are throwing the wrong color for the fish on that particular day.  The more a fish sees a particular color or shape of lure the less likely he is to attack it.  A change in size, color and shape may be just what it takes to make a fish strike.  Practice in heavily fished fee lakes can allow the angler to develop faith in a given theory.

Check out the heavy weed beds and learn how to fish them without always hanging up. On the other side look for areas without a lot of structure and learn to fish it effectively.

Fee lake fishing is not the same as big water angling. Skills developed where you know fish are present not only help to develop those skills but also to promote your faith in your skills.

People in large metropolitan areas cannot always get away to wilderness lakes and rivers. But time spent at a stocked lake is the next best thing.  Success in fishing comes from experience.  Go fishing as often as possible and try new things.

FISH HATCHERY IS PART OF FISHERY MANAGEMENT   Leave a comment

Fish Survey 0007

Most anglers have caught small bass.  But never have they seen anything as small as the bass on view one day last spring.  The biologist at Little Grassy Fish Hatchery near Carbondale, IL was showing a bass hatched 3 days earlier. The little rascal is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.  Not what you call a keeper.

Very few people are ever able to find such a fish in the wild.  When bass are so small they do not even feed.  Instead, they live off the yolk sac and just sit on the bottom of the body of water in which they hatch.  As they sit there, the male bass watches over them and will stay with the tiny offspring for the first few weeks of their lives as protection from predators.  The protection is necessary in the wild, as bass do not lay as many eggs as some other fish.

Small bass stay on the bottom for a few days until they begin to feed on the Zooplankton in the water.  Then they begin to move around.  In the hatchery, this is a sign to move them to a different area. There they are fed and cared for in immaculate conditions resulting in a greater survival rate than could be possible in nature.

Little Grassy Hatchery is one of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources hatcheries producing largemouth bass, channel catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish and walleye stocked into the lakes and ponds of the state.

Each year thousands of fish reach fingerling size, bagged in plastic bags, oxygen added and they shipped out to locations all over Illinois.  With the exception of the channel catfish, the all fish go as fingerlings.  Channel catfish remain at the hatchery until they reach 8-inches in length, usually about a year.

Channel catfish are spawned in the hatchery and fed a high protein fish food.  Each breeding pair of catfish produces one to four pounds of eggs.  The hatchery usually can produce two spawns per year with a total production of approximately 2 million eggs.  They spawn around the first of June and by October have reached a length of four to six inches.

During the colder winter months, catfish do not feed and therefore there is no growth.  But the following spring they begin to feed again and by July first they are up to the 8-inch length so popular with anglers across the state.  These fish go to put-n-take ponds on state property and forest preserves.  Many of the fish go to local municipal ponds and lakes providing fishing fun for families.

Little Grassy Hatchery is located near Little Grassy Lake southwest of Marion, Illinois in Williamson County.  Little Grassy Lake is part of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.  The hatchery belongs to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.  Visitors are welcome and most of the action occurs from mid-May through July.  They have a variety of fish in various stages of growth and spawn.

The water bill for an operation the size of Little Grassy Fish Hatchery would be out of sight if one had to depend upon city water.  The hatchery has a cooperative water agreement with The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge to take water from Little Grassy Lake at the spillway, use it, clean it and return the water to the lake.  It works out very well for the production of fish for Illinois anglers.

 

%d bloggers like this: