Archive for the ‘Hunting’ Tag

LATE SEASON DEER STALKING IN SHAWNEE NATIONAL FOREST   Leave a comment

Early settlers to Illinois country found the diminutive Virginia white-tailed deer.  It supplied food and the hides provided shelter.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the deer were fewer and more difficult to find.  The transplanting of whitetails from other states and a wise use of the resource strengthened the deer gene pool during the 21st century.

The deer of Illinois began as an experiment in wildlife management that took place in the Shawnee National Forest.  Wisconsin deer transplanted in the forest bred with the smaller Virginia subspecies.  The Biologists of the then Illinois Conservation Department transferred their progeny to other areas of the state under controlled conditions.

Illinois has major river bottomland country that is typically very fertile.  The silt deposits result in good soil.  The rough ground along drainage is difficult to clear for agricultural purposes and thus remains good deer habitat.

Deer hunting in the Shawnee National Forest is great and the public access is extensive.

Stretching from Cave-in-Rock on the east to Grand Tower in the west, Shawnee contains parts of some ten counties.  The hills of Bald Knob (elevation 1,048) and Williams Hill (elevation 1,064) cap some 277,000 acres of hardwoods and pines.  In fact, the forest area is a transition zone between North and South, East and West.  It consists of a variety of habitat.

Deer typically travel river bottomland corridors.  The travel forces them together for a good genetic mix.

Good phosphorous content in the soil of the western part of Illinois coupled with the availably of forage in the Shawnee National Forest, affects antler growth.  For deer, grasses, weeds, browse, fruits and mushrooms are as important as acorns and other nuts.  Most hunters neglect weeds as food sources for deer.  But, they digest easily and provide high levels of protein and phosphorus.  The same is true of mushrooms a popular springtime food for deer.

In winter deer seek high carbohydrate foods such as corn and acorns.  The Shawnee has a high number of oak trees combined with scattered agriculture fields often containing corn and soybeans left from agricultural practices.

All of these food sources are in abundance in the forests of southern Illinois.  The additional factor of mild winters leads to a low winter kill.

The Shawnee is the largest tract of public hunting land in Illinois.  Its appearance is more like the Ozark Mountains to the west than the flat agricultural fields usually associated with Illinois.

Trophy potential of the area is good and each year provides several Boone and Crockett bucks.  However, the general body size of the deer is slightly less than one would find in central or northern counties.  This is simply because they do not have as easy access to corn and soybeans that the deer in those agricultural areas.

Counties such as Pope in the Shawnee can be as much as 70 percent wooded with rolling grass and crop fields intermixed. The large expanse of wooded wilderness means that a hunter will have to walk as much as two or three miles before coming to a road.

Hunters do not usually experience crowded conditions after the end of the firearms season.  Leasing of private ground around the forest is becoming more common.  If a hunter spends time in the area knocking on doors, they might find landowners receptive to hunting.  Orchard farmers take a beating from deer populations and are anxious to rid themselves of some of the animals.

For more information about the Shawnee National Forest and the hunting regulations of the State of Illinois, contact Illinois Department of Natural Resources, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, Illinois 62702-1271.  For information about the forest contact the United States Forest Service Office, Harrisburg, Illinois 62946 or 800-699-6637.

 

Advertisements

THE FRUGAL DUCK HUNTER   Leave a comment

Because we late season waterfowlers are dependent upon a migrating flock for the most part, we should not count out our ducks and geese until the season is over. It means we need to reserve places at commercial clubs and state sponsored hunting areas for those late season hunting dates.

Maybe we need to be a little frugal too. This is especially the case for early season days when the return on investment might be a little skimpy.

Most of our birds are born up north and things have been tough in recent years. Most of the ducks migrating into Illinois follow the Mississippi River and stop off on the Illinois River early.  They move on to southern Illinois as the weather up north begins to deteriorate.  Another factor is the lack of grain fields in many areas of the north.  Summer drought can keep farmers out of the fields until a point where they figure their crop is a write-off.

What does this mean for us? It is time to do a “snow dance”.  Seriously, it means that we need to find hunting locations more to the far southern part of the Illinois or near the Ohio River.  Private hunting clubs take up many of these areas but there are public hunting areas available.

Because we are hunting late in the year, pressure from other hunters is lower. The ducks and geese respond more to smaller spreads of decoys than to the large fields of dekes often employed early in the season.

The frugal hunter can get by with a few decoys strategically placed on small bodies of water. This means less spent on decoys.  He often can buy the unused shotgun shells of early season hunters for a reduced cost.  Sporting goods dealers often have end of the season sales of gear and ammo providing an additional savings.

Need a place to hunt, check with local landowners who now have their crops harvested and might let you hunt for free.

The Union County State Fish and Wildlife Area and Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Areas require a purchased permit. Those under 16 can hunt for free.  This is an example of some of the inexpensive hunting available.  Even those areas where permits are for the year can have cheap hunting on weekdays.

An example might be a location with blinds allocated and the person assigned to that blind might not be able to hunt every day. On those days when the assigned person is not using the blind others can use it on a first come first served basis.  Check with the site superintendent to get the details that apply to the area you wish to hunt.

Williamson County Bureau of Tourism (1-800-GEESE-99) has a free brochure on waterfowl hunting opportunities in that area. It contains names and addresses of hunting clubs in the area as well as information on hunting the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge 618-997-3344) near Marion.  Additional information about the refuge hunting opportunities is available from the Refuge Visitors Center, 8588 S. Illinois Route 148, Marion, IL 62959.

Frugal duck and goose hunters can still enjoy their sport at minimal cost if they just do a little research and are willing to hunt on weekdays in public hunting areas. Check it out.

 

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS WATERFOWL HUNTING   Leave a comment

 

Flocks of ducks and lines of geese crossing the winter skies provide a reassurance of winter being on the way to southern Illinois.  A little behind the northern part of the state, and perhaps milder, winter still means waterfowl hunting aplenty.

Skilled and novices hunter attempt to lure birds from the flock into gun range of their hiding places in the fields and watery areas. Daily the birds lift off from the protection of the refuges in search of food in far distant grain fields.  Most return each evening to spend the night.  This is winter in this part of the state.  The birds will repeat the cycle again tomorrow.

With commercial hunting clubs that cater to the needs of waterfowl hunters on a daily basis, southern Illinois also has public access areas for the freelancer with a boat and dozen decoys.  Hunters, who check with local Chambers of Commerce and tourism bureaus, can still find low cost waterfowling.

The public access areas of the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge consist of two types: Public Hunting and Controlled Hunting Area.

Those wishing to use the Public Hunting areas are required to possess a Recreational User Permit ($2 per day) which can be purchased at the Visitors Center on Route 148 about two miles south of Illinois Route 13 on Route 148. Only temporary blinds can be used in these areas.  They must be removed at the end of each days hunt.  Both water and ground blinds must be at least 200 yards apart and can contain up to five hunters.  Generally speaking, the open hunting area lies at the west end of the refuge property.

The Controlled Hunting area is located just south of Route 13, between the open and closed areas of the refuge. It consists of 14 water and 15 land blinds.   There are also 2 handicap accessible blinds which are available on a reservation basis.  Physically challenged hunters with a Class II Disability Card can reserve one of the two blinds for up to 5 days per month.  For details contact the Refuge at 618-997-3344.

All hunters, regardless of the area in which they hunt, are required to have an Illinois General Hunting License, Federal Waterfowl Stamp and Illinois Waterfowl Stamp. Local sporting goods, bait shops, and other venders in the area have an ample supply of all of these.  Licenses are also available on line at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.

Free information about the Refuge and hunting programs can be obtained from the Visitors Center at the phone number listed above.  A free color brochure on hunting in Williamson County is available from Williamson County Tourism Bureau, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, Illinois, 62959.  Their phone number is 1-800-GEESE-99.  Information is also available on line at: or by email to: info@visitsi.com.

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.

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.

 

TIPS FOR TRAILING A WOUNDED DEER   Leave a comment

You have scouted the property, stalked your trophy, waited endless hours in a treestand for the right moment, and shot true for a quick, humane kill.  Now you have waited to make sure he is down and it is time to see your deer up close.  Your breath comes in short spurts as you move closer to the place where last you saw him.  But, there is nothing there except some ground that was disturbed by his leaving the area.  What now?

The first thing to do is “don’t do anything.”  Look around.  Wait for at least a half hour.  This gives the animal time to bleed, stiffen up and to die.  Is there blood on the ground?  If not, it is time to reconstruct your shot.  You owe it to your quarry to make every effort to recover any wounded animal.

Relive that fateful moment when you first shot.  Where was the animal standing?  Use makers of trees and bushes to be precise as to location.  Remember that the land looks a different at ground level than it does from a treestand.  That is why it is important to use marking points such as trees, rocks and shrubs to pinpoint locations.  What did the animal do when you shot?  When you last saw it, which way was it going?  As you listened after it disappeared from sight, did you hear it crash.  If so in what direction did the sound seem to come from?

As you rerun the incident in your mind, remember how the deer reacted.  If it jumped straight up or fell and then ran off low to the ground with its tail tucked down, the hit was good.  It will probably expire immediately and is lying close at hand.  It is a good idea to wait about a half hour before following up just to be safe.

If the deer hunched its back and ran or walked away, it is probably gut shot.  If left alone the deer will usually remain where it first beds down and will expire there.  However, if disturbed before it expires, the deer may run off and you stand a chance of losing it.  You might even have to follow it for miles.  It is better that you leave it alone for several hours before following up the trail.

The third scenario is one where the deer runs a few yards and looks around.  It might even continue feeding.  You probably missed.  If there is no blood on the ground or bushes, you missed.

Once you decide that there is blood of hair on the ground in the area where you last saw the deer, it is time to analyze the hit.  Following a wounded deer is a slow and deliberative process.  If it is night time, a gas lantern is best as it highlights the blood spots on the ground.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on the side of the lantern toward you.  It helps direct the light toward the trail and out of your eyes.

In the case of hair, it is important to decide where the hair came from on the animal.  White hair usually means a chest or belly hit.  Darker hair means a vital or muscle area hit.

If there is blood on the ground, examine it.  If there is the unmistakable odor of feces in the blood, then you have gut shot the animal.  The result is that you should wait several hours before proceeding to follow the trail.

If you find blood that is thin and pale, it probably came from a superficial or flesh wound.

Blood that is bright red with bubbles means that you have a lung hit animal.  Look for tracks and stirred up leaves. Your deer is probably nearby.

As you follow the trail, mark each place where you find blood or tracks.  Blaze orange surveyor’s tape or toilet paper comes in handy for marking.  At some point you may lose the trail or the blood might just quit leaking out of the animal.  You will be able to go back to the tape or paper trail and start again using the trail to steer you in the right general direction.

Large pools of blood on the trail usually mean that the deer stopped or even lay down at that spot before moving along.  Often the animal may change directions.  It is important to look in all directions from the pool of blood for a trail to follow.

Another factor that might cause the deer to change directions is a steep hill, roadway, fence line, or open field.  They will usually follow where the land is flat or downhill and with cover.  Often they will lie down in that cover.

If you cannot find the blood trail, try working in circles from the last spots.  Begin with small circles and work into ever enlarging ones.

All of the above supposes that the weather does not change radically and snow, rain or heavy wind conditions move in to conceal the trail.  Other hunters, dogs, coyotes can also stumble upon the animal and it will run off when it would otherwise lay down and die.

Animals such as crows, magpies and jays can alert the hunter to a downed animal.  They are attracted to the carcass and make a lot of noise.

Making a clean humane kill is the goal of all hunters.  Sometimes things go wrong and you might have to follow up on a wounded animal.  It is a challenging experience but a rewarding one when you are able to find the deer and bring it out of the woods and home to your family table.

 

%d bloggers like this: