Archive for the ‘Hunting’ Tag

CWD AND ME   3 comments

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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.

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THE DECLINING DAYS OF WATERFOWL SEASON   1 comment

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For many ducks and other waterfowl of the Mississippi Flyway, western Tennessee is a wintering location. They may leave occasionally but always seem to return.  The duck migration is prominent but some geese are also present.

Late season includes teal (both blue and green-winged) ring-necks, shoveler, gadwall, widgeon, pintail, mallards and occasionally some Canada and speckled belly geese. Not all the species are there all the time.  They move out and maybe travel to warmer areas for a few days only to return.

Waterfowl hunting is a major wintertime activity around Reelfoot Lake and area ponds and small lakes. They provide field, open water and pot-hole hunting.  Area resorts and camps provide hunters with needs such as guide, blinds, and boat rentals.

Hunting continues until the end of January for all species. Special seasons for snow geese run until early March.

Born of the violent earthquakes of 1812-13, the lake and surrounding area consists of some thirty to fifty thousand square miles that underwent dramatic topographical changes visible today. During the quakes left sunken areas, fissures and land domes.  The reversal of the flow of the Mississippi River flooded much of the area creating the lake as well as flat fertile land for agricultural purposes.

As the migrating flocks arrive the birds feed heavily on protein rich grains. They rest at night on large water areas for protection from predators.  By day they move to the grain fields available in the area.  Once they have rebuilt sufficient stocks of protein they turn to the invertebrates found in more shallow water areas including pot holes and ponds.

The birds hold in big water during colder air temperatures as the big water stays open longer and is not prone to freeze over.

When hunting small areas of water near large areas, the late season birds pitch out of the air and decoy easily. By watching live ducks, and how they react to other live ducks, one finds they the flocks are composed of even numbers of birds.  This may mean that combined with their becoming so territorial, they have already paired up.  They do not want to endure any harassment from other members of the flock.

Using this information, you may want to change your use of decoys in the small water. Try scaling back the decoy spread and constantly change it each day.

Waterfowl tend to be a little more active before weather fronts. A change in barometric pressure occurs right before the front comes in.  Right after the front the pressure rises.

The birds become more active after a front passes because they can fly at higher altitudes. The hardest part of a duck’s exertion is the exhaling part.  In high pressure situations birds can fly higher and it is easier on them to make long distance flights.  The long distance flights make hunters want to pull their hair out.  The hunting in any one given spot becomes hard.

Late season waterfowl hunting and calling is a constant case of analyzing what is going on with the birds. You may never figure it out completely but you might get a little bit closer.

 

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.

GENTLEMAN BOBWHITE IN ILLINOIS   1 comment

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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.

 

DOVE HUNTING TIPS FOR THE LATE SEASON   Leave a comment

The key to late season dove hunting seems to be habitat management. It is not like shooting on opening day when there is a lot of attractive feeding sources in grain fields as yet un-harvested.

Here in Illinois hunters focus on grain fields and watering holes. With most of the land use dominated by agriculture that makes reasonable sense.  However, this land use can include such diversity in the habitat as to involve hedgerows, prairie, riparian and upland forest, timber draws and cedar glades in addition to the cropland.

The great habitat creates a potential for good wintering habitat and hunting. However, cold weather often causes the dove population to migrate south.

Fields planted to attract the late comers usually include such grains as native sunflowers and wheat. Fields usually nonproductive become productive by planting native feed-seed mixtures.  These seeds not only attract doves but they also benefit other birds native to the area.

The Illinois dove season usually begins in early September and continues for 70 days. Often dove hunters only hunt for the first few days.  Veteran dove hunters know that with planning and luck they can often find action for the entire 70 day season.

As the daylight hours become shorter, doves tend to feed earlier until in November when they are feeding in the early afternoon shortly after 1 P.M. Hunters tend to move to the prime feeding and watering areas.  These can include those nearer buildings such as grain bins.  They seek out spilled grain from harvesting operations.  The birds prefer watering ponds with bare shores as they provide a source of grit for digestion and security from predators that might be waiting.

Although late season dove hunting can be an iffy proposition there is also the possibility of a big flock of migrating birds arriving overnight.

A 12 GA shotgun equipped with a skeet choke and loaded with No. 7 shot can knock down doves up to 40 yards away. Steel shot is federally required for hunting all migratory birds including doves.

Late season dove hunting can be frustrating in that there are usually fewer birds available. However the temperature conditions are more comfortable for the hunter and often one has the hunting area to himself.

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ILLINOIS PUBLIC LAND WHITETAIL HUNTING   Leave a comment

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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.

 

 

 

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