Archive for the ‘Pheasant Hunting’ Tag

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.

 

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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.

PRESERVES PROVIDE EARLY WARM UP FOR THE SEASON   Leave a comment

Quail0008Hunters waiting for the waterfowl migration, upland hunters and those wanting to teach a person new to the sport of shooting, all find the hunting preserve a great hunting option.

Most hunting preserves cater to groups and individuals who want a quality hunting experience but do not have access to land or maybe have a physical disability. The hunting season begins early on preserves offering the hunter extended time in the field.  The game and dogs can make or break a preserve hunt.

Some hunters may be waterfowlers. They may want to continue a hunt after a morning of hunting or, when ducks and geese are not flying.

Most hunters are people with hunting experience. Clubs usually have a clay target trap set up for shooting practice before taking to the field.  It also gives the guide a chance to evaluate the skill level of the hunter and their safe handling of firearms.

Some hunters want to bring their own dogs. Clubs often encouraged hunters wanting to get some field experience for their canines.  If the client wants to try hunting over other dogs or does not have his own, then the preserve usually has numerous dogs available.

Pointers, retrievers, setters and Brittany’s are popular dogs for the upland field hunting usually found in the preserve situation. Labrador Retrievers are popular in a pheasant hunting situation in that they are good under voice control.

A lot of dogs will point a pheasant and when it takes off they will chase the bird. They just do not know how to handle such a big bird.  It is preferred that the dog pull out and go to the end of the field, then come back to cut off the bird.  Finding such a dog can be difficult.  A good pheasant dog should cover the field quickly and be able to stay put when the bird flushes.  Some dogs point a quail but will not be bothered with a pheasant.

A good dog ranges 50 to 100 yards out from the hunters. On a preserve you do not need a field trial dog.  Field Trial dogs range further out from the hunter or handler.  Dog handlers train them to do just that.  On a preserve the closer ranging dog is better for the physically challenged person who rides a 4-wheeler or hunters who ride a horse while hunting.  The horse hunting is a carry over from the old southern plantation style of quail hunting.

The dog points the bird and the hunter dismounts, loads his gun and walks to the location before flushing the bird. Another variation is that the hunters ride in a horse drawn wagon until the dog finds the bird.  Then the hunter gets down from the wagon, loads up and walks in to meet the dog and handler.  The approach causes the bird to flush.

It is generally impossible to break a dog of hunting any further than he desires. You can break a dog from hunting too wide or make him come back.  It takes a lot of training work, patience and is better to leave that to the experts.  The hunting preserve then provides an opportunity to keep the dog in practice.

Sporting clays practice before coming to a preserve to hunt is a good idea. It offers the hunter a chance to practice shooting clay targets under simulated hunting conditions.  It also helps the hunter to become more comfortable and familiar with the particular gun he is planning to use in the field.

Most hunters of upland game use 20 or 12 gauge shotguns. Some shooters like the 28 gauge on preserves.  For pheasants, the recommendation is a number 6 shot size.  For Quail and Chukar usually hunters prefer a 7 ½ or number 8 shot.

For the physically challenged hunter some preserves offer 4-wheelers or truck transportation to get into position. They are the only hunters allowed to hunt from a vehicle in this Illinois.

In other states it might be best to have the less physically fit person be a blocker at the end of the field to flush running birds into the air.

Many physically challenged hunters have a vehicle of their own. Regardless, preserves often have certain fields set aside for such hunters.  They can drive them on roadways and move through the field on vehicles with no problems.

Physically challenged hunters can be either a driver or a blocker depending upon their desires. The hunter just follows the handler and the dogs lead.

 

Many clubs also have at least one father/son or mother/daughter hunt each year. These are a great bonding experience.

A preserve hunt might make a great birthday or holiday present.

 

CHOOSING A SHOTGUN FOR A GIFT   1 comment

Kids Shooting0002

The season of gifting is fast approaching. For some it might include the gift of that first gun for a child.  There are some basic considerations in gifting a firearm.

The first consideration is the proposed use. It may be for waterfowl hunting, upland game hunting, sporting clays, trap, etc.

Then there is the size of the person who is going to use it. If it is a woman, the problem is not as great as with a youngster who will continue to grow.  It is important to choose a gun that will not beat the person to death with the recoil.  Nothing is more discouraging to a novice shooter than being beat up by the weapon.

Shooting like all activities must be fun for the beginner. The smaller the shooter the more the recoil will abuse them.  This can be a catch twenty-two situation.  The more mass of the weapon, the greater the recoil.  The heavier the mass, the more difficult it is to carry and aim.

Recoil, however a genuine problem, is vastly overrated as a problem.

Adolescents and women do not suffer the degree of ills from recoil that men complain about. They are more likely to listen to instruction and have not been brainwashed into expecting a recoil problem.  Women and adolescents are more inclined to ride with the push of the recoil.  They have good shooting techniques with a flexible shooting stance.

In addition to the gauge of the shotgun, it is important that a weapon fits the person using it. If the stock is too long or too short, the angle of the stock to the barrel gives the individual the wrong sight picture when aiming.

Things like the length of pull or pitch need checking. A gun that fits properly improves the accuracy of the shooter and is an excellent way to reduce recoil.  A good gunsmith can help with fitting a shotgun properly to the person who will use it.

Single shot guns cause one to become a better hunter in terms of taking shots that are very ethical and getting into better position to make a killing shot. Because you do not have any back up shots with the single shot, you pay more attention to your first shot.  You only have the one chance to make a mistake or drop a bird.

Mentally, if you walk into the field with a single shot, you are thinking differently than if you have a repeating firearm or an over/under shotgun.

The single shotgun is not just for a beginner’s weapon. It is a weapon for the most advanced hunter as well.  As we examine the very high end of ethical hunting and it becomes more about the quest than the completion of it.  A single barrel shotgun adds to the challenge and teaches one that he does not need a repeater because he is a hunter.

Single shot hunting is light tackle hunting. Light tackle hunting with a small gauge weapon is probably the pinnacle of the sport as well as a good choice for the novice.

NOT TOO LATE TO PROTECT YOUR FIREARMS   2 comments

Gun Protect 1

We have all done it.  And we will do it again.  You come home from a hard day afield, drop your cased gun and gear off, and go on with life.  Later you or the spouse put the gun wherever you store it normally.

Sometime later you either remember you forgot to wipe it off or when you are going out again, you notice rust forming on the metal parts.  If you wait too long the problem will be out of control and require re-bluing by a gunsmith.

Sitting with TJ Stallings of TTI Industries following a day of crappie fishing out of the world famous Rend Lake Resort this subject comes up.  TJ explains how some of his cohorts have come up with Gun Protect, a firearms cleaning treatment and storage system.

The system comes in a kit for total corrosion protection.  The Spray Shield and Weapon Wipe part is for protection, lubrication and cleaning of the weapon. There is a Safe Environment Module to place in your gun case or safe that contains modules that attach to metals for protection at a molecular level.  If the safe is more than 20 cu feet you place a module in the bottom and another in the top.

The third product in the kit is a Rifle-Shotgun Cloak.  Just place the weapon into the plastic cloak and close with a reusable plastic tie.  It provides up to a year of protection from rust and corrosion.  Target shooters are also putting ammo in the cloaks for protection of the brass.  The theory is that bright jackets eject faster which is handy in the field.  They spray it first and them place in the cloak.

The cloak and modules emit molecules to form a corrosion inhibiting skin (CIS) on the metal surfaces.

That is a lot of recovery and future protection for less than 30 bucks.  For more information go to http://www.mygunprotect.com.

PHEASANT HUNTING FOR THE SOLO HUNTER   6 comments

Laura 0007

Stealth and a change in hunting tactics are keys to solo pheasant hunting.  Solo pheasant hunting is a challenge but by following some special patterns, it can prove successful.

Pheasant hunting is usually a social type of hunting.  Several hunters drive a field with blockers at the end.  Dogs probe every patch of vegetation in search of the gaudy import from the orient.

All too often, the solo hunter stays home when he cannot find a companion.

Not everyone can find a hunting partner with the same availability of time in his or her busy schedule.  Perhaps they do not know someone else who is as interested in the sport.  Others do not have a good dog to work the fields with them.  Some times the dog is ill or tired.  These are the solo hunters.

A combination of careful selection of habitat and stealth are essential to success for the solo pheasant hunter.

Sneaking up on birds is a profitable technique.  They will sit tight allowing the hunter to get into range before they flush.

Nowhere is more productive for pheasant hunting than South   Dakota.  By studying hunting techniques from there, we can learn a lot about making pheasant hunting in the prairie state all the more productive.

Lee Harstad, veteran South Dakota pheasant hunter, recommends hunters find areas of brush and heavy cover that are next to harvested fields.  “You can stalk the birds toward the open areas,” explains Harstad.   “The birds will usually flush rather than take a chance running across the bare areas.”  Even if they do decide to run, hunters are able to see them and follow.

Another area to work is the fringe land area along streams.  Cover is usually good here and the birds have easy access to water and gravel as grit.  Late in the season, pheasants do not want to move around, as they need to conserve calories for warmth.  They select areas with all they need to make it through the winter if they are undisturbed.

A little less productive are shelterbelts.  These are usually areas of brush and planted trees next to grain fields.  The cover is good and the birds have access to any spilled grain in the fields.  Because they are more open, stalking is a bit more difficult.  They do have open areas where the hunter can seek any birds trying to sneak away.

Another South Dakota hunter, the late Tony Dean, recommended solo hunters move steadily but also stop frequently.  Because they are moving along in a stealth mode, it is easy to walk right past the bird who is sitting tight.

The solo hunter does better if he confines his activities to the late part of the season.  The hunting pressure on the birds is less at that time of the year.  Tony also recommends that one hunt the waterfowl and game production areas.

Late season solo hunters can work the areas with a lot of ground cover.  Slews, cattail swamps and the like are shelters for birds.  Early in the season, everybody hunts these areas but later the birds move back to them for shelter.

This type of hunting is good in public land areas.  The birds are concentrated in the heaviest cover.  Some birds will flush wild, but you will get some shots if you walk slowly.

Tony urged that one should find a brushy area and walk about 50 yards straight into it.  Then stop and wait for about two minutes.  Then he walked directly away to the left, circles around to the other side, and come in from there.  This confuses the birds and confines those that would otherwise walk out on the opposite side from where the hunter enters.

Some other good areas to seek late season birds are the lowlands where landowners sometimes pile brush from other locations or where it is too wet to plow and seed.  Often these areas are but a few hundred feet across and located in the middle of a harvested grain field.  Smaller slews or cattail swamps will also fall into this category.

Because brush provides shelter in otherwise featureless fields, birds will huddle up in any cover they can find.

Dried up or frozen up wetlands often hold water part of the year but become dry land in the fall and winter.  Due to the nature of the vegetative cover, they attract pheasants in search of a home.  Take care to wear waterproof boots as all the water is not always gone or frozen and one can fall through the ice.

“Hunting isolated habitat is a bit different than working grain fields,” says Harstad.  For the solo hunter they are perfect.  Lee suggests that the hunter “work in a circle around the outside perimeter of the wetland.  Then the hunter makes circles again and again in ever decreasing size until he reaches in the middle.”  In this way, the birds evading the hunter move into the middle and he sneaks up on them until they have no place left to go except to flush.

If you have no one to team up with to go pheasant hunting, try some of these techniques.  Pheasant does not always have to be a team sport.

DAY PACKS SAVE LIVES IN THE OUTDOORS   1 comment

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Over the past few years, there has been an increasing interest in day packs.  It’s a trend that has probably saved more than a few lives.  A day pack can vary from a fanny pack to a back pack.  The idea is that it contains all the things the hunter might have need of during the trip afield.

It use to be that hunters in the Midwest did not feel a need for a day pack.  We are after all quite close to civilization and can walk out of any risky situation.  WRONG!  How are you going to walk out if your leg is broken and your hunting partner is not within voice range?  Not long ago a mother, with her young child, went for a walk near their home in southern Illinois.  They became mixed up in the directions and night fell upon them.  The pair had to spend the night in the woods until rescue teams located them the following morning.  They were only a few miles from a large town but did not know which way to go.

What should a day pack contain?  First of all should be a first aid kit.  Good ones can be purchased or one can be constructed by the hunter.  It should contain everything from aspirin to band aids.  Burn ointment and bee-sting medicine is also a good idea.  If you have any particular medications that are taken on a regular basis, such as high blood pressure medication, that should also be included.  If the hunter does not see well without glasses, then a spare pair, in a hard case, is a good idea.   Moleskin is a good idea for treatment of blisters.

Next should be a space blanket, the type made of foil and light in weight.  A fire starting kit can be made of waterproofed stick matches and lint from the household dryer.  The lint can be packed in a zip-loc plastic bag.  Matches can be waterproofed by coating the heads with a heavy coating of clear nail polish.  This works better than coating with wax as the wax tends to melt in hot weather.  The nail polish coats the wood and match head to prevent penetration of moisture.

Also on the market is duct tape under the name of Duck Tape.  It comes in a three-yard flat pack that is easily stowed.  It is much easier to work with than taking a role of the usual grey duct tape.  Either type of tape is handy for repair of equipment or in emergencies.  It can be used to mend waders and to cover blisters.  It can be used to seal pan legs to keep out ticks or to tape an ice pack to a sprain.  You can even wrap ankles with the tape immediately after a sprain to provide stability and help reduce swelling.  It can be used to hold splints in place to support a broken bone.

A high shrill whistle is a good idea.  Whistles hold up longer than vocal cords when trying to attract help.  Three short blasts on a whistle is a recognized distress signal.  Another signal device is a mirror.  There are aluminum ones available in camping stores.  A good compass is a welcome navigational tool.   A map of the area can be helpful in case you become lost.

Another good tool is a multi-blade knife like the famous Swiss army knives.  A small flashlight and fresh batteries are a must.

It also helps to have some hard candy or a high energy bar as survival food and for peace of mind that you won’t starve to death.  Water purification pills and a large zip loc bag can be used to prepare water for drinking when your canteen becomes empty.

There are things like a wire saw or a saw-blade knife are handy for hunter in that they can use them to clear shooting lanes or to help in field dressing game that has been downed.

The purpose of the above survival items is to supply the necessities to provide for you positive sense of psychological as well as physical security.  It is there if you need it.

Other items in a day pack are more directly related to the type of hunting one is doing and the weather conditions one might encounter.  There is nothing like warm clothes to change into even if it is just dry socks after one has fallen into a stream.  A sweater is helpful if the weather situation is likely to change during the day.  Fall often means warm temperatures during the day with cold temps in the early and late portions.

Often a poncho or light weight rain suit is appropriate depending upon the type of hunting one does.  There are any number of thin plastic suits on the market that are very light in weight.  They do not have to be expensive if they are only to be used in emergency situations.  A large plastic garbage bag will even work.  Just cut holes of the head and arms and slip it over the top of your other hunting clothing.

Most day packs have several compartments.  The outside ones should be reserved for the first aid kit and for things like calls that might be needed on a minutes notice.  Bulky things like clothing can be packed inside the main compartment.  By packing and re-packing several times, the hunter is soon aware of the order he needs to use.  Try not to over load the pack.

You will find that the more you use the pack, the more sure you are of what to put in it and in what order.  Things like calls and trail gear as well as food stuffs (lunch and snacks) and water can get too heavy.  Take only what you think you will need.

 

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