Archive for the ‘Rabbit Hunting’ Tag

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.

CHOOSING A SHOTGUN FOR A GIFT   1 comment

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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

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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.

PERRY COUNTY’S PUBLIC HUNTING PARADISE   Leave a comment

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Located about 70 miles southeast of St. Louis and 300 miles southwest of Chicago, Perry County contains all the best of rural Illinois.  The Mississippi River lies 30 miles to the west of the county line.  One finds hundreds of acres of strip pits with fish and of public hunting.

This county with a population of about 25,000 is composed of flat land with rolling hills.  Originally founded by settlers in search of its vast coal deposits, it soon became home for many strip mining operations.  The coal was near the surface and therefore companies did not have to dig deep shafts to remove it.

Best known of the public hunting areas is Pyramid State Park, Illinois largest state park.  The park is southwest of Pinckneyville, Illinois.  To get there one takes Illinois State Highway 127 six miles south to Pyatts blacktop and then two miles west to the entrance of the park.

The areas of the park have names according to their acquisition.  They are Pyramid State Park (3,181-acres), Captain Unit (6,105-acres), Denmark Unit (4,385-acres), East Conant Unit (2,824-acres), and Galum Unit (2,520-acres).

Over all, the park is heavily forested hills with numerous lakes and ponds.  It was a strip mining operation for a shallow vein of coal and afterward the deed transferred to the state of Illinois.  All strip mined areas received plantings of hardwoods and pines.  Small fields sprinkled throughout the property contain planted food plots.  The outer edges of the park have cornfields which attract waterfowl and deer in season.

Beginning in 2002, this site became a Quality Deer Management Area.  This means that only antlerless or antlered deer having at least four points on a side are harvestable.  The rule applies to all methods of deer hunting.

Hunting is available for deer, dove, woodcock, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, quail and waterfowl.  All hunters must register by signing in and out at hunter registration boxes where hey list their harvest information.  There are a number of site specific regulations that are posted on the property and available on line at http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/Landmgt/hunter_fact sheet/R5HFS/pyr.htm.

All other state regulations as to licenses and permits apply.

Regulations that apply specifically to the East Conant Unit include such things as special permits for deer and quail hunting.  Upland hunters must wear a cap and outer garment of solid and vivid blaze orange of at least 400 square inches.

East Conant is a little different typography.  It is mostly large crop fields interspersed with fencerows and two large blocks of forest.  Like the rest of the park, hunter quotas and other site specific restrictions are in effect to improve the hunting experience.  Annually this park and unit account for the harvest of over 6,000 mammals and birds.  Included in the figure are some 3,000 ducks, over 400 geese, 1900 dove, 200 squirrels, and 200 quail as well as other species.  About 150 deer are included in the harvest.

Most of these same game animals come from another Perry County public hunting area called Campbell Pond Wildlife Management Area.  This 520 acre land and water reserve reached by traveling east south of DuQuoin on Illinois Route 14 for 1.5 miles and then south on Crabapple road for 2.3 miles.  Then go east on Jellybean road.

The area contains 500-acres of hardwood with 15-acres of old field and 5-acres of water bordered by crop land on all sides.

The site specific regulations are basically the same as for Pyramid State Park.  The game officials of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources from Pyramid State Park oversee both areas.  For more information contact Pyramid

State Park, 1562 Pyramid Park Road, Pinckneyville, IL62274.  The telephone number is 9618)357-2574.

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.

 

TUNE UP FOR BOWHUNTING   Leave a comment

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Summer is tune up time for the serious bowhunter.  Before firing the first arrow of the season, check your bow.  Check the installation and condition of all accessories, such as cable guards, sights, stabilizers, strings, nocks, and string silencers.  Replace any worn or damaged parts.

The local archery pro‑shop can checked it out.  Once it passes the safety test, it is time to begin tuning.

With traditional bows and recurves, begin the tuning process by stringing the bow and checking the fistmele height.  The instruction booklet that comes with the bow will give the fistmele height that is right for that bow.

Next check the tiller.  That is the space between the limb and string at equal distances from each end of the bow.  Twisting the string makes the space from the limb to the string greater or less.

To establish the proper nocking point, place a bow square on the string with the longer section resting on the arrow rest.  The nock should be located about 3/8-inch above perpendicular.  It can be moved later, while paper tuning, to adjust arrow flight.  Mount the arrow nock below the nocking point.

Wax the string with bees wax or a candle.  It reduces the natural fraying of the bowstring.

Check your arrows to make sure they are properly spined for the bow.  One can check arrow spine (stiffness) on arrow spine charts printed in most of the books on the sport as well as catalogues for arrow manufacturers.  Make sure that the arrow length is correct for your draw length.  The same literature will explain how to measure for draw length.

Nock an arrow and let it sit on the arrow rest.  If the arrow rest is adjustable, move it so that the string bisects the arrow as one sights from behind the string.

In tuning the bow by shooting a bare shaft, one can adjust the rest and nocking point until it creates a hole slightly larger than the shaft.  More about tuning is following later.

With the more sophisticated compound bow, you also begin tuning by taking the bow to an archery pro shop to be checked out.  Once you get it back, begin with a center shot adjustment that the company recommends.  The instruction booklet explains this for you.

To fine-tune a bow use slight changes in the center shot and nock elevation.  Begin with nock height of 3/8 inch above perpendicular.  You want to be able to shoot the tightest group possible.

Paper tuning is a good method to determine problems with bows.  To paper test, place a sheet of paper in a frame and place the frame vertically in front of a backstop.  Stand about four feet away and shoot two or three arrows through different areas of the paper.

Shoot through paper until the point and nock end of the arrow pass through the same hole or the nock end is going a little high and left for the right hand shooter.  If the shaft does not work as described when at center shot, it is best to try another size shaft.

Next mark a vertical line on a target face.  Shoot at the line with five arrows.  The idea is to make the five arrows line up vertically in a line.  Move the arrow rest in and out until the arrows line up.

With a horizontal line on the target, move the nocking point up and down the string until the arrows line up best on that line.  Do this first at 20 yards and then at forty.

Keep practicing and adjusting until the group of arrows is on both lines consistently.

Record all measurements and keep for reference.  Nocking points move due to string stretch.  String stretch can happen from a variety of factors, especially warm temperatures.

Compound shooters like to use fast flight strings.  They are more durable than other strings, but they do stretch.  String stretch can speed up a bow.

The point weight of an arrow is another factor to consider in tuning.  Heavier points guide arrows more than lighter ones.  Wind and weather affects the arrow flight of the lighter arrow.

Heavier points produce a higher percent of front of center balance.  This can produce better groupings under a greater variety of conditions.

Archers add stabilizers to bows to reduce the twisting of a bow when shooting.  The twist is a natural phenomenon called torque.  A little weight added to the end of a long stabilizer has the same effect as a lot of weight close to the bow.  It slows bow movement, making aiming easier.

On the face of the bow is the cable guard.  It is adjustable toward and away from the cables.  The cable guard should be as close to the arrow as possible.  It should be off set as little as possible.  More off set pulls the cams at an angle.  The closer they are lined up to straight up and down the cables the more accurate the bow.

On the subject of cams, consider timing.  Timing is having the cams, or wheels, both in sync.  When the timing is off, the bow will move up and down effecting arrow flight.

When shooting, if the fletching hits on cables, sight or bow, it will affect arrow flight.  Cable guards hold the cables so that they just barely clear the fletching.  One can test to see if the fletching clears.

Place baby powder in a plastic bag.  Dip the arrow fletching into the powder prior to shooting.  The powder will stick anywhere it touches the bow.

Proper tuning of the bow and arrow will yield significant changes in performance in the field.  Whether one is a competition shooter or a hunter, the bow and arrows need to be in tune in order to be reliable in the field.

GETTING ROVER READY FOR HUNTING SEASON   1 comment

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There are two aspects to getting your dog in shape for next year’s hunting season.  One is being in condition to a certain level through exercise.  The other is the problem with being overweight.

Many overweight dogs get table scraps in addition to their regular meal.  You are over feeding them.  If they get a quality dog food, there is no reason to feed table scraps.

“Being over weight can really contribute to a lot of health problems,” says Bob West, Director of Purina PetCare’s Sporting Dog Group.  He is also a dog breeder.

West believes that the monitoring of a dog’s condition should consist of visual and hands-on evaluations.  “You should be able to place both thumbs on the back bone of the dog and spread both hands across his rib cage,” maintains West.  “If you cannot feel the ribs easily, the dog may need to lose weight.

West recommends that you look at the dog’s profile.  The abdomen should appear slightly tucked up behind the rib cage.  Looking down from overhead, you should see an hourglass shape.

According to the Purina scientists, one can adjust the amount of food offered up or down to maintain a dog in ideal condition.  According to West, dog food producers take great pains to make sure that all the vitamins and nutrients needed are present in reduced amounts of food.  It is not necessary to worry about not getting a complete diet, just back off a little bit.

It is important to weigh the dog weekly to insure that he is not losing muscle mass or becoming overweight.  “Dogs that are overweight and poorly conditioned could get in a life threatening situation on a hot day in the field,” warns West.  Obesity in a dog is life threatening.

Once in condition the dog requires fewer calories.  “The two factors that are major contributors to how many calories a dog needs,” says West, “are exercise and the weather (temperature and humidity) in which they are working.”  When they first begin exercising, dogs require more calories.  Then they reach a point at about six or eight weeks that it starts to tail off.  A well-conditioned dog becomes more of a fat user than a carbohydrate user.  Reports Bob, “that is why the high protein, high fat, high energy diet is best.”

Dogs burn fat because it is the most efficient way to run light.  It is the most efficient way because of the way they evolved.  In some situations they do need carbohydrate replenishment but not to the extent that some diets provide.

West and his staff have found that regardless of where the proteins originate, dogs reassemble those proteins into dog protein.  Protein is protein.  The source the dog gets it from is not important as long as it is digestible.

Do not get hung up on ingredients of the dog food.  Focus on the nutrients and what they contribute to the diet.  Are their ingredients that do not provide any nutrition?

An example of an empty ingredient is feather meal.  Feather meal is 95 percent protein, which should good.  However, it is zero digestible.  The result is that it passes through the animal.  The species of the meat used in the food is not as important as the protein.

Chicken base, rice base, beef base or lamb based foods should all deliver protein appropriately.  The difference is not in delivery.  Some ingredients are more digestible.

Digestibility is a function of what you put in verses what comes out the other end of the dog.  The difference is what is left for the body to use.  There can be a difference in digestibility between different meat sources.  Most feed makers make sure there is little difference in digestibility between their various products.  It is a matter of formulation.

The dog owner needs to read the label of the food he is using.  In products of all the top five dog food makers, you should find top quality proteins.  Some of the high quality protein sources are such things as chicken meal, chicken by-product, meat, and bone meal.  In fresh meats, chicken, beef and lamb are good sources.

A lot of time you will see corn gluten meal listed.  That is a vegetable protein source.  It is an excellent vegetable protein source.  Some products will have corn, a good source of protein, as is rice.  Nevertheless, if you start to see things that say wheat milling, bran and other ingredients, they are of less quality.

In the less active dog, fillings have a purpose in keeping them feeling full.  Feeling full keeps them from eating all day.  High performance dogs do not need the bulk because they are going to be running.

In reading dog food labels, look for some indication that AAFCO has tested it.  AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) is the regulating body in the pet food industry.  They report to the FDA.

AAFCO determines three ways to formulate food.  It is formulated and fed to dogs.  Formulated, and ingredients listed, but perhaps not fed to a dog.  Alternatively, is can be so similar to another diet that it can be familyed in because of the close relation.  West maintains that for a high performance dog you want some indication it has been fed in live animal testing, a proven system.

West indicates that dogs fed low quality; lower protein diets are prone to injury and generally less healthy.  They bruise easily and have joint problems.  Professional dog handlers report fewer trips to the vet with dogs fed on high protein diets.

He also reports one clinical study shows, dogs fed properly and exercised regularly, tend to live three years longer than their litter mates not in such a program.

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