Archive for the ‘Squirrel 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.

CONCEALED CARRY AND THE OUTDOORSMAN   1 comment

Kevin and his two pre-teen sons find a scenic camping location with a waterfowl in a remote location. As they pitch their tent, have dinner over an open fire and settle in for the night, four drunken teens announce their presence.  The location is a favorite drinking location for them.

The teens, embolden by their drinking decide to evict the family. As the discussion becomes more threatening and the teens encroach on the campsite.  Kevin pulls his pistol and points it suggesting that perhaps the teens may want to find another location.  They decide to leave rather than risk a shot from an angry father.

Once the invaders are safely out of sight, Kevin packs up his children and gear. They safely leave what could have been a very serious situation.

This parent protected his family thanks to his right to concealed carry.

Stories such as this spotlight the need for concealed carry for the outdoor recreationist as well as potential victims of crime in urban areas.

However, before you carry your concealed weapon on your next outing there is some precautions needed.

To begin with some states have laws prohibiting carrying while in the field. For instance a state might ban bowhunters from carrying a firearm in the field regardless of the reason.  Some governmental agencies prohibit handguns at all times on their parks and refuges.  Still other states do not recognize concealed carry permit from other states.  This is reciprocity.

If you are traveling from one state to another it is important to know the law in all the states through which you are traveling. Your permit might be valid in your home state and the destination state but you might be traveling through another state where it is not valid.

How can you keep up with the ever changing laws that might affect your carrying protection while in the field? One of the best sources of current information regarding concealed carry is the website of United States Concealed Carry Association (www.USCCA.com).

They also have an App there as well so that you can access the information on your phone while in the field.

One of the easiest ways to get information on reciprocity is the State Reciprocity Map (www.usconcealedcarry.com/travel/).

Another valuable website is the Safe Gun Travel site (www.safeguntravel.com/).

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.

TIPS FOR FINDING THE KING OF THE TREETOPS   Leave a comment

Snug in a leafy treetop canopy, squirrels present a challenging quarry for the early season hunter.

Snug in a leafy treetop canopy, squirrels present a challenging quarry for the early season hunter.

Chasing this ghostly king of the treetops is a small game hunting challenge that requires careful planning. All too often the quarry is underestimated. In southern Illinois there is an abundance of squirrels and public land upon which to hunt them.

A wise hunter will utilize information regarding the available food supply. Both Gray and Fox squirrels prefer hickory, black walnut, and white oar acorns. Look under trees for signs of squirrel feeding. This can be pieces of hulled-out nuts, and acorns bitten into and cast aside for one reason or another.

In the local forests, hickory trees might be somewhat scarce. Find one with fresh cuttings under it and you have a squirrel hunter’s gold mine.

Oaks, both white and red, are a second choice for most squirrels. Again study the ground around the oaks for sign that the tree rats have been feeding there. Squirrels will leave empty acorn caps, pieces of acorn shells and partially eaten acorns. Squirrels are messy eaters and leave plenty of notice that they have been in the area.

Squirrel hunting, for the most part, consists of a slow walk through the woods pausing every now and then to scan the upper canopy of the trees for activity. Some view this time as an opportunity to do some pre-season scouting for deer, make decisions on treestand placement and the clearing of shooting lanes. It also provides a chance to thin out the squirrel population near intended treestand sites. Nothing ruins a chance at a deer faster than an irate squirrel baking at a hunter.

Many hunters prefer to hunt squirrels alone so as to be at one with nature and enjoy the early fall weather. But, the team approach probably is more productive in terms of meat for the table. It consists of a slow walk with one hunter 25 to 30 yards in front of his partner. As the squirrel’s attention focuses on the lead hunter, the trailer takes the game.

Squirrel calls to get the quarry to expose themselves to the hunters. The call is not to “call” the squirrel. They are a tool of aggravation. Once the quarry hears the sound of a stranger invading his territory he cannot resist scolding the intruder. This scolding gives away his position.

Another tool of the wise squirrel hunter takes advantage of the squirrel’s habit of moving to the far side of a tree from where the hunter is located. He then peeks around and watches the hunter walk on past. Smart hunters sit still and wait of the squirrel to come around the tree trunk to see why the hunter did not pass. If the squirrel does not come around, one can toss a stone or branch to the other side so as to make noise. The squirrel will scurry around to be opposite the noise and runs right into the sight of the hunter.

The hardwood stands on 400,000 acres of public land in southern Illinois are home to many squirrels.

WINTER PRESENTS NEW CHALLENGE FOR SOUTHERN ILLINOIS OUTDOOR FANS   Leave a comment

coyote in winter

Coyotes have a tough time finding food in winter but wildlife watchers are more apt to see them.

 

A red fox dives for fleeing mice in field of brown grass.  An eagle soars overhead calling to its mate with a shrill scream.  A white-tailed deer browses on the edge of a thicket.  Canada geese rest in the wetlands.  This is Illinois at its wildest.

The woods and fields are alive with wildlife.  Nature lovers can find all sorts of birds and animals to watch throughout the county.  Especially popular is bird watching and eagle tours.  But, other areas can provide equally interesting viewing.

A variety of vegetation and terrain in this area attracts and holds numerous species of birds and mammals.  Two hundred and thirty-seven species of birds are resident, migrants, or frequent visitors.

Watching wildlife does not take a lot of expensive gear.  Binoculars and some guide books are a good beginning.  Field guides assist in identification and help at home when reviewing ones notes from a day afield.

When heading out, be sure to take a notebook.  Field notes should include the date, location, weather conditions and animal behavior, along with any unique observations.

Beginners must learn to identify animals and birds by sight and sound.  Noting the color, shape and other outstanding observations make it easier to identify species.

Familiarize yourself with animal behavior and favored habitats.  For example, deer tend to prefer thick cover until late in the day when they move out into fields to feed.

Learn to recognize animal habitats.  This knowledge assists in identification and helps to eliminate species not associated with a specific habitat.

Advanced wildlife watchers learn the calls and songs of mammals or birds.  This helps to identify those species hidden in dense cover.  By familiarizing oneself with bird songs and mammal calls, one can chase down each sound until he discovers the source.

The direct approach is not the best way to seek out wildlife.  Wild animals must always be wary of possible danger and when an intruder comes straight at them it usually signals a threat.  By acting disinterested while sneaking a glance now and then, you may be able to observe the unfolding drama of their activities.

It is important to be patient and avoid direct attention to the animal encountered.  Appear disinterested.  Fiddle with vegetation, look away from the animal while moving slowly closer and you will be able to approach much closer than you would think.  Staring at an animal causes them fear and uneasiness.  Quick looks are much less obvious and less likely to make the animal nervous.

Some animals such as ducks and geese can become very approachable due to constant association with human activity.  Other animals are so skittish that the first hint of the presence of humans sends them fleeing.

Generally, however, the use of patience in observing wildlife works well.  It will result in closer views for you and less intimidation for the animal.  Watching wildlife can be challenging and educational.

 

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.

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