Archive for the ‘Waterfowl Hunting’ Tag

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.

 

DR BOBBY DALE ON HYPOTHERMIA   Leave a comment

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Dr. Bobby Dale, emergency room physician finds problems with hypothermia to be a significant risk to the outdoor public. It results in over 700 deaths per year.  It develops slowly in a deer stand but a fall into cold water can cause rapid hypothermia.  Hypothermia can happen any time of the year when there is a sudden change in temperatures of the surroundings.

Hypothermia occurs when the core body temperature falls below 95-degrees F. The first level of hypothermia has the patient shivering or sleepy.  Treatment is by adding clothing and getting them to a warm place.  You can also do isometrics to generate heat.

The second level involves a slowness of reflexes and impaired judgment. It also includes shivering and sleepiness.  The subject may feel warm and want to shed clothing.

Severe hypothermia results in a loss of consciousness and ridged muscles. Cardiac arrest can occur.  It is important to pile blankets on the patient and immediately get help.

In all cases of hypothermia make use of blankets, sleeping bags, warm liquids, build a fire and get into shelter as fast as possible. Group hugs are helpful.

Preventative measures recommended by Dr. Dale include know your physical limits, avoid wearing cotton clothing, (cotton kills) be prepared for a night out if required, get out of the wind and off the ground, carry fire starting kit, have a bivy bag or plastic trash bag at least 3 ml thick and carry a SPOT locater.

SPOT GPS messenger provides the ability to notify Search and Rescue or your family if you are in trouble. It provides your exact location which saves time in getting help to you.  They are available from outdoor stores.

The life you save may be your own.

 

FISHING GUIDES ARE MIRACLE WORKERS   2 comments

Blue Bank Resort's head guide Billy Blakely (R) has taught hundreds the ins and outs of crappie fishing on Reelfoot Lake in TN.

Blue Bank Resort’s head guide Billy Blakely (R) has taught hundreds the ins and outs of crappie fishing on Reelfoot Lake in TN.

With the outdoor show season upon us, many people are seeking a fishing vacation in a remote location. They feel the need for a guide and use the shows as an opportunity to interview some.  Guides are often miracle workers for those of us who do not have the time and chances to hone skills to the extent we desire.

Yes it is true. A guide is a miracle worker.  They can turn a trip right side up.  There are guides and then there are “guides”.  Choosing the right guide for you requires a little time and consideration.

A great guide has not only the outdoor skills needed for the job but also the people skills to make the experience enjoyable for the client. Guides, like everyone else, have a reputation.  If you check out his references be sure to check his ability to get along with his client as well as his ability to put them on fish.

Everyone who has spent much time in the outdoors realizes that some times you just do not find fish. Hiring a local guide improves your chances of finding out where to look.  You can check with local bait shops but do so with caution.  Some “guides” are guys who hang out with their pal the bait shop owner and may or may not be a good guide.

Generally guides that are associated with boat and marine manufacturers have the best equipment. It also means that the manufacturer checked him out and keeps tabs on his business practices.  After all, a guide’s actions can reflect upon the company.  The company has too much tied up in their own reputation to risk it on a guide who lacks ethics.

Communication is important is booking with a particular guide. It is important that you can get hold of him in case of need.  Your family should also be able to contact you through him while you are fishing with the guide.  There may come a time when a member of the family has a problem and needs to contact you.  Get a phone number for emergency situations before you leave home.  Leave with the family.  Not all fishing locations have land line capability.  You may need to have a cell, satellite or radiotelephone number.  Satellite phones are most reliable in remote locations.  If the guide does not have one then look into renting one for the duration of your trip.

It is logical that you and the guide agree on what species of fish you are to pursue. That would seem obvious but one needs to be positive that both guide and client are on the same page.  It is your trip and you are paying the bills.  You should be able to choose the species being sought.  If the guide misunderstands what you want then part of the problem is yours for not making your desire clear.  This does not preclude a change of tactics at the last minute due to local conditions.  If the species you want to pursue is not biting, then it is appropriate that another one be sought.

Ask what tackle will be used. Will the guide furnish it or should you bring your own.  If you are to bring tackle, then what specifically does he recommend?

What will be the actual on the water time? If you are fishing for a half day or full day, it is important to know the actual time that you will be fishing and not including the time spent traveling to the fishing location and return.  Know what you are paying for exactly.  If the time he is quoting is not satisfactory, then negotiate for the time you want. If the guide is to clean the fish, ask if that time is included in the price.  Some guides charge extra for cleaning and packaging the fish.  This is not inappropriate but you should know in advance.

Many of today’s anglers are supporters of catch and release. If you want to release all of the fish, ask if the guide will agree.  It is far better to know up front than to begin releasing fish and find that the guide is upset.  Or worse yet have a guide that wants to release all the fish and you planned to take some home for dinner.

The key to effectively planning a pleasurable fishing trip with a guide is communication. If both parties are in agreement, it is possible to have a great trip and to learn from the experience of the guide.  If things are not going according to plan, a guide can recommend changes that may turn a mistake on the lake into a fishing trip to remember.

Finally, if the guide gives you a good trip on the water, then plan to tip him. How much?  It is a difficult decision but remember that you tip the waitress at the marina or the bartender the night before about 10 to 15 percent of the tab.  That is a good place to start with the guide.  If he gives especially good service then 20% is not unreasonable.

Whether you are booking a week long trip or just a half day get acquainted with the lake fishing trip understanding is important. Make sure both of you are on the same page and that can only be accomplished with open communication.  A fishing guide may be only a temporary employee but with mutual understanding he might provide you with the trip of a lifetime.

TIMBERRR FOR DUCKS   Leave a comment

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Perhaps one of the more interesting ways to hunt ducks is in flooded timber. It can be cold for the unprepared as often the water temperature is slightly above freezing and often you have to break surface ice.  But, one quickly forgets the cold when a flock of mallards appears out of no here to zigzag through the trees and sets down in a pool in front of you.

Beginning in late summer, far to the north in the breeding grounds, a feeding frenzy begins as ducks step up their food intake. They need the fat for sustaining energy during the annual migration.  The rest of the year ducks use carbohydrates to build their energy.  Muscle tissue used in migration requires fat reserves.  As the migration progresses, they use up the fat and have to go on another feeding frenzy to rebuild it before continuing.  They pig out and then take off again.

With water tending to be about 1 or 2 feet deep it requires boots or chest waders for hunting. On public land site specific rules do not allow permanent blinds.  Hunters usually get into the area at least an hour before sunrise.  Each hunting party should have at least one dozen decoys.  Hunters carry decoys into the area in bags attached to backpack frames.  Regulars have this down to a science and often carry more than a dozen dekes.  Hunter success is usually better with more decoys.

Due to the wide variety of duck species frequenting such areas hunters need to know how to identify huntable species

Being able to call ducks is important in all duck hunting. In timber hunting or other heavy cover hunting it is vital.  By calling the hunter is able to convince them that his area is the best one.  In a public hunting area competition is heavy for the available ducks.  If another hunter is a better caller, chances are he will also get more shooting.

Call the ducks right up until the time one starts shooting. Reduce the volume, as the birds get closer.  Another advantage of calling right up until shooing is in the heavy cover of timber shooting it is possible that another flock you did not see will come in ahead of the one you did see.

In waterfowl hunting it is important to stay dry to avoid hypothermia (a sudden loss of body temperature that can be fatal) a good pair of insulated waders are a must. Waders tend to be better than hip boots because you never know when you might trip or step into a hole.  Waders keep you dry when boots might get you wet.  Warmer than usual clothing is also a good idea.  Standing in 35-degree water for long periods is a lot colder than standing on dry land in the same weather.

The best kind of weather for duck hunting is any kind that is available. Go any time you can.  There are those who prefer overcast days considered traditional duck hunting weather.  Others maintain that the best weather for timber hunting is on bright days.  The idea of the second theory is that birds partially blinded by reflection of the sun off the water look for shaded timber for safety.

WATERFOWL HUNTERS ARE ADJUSTING THEIR TACTICS   Leave a comment

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The past ten years have meant a significant change for waterfowlers. The migration of geese and ducks changed and hunters had to adjust. The huge flocks of geese that once flowed into the southern Illinois refuges for the winter have diminished.

Birds still come but they are fewer and smarter. Ducks that did not stay long in the past are now flowing into grain fields and staying for the entire season. They once moved further south once the geese arrived.

Hunters now combine an awareness of the habitat and technological advances with hunting opportunities open to the public.

Many hunters seek both geese and ducks over flooded grain fields. They place goose pits on the edge of the fields and floating duck blinds out in the water.

Communication between guides and hunter as well as between hunters is important. Sometimes misunderstandings happen when it is one person’s turn to shoot and everyone does not get the message. Regardless, hearing protection is important to prevent hearing damage from muzzle blasts. Especially useful are electronic ear muffs that protect from muzzle blasts yet allow one to hear anyone talking. They are part of the technology for satisfying waterfowl hunting.

Today many of the birds hunted are local birds whereas a few years ago they were many more migrators. The locals are quickly educated as to the location of refuge areas. They quickly learn where hunting pits and clubs are located and avoid them.

Ducks present their own problem. As individual species are usually only present for a month or so, the hunters have to learn their locations and flight patterns quickly.

Both ducks and geese can become call shy as the season progresses and the hunting pressure increases on the migration path. Often call shy birds can be attracted to the decoys with a minimum of calling by a hunter.

Hunters put out decoys in an X-pattern which seems more natural. It sometimes requires up to 1,000 decoys of several types for goose hunting. Later in the season they might cut back to 80 to 200. Duck hunters will use 80 to 200 decoys.

A key to decoy spreads is motion. Using full-bodied dekes with motion stakes, wind socks, Robo-ducks and decoys involving bodies that represent feeding ducks diving like the real thing hunters present a more lifelike presentation.

Late in the season hunters change some of the tactics. Using fewer decoys they place them in a tighter pattern. This works well on public land.

Late season hunters on public land tend to quit calling as soon as the birds appear. You do not need to call as much. Continue the calling until the birds begin to look your way. Ducks need the noise to feel safe and locate feeding ducks. Once they are coming your way it is time to back down to a feeding chuckle.

In hunting on public land it is important to have the right set-up. That means keeping your back to the wind. Ducks, and geese, prefer to land into the wind. If the wind picks up to the range of 15 to 20 mph it becomes important to set-up in protected areas. Make your decoy set-up look realistic.

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A quick look in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources 2015-16 Hunting Digest (www.dnr.illinois.gov) shows that Illinois is rich in public waterfowl hunting locations. Some are available by permit only and others are available on a first come, first served basis. Southern Illinois has a number of both.

 

Early season duck hunters find such species as pintails, teal, gadwall and wood duck. These fast flying ducks can and will come to mallard decoys. If you are on a tight budget, mallard dekes are the one of choice. Early in the season fewer decoys seem to work better with the larger spreads reserved for later. In some of the public hunting areas there is a requirement of 12 decoys in a spread.

 

Later in the season the mallards and other species tend to arrive. By the time the mergansers and golden eyes arrive the season is almost over.

 

The ducks are present in Illinois throughout the season. The geese tend to arrive in November through January. Most geese taken in southern Illinois tend to be Canada or Speckledbelly. Snows and blues stay in significant numbers in some areas. Because the southern Illinois goose hunting is dependent on a migrating flock, the avid goose hunter tends to watch weather reports and social media reports from areas of northern Illinois.

 

Once snows arrive for a sustained period of time (3-5 days) in northern Illinois, the geese begin arriving in numbers in southern Illinois. They then stay until the end of the season (usually the end of January).

 

IMG_0011Some popular public waterfowl hunting areas in southern Illinois include Rend Lake, Crab Orchard Lake, Mississippi River, Ohio River and Union County.

 

Rend Lake Wildlife Management Area contains some 7,690-acres near Bonnie, IL in Franklin County. Site specific information is available by calling the IDNR office at 618-279-3110 or writing them at RR#1 Box 168G, Bonnie, IL 62816. It attracts all species of waterfowl but is especially good for teal due to the exposed mud flats.

 

Most geese and ducks taken at Rend Lake come from hunters in boat mounted blinds. There are however some walk-in opportunities.

 

Oakwood Bottoms in Jackson County near Murphysboro, IL is about 3,400-acres of flooded timber that holds sucks throughout the season. Some will even overwinter. For more information contact IDNR at 618-687-1731.

 

Duck hunter find birds in areas near both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Both rivers have public hunting available to those with boats who concentrate their efforts on areas off the sandbars and wing dams.

 

Union Conservation Area is about 2,800-acres near Jonesboro, IL in Union County. The refuge office is available at 2755 Refuge Road, Jonesboro, IL 62952. Their phone number is 618-833-5175.

 

Another popular area for public hunting opportunities is the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge in Williamson County. Operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the 23,000-acres near Marion, IL are a mecca for waterfowl. Parts of the refuge close to human activity during the winter.

 

Still there are ample waterfowl hunting areas on the refuge in blinds or independently from boats in the west end of the lake. For more information about waterfowl hunting there contact the USF&WS, 8588 Route 148, Marion, IL 62959 or call them at 618-997-3344.

 

Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area is another IDNR facility. Their address is Box 85, Miller City, IL 62962.

 

All tolled there are about 60,000-acrtes of public waterfowl hunting area in the southern tier of counties. That is not counting the water holes in the Shawnee National Forest which attracts many ducks and geese each year.

 

With the variety of site specific regulations, it is vital to contact a specific area prior to hunting there. Officials hare happy to inform the public at to the restrictions in their particular area. IDNR is dedicated to providing a safe and quality hunting experience on public land. Public land waterfowl hunting is alive and well in southern Illinois.

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