Archive for the ‘Whitetail Deer’ 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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FALL ACTION AT REND LAKE   Leave a comment

Fall comes later to southern Illinois.  But it is still a great time of the year.  The trees change colors weeks after the northern part of the state.  Chilly nights often give way to a hot clear sky during the day.  Fall is a study of contrasts for the hunter and angler.

The fishing for crappie is terrific on Rend Lake during fall.  Although the weather determines how long into the winter it continues, anglers willing to brave cooler temperatures continue throughout the fall.

Rend Lake is a reservoir located on Interstate 57 about 5 hours south of Chicago.  To get to the state park boat ramps exit at Highway 154 east and proceeds to the entrance of Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.  Proceed north on the road.

The fourth quarter of the year in southern Illinois is a great combination time in the Rend Lake area.  There is archery deer season beginning the first of October and yet fishing action is still great.  By the third week in November the duck season begins and still the fishing continues.

Fishing into December is not unusual. But, the main focus is waterfowl hunting and the firearms deer seasons.  In early November hunters enjoy rabbit and quail hunting as the Upland Game seasons open.

The quail hunting is for wild birds. Rabbit hunting is with beagles. If you have never experienced the beagle hunt is it worth doing just to see those little dogs in action.  There is commotion everywhere.  It is just a fun thing to do.

Fall is actually a great time of the year for the outdoorsman. He can pretty well do it all.

A fisherman need not necessary to get out on the water as early as might be the case in the late summer. In the fall one can usually have breakfast and be on the water by about 8 o’clock in the morning.

Deer hunting can be on both public and private land. The ample public land available in southern Illinois provides many deer hunting opportunities.  Private land hunts are for quality deer hunting and clients enjoy some pretty spectacular results.

 

TIPS FOR TRAILING A WOUNDED DEER   Leave a comment

You have scouted the property, stalked your trophy, waited endless hours in a treestand for the right moment, and shot true for a quick, humane kill.  Now you have waited to make sure he is down and it is time to see your deer up close.  Your breath comes in short spurts as you move closer to the place where last you saw him.  But, there is nothing there except some ground that was disturbed by his leaving the area.  What now?

The first thing to do is “don’t do anything.”  Look around.  Wait for at least a half hour.  This gives the animal time to bleed, stiffen up and to die.  Is there blood on the ground?  If not, it is time to reconstruct your shot.  You owe it to your quarry to make every effort to recover any wounded animal.

Relive that fateful moment when you first shot.  Where was the animal standing?  Use makers of trees and bushes to be precise as to location.  Remember that the land looks a different at ground level than it does from a treestand.  That is why it is important to use marking points such as trees, rocks and shrubs to pinpoint locations.  What did the animal do when you shot?  When you last saw it, which way was it going?  As you listened after it disappeared from sight, did you hear it crash.  If so in what direction did the sound seem to come from?

As you rerun the incident in your mind, remember how the deer reacted.  If it jumped straight up or fell and then ran off low to the ground with its tail tucked down, the hit was good.  It will probably expire immediately and is lying close at hand.  It is a good idea to wait about a half hour before following up just to be safe.

If the deer hunched its back and ran or walked away, it is probably gut shot.  If left alone the deer will usually remain where it first beds down and will expire there.  However, if disturbed before it expires, the deer may run off and you stand a chance of losing it.  You might even have to follow it for miles.  It is better that you leave it alone for several hours before following up the trail.

The third scenario is one where the deer runs a few yards and looks around.  It might even continue feeding.  You probably missed.  If there is no blood on the ground or bushes, you missed.

Once you decide that there is blood of hair on the ground in the area where you last saw the deer, it is time to analyze the hit.  Following a wounded deer is a slow and deliberative process.  If it is night time, a gas lantern is best as it highlights the blood spots on the ground.  Place a piece of aluminum foil on the side of the lantern toward you.  It helps direct the light toward the trail and out of your eyes.

In the case of hair, it is important to decide where the hair came from on the animal.  White hair usually means a chest or belly hit.  Darker hair means a vital or muscle area hit.

If there is blood on the ground, examine it.  If there is the unmistakable odor of feces in the blood, then you have gut shot the animal.  The result is that you should wait several hours before proceeding to follow the trail.

If you find blood that is thin and pale, it probably came from a superficial or flesh wound.

Blood that is bright red with bubbles means that you have a lung hit animal.  Look for tracks and stirred up leaves. Your deer is probably nearby.

As you follow the trail, mark each place where you find blood or tracks.  Blaze orange surveyor’s tape or toilet paper comes in handy for marking.  At some point you may lose the trail or the blood might just quit leaking out of the animal.  You will be able to go back to the tape or paper trail and start again using the trail to steer you in the right general direction.

Large pools of blood on the trail usually mean that the deer stopped or even lay down at that spot before moving along.  Often the animal may change directions.  It is important to look in all directions from the pool of blood for a trail to follow.

Another factor that might cause the deer to change directions is a steep hill, roadway, fence line, or open field.  They will usually follow where the land is flat or downhill and with cover.  Often they will lie down in that cover.

If you cannot find the blood trail, try working in circles from the last spots.  Begin with small circles and work into ever enlarging ones.

All of the above supposes that the weather does not change radically and snow, rain or heavy wind conditions move in to conceal the trail.  Other hunters, dogs, coyotes can also stumble upon the animal and it will run off when it would otherwise lay down and die.

Animals such as crows, magpies and jays can alert the hunter to a downed animal.  They are attracted to the carcass and make a lot of noise.

Making a clean humane kill is the goal of all hunters.  Sometimes things go wrong and you might have to follow up on a wounded animal.  It is a challenging experience but a rewarding one when you are able to find the deer and bring it out of the woods and home to your family table.

 

DEER DECOY A DOUBLE EDGED SWORD   2 comments

White-tailed deer are social as well as territorial animals.  A popular tool in the hunt for trophy whitetails has become the deer decoy.  Do they really work? The answer is yes on occasion but they may also create a problem situation.

Sitting in a treestand overlooking a flood plot with a buck decoy standing guard is a perfect scenario. That is until out of nowhere a rutty buck springs into action.  From out of the brush he charges the decoy.  His antlers lowered, he smashes into the foam decoy scattering pieces in an explosion.  The incident takes only minutes and the surprised deer is gone back into the concealment of the brush.

Arguably the decoy worked but not in the way the hunter planed. Planning in the placement of a decoy is still an effective tool.

Decoys that are a part of the environment and have a natural look to them certainly fool deer.  The more techniques one uses in placement and blending of a decoy the better the chance it will fool a deer.

Perhaps the best time to use a decoy is during the rut. During the rut, deer are very territorial.  Bucks constantly make and check their scrapes.  Near a scrape is a great place to place a decoy.  Be sure to place the decoy so that it is not looking at your stand.  Any deer approaching will look in the direction that the “stranger” decoy is looking.  You can use the decoy to divert the attention of the other deer away from a stand.  It is important for the hunter to pick camo that blends into the background, not the foreground.  The idea is to keep the deer focused on the decoy, not the hunter.

Placement of a decoy can maneuver the deer into a position for a shot.  One can use a blowdown or other structure to move the deer as he tries to get a good look at the decoy.

A bedded doe decoy is good for this type of action.  Bedded doe decoys have a calming effect on an approaching buck.

Another set up is to place a buck and doe decoy together on the edge of a corn stubble field or grass field.  By placing them at the edge of the field it is possible to pull in a deer that is entering an open area.  With the buck standing and the doe bedded it presents the appearance of a buck trying to get a doe to stand.  During the rut, bucks breed does as long as they will stand.  A dominant buck will attempt to run off the buck decoy so as to be able to take over the doe.

It is important that the decoy buck have a small rack so as not to intimidate any arriving buck.

Although decoying is basically a visual situation, scents and calls are sometimes used.  It is not essential to use scents or calls.  Some hunters just like to cover all the bases.  If using a scent the best one is from the tarsal gland or a mild buck scent.  It is important to wear rubber gloves when handling the decoy so as not to leave a human scent on the decoy.

Human scent is scary to a deer.  Some hunters leave their decoy out in the elements just to reduce the chance of human scent on it.

In using a call, again the best plan is to use it as little as possible so as not to scare off an approaching buck.  When a big buck comes to a call, it is expecting to see another deer.  If it does not, then he becomes suspicious.  The best plan is to use a doe bleat interspersed with a buck grunt.  If you get a response from another deer, quit calling immediately.  You don’t want to distract the deer from the decoy.

Decoying deer is another tool, not an end all, for the deer hunter.  With a little common sense the results it brings is a pleasant surprise.

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.

CWD AND ME   3 comments

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Like most people who hunt deer species in North America, I have a minimal knowledge of the disease known as CWD. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal (to deer species) neurological disease.  A misfolded protein called a prion causes the disease.

It passes from one deer to another through animal to animal contact. The shedding of prions through bodily fluids and/or the decay of infected animals creates a contaminated environment which allows the spread of the disease.

The disease does not pass along to humans or domestic livestock. But it can have a devastating effect on deer herds, especially if they are concentrated in a location such as those yarding up in winter and those in a breeding facility.

Biologists have tried numerous programs to limit the spread of the disease but as yet there is no known cure.

Most programs involve isolating infected areas and the sampling of brain tissue to find infected animals.

Last fall produced the harvest of the best deer of a 60-year hunting career. When told testing for CWD is required, anxiety set in.  Visions of some college kid working for the game officials butchering the cape to get at the brain tissue came to the fold.  Such was not the case.

Squaw Mountain Ranch where the deer was taken is also a deer breeding facility for sale of deer to ranches across Texas. In order to protect their property and herd, the ranch participates in a number of studies with the wildlife officials of the state.  It is no near any of the areas where CWD has been found in the state and the hope to keep it that way.

Any deer that dies on this ranch is checked.

Concerns about damage to the cape are unwarranted. Watching the process turned out to be a good learning experience.  Dusty, a guide on the ranch follows normal capeing procedures.  However as the cape is rolled toward the head, an incision is made at the joining of the spinal column to the base of the brain.

With some specialized tools he is able to remove a two inch section of the spinal column. He places the sample in a container and sent out for testing.  At the lab they section the sample and examine it under a microscope for any folded prions.

After two years of sampling every deer, this ranch has not found a single infected animal.

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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.

 

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