October’s Outdoor Column

October, the most beautiful month in the minds of many as leaves change their color and the entire landscape takes on a different view. Waters cool down, hunting season comes in as temperatures begin to fall. Not only do the changing colors make this a great month but the fact that crappie move up into the brush ready for that last meal before winter and the row crop gets harvested leaving the big bucks with less cover to hide.
October has always been good to me when it comes to fall fishing; there are fewer anglers on the lakes and the fish are less stressed. Slipping into an area of prime cover allows me to take the big crappie that begin to stir.
I have never been a minnow fisherman instead I like the tube jig tipped with a bee moth. I find the bee moth to have the most tantalizing effect on both crappie and bluegill over anything I have ever used.
Many anglers don’t slow their baits down in the fall like I do. I’ve always said, “Fish your baits as slow as you can and then slow down some more!” Working your baits slow will get you a lot of snags but will also get you some monster crappie that you may have missed by moving your bait too fast.
I start the day with 25 tube jigs already rigged with a metal jig head and sitting right on the boat where I can reach them when I lose one of these baits. There are days when 25 baits are not enough for even a two-hour trip! Many times, I’m working my bait in the depths ever so slow and it just seems to stop as though I have hooked into a big strand of algae; then it begins to move. From October 10th on it is many times a big black crappie at that time of the year.
Let’s move on to another subject involving deer hunters. October is a prime month for tree stand accidents; many of these accidents could and should be avoided.
I know hunters that go into a stand that they’ve set up last season never checking it first. Steps going up and down from the stand can become loose and break bringing a hunter to the ground. The stand itself may have worked its way loose over the past year making it unsafe to shift your weight in.
Many tree stand accidents happen on the way up or down from the stand, the most vulnerable time when weight shifts especially if you are in a hurry after downing a deer.
Don’t become a deer hunting statistic, check your stand well prior to the season and make whatever adjustments and repairs that you need to make. Have a safe hunting season this year. I know a lot of hunters in my area that did not follow this good advice and are paying the price now; one was even a fatality!
Shop your local Big R Store for all your fall hunting and fishing needs.

August’s Outdoor Column

August is upon us, which means it’s time for all the typical fall festivities. Bonfires, tailgating and of course fall hunting and fishing. Several seasons open during August, such as squirrel, Dove and small mouth bass.
While the number of squirrel hunters has dropped from many years ago, the number of squirrel to hunt has not. An active squirrel will challenge the best rifle hunters while a sitting squirrel will test the marksmanship of all hunters.
Doves have long been tabbed the “Gray Ghosts of Autumn”. A dove can be a challenge for the best of hunters, darting and zig-zagging across an open field. Many a dove has looked back and laughed at the person shooting at it. Dove breasts, especially those marinated before frying, are excellent. Look for and remove buckshot before putting the birds on a grill or in a pan. The same goes for squirrels if you are using a shotgun. Many a tooth has been chipped on a buckshot left in the meat.
As the temperatures begin to cool down in August, the fish will begin their quest for food by leaving the deeper waters before winter hits. Perfect time to slip off your shoes and go wading in the rivers while taking advantage of the small mouth bass season that opens in August.
Even though there are cooler days in August, you’ll still find a few of those “Indian summer” days where the temps soar. A few things you’ll want to remember when you’re hunting; 1. don’t lay your game directly on a hot truck bed which can spoil your meat very quickly, throw something in your truck to elevate it, which will allow air to flow under the animal and help keep it fresh. 2. Even though there will be cooler days, there will still be the chance for those bug bites. Grab some insect repellent before heading out. 3. Everyone’s favorite, spider webs are one of those fall nuisance you’ll run into while out. A little tip, if you’re hunting with a firearm, carry it up and down as you walk and it will save you from those big webs.
Don’t miss out on all the outdoors has to offer in August. Get to your local Big R Store and stock up on ammunition, fishing tackle and clothing for the fall months ahead!

July’s Outdoor Column

 

Once July arrives the temperatures tend to get very warm and so does the water. This keeps a lot of people off the water as far as fishing is concerned. Sometimes during these hot periods, the fish slow down and bass, bluegill, crappie and walleye really shut down for a while.

I find this is a good time to fish for something else or to change my bass fishing tactics to something else. A good change of pace sends me after carp and catfish and many times I head for the rivers to get a little action. I have long been a fan of good fights with fish whether or not I land them doesn’t bother me. I encourage anglers to practice Catch & Release and not worry about how many you can put in your frying pan. Taking a big carp or catfish is just as exciting as landing a big bass or walleye and July is generally the month when the big river catfish can be caught, especially the flathead. Catfish have been known to tilt the scales at over fifty pounds in several of the rivers near where I live in east central Illinois.

Many of the big flatheads come during the month of July and you had better have some heavy-duty equipment if you want to land one of these big ones.
Shrimp, chicken liver, shad entrails, along with blood and cheese baits are all used for catfish but, the flathead has a different type of diet. The flathead feeds on clean live bait such as small bluegills and cut bait (fish that have been cut up and pieces put on the hook).

Of course, many big catfish are taken with bank lines, trot lines, nets and jugs but, to me, that doesn’t give me the thrill of the actual battle one can have with a rod and reel.
The same goes for carp; hang a big carp on a rod and reel and the fun begins. Catch that same carp on a light fishing outfit and you have won a battle lost by many.

Carp are generally caught on live night-crawlers in the early spring but in the hot summer, dough ball is considered the best bait. I make a great dough ball out of ½ cup of yellow corn meal, ½ cup of flour. Add enough water in a bowl to knead the two ingredients together to make a ball. Bring a pan of water to a boil and drop the ball in and let it boil for about twenty minutes. Be careful the pan doesn’t boil over. Find an old rag or towel and lift the ball from the water to the towel and let it cool. Wrap up the dough ball and head for the lake.

Of course you can add things like vanilla, licorice, or other ingredients to the boiling water if you wish but I prefer that dough ball just the way it is!

Your local Big R Stores have all the fishing equipment needed to land these big fish as well as pre-packaged baits so check out their selection and have fun trying to tame one of these big fish.

June’s Outdoor Column

kid in boat fishing

 

The month of June is always a transitional month for the fisherman. The fish have, for the most part, already dropped their eggs, the water is beginning to warm up and the muddy waters of spring are beginning to clear. Mosquitoes become a problem while fishing as well as gnats and ticks and these can cause a real problem for the angler.

Father’s Day always falls during the month of June as well as some Free Fishing Days, at least here in Illinois. This gives families a chance to renew their fishing times together as dad takes son or daughter or grandpa takes grandson or granddaughter.

Staying safe on a fishing trip is a must and I encourage anyone getting into a boat to be wearing a life vest whether you are an avid swimmer or not a swimmer at all.

Your local Big R Stores have long supplied its customers with their fishing needs. Insect sprays, life vests, and tons of fishing equipment are there for customers to stock up on for the summer.

Please check yourself for ticks when you return for your fishing trips. Ticks not only carry Lyme disease but they carry other problems as well.

You can remove a tick that is dug into your skin by placing a cotton ball covered with dish soap, such as Dawn, over the tick. This will shut off the air to the tick and it will eventually let go and become entangled in the cotton ball. If, after a tick bite, you become ill, get yourself to a doctor immediately and tick bites can result in some severe and permanent damage.

Another bad summer pest is a chigger. Walking through the tall grass to get to a fishing spot or a wooded area can bring you in contact with chiggers. These nasty mites can cause a welt which can itch like crazy. The best relief I have found for these is at a drug store; it’s called Chigarid. Back in the old days a chigger bite was covered with clear fingernail polish. Chigarid smells like it has fingernail polish in it but also has extra ingredients to stop the itch. The object to killing a chigger is to cut off its air supply.

A good insect repellent will keep chiggers, mosquitoes and many other summer-time pests from ruining your fishing trip or trip to the woods. There is nothing worse than coming home from a fun trip and finding yourself miserable for the next several days because you forgot to protect yourself from these unwanted pests. And while you’re at it; don’t forget the sunscreen!

 

April’s Outdoor Column

April Showers and warm weather bring up the mushrooms and this sends many people into the woods to hunt for them. Most everyone agrees that they are fun to hunt and great to eat but what is really known about this group of fungi?

Mushrooms grow from a mass of tiny threads called mycelium. These threads come together to form the mushroom body which is nothing more than a reproductive structure containing the spores that will form next year’s mushrooms.

Mushrooms are neither male nor female but reproduce asexually. The bodies of those that aren’t found and picked simply turn to dust or spore. You can see this in the fall if you kick a mature puffball and a mass of what appears to be dust flies out.

A spore is not a seed as seeds are formed sexually with a male and female cell being involved. A spore is an asexual structure produced by the billions. If every morel mushroom spore survived we would walk on mushroom as we moved about.

If a spore lands in the right place, receives the proper nutrients and moisture and has sufficient warmth to grow the spore will begin to grow into these tiny threads. The correct nutrition is normally leaf litter and decaying trees, stumps and limbs. Some trees are better than others with the American elm being at the top of the list for mushroom production.

Certain spots are much better than others for producing the morel mushrooms but they can be found along fence rows, under pine groves, in old cemeteries and even in yards. They cannot be there one day and be there the next. It normally takes good rainfall and a moist ground along with the proper warmth.

Early in the season hunt the south facing slopes as these warm up the fastest due to the angle of the sun. Once they begin to show up it isn’t long before they can be found about anywhere.

Mushrooms have no caloric value so the only calories you get from eating them are the calories that come from the breading and the butter or oils that you fry them in. Many people say that the deer eat them and this has led to the reduction of mushrooms found. I cannot confirm or deny this but can tell you that very few animals eat something that doesn’t have caloric value for them. The only reason they would eat them would have to be that they simply like the taste.

In earlier times mushroom hunters used orange sacks or burlap sacks to carry their mushrooms in. These sacks would allow for the spores to fall out and help in propagating the mushrooms. Today most hunters use plastic sacks which hold the spores inside.

There is lots of controversy and lots of stories about mushrooms. Just get out this spring and enjoy the hunt and stay safe!

February’s Outdoor Column

febraury-in-the-woods-ffsgsWhen the month of February comes around it brings about a transition period between hunting and fishing and, with the warm weather we have had this winter, many of the local ponds and lakes are free of ice and fishing will begin early this year.

Hunters have that one last season ahead as the wild turkey season is just around the corner in Illinois and Indiana. Hunters and anglers alike are reminded to renew their licenses before the seasons begin and Big R Stores are a place to not only get your licenses but also many of your hunting and fishing necessities.

Looking back at the deer seasons always brings about some analyzing of figures to find what the season results show. The final tally for the Indiana seasons were not available at the time of this article but Illinois figures were down approximately 9 percent which is a substantial drop. Given the fact that the crops were out of the field and the weather was pretty decent, the drop in numbers should have hunters concerned.

These figures really stand out since the 2005 season when over 200,000 deer were harvested.

The hunt for antler sheds has now begun as bucks have dropped their antlers and hunters love to hunt for them to give them an idea of what bucks in their area survived the hunt. The hunt for these sheds is sometimes hampered by the fact that rodents gnaw on them to get calcium so their is a race between the shed hunter and the rodents within the area.

Of course a deer can drop its antlers anywhere but logical places include water areas where they lean over to get a drink and a side of the antlers drop off. Areas where deer jump fences and look an antler are also good as are deer trails through the woods where deer travel and catch an antler on a tree branch and lose it.

Look for sheds in your hunting areas, you might be surprised at what is running your area that you haven’t seen.

If you are lagging behind in cleaning your fishing equipment, time is fleeting! I clean all of my own reels and lures. This is the time to get your tackle organized in your tackle boxes. There is nothing worse than to go on your first fishing trip and find that your tackle is in the same condition and in the same mess as it was last fall. I like everything in its place when I go. New tackle is coming into our stores right now so get in a get the first picks.

Remember to attend some of the big fishing shows close to you to kill the cabin fever you might be experiencing. Many people within the area like the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show at the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds February 17-26.

Winter boots from Big R covered in snow

Big R’s Guide to Buying Winter Boots

Winter boots from Big R covered in snow

 

As the streets begin to line with snow and the temperature drops to single digits, there’s one thing that needs to be done: dig through your hallway closet for the boots that make your feet feel twice as big and warm all over. But let’s be honest, these are the same ol’ winter boots you’ve been wearing since the dawn of time. So maybe this is the season to treat yourself by replacing those old winter boots with a pair of brand new ones! Read more

December's Outdoor Column

December’s Outdoor Column

December's Outdoor Column

December marks the beginning of winter for most of us even though we have a few weeks to go before winter officially begins. This also begins the cold period of the year and it won’t be long and here comes Christmas.

If you have an outdoors person in your family and you are considering getting him or her something for Christmas you might want to consider a gift card as a way of gift giving. Being an outdoorsman all my life I am very particular about what gun or fishing rod I buy, what boots I wear along with a few other things. Many outdoors people are the same way; they are particular about what they like and surprising them with a gift may end up in a Christmas return.

The one thing every outdoors person wants in winter is to keep warm. Whether you person is a waterfowl hunter, a deer hunter, an ice angler or a hiker, keeping warm and keeping dry are of utmost importance. Remember that when you go out to buy!

Hint around or ask an outdoor companion what your person might want or need and don’t be surprised if you find out they like to pick out their own things for Christmas.

My wife learned a long time ago not to shop for me. Instead she gives me a Big R Gift Card every Christmas because I have taken so many “I bought this for you” gifts back.

I do have some personal suggestions. I was a trapper for most of my life spending my trapping hours in a swamp-like setting and working primarily at night. I also hunt, ice fish, bass fish, and cut firewood as well as work in the outdoors.

I like to layer myself with T-shirt, thermal shirt, sweatshirt, and then cover this all up with a hooded sweatshirt during the real cold times. Your Big R Stores have great selections of all these items. A pair of warm gloves and warm socks will always be welcome at Christmas.

I personally love the disposable hand warmers and foot warmers and usually go through two or three bags each year. These make great stocking stuffers.

Whatever you decide to give as a gift to your outdoors person you need to check out the great selection at your local Big R Store.

November’s Outdoor Column

stand-alone-tree-in-fogIt is November and it is time to think about the big deer hunt coming up on us very quickly.

I get a weekly update of the archery deer harvest in Illinois and, with this warm weather I have to wonder how it will affect this year’s rut. I’ve been following these weekly results for quite a few years now and the increased rut activity is reflected in the ratio of does to bucks shown as the season progresses.

As the rut nears, the number of does taken by archery hunters tends to fall off and the number of bucks taken increases. This happens as hunters now begin to see more bucks and quickly shift their sights to taking a racked deer verses a doe.

So far this season the percentages have not changed much through the last part of October leading me to wonder if the rut will correspond with the Illinois firearm season this year. Illinois’s season is projected for the third weekend in November, a time when the rut should be nearing its peak. Harvest figures thus far have not supported that the rut is near at hand.

I listened to a news broadcast which stated that the earth has not seen these kinds of overall temperatures for the last 10,000 years. How true this is I do not know but I do know it has been warm and a concern I have is how will this affect the wildlife and how will these temperatures affect the deer season?

If you take a deer on a warm day during this year’s season there are a couple of things some hunters just don’t think about.

Don’t lay your deer on the floor of the bed of your truck. The metal floor, even with a bed liner above it absorbs heat and radiates it back into the meat of your deer. Carry something that will raise the deer’s body above the truck bed such as a skid, boards, or plywood. This keeps the deer off the hot metal and does not allow the meat to get hot.

When hanging your deer to cure, hoist it up with a rope around its antlers and not its neck, especially if you intend to mount it. Placing a rope around the neck to hang the deer will tear the hair which is almost impossible to replace. Also, never use a rope to drag your deer out of the area where you took it. Dragging the deer will cause major damage to the hide and many times will allow dirt into the check cavity which is then hard to clean out.

Make a trip to your local Big R Store and check out the many hunting items that will help you through this hunting season. Check out their line of outdoor clothing, boots, archery and firearm equipment as well as their meat processing equipment. Have a Safe and Fun Hunting Season this fall and winter.

October’s Outdoor Column

deer-in-tall-grassEach fall archery hunters head for their favorite spots trying to harvest their big buck for the season.  The problem is, big bucks arean’t very cooperative early in the fall and many hunters find themselves frustrated early in the season.
I’ve watched the deer hunt for many a year now and big bucks have always been tough in the early fall.  This is primarily because the big bucks hang out in the standing corn and only move out in the nighttime.  This makes it increasingly difficult to put yourself in the path of a big buck.
However, as time goes on, the corn gets harvested one field at a time and the rut begins to kick in so if you watch the harvest week by week you will see that the number of big bucks increases as does the mratio of bucks to does.  There is a correlation between corn harvest and deer harvest.  A dry fall with a quick harvest is most beneficial to the deer hunter chasing the big bucks.
A wet fall keeps the big bucks in the fields that much longer and there are some years where some of the corn isn’t harvested until early December making archery hunting even more difficult.
With modern farm machinery as it is today, fields get harvested very quickly during a dry spell where farmers can get into the fields and take a field out in hours rather than days.  Of course, the dryness of the grain is also a factor as many farmers will leave their corn to dry to a certain percentage before they harvest it to avoid paying the expense of drying their harvest.

Archery deer hunters as well as gun hunters need to hope for a dry fall that will get the crops out and the deer out in the open.

My wife and I just returned from a 22-day, 7.200 mile vacation through the northwestern part of the U.S., two Canadian provinces, down the west coast and then across country. During our trip we entered 8 different National Parks.

For those seniors traveling to our National Parks, make sure you purchase a Senior Pass for $10. This allows you free entry to our National Parks, National Monuments, and National Battlefields. Seven of the parks we visited had a $30 entry fee per vehicle; the other park was in Canada where the pass does not work. We saved a total of $210 by having this pass so I encourage every senior who is traveling to get this pass.

One of the best investments I have made in a long time was a $40 Dashcam just before we took our trip. I now have video of driving through every one of the eight National Parks which we can enjoy on our computer or on our television set. I thought you might find this idea interesting.