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October’s Outdoor Column

Picture yourself near a small stream or river during the middle to later part of October.   The leaves are in full color, there is a coolness to the autumn air and the water trickles along as it makes it way to the sea.

This is what you would see if you spent the fall fishing for smallmouth bass.  It’s a beautiful sight out there to see the autumn leaves reflecting off the water.  Suddenly, as you watch, your lure slipping along under the water the entire solitude changes as a big smallmouth takes to the air with your lure in its mouth.

Fall is my favorite time of the year to fish the “smallies” as the moment I pictured above becomes reality.  The colors and the coolness of the air make this a perfect combination for relaxation as I prepare to lock myself in for the winter and begin carving birds again.

Almost everything you need for fall hunting and fishing can be found at your Local Big R Store and whether you are an angler, a hunter or a trapper, you will find what you need at Big R.

The one thing I love about smallmouth bass fishing is the fact that once you hook one of these fish it goes skyward trying to shake the lure.  Pound for pound, these smallmouths will fight like no other fish and, if you are smart you will release your fish to fight another day!

Also called “bronze backs”, the smallmouth inhabits many of the rivers and streams in Illinois and Indiana and, if you are fortunate to have smallmouth in your area, you should look at this resource as an area to explore.

If you are a deer hunter here are a few tips that might help you as I have seen many hunters fail to take care of his or her harvested deer properly and end up with a disaster in the end.

In the early fall, many deer get harvested on a warm day and I’ve seen hunter after hunter put them on the bed of their pick-up truck to get them home or to a processor.  The last thing you need is to have your deer on the hotbed of a truck as the meat will spoil quickly on a warm sunny day.

Place your deer on a wooden skid or two or use anything that will get your deer off the hotbed and allow air to flow under it.  It doesn’t take long at all for a deer to spoil on the hotbed of a pick-up.

If you plan to mount your deer head, don’t place a rope around your deer’s neck to drag it out of the woods or to hang it from the rafters once you get home.  Instead, place your rope around the antlers of your deer. It is never good to drag a deer out of the woods if you intend to mount the head or tan the hide. Drag marks, torn hair, dirt, etc. will all appear in the mounting process.

As a taxidermist for thirty-five years, I have seen it all!  One of the worst things I have seen repeatedly is hunters thinking they know where to cut a deer cape for mounting purposes only to find out they are didn’t and the cape is cut way too short.  Once this done the mount many times is ruined unless your taxidermist has extra capes to use. In this case, many want an arm and a leg for a new cape and the mount costs you a lot more.

The best thing to do is to take your deer to the taxidermist and let him or her remove the cape the way they want it.  This eliminates any guesswork on your part.

Fall is a wonderful time of the year to pursue your favorite outdoor sport; to hunt, to fish, or to trap.  It is also a time of the year to be careful as water is cooling and hunters are in the woods. Stay safe and don’t become a hunting or fishing statistic as this has happened to far too many people I know!

Enjoy the beauty of fall and get out and enjoy the great weather and changing colors.  It won’t be long before the window closes and the door of winter shuts us in!

September’s Outdoor Column

Fall is near and many outdoors people now have to choose between hunting and fishing or to find a way to combine the best of each sport during the cooler season.

With the crappie run fast approaching and the walleyes that bite during the cooler days of October and November, it’s hard to stay away from the water with the thought of those tasty filets. Then again, there is the thought of busting into the early season doves or teal as they pass through the area traveling south for the winter.

Early to mid-September are the prime times to hunt these as well as the early Canada goose season which comes in in early September. Tabbed as “The Grey Ghosts of Autumn” doves can challenge the best of marksmen as the dart erratically through the fall skies. Some of the best target practice can come from an early dove hunt and those little teal flying along a river can challenge the best of shooters.

Throw into all this mix the rainbow trout season that our states have put together by stocking lakes, ponds, and streams with this hard-fighting and tasty fish and you can see why autumn can be a time when maybe too many choices are offered to the state’s sportsmen and women.

Your local Big R Stores offer a great selection of both hunting and fishing equipment. Not only are these sports greatly covered in their stores but check out the clothing and boots section as well as the game processing equipment. The archery deer season is less than a month away with trapping and the upland game seasons just around the corner.

Being prepared for whatever season you plan to follow saves a lot of headaches once they arrive. There is nothing more frustrating than to have forgotten something the day your favorite season opens.

One other thing to mention here is your tree stand if you are deer hunting this year. I have lost two friends due to tree stand fall; know many friends who have broken arms, legs, back and ribs. The funny thing about this is that they were all seasoned hunters and each one told me it was something they could have avoided had they done the proper maintenance to their stand.

Get a jump on this year’s season by getting yourself prepared. Get in shape because few of these seasons come without some strenuous exercise. Don’t forget your dog, if you use one. Dogs too need to be in shape for that tough day ahead

Whatever season you choose to explore; have a safe and fun fall!

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August’s Outdoor Column

Hunting season is fast approaching and will be here before you know it. Are you ready for the strenuous hunt ahead?

            If you are a deer hunter you have about two months to get in shape and we all know this is going to creep up on us before we know it. Don’t forget your dog if you are a bird or waterfowl hunter, coon hunter, etc. Dogs need to be fit as well once the season opens.

            It is sickening to hear about a hunter who was overweight and out-of-shape dropping over from a heart attack while climbing a tree or dragging out a deer. It happens every year and, the older and more out of shape you get, odds are the next one might be you!

            Eating the right foods and exercising every day cut down your odds that you won’t be the next statistic. Let’s face it, hunting is hard work!

            A twenty-minute walk a day will help get you in better shape in two months. Walking up a hill or walking up the steps over and over will help you get back in shape but again; you only have two months.

               Think of how your dog chases through fields of row crop searching for pheasant, quail or rabbit or, how your retriever jumps in the water to swim out and bring in your duck or goose. Coon dogs race through the woods in search of raccoons. Dogs need to be in shape as well.

            Work your dog starting today; take the time to get your dog in the best shape possible before the hunting season begins.

            Your health could make this the best hunting season ever or, it could be your last. Heed the call and get in shape!

            While you are at it, check with your local Department of Natural Resources and see what they have for this year’s hunt. Many DNR’s offers controlled pheasant, dove, waterfowl hunts on a sign-up basis. Check out the many opportunities your DNR offers you and, while you are at it, check out the hunting clubs and put-and-take sites that give you a chance to hunt after the regular seasons are over.

            If you like to eat pheasant and quail the put-and-take sites offer you a chance to really fill your freezer if you are willing to pay the price.

            Whatever you do stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy the hunt ahead. For all of you hunting needs check out Big R Stores near you.

December’s Outdoor Column

The month of December brings us Christmas and sends many of us scrambling to find the right Christmas present.

If you are buying for that person in your life that spends time in the outdoors, the number of possibilities for a Christmas present are tremendous. The upcoming months are going to be cold so outfitting your outdoor person may revolve around the purchase of something that will keep him or her warm in the outdoors. The obvious present is simple; a pair of gloves, boots, jacket, etc.

I encourage everyone to ask before they buy thus making sure the present is what is needed and, don’t forget, your local Big R Stores will have lots of nice items to make your Christmas shopping easy. December makes up a big part of the waterfowl season which is expected to be about the same as last season. Some duck populations have fared well over the years while others have not done as well.

The mallard, the number one duck in the hunter’s bag in this part of the country, is well known to most Americans. Often called “Green Heads”, the mallard is one of the largest ducks using our flyway. The hen mallard is mottled brown with black markings to allow it to hide from predators. The teal, the smallest ducks which come through our area in early September, is a fast flying bird that gives hunters a great challenge.

Waterfowl hunting is tough hunting and requires a lot of time in the cold. Nasty days are many times the best days as is the case many times with early spring fishing. Inexperienced waterfowl hunters need to spend some time with veteran hunters to learn the ropes as, not only is it a tough and cold hunt, but it can be a dangerous hunt.
Which blinds to use and the proper setting of decoys are just some things a novice needs to learn. Staying warm and dry, training dogs, and o shooting techniques are best learned from experienced hunters.

The dangers of hunting around water include drowning and hypothermia so proper care and calculating each move is more important than similar activities done during the warmer months. Being a survivor rather than a statistic is most important to you and your family, so making foolish moves while around water is something you need to consider before you make them. No animal, deer, duck, goose, fish, etc. is ever worth you not coming home so learn the ropes necessary to stay safe while in the outdoors and don’t stray from them!

November’s Outdoor Column

When November rolls around the major hunting seasons of deer, upland game, trapping and waterfowl begin to open.

The seasons differ if you live in Illinois or Indiana so hunters need to be aware of the laws that govern their hunt. Your local Big R Stores offer you most everything to outfit your hunt, whether it be clothing, footwear, ammunition, heaters, traps, or items for processing your game. Making the most of your hunt requires preparation prior to the hunt or the setting of a trap-line.

Don’t fall victim to assuming everything you put up last winter is in tip-top shape for this fall. Check every item you are taking with you and make sure it is ready to go before you head out. Tree stands need to be carefully checked. If you are an archery deer hunter you probably have already done that.

If you haven’t done that yet, do it now while you still have time. Most accidents involving a tree stand happen on the way up or the way down. Check your steps going up and down the tree carefully. Check the strength of the limbs you might use to secure yourself climbing up or down. Check the security of the stand itself to make sure bolts or screws haven’t come loose during the months it has set idle.

Waterfowl hunters need to do the same. Many times, these hunters find themselves out in extreme environmental conditions and, if something goes wrong or doesn’t work, the problems begin to mount for the hunter. Trappers need to have their traps ready to go. This means boiling and dyeing the traps and making sure all springs and triggers are working properly.

Scouting is most important in all phases of winter hunting and trapping. If you don’t scout out your area and just go in cold turkey, you may find your hunting or trapping season is over before it starts. Locating sign, finding feeding, roosting and sleeping areas is a must for most forms of hunting. Staking dens and setting wires ahead of the season can making trapping much easier, especially if it turns bitter cold.

Don’t forget the fishing gets good when the water turns cold. November has long been a good month for taking a big bass, walleye, trout or musky. Big fish prowl late looking for that last meal ahead of the hard freeze. Safety is a must during the cold weather whether you are hunting or fishing. Most accidents that happen to the hunter or the angler can be avoided by using a little care. Don’t become a statistic this winter; live to enjoy the spring!