When do Illinois Ladies Bag a GIANT Triple-Spur Turkey?

Answer: During the 2022 Illinois turkey hunting season!

  • 25-pound bird, 12-inch beard, double-triple spurs…UNREAL.
  • Full camo shotgun, full camo boots and garb, 25-yards, aim, squeeze, shot – BANG…BIRD DOWN.
  • A surreal moment after harvest, it will last me FOR ALL TIME.
One proud hunting day for me, kudos to my skilled husband for calling in this bird within my shooting range.

By Dawn Redner, with Forrest Fisher

The Illinois turkey season was open and, honestly, I was itching to get out there. I had a craving for a wild turkey dinner, though as everyone knows, bagging a bird doesn’t happen every season. Hey, I’m an optimist!

We were hunting on our own property, which includes about 12 acres of native forest.  There was something special about this day, though I wasn’t sure what it was. This time, though, I seemed more alert and more ready to hunt than usual.

Maybe it was because this time when I walked into our woods, I thanked the Lord that I can hunt with my husband, Wayne. Also deep in my prayers, I was thinking of my husband’s dad.  Wayne’s dad was always so proud of me for being a girl/woman fisherwoman and huntress. He passed on in March 1993.  We miss him.

As we approached the woods, I was careful to quietly load up my camo-color Remington 11-87.  I slid the Winchester Double-X, 3-inch number 5s in and double-checked my safe. All good. Wayne had the turkey calls with him, we were set to trek in.

In 15 minutes or so, in the dark, we set up in a good-looking woodsy spot. After just a few minutes, a serious gobble echoed off to our left. It was quite a ways off. We looked at each other through our face masks and whispered to consider moving closer. We moved quietly in the direction of the gobble to close the distance. We got as close as we thought we could and set up in a deadfall. While we were moving, we heard him gobble a few more times. We were moving, so we did not call back to him. We thought it was the same bird, the live turkey yak-yak tone sounded similar to the first hearty gobble we had heard. Quietly, we cleared a little brush out of the way and sat down. Wayne gave him a few soft yelps with his Primos Razor Hooks with Bat Cut Mouth Diaphragm.

We got an immediate response!  We waited a minute or two and called again.

We got another response, and he was much closer now.

He was on his way to us!

I lifted my Remington to rest on my knee and waited.

The few minutes felt like an hour as we waited, hoping to see him move into sight and range.

Then, just like that, there he was, only about 25 yards out. I gently slipped the safety off. In range now, I decided to take the shot, gently squeezing the trigger once. After the shot, I couldn’t see him anymore.

So I jumped up and ran to where I thought he should be, worried a bit.

Then, there he was! I had bagged him!

We high-5’d and hugged. Yes! The moment was fantastic!

After another look at the bird, it had funny-looking legs. We discovered he had all those extra spurs.

Three on one leg and two and a nub on the other leg.

He also had a very long beard and he was a pretty large bird.

Later, we measured the beard, it was 12-inches!

The weight scales really gave us an even bigger surprise, 25 pounds!

This was one big beautiful tree chicken.

One big beautiful memory.

I always wanted to get a Pope & Young just for my father-in-law, he might think this hunt came close to that. My husband does!

For me, this whole day will be unforgettable for a lifetime.

The bird was so massage and beautiful. The beard, tail, spurs. Unreal! The biggest bird I have ever seen.

My Gear List:

  • Gun: shotgun, Remington 11-87 Sportsman Camo 20 gauge
  • Ammo: Number 5 Winchester Double X 3-inch
  • Call: Primos Razor Hooks with Bat Cut Diaphragm Mouth Call
  • Turkey Vest: Russell’s Outdoor- Mossy Oak
  • Coat and Pants: Gander Mountain Tech 2.0 Mossy Oak
  • Boots: Cabela’s Dry Plus Pac Boots 2000 gr

 

 

A Lifetime of Blessings – Lady Luck and Annie

The Great Spirit of fishing starts young, if you're a lucky little girl.

  • When do women outfish men?  Chilly air and morning fog make little difference.  
  • Is it luck when you catch a limit…and you are the only woman around?
  • When we talk to ourselves when fishing, are we talking to the fish too? A higher power?
  • Annie shares her experiences and connections on the water…and more. 

By Larry Whiteley

Annie with NASCAR legend Richard Petty.

It’s early morning on the river in Trout Park. The sun is beginning to peek through the forested hills. Annie is at the river’s edge, waiting with rod in hand. She is visiting with the men on both sides of her. It’s a cool morning. Annie is the only woman to brave the chill. The fishermen and one fisherwoman talk about the early spring weather and how they are glad that winter is over.

The rising sun reveals a beautiful fog rising from the water. The siren sounds to signal the anglers they can now start fishing. Annie’s lure is the first one to hit the water. In minutes, she is smiling and bringing a trout to her net. She puts it on a stringer and makes another cast. A few turns of the reel handle, and another trout takes her lure. This one is bigger and pulling line from her reel. It leaps from the water, and Annie shrieks with joy. After a few more jumps, she scoops it up with her net. She admires its beauty, puts it on the stringer and makes another cast. An hour later, she has her daily limit.

Annie knows how to catch big trout.

Several other fishermen who hadn’t been quite as successful came over to congratulate her. One of them asked what kind of lure she was using. She looked at him, smiled and said, “Honey, it’s not the lure that’s catching the fish. It’s this 75-year-old woman using it.” She laughed too, wished them luck and headed for her car. After she put her fish in the cooler, she looked up to the sky and thanked God for this particular time in the outdoors that He created. She also thanked Him for watching over her all these years.

Looking back at the river, she saw an eagle perched in a tree across from where she had been fishing. She remembered her favorite bible verse – “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.” She looked back at the eagle, smiled again and said to herself, “God sent an eagle to watch over me today!”

When she got home, she couldn’t get the eagle out of her mind, so she sat down to read about eagles. One of the things it said was that Native American Indians believe an eagle delivers their prayers to the Great Spirit. They hold an eagle feather aloft as a custom while saying a prayer. To them, the eagle meant strength, wisdom and courage. Annie has needed all those things throughout her life. A tear flowed down her cheek.

Annie was raised in the church and grew up loving the great outdoors. In San Mateo, California, she was born, where her dad worked for United Airlines. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman. Her mom liked to fish too and taught Annie that if you catch them, you clean them.

She loved it when they would travel north to see her grandparents in Ahwahnee, California. Her granddad was a friend of the famous photographer Ansel Adams, who rose to prominence as a photographer of the American West, notably Yosemite National Park, using his iconic black-and-white images to promote the conservation of wilderness areas.

L to R – Annie’s Dad, sister Suzi, Annie, Grandpa, and a bunch of trout.

Her granddad won awards for his photography. She remembers him having a darkroom in their house where he developed the pictures he took while out enjoying nature. Yosemite National Park was just 5 miles from Ahwahnee. The waterfalls, towering granite monoliths, deep valleys and ancient giant sequoias were a big part of her young life. Annie gives credit to her parents and grandparents for her love of the outdoors.

Annie was 9-years old when her dad was transferred by United Airlines to Kansas City, Missouri. Later they bought a home at Lake Waukomis, a town with a great fishing lake. That continued to fuel her love for fishing. One night she set some baited lines off a dock for catfish. She got up early the following day and found she had caught three nice catfish. She knew how to scale and clean other fish but had no idea how to clean a slimy ole’ catfish. So she took them into the bedroom where her dad was still asleep to ask him to help. “He sure wasn’t pleased about it,” said Annie.

They would travel down to Lebanon, Missouri, to visit her Grandma Effie on her mom’s side in the summers. Like most of her family, Grandma Effie was an outdoorsy person too. She took care of a 4-acre garden and still fished. During the depression, she did it to survive, but now she did it for fun and food.

Her Uncle Dale lived next to her grandma. He loved fly fishing and would take Annie along with him. After he caught a fish, he would hand Annie the rod and let her reel it in. “I never got into fly fishing like Uncle Dale,” says Annie. “I just thought, why would I want to cast five times to a fish when I could cast one time and catch it with a regular fishing rod and reel?”

When Annie graduated high school, her dad took her on a Canadian fishing trip with six other men. For seven days they caught and ate walleye. A few years later, her dad was transferred back to California with United Airlines. Her mom got sick, and her dad couldn’t take off work, so it was up to 18-year-old Annie to find them a place to live in San Mateo. She did.

Not long after that, Annie got married. She and her husband Bob lived in the state of Washington, and she traveled with him to Australia and other places. He passed away, but Annie won’t talk about that. After all those years, it still hurts too much. Annie says, “I was blessed with a strong father and a strong husband who said I could do anything, and through God, I can.”

Annie with fishing legend Jimmy Houston.

Annie eventually re-married to another man named Bob, who loved to fish as much as she did. They lived in Warsaw, Missouri, in a lakefront home on Lake of the Ozarks for 28 years. He had his own bass boat, and he got Annie an aluminum fishing boat with a bright yellow life jacket just for her. The yellow life jacket was so if he or neighbors came out looking for her (when she stayed out fishing too long), they could find her a lot easier. She still remembers the elk hunt he took her on and the beautiful Colorado Mountains.

She went fishing without him one day and caught a 13-pound hybrid bass. When she got it on the boat, she started crying. He asked her why she was crying. Through sniffles and tears, she said, “I always had this idea that if I ever caught a bass bigger than 5 or 6 pounds, God would take me home to heaven, so I am sitting here waiting to go.” Her husband said, “I guess God’s not done with you yet because you’re still here.”

After her second husband passed away, she never re-married. She moved to Blytheville, Arkansas and worked at a co-generation plant. When her dad passed away, she moved back to Springfield, Missouri, to take care of her mom. “With God, we can do anything,” says Annie. “He put us here to help one another.”

On May 11, 2011, nearby Joplin, Missouri, was hit by an F5 tornado. The town was devastated. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris started a fundraiser to benefit the disaster victims. They held an auction, and one of the items was a fishing trip with fishing legend Jimmy Houston on a private lake at his ranch in Oklahoma. Her bid won the trip for two. She invited the husband of a friend, who was always helping her, to go along. He was as excited as Annie. They caught well over 100 bass. “Jimmy and his wife Chris are wonderful people and could not have been more hospitable,” says Annie. “It was a sweltering day, and I got a little overheated. Chris went in and got her mamma’s fishing hat and put it on my head to shade me and cool me down. Jimmy and I still text back and forth all the time.”

Like Chris Houston, Annie has a special feeling for our Native Americans. She says her Grandma Effie always said they had Cherokee blood in them, but they have never been able to find absolute proof of that. That belief has been a big part of family stories for many years. A portion of the Cherokee Trail of Tears runs through her cousin’s property near Lebanon, Missouri. She has walked in the footsteps of the Cherokee on parts of the trail. She, like me, believes that this was their land, and we stole it from them. They were not the savages; the white man was. They were trying to protect their land and families.

Annie is a woman with a big heart.

Annie loves her fishing and says she will go anytime, anywhere. But, NASCAR racing comes in a close second. She got the racing bug watching dirt track races near her lake home in Missouri. She was at the race track when Dale Earnhardt died in a crash. She was always a fan of Rusty Wallace because he is a Missouri boy. She has met Tony Stewart several times and also met Richard Petty. I am not sure that I have ever seen her not wearing the Martin Truex Jr. jacket he autographed for her.

She also has agape or unconditional love for her two dogs that rule her life. Sammy is a Shitzu Poodle that adopted Annie in a Walmart parking lot. Callie is a 6-year-old Bushon that was someone’s throwaway dog. Her compassion, though, is not just for her dogs. She also once took a lady into her home that was a throwaway and needed Annie. We will never know how many other people Annie has helped.

Not one to sit around unless it is by a peaceful river, Annie is not accepting growing old. In less than a year, she has walked over 3,006,000 steps enjoying nature. Like she tells people, “You have to stay active mind and body. If not, you rot. You got to enjoy what God gives you. The fresh air in the outdoors has helped keep me well.”

At one time, Annie said she had completed her bucket list with all the places she had been and things she had done. She changed her mind and decided she still wanted to go fishing in Alaska and travel to Florida to walk on a beach looking for seashells.

A few weeks ago, Annie told a few friends sitting at a table in her church that she was leaving to go to Florida the next day. She needed a few days by herself. She was going to check another thing on her bucket list and walk a certain beach on her birthday looking for seashells. One of the men at the table stood up and walked over to Annie. He told her that was the same beach his wife loved to visit. He also said to her that was where he, their kids, and grandkids had gone to leave some of her ashes. He told Annie to say hi to her while she was there. As she stood there crying, Annie told him she would. She also told him she would bring him back a sea shell from that beach. 

Over the trip, one of her friends texted her several times to check on her. She had gotten there safely and enjoyed herself but was not finding any seashells. With only a half-day left before heading home, she ate lunch at a seafood restaurant. A woman came up to her, and they started talking. In their conversation, Annie told her she couldn’t find any seashells and the story of why she wanted to find one to take back home for her friend. The woman smiled and told her to go to a certain place on the beach, and she would see what she was looking for.

Annie finished her lunch and headed to where the lady had told her. She walked and walked. A little ocean kelp weed had washed up on the beach, but that was it. She still couldn’t find any seashells. She was about to give up and get ready to head back home when something caught her eye in the kelp. It was a kelp seed pod shaped like a heart. Annie picked it up and stood there crying, looking up to heaven. She talked to the man’s wife. Annie told her what a good man he was and that he and her family missed her. Then she said that she was taking this special heart-shaped seed pod back to him from her. Annie had found what she was looking for where the woman in the restaurant told her she would.

As Annie started to walk away, she looked down and saw something else in the kelp. She thought it was some kid’s ball they had lost, but it was another seed pod. To Annie, it was a sign that God wanted her to keep on rollin’ and had a lot more living to do. She got into her car and headed home. 

The Sunday after getting back, she got to church and went directly to her table of friends. The man stood to welcome her. Annie tried to tell him her amazing story without crying but couldn’t. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and tears came to the man’s eyes when she told him what had happened. Then she put the heart-shaped seed pod in his hand, and he hugged her. 

Those blessed to know Annie and call her a friend will tell you that Annie has a heart as big as the outdoors she loves. As the Cherokee people would say, ageyn gvdodi equa adanvdo which means, “Annie is a “woman with a big heart.”

 

Anglers’ Best Tool Kit, and Where to Keep It – 3 Essential Tools No Angler Should Be Without

Can't find your Clippers? Not anymore.

  • 3-Tool Package: Scissors, Needle-nose Pliers/Crimpers, Hook Remover 
  • Cut wire, mono, braid easily…and will cut off hook shanks when required
  • High-Quality – priced under $45
Today’s fishermen are gearheads, no doubt about it. There are a myriad of specific rods, reels, lures, terminal tackle, and accessories to help them be successful in freshwater and saltwater, no matter the targeted species. Regardless, there are three tools all anglers should always have – pliers, scissors, and a hook remover. The Anglers’ Best Tool Kit conveniently combines all three, each of the highest quality designed to last a lifetime. All for under $45.
The scissors are razor sharp, with a non-slip handle and are perfect for trimming everything from line tag ends to jig skirts and more. The needle nose pliers are designed as a multi-purpose tool, ideal for everything from crimping to removing lure hooks of all sizes. To accommodate the different types of lines, the pliers are crafted with a special place to cut braided line. A non-slip handle provides a perfect grip at all times. The hook remover in this kit is an oft-overlooked tool that not only makes hook removal quick, safe, and simple, it also helps you remove the hook from fish without hurting the fish itself. It creates less wound and increases the chance of the fish survival rate in water almost significantly. Thus, a fishing hook removal tool helps you to save fish and enjoy the fun of angling at the same time. The Anglers’ Best Tool Kit is sold individually, suggested retail price – $44.99.
Best of all, every tool in the Anglers Best Tool Kit is designed to fit in the Lazy Joe, Anglers’ Best’s patented-designed tackle box and accessory holder that fits around your boat seat pedestal. It keeps your baits and accessories within reach without having to leave your seat or trolling motor. It saves valuable deck space and rotates around the pedestal for easy access to all your tools and accessories.
Tool storage is easy. The Lazy Joe pedestal tool and accessory holder comes standard with three Bait Boxes. Suggested retail price is $149.99.  The weather resistant, angled body keeps the Lazy Joe out of your way while keeping your tools and accessories within reach.

For more information, visit www.anglersbest.com.About Anglers’ Best: Headquartered in Danville, Ala., Anglers’ Best is a designer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art fishing accessories. For additional information on Anglers’ Best write to: Anglers’ Best, 8237 Danville Road, Danville, AL 35619; Call: (833) BAS-SNET or visit www.anglersbest.com.

The “SpoonCrank” Tackle Box provides Tangle-free Lure Access

  • Lure organization for crankbaits and spoons – tangle free lure access means less wasted fishing time
  • Wet protection, rubber seal barrier in the cover
  • Transportation vibration isolation, keeps shiny lures shining
  • Partition by color, size, lure type – store up to 90 spoons or 50 crankbaits, or any combination
This durable box will organize all your lures with room for 50 crankbaits or 90 spoons, or any combination of these two quantities – or more if you double up on some spaces.

By Forrest Fisher

Ever ask yourself, what’s essential in a tackle box? Most fishermen don’t think about it. Most go to the store, search available inventory, then pick out what might work to carry their selection of lures. Anglers usually do not look for separation and organization, and easy access. Now they can get all that in one tackle box. Imagine a tackle box with lure separation, easy one-look fast access, and keeps lures dry even when it’s raining, or the waves are crashing over the sidewall? Not many boxes can do all that. When visiting the Niagara Falls Outdoor Show last year, I found a new tackle box aptly named “The SpoonCrank Box.” This durable box will organize all your lures with room for 50 crankbaits or 90 spoons, or any combination of these two quantities – or more if you double up on some spaces.

The box consolidates the usual wasted tackle box air space of many other tackle boxes with divider separation and wet-protection capability. Nobody needs rusty hooks. Water cannot get into this box with the rubber seal around the inner top cover. Walleye anglers use assorted stickbaits with lots of treble hooks. Bass anglers, too, use lots of crankbaits with multiple treble hooks. They’re all sticky sharp and can catch fingers or other lures easily. The separation dividers provide isolation from travel vibrations that can wear out a shiny lure finish. Spoons big and small, a favorite lure selection for salmon and trout trollers, are aptly and safely stored for easy access in this same box.  

Done fishing? Close the cover; the lures are safe and ready for next time – tangle-free. That’s not all. The box’s top lid provides a hidden compartment for pliers, snippers, clippers, fluorocarbon leader reels, snap clamps, and various personal preference gear. In using the box for a while now, I also discovered one other option.

The “hidden compartment” sits above the lures under the handle.

If I remove some of the vertical separation panels, there is enough space to add two or three small compartment boxes (jig heads, split shot, hooks, etc., and a fishing reel or two. Yep, still all in one package. Of course, I’ve got way too many lures to do that. The box was designed to safely provide lure transportation, protection and access for the focused angler. There is no other box that can safely carry and protect 90 lures in an

organized, easy-to-find and easy-to-remove fashion. The box is high quality, durable, handsome in outdoor marine green color, fully functional, and affordable. The SpoonCrank Box helped to make me, a sometimes messy angler, appear quite organized and systematic.

While I am not usually that way, I have been trying to that my whole life! Worried about security? The box is lockable. You could chain it to your trunk or the boat deck if that was needed. The box is available in two sizes. Visit www.spooncrankbox.com to review size options or to order one.

The bottom line is that you can be a more effective and successful angler when you can find the lure and color pattern you are looking for when you need it. No wasted time.

Get out fishing with a new organized focus! I like this box.  

 

Milford Lake offers Kansas Wonderland for Giant Crappie

Joe Bragg, operator of Thump 30 fishing guide service, scouted Milford Lake for spawning crappie.

Acorns Resort (www.acornsresortkansas.com) is on the Farnum Creek arm of Milford Reservoir, offering cabins, camping, pool, and a restaurant.

By David M. Zumbaugh, images by Jon Blumb

A generous offer for a guided May crappie fishing trip on a premier reservoir in Kansas buoyed my spirits after the restraining misery of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being a long-time member of the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas (OCK) has its privileges! The weather predicted for the weekend was invitingly mild, but was to be accompanied by the classic, relentless, gusting south wind. I packed an assortment of outdoor and camping gear and headed west to Milford Lake, the largest in Kansas, impounding 16,000 acres.

Milford Dam, seen from East Rolling Hills Park, which includes a swimming beach in the foreground, a playground, picnic shelters, two boat ramps, and lots of walk-in access to the water.

The first stop was an enlightening tour of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Milford Lake Fish Hatchery. Pioneering work on the propagation of striped bass, developed here, has been shared with other USA hatcheries to enhance the stocking of many lakes throughout the country, according to hatchery manager Daric Schneidwind.

Daric Schneidewind, Manager of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism’s Milford Fish Hatchery, answered questions from members of the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas.

A tour of the Milford Fish Hatchery was given to the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas by Daric Schneidewind, Manager.

Walleye and other popular sport fishes are grown and distributed from this facility to aquatic impoundments. When they mature to keeper size, they put smiles of delight on many a Kansan face.

For supper, the OCK conference group was invited to an old-fashioned fish fry at Grandpa Boone’s Cabin (www.lakemilford.com) in Milford, Kansas. Ironically, the lake was named after this city, which had to be moved to a new location as the lake was created by damning the Republican River in 1967. Brad Roether is the proprietor of Grandpa Boone’s and the nearby Milford Tropics (a great place for a “cold one”) and the Mayor of Milford too!

Outdoor Communicators of Kansas held their spring business meeting, led by President Nick Neff, at a cabin at Acorns Resort.

It was rewarding to get reacquainted with OCK pals, meet new members, and interface with Michele Stimatze from the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mike Miller, Assistant Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, received a special award for his contributions to the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas.

After a scrumptious meal, our group gathered at Acorns Resort for more camaraderie and a “Bottled in Bond” bourbon tasting session.

Four selections of Kentucky whiskies were featured in a tasting conducted on Friday evening by member Rob McDonald.

While no one over imbibed, I doubt anyone can remember the favored rankings of selected spirits. This resort features cabins of various capacities, an RV park, yurts, boat rentals, The Cove Bar & Grill, and even an events center. A popular place for outdoor recreationists throughout the year for sure.

I arrived at my comfortable Army Corps property campsite at a reasonable hour, only to be disturbed by some happy campers until the wee hours. Unfortunate, as entrepreneur Roether promised to put me on a longbeard at an early hour the following day. He did not disappoint me. With clear eyes and intent mission, I stealthily conspired to slay a gobbler. For temptation, I placed my hen decoy in a newly planted field. 

Soon, two curious Toms espied the imposter and had a contest to see which could puff up the most disgraceful display of feathery testosterone; but the pageantry occurred just out of range. Unluckily, three white-tailed deer browsing for breakfast interrupted the ambush by wheezing and snorting, warning my quarry to safer quarters in the creek bottom. When hope for a turkey dinner faded, I dejectedly trudged out of the woods for a 9 AM rendezvous with Joe Bragg of Thump30 Guide Service (www.thump30.com) to pursue his specialty, crappies.

Photographer Jon Blumb and I were welcomed aboard Joe’s well-fitted, very comfortable boat and prepared to angle for speckled treasure. We did not have to wait long. Joe put us on fish almost immediately, and the bite was intense and frequent. With Buck’s graphite poles rigged with Z-Man jigs, the fish couldn’t resist. In just a few hours, we had enough fish in the cooler to keep us busy at the fillet table, a few whoppers exceeding two pounds.

Bucks Graphite Jig Pole, a favorite of Joe Bragg, is available in 8, 10 and 12 foot lengths.

Other OCK conference attendees were successful landing species Milford is renowned for, including smallmouth bass, walleye, and blue catfish. May is a prime time for hitting Kansas lakes, with both bank fishing and on-the-water opportunities plentiful.

Mike Miller, left, past Secretary/treasurer, received an award for service to the Outdoor Communicators of Kansas, presented by past President Brent Frazee, center, and President Nick Neff, right.

KDWP&T publishes a Fishing Atlas, providing access locations throughout the state, presenting bountiful opportunities regardless of your skill level or favorite fishy preferences. A search of the KDWP&T website will identify kids fishing clinics, always a novel way to introduce youth to the outdoors.

Kansas in spring is a wonderland. Hiking and biking trails abound, along with other popular outdoor pursuits. Paddle sports (kayaks and paddle boards) are gaining momentum with rentals available at various locations, including Council Grove Marina.

Saturday’s creel of crappie, from the boat guided by Joe Bragg, was ready to be cleaned and chilled at Grandpa Boone’s Cabin in Milford, Kansas.
Joe Bragg stretched one of his favorite favorite crappie baits, the Z-Man jig, to demonstrate its amazing strength.

Mushroom hunting in eastern Kansas can be outrageously good. May is a key month for bird migration, and all habitat types are represented, from deciduous forests and marshes to arid grasslands.

More than 450 species have been confirmed in Kansas. Did I mention wild turkeys? While fishing at Milford, bald eagles were competing with us, noisily complaining about our success.

So, get outside and take a field trip to the Sunflower State soon.

Contact Info:

Florida Summer Adventure – VISIT a Sustainable Dairy Farm!

Dakin Dairy Farms is a sustainable farm with a focus on Made-In-America business for many years to come.

  • See and learn where milk comes from, cow to bottle, then taste the real deal.
  • Enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Farm Kitchen and store.
  • Kids can play in the 5-acre picnic area and dig for shark teeth there.

Sunny days in Florida offer a chance for new wild adventure, especially now with alligator mating season in progress (you might find them under your car any day of the week).  My better half and I like excitement, but this time we took to a short and peaceful sort of adventure road trip to Myakka City in Manatee County, Florida. Arriving there we discovered Dakin Dairy Farms – a sustainable family dairy farm of about 1,200 acres. It’s a place where kids can learn learn where milk comes from, how milk travels from the cow to the bottle, and then taste the difference of truly fresh milk from Dakin.

Sustainable dairy farming is a new way for farming to continue in America, Dakin Farms is on the leading edge.

They process and sell their own milk and cheese products, and offer tours to the public (re-starting in Oct-2021). In their Farm Market Store, you may purchase delicious cheeses, milk, and butter. The Farm Market Café is open year round and serves delicious meals that are sure to leave you feeling happy.

The Dakin Dairy Farm occupies more than 1,200 acres near Myakka City, in Southwest Florida.

At their farm site, visitors can find a 5-acre family picnic area/petting zoo with tables, baby cows (more than 30 baby cows are born each month!), goats (2 baby goats were born on Valentine’s Day), and a not-so-big earth hill where kids can dig for ancient shark teeth. Everyone is looking to find a Megalodon tooth, the biggest of fossilized shark teeth from whale-eating sharks that roamed the seas about 10-20 million years ago.

The picnic area includes tables for family seating, and much more for kids to enjoy while exploring a dairy farm.

The best part? Their kitchen nook! A lengthy breakfast and lunch menu at really affordable prices for VERY generous portions. We tested some of the items out for taste – try their Reuben Sandwich, it was delicious!

We met the general manager, Courtney, who explained the operation of the farm, their large number of cows and other farm animals, their roadway dirt -fill provision capability for county highway crews, and the function of the kitchen, gift shop and children’s picnic area.  We then met the chef and storekeeper, Russell, who explained some of his cooking secrets not to be shared in this venue, but you could stop in there and see for yourself.

It was a very relaxing morning! Their delicious products are carried in Publix, Detweiler’s and many other south Florida area stores. Learn more about Dakin Dairy Farms when you visit this Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/DakinDairyFarm.

The famous Dakin Dairy Farm Tours will restart beginning in October 2021.

Snake Boots FIGHT the SWEAT & the BITE

Lightweight Snake Boots that eliminate sweat! Irish Setter Boots.

Not many folks think about snake boots for hunting with sweat and scent control, but if you hunt or live in areas where the heat index soars to above 110 degrees, you really do need to consider this primary element for a successful hunting experience.

On this note, I found the MudTrek snake boots from Irish Setter to accomplish scent and sweat control for your feet while staying protected from venomous eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and cottonmouth water snakes that we have in Southwest Florida.

The Irish Setter TempSens technology helps regulate the temperature within the boot to maintain constant foot comfort. The system reacts, so moisture is hyper-wicked away from the foot in hot conditions, allowing for evaporative cooling. This helps keep feet cooler, drier and comfortable. In colder conditions, the system also pulls moisture from the skin but traps it to create a thermal barrier that helps maintain a constant, comfortable temperature inside the boot. Warm or cold, the ScentBan™ antimicrobial scent control helps eliminates odors within the boot. I found all-day underfoot comfort with these “safety boots” and excellent traction in slick or tough-walking terrain. The self-cleaning lugs help remove mud and dirt with every step. The vulcanized rubber upper design makes them waterproof and durable.

Also important, these snake boots are light, and they offer a traditional, roomier full fit with a wider leg and ankle openings. And, there is a convenient side zipper for easy on/off. I need that (I have big feet!). They are 17-inches high and are vulcanized rubber in a brown color boot design that features foot and lower leg comfort with resistance to fangs and thorns. These elements make the Irish Setter SnakeGuard boots the essential comfort tool for hunters and hikers in snake country. They cost about $230; visit www.irishsetterboots.com to learn more.

A Talk with Dad

  • Was it the owls and crickets, or the stream flowing nearby…that brought dad back into mind?
  • The old days and the days of today, there was love in both places, but so different.
  • It’s something about campfire smoke in the morning at sunrise, it makes your eyes wanna cry.

By Larry Whiteley   

He woke up from a good night’s sleep and lay there in his tent, listening to owls hooting and crickets chirping. For some reason, he got to thinking about his Dad. “Haven’t done that in a long time,” he thought to himself. He slipped out of his sleeping bag, put on some clothes, and went out into the early morning.

There were still a few hot coals in the campfire, so he added some kindling, blew on the coals, and the fire came to life again. He gradually added bigger sticks until the fire was ready for his coffee pot on the grate. As he waited, he looked up to see stars still twinkling and listened to the sounds of flowing water in the nearby creek. He enjoyed his time alone in the outdoors, but he was beginning to miss his wife and family.

Maybe that’s why his Dad kept sneaking into his thoughts that morning. His Dad had been gone for many years, but there were things he needed to say to him and never had. It was a good time to do that. To tell him something that had been in his heart and mind for a long, long time. And, no one was around to think he was crazy talking to someone that wasn’t there.  

You know, Dad, I don’t remember you ever telling me you loved me. I don’t remember you ever putting your arms around me and hugging me. I’m sorry, but it’s hard for me to tell you I love you when I never heard or felt it from you. I realize now that your father never did that with you, so you didn’t know-how. That’s probably the way he grew up, so he didn’t know how either.

All I remember about Grandpa is he never smiled. He never seemed happy. I guess his Dad was probably that way, too, so not showing someone you loved them got passed down to you. I wish it had been different, but it wasn’t. Excuse me for a minute, smoke from this campfire must have got in my eyes.

I do remember the only time you took me fishing. You and my other Grandpa took me along to the river with you. But you never let me fish and never tried to show me how. I do remember getting in trouble for throwing rocks in the water. I also remember the turtle I hid from you because I was afraid if you found out I snuck it back home with me, I would get in trouble again.

That was when we lived with Grandma and Grandpa down on the farm. I don’t remember you doing much with me as I grew up there. You worked for the railroad and were gone a lot. Mom worked in town, and grandma was always busy helping with chores and cooking our meals. At least she would take the time to put her arms around me and kiss me on the head once in a while. I loved her smile. Grandpa had to milk the cows, feed the pigs, butcher the hogs, cut and put up the hay, fix what was broken, and a lot of other stuff, so he didn’t have much time for me either.

When I was young, I spent a lot of time by myself wandering the fields and forests around the farm. I remember pretending to be a soldier like you were. My imagination had me fighting the Germans. When I wasn’t fighting them, I was dodging arrows from the Indians and riding off on my horse. You weren’t around to see me doing that, Dad.

When I got old enough to help around the farm, I gathered the eggs for grandma and helped her pluck the chickens. Grandpa taught me how to milk the cows by hand and take a bucket to the spring to haul water back for grandma. He never said thanks, but at least I got a pat once in a while. That’s something I never got from you, Dad, but I know you were busy working. Wow, smoke’s getting in my eyes again.

Two things happened during that time that would eventually end up being a big part of my life. When I got my work done, Grandpa would let me use his old fishing rod, and I went off and taught myself how to fish. Later he let me use his old .22 rifle, and I became a hunter. The love I was seeking from you, I found in the great outdoors. 

Were you proud of me when I joined the military, Dad? I wrote you, but I don’t think I got any letters back. Guess you were too busy. I’ll be right back. This campfire smoke is nasty. Got to blow my nose and wipe my eyes.

O.K., where was I? Oh yeah, were you there when I got married? I don’t remember that either. Like you, I made mistakes too, and for that, I am deeply sorry. God forgave me, and I forgive you, Dad. 

My wife and I tell our kids and grandkids we love them, and we hug them. That’s important in today’s world. They have grown up fishing, hunting, camping, and in church. It has helped shape them into the good adults and young people they are. They have a lot of happy memories. Our kids have passed it on to their kids, and they too will pass it on to their kids and grandkids. You will be glad to know that the chain is broken. What a better world it would be if all kids grew up knowing that they are loved. It would be even better if kids grew up learning to enjoy God’s great outdoors and all it has to offer. It changes lives.

Well, I have to go now. My son and grandson will be here in a little while, and we’re going fishing. I’m glad we had this talk, Dad. I’ve been needing to do this for a long time. 

He finished his coffee, wiped his eyes one last time, smiled, and started getting his fishing stuff together.

 

 

Bass Bite Begins – Steelhead, Lake Trout and Browns offer Tough Bite in Lower Niagara River

Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River smallmouth on a jigging spoon.

  • Warm weather has encouraged anglers to visit waterways in boats and from shore.
  • Lack of rain and runoff have allowed extremely clear water conditions – it’s a tough bite on those days.
  • Lake trout, steelhead, brown trout and smallmouth bass have all been landed by fishermen, though. 
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 24, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA

Andrew Bartlett of Lockport with a steelhead from the lower river he caught fishing with Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane. 

Unseasonably high temperatures have brought out the fishermen to the streams and on Lake Ontario. Some boats have started to work the waters in the main lake. Remember that if your boat is less than 21 foot in length, everyone on board should have a personal flotation device on (wearing it) until May 1.

Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane reports he did well catching brown trout and lake trout out of Olcott last Sunday. The lake is warming up already, at 36 to 38 degrees. The brown trout fishing now is tough due to the lack of rainfall/runoff making the inside waters really clear according to Oakes. If possible, try and find some dirty water if looking for browns says Oakes. Best baits for browns are stickbaits and smaller spoons.

Capt. Joe Oakes of Newfane with an Olcott lake trout.

The lake trout action is extremely good right now between 50 and 100 feet. Any lure with some flash will work if fished towards the bottom. Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown reports he fished the lake on the Niagara Bar the last two days and did well. The brown bite is slow right now, though. A few bites early then it shuts off. The water is clear and cold, 36-37 degrees according to Yablonsky.  The laker bite between the green and red can on the Niagara Bar is good.  MagLips on 3-way rigs or trolling with spoons on riggers and divers has been working well. In the river, Yablonsky reports the bite is pretty much non-existent for boaters. With the fish spawning and the crystal-clear water conditions, the bite is tough.

In the streams, Jim Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott reports there is good trout action at Burt Dam, some fish are being caught off the piers in both, Wilson and Olcott.  Olcott harbor is producing steelhead and perch with minnows.

Despite clear conditions, Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls caught some dandy steelhead – like this one – in the lower Niagara River. He was using a homemade jig. 

In other tributaries, Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that the streams have been reduced to a very slow pick of scattered singles. There has been no rain or meaningful snow melt in 2 weeks. Warm weather and low, clear creek conditions have created full on spring conditions early this year. That could all change with a warm rain Friday. That should bring in more steelhead, as well as smallmouth bass.

Mark your calendars for the Niagara County Bullhead Tournament set for April 9-11, 2021. This is shore fishing only. Best 2 bullheads total weight wins the prizes. Weigh in on Sunday at the Wilson Conservation Club. For more info call Eric at 628-6078.

The LOTSA pen rearing project work party is at the Town of Newfane Marina at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 27.

The big news for next week is that the NYPA fishing platform, as well as the other NYPA fishing facilities (Reservoir and upper river at the Water Intakes) – they will open on April 1. They hope to have the elevator working, too, on the platform, but no guarantees.

Action has been slow in the lower Niagara River according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle.  The main reason is clear water.  The rain in the forecast for later this week should help.

Shore anglers are using spoons, spinners, and jigs. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports catching 3 steelhead on Sunday, all above the whirlpool.  All were taken on homemade white and silver jigs. Water was low and slow with at least 7 to 8 feet of visibility.

No reports on smelt yet. Brendan Walsh of Niagara Falls was in search of smallmouth bass and found some bass using a jigging spoon over the weekend in the lower.  Remember that for almost all locations around the state, it’s catch and release with artificial lures only…if you are targeting bass.

We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope. Click here for our video message.

Tom McKelvey of Long Island with a big Lake Ontario brown trout he caught fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown this week. 

Frank Campbell – Director, Outdoor Promotions
Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Firearm Industry Economic Impact RISES 232% since 2008

National Shooting Sports Association Photo

  • Total economic impact for the USA firearm and ammunition industry increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $63.5 billion in 2019.
  • Some 342,330 full time jobs are supported by the firearm industry, averaging $56,400 each, in wages and benefits in our economy.
  • Over 100 hundred million law-abiding Americans rely upon the firearms and ammunition industry to  to safely enjoy the recreational shooting sports, as they exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

National Shooting Sports Association Illustration

St. Patrick’s Day 2021 brings us stunning data regarding positive economic news from the firearm industry. Just released in a report from the National Shooting Sports Association (NSSF) – the total economic impact of the firearm and ammunition industry in the United States increased from $19.1 billion in 2008 to $63.5 billion in 2019, a 232 percent increase! The total number of full-time equivalent jobs rose from approximately 166,000 to over 342,330, a 106 percent increase. The data is according to a report released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation®, the industry’s trade association.

On a year-over-year basis, the industry’s economic impact rose from $60 billion in 2019, to $63.5 billion in 2020. Total jobs increased by more than 10,000 in the same period, from nearly 332,000, to over 342,330. The broader impact of the industry throughout the economy, supports and generates business for firms seemingly unrelated to firearms, at a time when every job in America counts. These are real people, with real jobs, working in industries as varied as banking, retail, accounting, metal working and printing among others.

The firearm and ammunition industry paid nearly $7 billion in business taxes, including property, income and sales-based levies.

“The firearm industry has demonstrated amazing resilience and these economic impact figures are the result of every man and woman who comprise our industry,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. “These professionals are the reason our industry continues to grow and contribute to our communities, states and nation. These workers and our member companies produce the highest quality firearms and ammunition that over a hundred million law-abiding Americans rely upon to exercise their right to keep and bear arms and safely enjoy the recreational shooting sports. This growth equals more jobs that add to our local economies, averaging $56,400 in wages and benefits. Since 2008 we increased federal tax payments by 170 percent, Pittman-Robertson excise taxes that support wildlife conservation by 89 percent and state business taxes by 125 percent.”

Data supplied by National Shooting Sports Association

The Firearm and Ammunition Industry Economic Impact Report provides a state-by-state breakdown of job numbers, wages and output covering direct, supplier and induced employment, as well as federal excise taxes paid. Access the full report here.

About NSSF: Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide.  NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry.  Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. For more information, visit nssf.org.

At Niagara Falls, USA – Steelhead Bite is Good, but use Long, Clear Leaders

Gary Hall of Niagara Falls with a chunky lower Niagara River steelhead caught over the weekend. Capt. Frank Campbell photo

  • Niagara River is fishable, clear water and mild temps beckon to attract more angler action
  • Longer fluorocarbon leaders help get Steelhead bites for boaters.
  • Smaller Lake Ontario tributaries of Niagara County, NY are holding trout when weather allows shore angler access
  • Fishing Forecast for March 17, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA

Kerry Dillon of New Jersey caught this fine steelhead in the lower Niagara River this week fishing with Capt. Ted Kessler of Grand Island. 

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

With the arrival of spring this coming Saturday, March 20, it will not be long before area foliage will be turning green. We have more mild temperatures in the forecast and there are rumblings that the ice boom off Buffalo may be coming out soon – another sure sign of Spring.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught 3 nice steelhead like this one using a No. 4 spinner on Tuesday. 

In the Niagara River, action has been tough due to clear water conditions. Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston reiterated that, combined with some cold north winds making fishing that much more difficult.

From shore, Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reported 7 to 8 feet of water clarity on Tuesday, and he used No. 4 spinners to take 3 steelhead in a couple of hours.

In boats, Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports that he has been out twice the past week and that bucktail jigs have been really working well for chrome, catching two rainbows and a steelhead in the Whirlpool and beyond. In some back eddy pockets, water is crazy clear at 6 feet plus. Down river of the power plant it is a little more stained, but still clear. All these days with the southwest and west wind gusts have been making it tough to drift bounce. Jigs in orange and white and all-white jigs have been working for Ziehm. Water seems to be getting clearer with each passing day.

It has been a bit tough for the boaters, according to Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston. Minnows were working well for him over the weekend on Saturday. With super clear conditions, extend your leader a bit longer and use fluorocarbon line. Smaller hooks when using egg sacs or minnows will help with hook-ups. Sunday it was a different story as fishing became much tougher.

The Niagara Bar has been yielding some brown trout and lake trout when the north wind is not blowing.

Clint Bentley of Rochester caught a couple big steelhead in the lower Niagara River fishing with Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston. 

Remember that walleye season is now closed. It reopens on May 1.

Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle reports that some of the smaller tributaries along Lake Ontario are holding trout. Steelhead fishing at Burt Dam and 18 Mile Creek has been decent according to Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors in Olcott. Egg sacs or egg imitations are good baits to start with.

The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association will be getting their salmon and trout pens ready for DEC stocking on March 27 at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott starting at 9:30 a.m. Normally they would ready the pens the first weekend in April, but that is Easter weekend this year. Bring wire cutters.

On another note, the first week in April is normally when Hyde Park Lake and Oppenheim Park Pond are stocked with trout by DEC, but there will not be a formal announcement prior to the stocking to avoid crowds due to Covid. These waterways will be stocked some time in early April.

Frank Campbell – Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
We know that brighter days are ahead. Until then, let us be your destination of hope.

Fish-Catching, Beaches, Baseball and Sunshine. A GOOD Winter Day!  

Fishing for Saltwater Gamefish near Fort Myers, Florida, in the Winter.

  • The conjunction of natural creeks and man-made canals in the Fort Myers saltwater canal system are where big fish can hide.
  • Circle Hooks allow for easy presentation of live forage bait and quick release of gamefish.
  • After you hook a few trees, then catch a few fish, the positive state-of-mind begins to form for the next fish. The fun begins!

Rich Perez with a young snook taken from a canal waterway off the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, FL. The fish was held gently and carefully released a few seconds after being out of the water.

By Forrest Fisher

Within the bustling livelihood of Fort Myers in Lee County, Florida, the Caloosahatchee River and its many tributaries form a network of lush vegetation and age-old mangroves within the fertile canal systems found here.

The eddy currents formed at the conjunction of natural creeks and man-made canals often allow the tidal flow to create deep pockets where big fish can hide. The constant tide reversal and related current changes beckon to schools of forage stocks to find relative safety among the mangrove roots, with the occasional live oak tree acting as a mangrove bundle anchor. The big fish in the area know the forage is among the roots, as snook, redfish, speckled trout, tarpon, and other species often spend feeding time here. There is magic to be found in this silent and peaceful water flow system.

For the fish, it’s breakfast and dinner with a menu. For the anglers that can learn the secrets of tidal flow profile, consistent fish-catching adventures await them.

A power-pole makes anchoring in the canal system easy and silent – that makes fishing more fun.

A decades-long Floridian, humble Rich Perez shared with me that he is new to saltwater fishing, but with a confident voice, added that he is learning more from savvy fishing friends each day he can make it to water. A busy family man, when time allows, he explores new fishing areas and generally reverts to time-tested live bait methods. Using Circle Hooks to present wriggling live shrimp or live forage minnow bait, such as pinfish, he knows it’s easy to verify that a spot may or may not hold fish with live bait. With the minnow bait, he carefully threads the Circle Hook through the hard-nose area to keep the bait alive and in the free-swimming state. Perez says,” I’ve learned that this is the ultimate live bait meal method to use for roaming gamefish, sometimes, really big gamefish.” He catches fish often.

First, though, besides learning to be a perceptive fisherman, he is a hard-worker. He believes that good fishermen should catch their own live bait. They don’t go the easy way and just buy it. So he has practiced hard and learned to throw a 12-ft cast net. Of course, succeeding in this native art form of bait-catching is not painless. It takes time to practice, with a skill developed over time. He’s been doing it for 3 years now and is tossing near-perfect circles to 15 feet from the boat. He admits that he visits the local live bait supply shops on some days with his busy work schedules.

“With a full baitwell, you can ensure your bait is fresh and enjoy perfect live bait presentations no matter where you explore new areas. I like to invite friends and family out fishing too, so I try to make sure the baitwell is well-stocked. It’s not always easy to find the forage, but eventually, with some patience, you do find ’em. I look for diving birds or surface ruffles to find the forage schools, that’s the easy way.” 

With a 7-ft semi-stiff fishing rod, medium power, Perez uses Penn 40-series open-face fishing reels loaded with 20-pound braid and a 2-ft long/30-pound fluoro leader tied to a 2/0 or 3/0 Circle Hook. He doesn’t lose fish, day or night. “The hardest part for most newbies like me is casting precision. You really gotta get the bait right alongside the edge of the mangroves, especially during daytime. The fish are usually there with an incoming tide current,” Perez adds.

Perez continues, “Sometimes we catch yearlings, other times we catch old fish, big fish, all with this simple, uncomplicated live bait system. We release all the gamefish to live another day. It’s great fun and even more fun to watch my dad or friends land a nice fish…or catch a big mangrove treetop. We laugh a lot. We joke about who caught the biggest tree for the day. With the fish, we take a quick picture and watch the fish swim back home. It’s a good feeling.” 

Perez throws a 12-ft cast net to catch live forage bait, though this native art form takes time and practice to develop effective skill.

Over the day, Perez shared that good fishing is really a matter of gaining enough confidence to make that perfect cast every time. After you hook a few trees and then catch a few fish, the positive state-of-mind fun begins to form for the next fish, even the next trip.”

I could not agree more that good fishing is a state of mind. When it happens to you, it’s a sure thing that the next trip is not too far away.

This Fort Myers area is home to a fleet of charter captains and fishing guides that share their skills in the nearshore waters and far offshore. To discover more about the outdoor adventure and pristine beaches found here, or to just rest for a few nights between fishing fun, you can request a free guidebook from the visitor’s bureau online at https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/order-travelers-guide, or call toll-free, 1-800-237-6444.

There’s more than fishing too. During March, near Fort Myers and Sanibel Island’s Beaches, the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins are back for spring training and competition in the Grapefruit League. I love baseball! The Lee County Visitor Bureau also has a free mobile savings passport for locals and visitors with access to exclusive deals on attractions, restaurants, and experiences here. Sign up at https://explore.fortmyers-sanibel.com. The passport will be delivered to your mobile phone via text. Redeem it on your mobile phone at participating businesses. Pretty cool.

Fish on!

One Man – His Fishing, His Family, His Favorite Boat

  • 64-year-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat looks and works even better now than it did in 1957!
  • Memories are one key to future fishing fun, make them with your family
  • Humble Pat Richardson has won 43 fishing tournaments, his story follows

Humble, but savvy angler and friend of the outdoors, Pat Richardson, is ready to cast a line from his age-old Polar Kraft Jon Boat. 

By David Gray

One thing can be said about the sport of fishing, it doesn’t take long for extraordinary memories to start. Pat Richardson, a fisherman from Louisiana, will be a young 80 years of age in April this year. Like many of us that enjoy a passion for fishing, he remembers his early start with squirming fish from a very young age.  His introduction to fishing came at age 5 when he participated in an annual family tradition.  Pat’s Dad fished, but it was his Mom who really got him started as a fisherman. “Mom liked to fish, and she always used a cane pole.” Every Good Friday, the family would gather at the Bayou with cane poles, lines, hooks, and worms.  The fishing fun started upon arrival, and after catching enough Bream, everyone headed for the traditional family fish fry.  Delicious.

While Pat has enough fond family fishing memories to fill volumes, he went ahead from those early years to make new ones.  Pat used his cane pole to fish until he was 14, that’s when he got his first store-bought sport rod.  It was a fly rod.  When asked why not a casting rod? Pat said, “Back then, casting reels and glass casting rods cost more.” The fly rods and reels were in his price range.  Pat noted that first fly rod is gone, but he still has that fly reel in the original box with a price tag that says $1.05.  The whole rig, 8-foot rod, reel, line, and tippets went for $7.50.  It was easy to catch Bream on the fly rod, but catching Bass on it was another thing.

It wasn’t long before some Fenwick casting rod blanks became available. A friend wrapped them up and Pat went in search of Bass with casting gear. The challenge, then, was that Bass were not as easy to catch as Bream.  So Pat began paying attention when and why he caught them on some trips and not on others.  With special consideration to details and conditions, he learned more.  The more fishing logic he acquired, the more Bass he caught.  Pat said, “Dad was a kind of fair weather fisherman, but when the bite was on, he liked to go, so I would take him.”

We were fishing in old wooden boats back then.  You know the type—paddle some, bail some, fish some – the whole day.

One day Dad surprised us by saying, “You boys (3 brothers) love to fish, and I am going to buy you a good boat. They are making boats out of metal now, and we are going to get one.”  Off they went to the Western Auto Store in Gonzales, La.  Dad negotiated for a new 14-foot Polar Kraft Bateau, a 12Hp Wizard outboard, 2 life-preservers, and a paddle.  All for $300 – the year was 1957. For those not blessed in the language of the Louisiana Bayou, a Bateau is a flat bottom Jon boat.

Following the initial clean-up and restoration process, the Polar Kraft Bateau (Jon Boat), is ready for paint and new gear.

That Polar Kraft Bateau served them well.  The boat helped Pat learn more about how to catch Bass.  Pat got quite good at catching Bass, so he decided to try fishing tournaments.  At first, they were “Fruit Jar” tournaments.  All the anglers gathered at the launch ramp Friday evening and put $10 in the fruit jar.  They launched, and the tournament weighed in at midnight. The winner got the jar.

Pat needed a boat upgrade to fish bigger tournaments so a bass boat with a 45hp outboard was purchased. The Polar Kraft Bateau was retired to the back of the backyard.  Pat won 43 open tournaments in the next 8-year period.  Pat also joined a Bass Club and took first in 11 tournaments and second or third in 7.  Pat said, “At one of those tournaments, I took first place, big Bass for the tournament and big Bass for the year.  Then the club switched all their tournaments to Sunday.  I never fish on Sunday, and the club knew that, so I guess it was a polite way to ask me to look for another club. I got my son, Patrick Wayne, fishing and at 14 he fished his first tournament with me.  I like fishing tournaments, but it was never about the money. It was the competition and camaraderie that made it fun for me.  Because it was fun, I kept entering open bass tournaments and did pretty well. Well enough that it caught the attention of some sponsors.  My last tournament rig had a 225HP motor. Quite different from the 12 HP Wizard on the Bateau from which I learned so much about Bass fishing.

One day I got to thinking about the Bateau.  We had caught thousands of fish, literally tons and tons of fish out of the Bateau.  Bream, Gar, Bass, and when not fishing, we used it for pleasure cruising.  The Bateau was a family heirloom, a part of our family, and I thought about it lying in the backyard with junk piled all over it.  So in 2019, I decided to pull this 60-year-old Polar Kraft out of the pile and see what shape it was in.

I took it to the welding shop and was sure it needed a new wood transom board.  I asked them to check the entire hull and fix everything and anything needed to get it back in the water.

When I went to pick it up, the shop said, “This was a well-built boat.  We only had to replace 3 rivets and tightened 6 others.” That was all it needed.  The 60-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau was ready to fish.

But Pat decided that was not enough.  He would totally upgrade up. “I decided I wanted to convert to bass boat style and dedicate it to Dad, who took us to buy it.  The family approved of the dedication idea to Dad. We added fishing decks, Bass Boat seats, a new 20Hp Merc 4-stroke electric start, Xi3 trolling motor, bilge pump, and a Lowrance sonar with map. My Dad’s name was Clyde, he died in 1976, so we all agreed to name the boat after him and to honor his US Navy military service. So we added Mr. Clyde and Pacific Theater 1944 and 1945 to the new paint scheme.

At 64-years young (old for a boat!), the famed childhood Polar Kraft Jon Boat is restored and ready for the water – the high hand rail is an aid for access and exit at the dock for Pat Richardson.

This 63-year-old Polar Kraft Bateau is not only seaworthy, but it was ready to help us catch thousands and thousands more fish. I added a hoop hand-rail to help me get in and out of the boat, at my age, when I’m at the dock.”

Pat added, “It is those fond old memories of family tradition and fishing competition that helps me share that love for squirming fish and free fun on the water with family and friends, and others. Remember this, if you don’t have family, you don’t have anything.”

Author Note: Special thanks to Kristen Monroe for details and interviews noted in this story.

Browning Maxus II – Autoloading Rifled Deer Shotgun

This new Browning shotgun has a number of features that elevate it above run-of-the-mill deer hunting shotguns. For 2021, the evolutionary new Maxus II sets its sights on whitetails with a Rifled Deer model.

The Maxus II is a fast-handling autoloading shotgun designed for hunting deer with a fully rifled barrel for accurate use with slugs.

A 22″ long, thick-walled rifled barrel includes an attached, cantilever Weaver-style sight rail that makes attaching optics and cleaning the shotgun without affecting zero a snap. Always important to accurate shooting, the Maxus II Rifled Deer features the precision Lightning Trigger that offers a lighter, crisper pull with less overtravel than other designs. Hard-hitting 12-gauge, 3″ slug ammunition is ably cycled by the proven reliable Power Drive Gas System.

The Maxus II Rifled Deer also includes a new stock design with a straight heel buttstock that allows for customizing the length of pull by either adding spacers or trimming the stock down. The 1 ½” thick Inflex recoil pad features directional deflection and is coupled with the new SoftFlex™ cheekpad, both of which are designed to soften recoil against your shoulder and face. Rubber over-molded panels on the pistol grip and forearm improve grip and feel. Enhanced operational features include an enlarged trigger guard that is ramped for fast loading, oversized bolt handle and release that are easier to use and a traditional threaded magazine cap. The raised rib sight picture and flat point of impact puts shooters on target faster and more consistently. To learn more about the features and specs and to access downloadable hi res images please visit:

Maxus II Shotguns

Maxus II Rifled Deer

Features:

  • Mossy Oak® New-Break-Up Country® camo finish
  • 22″, thick wall, fully rifled barrel for use with slugs
  • Cantilever, Weaver®-style scope mount for easy optics attachment
  • New SoftFlex™ cheekpad increases shooting comfort
  • New oversized bolt release and bolt handle
  • New composite stock can be trimmed and is shim adjustable for cast, drop and length of pull
  • New rubber overmolding on stock and forearm add grip in all conditions
  • New trigger guard is ramped for easier loading
  • Nickel Teflon™ coating on the bolt, bolt slide, shell carrier and bolt release
  • ABS hard case included

For more information on Browning products, please visit browning.com.

Delicious Venison Gumbo – for 10

By Fern Fisher

The perfect quick-to-make meal for Super Bowl Sunday, or any other day. Most everyone has these simple ingredients in their everyday pantry.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground venison
  • 6 cups of diced (3/8 inch) white potatoes
  • 2 cups diced sweet white onion
  • 2 cups sliced celery
  • 2 cups sliced carrots
  • 2 TBS minced garlic
  • 1 TBS table salt
  • 1 TBS black pepper
  • 1 TBS basil
  • 3 TBS salted butter
  • Two 15 oz cans of black beans
  • One 15 oz can of cannoli beans
  • One 15 oz can of sweet corn
  • One (1) 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • One (1) 28 oz can of plum tomatoes
  • One (1) 24 oz can of spaghetti sauce
  • 16 oz box of Rotini noodles

Cooking Instructions: Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, 1 cup of diced onion and 1 TBS minced garlic to a 2-gallon cooking pot. Add enough water to cover the mix by 2 inches or so. Add 2 TBS of butter, salt, pepper, and bring to a boil. Set to simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are soft.

In a large fry pan, add the burger, 1 cup of onion, 1 TBS butter, 1 TBS garlic, a dash of salt and pepper, and about 3-4 TBS of water, and cover. Cook to a gentle steaming simmer until the burger is browned. Add the burger to the potato cooking pot.

Now add the tomatoes and sauce, cover. After reaching a gentle boil, add the black beans, cannoli beans, sweet corn and Rotini noodles. Bring back to a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked and expanded. If not, simmer a bit longer. The noodles absorb the watery flavored liquids and add gentle chewy stock to the gumbo.

Serve: Spoon it out to a large coffee cup or soup bowl. Add a slice or buttered bread or a sliced roll.

Enjoy. Delicious!

Winter Contest Idea…to Increase Fish Line Recycling – $30,000 in CASH PRIZES!

  • $30,000 in cash prizes on the line for best solutions

Ever wonder what happens to the discarded fishing line you put inside this recycling tube? It’s not pretty, according to BoatUS Foundation. But maybe you have a solution.

Winter is annual maintenance time for many anglers. Re-spooling with new line is a must-do task. Ever thought about what happens once you dispose of the old line in a fishing line recycling tube?

It’s not pretty. Turning fishing line into new products is labor-intensive, requiring a series of workers to manually comb through, sort, clean, remove hooks and weights, and separate out miles of encrusted debris in entangled fishing line. So as you pile up a few reels of line to be recycled this winter, the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water is asking for your ideas on how to help grow the volume of line recycled each year.

Teaming up with fishing tackle company Berkley, the BoatUS Foundation’s Recast & Recycle Contest seeks out new ideas and improvements to the process, new ideas for recycled products, or technology breakthroughs for the current process that will increase the volume of line and soft baits that are recycled. Entry is simple – all you have to do is send a short video or one-page summary explaining your idea. Thirty thousand dollars in prize money is at stake for the three best ideas submitted through May 14, 2021.

“It’s great that anglers recycle,” said BoatUS Foundation Director of Outreach Alanna Keating. “Now we need to ask for help with scaling up recycling with a greater volume of line, whether it’s a time- and labor-saving process improvement or creating a new market to fully sustain recycling efforts.”

Judges will add weight to contest submissions that actually work, are practical, innovative, and have the potential to have a significant impact.

The first-place prize is $15,000, second place receives $10,000, and $5,000 will be awarded for third place. Contest submissions can address any part of the process (or multiple parts) of taking discarded fishing line and soft plastics from end of life to a new beginning. Professionals, amateurs and students alike are encouraged to apply, as are school teams and groups. Contest entries can be submitted with as little as a link to a video demonstration of the idea or a one-page graphic summary. Videos are limited to 4 minutes.

Contest rules and conditions, details on the current recycling process and videos on how various plastics and soft baits are recycled can be found at the Recast & Recycle website BoatUS.org/Contest.

Shark Teeth, Beach Treasure for Fun in the Sun…from Ancient times

  • HOW and WHERE to find them ON THE BEACH – 5 Methods
  • Shark Teeth found on the beach are fossilized – 10,000 to 15 million years old!
  • Back to the Future…fun on the beaches at Manatee Key in Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida beach shark teeth are found in all colors and sizes, drawing the attention of beachgoers from near and far. Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher
There are shark teeth to be found all over the world.  If you are looking for a great place to spend the day frolicking in the Gulf of Mexico, lying in the sun, taking a long walk at water’s edge and looking for the treasure of fossilized shark teeth, here are a few tips on what, where, and how.

Shark Teeth are a precious authentic prize for vacationing visitors to Southwest Florida.  You can find them on your own, it’s fun, and it’s the best excuse to RE-VISIT the beaches…”TREASURE!”  If you are new to shark tooth treasure hunting, here is some advice on gear, methods to use, and places to go.

Gear: For first-timers that want to stay very affordable, visit a local store to buy a (noodle strainer) colander ($1-$3).  If you want to spend a bit more, visit a local beach store to purchase a “sand flea scooper” with ¼ inch mesh ($10-$20). Folks use the colander or sand flea scoopers to scoop the surf for shark teeth. Of course, you can also just pick up shark teeth when you see them at the top of the surf on the beach with your bare hands. Lastly, carry an empty prescription jar or plastic bag to store your shark teeth as you continue the hunt.  Now you’re set.

Finding Shark Teeth – 5 Methods:

  • Method 1: The Surf Line. Keep it simple, put your sunscreen on, keep your head down, and just saunter along the surf line, where the waves hit the beach, being careful not to bump into any beachgoers doing the same thing going in the other direction. Remember, keep your head down!

    Shark teeth, seashells, sunshine, and gentle surf offer appeal and fun for all age groups.

    The usually black-color shark teeth are easily and clearly visible as they sort of pop-up in the firm sand. Each wave can bring more than one, at times. Just pick them up and add them to your collection bag, usually a small sealable plastic bag or an old plastic medicine bottle.

  • Method 2: The Storm Line. If you look along the beach between the tall marsh grass to the water’s edge, you will note that there is a distinct line of demarcation where the sand sort of changes texture and composition. You will usually see a collection of millions of small shells here too, yes, right in the middle of the beach, parallel to the waterline. There are tons of shark teeth here. You might not be the first to search, so look around for a 10 by 10-foot area that appears to be untouched. Drop your picnic blanket down, open up your lawn chairs, put up your portable beach umbrella, and set your cooler down.

    Amidst the thousands of feet of the shell lines to be found on nearly every Manasota Key beach, look closely at this photo, there are treasured shark teeth!

    The sound of the surf will put you to sleep as you sift the sand “down the line” of your intended search area. My family and usually do this and find about 100 teeth per beach visit. As we talk about life, listen to the sea birds in constant chatter too, we enjoy a cool beverage and thank the good Lord for this blessing of a sunny day at the beach…with shark teeth.

  • Method 3: The Chair Line. My shark tooth collection expert friends, Tim and Jeanie Snyder, internationally infamous and brazenly simple in their shark tooth-finding process, they are extremely efficient and prefer this method to find beach teeth by the hundred. Bring your own or rent a shallow height beach chair. Walk to the water’s edge, now look left and look right. Find a little feature point of sand that sort of sticks out along the usually long and straight beach line. Go there. Set your chair in the surf line on either side of this point and about 3-feet or so into the water. You’re about to get wet (feels so good). Use your hands, a small screen scooper, a colander, or a little minnow net with an extension handle. Put your sunglasses on, keep your eyes open and watch for the shark teeth with each wave. You might find many dozens per hour this way, fresh from the sea!
  • Method 4: The Snorkel/Mask Line. Don your snorkel and mask, walk out 20 to 40 feet from the beach sand and you’ll note a sort of “deep spot” before it starts to get shallower as you continue to walk out. Go back to the trench, this is the “shark tooth trench!” If the water is clear and not too wavy, walk-swim-float, and search the bottom. You’ll often see multiple sets of teeth laying right there for the picking. Shells too. This method can be very productive when the waves are soft and small.
  • Method 5: the EASY WAY – Shark Art Online. Even if you are happy with what you collected, or maybe your trip was cancelled, if you want a perfect collection of shark teeth for vacation talking-moments at your next family gathering, consider this: You can buy assorted shark teeth collections or buy shark tooth art, fully supplied in a small kit for very little money. Prices for simple shark teeth package assortments vary from $3 (for 30 teeth and a free shark tooth necklace) to about $15, based on size and number of shark teeth. The shark art kits vary from $10 to $20 plus shipping – these are 5 x 7 and 8 x 10-inch art, respectively, and are awesome. Each of the art kits is all-inclusive with the shark teeth, artboard (complete with the profile where you glue the teeth), and directions. These kits are inexpensive and make an awesome gift.

    Tim Snyder, the Shark Art Guy, in his favorite shark-tooth treasure hunting place, the Peace River, 25 to 50 miles from where it enters the Gulf of Mexico.

    Visit this link to order direct: https://www.ebay.com/str/sharkteethandsharkartbyclark or email sharkartbyclark@gmail.com. If you become a repeat customer with three orders of $50 or more, Snyder will offer an invitation to you for a day of collecting teeth and fossils (get your Florida fossil permit, the cost is $5) on the Peace River (Tim reminds each guest that there are no guarantees on weather, water conditions, water level, how many teeth or fossils are collected and, of course, he is not responsible for any accidents or injuries. You are invited as a friend taking a friend to the river.) I did this trip! Under Tim’s direction of the process, Tim’s shovel and Tim’s sifter in hand, I collected 386 teeth in 5 hours! These are perfect teeth, no rounded edges from the surf. Unreal! It was such fun!

Where to find Shark Teeth – 1 Florida Key, 4 Beaches:

Shark tooth hunters of all sizes, young and old, head for the beach to find prehistoric treasure. Not everyone is successful but study the methods outlined here to learn shark tooth hunting options for your success.

Manasota Key is an long island-like land mass near Port Charlotte, Florida, that offers four popular shark tooth hunting beach spots. All of them are among favorites for locals and visitors alike, and include (north to south): Manasota Beach Park, Blind Pass Beach Park, Englewood Beach, and Stump Pass State Park.

Large and small shark teeth are a common find on the beach. The lightly worn edges of the shark teeth found on the beach is common, this wear is from the rolling wave action. All shark teeth are a treasure.

There is no fee or toll to enter Manasota Key on the north bridge or the south bridge that crosses Lemon Bay.

  • Manasota Key Beach, located at the north end of Manasota Key, offers easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and Lemon Bay (bay side), has free parking (6 a.m. – midnight), is not usually over-crowded and like so many Florida Gulf beaches, offers that perfect orange-sky sunset. The facility building offers changing rooms and restrooms, multiple beach access points to the ocean, squeaky-clean sand, there are often lots of sharks teeth and even more tranquility here.
  • Blind Pass Beach, also known as Middle Beach, offers access to the Gulf and to Lemon Bay, more than ½ mile of beach frontage, a hiking trail through the mangrove forest on the bayside, and a fishing dock.

    A good day on the shark tooth treasure hunt! 

    We have never found less than 50 shark teeth here during a day at this beach. Great spot, relaxing, quiet, wonderful. Changing and restroom facility here too, free parking (6 a.m. – midnight).

  • Englewood Beach, with Chadwick Park, is a favorite for residents and visitors, clear water and frequent blue skies bring kids of all ages here to go shelling and shark tooth hunting for hours on end. Life is all about “beach therapy” when visiting Florida. If you are thirsty, there is a little Volkswagen Bus business stand near the changing facility that offers tasty smoothies – they’re delicious! If you need food, walk across the street and choose from several walk-in restaurants. Eat, drink, and go back to the beach. Parking at Englewood is by parking pay stations (very reasonable/hr), open 6 a.m. – 9 p.m., they accept credit cards. There is a large changing and restroom facility here.
  • Stump Pass Beach State Park, our personal favorite shark tooth place. Open 8 a.m. – sundown, it’s located at the southernmost end of Manasota Key where visitors will find one mile of Gulf beach where seashells and shark teeth are wash ashore.

    If you had trouble finding shark teeth, there is one easy cure.  Try one of these Shark art kits, they include the shark teeth, artboard, and directions, are inexpensive, and make an awesome gift. Visit https://www.ebay.com/str/sharkteethandsharkartbyclark.

    Anglers can fish the surf too and there are lots of shark teeth here for everyone. It’s not a bad idea to arrive early and get one of the 60 or so parking spots. Cost is $3 for the day, bring the exact change, the park rangers are not allowed to make change. At least there is a fair system in place to wait for a spot to open. They have two lines, one to exit and one to wait for a spot to open up. We have never waited more than 20 minutes. The really good part about this beach is that the water is very close to the parking lot. Visitors come to this secluded beach to enjoy the year-round swimming and sun-soaking. Shelling and finding shark teeth in the wave wash is excellent during the winter months. A hiking trail with Lemon bay on one side and the Gulf on the other passes through five distinct natural eco-communities that provide a home for many species of wildlife; covered picnic tables are located along the trail. Visitors can launch a kayak and paddle around the two islands just east of the park land base. While at the park, watch dolphins, manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, terns, and many species of sea birds. Ranger-led nature hikes are on the calendar during winter months. There are stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals, lessons, and guided boat tours here too.

At all of these beaches, the intra-coastal waterway side of the parks offers a diverse network of mangroves, marsh grass, many species of birds (more than 150), many species of fish (more than 200). It’s perfect for fishing, kayaking, birding, and wading. The Gulf-side of the parks offers sand, surf, sunshine, seashells, and lots of shark teeth.

Conservation Pioneers, a Never-Ending Love Story

Bob and Barb Kipfer – medical professionals, parents, conservationists, heart-warming people – two lives well-lived through sharing.

By Larry Whiteley

From time to time in life, you meet people with hearts as big as the outdoors they love. It is hard for those who know these two unforgettable people, Bob and Barb Kipfer, to think of one without thinking of the other. They are husband and wife, but they are more than that. They are friends, they are a team, they are life partners in a life well-lived.

The first chapter in their book of life begins at Kansas University Medical Center. Bob was a medical student in his first year of patient care in the hospital wards. Barb had just arrived as a newly graduated nurse on her first job. During his daily classwork around the hospital, Bob took particular notice of Barb. One-day, Bob saw her going into a room where nurses went to dump bedpans. He followed her in, closed the door, and asked her out on a date. He thought he might get dumped-on too, but she said yes. They were married on September 4, 1965, and another chapter in their life had begun.

Two years later, Bob received his draft notice, then served with the infantry in Viet Nam as a battalion field surgeon. That meant he traveled into battle with the troops and worked in field hospitals in the battle zone. Barb continued nursing back in Kansas and caring for their newborn son, Mark, hoping Bob would make it back home. I am sure there were times when Bob wondered the same thing. Like most Viet Nam veterans, he doesn’t talk much about that time in his life. Needless to say, he did make it home to his family after his tour of duty ended. They settled down to somewhat normal life during four years of his residency at the Mayo clinic. Their family also grew with the birth of their daughter, Amy. Life was busy, life was good.

Bob, on right, during his tour in Vietnam on the field surgical team.

In 1973 Bob and Barb and the kids moved to Springfield, MO to start a new chapter in their lives. Bob practiced Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine at a local hospital. Barb began to teach at a school of nursing. They bought a home and moved into an urban neighborhood where they still live today. Their lives were busy, but they managed to find time to go fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and sailing on weekends. They played tennis. They traveled. They made lots of friends at work, in their neighborhood, and through social activities. One of those friends owned land with a cabin in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, where Bob and Barb visited often, and they soon started looking for land of their own. That search led them to land with a clear-flowing creek running through a beautiful valley with forested hills and lots of wildlife. They fell in love with this special place, and another chapter was to be written.

Bob and Barb continued to work at their medical jobs during the week and stayed at their home in town. Unless they were traveling to places all over the world, visiting their kids and grandkids in other states, or going to social events, they were at their valley cabin on weekends.

Ten years after buying the property, Bob decided it was time for another chapter to be written. He had been working in medical administration, in addition to his medical practice, but having more fun on their property, he retired. He gave up tennis for a chainsaw and a tractor down in the valley. Barb waited two more years before retiring just to make sure Bob was house broke.

Retirement started another chapter to their story. During their time spent in the valley, they started working with the Missouri Department of Conservation to clear trees to bring back glades that were once there. They also worked with the department to plant trees for bank stabilization to protect the stream and their land. They even planted over 2,000 tree seedlings themselves for the same purpose. This all sparked their interest in conservation and fed their desire to conserve and protect this special place.

Barb provides an educational ecology tour for kids.

Their transformation from medical professionals to dedicated conservationists and conservation educators is an amazing chapter in their book of life. It’s about how their love for conservation grew and changed not just their lives but changed and touched the lives of so many others—more than they will ever know.

They became involved with the Springfield Plateau of Missouri Master Naturalists. Bob writes an informative blog for the group, Barb represents them on the Grow Native board. She leads educational tours of their urban yard in Springfield, where she has planted over 100 native plant species. She even made a video tour of what has been accomplished so far to be used for virtual education. Barb spends a lot of her time in the valley trying to rid their land of any kinds of invasive species or plants not native to the area. They have restored warm-season native grass fields and work at endangered species protection. They collect native butterflies, raise moths, volunteer at special events at the Butterfly House, and host mothing events at their property. A somewhat unique event.

They implemented a forest stewardship plan for their property, and it is now a certified Tree Farm. They were named State Tree Farmers of the Year in 2015 for all their work with timber stand improvements and even hosted a Missouri Tree Farm Conference.

Their land in the valley has grown to 400 acres and includes another cabin with their land additions. The valley and the house are used by college students for stream ecology studies. The Audubon Society has access to bird counts and education.  They have hosted Missouri Department of Conservation tours, a black bear study, Boy Scout activities, wildlife studies of plant and animal species, wild mushrooms studies, and field trips for groups studying plant and wildlife identification. Their land is open to other conservation-minded groups for retreats and ecology field trips, woodland management, and stream education.

Bob conducts a hands-on session sharing secrets of life in the outdoors for kids to learn more about conservation.

They were named the 2017 Conservationists of the Year by the Conservation Federation of Missouri. I would bet if you asked them what they have enjoyed doing most of all the things they have done, it would be their work with the public schools’ WOLF program. They teach fifth-graders in weekly classroom sessions and host kids in their valley for educational classes several times a year. Bob and Barb have profoundly impacted conservation in the lives of all the kids and people they have taught. The kids love them and will never forget Bob and Barb. This world could use more people like the Kipfer’s. Their impact on conservation has been immense.

One of these days, I hope in the far distant future, Bob and Barb will no longer be able to manage their land. When that time comes, they have donated it to Missouri State University under a protected agreement to sustain the valley’s natural ecology and use it to educate students who will be our future conservationists and conservation educators.

When Bob and Barb are gone, their ashes will be added to the old cemetery in the valley they loved. Their passion for conservation will continue through these students, the Wolf School kids, and all the other lives impacted by these two people. It will not be the final chapter of their book of life, though. Their story will go on through all the lives they have touched. Those people will pass on their passion for conservation. The Bob and Barb story will continue.

That makes this a never-ending story.

Sitting on a Big Flat Rock in Winter

A big flat rock in the middle of a warm winter is more than a big flat rock. Larry Whiteley photo

By Larry Wisher

It’s a warm day. For winter, that is. I’m sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods. The sun soaks deep into my bones. Days like this don’t come that often in winter, here where I live.

I take my jacket off and use it for a cushion and insulation from the cold of the rock. Except for the sound of a deer mouse rustling through the dry leaves enjoying the warmth too, or the occasional chatter of squirrels or crows talking to each other – it’s quiet here.

My eyes get heavy. Just as I start drifting off to sleep, an old dead tree comes crashing to the ground and startles me back to reality. What is that old saying? If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? My heartbeat slows back down to normal. I stretch my legs back out and enjoy my rock again.

You know, I hadn’t noticed so many dead trees out here before. The wood-eating insects must have got to them. Then the woodpeckers got to the insects. Then the holes the woodpeckers made became home to other birds and flying squirrels.

Someday, when no one’s around to hear it, they too will fall. Then mice will build nests in them, snakes will hibernate, and they will be an excellent place for storing nuts. Eventually, though, they will return to the ground from which they came. It’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods…on a warm winter’s day.

Looking skyward, the trees are like me, recharging for spring. Larry Whiteley photo

The musty smell of decaying leaves reminds me of how unique nature really is. In a few months, tiny buds will start appearing. Soon after, green leaves will burst out and unfurl. These woods, which now seem dead, will come to life again because of the nurturing power of the decaying leaves mixed with sunshine and rain.

As I scout for turkeys or begin looking for mushrooms, I will notice the buckeye trees first because they are the first tree to leaf out around here. The oaks, maples, hickories, walnuts, sycamores, and all the others will soon follow. Serviceberries, with their dainty white flowers, will be the first to bloom. They will be followed by the redbuds with their tiny purplish flowers. The white blossoms of the dogwood will not be far behind. Their colors add beauty to the spring woods.

It will be so much different than it is right now. Except for the brown leaves, blue sky, and green of the pines and cedars, I kind of feel like I’m watching an old black and white television. Don’t you remember those? Well, you probably wouldn’t unless you’re getting as old as I am.

The fully leafed trees add cooling shade to these woods as I come here for morning hikes in summer. Summer also brings ticks, chiggers, and snakes to these woods. Because of that and the hot and humid days, I’m not here as often as I am in other seasons.

As summer ends and fall begins, the chlorophyll that gives the leaves their green color begins to break down, and the true colors of the leaves are revealed. These woods become a kaleidoscope of red, gold, orange, and yellow. Trees drop their nuts to the ground while deer, turkey, squirrels, and the mice that call this place home, enjoy the bounty. Once again, I will be hiking, scouting, hunting, and sometimes even camping. It’s my favorite season of the year and a beautiful time to be here.

A little bit of wind, a little snow, and the acorns of autumn will bury and join the life of spring a few months from now. Larry Whiteley photo

But then, those same leaves that burst forth in spring will wither and fall to decompose and give nourishment to the same tree that gave them life. How does that song go? “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snow, lies a seed that with the sun’s love in spring, becomes a rose.” Here in these winter woods, it will be beneath the dead leaves and sometimes a covering of snow. It will be a seed or a nut, that in the springtime with the sun’s love, sprouts and becomes a maple, dogwood, redbud, oak, papaw, buckeye, or hickory. Maybe even just a scraggly bush. Life goes on.

Wow! Again I will say it’s amazing what you think about when you’re sitting on a big flat rock in the middle of the woods on a warm winter’s day. If a man talks or sings to himself in the woods and no one’s around, does anybody hear him?

I feel a little like an acorn.  My eyes are getting heavy again.

4-PLAY for Christmas! …A Love Story

  • Woodsy turkey call sounds combine screech and scratch controls
  • Henry C. Gibson and Eric Steinmetz each provided sound innovations about 120 years apart
  • Tone and tune change in one box that allows clucking, purring, yelping and cackling is about pure genius 

By Larry Whiteley

Now some of you probably read that headline, and your mind drifted off to another kind of foreplay. However, this is not that kind of foreplay. This 4-Play is something that can get a turkey gobbler all excited to come looking for love.

Let me begin with how this kind of 4-Play started. You see, the first box-style turkey call was patented in 1897 by an Arkansas farmer and fence supply manager, Henry C. Gibson, of Dardanelle. Though there may have been box calls before his patent, Gibson sparked a new industry with many imitators creating box-type turkey calls.

For over 120 years, the turkey box call has never really changed much from the original wooden box and paddle design. Then along came avid turkey hunter Eric Steinmetz. Eric built his box calls for years and had terrific success with them. He even sold a few to local hunters. Eric couldn’t get the thought out of his mind about coming up with a call that was more versatile and more effective than the standard box call design. He would think about it as he drove down the road with his traveling sales job. When he was home and wasn’t turkey hunting, he was in his shop tinkering with different designs and wood types.

He finally came up with the idea of building one with a forward-mounted wheel that would allow the paddle to be moved to both sides of the box. That way, it could be used on any of four sound rails, each made with different wood types to have four different tones. Thus came the name for his call, the 4-Play. He also found that since the wheel allowed the lid to be moved forward and backward, he could strike the sound rails in multiple locations, adding to his box call versatility. The 4-Play is a turkey box call like no other you have ever seen or used.  

The U.S. Patent Office agreed that Eric’s box call was so innovative they awarded him a Utility Patent. 4-Play turkey calls are available with Cherry, Walnut, or mahogany bodies, and all have sound rails made of walnut, eastern red cedar, sassafras, and poplar. If you’re a turkey hunter, you have to have one of these. For more information, watch videos, read reviews, and order, visit https://4playturkeycall.com/shop. Or, give them a call at 610-984-4099. They would love to visit with you.

“It is a versatile call,” says Eric. “With a little practice, you can make an almost unlimited number of tones and pitches. I just want hunters to use it and then hopefully send us pictures of them and their Gobbler. That’s what would make me feel successful.”

Eric has since sold the 4-Play patent to Brian Benolken, but he is still involved with the business, working shows, building calls, and of course, turkey hunting. He’s even won several calling competitions with his 4-Play. Brian is busy growing the business under the name of Cutting Edge Game Calls, and his goal for the company is to offer you products for making you a better and more successful turkey hunter. Brian and Eric both are continuously thinking of new innovative ideas.

This old turkey hunter has never seen anything like it in all my years of turkey hunting, so I just had to have a 4-Play. I love it! I can’t believe all the sounds I can make with it. I’m clucking, purring, yelping, and even fly down cackling with it. I can’t wait until spring turkey season. My wife can’t either! Can you believe she banned me from the house and makes me take my 4-Play and practice out in the barn?

If you are a turkey hunter, you might try hinting to your wife or girlfriend that you would surely like to have 4-Play under the tree for Christmas. If they look at you like you’re weird or something, you might have to just order online or call Cutting Edge Game Calls to order one for yourself. But if they smile, this could be a very Merry Christmas in more ways than one.

 

 

 

2020 Renegade Bass Classic Championship, TEAMWORK and LURE SELECTION was key

  • Drop Shot Rigs with finesse soft plastics was the secret bait key
  • Scented tubes, high-floating drop-shot baits and creature critters were most effective
  • Tough weather dictated our fishing plan, the rigs we used, and boat-positioning tactics

Lenny Devos is a finesse fisherman – his new secret fishing baits have helped him and partner, Jeff Deslodges, win fishing contests all over the Canada and the USA. 

By David Gray

Lenny Devos is a fisherman’s fisherman.

He loves to fish. Fishing is his passion.

Lenny loves to talk about fishing and loves to think about fishing, and he loves to tournament fish. Lenny is very successful at it and, at my humble request, he is willing to share some secrets with us ordinary fishing folks that toss lines for bass.

We might all learn a few things from Lenny and his teammate. His tournament winning formula is simple: use the team approach.

It works and is easy to do. Lenny and his tournament partner, Jeff Desloges, are very competitive by nature. They complement each other as a team. Lenny says, “We make a great team, we think similarly, we like to fish the similarly, and we can often fish the same cover more effectively using different, but similar, tactics to figure out the fish.” Style, lure types, colors, size – all these things can make a difference. 

The Teamwork approach has produced three Renegade Bass Classic Championships, including their most recent win: the 2020 Renegade Bass Canadian Tour Championship.  

Winning the 2020 Championship did not come easy. Day 1 of the two-day Championship delivered good weather and a variety of patterns were identified. Lenny and Jeff weighed in 22.51 lbs for third place but were more than 3 lbs behind the first-place team of Scott Lecky and Steve Bean. They had weighed in an impressive 5 fish limit of 25.66 lbs. On the St. Lawrence River, where giant smallmouth limits are the rule, making up more than 3 lbs would be a challenge for Lenny and Jeff.   

Two happy anglers, Lenny Devos and Jeff Deslodges, add one more championship to their wining streak.  

On Day 2, the weather took a significant shift with a front produced heavy rain and very high winds. The combination made boat control challenging. Precision deep-water bait presentation was, therefore, also difficult to achieve. The 30 to 40 mph winds also increased the river current (speed) and added to boat control difficulty. The extreme weather change played havoc with the shallow water patterns learned on Day 1 and challenged the precise bait presentation needed for the deep-water bite. 

The “STH-Drifter” is only 2.75 inches long, and has proven deadly for finesse applications like drop-shot, jig head and the bottom hugging Flatty Jig (shown above). The drifter floats, is super-soft, salted and scented, so it moves freely off a drop-shot without having to shake it.  The “3D eyes” add to life-like appearance. 

Lenny and Jeff continued to throw the Netbait STH Finesse Series of soft baits, including the Crush Worms and STH Drifters (American Baitworks), that’s what worked on Day 1. But the heavy wind did not let up. Lenny said, “It was difficult to present our baits the way that the smallmouth wanted it.” Then teamwork kicked in. Lenny says, “Jeff and I know how each other fishes, so I concentrated on boat control to allow Jeff to focus on lure presentation.

That teamwork strategy paid off, and despite the adverse weather, we had a good day. Our Day 2 bag of 23.06 lbs gave us a tournament total of 45.57lbs, and our 3rd Renegade Bass Championship win. It took a team to win as precise bait presentation was the key.” 

The Finesse Series Tube are 40% body and 60% tail, to deliver a new undulating action, quite improved when compared to other tubes, as the slightest twitch of the rod allows a fully exposed hook in the tail section. The 60% feature allows you to trim your tail to match feeding activity. Results mean improved hook ups with hard-mouthed smallmouth bass.

Born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, Lenny loves his job as a Fire Fighter because part of the job is helping others when they need it. When he is on duty, he thinks about being a Firefighter, but Lenny thinks about fishing the rest of the time. Lenny says he is always thinking about lures, techniques, reading the water, and figuring out new lakes. Lenny was not born into a fishing family but remembered “the Day” he became a fisherman. Even though his Dad did not fish, Lenny had a driving urge to go fishing and kept asking Dad to take him.

So Dad got a crash course on how to fish from a friend, borrowed a rod and reel, and took Lenny, his 6-year-old son, fishing. Lenny recalls, “All we had was that one rod and reel, a bobber, a hook, and a worm.” That was all it took to unlock Lenny’s lifelong passion for fishing and his drive to compete in tournaments.  

Lenny credits his tournament fishing success to several things. One is planning by thinking about an upcoming tournament. We like to make a plan based on how far or close the lake is on either side of the spawn. 

Knowing that helps you target where the fish will be. Also, there is no substitute for time on the water, which is crucial for success. We use that time on the water to tell us where we will fish and what we will fish with. To quote Lenny, “A day on the water with nothing learned is a wasted day. I usually learn the most on the worst days, especially those days when you are marking fish or seeing fish, and nothing seems to be working.”

Another plus is a great tournament partner. Since Jeff and I fish the same way, we both contribute to tournament planning and strategy. Lenny started tournament fishing in 1990, and a lot of anglers are calling Lenny Devos the best bass jig fisherman in Ontario.  

Robert Greenberg, who owns the innovative American Baitworks company, and is himself an accomplished tournament angler, says Lenny could be called the “Best Bass Angler in Canada.” Quite a compliment to be called the best bass angler in a country where some say the national sport should be fishing!

Questions and Answers

Question:  What lures did you use to win the Renegade Bass Championship?

Lenny: On Day 1 we used STH (Set-The-Hook) Drifters, Finesse Tubes and the Net Bait Kickin-B Chunk off a drop-shot rig. On Day 2, after the weather change, we used Carolina Rigs with a fluorocarbon leader with the Net Beat Kickin-B Chunk. 

Question:  Lenny, what are your favorite “GO-TO” baits and techniques?

Lenny: For Smallmouth, I like to throw tubes with Green Pumpkin as a favorite color. For Largemouth, a Flipping Jig is my favorite.  

I use a stout rod, but with a more flexible tip than most guys flip with. The softer tip really helps with good hook sets. My favorite is the Halo 7’5″ KS-II Elite with 50 lb braid tied directly to the jig. I do not use a leader. I also enjoy throwing topwater frogs. The Scum Launch Frog is one of those baits that just catch fish. When conditions are right, it is hot.  

The new KSII ELITE is light, balanced and built with a custom two-finger reel seat that exposes a portion of the blank to heighten the transition of the bite to the hand. The handles are triple grade-A cork for greater comfort and sensitivity. 

Question:  What is your favorite body of water to fish?

Lenny: In Canada, my favorite is the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario. In the US, I really like Stick Marsh in Florida.

Question:  What are you looking forward to in 2021?

Lenny: I always look forward to the start of the open water season and, of course, the first tournament of the year. I have been working with Freedom Tackle this year to develop several new bass jigs that work really well, and I’m excited about fishing the first production models in 2021.   

Question:  Do you have sponsors you can recommend?

Lenny: I have some sponsors that I am very proud to recommend as they do a great job taking care of customers. Hunters Bay Marine in North Bay, Ontario; Triton boats and Mercury motors; Ultra Tungsten Weights; Vigor Eyewear; American Baitworks Brands. 

 

 

Florida Youth Hunting – First Deer for Kingston, 11-years old

  • Learning to shoot well, whisper in the stand, control our scent and be there at the right lucky time…made it all happen.
  • Face camo adds to the youth hunting fun, making that first shot good sure makes it unforgettable.
  • The crossbow allows a friendly introduction into accurate shooting potential at the very young age of 11 for my son.
  • An unbelievable experience, for dads and moms too!

That first moment of deer hunting success is hard to capture, but my son Kingston overcame the odds (trembling) to make an accurate shot on this healthy 7-point Florida buck in south Florida. My heart rate might have been a bot elevated too! 

By Jeff Liebler

Kingston, my 11-year old son, has always been in love with the outdoors. Fishing, hunting, campfires and more. So this summer, I made a deal with Kingston – if he completed his Florida Hunter Safety Course, put in some serious practice dialing in his crossbow – from the ground and in the treestand, we could hunt deer together and he could try for his first-ever deer. I was excited that he was excited from the get-go! Together with his cousin (Hunter), we needed to rebuild the old tree platform at his grandmother’s house where we hunt. It was a big chore, but Kingston was all in.

Last year, when he was just 10, we hunted the same stand together and he became familiar with watching for deer and using the range finder for yardage. He was my lucky charm, he helped me take a beautiful 11-point archery buck from that stand. It was fun, sharing with him in whisper-tone things about scent awareness and sound control.

Our trail cam allowed to understand there were some good bucks in the area, and lots of doe as well.

This year, he completed his hunter coursework and after practice shooting his crossbow dozens of times, checking trail cams, replenishing food sources, and hours of tree stand bonding, Kingston made it happen. 

Here’s how it went:

On Saturday, Oct. 3rd, two days after the harvest moon, we decided to try our luck in the light rain. We’ve actually spotted more deer together on rainy days than we do on dry days. We knew that day we had a chance for good luck if we could ride out the afternoon precipitation. We threw on some light camo gear and scent blocker, then snuck into the stand at 3:20PM. The black-bellied whistling ducks were sounding off above us, and eastern gray squirrels scurried around the tree trunks below us. We were crunching down on our treestand favorites, red apples, and cracker jacks. A quiet first hour, then another quiet hour, and I was becoming doubtful. Then suddenly, just before six o’clock, a doe and her yearling came by to sniff out some corn but didn’t hang out long. This was a fortunate opportunity to study their reaction to our scent and position. With optimism, we adjusted and used their presence to prepare for a shooter buck to come by. The woods went silent for a bit, the light rain kept on, and we finally ran out of things to whisper about as we approached “buck time,” usually about 6:30-sunset this time of year. 

We were right this time, and just two minutes past seven o’clock, the usually nocturnal antlered king of the swamp used the damp woods floor to silently creep into our whole corn and apple buffet feeder area. The northwest wind was on our side as the brute showed us his target zone long enough for Kingston to set his crossbow for a good shot. I picked up my phone to record the action as I watched Kingston’s elbows tremble. I mumbled, “30-yard shot, breathe, exhale, hold, then take your shot.” He squeezed the trigger.

Taking the shot in the rain, and then Kingston’s reaction. Unforgettable!

THUMP! Then a massive kick from the buck as Kingston sent the most perfect bolt home. We watched the burly buck hit the turf only 40 yards from us, and we cheered with each other.

Kingston was still shaking as he properly approached his downed deer from behind.

We celebrated his life and shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of harvesting his first deer together. Ecstatic would be an understatement at this point, so we took extra precaution and waited a bit while we gathered our gear to safely climb down from the tree stand. When we aren’t in the woods together, Kingston and I enjoy watching Buck Commander and other hunting videos on YouTube. I took out my phone again for a video of our own. I was able to record Kingston walking up (from behind, like he learned in his hunter safety course) on his first harvested deer, a beautiful buck. The excitement on Kingston’s face as he wrapped his hands around the chocolate-colored antlers and burst out with, “It’s the 7-point!” It’s a moment I will never forget. After talking about shot placement and recording our official Florida harvest report, we snapped a quick interview to talk about how it all came together. He was so excited! Then the work and after-celebration began. Kingston’s cousins, who have also been hunting since they were kids, came by for moral support and heckling too, with his first buck, and they helped us field dress and quarter the deer and into the cooler. The rituals and shenanigans were flowing. Some of those stories are better left at deer camp with the guys if you know what I mean.

Days after a successful hunt, the work is still ongoing, but there’s something about it that doesn’t feel like work at all. On Sunday, “Mama”, as Kingston calls his mom, cut up and vacuum-sealed a little under 10-pounds of backstrap butterfly steaks and tenderloins from this Florida stud buck. Yesterday I surprised Kingston by signing him out of school early so we could go back and walk the footsteps of that first-deer memory at the tree stand one more time. Then we stopped to drop off some critical cargo, the deer head, and rack, to JC Taxidermy in Lithia. Kingston was overjoyed to now be “one of the boys” with his cousins and have his very own trophy on the wall coming soon. To complete the hunt and harvest, we drove to Riverview to stop at Al’s Wild Meat Processing, where they will be packing up roasts, maple venison sausage, and ground meat, that we will eat and share over the next year. Now that my little guy took down his big guy buck, I’m hoping to look for similar good fortune with my compound bow, as I set my sights on adding to the freezer with more local organic deer meat.

We shared that special bond and heartfelt feeling of hunting together, and sharing the outdoors.

As you know, hunting and sharing the outdoors is a true gift from our Creator.

We thank God for hunting, fishing, and wild animals every day during dinner grace. I’m happy to have a next-generation hunter as the numbers of hunting support enthusiasts are in decline. Indeed, I have high hopes that there will never be a food shortage in our family. 

Family Hunting Background:

I am fortunate enough to have my Uncle Dave, Forrest Fisher, NYS Hall of Fame Outdoorsman (and many more titles) teach me everything I know about archery hunting, starting with ethical hunting. “There’s no better way to do it than the right way – we follow the rules,” he would say every year as we walked the woods together, then we would discuss how to stay quiet, movement control, safety, how to stay warm, and more. Numerous years hunting with him have taught me about patience, silence, scent block, and how/when to let an arrow fly. Thanks to my favorite Aunt Rosalie Barus, for providing years of lodging, meals, and hugs of encouragement while I came up to visit East Aurora, NY. It’s where I could slow down and learn to hunt with arrows. I always picture her great smile in the mornings before hunting, when she would say, “Go get ’em Jeff-waa! I can’t wait to see your text that brown is down!” Graciously, I want to thank my good buddy Michael Garrido for sharing his hunting knowledge with me for the last 10 years and providing hunting opportunities to experience and ultimately pass down the tradition. I’m blessed to share our hunting enthusiasm and appreciation for harvests. Cheers to many more, Mike! 

Huge thank you to Kingston’s Granny Lois Johnsonfor providing our hunting spot and her encouragement each year for a successful hunt. Granny always reminded Kingston, “I love venison, get me some.” Kingston said he knows his late Papa was with him on this hunt, and I told him I was sure Kingston made him proud! Venison steaks headed your way soon, “Granny”! Lastly, to my amazing wife, Tiffany, who does so much to help make it possible for us to spend time in the woods together? Her excitement and “you got this” texts, while we hunt are always encouraging and makes this proud dad moment event sweeter (I needed to turn off the beeper). Her venison chili is out of this world, too! 

It takes friends, family, the right equipment, and shared passion to carry out successful hunts, especially with youngsters. Learn more about the Florida hunting rules at MyFWC.com/Deer, including the new deer harvest reporting requirement.  I’ll leave you with some product knowledge of the gear we used.

Our Gear: CenterPoint Archery, crossbow – 20” bolt with 100gr G5 Outdoors, fixed broadhead; Quaker Boy, doe bleat; Thermacell Hunting, Sawyer permethrin spray for deer ticks/bugs; Fyland UV tracker flashlight; Vortex Optics, Diamondback HD binoculars; HALO Optics, XL600-8 range finder; Wildgame Innovations, trail cam; Under Armor Hunt boots; Hunting-Made-Easy truck hitch game hoist; Wildlife Research Center, Scent Blocker; Outdoor Edge Knives & Tools, swing blade skinning knife.

Rocky Mountain National Park – EXPLORE the Amazing and Unique Alpine Tundra Ecosystem found here

  • Elk, Moose, Black Bear, Birds, Fish, Mountains – Great Views…Bring a Camera!
  • Take note of National Park Entry Permit Requirements, VISIT www.RECREATION.GOV
  • One memory here can last for All Time, especially when you stand on the Continental Divide, located here. East to the Atlantic, west to the Pacific. Wow.

Black Bear in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo and story, courtesy of National Parks Service at Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado, USA

Compiled by Forrest Fisher

Our bears are searching for something scrumptious!

With a nose 280 times more sensitive than humans, they are world champs of food hide-and-seek!

This time of year, Rocky’s black bears (there are no brown bears in the park) are especially hungry as they prepare for hibernation—a phase called ‘hyperphagia.’ Rocky has seen an uptick in bear-related property damage in the past few weeks. There are many ways our visitors can help keep our bears wild as well as protect themselves!

• When visiting by car: Store food properly in LOCKED cars with all windows ROLLED UP during the night and day. Do not store coolers (even with only water in them) in truck beds. Clean dirty dishes before storing.
• When backpacking: Store all food and scented items (deodorant, toothpaste, chapstick, sunscreen) in a bear canister. When sleeping, place this canister at least 200 feet (60 m) from your tent.
• When camping in campgrounds: do not cook or eat in your tent. Do not bring food inside your tent. Lock all food in provided food storage lockers.
• Dispose of trash promptly and appropriately (in bear-proof bins when available.)
• If you see a bear, act big! Yell and clap, and it will likely move away. Do not run from a bear, and do not abandon food in a hasty attempt to leave.
• Report any bear-related incidents to a ranger.

Rocky Mountain National Park is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

It’s also home to some of the most fragile. While only 0.2% of the US land area is alpine tundra, Rocky is lucky to say that almost 1/3 of the park is comprised of this amazing ecosystem. Because of its fragility and susceptibility to changes, it provides a canvas for scientists to explore change over time through long-term monitoring.

Sunset on the Alpine Tundra at Rocky Mountain National Park. NPS/C Hernandez 

Since 2015, Dr. Sarah Schliemann, a professor of environmental science at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has been investigating the release of carbon dioxide from alpine soils, also known as ‘soil respiration’ (#ParkScience).

We are celebrating the amazing alpine tundra this year at Rocky Mountain National Park! As part of that, we are sharing Dr. Schliemann’s work through a 4-part series of posts. This is the first in that series. Visit Rocky Mountain National Park on Facebook to learn more about Dr. Schliemann’s work and other park research. See more here: https://www.nps.gov/rlc/continentaldivide/research-highlights.htm

Elk enjoy feeding on fresh growth on the unique Alpine Tundra in Rocky Mountain National Park. Kiley Voss photo.

From NPS Park Ranger, Kiley Voss, “I’m beyond excited as a Park Ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer season! I’m overjoyed for the opportunity to spend a summer living in the mountains on the west side of the park, for a moose study, for a town surrounding an alpine lake, for search and rescue training, for the headwaters of the Colorado River, for helping update signage and photographs, for a Colorado October full of aspens, for wildlife watch programs and tundra stewardship, for historic site talks and ranger-led campfires.”

Reservations are required to enter all areas of Rocky Mountain National Park from 6am to 5pm. Learn more at https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/fees.htm or simply visit www.Recreation.gov.

American Baitworks catches Doug Minor!

Doug Minor has a passion for fishing and sharing his expertise in building award-winning, fish-catching lure teams. 

By David Gray

Doug Minor just embarked on his latest fishing adventure.  Although this is a business adventure, it is very much about fishing.  It took some talking to get Doug, who led Strike King lures through 37 years of innovation and growth, to consider coming out of retirement just weeks after retiring. But American Baitworks, a new and innovative tackle and lure-manufacturing business, was doing the talking. After every call with American Baitworks, Doug said he came away with a smile on his face.

Doug was honored for the opportunity to join the team. Their commitment to providing the angler with excellent products of superior quality at a fair price is exactly what Doug Minor believes in.  As an angler, Doug knows that understanding lure performance provides an advantage in helping to create new fish-catching lures.  As a business manager, Doug knows that combining manufacturing quality control with fish-catching passion is a philosophy that creates satisfied customers.

An angler from a very young age, and after many years in the outdoor industries, Doug says, “The most important thing about every product is that it delivers consistent performance.” As anglers, we have all experienced that on occasion, when one crankbait out of 5 or 6 of the same lures will catch more fish, they all should be the same. Doug and American Baitworks aim for the manufacturing of their lure products to consistent standards.

For Doug, fishing and hunting are everything. He was blessed to have a father that introduced him to those outdoor sports at an early age. Doug remembers being taught how to skull a small Alumacraft boat from the front seat.

Paddle in one hand, never disturbing the water and rod in the other.  Dad also instilled in Doug a love of waterfowling at an early age. So early that Doug sat in the waterfowl blind in diapers!   Doug said his Dad’s philosophy was “no baby sitter no problem,” a change of diapers and Doug went to the blind with Dad.

A passion for fishing and hunting served Doug well when it came to his work in guiding lure makers.

It is essential to design and develop new lures that work.  Many companies put more physical movement into a lure that includes life-like images with more color, but fail to spend the time to thoroughly field test the product before releasing the product for sales. According to Doug, the action is the most critical part of a lure.  And that does not mean just more movement that the angler sees.  Bass are ambush predators and the action that the bass responds to is what is essential.

An angler only sees the action from above; a fish sees the action differently. Lots of field testing is needed to make a quality product with the type of action that interests the fish.

Take one of the American Baitworks lures the NetBaits – Paca Craw. Doug knew, like so many bass anglers, that the Paca Craw is an excellent weighted hook and jig trailer that outperforms many similar types of baits. The first time Doug looked at the Paca Craw in the technical test tank, not just an angler view from the surface, he was amazed at the action and knew why it was so effective.

The deadly action of the Net Bait Papa Craw is unique, effective, deadly. 

Another passion for Doug is serving the angler well. Doug got his first tackle job in a small hardware store in Dixon, TN.  His knowledge of fishing and hunting prompted the store owner to task Doug with setting up a fishing tackle department and then expanding to hunting and firearms.  They were the only store in the area that took guns on trade, so Doug learned a lot from trading and how to treat all customers fairly. After his 37 years at Strike King, we asked Doug what his fondest memory was.  Doug said, “The team spirit. No one was the star, and there were no heroes. We were a group, a team working all together to create great products and great service collectively.”

We asked Doug, “What got him to come out of retirement and join American Baitworks?” Doug said, “The consistent striving for excellence in product performance and quality by the American Baitworks team, and selling it at a fair price.  All on the team are committed to superior lure performance with consistent quality lure to lure.” Most anglers have had the experience of a soft plastic that comes out of the bag with a bend or twist that is not part of the lure.  Doug says, “The customer paid for a bag of lures, and every lure should be consistent and perform the same.  The customer deserves that.” Doug added, “The commitment to quality is so great at American Baitworks that if one toe on a soft plastic lure is not working right, we will not sell it until we fix it. Then we know it will catch fish.”

We asked, “Why did American Baitworks acquire ScumFrog and SnagProof who have the oldest of surface frog lures on the market?” Doug answered, “There are many frog bait lures available, but none have exceeded the fishing-catching performance of these original designs.

The new painted trophy series of ScumFrog patterns are attractive, affordable and fish-catchy!

These frog baits caught so many fish when they first came out, and they still do. They represent pure perfection in frog lure-making, they have great action. The action is the most important factor to a fish and these frogs deliver that. We manufacture each of these great baits in a new Trophy Series now, to a consistent performance quality that delivers performance and value for the angler.”

Anglers can expect new lures from American Baitworks soon; they are in development.  As soon as they are thoroughly field-tested, and we know they deliver fishing catching performance, we will be offering them to anglers at a fair price. What’s next? The Freedom Tackle Mischief Minnow will be available soon. Michael Tamburro designed it, the Einstein of evolutionary and competent lure designers, urging perfection with every wiggle, waggle, sound, movement, and fish-attracting feature.

New ideas from master design experts are among notable trademarks for Doug Minor.

Each of the American Baitworks brands is managed with quality by skilled people that share a passion for fishing.

Doug said, “The new NetBaits Flex Worm is a finesse bait made with injection molding that is second to none. It has tantalizing action, and the quality of manufacture, bait-to-bait, is perfect. That’s one of our goals.”

Doug shares, “It took me a while to get used to the weekly American Baitworks staff meetings. Instead of jumping right into business, each person starts talking about the fishing trip last weekend. Things like they caught a 4-pound smallmouth and were so excited.  After that, I realized it is the embedded fishing passion that drives this company to make fish-catching products at the highest measurable quality levels and sell them for a fair price. Maybe good for an angler to know the best part.  We offer great lures with great action that catch fish, and they are made in the USA whenever possible.”

That says it all.

Frog Fshing! Time for BIG Summer BASS

  • Summer is here, frogs are breakfast food for big bass
  • Not all frog lures are created equal, learn about differences below
  • Heavy frogs, light frogs – when to use each of these

Plastic frogs have come a long way as an angler bait and they catch fish, big bass, when the summer weeds seem unfishable. LiveTarget photo

By Forrest Fisher

Did you know that bullfrogs never sleep? Some say that’s why big bass never sleep either! With summer water temperatures following the countrywide heatwave this year, the weeds in our waterways are thick and matted. The result is shade for massive bass that wait in ambush for critters that share use of the matted weeds for ease of movement, including frogs, bugs, mice, and the like. So it makes sense that fishing with an artificial frog bait might be a good idea to catch some of the bass hiding in their new weed shadows. Truth is, the biggest bass seem to always be in those weedy shadows.

I discovered “frog fishing” with artificial surface frogs about 60 years ago. As a kid, at first, we baited real frogs, but after we ran out we would head home and try to find more. Into the early 60s, plastic frog lures were invented and we learned how to use them. It was much easier than trying to catch live frogs. Our light rods were flimsy for what was needed, that’s all we had, but the explosion of the fish making their way through the weeds to engulf our plastic frogs was exhilarating. So we used our flimsy rods anyway!

Fishing with fake frogs was noisy, even spooky fishing, but most of the time we lost the fish because of our gear. As we grew older into our teens, my brother and I transitioned to start fishing the frogs with short deep sea fishing rods and wide-spool, open-face fishing reels loaded with 40-pound test Gudebrod braided line tied direct. Those old plastic frogs were very basic and most were only hollow, air-entrapping, plastic caricatures of frogs that floated. They sank after a while.  Today, there are new “super frogs” out there, with many offering a popping action and you might say they are sophisticated frog lures. The new frogs are more durable and are “killer-effective,” the fish seem to love ’em.

Scum Frog designed the shape of the original Trophy Series with single focus to create Topwater Froggin’ perfection. Scum Frog Photo

Among the top choices in frogs, the age-old Scum Frog. At the Scum Frog factory (Southern Lure Co.), they do nothing but design and manufacture hollow-bodied frogs. They are among the originals in the industry and are among the true innovators in the design and development of frog fishing from way back when. They offer a painted trophy series that features 10 new hand-designed colors relying on a proprietary system that digitally patterns the frog color. The Scum Frog Painted Trophy Series is durable too, and was designed to give anglers all of the benefits of many high dollar frog baits at an unbeatable price (under $6). The Scum Frog displaces water, an excellent attractant quality, and is available in 1/2 and 5/8 ounce options (solid brass weights), so casting is easy. The new skirts are made from silicon, they float higher and accentuate the movement action of a live frog. DEADLY. Best yet, these Scum Frogs come with a pair of tough, sharp Owner Hooks perfectly fitted for big bass dentures.

Many pro anglers say that summertime bass yield to the white color frog more than any other. Why? The difference between oatmeal and hominy grits is what I think. Very little, but it seems to matter if you live down south, not sure why. Plus, white frogs allow the angler to see the bait a little better while working it. I like ‘em for visual identification of where they are.

Most frogs offer a two-hook design with extra strong hook points that cozy up to the collapsible plastic frog body, making them weedless. The only thing between you and the fish is your line and if you fish these in thick cover, you will need to check your line often. Use a good, modern, braided line and a positive knot with an extremely stiff rod that will allow you to haul the fish out of the thickest weed cover you might imagine. I like the 60-pound Gamma Torque braided line, you simply cannot break it. Other brands work too, but I think you could tow a tree with Gamma and it is thinner and slicker to cast than most others, this allows greater casting range. Visit: http://gammafishing.com/.

Another favorite is the “Signature Series” frog from LiveTarget Pro Angler and TV personality, Scott Martin. It features a hollow body frog popper that has become a favorite in the topwater tackle box for many anglers. The frog has a narrow profile with a cupped face that makes this bait unique when you walk it across the surface.

With either of these two frog brands – there are many more, the popper face creates a unique sound message below. “Hello, I’m food, c ‘mon, get me.” It offers a different sort of visual splash attractant message to join with that sound message.

I tried several colors over the years and while I like the white for ease of sight, the natural green frog colors seem to get the biggest hits, especially in heavy, super-thick cover. It is still a mystery how the fish can even see the bait in really thick summer weeds like we have this year.

The acid test for your frog gear? Here it is. Drop a 5-pound anchor in the thickest weeds you can find, then move your boat 30 feet away and see if you can rip that anchor up and out without breaking your line, your rod or the gears on your reel. That is your goal. This is tough fishing for really big bass, but that’s how I measure the gear. If you can’t put a rig together like that, go fish a frog anyway. It is unbelievable fun!

For the frog, don’t forget about frog size and frog weight. The thicker and heavier frogs are for working extra-thick matt and the lighter frogs are for thinner lily pad cover.

If the bass don’t wack it in the weeds themselves, they seem to panic and inhale the lure when the popping action occurs at the weed edge. They don’t want that easy meal to get away. To learn more, see additional color offerings or to buy the frogs described, please visit: https://americanbaitworks.com/pages/scum-frog and https://livetargetlures.com.

Have fun fishing!

The Last Cast

Time for One Last Cast

  • Sunrise, Sunset, Starshine…life-long breathtaking moments
  • Family, Fishing, Memories, Doctors…and Reality 
  • Radiation, Chemo…Time to Re-Rig 

A Morning Alone on the Lake

By Larry Whiteley

He was alone on the lake. The sunrise was breathtaking. He had seen lots of mornings but none this beautiful. His first cast landed near some bushes. He felt the thump and set the hook. The largemouth came out of the water, trying to shake the bait. It fought hard but soon tired. He gently lifted it from the water, smiled, and released it.

There would be many more fish to visit with that morning. One was the biggest smallmouth he had ever caught in all his years of fishing. The sunlight glistened off its bronze body. He managed to take a selfie of him and the fish. As he hit send on his smartphone, he smiled. A son texted back, “Nice one, Dad.” Another son replied, “Good fish, old man!” A grandson asked, “What did you catch it on?” His wife texted, “Are you doing okay, and how are you feeling?” He smiled and texted back each of them with only the words “I love you” and then went back to fishing.

The Thrill of Fishing

It suddenly occurred to him that he had not heard or seen another boat all morning. Kind of felt like he was fishing on his own private lake. He heard crows, ducks, and geese. He saw deer and turkey at the water’s edge. Birds were flittering around everywhere and singing their songs. A hummingbird even came buzzing by thinking he was a big flower. He said to himself, “Is this what heaven will be like for a fisherman like me?” He smiled again.

Sometimes even the blind squirrel finds the nut.

The afternoon sun was high and hot. He motored into a shaded cove and shut off the engine. The slight breeze felt good there in the shade. He tied the boat to a tree, sat back, and relaxed. Thoughts of the first fish he ever caught went through his mind. He saw the bobber, the worm, his cane pole. He felt the little perch squirming in his hand. The particular feeling, he had that day alone on that creek, was unlike any other. He was hooked. It was the first of many fish he would catch in his lifetime.

As he stretched out in the boat, he looked up at the sky and saw a cross formed by clouds and a jet stream. He grinned and said, thank you. More memories flooded his mind. He wished his Dad would have taken him fishing, but he didn’t. He thought of times he took his son’s fishing, recalling the look on their faces when they caught their first fish. He wished he hadn’t been so busy trying to make a living and would have taken his boys fishing more. But, they both grew up to be fishermen. They both became good husbands, fathers, and Godly men. Their kids became fishermen too. They had a dad that took them and a papaw too. There was no doubt in his mind that his grandkids would also take their kids fishing. He smiled once more and was proud. He hoped that more people would discover the magic of fishing and pass it on.

With the gentle rocking of the boat, his eyes got heavy. A nap came easy. It was a much-needed rest. The hospital visits and all the medicine had taken its toll. Late afternoon, he awoke to the screeching sounds of an eagle flying in the sky above him. It was out fishing too.

As he lay there watching the eagle, he wished he had more time left. He thought that he would go back to Canada fishing for walleye and pike with his son and grandson. Travel with his other son and grandson’s to the Northwood’s for those good-eating yellow perch. Going back to catch a snook or grouper in Tampa Bay or speckled trout at Gulf Shores would also be on his list. A limit of crappie, some trout fishing, or maybe catfishing would be good too. Grabbing a mess of suckers and frying them up on the river bank would really be fun, one more time. He even thought about going wade fishing in a creek or sitting on a farm pond, on the bank. Alaska salmon and halibut fishing were on his bucket list. So was fishing for redfish. It had never happened, and now there was not enough time.

It Was Like Heaven Was Opening

The sunset was beautiful in the western sky. The bats began their dance with the approaching darkness, it was feeding time. He listened to the owls and the whip-poor-wills as they started their nightly chorus. The smell of new-mown hay and someone’s campfire drifted through the air. He knew he should be heading home. His wife would be worried. In the gathering dusk, he wanted to fish just a little longer.

The doctor had told him the radiation and chemo was not working. This was his last time to fish. He was at peace with that because he knew where he was going. He had messed up his life at times. He had made mistakes. He had gotten his life straightened out and was walking the path he should have been all along. He wished he had more time to tell his wife and family he loved them and make more memories. He wished he had more time to say to others that no matter what they did wrong, they could still go where he was going.

A Reminder From Above

The boat roared to life, and he headed for his favorite fishing spot near the ramp to make another cast or maybe two. In the half-light, he cast toward the bank. The topwater bait gurgled across the surface. A massive bass slammed it, and the fight was on. When the battle was finally over, and he lifted it out of the water, it was bigger than the one earlier in the day. He removed the bait from its cavernous mouth, lowered it back into the water, and in the dim light, watched it swim away. He looked up into the night sky filled with millions of stars and, with a tear in his eye and a smile on his face, said, “thank you!”

“Just one more cast,” he told himself. The lure hits the water. A fish engulfs it. The battle begins and then suddenly stops. He’s snagged. The line snaps. “That’s okay,” he says to himself and smiles again. Too dark now to re-rig. It’s time to go home. He looked up at the night sky, and it looked as if heaven was opening. It was his last cast.

The Eagle Sees the Round Rainbow

  • Eagles are an American Icon
  • Eagles signified majestic strength from the ancient times of Babylon, Egypt and Rome
  • Eagles are part of Native American tribe mythology
  • Eagles…respect, honor, tradition, nature, awe.

What it must be like to be an Eagle…!

By Larry Whiteley

A symbol of our nation.

The bald eagle’s role as our nation’s symbol goes back to 1782 when it was added to the Great Seal of the United States. The eagle was selected because of its great strength, stately looks, long life, and because it is native to North America. The design went on to appear on official documents, currency, flags, public buildings and other government-related items. The bald eagle became an American icon. To us as Americans, along with our flag, the bald eagle represents freedom and all that freedom stands for and is worth fighting for.

Since ancient times the bald eagle has been considered a sign of strength. Babylon, Egypt and the Roman legions all used the eagle as their standard, or symbol. Eagles figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, eagles are considered medicine birds with impressive magical powers and play a major role in their religious ceremonies.

In some of their legends, an eagle serves as a messenger between humans and the Creator. Eagle feathers were earned by Plains Indians as war honors and worn in their feathered head dresses. In some tribes today, eagle feathers are still given to soldiers returning from war or to people who have achieved a great accomplishment.

Sitting on a limb on a mountain high.

Eagles are also mentioned 17 times in the Bible. My favorite is Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the wild, a Bald Eagle will live 30-35 years. A full-grown Bald Eagle has a wingspan of up to 7-feet. They can fly up to 30 miles an hour and dive at 100 miles an hour. Eagles feed primarily on fish, supplemented by small mammals, waterfowl and carrion.

Bald Eagles mate for life and an established pair will use the same nest for many years. Over time, some nests become enormous and can reach a diameter of 9 feet and weigh as much as 2 tons. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs and both parents share incubation and guard them diligently against predators. While the chicks are small, the parents move about the nest with their talons balled up into fists to avoid harming them.

For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls that are usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes. The female may repeat a single, soft, high-pitched note that is said to be unlike any other calls in nature.

Fishermen who recognize the sound of an eagle usually stop fishing just to watch this majestic bird soaring in a bright blue sky. The bonus is when they dive from the sky to the water to do a little fishing themselves. Campers, hikers, canoers and kayakers are sometimes also treated to the sights and sounds of an eagle. It’s a memory that stays with you forever.

Fishing for a meal.

Many years ago I was flying back home to Springfield, MO from Chicago in an old prop airplane. The plane flew very low all the way back. As I watched out the window I thought to myself, “This must be what an eagle sees as he fly’s around.” I pulled out a piece of paper and started writing a poem and finished it before we landed.

A round rainbow is called a “glory.”

The line about the round rainbow was added later and the title was changed after my wife and I were flying back from Florida. When we looked out the window of the plane, we were amazed to see a round rainbow with the shadow of the airplane right in the middle of it.

Rainbows are created when the sun reflects off rain drops to mirror a multitude of colors. Most people don’t realize that a rainbow gets its traditional semicircle shape from the horizon because we are only seeing half of it. When the same atmospheric conditions that create a rainbow are observed from an airplane or by an eagle, a rainbow is a full circle. A round rainbow is called a “glory” that NASA defines as an optical phenomenon. To us, this “glory” was a sign that God was watching over us that day. He still is!

What must it be like to be an eagle…!

THE EAGLE SEES THE ROUND RAINBOW
By Larry Whiteley

What must it be like to perch on a limb
in a tree on a mountain high?
Then look above and spread your wings
and fly into the sky.

The eagle sees the round rainbow
that has no beginning or end.
He sees the flatlands, hills and valleys
and places I’ve never been.

What must it be like to look below
at cloud shadows on the trees?
It must be wonderful
to be so wild and free. 

The traffic on the roads must appear
like ants continually on the go.
Following straight and winding roads
to places only they know. 

What must it be like to fly along the rivers
carving out the land?
Over ponds, lakes and oceans
all created by God’s mighty hand. 

The patchwork quilt of the fields below,
the prairies, the deserts, the plains.
How could you ever get tired of looking
when what you see is never the same? 

What must it be like to fly over rows of houses,
giant factories, malls and other stuff?
For a majestic bird so used to nature’s beauty
neon lights, billboards and concrete must be tough. 

I wonder if tears come to an eagle’s eyes
and they fall to the ground.
When he sees streams filled with trash instead of fish
and pollution all around. 

What must it be like to fly above
when the seasons come and go?
To see the landscape turn from green to gold and red
to the white of a winter snow. 

What must it be like to be an eagle
and soar way up high?
Oh the sights we would behold
if we could see through an eagle’s eyes.

 

It’s Amazing what can Happen…When you Teach a Boy to Shoot a Bow

  • Mentors play an important role in our outdoor heritage and future

David Merrill with a huge elk that didn’t get away.

By Larry Whiteley

David Merrill grew up hiking, fishing, and camping in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains. It was an amazing place where a young David would discover many life experiences in the great outdoors as he roamed through the mountains and valleys of this beautiful place.

In 1996, when he was 14-years old, his Uncle Kendall introduced him to archery. It was the beginning of a life-long passion for shooting a bow and bow-hunting. That passion continues to burn deep in his heart today. This world needs more people like Uncle Kendall who take the time to introduce kids to archery. It could change their lives, like it did David’s.

Later on in life, David moved to Alaska and lived among the wildlife and wild places of what is called the last frontier. While there, he spent every free moment he had out in the wilds, hunting Dall sheep with his bow and fishing for salmon.  The adventure and wide open spaces of Alaska is something a lot of us only dream about. I dream about it every time I watch the Kilcher family and life on their homestead on my favorite TV show – Alaska: The Last Frontier.

It was hard to leave Alaska, but with a growing family of his own now, he felt the need to be closer to extended relatives. So, in 2013 David and his wife, Crystal, moved and started their family among the mountains of Wyoming. Their two boys are the joy of his life. Here, he continued his passion of bow hunting for wild game. David says, “I cannot think of a purer way to feed my loved ones than with wild, free-range, organic game.”

In 2015, David was on a backcountry elk hunt with a friend. His bow was strapped to his pack as they walked along a mountain trail. They came around a corner in the trail and walked up on a huge bull elk. His friend hurried to unstrap David’s bow from the pack. He finally got it out, handed it to David and he drew it back, but it was too late. The elk of a lifetime was gone.

The vision of that monster elk still haunted him on the drive back home. He told his friend that he was never going to let that happen again to him or anyone else. That same passion he has for bow hunting started him creating prototypes of a product that would allow him to carry his bow safely and securely, but within easy simple reach to get out.

My grandson Hunter carries his bow with a Bow Spider.

After much trial and error, he got his product exactly how he wanted it. He called his lightweight, round bow holder – the Bow Spider. You attach an aluminum arm to your bow’s riser and that slides into a slot on the round receiver. The bow is held securely in place on the back of your pack with a gravity-locking system, but slides out easily when you need it. “If you can scratch the back of your head you can grab your bow and pull,” he said. “You’re going to be able to manage your bow very quickly and efficiently, to get it when you need it. It works with any backpack and any bow, whether you’re on horseback or on foot.”

Using the belt that comes with the Bow Spider, you can easily attach it to your backpack, hip, binocular harness, truck headrest, blind or tree. Using the bolts that come with it you can also mount it to any sturdy flat surface for storage. It is the most innovative bow packing system I have ever seen. My grandson has one, loves it and can’t wait to use it this fall out west.

The Bow Spider comes in green, tan or black. The $84.95 price is well worth it to keep you from having bad dreams about the huge elk or monster buck you might have tagged if you could reach your bow quicker and easier.

If you’re a bowhunter after western big game and strap your bow to your pack, you need a Bow Spider. If you are a whitetail hunter and need your hands free to get to your stand or if you’re trying to work your way through the woods stalking a big buck, you need a Bow Spider. Go to www.bowspider.com and check them out. Watch the online videos to see how easy the Bow Spider works.

The Bow Spider System.

If you are a crossbow hunter like me, you are probably thinking it sure would be nice to have one of these to use with my crossbow. Well, your wish is granted. A Bow Spider for crossbow hunters is coming soon.

Being a veteran myself, I think it’s great they give our veterans a 15% discount. All you have to do is call them at 307-438-9290 to place your order and get your discount. “We owe everything we have in America to the veterans that have served and are serving to keep our freedoms alive,” Merrill said. “Our discount program is simply a small way for us to say thank you to those who have done so much for us.”

David’s products are 100% made in America and I love that. David, Crystal and their company also give a percentage of their sales to several recognized American conservation organizations. To me that says a lot. These organizations make it possible for hunters to go to these wild places across this great land to enjoy our hunting traditions.

The aspens are displaying their brilliant colors. There’s a coolness to the air. David is sitting on a rock looking at the majesty of the mountains that surround him. Ravens are talking to each other. An elk bugle echoes in the distance. He is thinking of his Uncle Kendall and the day he taught him to shoot a bow. He is thinking of the game he has taken since then and the places he has hunted. He is thinking it’s time to teach his boys to shoot a bow. He is thinking there would not be a Bow Spider if it were not for Uncle Kendall. It’s amazing what can happen when you teach a boy to shoot a bow.

Click the picture to visit with Crystal Merrill – see how to use the Bow Spider! 

USA Veterans CATCH FUN and FISH at Lake Erie WALLEYE EVENT

  • Chautauqua County, NY – Veterans enjoyed this free event sponsored by WNY Heroes, Inc. – they caught fish and line-stretching fun departing from Chadwick Bay Marina/Clarion Hotel.
  • Chartreuse stickbaits (Yaleye Lure) and spinner/worm rigs (Eye-Fish Rigs) were the hot lures
  • Wind and waves did not deter volunteer charter captains from finding the walleye

As wind and waves whipped up the water surface, the walleye went on a big feed. I’m holding this 9-pounder up for a picture with Barb Erdt. Jim Klein Photo

By Forrest Fisher

As military veterans parked their cars and trucks in the limited spaces available near Chadwick Bay Marina, located in downtown Dunkirk, NY, Program Director Lynn Magistrale from WNY Heroes Inc. (www.wnyheroes.org) led the charge at sunrise registration activities on Friday, June 26, 2020. Magistrale was joined by event master-mind planners, Captain Jim Steel and his wife, Diane, in conjunction with their volunteer promotion of this event at Innovative Outdoors Tackle Shop HQ (https://innovative-outdoors.com/), along with other volunteer groups and professional resources to make this event unforgettable for military veterans that had registered with WNY Heroes, Inc.

Some 24 volunteer expert boat captains joined forces with WNY Heroes, Inc., to share walleye fun for military veterans that had served our country during any era. Forrest Fisher photo

Military veterans filled the boats of 24 volunteer fishing crews that shared their on-the-water fish-catching skills and expert watercraft leadership. The crews donated their time, gear and special services for this impressive extravaganza fishing event during this time of worldwide pandemic. All, just to say thanks to our military veterans. Hats off to all the volunteers.

With 18 walleye in the live well, we headed back to the dock and the fish-cleaning station. We had brought 22 fish to our lines during the morning trip, releasing the smaller fish. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a privilege to meet retired US Navy Petty Officer 1st class, Barbara Erdt, and many other veterans. The fishing was absolutely great as we shared rod-exchanging maneuvers in fire-drill mode with exciting line-stretching moments for the next 3 hours, catching 22 walleye, keeping 18 for the freezer, while fishing aboard Eye-Fish Charters with Captain Jim Klein. I shared my experiences as a US Navy veteran with Barb, but I left after 4 years as a Petty Officer 2nd Class, serving during the Vietnam era on the flight deck aboard the USS Independence/CVA62, maintaining A6-Intruder fighter-bomber jets. Erdt had served during the era of Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom from 1989-2004, then with the US Navy active reserve. We compared locker room stories and laughed about morning reveille at boot camp.

The new Eye-Fish THUMPER BLADE was among the hottest lures on board. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

 

 

 

One of the hot lures, the Yaleye commemorative lure designed for the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day tournament.

With a strong west wind of 12-14 mph at the morning take-off, we headed west about 15 miles and focused on 45 to 65 feet of water. While trolling an assortment of crankbaits and spinner/worm rigs, we enjoyed moments of 3-fish on at the same time on several occasions. The sizzling hot lure was a 2-hook Eye-Fish Firetiger (color) spinner/worm rig (https://www.eye-fish.com) and the commemorative Yaleye Mooneye fish lure (chartreuse w/faded blue rib color, www.yaleyefish.ca) from the recent Southtowns Walleye Association 9-day fishing contest. Barb caught the biggest fish at 9.04 pounds, adding to the total number of really large and healthy walleye already swimming in the live well.

Wind and Waves – We fished from 8AM-11AM and headed back to port as the wind srated to peaked with 22 mph gusts. Forrest Fisher Photo

The presentation method was not complicated, but the boat location and speed was fine-tuned as the wind picked up pushing 24 mph gusts from the southwest. Klein said, ”We caught fish from both sides of the boat using four lines on the big boards and two riggers.

Running the downriggers near the bottom produced fish, but then popping them with the Eye-Fish spinner rigs caught fish too. Forrest Fisher photo

The boards were trailing the lures on 5-color leadcore with a 40-foot fluorocarbon leader and riggers with spinner/worm rigs set back 50 feet while deployed 35 to 55 feet down. The boat speed was 1.4 to 2.6 mph, walking the boat in and out from shore, northeast to southeast, then northwest to north east, as the boat was pushed laterally due east with the strong wind. We never even had time to put the diving planes in! Was a fun time!”

Captain Jim Klein (L) and retired USN 1st Class Petty Officer, Barb Erdt, enjoy the picture taking moment on the trip back to the dock. Forrest Fisher Photo

Barb Erdt said, “I can’t wait to tell my brother about this Lake Erie trip. He fishing quite a lot, but for some reason says walleye fishing is tough this year. Captain Jim made it look pretty easy, thank you Captain!” Erdt added, “I can’t wait to share these fish with my two kids and my two grandkids.”

Event master-mind and organizer, Captain Jim Steel said, “While we scaled down this event to about ¼ of what it usually is, due to the pandemic social distancing rules, we still had 24 boats out there today, including two out-of-state charter captains that volunteered their time for our relatively local Western NY event.

They stayed at the Clarion Hotel, paid for their own fuel and food, never asked for any expenses.” Captain Jim followed, “These two long-distance volunteers, like all of our other master-angler volunteers on the water, just said they wanted to be here to say thanks to those who served to provide the USA freedoms we enjoy each and every day.” Diane Steel added, “The NYSDEC provided free fish-cleaning services for the veterans today too, preparing more than 100 walleye to take home for their kitchen dinner meal. From the conservation side, the DEC biologists and technicians collected age and health data for their study and record books too.”

NYS Department of Environmental Conservation staff volunteered efforts to clean fish for the veterans. Forrest Fisher photo.

Besides a big resealable bag of fresh walleye fillets (they sell for $19.95/pound in Florida!), every veteran left with a red/white/blue fishing rod/reel outfit and a tasty box lunch for the trip back home.

The mission of WNY Heroes is to provide veterans and their families with access to essential services, including financial assistance and resources that help support their lives and sustain their dignity. To help support their life-saving services, WNY Heroes does rely on volunteers for many functions. To learn more about them check out www.wnyheroes.org.

For area accommodations, vacation lodging, charter fishing contacts and services and hotel information/discounts, visit www.tourchautauqua.com. 

 

Firearm Industry in support of HISTORIC Senate Passage of Great American Outdoors Act

Rules, Regulations, NICs check - all required for legal firearm ownership in the USA. Photo courtesy of NSSF

NSSF®, the firearm industry trade association, praised the U.S. Senate’s passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, (H.R. 1957). This historic legislation, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, is among the most meaningful legislative measures for sportsmen conservationists ever. The Senate’s approval is a major step forward toward delivering on the promise of sustained wildlife conservation, public land hunting and recreational shooting on behalf of current and future generations of outdoorsmen and women.

Safety above all. Photo is courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)

“This is a monumental achievement that demonstrates a continued legacy of bipartisanship on wildlife, public lands and outdoor recreation issues,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “When enacted, this legislation will fulfill a promise to future generations that conservation, access to public lands and outdoor recreation including hunting and recreational shooting will be safeguarded well into the next century.”
The Great American Outdoors Act, introduced in the Senate by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), would ensure full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog of public lands and water projects across the United States. Those projects include wildlife habitat conservation, road and trail repairs and increased recreational access to our public lands and waters.
The legislation next heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for approval before it goes to the White House for signature, for which President Donald Trump has already indicated his support.
NSSF is especially grateful for Sens. Gardner and Daines sponsoring the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for placing this as priority legislation in the Senate and for Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) for their bipartisan leadership. The legislation was introduced with 55 bipartisan co-sponsors.
The legislation builds upon the success of the NSSF-supported John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which also enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Trump in 2019.
GAOA will provide $9.5 billion over five years for deferred federal public lands and waters maintenance projects, with $3 billion set aside for infrastructure restoration on hundreds of millions of acres for increased access for America’s sportsmen and women. The Great American Outdoors Act will also provide $900 million annually for permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The legislation would also ensure that a significant portion of LWCF funding is dedicated to increasing public access for hunting, recreational shooting, fishing and outdoor recreation.
Sportsmen and women play a critical conservation role in the nation’s wildlife resources and to date, hunters and purchasers of firearms and ammunition, collectively, are the single largest source of wildlife conservation funding, contributing more than $13 billion since the enactment of the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.
About NSSF – NSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

Shooting Range…Building Out Your Kit, Go Prepared

  • Want to have a more successful and safe shooting range trip? Make sure you’ve got the right gear
By Blake Tabb
  Do you want to have a more successful and safer shooting range trip? Make sure you’ve got the right gear! Preparation for range day begins with the right range bag and ends with it being filled with all the things you need to have a fun and productive day.
  The right range bag is the Ulfhednar UH010 Long Day Range Bag. It’s designed in Norway from ultra-tough Cordura nylon, with best-in-class YKK covered zippers and an ergonomic carrying strap with a non-slip material, so it will stay snugged up against your shoulder no matter how far you have to walk. A large exterior side pocket has a fold flat “table” with a soft pad for small cleaning/repair jobs, and there are even more, well-padded exterior and interior pockets. The Molle system on top and on one side makes attaching and removing extra pockets and accessories quick and easy. The bag measures a generous 23.6 x 15.75 x 9.85 inches, and is Ulfhednar’s signature grey. It’s built Viking tough to last a lifetime.
Being steady is a must for long-range precision rifle shooting, which means you need a support from which you can rest both the rifle’s forend and buttstock. Properly resting the buttstock is best achieved with a squeeze-type pillow, which is placed under the buttstock and slightly squeezed to allow it to expand to fine-tune the elevation position of the rifle on the target. Ulfhednar’s UH105 Squeezy Support Pillow is perfect for the task. Measuring 3 x 4.3 inches and weighing just 12 ounces, it’s made from a soft, yet rugged, neoprene material, and has easy access to customize. It’s the choice of many serious competition shooters around the globe.
  How about a sling? The Ulfhednar UH303 sling is so much more than an inexpensive rifle carrier. This sling features PRS non-elastic web and adjustable cam-buckle so you can adjust the sling length quickly; one of the two solid plastic clamps adjusts the total length of the loop, the other locks the loop around the arm. Together they ensure that once an adjustment has been made, it will stay there until you physically change it. The sling is also so light that it is not felt on your arm. It’s been designed to help keep you steady in all shooting positions.
  To carry ammunition and stack it next to your shooting position for quick and easy access, the Ulfhednar UH110 Versatile Ammunition Folder is made from water-resistant Cordura nylon. It features a durable carrying strap and holds up to 40 rifle cartridges. It can be set up in a triangle and locked with Velcro. There’s also an exterior waterproof table pocket that can be removed and replaced with the four included cartridge strips, each holding 10 rounds each. Two and two cartridge strips can be mounted together so that you get two cartridge strips with 20 shots in each.
You also need a rifle case. Usually, a rifle case is a rifle case, but how about a gun case that doubles as a top-end shooting mat? That’s what you get with the Ulfhednar UH040 BASE CAMP. Sporting backpack straps on the underside in addition to a top carrying handle. The UH040 is easy to sling on a shoulder and tote to the range or into the field. Once there, the bag folds out to reveal a full-length shooting mat measuring 41 x 79 inches. While an integrated shooting mat is pretty useful on its own, Ulfhednar takes it to another level by utilizing a rubber material (like you’d see in car tires) on certain surfaces of the mat to add friction. The rubber is laid specifically on the mat to give shooters a little resistance while shooting, so shooters’ elbows and/or the firearm itself doesn’t slip when firing. The product also has a lot of storage pockets, Molle web for attaching extra pockets or other equipment, a zippered inner storage pocket, a channel for storing your cleaning/push rod, and a detachable pocket for tables, and it also comes with a two-foot extension lower leg mat and extended bipod mat. It’s made from Cordura nylon and features covered YKK zippers.
 
About Ulfhernar – Ruggedized Norwegian produced precision shooting gear. Founded and managed by a
40-year champion shooter, Ulfhednar is producing a line of products that are incredibly innovative, durable, and exactly in time with the growing PRS market in the US. Long Range/PRS are the largest shooting sports in Norway boasting 6,000 registered competitors. 
For more information, please visit WWW.ULFHEDNAR.NO.

Salmon Tourney Winners Find Big Spring Fish! Wilson, New York

Photo courtesy of Bill HIlts - Niagara USA

Winner of the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament June 6 was the U-Betcha team led by Capt. Chris Vogt of Albion.

Congratulations to the U-Betcha team led by Capt. Chris Vogt of Albion. They won the Wilson Harbor Invitational Tournament and nearly $15,000 in cash last weekend. The tournament is based on the best six salmon for the day and their 6 fish weighed in at 90.92 pounds for a total score of 150.92 points based on 10 points per fish and a point per pound.

Second place team was Elise K. from Michigan, less than 3 points behind the winning U-Betcha team.

Second place was the Elise K team from Michigan, less than 3 points behind. The Hound Dog team from Wellsville was less than a point behind them. Big fish for the tournament was a 22.34-pound king salmon reeled in by the Tri-Lakes Sportfishing team headed up by William Jennings. Vogt found his winning combination between 4 Mile Creek and the red buoy marker drop off on the Niagara Bar in 250 feet of water. Rigged cut bait and Stingray spoons worked best for him during the tournament.

Blake Kowalski of Tonawanda holds up a couple king salmon for the Tough Duty 2 team that placed 5th in the Wilson Harbor Invitational tourney last weekend.

Capt. Mike Johannes of Ransomville, has been doing good about 6 miles west of Wilson in about 150 to 300 feet of water. Mostly dark spoons such as Carbon 14 and Seasick Waddler patterns have been best in the magnum size. Some fish have come on divers 150 feet back with 8-inch e-chip flashers and flies, too. Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reports that fishing is tough but 200 to 280 feet of water right out in front of Olcott has been producing a few big kings over 20 pounds.  Depth varies. Mag spoons in green, white, black, and lemons.   Chartreuse and glow flies or meat rigs are working, too.  Some perch have been coming from 12 Mile Creek and Tuscarora over in Wilson.

Whether you are fishing above or below Niagara Falls in the Niagara River, pay attention to the border. Canada has once again shifted its policy to keep anglers and boaters from entering Canadian water space, announcing huge fines and possible boat confiscation for violators. The change took place June 1 and it will be revisited again on June 21, but it could be extended again.

Lower Niagara river action has been hampered by the arrival of the moss according to Lisa Drabczyk with Creek Road Bait and Tackle. Fishing has been a bit slow. There are still a few steelheads up in Devil’s Hole believe it or not with water temperatures into the mid-60s. Bass action has been tough. Best spots have been at Joe Davis and the Coast Guard drift for boats. Tubes work best.

Mike Rzucidlo and Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a white bass double header in the lower Niagara River.

From shore, Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls has been using jigs. Bass action has been tough. About the only fish really cooperating has been sheepshead and he has caught some bruisers this week.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls is feeling a bit sheepish with a bomber of a freshwater drum in the Niagara Gorge on light line.

On the Bar near the green buoy, Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston reports some decent Coho action on MagLips off three-way rigs. Upper river bass action has been tough according to Capt. Ryan Shea. Fish are on the beds. Ned rigs have been producing a few fish, but you must work for them. There are some walleyes around, too.

This is National Fishing and Boating Week through June 14th. Get out there and enjoy our waters. Charter captains are back operating again. Stay safe!

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

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Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303

Recreational Red Snapper Season open in Gulf State and Federal Waters

Photo courtesy of Brice Williamson

The recreational Red Snapper Season will opened on June 11 for Gulf state and federal waters, and will remain open through July 25, closing on July 26.

“I’m excited to announce the beginning of Florida’s recreational Red Snapper Season in state and federal Gulf waters beginning Thursday, June 11,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World and we are proud to welcome Floridians and visitors to participate in Red Snapper Season as our state moves forward with the safe re-opening of our economy.”

“Red Snapper Season is one of the most anticipated and exciting saltwater fishing seasons that contribute to Florida being the Fishing Capital of the World,” said Eric Sutton, FWC Executive Director. “The years of collaborative work with stakeholders and partners has resulted in a significant increase in the number of fishing days over the past few years, from just a few days to 45 red snapper fishing days in Gulf state and federal waters this year.”

For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit may also participate in the season but are limited to fishing for red snapper in Gulf state waters only.

If you plan to fish for red snapper in Gulf state or federal waters (excluding Monroe County) from a private recreational vessel, even if you are exempt from fishing license requirements, you must sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler or State Reef Fish Angler when signing up after July 1 (annual renewal required). The Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation will be expanded statewide and renamed State Reef Fish Angler starting July 1. To learn more, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” then “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” or “State Reef Fish Survey” under “Reef Fish” tab. Sign up at GoOutdoorsFlorida.com.

Gulf Reef Fish Anglers and State Reef Fish Anglers might receive a questionnaire in the mail regarding their reef fish trips as part of Florida’s Gulf Reef Fish Survey and State Reef Fish Survey. These surveys were developed specifically to provide more robust data for management of red snapper and other important reef fish, and have allowed FWC the unprecedented opportunity to manage Gulf red snapper in state and federal waters. If you receive a survey in the mail, please respond whether you fished this season or not.

When catching red snapper and other deep-water fish, look out for symptoms of barotrauma (injuries caused by a change in pressure) such as the stomach coming out of the mouth, bloated belly, distended intestines and bulging eyes. When releasing fish with barotrauma, use a descending device or venting tool to help them survive and return to depth. Learn more about fish handling at MyFWC.com/FishHandling.

To learn more about the recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Marine and click on “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers,” which is under the “Regulations by Species – Reef Fish” tab.

The federal Gulf season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits is June 1 through Aug. 1.

Family Entertainment, Visit the Great Branson Indoors and Outdoors

  • Endless adventure with hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, bass and trout fishing, hunting, trap and skeet shooting, spelunking, rock climbing and more.
  • Visit public parks, resorts, campgrounds, forests or one of Branson’s three crystal clear lakes.
  • Water ski, boat or go bass fishing at Table Rock Lake, or kayak and trout fish on Lake Taneycomo

By Larry Whiteley

It’s time to start getting back to normal and plan a weekend getaway, or a week-long vacation that offers something for everyone in the family. The place to do all that is located right in the heart of America in Branson, Missouri.

There may be no better place in America to experience family entertainment and all the great outdoors has to offer in one place, than in the beautiful Missouri/Arkansas Ozarks with its forested hills, pristine lakes and clear-flowing streams. Plus, it’s only a short flight or within a day or two drive from two-thirds of the United States.

Lake activities are a great way to enjoy Branson. Water sports are available on each of Branson’s great lakes. Guests can swim, water ski, wakeboard, tube, boat, sail, scuba dive, Jet-ski, parasail, ride a hydro-bike, paddle-board, kayak, canoe and fish.

There are more species of fish to catch in Branson than almost anywhere else in America. Choose from rainbow trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, Kentucky bass, striped bass, white bass, rock bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, yellow perch, four species of sunfish and even the historic paddlefish. Unfamiliar with fishing in Branson? Book a guided fishing trip through one of the many guide services on any lake. Want to get some physical activity in? Branson has more than 200 miles of miles of hiking trails, with varying lengths, offering natural views of water, woods and wildlife.

Table Rock Lake has nearly 800 miles of shoreline and is one of Missouri’s top fishing destinations. Marina’s offer boat and equipment rentals, or bring your own, as there are multiple public and privately-owned locations to access the lake. Want to relax on the lake? Enjoy a lunch or dinner cruise and show aboard the Showboat Branson Belle or take a cruise on the Spirit of America catamaran.

Lake Taneycomo’s water comes from the bottom of Table Rock Lake, making it a cold-water lake perfect for trout fishing. The pristine, clear, water is stocked annually with approximately 750,000 rainbow trout, making it a world-class trout fishery. The state record brown trout came from these waters and many believe the next world record is swimming around right now in Taneycomo’s waters. This lake is also perfect for kayaking and there are plenty of resorts and other lodging along its banks.

Branson also offers plenty of family-oriented RV Parks and Campgrounds near and around the lakes. Spend quality time together with the comforts of a full-service RV site or unplug and reconnect with the family at a campground near one of the beautiful lakes. Prefer something more upscale? Stay in a log cabin, resort, lodge or hotel – the options are unlimited.

Looking for more outdoor adventure? Try trap or skeet shooting, visit a cave or enjoy the high-tech sport of geocaching. Ride a zipline through the hills and valleys at Shepherd of the Hills Adventure Park or at Branson Ziplines at Wolfe Creek Reserve.

In addition to all the outdoor opportunities in the Branson area, visitors can enjoy Silver Dollar City theme park, nature parks, waterparks, museums and aquariums in the area. Have a great meal at one of the many restaurants or take in a dinner show. Play a round of golf at one of our 10 world-class golf courses, or have fun at one of the many miniature golf courses.

Branson is one of the leading entertainment cities in America. With over 100 shows playing throughout the year there are more seats than Broadway in Branson. It is a truly remarkable city with so much to offer. There is always something to fill your days with lots of fun-packed activities. Or, just come to relax and recharge your body and soul away from home. Go to www.explorebranson.com and check it all out.

Come for all the experiences in the great outdoors. Come for the all the entertainment. Go back home with lots of memories from Branson, Mo.

 

Best Binoculor NAMED for Spotting Birds…German Precision Optics (GPO-USA)

  • Waterproof and fog-proof, tough aluminum eyecup tubes
  • Lightweight and compact, custom-molded hard case
  • Lifetime Warranty from German Precision Optics (GPO)

GPO USA PASSION™ 8×42 ED Binocular Wins Best Birding Binocular Award – Best Binoculars Reviews (BBR) has awarded the GPO PASSION 8×42 ED binocular with its 2020 Best Birding Binocular. Now in its tenth year, BBR awards the very best binoculars they have fully tested and reviewed in the past 12 months in a range of categories.

BBR website publisher commented about the quality of the GPO 8×42 binocular: “For just about all uses, but especially important for birding, an image that is of excellent quality and true to life is a critical feature. This is because it not only ensures you can fully appreciate the beauty of the birds in all their glory but sometimes, tiny differences in plumage colorations can make the difference when trying to positively identify one sub-species from another.

“As most birders will know, having a wide field of view is another extremely important feature as it enables you to more easily find and then follow your subjects, this is especially true of the small faster-moving ones at closer ranges! At 426ft wide at 1,000 yards, these GPO binoculars have an extremely wide view that ranks up there with the very widest 8×42 binoculars currently on the market and which is why I would certainly describe them as being a wide angle binocular.

“As with the predecessor, another reason I chose these over the other contenders is down to them having an excellent build quality level and with it a performance that was well above what I would expect to find in just about every area.

“Indeed I would go as far as to say that these GPO binoculars have no major weaknesses, which makes them a very versatile instrument that will not only stand out in most types of birding but also many other areas and thus I feel they rank up there with the best binoculars for 2020 overall.”

To be eligible for a BBR Award and be considered one of the best binoculars for 2020, it has to have been fully reviewed and tested by BBR. According to the website, BBR reviews are written after thoroughly researched, used and then tested and compared to other binoculars in its class.

To read the extensive review on the GPO PASSION 8×42 ED binocular, visit https://www.bestbinocularsreviews.com/binocular-awards2020.php#bestbirdingbinoculars2020.

About GPO USA: German Precision Optics was founded on the premise that design, engineering and quality management is 100 percent controlled in Germany to its strictest standards, yet products can be produced at some of the largest production facilities worldwide. This unique corporate structure allows GPO to offer the highest quality products with better features at a significantly better price. The company is 100-percent confident that all its products will not only function perfectly but also exceed all expectations. Therefore, GPO USA has created an industry-leading Spectacular Lifetime Warranty™. With outstanding professional service, GPO USA will take care of its products before, during and after the purchase at no charge— EVER. Founded in 2016, GPO has its U.S. headquarters in Richmond, Va. For more information on GPO USA, visit www.gpo-usa.com or call 844-MY-BINOS (844-692-4667).

Bow Spider: The Ultimate Solution for Packing Compound Bows Afield

The product is proudly made in the USA and gives one percent of all sales to conservation. The company also offers veterans a 15 percent discount on all products.

  • You see the Buck, the Elk, the Moose…but your bow is somehow unreachable. Now, a proven solution.
  • Reduce FROM a the game of CHANCE…TO a game of CHOICE. 
  • Mount on your hip, on your treestand, on your backpack while hiking in. The Intuitive design makes bow retrieval fast and easy in any situation.

One of the big hassles of hunting with a compound bow is figuring out how to securely and safely pack and carry it afield, yet keep it handy enough that you can immediately spring into action should an unforeseen opportunity arise. The solution is simple: Bow Spider — the quickest and easiest bow retrieval system on the market. Whether you are a backpack hunter, spend your time up a tree, or need both hands free when crossing a field while carrying decoys, blinds, and other accessories, Bow Spider is the answer you’ve been looking for.

The concept is simple and revolves around a lightweight, roundish bow holder that comes with a sturdy belt and long bolts, allowing for multiple ways to secure your bow. Use the belt to attach your bow to your pack, hip, truck headrest, blind, or tree. Bow Spider can also be easily attached to a binocular harness or backpack. In fact, it can be mounted to any sturdy flat surface for secure and easy storage – even a wall.

Here’s how it works. An aluminum arm attaches to the bow’s riser, and slides into a slot on the lightweight, injection-molded receiver, which can be worn on the included belt or attached via long bolts to other objects. The bow is held securely in place via a gravity-locking system, yet slides out with minimal effort. You have to either pull it out or turn it upside down to get the bow out. With Bow Spider, you can:

  • Mount on Your Hip: Use the straps provided to mount the Bow Spider to your side using a belt or on your pack frame belt. Or you can attach it to your pack frame waist band. Both of these options provide for easy access while hiking or exploring for game as well as during professional archery shooting competitions.
  • Mount in Your Tree Stand: Use the Bow Spider to secure your bow when hunting from a tree stand for quick, quiet access. Carry it up securely on your back and cinch to the tree! This eliminates the need for a pull rope to pull your bow up after you are already in the tree stand. Once in the tree stand utilize the provided strap to attach the Bow Spider to the tree for quick access.
  • Use on Your Pack: You can choose either to temporarily or permanently mount Bow Spider to your pack. By using the provided straps it can be mounted temporarily. For a permanent or semi-permanent mount you can use the provided bolts. This is a true game changer for those long backcountry hikes.
  • Safe Storage for Home or Travel: Use the provided strap to affix the Bow Spider to your seat while driving. You can also screw the Bow Spider to the wall for long term storage in your home.

The Bow Spider is available in green, tan, or black, and has a MSRP of $84.95. To see how it works, check out this short YouTube video quick access: Click Here

When every second counts, quickly swing your bow into action thanks to the amazing new Bow Spider. For more information, and to order visit www.bowspider.com.

About Recreational Archery Development LLC (RAD, LLC): Founded in 2019 and headquartered in Kinnear, WY – RAD, LLC is a leading designer and manufacturer of innovative products for the outdoor industry, including the Bow Spider brand of products. Bow Spider’s intuitive design makes bow retrieval fast and easy in any situation. The product is proudly made in the USA and gives one percent of all sales to conservation. The company also offers veterans a 15 percent discount on all products. (To take advantage of this offer, orders need to be called in directly to the company at (307) 438-9290.) For additional information on RAD, LLC and the Bow Spider brand of products write to: RAD, LLC, PO Box 171, Kinnear, WY 82516; call (307) 438-9290; email info@bowspider.com; visit www.bowspider.com.

Coming Home to Fletcher Lake Lodge…OPEN after June 21st

  • Loons, Lynx, Trophy Fish…Unforgettable Fun at Fletcher Lake Lodge, Canada
  • Arrive by air (bush plane) from Kenora, Ontario…exciting and fun!
  • Visitors find hugs, smiles, peace, quiet…and great food

By Larry Whiteley

Between fishing for and catching trophy walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike and musky, there are sightings of moose, bear, lynx, bald eagles, fantastic scenery, sunsets and sunrises, and the love sounds of the many loons. Not to mention sitting around a campfire. It’s unforgettable fun.

Jeanne MacLean has owned and operated Fletcher Lake Lodge in Northwestern Ontario for 39 years. During all those years she has always looked forward to welcoming guests that return year after year. It is like going back home for them. They have become like family to Jeanne and her staff.

Her “family” and first-time visitors all arrive by Canadian bush planes out of Kenora, Ontario. When “family” arrive there are lots of hugs, smiles and laughter. When “first timers” step off the plane onto the dock and look around, big smiles appear and you hear them saying things like “WOW, this is awesome!” or “Oh my gosh, this is perfect!” And, that is before they have even been on the water catching trophy smallmouth, walleye, northern pike and muskie.

The “first-timers” soon realize what Jeanne’s “family” already know: This special lodge on this special lake and the memories they will make will remain in their hearts and minds forever. They are now “family” too.

Don’t take my word for it though. Here are what some of Jeanne’s guests have to say –

“Jeanne, thanks again to you and your staff for my 15th consecutive, knockout fishing trip with you at Fletcher Lake. Of course, the fishing was fantastic. I must tell you that the facilities, staff, food and lodge are frosting on the cake. I can hardly wait to come back 15 more times.” – Paul

“For the past 35 years, three generations of our family have come to Fletcher Lake Lodge. During these trips, the ladies of the family have enjoyed their experience as much as the men and can’t wait to come back again. The walleye, northern pike and smallmouth fishing has continued to improve with each trip and our family always catch trophy fish in each species every year. Jeanne and her staff provide a warm family welcome. We can’t wait to keep coming back. – Nancy

“Fletcher Lake Lodge is an outdoor paradise, made even better by Jeanne and her staff. They are hands down the best hosts anyone could ask for. You really feel like you are part of the family when you stay here. – Abby

“I just wanted to thank you again for the top notch fishing trip. Will definitely be spreading the good word about Fletcher Lake Lodge and the fantastic people who make it a family like atmosphere. See you next trip.” – Jason

Fletcher Lake Lodge was established in the mid 1960’s and is the only lodge on the lake. Jeanne purchased it in 1982. In 1995 they implemented a conservation fishing practice in order to ensure a healthy fishery for many years to come. Five years later Jeanne teamed up with the Ontario Government to create a unique Trophy Waters program that has dramatically increased both the quality and the quantity of fish in Fletcher Lake. It has set this area of Canada apart from many other regions in regards to trophy fish being caught, documented, pictures taken just in case they want a replica mount made and the fish are then released back into the water to be caught again another day.

Guests have a choice of a full service, fly-in American plan or a housekeeping package. The lodge is nestled into a bay with a sand beach and great fishing right from the dock.

During the 2019 fishing season guests caught over 261 trophy walleye, northern and smallmouth along with many eaters and that doesn’t include all the other fish that were released. There are also two portage lakes north of Fletcher Lake that provide fantastic muskie and perch fishing. You can eat fish everyday, if you want, or enjoy all the other delicious home-cooked meals too.

Even though a high percentage of guests are “family” and return every year, there is room for “first-timer’s”. Go to https://www.fletcherlake.com/ and check it all out. Then call Jeanne at her office in Minnesota at (218) 386-1538 or at the lodge (807) 224-3400 and tell her you want to come home.

                                           SPECIAL NOTE

As I write this, the Canadian border and Canadian provinces remain closed because of COVID-19, but Fletcher Lake Lodge “family” and “first timers” will be able to return on June 21st, 2020.

The lodge will be open into September and there are a few openings for “first timers” throughout the summer if you would like to be one of them. Right now, Jeanne is busy taking care of her “family” and letting them know that there is a new beginning in sight with regard to COVID-19 rules.

EDITOR NOTE: All photographs are courtesy of Fletcher Lake Lodge

 

Newborn Wildlife, You Can Look but Don’t Touch

  • Be careful, view animals from a distance and do not touch

By Jason Houser

In the next several weeks, wildlife throughout the country will be bearing young. This is an awesome time of year and is a chance to see newborn elk calves, deer, pronghorn fawns, as well as many others. At the same time, I hope you know that when you come across young animals, please leave newborn wildlife alone and keep a distance.

It is so tempting when you see a young, fragile animal, to want to step in and help. It is the instinct of many people to feel compassion for the animal, but that animal was more than likely put there by its mother for safekeeping.

It is an amazing experience to get the chance to see the splendors of the outdoors, but please view animals from a distance and do not touch. Spring is an important time in a newborn’s life, and interference from humans can put their life at risk.

Most mammals hide their young and return periodically to nurse. People finding young animals with no adult around often assume the newborns have been abandoned, but this is rarely the case. The mother knows where her young are and will almost certainly return to care for them.

Young birds sometimes fall out of or leave their nests before they can fly. The parents continue to care for the young bird while it is on the ground, bringing food and trying to protect the youngster while it is in this vulnerable situation.

Getting too close to newborn wildlife can be very dangerous. The mother to the newborn animal will display very aggressive behavior when humans get close to their young. Leave the area immediately if you encounter aggressive wildlife with young. Yes, even whitetail doe’s that look so harmless can be aggressive. It is in their nature to protect their young, just like human parents will do anything to protect their children from harm.

The best option for people who come across newborn wildlife is to leave them alone. I had a case just last spring when a curious whitetail fawn that I did not know was in the area decided to go for a walk. The newborn was just born hours before that same day, we later learned through eyewitness accounts. The young deer left her hiding spot in the fencerow behind my home and entered my yard. As cute as the animal was, and even odd to see it in my yard, we left the baby to be. Watching it out the window of our home it was not long before its mother found it. Never assume the baby is an orphan unless you see the mother dead.

Most state and federal laws forbid possession of game and many nongame animals, so adopting newborn wildlife is illegal. Citations can be issued for possession of newborn wildlife with a possible penalty of up to a $1,000 fine.

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Outdoors Woman

  • Significant Gifts for that one Significant Other, Outdoors Mom’s are special
  • Colorful 3-season and 4-season quilts, comfy outdoor footwear, bacteria-safe cutting board, a unique Wok w/ burner system

By Jason Houser

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and significant others and children are not always the best at picking out gifts. Flowers die and chocolate is gone way too soon. This year get her something she can use and will last for years to come.

Cutting Boards and More

Mothers are great cooks (most mothers). Instead of letting her use the same old cutting board that is an eyesore, get her a cutting board that will last a lifetime and looks good in the kitchen. John Boos & Co. located in Effingham, Illinois, has been manufacturing cutting boards since the late 1800s. These boards can be found in kitchens across the country and on the sets of your favorite cooking show.

Cutting boards should last and that is exactly what a properly cared for cutting board from John Boos will do. It is not just cutting boards though. John Boos offers a wide selection of butcher blocks, countertops, worktables, and stainless-steel products.

If you can think of a need for it when it comes to this type of product, John Boos has probably already thought of it. Whether it is a block designed for cutting fresh herbs, holding your I-pad or your fresh loaf of homemade bread and everything in between, you will find it at John Boos.

If a durable and attractive board isn’t enough for you, then consider this. A scientific study conducted by Dr. Dean Cliver, Ph.D. has proved that maple cutting boards inhibit bacteria growth, while plastic boards have been scientifically proven to harbor bacteria inside the cut grooves. Also, wood cutting boards are known to be easier on your expensive knife blades.

Durable WOK with BIG KAHUNA Burner

Who doesn’t like cooking with woks? Eastman Outdoors is home to the best wok and outdoor burner on the market. Ideal for stir-frying, deep-frying, boiling, steaming, braising and simmering, this deep wok + powerful burner combination delivers versatile cooking, to decks, patios, backyards and campsites alike.

This outdoor wok kit is complete with accessories for styles of cooking. The 22-inch stainless-steel wok is 50% deeper than most traditional woks, allowing your favorite cook room to make your plenty of your favorite foods.

The propane burner has adjustable legs (18″ to 26″) making it perfect for not only the Wok, but the top surface flips to accept skillets and small pots but also tall pots.

Included in the kit are a stainless-steel wok spoon, spatula, 12-inch AccuZone (TM) thermometer, and an instructional DVD with recipes.

Boots

Every lady needs a good pair of boots. I bought my wife a pair of Vaprtrek from Irish Setter Boots.  We recently returned from a turkey hunt in southern Illinois.  To say that good footwear was important in the uneven terrain is an understatement.

I can only guess how many miles we walked on the days it took for us to scout and to fill our turkey tags. And, it was no walk in the park either. On this hunt, we both chose to wear the Irish Setter Vaprtrek. Walking over uneven terrain, crossing small streams, and experiencing mild temperatures, these boots were perfect.

Normally, we like to break our boots in before trekking through the wood’s miles from another pair of boots.  Not doing so is only asking for sore feet and blisters.  After trying these boots on for the first time, my wife felt comfortable enough to wear them hunting the very next day.  These waterproof boots proved their weight in gold as we were on our feet all day long, day after day.

So, how does Irish Setter explain the Vaprtrek? VaprTrek™ boots were designed with the athletic hunter in mind.

Whether your deer hunting, scouting, searching for sheds or chasing that spring gobbler, you’ll appreciate how light yet rugged these technically advanced, high-performance boots are. Their innovative RPM™ sole, ScentBan™ scent control, and sleek profile combine to meet the demands of the most active hunters.

Quilts

These are not your grandma’s quilts. Quilts by Zenbivy are manufactured with the outdoorsman and woman in mind.

If you’re better half enjoys camping, she will enjoy one of these quilts. Unlike a sleeping bag that has a zipper to deal with when laid flat, these quilts do not have the extra weight to contend with. And, many people would rather not sleep in a sleeping bag that constricts their movement. It is much easier to cover up with a comfortable quilt for a good night’s rest.

Available in a variety of colors, it will not be a problem to find one just right for her.  With three temperature ratings to choose from, there is one for every season. The 40º version is just as soft, just as light and just as packable as their 25º down quilt, but is built for warmer nights and tighter budgets. Built for 3-Season use, the 25 Degree down Light Quilt is one of the softest, most durable, lightweight quilts you can find. The buttery-soft 20º fabrication sets the 10º down Light Quilt apart from its more “purist” 10º competitors. Built for the widest range of temperatures, it’s a true 4-season ultra-light quilt.

The quilt is great, but be sure to check out the pillow, mattress and dry sack from Zenbivy to complete your sleeping comfort.  These might not be the traditional Mother’s Day gifts many think of, but I am sure she would enjoy them for years to come.

BOOTS that bring your FAMILY out for a WALK…LOWA Boots

  • After comfort and wearability, there is only long-lasting comfort and long-lasting wearability

By Larry Whiteley

Yes, my closet is full of LOWA’s – gotta love these boots. Larry Whiteley Photo

My family has several traditions: The opening day of firearms deer season, going fishing the last day of trout season, hunting for morel mushrooms and looking for shed deer antlers, and more. A different kind of a tradition for the Whiteley family seems to be that a lot of us are wearing LOWA boots.

LOWA’s great ambassador Ingrid Niehaus. Photo courtesy www.womensoutdoornews.com.

I got my first pair of LOWA’s several years ago thanks to a good friend, Ingrid Niehaus, who worked for LOWA. A Bavarian cobbler named Lorenz Wagner founded LOWA in 1923. She told me of the company’s belief in corporate responsibility, taking care of their employees and social commitment. They also support non-profits that are working in environmental conservation and nature protection.

She also explained to me the quality and workmanship that goes into their boots and then talked me into a pair of LOWA’s, the Renegade GTX® Mid, which is one of the best-selling boots in the world. It is also the #1 selling boot in Europe, plus it was named to Backpacker Magazine’s Hall of Fame.

When they arrived and I opened the box I could tell these boots were much better than any boot I had ever owned and worthy of their status. The minute I slipped my feet into them and laced them up I was so glad she convinced me into getting them.

I kept raving about my new LOWA’s to family members and anyone else that would listen. That’s not something I usually do, but I had never worn a quality boot like my LOWA’s. They were so comfortable that’s all they were ever seeing me wear everywhere I went, including to church.

My wife heard me going on about how I love my LOWA’s so much she decided she wanted a pair too and we got her the Ladies Renegade GTX® Mid. She enjoys hiking and had several pairs of good hiking shoes, but now I never see her wear anything else.

My wife modeling her LOWA’s. Larry Whiteley Photo

I liked mine so well, I later got another pair of LOWA’s, but this time in a high top boot for hunting, hiking and just to wear. The Zephyr GTX Hi TF® were exactly what I was looking for, with the same great features and just as comfortable as my Renegade GTX® Mid.

My grandson was getting ready to do college summer intern work with a wildlife biologist where he would be working in some really rough terrain. He started hinting to me that he could sure use a pair like mine and, of course, his papaw got him a pair too because he’s a good kid and I wanted him in good boots as well.

Later my son says to me, “You, Mom, and my son keep going on about those LOWA boots and I think I might like a pair too.” Since he works on his feet all day in a cabinet shop, as well as enjoys walking and hiking with his wife and Max, the dog, I agreed. As a gift to him, I got the Zephyr GTX Mid® and now he is also a big LOWA fan.

While I was getting his, I decided I wanted another pair of LOWA’s for myself and got the new Zephyr GTX Mid TF® as a gift to myself. A man can’t have enough boots! It’s just like we can’t have enough guns or fishing rods! They are everything I have come to expect from boots. I am betting that my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter and my future granddaughter-in-law will soon also be a part of our LOWA family.

My son and his LOWAs. Anna Whiteley Photo

Ingrid recently decided to give up her work in order to travel and enjoy life. I will miss seeing her, but wish her the best on the rest of her journey through life. Thank you Ingrid for helping the Whiteley family start a different kind of tradition. Our feet really thank you too.

One of my favorite John Muir quotes says, “In every walk in nature one receives far more than he seeks”. When you walk in nature wearing LOWA boots, you also receive far more than you could ever imagine.

If the Whiteley family story has piqued your interest in LOWA boots, then I encourage you to go to www.lowaboots.com and check out their huge selection of boots. You will never regret owning a pair or two or three of LOWA boots. Only then, you’ll understand, the LOWA family is where you and the outdoors make friends for all time, wherever you go.

Venison Meatball Rigatoni Mug

A tasty deer camp “Cup of Energy.”  Recipe by “Kitchen Kate.”

Makes 8 Servings, what you’ll need:

Noodle/Cheese Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 1 box (12 oz) rigatoni pasta, cooked
  • 1 tsp chopped basil
  • One 12-ounce coffee mug for each serving
  • Olive Oil

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground venison,
  • 1 TBS garlic
  • 1 TBS oregano
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Let’s Get Cooking!

Step One – Prepare and Cook the Meatballs:

  • Add all meatball ingredients (in order) to a mixing bowl and mix
  • Shape into evenly-sized balls
  • Place in the frying pan with 2 TBS olive oil to brown over medium heat until all sides are lightly brown and oil is relatively absorbed.
  • Add ½ cup water or organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • Bring to boil, turn to simmer, cover, 20 minutes.

Step Two – Bake Noodles/Cheese:

  • Pre-cook your noodles, as per box instructions
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Add a few drops of olive oil to the bottom of each coffee cup
  • Place ¼ cup mozzarella on the bottom of each 12-ounce oven-safe coffee mug
  • Cover the cheese with 1-2 heaping TBS of marinara sauce, then add an inch or two of rigatoni noodles.
  • Add a 1-2 heaping TBS of marinara sauce to cover noodles
  • Add 1 or 2 meatballs.
  • Cover with marinara sauce.
  • Add a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • Add a small sprinkle of mozzarella cheese
  • Bake the mugs at 375 degrees for 20 minutes (The cheese top should be melted).

Step Three – Eat from mug OR invert onto a plate and add another meatball or two.

Enjoy!

 

Target Plinking: Mutual Disrespect for .22 Caliber Ammo

 

  • The Good, the Bad, the Ugly…Identify the “right” (best) ammo brand for your firearm before hunting
  • Federal Champion .22LR 40-Grain Ammo
  • CCI Hollow-Point .22LR 40-Grain Ammo
  • Winchester .22LR 40-Grain Ammo

Sandbags helped me eliminate holding variation when target-testing different ammo brands. Dieter Voss Photo

By Collin Voss

I am not wise in this field, but I experienced this first hand and have enough facts that can end an ongoing debate in the firearm world. Does .22 Caliber LR rimfire ammunition matter?

My immediate answer would be yes, but that would not settle this case. I recently became a full-time adult member (I turned 18) at West Falls Conservation Society in West Falls, New York. My whole life I had been a junior member – it is where I grew up and a big reason why I have a welded relationship with the great outdoors.

One of the benefits of being a member of this organization is the private rifle range. Last July, the summer of 2019, I had used my privilege to open that big red gate with my key to the range! With me, was my guest and very good friend Alex. Alex had his Savage MKII .22 caliber bolt-action rifle with iron sights and I had mine, a .22 caliber Rossi single-shot, break-action, youth rifle with a 3-9x32mm Bushnell Sportsman riflescope.

I had sighted my rifle in once a few years ago, except I received a bit of help from my Grandfather. Knowing the rifle had not been shot in so long, I purchased Federal Champion .22LR 40-Grain ammunition. Packaged in 50 count boxes, I bought four.

Federal Champion .22LR 40-Grain Ammo

We set up our targets 50 yards out. Mine was on the left and Alex was on the right. Before shooting we both went over the range rules posted on the back wall and our own firearm safety precautions. Which were basic and included keeping the barrel pointed downrange, always have the safety switch on (if there is one) and the action open when handing the rifle to one another, both of us would go to check targets with the rifle in hand, and most importantly ALWAYS treat the rifle as if it were loaded and live.

It’s Time to Shoot

Alex begins shooting and I begin the sighting process. I grab three sandbags from the range cabinet and stack them in a pyramid-like shape, the bottom two are parallel with one another and the third sandbag lays across the bottom two in a perpendicular manner. I used this setup as a rifle rest to eliminate any human movement and achieve the greatest accuracy possible. The most proper way to sight in a rifle is to use a gun vise, which I do not have available to use, so the sandbags were my next best thing.

Officially, to start the sight-in process, I rest my rifle on the sandbags, put the crosshairs directly over the center of the target, slowly let out my breath, and gently squeeze the trigger. To my amazement, I hit the target, but not where I was aiming. To tell whether it was my scope or my excitement of taking the shot, the bullet hole was two inches to the right and 3 inches low. Hmmm, I thought. To see if it was me or the ammo or something else, I decided to take 5 more shots identical to the first. Immediately there was a grouping of 6 holes on the light cream-colored target, all within an inch of each other – perfect.

This let me know that my rifle was shooting straight and I needed to adjust my scope. I unscrewed the elevation and windage adjustment caps. I gave 10 clicks counterclockwise on the elevation adjustment (up) and 7 clicks clockwise on the windage adjustment (left). I took my next three shots at the target and to my surprise, they had all hit the bullseye.

To clarify my observations of the target sighting and gun and ammo, I took 10 more shots. – all in the bullseye. I was thrilled! First time ever sighting in a rifle on my own and I did it perfectly? I couldn’t believe my own eyes. From there it was a great day of target practice.

CCI Hollow-Point, 22LR 40-Grain Ammo

It was now March of 2020, I had no more Federal Champion .22LR 40-grain ammunition. Instead of taking the long drive to Cabelas, on the way to West Falls, I stopped in at The Valley Gun Shop in West Falls, NY.  I had never been here, but I thought it was time to say hello, introduce myself, and to check it out. The gentlemen who owns the shop only carried CCI hollow-point 40-grain ammunition for .22 caliber rifles. I decided to purchase those and see how they shot. I figured they would probably not shoot the same as the Federal ammunition, but wanted to try them and compare anyway.

As I took my first 3 shots on the target. They all shot to the left 2-inches and 1- inch high, creating a nice small group. I concluded to compensate for the change rather than adjust my scope due to how nicely it was sighted in with the federal ammunition. 100 rounds and 2 trips to the range later, I was out of ammunition once again. I acquired some Winchester .22 LR 40-grain ammo, four boxes.

Winchester 22LR 40-Grain Ammo

The Winchester .22LR 40-Grain ammo was simply not consistent for the first 100 rounds fired. I then cleaned my rifle hoping that removing the usual spent powder and metal fragments the other two ammo types would provide a better bore for the bullet to travel through. Again my first 15 shots were inconsistent, as much as 3-inches high, low, left, or right. All over the place.

Now, on the 16th shot after the barrel had been cleaned, to my disbelief, I see nothing more than a hole in the dead center of the target. I thought my luck had changed with this ammunition, but that was not the case. I would have to say every 2 to 3 shots, I would have one round that would shoot straight at 50 yards. What surprised me was that at 100 yards these bullets were landing exactly where I wanted them to with very little pattern change. The only difference I had to adjust for was aiming about 3 inches above the target to hit the bullseye. Hard to analyze.

Best Ammo (for my Rossi)

Testing the ammo types was educational and fun. While these ammo brands might perform differently in other rifle brands, I would have to conclude from live-fire testing that for my break-action, single-shot Rossi, the best (most accurate and repeatable) ammo out of these three brands was the Federal .22LR 40-Grain. Not only does the gun powder smell fresh (hard to describe), the crisp sound of the shot was consistent and the ammo performed consistently. Above that, I never had a misfire in those 200 Federal rounds fired.

Lessons Learned

Before going hunting with any brand of ammo, make sure you test it and know what it does in your firearm.

Hindsight and Future Thoughts

It was especially enjoyable to use the range as a regular member and share it with a friend. In summary, think I’m ready for squirrel season!

Are You Using the Right Turkey Choke Tube?

  • Trulock Chokes Can Improve Your Shooting

By George Trulock

The answer is obvious – every turkey hunter wants better performance in the field. But the solution to getting better performance may not be as obvious. Usually, hunters try, more or less at random, different shotshells to see if they can find something better than what they are using.

The truth is, pattern density, uniformity, and downrange energy are a product of not just the shell and pellets, but of how the shot interacts with the choke tube as it leaves the barrel.

Trulock, an industry leader in cutting-edge choke tube design and manufacturing, knows that with the right choke tubes, you don’t have to randomly search for a load that works in your shotgun.

The right choke tube starts with the kind of quality in Trulock’s Turkey Choke tubes. Designed in-house at their headquarters in Wigham, Ga., these chokes are manufactured with cutting-edge numerical computer control (CNC) equipment and are tested at the range to assure high-quality performance. Just using one of these high-quality chokes will improve your patterns.

Trulock doesn’t stop there. They also have new lines of chokes designed to achieve maximum performance from specific, popular brands of high-quality turkey loads.

For example, this year Trulock has introduced a new line of chokes engineered to achieve maximum performance with Federal’s new Heavyweight® TSS 7 and TSS 9 turkey shells. The Trulock TSS chokes were designed from the ground up, with the best internal configuration and exit diameter for each Heavyweight TSS load. At 40-yard targets, these shells deliver nominal 100 percent patterns in a 30-inch circle, 90-percent patterns in a 20-inch circle and 60 percent patterns in a 10-inch circle. That means that every time you pull the trigger, hundreds of pellets end up in that 10-inch circle.

Almost no turkey hunters are getting patterns that effective out of their guns. You can, this season, with Trulock.

If you prefer a shotshell from Winchester’s line of XR Longbeard series, Trulock also produces 12-gauge chokes designed for #4, #5 and #6 Longbeard shells. As with the Heavyweight TSS chokes, Trulock built their Longbeard series specifically to get maximum pattern density and downrange energy from these shells. You can take the guesswork out of finding an effective load in the field with these Trulock chokes and Winchester loads. It really is that easy.

Effective turkey hunting takes a lot of work – scouting, judgment, execution in calling, as well as choosing the right set-up. Making sure that your pattern is extremely effective no longer has to be that much work. Trulock has put in the hours for you.

This turkey season, resolve to step up the effectiveness of your shooting with Trulock choke tubes. When the goal is to improve your shotgun’s performance, Trulock Choke Tubes doesn’t compromise on that goal. In fact, they guarantee it.

Any customer who is not satisfied for any reason can return the tube for their money back or an exchange within 60 days of purchase. And any customer who likes the choke tube knows that the best customer service in the industry stands behind it: all Trulock choke tubes are guaranteed against failure for life.

For more on the full line of Trulock products as well as some technical information on how shotguns and choke tubes work, check out their homepage at WWW.TRULOCKCHOKES.COM.

The staff at Trulock Chokes prides itself on providing excellent service and an excellent line of products. In the event you are not completely satisfied with your purchase you can return it for a refund or exchange within 60 days from the date of purchase – with other firms, the moment you open it, you own it.  For more information, please visit WWW.TRULOCKCHOKES.COM or on Facebook. Like us on Facebook

 

Sharing the Light of Fireflies…for Everyone affected by COVID-19

Sharing the Light of Fireflies…for Everyone affected by COVID-19

I hope the fireflies can shine their light and bring us hope, love, and joy. Radim Schreiber, https://fireflyexperience.org (website)

I created this video to help people during these challenging times and I feel sad knowing that many people are suffering right now. So I hope the fireflies can shine their light and bring us hope, love, and joy.

Let’s help each other and our planet Earth.  I appreciate it if you share this video.

Love you all.

Radim Schreiber, https://fireflyexperience.org (website)

Vermont Walleye READY-TO-WACK to Wack Worm Harnesses May 2, Opening Day

Vermont Walleye Season opens May 2, 2020

The Vermont walleye fishing season will open on Saturday, May 2, marking the return of some of the best walleye fishing in New England.

Revered by many as one of the best-tasting fish in freshwater, the walleye is Vermont’s official warmwater fish. The state offers excellent spring walleye fishing opportunities in several lakes and rivers across the state. Opportunities include Lake Champlain and its tributaries – the Missisquoi, Lamoille and Winooski rivers and Otter Creek. In the Northeast Kingdom, Salem Lake and Island Pond also have walleye populations that are on the rebound thanks to stocking by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

A trio of additional waters – Lake Carmi, Chittenden Reservoir and the Connecticut River, also offer quality walleye fishing.

Veteran walleye anglers employ a variety of techniques, but one of the simplest and most effective methods is to slowly troll a nightcrawler harness near the bottom. Most nightcrawler harnesses include a rotating blade ahead of two hooks, where the worm is secured. The blade produces a fish-attracting flash and vibration.

Shore-based anglers can catch walleyes on nightcrawlers or live minnows or by casting crankbaits or hard jerk baits. Walleyes are generally more active at night, so fishing in the dark is often more effective.

As a reminder to anglers, there is no open season on sauger, a close cousin to the walleye. Once abundant in southern Lake Champlain, sauger still appear there rarely. If caught while fishing for other fish, sauger must be immediately released.

Anglers can read about current fishing regulations in the 2020 VERMONT FISHING GUIDE & REGULATIONS available free from Vermont license agents. To purchase a fishing license or learn more about fishing in Vermont, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

Vermonters are encouraged to get outside to enjoy fishing provided they can do so while meeting social distancing and other guidelines. In addition, to the greatest extent possible, outdoor activities should take place as close to home as possible to minimize travel and potential risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Please use good judgment to keep yourself and others safe and reduce the spread of the coronavirus:

  • Refrain from carpooling. Drive to your fishing spots only with your immediate family members and only if everyone is feeling well.
  • When fishing from shore, keep a distance of at least six feet between you and your companions.
  • Don’t share fishing gear with others. Each angler should have their own fishing gear (rod and reels, bait, lures, towels, pliers, and other personal items).
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean your gear well after using it.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after fishing.
  • For information about staying safe while enjoying outdoor activities, check here: https://vtfishandwildlife.com/outdoor-recreation-and-covid-19
  • For more info on COVID-19 and health guidelines, visit: https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus

Tim “The Tool Man” Would Love This

This easy-to-use tool makes anyone look like they know what they are doing when it comes to sharpening.

  • I’ve had lots of knife sharpeners in my life, but thanks to my new Work Sharp…I don’t need them anymore
  • It has 4 different sharpening angles depending on the type of knife and 5 flexible belts from extra-coarse to extra-fine

You can sharpen almost anything with the Work Sharp.

By Larry Whiteley

My favorite TV show of all-time is “Home Improvement” from the 1990s. Thankfully, through re-runs, I still get to enjoy it almost every night. My wife just loves it when I do the Tim “The Tool Man” grunt (not really). My oldest son Daron also loves the show. He likes to say he is like Tim’s sidekick, Al, because he knows tools and how to use them. Then he says, “Dad is Tim because he is an accident waiting to happen.”

I recently got a new tool that Tim would love and so will my son if I let him use it. It’s a Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Knife and Tool Sharpener. Like most men, I have a lot of knives and of course, just like Tim, lots of tools. I have also had lots of knife sharpeners in my life, and still do, but thanks to my new Work Sharp, I don’t need them anymore. This probably isn’t a surprise, but I wasn’t very good at sharpening knives with them anyway.

Just follow the easy instructions.

It took me a little while to figure out how to use it, but unlike Tim would do, I read the instruction book and watched videos before I even attempted to sharpen a knife. It has 4 different sharpening angles depending on the type of knife and comes with 5 flexible belts from extra-coarse to extra-fine depending on the dullness of the knife.

The cool thing about this amazing machine is that you just plug it in and you can sharpen a lot more than knives.

So far, with easy adjustments for speed and blade angle, I have sharpened all my hunting knives, fish filet knives, pocket knives, clip knives and kitchen knives, even serrated knives, sharper than they ever were. Then I sharpened my wife’s scissors, my pruning shears, and even my lawnmower blades. If I can do that, anyone can do that. Al, I mean…my son, will be proud of me. I can’t wait to tell my neighbor Wilson about it.

Go to www.worksharptools.com and check it out. You can order more belts and accessories like a blade grinding attachment which gives you, like Tim would say, “More Power” to do even more.

 

Escaping the Pandemic, Alone in the Wild

When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.

  • At nighttime, there is nothing more relaxing than the sound of rain making music on my canvass tent
  • When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled.
  • I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.

Early morning in the forested Missouri hills, a special dose of peace and quiet…and no news forecast. 

By Larry Whiteley

It’s 5 am on an April morning. I sit at my desk writing a blog article about going camping. My wife is still sleeping. The television is on so I can check the weather for the day. The weather forecast was a lot better than the news. It was about nothing but coronavirus. Sunny days, cool nights with a slight chance of rain. I turn the television off and go back to writing.

My days are spent following stay-at-home rules. There are always things to get done outside in the yard, garden or workshop. I had practiced social distancing and gone fishing a few times.

In a moment of absolute brilliance, I thought why not go do what I have been writing about. I rushed in and told my wife we should escape the pandemic for a couple of days and go camping.

She said she would rather stay around home, but I should go enjoy myself. I stood there for a few seconds with thoughts rushing through my head of being alone for a few days in the outdoors. Alone in the wild.

I feigned disappointment and told her I would miss her. I packed all my clothes, camping gear, and food in the truck. I also grabbed a couple of locater turkey calls.

As I drove down the driveway, I knew exactly where I was going. I would escape to a place that I was very familiar with. I had spent many years hunting deer and turkey there. I would go to an open area on top of a hill I had often thought would make a great place to camp. From there I could see for miles looking over forested hills and valleys, but also with big open skies to enjoy. The creek in the valley below would be a bonus.

The stress and pressure from what was going on in the world with the coronavirus was gone as I drove up the hill. I pulled in by three trees that offered a great view. I just sat there for a moment. It was a totally different feeling than what I had been used to lately.

I pitched my tent and unloaded the truck. I got into my cooler for something to eat and drink then sat down in my camp chair to look around and take it all in. This is what I had come for.

Morel mushrooms, a special tasty treat from the forest.

The sun was warm. Sitting in the shade and with a little breeze, it was comfortable. I listened to bird songs. Crows were talking to each other. Buzzards circled in the bright blue sky. I looked up and said thank you to God for blessing me with this special moment in time. I also thanked him for my family and not giving up on me.

My afternoon was spent fishing the creek in the valley. The water was cold as I waded and fished but felt good. I lost count of how many fish I caught. Nothing big, but all fun. I tried skipping rocks and then just sat on the gravel bar looking for arrowheads and holey rocks. The sound of the flowing water was soothing. I took a nap.

The soothing waters of the creek. I caught fish and just as I was about to leave, I skipped a few rocks just for the fun of it. I was a kid again, just for a few moments.  

When I woke up the day was starting to fade so I drove back up the hill. The night skies were spectacular with thousands of twinkling stars. Coyotes howled and owls hooted. I did some hooting myself listening for turkey sounds from their roost. There were none. I stirred the campfire. The night cooled and my sleeping bag felt good.

I got up before the light came, stoked the fire and put on a pot of coffee. As the day started arriving, I was already out with my locater calls and binoculars scouting for turkeys. It wasn’t long before I found where they were. I knew where I would be hunting when the season started. I went back to camp.

The smell of bacon sizzling in the skillet drifted through the morning air. A deer let me know they smelled it too. My second cup of coffee was as good as the first. Birds were singing again and turkey gobbles echoed through the hills. Squirrels fussed at me because I was in their home.

The day found me secretly watching deer and turkey go about their day. I saw an eagle, a fox, and a bobcat. Black bear roams these woods too. I didn’t see one. I hiked around. I found wildflowers and morel mushrooms pushing their way through decaying leaves. I checked deer stands and pruned limbs and cleaned brush from around them. I even found a couple of shed antlers. I was enjoying my time alone in the wild.

Mister Tom Turkey, I hope he is there waiting when I return to hunt.

Before I knew it, the night was upon me again and the moon was big and bright. I sat around the campfire listening to night sounds and using my headlight to read “Friendship Fires” by Sam Cook. He doesn’t know it, but his style of writing greatly influenced me. Friends Dave Barus, David Gray, and Bobby Whitehead gave me the confidence I needed. They all shaped me into the writer I now am. I am using the gift that God gave me.

My eyes are heavy from all my activities of the day, the dancing flames, a crackling fire, and reading. I could hear thunder and see lightning in the distant hills. Tree frogs croaked and crickets chirped. Peaceful sleep came quickly.

Sometime during the night I awoke to rain making music on my canvass tent. There is nothing more relaxing than that sound. I easily drifted back off to sleep.

When my eyes opened again the sun was starting to shine through the trees. A light rain was still falling. When thunder rumbled, turkeys gobbled at the sound. I smiled. The sun glistened off the raindrops still clinging to the leaves and grass. I looked to the west and saw what I was looking for. A rainbow.

A beautiful ending from my time alone in the wild.

I sat there for a long time enjoying the beauty of the rainbow. Hundreds of purplish redbuds and white dogwood trees were all bloomed out painting the landscape. As much as I hated to leave, I missed my wife. It was time to go home to a different world. My time here will be re-lived in my daydreams and night dreams. It had been a wonderful escape from the pandemic. Alone in the wild.

Author note:  All photos are courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation

Lurking in the Deep – Mysteries, Rocks, and at times – BIG FISH

You never know what that next cast to deep waters might bring!

  • The mystery and secrets of deep waters can offer a line-stretching surprise.
  • Fish “on the rise” can solve our doubt for the presence of fish – they are usually there.
  • A priceless reward can happen every now and then. Enjoy that moment!

You never know what may be lurking in the deep! During a small window in the winter weather, this giant rainbow provided the ultimate angler reward in a small, thawed creek mouth.

By Wade Robertson

The statement has been made that we know more about the galaxy than we do our Earth’s oceans. Though that statement may or may not be true, it does bring up some interesting points.

The water of any depth shrouds in mystery what lies there or lives there. The Challenger Deep, a spot in the Mariana Trench, is 36,070 feet deep, offering such crushing pressures so intense, it escapes our ability to truly comprehend. Yet, in this lightless world, life exists, some of it huge, mankind can only guess what unknown creatures flourish there. The fact is, we simply don’t know.

Even our areas lakes and streams are shrouded in mystery for fishermen. In fact, it’s the mystery of fishing that often makes it so intriguing. It’s hard for a trout fisherman to approach a great looking, deep hole in even the smallest streams without wondering just what lurks there, out of sight, in the swirling depths or beneath the tangled brush pile. Brown trout especially are shy and the bigger, smarter ones are especially difficult to catch. Rainbow trout, though foolish when small, can become just as shy and can survive in heavily fished streams with impunity. Lakes are vast and deeper, and who knows, for instance, how humungous the biggest muskellunge or pike is in the Kinzua Reservoir? I’m sure their length and girth would take our breath away if we could see these finned patriarchs, or even more exciting, catch one.

It’s frustrating to fish a good stretch of trout water without a hit. In the past I used to, in my arrogance, think there were very few fish in the stream. However, over the years I’ve been humbled when a fly hatch begins and the stream I believed barren suddenly filled with rising trout, 50 or more in a quarter-mile on the upper Genesee River. Now, when I fail to catch fish, I know there’s something I’m doing wrong or the trout simply aren’t feeding. Usually, I’m missing something.

Every now and then though, circumstances combine and you see or hook a fish you’ve dreamed about. Landing these leviathans is difficult and the old saying, the big ones get away, is only too true in so many cases. Not only do the larger fish have harder mouths, have more weight and have more frightening power, but their very size also causes many angler’s brains to turn into scrambled eggs, and they forget everything they’ve learned about fighting fish and simply panic.

An angler wants that huge fish so badly only one thought comes to mind, blocking all other common sense and reason. Get it in! Get it in the net, haul it on the beach, lift it over the bank! Of course, this sort of thinking, this reaction, usually has disastrous results. The line snaps or the hooks pull out or straighten. Big fish can turn your knees to jelly, your brain to mush and even make you tremble.

The raindrops came, February showers hard enough to melt snow and raise the creeks. One of those small weather windows where things warm up briefly and if you’re quick, you can get a day or 2 in fishing.

I awoke at six and despite being determined to fish the night before, the bed was exceedingly comfortable and warm. Did I really want to get up, dress, drive some distance and fish with the temperature in the low 30’s on the off chance the streams had risen enough to bring fish upstream? It took a while for me to finally decide to do so, you can’t catch anything lying in bed!

When I arrived at the pull-off, there were no signs of other fishermen in the snow. I walked about 200 yards to the stream and then to the biggest, deepest hole. If there were fish anywhere, it’d be here.

I started with a spinner, then switched to a small minnow bait. My hands were freezing already. A long cast angling downstream and a hit! I snapped the ultralight rod upward and gasped when a huge white belly showed, then thrashed violently, doubling my rod over. What in the world?!

Look for high suppleness in your fishing line, it is desirable, it allows for less memory and a more natural presentation with light and micro-light baits.

A wide silver and red side flashed, a giant rainbow! The fish was incredibly powerful and for over 10 minutes I could only hold on, lightening the drag and dreading those violent quick dashes that could effortlessly snap the 4-pound test line.

Next, the fish angled upstream until it drew abreast of me. I could see her clearly, she was huge. A powerful dash upstream toward a sunken tree. I raised the rod high and pulled upward. Surprisingly, she stopped, bulldogged deep and moved downstream again. After 20 minutes I was a nervous wreck, but she was tiring, finally. Then the torture of working her to the net. She’s at my boots, then flops wildly, thrashes, and she runs back out. Ten times this happens, my heart in my mouth, but things held and I never tried to stop her. Finally, I lead her into the net, the damaged rim cracks from her weight, she flops out and I desperately trap her against the bank with net and boots, frantically hook a finger under a gill and heave her up and onto the bank.

I simply stare, exhausted and unbelieving, what a rainbow! Was this a dream? No, it was real, there would be no waking up in disappointment. I was deliriously happy, couldn’t believe her size, and that I’d actually caught this prize. What a priceless gift from above. Thank you, thank you!

Great Lakes Water Levels at Record Highs…Should we Sell to Fix the Problem?

  • Ideas to tap the Great Lakes water were essentially stopped in 2008, when the Great Lakes Compact was made law
  • Instead of cities and states around the lakes worrying about keeping enough water along their lakefronts to float boats, they are now concerned about lakeside parking lots becoming marinas.
  • Who is going to crack first?

Lakeside parking lots becoming marinas, is there a solution?

By Mike Schoonveld

The water levels in the Great Lakes have cycled from high to low to high and back, countless times in the 10,000 years since the glaciers gouged the land, then filled the trenches back up with their melt water. High and low water periods are still happening in response to the amount of precipitation in the Great Lakes watershed and the gallons of water that ultimately flows down the St. Lawrence River (minus evaporation).

Containing twenty percent of the unfrozen freshwater in the world, the remaining 80 percent of the world would like to have some of the water – whether the lakes are low or high. Over time, some innovative schemes have been devised to get it.

One company was going to fill ocean-going tanker ships with Great Lakes water and haul it all the way to Australia.  The multi-national company, Nestle, made plans to haul Great Lakes water away, one plastic bottle full at a time.

These and other ideas to tap the Great Lakes water were essentially stopped in 2008 when the Great Lakes Compact was made law. By unanimous consent of all the states and provinces bordering the lakes, the compact essentially disallowed commercial use of Great Lakes water if that use would remove the water outside of the Great Lakes watershed.

It was an easy regulation to pass back in 2008 when the water levels in the Great Lakes were approaching near record low levels. “Experts” were pinning the low levels on climate change and predicted no end to the ever dropping lake levels. The “Compact,” they said, was just one of many regulations governments would need to take to save the lakes, human civilization and most other life on earth.

Except now, the Great Lakes are brim full and each additional centimeter added to the Great Lakes water level sets new records. The same experts espousing theories of ever-dwindling Great Lakes water levels in 2008 are now claiming high water levels are the result of climate change and predicting no end to lakeshore flooding.

Now, instead of cities and states around the lakes worrying about keeping enough water along their lakefronts to float boats, they are worrying about lakeside parking lots becoming marinas. Something has to be done to get rid of the water before the Great Lakes become 25 percent of the world’s freshwater.

How soon is one of the states (or provinces) going to break the compact? There are none of the states or provinces bordering the lakes which don’t have their own version of money problems. Each one of those governments have budget struggles every fiscal year and each one fights for every nickel they can scrape up to squander.

All of these states are spending money right now, hiring climate change experts, planners, engineering firms and forming commissions to figure out how to cope with high waters along their lakeshores. How soon will one of the governments realize they can sell it?

Former ploys and ideas to tap into the Great Lakes were devised with the idea the water was free. The tanker ship hauling the water to a far away continent was expensive, but the cargo was free. What if it wasn’t?

Is the current high water levels something which will reverse itself or will water levels continue to rise? I don’t know. Ask an expert.

Do you think Illinois, which is hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, would balk at selling a trillion gallons of Lake Michigan for a penny per gallon?  Do you think drought-plagued Texas wouldn’t pay that amount, or the Nestle Corporation?

What about Michigan?  A trillion gallons of Great Lakes water at a penny per gallon would put 10 billion bucks in Michigan’s treasury.

Would the other signatories to the Great Lakes Compact object? In the past they’ve certainly objected to water withdrawal proposals brought up through out the region. Would they object again, or would the legislators and administrators think, “Great idea! Pump away the problem. It’s like selling air. It’s free money!”  Soon pump stations would be going up in every state.

If even one state broke away and the others objected, what could they do? Michigan isn’t going to invade Wisconsin – other than with lawyers. The federal government is unlikely to step into the fray. The states are now begging the feds for financial assistance to fight the high water, just as they did when they hit up the feds for dollars to dredge channels and harbors when the water was low. From the point of view of the feds, the problem is a solution.

Is the current high water levels something which will reverse itself or will water levels continue to rise?  I don’t know. Ask an expert. I do know, once the pumps are installed, the water starts flowing out and the money starts flowing in, it will take more than a compact between the states to stop the flow.

THE END

A Special Gift for a Special Young Lady

A proud dad with his daughter.

  • A special gift – protection and peace for grandpa’s mind – for a very special young lady
  • The Kimber Micro 9 measures a little over 6 inches in length and 4 inches in height 
  • Aluminum frame, steel slide – it weighs a little less that a pound with an empty magazine

A special gift for a special young lady.

By Larry Whiteley

My granddaughter Anna is a petite, beautiful young lady that was a cheerleader and a gymnast when she was younger. She has a smile that touches your heart and a heart as big as all outdoors.

We used to tell her that when she started bringing boys over, that her dad, brother and I would be there to meet them with conceal carry pistols in full view. We also told her we were going to make sure we showed these young men all the pictures of her with the deer and turkey she had shot, as well as her shooting her bow, her turkey mount on the wall. If fear didn’t come to their eyes and they didn’t run out the door, then we might approve of them.

Now that she is a sophomore in college, her dad and I felt like it was time to get her a conceal carry pistol. Dad felt she was ready and we had no doubts she could handle it. A few years ago we got her brother a “Made in the USA” Kimber® Super Carry Ultra+™ .45 ACP. He loves his Kimber and what young man wouldn’t. When his sister saw it, she told us right then she wanted a Kimber too, someday. Her dad told her we would when the time was right. Until then, she had to carry the “Kimber Pepper Blaster II” we had bought for her in her purse.

Two years later, we told her to pick out the handgun she wanted. She looked at a couple of Kimber models, but when she saw the Micro 9™ Amethyst, in a 9mm, it was love at first sight. Especially since it was in the colors of the college she attends, so important to a fashion conscious young lady, you know!

A proud dad with his daughter.

She is “Daddy’s Girl” and he immediately started doing his own research on the Micro 9. He then reported back to me that he agreed with her choice. Since the good Lord has blessed my wife and I, we really enjoy getting things for our kids and grandkids that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. We don’t consider it spoiling them, but do consider it an investment in their lives. It is something we would not do if they weren’t the good people they are. We both agree it’s a lot better than having to bail them out of jail or pay for drug rehabilitation. Besides, it’s something they will be able to pass down to their kids.

That all being said, we bought the Kimber Micro 9 for her. MSRP was $1,061 but she is worth it and we wanted her protected. I took it to her dad, who is a shooter and re-loader, for him to check it out. Unlike the Super Ultra+ that Hunter has, my grandson, he couldn’t really take it to the range and test it because there was less grip area for his big hands to handle it properly. He said, “It is really a nice-looking gun and I like the size and balance for her, but I am more concerned with how it shoots. We’ll find out when we take her to the range and also check out how easy it is for her to carry.”

The Micro 9 measures a little over 6 inches in length and 4 inches in height. It is constructed with an aluminum frame and a steel slide, so it weighs in at a little less that a pound with an empty magazine. That should make it easy to carry for her but my worry, like her dad’s, was how was it going to do at the range. Generally, a gun that’s easy to carry is harder to shoot well because of excessive recoil and less grip to hold on to.

I think she knew she was going to get it but she just didn’t know when. Grandma and I went over to their house on Christmas day and brought a present we said we had forgot to give her when they were over for Christmas Eve. When she unwrapped it, her smile and the twinkling in her eyes made it all worthwhile. The hugs helped a lot too! I think we all agreed that the Micro 9 was a special gift for a very special young lady.

Shooting her Kimber at the range.

A few days later her and Dad went to the shooting range and made a memory. Here are my some of her comments after handling, concealing, and carrying her new pistol, plus taking it to the range:

“Overall I enjoyed shooting it and the accuracy was really good.”

“The front and rear sight made it easy to get on the target.”
“I felt very little recoil, so my hand wasn’t sore at all after a lot of rounds.”

“The side of the slide has a textured treatment that is very easy to grip.”
“I am anxious to try the night sights.”

“If I give papaw a hug he might get me the Crimson Trace grips for it.”

Her Kimber is not all she shoots.

We still haven’t talked her mom and grandma into getting a Kimber, but they still carry their Kimber Pepper Blaster II spray. Thank goodness they haven’t had to ever use it, but it’s always there if they need to. It will shoot up to 13 feet and disable an attacker for up to 45 minutes. You can learn more about it by clicking on https://youtube/1b2ZRbZfWUQ.

More information on the Micro 9, go to https://www.kimberamerica.com/micro-9-amethyst-1. You can also find a dealer near you to go check out the Micro 9 for your very special young lady.

While his kids are away in school, Dad finds time to go to his reloading area to reload 9mm and .45 ACP ammunition. As he does, he smiles and a tear comes to the corner of his eye as he thinks about Anna and Hunter, and how blessed he and his wife LaVay are. He looks forward to when his kids come home again from school and they go back to the shooting range.

What to Do When You See a Snake

What to Do When You See a Snake

  • Snakes are common across the United States, the Georgia DNR can help us understand more about snakes, then venomous and non-venomous types. 

Adult black racer snake, non-venomous, eats rats, mice, varmints.

By the Georgia DNR

As spring hits full stride, Daniel Sollenberger from Georgia DNR will field more calls and emails about snakes. And most will involve two questions: What species is this and what should I do?

As for the first question, seldom is the snake a venomous species, according to Sollenberger, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Whether it’s venomous, of course, is the concern or fear underlying most of the questions. Chances are it’s not. Only six of the 46 species native to Georgia are venomous and only one -the copperhead – usually thrives in suburban areas, which is where the majority of Georgians live.

“While at least one of Georgia’s six species of venomous snakes could be found in each county in the state, seldom are they the most common species encountered,” Sollenberger said.

Now to the second question: What should you do, or not do, if you see a snake?

  • You can try to identify it from a distance. Resources such as georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes, which includes DNR’s “Venomous Snakes of Georgia” brochure, can help.
  • Do not attempt to handle the snake. Give it the space it needs.
  • Remember that snakes are predators that feed on rodents, insects and even other snakes. There is no need to fear non-venomous snakes. Also, Georgia’s native non-venomous species are protected by state law, and the imperiled eastern indigo snake is federally protected.
  • If a clearly identified venomous snake is in an area where it represents a danger to people or pets, consult georgiawildlife.com/nuisancewildlife for a list of private wildlife removal specialists. Most bites occur when a snake is cornered or captured, and defending itself.

Non-venomous snakes such as scarlet king snake, eastern hognose and water snake species are frequently confused with their venomous counterparts—coral snakes, rattlesnakes and water moccasins, respectively. While pit vipers, which include all venomous species native to Georgia except for coral snakes, are often identified by their broad, triangular-shaped heads, many non-venomous snakes flatten their heads when threatened and may have color patterns similar to venomous species.

The bottom line: Use caution around any unidentified snake. For more on Georgia’s snakes, visit georgiawildlife.com/georgiasnakes. Also, “Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia” (University of Georgia Press) is a comprehensive reference.

Snake Insights

  • Benefits: While some snakes eat rodents and even venomous snakes, others prey on creatures some Georgians also many not want near their homes. Brown and red-bellied snakes, for example, feed on snails and slugs, the bane of gardeners. Crowned snake species primarily eat centipedes.
  • Baby snakes? Snakes such as earth and brown snake species are small and homeowners occasionally mistake them as juveniles. The common concern here: Are the parents nearby? Yet while some species are live-bearers and some are egg-bearers, snakes do not exhibit parental care. If there are parents, they are not watching over their offspring.
  • Prevention: To reduce the potential for snakes near your home, remove brush, log piles and other habitat features that attract mice, lizards and other animals on which snakes prey.

Help Conserve Wildlife

From eastern indigo snakes to bald eagles, DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section works to conserve rare and other Georgia wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency depends primarily on fundraisers, grants and contributions. That makes public support key.

Georgians can help by supporting the state’s Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund. Here’s how:

  • Buy a DNR eagle or new monarch butterfly license plate, or renew one of the older plate designs, including the hummingbird. Most of the fees are dedicated to wildlife. Upgrade to a wild tag for only $25! Details at georgiawildlife.com/licenseplates.
  • Donate at gooutdoorsgeorgia.com. Click “Licenses and Permits” and log in to give. (New customers can create an account.) There’s even an option to round-up for wildlife.
  • Contribute to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund when filing state income taxes—line 30 on form 500 or line 10 on form 500EZ. Giving is easy and every donation helps.
  • Donate directly to the agency. Learn more at georgiawildlife.com/donations.
  • Purchase a hunting or fishing license. A one-day, $5 hunting/fishing license returns to Georgia wildlife that fee plus about $45 in federal excise taxes paid by hunters and anglers nationwide.

Visit georgiawildlife.com/conservation/annualreport to see how your support is put to work for wildlife.

Patience is Often Key to Early-Season Turkey-Hunting Success…What to do, When to call, What to use

  • Avoid mistakes by watching, listening and adapting.
  • Calls, gentle yelps, clucks, but don’t over-call if the birds are quiet.
  • Read on to learn WHEN TO USE a decoy. The birds will always show you what they want.

By Josh Lantz

Most turkey hunters believe the opening days of the spring turkey-hunting season offer the best chances at taking a bird. It’s probably true. Gobblers that haven’t been hunted in months can up the odds for success, but an abundance of weather-related variables can easily turn what should be prime turkey-killing days into disappointing outings that often leave less-experienced hunters scratching their heads. As with most confusing situations in life, observation, listening and patience can be the keys to success.

If the opening day arrives on the heels of typical spring weather, hunters can usually expect toms to be fired up for breeding but frustrated by hens that aren’t quite ready. These are ideal conditions for the turkey hunter, as toms will be close to the hens and establishing dominance. These are birds that can be expected to respond favorably to effective calling – especially the less-dominant toms. More on that later.

A portable ground blind can be very helpful during the early season for a variety of reasons and a lightweight model is worth carrying. There’s a lot less vegetation at the start of the season, and turkeys are often less vocal, too. Silent birds can be on top of you before you know it. A blind can conceal your movement when repositioning your gun towards that old tom that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Of course, a ground blind also provides welcomed comfort and protection from spring’s unpredictable weather.

If the early season is particularly cold, don’t be surprised when the birds don’t crank up the way you want them to. Adapt by heading straight to spots you’ve observed with the greatest signs of turkey activity. Use a couple of decoys and try a little calling, but don’t be surprised or too concerned if they don’t gobble. Have patience. Pack a lunch and hunt all day if your state allows it.

Deciding how much or how little to call can only be learned through experience and is a critical consideration during the early season. Toms are sorting out their pecking order during the pre-breeding period, so aggressive calling can work well, but don’t overdo it. Many hunters have a tendency to keep hammering away, especially when turkeys aren’t gobbling, but stop and realize that isn’t always what turkeys want to hear. There’s a reason the birds aren’t making a racket, so why are you?

Start with three or four soft yelps and build up gradually. Wait a minute, then apply a little more pressure. Repeat the process a couple more times, getting louder and extending the sequence each time. Finally, scream ten to 12 notes at them while throwing in some feeding calls and cuts. Hopefully, you’ll get a response, but don’t be surprised if you don’t. You’ve played your cards, so sit tight, be quiet and listen carefully for at least 20 minutes to give any silent but otherwise interested toms time to enter your window. If a gobbler answers, return call by softly yelping or purring just enough to let him know where you’re at. Alternatively, try rustling some leaves with your hand to simulate scratching and feeding but do it in a careful way that minimizes motion. If you are in an area with a lot of turkey sign, be patient and stay put, especially if there’s some other hunting pressure in the area. Have confidence in your setup and focus on managing your own little corner of the turkey woods. If there’s little to no pressure, consider making a small move, but take time to think about where you’re headed and how you’ll get there before getting up.

A lot of turkey hunters employ the proven jake/hen combo decoy setup during the early season. Emphasis on proven. But don’t overlook the power of a single strutter decoy under the proper conditions. As previously mentioned, we’re often hunting a lot of subordinate, “satellite” toms early in the season. If your scouting reveals groups of two or three Toms traveling and feeding together, that’s the time to hunt with a single strutter decoy, preferably one with a real tail fan that moves in the breeze. It’s a small detail that helps put birds at ease and can make a big difference in closing the deal. Don’t second-guess your decoy decision until you have a reason to. You’ll know if your decision to use a strutter was a good one as soon as it attracts a tom’s attention and you have the opportunity to view his reaction. It’s simple: kill him if he runs in, go back to your jake and hen decoy if he walks away.

What you wear in the spring turkey woods makes a difference, too, and most turkey hunters don’t give enough consideration to scent control. I know, it’s their eyes we’re worried about, not their noses, right? True, but working a gobbler in on a string only to have the perfect setup foiled by a whitetail doe staring, snorting and stomping at you will quickly change your perspective. It happens to everyone sooner or later, so recognize the reality of the situation and adapt.

A great variety of effective scent-control clothing options are available today. Two to consider are ScentLok’s Savanna Aero line and Blocker Outdoors’ Shield Series Angatec line. Both feature multiple pieces and come in a variety of popular and effective camo patterns. And don’t forget the facemask and headcover; a large percentage of your metabolic odor comes from your hair, mouth and face, so failing to cover these areas defeats the purpose of having a scent-control regimen. For added comfort and more scent control, consider a base layer like the Shield Series Koretec Base from Blocker Outdoors or BaseSlayers AMP garments from ScentLok. Regardless of whether or not you use scent-control apparel, you can further reduce your odor signature in the field by keeping your turkey-hunting clothes deodorized between hunts with an ozone storage bag like the OZ Chamber 8K Combo.

The most successful turkey hunters avoid mistakes by watching, listening and adapting their strategies accordingly – throughout the course of a single hunt and over the changing conditions and circumstances of an entire season. Still, everyone makes mistakes. The key is racking up enough experience to realize errors right away and make immediate adjustments.

Have faith and confidence in your observations and adjustments; the birds will always show you what they want.

 

 

Fishing is GREAT, BUT…the Boat Launches/Access are under NYS Covid Rules

Matt Tall of Wilson with a respectable king salmon he caught off his home port last week.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for April 15, 2020, from Destination Niagara USA

Wade Winch of North Tonawanda with a king salmon he caught on the Niagara Bar area on Easter.

COVID-19 impacts continue to be felt throughout the fishing community, leaving people a bit confused as far as what is happening with the local fishing scene.

Charter captains are shut down. For the most part, marinas are shut down. Launch ramps – DEC and State Parks are open. A few others run by towns or villages are still open. Lewiston is open and so is Olcott. The ramps at Fort Niagara, Wilson and Golden Hill state parks are all open, with a caveat. There are no amenities, no restrooms. Take your garbage with you.

If you are using the launch ramp, make sure you abide by the social distancing guidelines. Don’t be packing a 21-foot boat with 4 people.  Be respectful of others. If not, there will be no other choice than to see access shut down in the problem areas. For now, take advantage of the good fishing opportunities that we have in this area.

The Olcott launch ramp opened back up on Tuesday morning, but there are no workers or amenities.

Action out in the lake continues to be good for salmon and lake trout in 50 to 70 feet of water according to Roy Letcher of Newfane. Wilson has been a hot spot of late. Spoons and stickbaits are both working to take fish. Wade Winch of North Tonawanda launched his boat at Fort Niagara and hit the Niagara Bar for some Easter action. He hit 3 kings, an Atlantic salmon and a lake trout using DW Orange Crush spoons 60 to 80 feet down over 200 to 220 feet of water. Try netting a king salmon by yourself on a boat if you are looking for a challenge. The piers are still producing a mix of fish including some nice brown trout when the water isn’t too muddy coming out of 12- or 18-Mile Creeks. Cast spoons or stickbaits. Cooler temperatures have kept steelhead around for some possible action, drop backs who have finished with their spawning. Smallmouth bass action has started and are moving into the lower stretches of the creeks. Bullhead can be found most anyplace according to Letcher.

Capt. Taz Morrison with a big Wilson king salmon last week.

Water clarity was limited in the Niagara River after Monday’s winds that topped 60 miles per hour in some places and brought us nearly an inch of rain. Less than 2 feet of visibility was reported by Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston. When the waters start to clear, look for good trout fishing to continue in the river. Water levels have been high in the river, especially after the winds pushed water into the eastern basin. The New York Power Authority reminds anglers that the Fishing Platform, the stairs leading down to the Devil’s Hole shoreline and the access stairs off Upper Mountain Road to the Reservoir are all closed at this time. For updates on access call 286-6662. Shoreline fishing for trout is still available using spinners or other hardware, drifting eggs or egg imitations under a float in the clearer water, tight to shore.

Danny Jankowiak of Buffalo with a chunky lake trout he caught last week fishing out of Olcott.

For those planning ahead, the Spring LOC Derby has been canceled for May 8-17 and the Niagara County Pro-Am Tournament set for June 5-6 has been canceled. The Erie Canal Fishing Derby has been canceled for the July event, originally set for July 16-26 but now set for July 15-25, 2021 in Niagara and Orleans counties. Stay safe out there and be sure to maintain your social distancing.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director
Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303

NEW Sunday Hunting LAW – Pennsylvania Celebrates More Hunting for Everyone

Sunday hunting means more time in the woods for everyone. NSSF Photo.

  • The addition of just these 3 days allows for working mothers and fathers to take their children to pass along shared hunting traditions.
  • Priceless

The New Bill would allow Sunday hunting one day during rifle deer season, one during statewide archery deer season and a third day to be selected by Pennsylvania’s Game Commission. NSSF Photo

The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®) has made Sunday hunting a priority issue in Pennsylvania. NSSF led the Sunday Hunting Coalition, along with 15 other like-minded hunting and conservation groups and outdoor retail businesses. NSSF was successful in recent years in bringing Sunday hunting to North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina. Maine and Massachusetts still have outright Sunday hunting bans, and several states still restrict hunting, including allowing hunting only on private lands.

Sunday hunting means more time in the woods for everyone. NSSF Photo.

NSSF applauds the Pennsylvania legislature for passing legislation that will allow for Sunday hunting in the Keystone State for the first time in more than 100 years. The Pennsylvania state Senate approved S. 147 in a vote of 38-11, sending the bill to Gov. Tom Wolf, who has committed to signing the measure into law.

“Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania is a phenomenal victory for sportsmen and women,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “This simple act removes the barrier to many to enjoy and pass along to the next generation of conservationist-hunters the respect for sustainable wildlife and the hunting traditions for which Pennsylvania is proud. We thank the legislature for their foresight to work diligently to this outcome. This is a tectonic shift in policy and one that will benefit Pennsylvania’s conservation, growth in outdoor recreation and economic impact.”

The Pennsylvania legislation would allow Sunday hunting one day during rifle deer season, one during statewide archery deer season and a third day to be selected by Pennsylvania’s Game Commission. Pennsylvania sold 855,486 hunting licenses in 2018. The addition of just these three days allows for working mothers and fathers to take three more days in the woods and marshes with their children to pass along shared hunting traditions.

The economic benefit to removing all Sunday hunting barriers in the Keystone State would inject $764,291,489 in total economic contribution, including jobs, output, and wages created from hunter expenditures ranging from licenses, ammunition, and hunting supplies to food, fuel, and magazines.

About NSSF: The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

Bowhunting for a Turkey? Know the best Shot Placement Options BEFORE heading to the Woods

"Proper Shot Placement with your Arrow is Critical," says Jason Houser.

  • A strutting turkey is mostly air and feathers, read to know more about where to shoot.
  • Nothing is more exciting than to shoot a spring tom with archery gear.
  • Make a good shot and recovery is quick. If you make a poor shot, it could be a long day.

If you can master hitting the bullseye on this target, you will not have any problem killing a turkey this spring.

By Jason Houser

Wild turkeys can be difficult to recover even after they have been shot with a razor-sharp broadhead. Turkeys can take a hard hit, and still have the stamina to walk, or even fly away – possibly are never found.

If an archer is unable to hit his mark, recovery will not be easy. Every hunter has an ethical and moral obligation to know where to aim for the quickest possible kill on a bird that has left many hunters scratching their heads as they search diligently for a turkey that they thought had just taken a lethal hit.

Turkey hunters have some options as to what type of broadhead to use when pursuing turkeys. Of course, a mechanical or a fixed blade are the most popular.

Fixed-blade broadheads that are at least 1 ¼ -inches in diameter or mechanical heads that are shot at the vitals are the preferred choice by many hunters. Other hunters choose to shoot at the neck of a big bird with a big four-blade broadhead made just for the neck and head region of a turkey. If you ask 50 hunters if they prefer a body shot or a headshot for a quick kill, the answers will likely be split evenly between the two choices.

Mechanical broadheads (both are mechanical) are popular among many turkey hunters.

For years, all that turkey hunters had available to them were large, fixed blade broadheads. This type of head has accounted for countless numbers of turkeys over the years. As technology improved, so did the broadheads available for the turkey hunter.

Arrow penetration has been a highly debated topic among turkey hunters for as long as turkeys have been hunted with archery equipment. Some hunters prefer a pass-through shot that will cause a lot of damage, as well as leave a good blood trail to follow. I believe that while many turkeys will receive a good deal of damage, I have found that most turkeys do not leave a good blood trail to follow. Their thick feathers will soak up most of the blood before it ever has a chance to reach the ground.

Open on impact (mechanical) broadheads are quickly becoming favorites of turkey hunters. Mechanical broadheads that offer a wide cutting diameter will cause plenty of hemorrhaging along with a lot of damage to a turkey. A well-placed, open-on-impact broadhead will quickly put a bird down for the count. Rocky Mountain has some great mechanical broadheads that are great for turkey hunting.

The biggest mistake that bowhunters can make is hitting the turkey too low, or too far back. It will be very hard for even an experienced turkey hunter to find a bird that has been shot in this part of its body.

                            Proper Shot Placement with your Arrow is Critical. See above for kill shot examples. 

The size of a turkey’s heart and lung area is no bigger than a man’s fist. That is not a big target to hit, especially if you are accustomed to shooting at the vitals of a mature whitetail. Turkeys that are strutting appear to be a larger target than what they are. The truth is what you see on a strutting turkey is mostly air and feathers. There is very little actual body under all that fluff. Do not be tricked into believing you see something that is not there. Turkeys are constantly moving. For this reason, shot angles are always changing, making it difficult to get a shot at the vitals.

It is almost impossible to tell where the vitals are located on a strutting tom. A better shot would be to wait until the turkey is facing head-on and try to put your arrow just above the base of the beard. If a strutting tom is facing away from you send an arrow through the vent (anus) of the turkey. The arrow will either pass through the chest or hit the spine. Either way, it will result in a quick, ethical kill.

Nothing is more exciting, or sometimes frustrating, than attempting to shoot a spring tom with archery gear. Make a good shot and recovery is quick. If you make a poor shot, you are libel to never find that turkey. A great practice target is the turkey 3D target from Shooter Archery Targets. It has all three aiming points I discussed in this article. If you can master hitting the bullseye on this target, you will not have any problem killing a turkey this spring.

Check out this video for more tips.

Good morning, Happy Easter!

Looking for that "Perfect Pairing?"

We sincerely hope that you and your families are well and that you have enjoyed this unusual Easter weekend more than expected. Yesterday, here in Western New York, it was a gorgeous spring day. As you can see, the daffodils at the end of the vineyard rows are celebrating.

A PERFECT PAIRING – The Dry Rose of Pinot Noir is delicious with Reverie Creamery’s Black Garlic Chèvre (made with locally-grown and produced black garlic from Ramm Garlic Farm) and home-made bread. Yes, this pairing celebrates our “sense of place” with both wine and cheese from Chautauqua County. Reverie Creamery is a small batch artisanal cheesemaker on the west shore of Chautauqua Lake – it is open (SEE website for their hours) and can provide pre-order curbside delivery.

We appreciate, with gratitude, all of the interest and support we are receiving from our customers. Thank you for serving our wines at your tables.

Going forward, we can send periodic updates of activities on the farm (pruning is finished and trellis repairs have begun) and in the winery (secondary in-bottle fermentation has been started for the Sparkling Traminette and our new estate-grown Chardonnay-Pinot Noir Cuveé!) – for neither the vines nor the wines in the tanks understand that there is a pandemic.

We are confident that by the time these sparkling wines are ready to be released that we will be free to enjoy them together.

Need a fresh taste of Spring?

Dry Rose of Pinot Noir 
Traditional “French provençal” rosé – perfect with dinner, especially when served not-too-cold.  She doesn’t usually pour a second glass, but Jennifer did with this one!

Ruby Dry Rosé
Made from Maréchal Foch grapes and bursting with fruity flavors.  Don’t tell anyone, but Jennifer said that this wine is the first one that ever made her think of the word “gulp”!

Please know that our FREE Shipping Programs continue for all of our customers – details here.

Warm Spring Regards,
Jennifer & Fred Johnson, Johnson ESTATE Winery

To receive our emails to your inbox, please add this email address to your contact list – admin@johnsonwinery.comas some email providers may divert our emails into your spam folder.

Johnson ESTATE Winery, 8419 West Main Road (Route 20), Westfield, NY 14787; Tel: 716-326-2191 or 800-374-6569; Email: admin@johnsonwinery.com

Niagara River/Lake Ontario Fish are NOT SOCIAL Distancing, THEY”RE ON THE BITE!

NIAGARA USA King Salmon bite BEGINS!

  • Shore fishing is VERY GOOD…spoons and spinners…bring a camera!
  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for April 8, 2020, from Destination Niagara USA
  • Boat fishing is good for Kings, Lakers, Steelhead, the Big Bass are just starting up

Stephanie Pierleoni of Newfane went fishing with her husband, Capt. Vince Pierleoni, out of Olcott this week and reeled in this king salmon.

Social distancing is critical when it comes to fishing, both onshore and in a boat.

COVID-19 continues to expand across the state and slowing that curve is important and we are moving forward. We are fortunate in that our boat launch ramps are still open, and we have plenty of shore fishing options available to us. Please stay safe out there and use your head to limit the spread.

With hatchery fish stocking taking place both in the Great Lakes waters and inland waters, please take note that there are special distinctions between both areas. The Great Lakes waters include lakes Erie and Ontario and the tributaries up to the first impassible barrier (such as a dam). Trout and salmon that are stocked as fingerlings and yearlings follow a certain protocol – put, grow and take. They are not meant to be taken immediately after they are stocked in places like the Wilson or Olcott harbors.

Nancy Colavecchia of Niagara Falls caught her biggest bass ever in the upper Niagara River this week.

For the Lake Ontario basin, the minimum size for browns, rainbows, and Pacific salmon is 15 inches in length. Some people have been catching and keeping trout well under that size close to shore. There are certainly more regulations than just these (such as new rules in the tributaries for brown trout (1 per person) and rainbow/steelhead (1 per person with a minimum size of 25 inches) and it’s important to know them before you head out.

The big news is that there have finally been reports of smelt being taken in the lower Niagara River. While Lewiston Landing (the sand docks) didn’t produce anything, they did get some at Artpark, to the south, and from docks to the north. The best time was after 11 p.m.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a dandy lower river brown trout he caught from shore using a No. 4 spinner.

Fishing in the lower river for trout continues to be good to very good depending on who you talk to. Steelhead, brown trout and lake trout are all being caught by anglers fishing from boat and shore. Water visibility is about 5-6 feet.  Spinners from shore are still producing trout in the gorge. Boaters are drifting minnows, egg sacs or running plugs like Kwikies or MagLips off three-way rigs. Bass are starting to turn on as the waters warm up both in the lower and upper rivers. It was around 45 degrees this week.  

Matt Tall of Wilson caught this 23-pound king salmon fishing with Capt. Tyler Morrison out of Wilson this week.

Some more exciting news is that the king salmon fishing has started to turn on in Lake Ontario.

Matt Tall of Wilson and Capt. Taz Morrison out of Wilson worked their lures in 30 to 80 feet of water to take some nice kings and lake trout. They caught kings to 25 pounds. Conditions change almost daily, says Tall, with things warming up so fast. They were running stickbaits and spoons mostly, working in 46 degrees surface temperature. The temperature doesn’t change much until you get out to 90 feet of water.

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls caught this big steelhead in the lower Niagara River this week from shore in the gorge area.

Lake trout are eating everything in sight. James DeGirolamo of Derby reports that they were fishing anywhere from 180 to 220 feet of water straight out from Olcott. They had meat rigs and spoons working, with trout and salmon hitting most everything, but spoons are the way to go.

Capt. Tyler Morrison of West End Charters shows off a 25-pound king salmon he caught this week out of Wilson.

Terry Swann of Wilson reports that bullheads are biting at the Wilson-Tuscarora Park boat launch and in the West Branch of 12-mile Creek. Worms and shrimp seem to be the bait of choice.

A few nice perch are showing up too. Pier action has been good for trout in both Wilson and Olcott. Spoons and spinners or live bait under a float work best.

Tributary action has slowed a bit and with the rains from last night and more is forecasted through Friday. It will probably muddy things up and create higher flows.

Stay safe out there.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

Born to Fish, a True Story

  • Do we have to go in Mom? Please, can I stay on the dock?
  • A reference book on North American Fish made me an 8-year-old “whizz-kid.” That was fun!
  • Fishing bonded me with my mom, dad and so many other family members, and their friends too, from a very young age.

At 3-years-old here, I learned to love fishing from my earliest days, before a medical condition took away some of my leg mobility. I never wanted to leave the dock! Still don’t.

By Wade Robertson

Mom and I were taking a ride last week. Elsie Robertson is 94 years old and still pretty sharp.

Somehow the subject of fishing came up – perhaps this is unavoidable if you talk to me for any length of time, and we were reminiscing about family vacations. I can just remember Mom dragging me off of the dock during a week-long vacation on Chautauqua Lake. I was fishing for sunfish, though I was barely old enough to hold a miniature pole. I’d been fishing since daylight, was being roasted by the sun and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Mom feared I had sunstroke and knew I must be starving, but I resisted, almost violently, to being taken inside. Mom literally had to wrap me up in her arms and haul my kicking, writhing body inside, accompanied, of course, by my yells and crying protests.

Once food and drink were set in front of me, I realized I was, in fact, exceedingly hungry and had a headache from the blazing sun. I even fell asleep for my usual nap. Once I awoke, back out I went. There were fish out there and I was determined to find them.

Mom laughed at the memory and told me every time we drove by a stream, pond or lake, I’d always say the same thing; “Should-a brung my rod.” Mom would turn and rebuke me. “Should have brought your rod! How many times do I have to tell you that?”

I’d grin and smile, but habits are hard to break.

“Do you think I was born a fishing fanatic Mom?” I asked her.

Mom didn’t even hesitate before answering. “Yes”, she answered. The fascination had always been there, easily noticeable from my earliest years. Dad bought me a reference book on North American fish as soon as I could read and I pretty much memorized it in a week or two. That knowledge would come in handy in many surprising ways.

Soon after this, my grandfather and his cronies returned from an early fishing trip to Quebec. Jim McKittrick had caught a large fish on a spoon and no one knew what it was. Pop Hayes told his friends that his 8-year-old grandson would be able to identify the mystery fish, and they laughed at him. He insisted I could and upon their arrival home immediately called Mom. It was early on a Saturday. She smiled at me when she understood the situation and quickly drove me down to investigate. Mom had watched me sit for hours going through that fish field guide, page by page, totally engrossed.

When we arrived Pop stood confidently with his friends, his smoking pipe in hand, grinning. He fully expected me to recognize the unknown fish while his friends were just as confident that I couldn’t. How could an 8-year-old recognize a fish that none of them, the grown men, has ever seen either?

I jumped from the car and ran over to the waiting trucks filled with anticipation. I knew they’d have pike, bass and walleyes, maybe even a lake trout. The big chests were filled with fish and ice, covered with heavy canvass tarps in the truck beds.

Pop waved me to his side and savoring the moment introduced me to all his friends, most of whom I already knew. Pop, always the showman, loved to embellish any situation and this was too good an opportunity to miss. He elaborated on their trip and finally got around to describing how Jim hooked this large fish while trolling, and how well it fought.

By now, his impatient friends were barely able to restrain themselves. Could the kid identify the fish or not? There were some knowing smiles over Pop’s antics, but they knew him well and were attempting to be patient.

Having set the stage, Pop began filling his pipe. Jim snorted, threw his arms up and led me to his truck, pulling the heavy tarp off 1 of the chests and opening it. Inside, on top was a large-scaled, silver fish with a small head, a chub-like mouth and a large eye. The fish was around 30-inches long.

More than six decades later, the streams and lakes still beckon to my immediate focus. I learned to love the outdoors at a very early age and I extend extra efforts now to help youngsters and their families find a way to discover the fun of fishing.

Pop’s eye was fixed upon me and I saw a split-second shadow of concern flicker in them. His reputation was at stake here, he’d played the showman, trusting in my fascination with fish and the knowledge that I’d acquired. On occasion, I’d recited to him the many facts I’d learned about different species and quizzed him about his experiences. He was impressed with what I already knew, but had he overplayed his hand? I immediately felt the weight of that trust and his faith in me, we were both on the spot and the pressure was on. Did I know?

“What is it?” Jim asked, glancing first at Pop Hayes and then back at me.

Pop was standing there confidently, smoking his pipe, apparently without a care in the world. The others all involuntarily stepped forward staring intently. I certainly was anxious, but needlessly. I knew at a glance what it was. The fish looked exactly like the picture in the book, came from the waters the map showed it inhabited.

I looked proudly up and answered with surety. “That’s a huge whitefish, maybe a record!”

Pop burst out laughing! He was filled with pride and vindication, shaking my hand, patting me proudly. One or two men were skeptical and asked if I was positive. I described the large scales, small head, shape of the dorsal fin and mouth; further informing these fishermen that whitefish was excellent eating as well. They were noted for their white flakey fillets, not fishy at all. They were commercially netted in the spring and their smoked fillets were sold in many fish shops, a delicacy.

When I confidently challenged them to come inside the house and check the encyclopedia no one any longer doubted me.

Suddenly, I became the whizz-kid. Even more questions were asked of me, all of which I answered. Everyone was impressed. Grandad looked down on me beaming, and suddenly there was a special bond between us that never diminished. The story spread all over town and for months afterward, people would ask if I was the kid who knew so much about fish.

“Yes, sir. Yes, Mam.” I’d reply. It was flattering for a young boy to be so noticed.

Looking back I can’t help but wonder if that knowledge wasn’t born within me and the book simply refreshed what I already somehow knew before coming to earth. I honestly believe that may be true.

How to Travel…As You Stay At Home

Giant Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California. Photo by Dawn Montane

  • From home, YOU CAN share in the beauty of Nature, all free.
  • Explore in many new ways, MAKE YOUR OWN Nature Journal, it’s Fun
  • Travel, Explore, Enjoy – here’s WHAT TO DO!

Nature journaling is fun – draw and make your own notes. Photo by Dawn Montane

By Dawn Montane

Many Americans, at the time of this writing, are under a “shelter-in-place” or “leave only when necessary” order from their respective state to curb the spread of COVID-19. This novel form of coronavirus currently has no cure. In an effort to keep the high-risk group of people from getting infected, this includes elderly people or people with predisposed medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), many businesses have shut down, schools have closed, and travel plans have been cancelled.

In addition, many outdoor areas have been closed to the public, as well, to avoid crowding at popular vista points or trails. Many state parks and some national parks have closed their gates to deter visitors and keep the employees and surrounding communities healthy and safe.

With nowhere to go, besides grabbing a few essentials, there are still many ways for you to “travel” and explore the great outdoors!

Here a few ways to connect to nature from your own home:

  1. Nature Journal (make your own)

If you have a pen and paper, you can nature journal! Draw a bird, or a tree you can see from your window, or draw the skyline if you’re living in a city. Create and label identifying features (such as the color, pattern, or type of building), or if you don’t like to draw, descriptively describe it! Don’t forget to add the date, weather, and time to make it “official.” 🙂

Nature journaling can be a great past time. Pictured here are three birds I was lucky enough to see while visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas. Photo by Dawn Montane

  1. Set Up a Tent in Your Living Room

Your camping trip may have been canceled, but you can still camp! Set up your tent (or make a fort!), put some sleeping bags, pillows, a flashlight or two and make a night of it! Bonus points if you play card games in the tent or have a fireplace to set it up next to!

  1. Listen to the Birds

Open your window! As the sun rises, open your window and listen to how many different bird calls you can hear. Count how many, and see if you can get any “bonus sounds,” such as crickets, frogs, or coyotes! Add to your journal.

  1. Take Daily Walks

If you are able, take a walk around your neighborhood. Even just 30 minutes a day can get you closer to nature! Stop along the way and take joy in the simple parts of our environment – although it may not be Yellowstone, every piece of grass, flower, pine cone, and tree is important to this earth.

  1. Visit Parks…Virtually

Many parks have tours and videos of their attractions that can be found online. The National Park Service allows you to visit from afar and have created a page (found here: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/find-your-virtual-park.htm) that has links for everything from webcams, to galleries, Junior Ranger programs and even a “Distance Learning” section for teachers and parents, so kids to learn while they’re out of school. For example, Yosemite has over 30 videos called Nature Notes all on Youtube, each is between 5-10 minutes long on topics of everything from meadows and black bears to soundscapes and waterfalls.

It feels like you’re really there as you learn. Find the Youtube Playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL890957589F8403A4.

The Giant Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, California are among the largest living things on Earth. Photo by Dawn Montane

For more on “Big Trees,” visit Episode 11 of Yosemite Nature Notes on YouTube and observe giant sequoias, the largest living things on earth. Watch it online here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBiHAGYJXVQ&list=PL890957589F8403A4&index=30&t=0s

  1. Watch Nature Online

If you’re quarantined in a city, town, or village that doesn’t have access to bears, lions, and birds of prey every day, you can follow this link (https://explore.org/livecams) to watch grizzly bears fishing in Katmai National Park in Alaska, or watch a bald eagle’s nest in Channel Islands National Park in California., and many other places

Visit Explore.org to share in their live webcams and recorded highlights from around the globe. You’ll find wild animals in their natural habitat, observe their activities.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes by conservation President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” During his tenure, President Roosevelt set aside 230 million acres of public land in the form of national forests, national monuments and parks, wildlife refuges and more.

We are in this together, let’s enjoy what we can with we have from where we are to stay safe.

 

 

Over-Under Turkey Gun, Close or Far: CZ Reaper Magnum

  • This 12-gauge camo shotgun ships with 6 interchangeable choke tubes, including an extra-full version.
  • Picatinny rail mount option for optic addition is included.
  • QD swivels are attached at front and back

Whether the shot is longer-range or considerably closer, the CZ Reaper Magnum over-and-under offers choke tube options to fill your turkey tag. Outfit one barrel of this 12-gauge turkey gun with a tight choke, the other with a more open variation, then you’re good for that big tom at nearly any distance by merely flipping the barrel selector switch on the Reaper Magnum.

You can even match your shells to the chokes you have selected. For example, fit one barrel with an extra full choke and load it with a magnum turkey load for that 45-yard shot, and a less powerful shell with a more open choke in the other barrel when a bird suddenly pops up at 18 feet. Try that with a semi-automatic or pump shotgun!

The 3.5-inch chambers of the Reaper Magnum allow the use of nearly any 12-gauge turkey shells, while the automatic ejectors vigorously pop out the empties. The shotgun’s 26-inch barrels makes this O/U very maneuverable in the field, whether hunting from a blind or sitting with your back against a tree trunk. Prefer an optic for your turkey hunting? A Picatinny rail mount is included just above the chamber on the rear of the barrels, making any optic an easy addition.

The CZ Reaper Magnum’s sturdy polymer stock can take all that Mother Nature has to offer, and the Realtree Xtra® Green Camo finish will hide this shotgun from those sharp-eyed turkeys. QD swivels are attached at the front and back, and the shotgun ships with six (6) extended, interchangeable choke tubes, including an extra-full version.

Retail cost: $993.

For more information, please visit WWW.CZ-USA.COM.

CZ Reaper Magnum Specs:

  • SKU: 06588
  • Chambering.: 12 Gauge
  • Operation: Over and Under
  • Max Shell Length: 3 ½ in.
  • Barrel Length: 26 in.
  • Rib: 8mm Flat Vent
  • Chokes: 6 Extended Black tubes, including C, IC, LM, M, IM, EXTRA FULL
  • Stock: Polymer, Realtree Xtra® Green Camo
  • Overall Length: 44 ¼ in.
  • Weight: 7 lbs.
  • Length of Pull: 14 ½ in.

Tips for Fishing Businesses and Guides…from the Recreational Fishing Alliance

Photo courtesy of Branson Vistors Bureau

  • Marinas and tackle shops can now apply for available loans  
  • See the useful list (link below) that allows a review of the COVID-19 mitigation rules by state.
  • CARES Act includes forgivable loans to pay for up to eight weeks of payroll, including benefits.

Marinas and marine-related recreational industries of America can apply for assistance right now. Forrest Fisher photo

Just about every business in the recreational fishing industry has been impacted by COVID-19 and actions taken by federal, state and local governments to slow the spread of the novel virus.

Small businesses including marinas and tackle shops can now apply for loans available through the Small Business Administration (SBA). These loans are part of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package, CARES ACT, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week.

The CARES Act includes upwards of $350 million of forgivable loans to pay for up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. The loans can also be used to pay mortgages, rent, and utilities. These loans become available at a time when many recreational fishing related businesses are experiencing massive declines in revenue and shortfalls with cash flow. These loans may prove to be extremely helpful for businesses and their employees to get through the next two months as policies remain in place to minimize the impact of the virus on our nation. Use the following link to learn more about these loans and to check your eligibility. https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources

While there has been guidance and financial support provided at the federal level, most policies regarding social distancing, essential businesses and stay at home orders have been carried out at the state and local levels. Thus, policies that impact our ability to go recreational fishing and recreational fishing businesses vary from state to state. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has put together a useful list that allows you to review the COVID-19 mitigation rules by each state. Use the following link to review the various policies.

http://nmma.net/assets/cabinets/Cabinet488/NMMA_COVID%20State%20Resources%20One%20Pager_3.31.20.pdf

If you have specific questions regarding financial assistance programs or measures in your particular state don’t hesitate to contact us.

It is also important to remember that anglers have a responsibility to comply with social distancing rules even when outside fishing.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to follow these guidelines not only for the sake of public health but also so we are allowed to continue fishing during these trying times.

About the Recreational Fishing Alliance: The chartered mission of the RFA is to safeguard the rights of saltwater anglers, protect marine, boat and tackle industry jobs, and ensure the long-term sustainability of our Nation’s saltwater fisheries – that is our constitution, it is what we live by every single day on your behalf as a recreational fisherman – from a recreational perspective, it’s all about the fish, the fishermen and the fishing industry. Click here to learn more.

COVID-19 Gun Sales like Toilet Paper…OFF-THE-SHELF!

  • Firearms & Ammunition Sales BATTLE Sanitizers & Toilet Paper Sales
  • Records show firearm accidents at their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1903.
  • Despite increasing numbers of new firearm owners, the downward trend of accidental firearms accidents is welcome by everyone.

Gunmask Gun Sales set new records in March, thanks in part to the COVID-19 crisis.

By Mike Schoonveld

Barrack Obama won many awards while he was president. I’m sure he was proud of most of them. Probably not so much when the decidedly pro-Obama news network, CNN, named him “Gun Salesman of the Year” multiple times. Never in U.S. history did so many citizens flock to gun stores to exercise their 2nd Amendment Rights in such numbers, all fueled by the perception those rights were under fire.

I’m not going to rehash that or the politics of the situation as existed then. However, if Obama deserved the salesman of the year award, this year’s award is likely to go to the COVID-19 Virus. The only thing selling as fast as sanitizers and toilet paper are guns and ammunition. This time it’s not so much the citizens worried about the government encroaching on their rights as much as the government’s inability to protect them if things go from bad to worse as more and more resources divert to virus-related issues. Is this needless worry or a reasonable approach to self-reliance? Only time will tell.

During the “arming of America” during the Obama years and now, anti-gun activists became hysterical and were quick to predict massive increases in firearms accidents. None of these prognostications have proved true. Firearms crime committed by legal gun owners didn’t spike and neither did accidental firearms accidents. In fact, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) just reported unintentional firearm fatalities have reached their lowest level ever, according to the latest data from the National Safety Council’s just-released Injury Facts Report.

NSSF, as the trade association for the firearm industry and leading proponent of safe gun handling and storage, applauded the report, which shows firearm accidents at their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1903. In part, it proves most firearms owners take owning their guns seriously and do so responsibly. It also proves industry efforts to improve firearms safety are having positive effects.

The industry has provided more than 100 million free firearm locking devices with new firearms sold and distributed through its award-winning Project ChildSafe program—the largest and most comprehensive firearm safety program in the country. The industry’s educational materials are widely distributed to gun owners by firearm manufacturers, retailers, instructors and others nationwide.

With approximately 100 million gun owners in the country, the data demonstrate that firearms can be safely owned and used with no increase in accidental gun statistics when secure storage guidelines are followed. Securely storing firearms when not in use is plainly sensible and has proven to be the number one way to help prevent accidents, thefts, and misuse.

NSSF gun lock: a simple device, more than 100 million of these gun locks have been distributed since Project ChildSafe was started.

The National Safety Council’s most recent data showed just 458 accidental firearm fatalities in the year, accounting for less than 1 percent of accidental deaths. The leading cause of accidental deaths in homes is falls and poisoning.

This downward trend of accidental firearms accidents is a long term trend, in spite of spikes in new firearms owners. In the last two decades, accidental firearm deaths have declined by 47 percent. That’s great, but even one accidental firearm fatality is one too many.

With reports of many people purchasing their first firearm for personal protection concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for new gun owners to use the safety devices that came packaged with their new firearm. Also, when a gun is not under a responsible person’s direct control, all gun owners should consider using additional safety devices such as a lockable box or lockable gun case. Also, take advantage of the many gun safety resources at ProjectChildSafe.org – such as the time-tested video on the 10 commandments of firearm safety.

With so many children at home because of COVID-19-related school closures, parents are encouraged to make time to have “the talk” over and again with their kids about gun safety. Convenient, fun and easy to use video tools such as “McGruff” on Gun Safety as well as a video on how parents can talk to their children about gun safety can be found on the Project ChildSafe website.

THE END

 

 

New York is Open for Hunting, Spring Turkey Season Starts May 1

Joe Forma Photo

  • Youth Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend is April 25-26
  • Regular NYS Turkey Season opens May 1
  • Hunters Should Always Follow Safety Tips to Prevent Injuries and Limit Spread of COVID-19

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that spring turkey season opens May 1 in all of Upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. In addition, DEC’s annual youth turkey hunting weekend will take place on April 25-26. The youth turkey hunt for junior hunters aged 12 to 15 is open in all of Upstate New York and Suffolk County.

The big gobbler “tom” struts in. Photo by Joe Forma

“Many New Yorkers are eager to spend time outdoors and turkey hunting is one great way to reconnect to nature,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Whether participating in the upcoming youth hunt with your children or heading out on your own in pursuit of a wary gobbler, be sure to hunt safe and hunt smart by following the important guidelines in place both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support hunting safety.”

Turkey hunters took about 17,000 birds in New York during the 2019 spring season. Spring harvest success is often tied to productivity two years prior, as hunters like to focus on adult gobblers (i.e., two-year-old birds). While the cold, wet start to the 2019 breeding season meant low reproductive success and poor recruitment in many areas, conditions were better in summer 2018. The population gains made in 2018, combined with good overwinter survival because of abundant food in the fall and relatively mild winter conditions this year, may offset 2019’s poor reproductive success.

Important Details for the Youth Turkey Hunt on April 25 and 26

  • Hunters 12-15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
  • Youth 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian;
  • The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter, including calling, but may not carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • The youth turkey hunt is open in all of upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary and in Suffolk County;
  • The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken only in Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, beginning May 1;
  • Crossbows may only be used by hunters age 14 or older. In Suffolk and Westchester counties it is illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wild turkeys; and
  • All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.

Other Important Details for the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31, 2020:

  • Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
  • Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
  • Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
  • Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
  • Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC’s Game Harvest Reporting website; and

For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the “Turkey Hunting” pages of DEC’s website.

Hunt Safe, Hunt Smart!

While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made each year. Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and DEC encourages hunters to use common sense this season and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunter Education Course:

  • Point your gun in a safe direction;
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
  • Be sure of your target and beyond;
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
  • Stalking stinks! Set-up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.

DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set-up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence.

A hunter education class is required for all new hunters. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, hunter education courses have been cancelled through April 30. To find a hunter education class in your area, visit DEC’s Hunter Education Program website or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332).

“Hunting Safe” now means following social distancing /other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Purchase licenses and/or turkey permits online to avoid visiting busy stores or because stores may be closed or have limited hours. Licenses and tags purchased online take 10-14 days to arrive, so online purchases for the youth turkey hunt should be made by April 10, and for the regular season by April 16;
  • Hunt close to home. Opt for day trips instead of staying at a hunting camp to avoid close contact with other hunters;
  • Avoid crowds at parking areas and other locations where people congregate. Keep a distance of six feet or more from others;
  • Avoid high-traffic destinations. If a hunting location is crowded, choose a different spot or time to visit. For alternative hunting locations visit DEC’s website.
  • Hunt alone. If hunting with someone not from your household, whether an adult or youth, practice social distancing, take separate vehicles to the hunting location, and make sure to maintain at least six feet of distance. Only share a hunting blind with someone from your household;
  • Carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face and wash mouth calls after handling; and
  • If hunters do not feel well, they should stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their trip.
  • For more information about getting outdoors and #RecreateLocal, go to DEC’s Website.

Buy Sporting Licenses Online

DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) with them while afield. Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags. Please visit our website for more information about sporting licenses.

Citizen Science Opportunity: DEC Seeks Turkey Hunters for Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey

Turkey hunters can record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while afield to help DEC track the distribution and abundance of this game bird. To get a survey form, go to DEC’s website or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in DEC’s Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey or other wildlife surveys, visit the “Citizen Science” page of DEC’s website.

New Blades…A Compact Fixed Blade Pair of Knives — The JaegerPair™ from Outdoor Edge®

  • Big critter on the ground, 4-miles from the road, you know what that means: skin, section, quarter, debone…you need the right tools BEFORE DARK.
  • At Hunt Camp back home, help all your buddies, field dress their big game prize QUICKLY, sharp cutting tools do the trick and make it easy
  • These Outdoor Edge tools are light, sharp, protected in their sheath, smart design, simple to use. 

Drop Point Knife Blade, Gutting Blade, 8.5 oz, Blade Steel made from 420J2 stainless – long sharp lasting, Rubberized TPR Handle, Nylon Sheath. 

Preparing for a hunt means making certain you have all the right equipment. Outdoor Edge makes that easy with its new lightweight and compact JaegerPair™ fixed blade combination set. Weighing in at only 8.5 oz. this big-game field dressing combo with a fixed blade drop-point and a gutting knife is an absolute necessity for every hunting pack.

The 3.9-inch drop-point skinning knife in the JaegerPair is the true workhorse for skinning and de-boning. The unique design of this blade allows you to sweep through the skinning job and get through the thick layers with ease while the downward angle-point assists in preventing any accidental slices through the hide. The 3.7-inch blunt-tipped gutting knife in the JaegerPair cuts underneath the skin to provide a seamless, effortless cut without piercing vital organs. The two-knife combination makes big-game field-dressing a breeze.

Both knives feature precisely heat-treated 420J2 stainless steel blades that are resistant to rust and are hand-finished shaving sharp and ensure excellent edge retention. The full tang on both knives adds to the cutting strength and reliability and allows for increased force leverage with the handle if needed. Perfectly balanced, the knives feature blaze-orange handles with an antlered texture molded into the rubberized TPR handle for a comfortable fit in your hand and a secure, non-slip grip even if you find yourself field dressing an animal in inclement weather.

The JaegerPair comes complete with a black nylon belt sheath to keep this quality knife pair within reach at all times. It will be available this Spring at retailers nationwide and conveniently online at www.outdooredge.com for a suggested retail of $33.95.

About Outdoor Edge: Founded in 1988 and headquartered in Denver, Outdoor Edge is a leading designer and manufacturer of knives and tools. Today, Outdoor Edge continues to innovate and develop state-of-the-art products for outdoor enthusiasts, game processors, survivalists, handymen and others who require the very best knives and tools available for leisure, work, and everyday-carry needs. The company prides itself in offering a variety of products that undergo extensive field-testing in harsh, rugged environments resulting in durable, long-lasting products that come with a lifetime guarantee. For additional information on Outdoor Edge and its full line of products write to Outdoor Edge, 5000 Osage Street, Suite 800, Denver, CO 80221; call toll-free 800-477-3343; email moreinfo@outdooredge.com; or visit www.outdooredge.com.

The Quest for Morels…Mushroom Hunting!

Morels hide in plain site. Delcious when cooked, learn more about them.

Hunting mushrooms in the spring is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

By Jason Houser

Hunting mushrooms in the spring is an activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family. This falls into the same time frame as turkey hunting, camping, and other outdoor activities. Carrying a bag with you while in the woods and coming home with it full of edible mushrooms will quickly make you the most popular person amongst your family and friends.

When the mushrooms start popping up, a hunter will only have about 10 days of hunting before they are gone for another year. If you happen to catch the tail end of mushroom season, go ahead and harvest those mushrooms you find that have some dry spots on them. They can easily be cut off, saving the rest of the ‘shroom.

It was not all that long ago that mushroom hunters had to walk through the woods to see if mushrooms were up yet or not. I still do it that way, but the internet can help you out if you need it. Hunters post mushroom findings on one of the many mushroom hunting blogs. It is a good way to find out if mushrooms are up in your area. Just do not expect to be told what woods they are in. That is totally up to you to figure out.

Mushrooms can be difficult to find. They seem to pop out of the ground overnight. Actually, they do. If you do not find them one day, the next day they could be everywhere. The key is to keep looking. If you are new to the sport, expect to do a lot of walking to find them unless you are lucky enough to have someone show you. Normally, when you ask a mushroom hunter where to find mushrooms, the best answer you can expect to get is, “in the woods”. Once you find a patch of mushrooms remember where you found them and keep it a secret. You will likely have the same patch for many, many years.

For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow. A good number are often found in a small patch with none in a large surrounding area that appears to be identical.

For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow.

Always respect the property of others. Mushroom hunters are a serious bunch when it comes to their mushrooms. Just like any other hunting adventure always ask permission before entering another person’s property. It is also a good idea to share some of your harvest with the landowner if you have enough.

Public land offers possibilities for the mushroom hunter. The problem is that everybody has access to this ground. If you are not one of the first hunters of the season you might do a lot of walking for nothing.

Check with park officials before picking mushrooms. I know that state parks in some states do not allow mushroom hunting. Do not forget to be mindful of spring turkey hunters on state ground. At times, mushroom hunting might coincide with turkey season. During turkey season always wear bright colors on your exterior clothes so you are noticeable, but stay away from colors of red, white and blue (those are male turkey colors). They are too similar to the colors of a gobbler. You do not want to be mistaken for a longbeard.

An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem.

If you do not know what a morel looks like I would advise you to purchase a field guide. If you pick the wrong one and eat it, you could become very ill. Never eat any mushroom until you know exactly what it is.   A fellow mushroom hunter can be a good source to whether or not the mushrooms are edible. It is likely if your friend tries to talk you out of your mushrooms, they are the real thing.

An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem. Colors vary gray, yellow, tan or nearly black. Always cook morels before eating.

Just like any hunter, mushroom hunters need to be ethical in their hunting practices. Do not pull a mushroom up with its roots intact. Pinch the stem off one-half inch or more above the ground. This will help with re-growth the following year. Always use a mesh bag to carry your mushrooms in. I use an old onion bag. This allows the spores to fall to the ground throughout the woods. Again, this will help with growing mushrooms the following spring.

 

Captions.

  1. An edible mushroom has a hollow stem and the bottom edge of the sponge-like cap is attached directly to the stem.
  2. For reasons known only to them, morels are very particular about where they grow

Great Fishing from Shore or Boat! New Rule Changes, NYS Charter Guides On Hold

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for April 1, 2020, from Destination Niagara USA

We hope everyone is always staying safe out there and practicing social distancing!

Roy Letcher of Newfane with a brown trout caught off the Olcott pier this week.

April 1 is the traditional inland trout and salmon opener throughout New York State. This has very little impact on the Niagara Falls USA fishery because the waters of the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and its tributaries all fall under special Great Lakes regulations. Yes, you can fish all year for trout and salmon if you so desire!

As we turn the page into April, there are some new developments you should be aware of. First, it was announced this week that charter captains and guides have been deemed non-essential. They will have to wait until this horrible pandemic subsides before they can operate again.

Paul Vaicunas caught this lower Niagara River steelhead last week fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill with Buffalo Wingz Waterfowl.

April 1 also kicks in some new fishing regulations for Lake Ontario and the tributaries. For Lake Ontario, the daily limit for steelhead drops from 3 to 2 as part of your fish totals per person. In the tributaries, the daily limit for brown trout drops from 3 to 1 fish per person. Steelhead will remain at 1 fish per person, but the minimum size for that 1 fish (should you decide to keep one), must be at least 25 inches long now. The Niagara River is currently exempt from all these new regulations for the time being.

As far as some other fishing facts, the Town of Newfane Marina will not open for the time being. However, the launch ramp will remain open. In addition, the gas pumps are being converted to pay-at-the-pump and that project should be completed by next week.

Jojo Wilczewski of Amherst with a chunky Lake Ontario brown trout from this week.

Roy Letcher of Newfane reports that the pier action has been good in Wilson and Olcott. Cast Little Cleo spoons and stickbaits for primarily brown trout. You can also drift a float with an egg sac or a minnow to pick up a fish or two. Bullhead are also being caught in Wilson, Olcott and Golden Hill but the water was muddy in some areas. When you can get on the lake for some trolling action, some brown trout are being caught with regularity using stickbaits along the shoreline inside of 20 feet. Some salmon are also being reported by trollers from the Niagara Bar to 30-mile Point. The rain we experienced last weekend gave the creeks a good shot of water flow and some are muddy for right now. It should improve quickly with mild weather in the forecast. All the launch ramps are open in the state parks here, as well as the town launch in Wilson. Streams are still holding trout, but they are on the way out. Suckers and bass are moving in.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a big lower Niagara River steelhead from last week.

Niagara River fishing has been good to very good. It will take a few days for the action to return after the severe storms blew through over the weekend. From shore, casting spoons, jigs or spinners will work. Drifting egg sacs or egg imitations will also produce a trout or two.

Remember social distancing.

If someone is fishing a spot, say in the lower Niagara River from shore, pay attention to how they are fishing the area, too.

In the upper Niagara River, Blake Kowaski of Tonawanda was catching some decent yellow perch.

If the river current takes their lure downriver and they are working the shoreline back up, make sure you are giving adequate distancing from that individual for more than just the virus. It will be more than 6 feet. In fact, ask them if it’s okay.

Common courtesy can go a long way toward a better angling experience for everyone.

Lisa Drabczyk of Creek Road Bait and Tackle reported over the weekend that she will be opening her doors for customers, but using social distancing practices with one customer at a time at her Lewiston shop.

From a boat, Kwikfish and MagLips will work well when the water is stained, and you have a southwest wind to help.

Egg sacs and minnows will both work again as the waters start to clear and they are forecasting some decent weather at the end of the week.

Lake trout are on the Niagara Bar.

Stay safe out there!

Chris Taylor of Grand Island with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director
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Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

How to Miss a Turkey – Conservation by any other name…here are some TIPS to extend your season!

  • No matter where you hunt, turkey season is short and bag limits are small.
  • NOT filling a limit, there is a reward, your time afield is maximized, the hunt is extended.
  • The important thing is being “out there,” a day or two away from work, the anticipation for another hunt.

By Mike Schoonveld

I have made lots of hunters happy by explaining the best techniques to completely miss the shots they fire at the game they are stalking. The seasons are short and limits are small.

A competent hunter with a fair amount of accuracy with his shooting iron can find himself sidelined by success.

Any hunter will tell you the “kill” is secondary to the hunt. The important things are being afield, day or two away from work, and pitting human skills against animal instincts. Not bagging a deer or not filling a limit of ducks insures your time afield is maximized and the hunt is extended. In short, a good clean miss can be what makes a season a success.

I don’t hunt turkeys, but I do shoot shotguns and can offer plenty of advice at how to fail at what would seem a simple task. The task is to blast a 20-pound plus bird that is standing still or moving slowly with a gun designed to pepper pellets into a duck flying 40 miles per hour.

It can’t be that hard, so when a turkey is fired upon and missed, one of two things happened. There was equipment error or there was shooter error. If the gun went “bang” when the trigger was pulled and a load of pellets flew out the end of the gun’s muzzle, that pretty well eliminates the equipment error.   A more certain ploy to insure a full season of fun during turkey season is to rely on yourself to cause the missed shots. Here are some very reliable methods.

You can get overly excited when you first see that gobbler heading your way, responding to your seductive calls. Don’t worry about the distance. Never mind that the bird heading ever closer, thus making the shot easier. Blast away as soon as you see the Tom. Out past 40 yards or so, your pellets will slow to the point that they’ll bounce off the feathers and the rest of the pattern will pepper harmlessly into the forest.

You can take this to the other extreme, as well. Let the bird approach to within 10 or 15 feet and try for a head and neck shot with a pattern that measures about 2.7 inches across. Shotguns are designed to be “pointed” not aimed; but at extremely close range, you better learn to aim.

Then there’s the ol’ shoot through the brush trick. The gobbler is in easy range. You can see it strutting through a screen of the forest understory. Fire away, I guarantee you’ll miss.

Even with an open shot, only a half dozen of the pellets you fire will hit a vital spot on the turkey. So you aren’t really trying to force hundreds of pellets through the brambles. Most were destined to miss, anyway. What you are trying to do is thread those half dozen pellets which are on target through the maze and you only need to have a half dozen sticks or twigs in the way to insure a clean miss. A turkey behind a screen of intervening shrubbery is as safe as Capt. Kirk being attacked by a bevy of Klingon torpedoes when the Enterprise shields are up.

The most acceptable way to miss a turkey is to try to get a better look at your target. Shotguns don’t have a rear sight to use for aiming because, as I said earlier, you don’t aim a shotgun. Your eyes become the rear sight as you look down the barrel and point the gun. Can’t see the turkey real well because you are looking down the barrel? Just raise your head a few inches off the stock and you can see it clearly. Of course, now your “rear sight” has been adjusted to make the gun shoot high. The more clearly you see the bird, the higher you will shoot. Simple, effective and the best part is you get to keep on hunting.

So try one or more of these tricks when you hit the turkey woods in the next few weeks. Want to ensure you get to keep hunting, combine some of these techniques. You’ll thank me and be happy if you don’t get the bird on opening day, the rest of the season is still available for you!

THE END

Keep Your Fishing Gear Tidy in a Boat (…and everwhere else)

Having your gear organized and in easy places to get to, it will be easy to find your net and net your next fish…without having to trip over everything.

By Jason Houser

I do not know if it has ever happened to you or not, but I have been accused, more than once, of having an unorganized fishing boat.

There was a time in my life that every time I headed to the water; I was unprepared for the day ahead. Sometimes, tackle would be left behind, the fishing net was buried under clutter in the bottom of the boat, and there were times I forgot gear, it was behind at the house. Not everyone reading this is as bad as I once was, but I bet everyone from time to time could have been more prepared.

Anglers are known to get tunnel vision, and the only thing they can think about is being on the water and catching fish. When this happens, they (we) are liable to get in too big of a hurry and forget things. This can cause what was going to be a good day of fishing to turn bad. In some cases, you might not even be able to fish, depending on what you left behind.

The good news is that it does not have to be that way. With a little time spent thinking ahead, you can tidy your boat up. Once completed, you will not have to worry if you have everything or not. With all your gear stowed away in an orderly manner in its place, you will have more productive time that you can use to spend fishing, not looking for the tackle.

The new Edge Series from Plano helps keep your tackle and gear organized.

It all begins by knowing what you will spend the day on the water fishing for. Different equipment will be required for spawning bass than what you would need for fall musky, or bluegill vs. catfish. Do not take tackle that you will not use. It will only be in the way, and cause clutter on the floor of the boat you do not need.

I fish for just about every fish that swims. I have a large tackle box full of nothing but bass fishing lures, plastic worms, hook, weights, spinners, and so on. I have a small box with assorted panfish hooks, weights, and bobbers. Another is ready for catfish, and still another ready for walleye and musky. You get the picture. This year to help keep my lures, terminal tackle, gear, and other items organized I have switched to the Edge Series tackle boxes from Plano. Besides keeping everything organized, they help prevent rust and they keep water out.

When I get ready to go fishing, all I have to do is grab the box I need and put it in the boat. Each box in the Edge Series can be identified easily with their EZ Label™ system for quick identification of contents.

When fishing, there is no other piece of equipment more important than the rod and reel combination. For that reason, it is necessary to have a rod holder or rack of some type in the boat, or in your man cave (or garage), to keep them from getting stepped on, as well as out of the way.

If you are boating, depending on the size of your boat rig, it might already have a rod holder or two.  Some larger boats come from the factory with rod boxes and rod holders. For those boats that do not, it is up to you to build a holder of some type or purchase a tubular rod holder. When choosing the location to put a Velcro or groove type rod holder, it needs to be out of the way and easy to get to.

Other equipment such as first aid kits, coolers, towels, rain gear, cameras, and the like, also need to be out of the way. Many boats come with plenty of storage compartments under the seats and on the deck. For those that do not, rubber totes are good to keep the clutter to a minimum, while still keeping those items protected and easy to get to.

With a little planning, all of your gear will be in your boat, easy to get to. So, the next time a big trout attacks your lure, you will be able to get to your landing net without having to move those other accumulating non-essential items. When you need thenet, you need the net. It might seem too simple, but a tidy boat makes for a better day of fishing.

From shore in a boat, don’t let an unorganized boat keep you from catching fish!

Keep Social Distancing a Rule…but the fish are biting if you can get out

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for March 25, 2020 – from Destination Niagara USA

Sidney Syracuse of Newfane with a big creek steelhead caught east of Olcott on Sunday.

Life is far from normal as we continue to move forward in this changing world. Adding a little bit of normalcy back into our lives is important … like fishing and being outdoors. With some mild weather moving into the region, angling action has been good on a variety of fronts.

Lisa Cicciarelli of Lockport holds up a lower river steelhead with Capt. Arnie Jonathan of Lockport.

Out on Lake Ontario, boats were making it out onto the lake this week to start chasing fish on the big water. State parks have their launch ramps open, as well as the Town of Newfane marina. Trolling the shoreline with stickbaits in 8 to 20 feet of water seems to be the best approach. If there’s a mud line, work the edge by long lining off the back of the boat or use in-line planers. Brown trout are the primary target, but you may also catch a steelhead or Coho salmon.

On the Niagara Bar, a few Chinook salmon have also shown up for a nice bonus while drifters have targeted lakers and browns.

The piers were also producing some brown trout for casters using spoons and spinners off Wilson and Olcott. It’s getting near the tail end of the steelhead run into the tributaries, but some steelhead and brown trout are still available. A few suckers are starting to show up and the first smallmouth bass should also become available in the tributaries.

There are still some bullheads available in Wilson and Olcott, too, if you are looking for a tasty spring meal. Remember that the Niagara County Bullhead Contest has been cancelled for this year.

Speaking of contests, no word on the Lake Ontario Counties (LOC) derbies or tournaments like the Wilson Harbor Invitational or the Niagara County Pro-Am events. They are waiting to see how COVID-19 progresses into April.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a lower river brown trout he caught this week using a jig.

The strong winds last Friday put a tinge of stain into the river system, but it didn’t shut it down entirely. It has improved every day since then. Conditions were near perfect on Tuesday according to Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island. Pink egg sacs, beads and Kwikfish were all working for him as they targeted steelhead. Lake trout and brown trout are all being caught from both boat and shore, too. Lake trout like big minnows and the Niagara Bar has been a good place to start … if you can get out there.

John Anthone was fishing with Capt. Chris Cinelli of Grand Island when he caught this steelhead on a pink egg sac while drifting the lower Niagara River.

Capt. Connor Cinelli of Grand Island with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught this week.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reported 5 feet of visibility this week in the river and was catching trout on both spinners and jigs.

Others have drifted egg sacs or beads to hit some steelhead.

April 1 is still the inland trout opener around the state and that doesn’t impact Niagara Falls USA very much because our Great Lakes waters are open year-round.

Where it does impact us is at some of the county’s urban stocking sites like Niagara Falls and Wheatfield. Oppenheim Park Pond is the first on the list at 10 a.m. on April 8, followed by Hyde Park Lake and Gill Creek in Niagara Falls the same day.  Make sure you maintain social distancing from anyone else fishing.

It’s good fishing etiquette anyway, whether you are in the lower Niagara River, a stream off Lake Ontario, on the piers or at a pond or lake in the city. Stay safe out there!

Scott Feltrinelli with a nice bass.

Bill Hilts, Jr. - Outdoor Promotions Director
 
Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

GET READY for Next DEER SEASON right now – HERE’s HOW

  • New hunting land…I saw 33 deer on one day, 57 deer on another day, here’s how.
  • Controlling your body odor is critical, there is only one good way, most critical.
  • Trail cam’s that talk with remote pictures can help us map out deer kill zones.

My deer hunting family…we enjoy every minute, especially now – we see so many more deer (that’s me on the far left). 

By Larry Whiteley

You are probably thinking why in the world would I be writing about deer hunting in March? Yes, deer season is over. It won’t be here again for another 7 long months, but I will tell you like I have told others, “I like my fishing. I enjoy camping. I delight in my time on hiking trails. I savor my time on the water in boat, canoe or kayak, but I absolutely love hunting and especially deer hunting.” Also, I want to share some things with you that could greatly improve your deer hunting this year, but you need to be doing them right now!

Late winter/early spring is a great time of year to get out and scout for deer while you look for shed antlers and maybe some early morel mushrooms too.

You can safely roam every inch of your hunting grounds and not worry if you spook a deer or two since you won’t be hunting them again until at least September. Check every nook and cranny searching for tracks, rubs, trails, and scrapes you missed this past season. Enter all that you find on your onX app, then study them to put together the innermost pieces of the puzzle. You don’t have an onX app? My grandson (from the age that knows handheld help) feels it is the most useful hunting app available. Go to https://www.onxmaps.com and see what all this app can do. You’ll be ahead of the game come fall because whitetails are notoriously habitual creatures that follow the same general movement patterns year after year.

My grandson on the opening morning of the archery season. Scouting and scent control pays off.

Since the trees are still bare, it’s a good time to identify new places for stands, then go ahead and hang them. If you find that big buck’s shed, you will know he is probably going to be around again come hunting season. You can also put out food or minerals if it is allowed in your area. Put game cameras out too and start watching for deer pictures on your smartphone or computer. It’s a lot cooler now than waiting for summer to do it and the scent you left will be long gone before hunting season.

Speaking of scent. Few animals have a better sense of smell than the whitetail deer. Their senses of sight and hearing are important, but their nose is their best protection. They can detect odors much better and from considerably longer distances than us humans. A big part of their brain is devoted to odor reception and interpretation. Their nasal chamber can even concentrate odors so they are more identifiable. They not only identify the source of the smell, but also the approximate distance and location/direction of the smell.

My son, muzzleloader hunting in his ScentLok.

The number one thing that can keep you from getting a deer is their sense of smell. So, when you’re out there hunting deer, it makes the most sense to do everything possible to keep from alerting them to your presence in their home. Way before this past deer season, my grandson and I started doing research on that very question. He is a senior in college majoring in wildlife management and did summer intern work with one of the best deer biologists in America. He learned a lot about a deer’s sense of smell, how it works and what you can do to keep them from smelling you. I attended seminars at outdoor writer conferences and did a lot of research on the internet trying to determine the best products to use to keep them from smelling us.

All of that is exactly why the Whiteley family decided to be a ScentLok family. My grandson could explain to you why and what they do to their clothing that really works. You can also go to https://www.scentlok.com/ to learn all about it. I just know it does! To seal the deal, in 2012, a Minnesota lawsuit filed by some hunters saying it didn’t work was dismissed after expert testing found that, using highly elevated test odor concentrations that were ‘likely ten thousandfold greater than a human body could produce in the course of 24 hours,’ ScentLok clothing fabrics blocked 96-99% of the odor compounds, and essentially 100 percent of body odor compounds tested. The expert testing also found that after drying, or washing and drying, ScentLok fabrics continued to be highly effective at blocking odors.” In other words, ScentLok gets as close to scent invisibility as a hunter can get.

Molly’s first deer, the smile says it all.

All my deer hunting family wore ScentLok clothing and used their other products this past deer season. Our opinion is that if you take care to eliminate your scent by showering with no scent soap, use no scent detergent, wear a headcover, use no scent spray on all your equipment including stands and blinds, plus use ScentLok storage systems in combination with their OZ ozone systems, the results are measurable in pounds of venison and antler size. To wear your ScentLok clothes, reactivate them in your dryer, watch the wind direction and steady your aim. Very effective. You’ll need to choose the deer you take down, you’ll see that many more.

Now, even if you do all that and then get out of bed, just throw your clothes on and hop in the truck or get on an ATV, chances are a deer will know you are there. If you smoke, chew or eat on the way over plus leave scent on your way in and then climb into your stand or blind, then nothing is going to work. You are not going to magically disappear just because you have ScentLok clothing on if you don’t do everything right, as explained earlier.

ScentLok clothes will do their job, but it is up to you to do all the above plus not make noises they will hear or movement they will see. My son and I can both testify we heard the dreadful sound of deer blowing at us and saw their white flags as they ran away. It was their sight and hearing that got us back then, not their nose.

This past early archery season, I was hunting in a new stand on a new property and saw 33 deer. Not one of them had any idea I was there. The next weekend in another new stand, I saw 57 deer coming from every direction possible. None of them caught my scent. My son and I hunted two different Missouri properties all through the different deer seasons. My grandson and future granddaughter-in-law hunted property in Kansas. All of us can honestly say we never had a deer smell us no matter where we were at.

Young couples are the future of hunting in America. GMO-free protein meat (venison), sure makes good sense for raising a healthy family.

No, we did not get any of the big bucks we saw while we were out there or had pictures on our game cameras. Their time is coming though. We passed on several nice bucks but decided to give them a heartbeat for another year. We did take several does to help get the doe to buck ratio in better balance and fill our freezers until next season. The steaks, burger, summer sausage, jerky and snack sticks will be enjoyed all year.

We will also be wearing our ScentLok come early turkey season in a few more weeks. Not that we’re worried about turkeys busting us with their nose, but their clothing is so comfortable, quiet and well-made it is not just for deer season. None of us are on ScentLok’s payroll, but we can honestly tell you we have tried many things to control our scent and there is nothing better. That’s why we are and always will be a ScentLok family. Start getting ready and start shopping right now!

Build your own custom fishing rod: 6 SIMPLE STEPS

  • Choose rod type, length, action
  • See a custom rod-building catalog, simplify choices
  • Order, sort the parts, prepare the parts, follow the instructions, get it done, and SEE BELOW

Tom Marks is a custom rod-builder and expert charter-captain with impeccable fishing skills, he simplifies and shares rod building skills for all viewers.

By Bob Holzhei

Building a custom fishing rod is much easier and more affordable than many fishermen think! I’m not a rod-builder, but I met a friend that has become a real custom rod building expert, his name is Tom Marks. He says, “I’m still just learning how to do a lot of the details, but I’m a good learner and I’ve put several dozen rods together over the last few years, my friends seem to like them. It’s more a hobby than anything else, it’s certainly not a job for me (yet).” He has taught me how to do what you do to accomplish what might be nearly impossible for me alone. Tom invited me to watch and do, as he went along.

First, you decide the type of rod you want. To keep things simple, I chose between just two rod types: casting rod or spinning rod? After that, will it be a lightweight, medium-weight, heavy-weight, fast action, slow action? How long? Length is a big factor based on your physical size. The number of pieces? The most sensitive rods are always one-piece, but two-piece rods fit so much better in the trunk! You can decide all these rod details on your own, they are all questions you need to answer.

I chose a custom spinning rod and then enjoyed working and (mostly) watching Tom build my fishing rod.

STEPS IN ROD BUILDING:

Select the rod blank and components. Order a kit or talk to a custom rod-builder like Tom.

The spline of the rod is found by bending it and watching for “hop” or listening for a slight sound crack.

Tom says, “First, I find and mark the rod spline with a permanent marker. The spline is the backbone of the rod and is located where the internal “heavy section” inside the internal circumference of the rod blank is located, it is actually the strong backbone part of the rod. The spline is the reference plane for where the guides will go, on one side of the spline or directly opposite of the spline. More on that later.

The spline is marked; it is the backbone of the rod.

The backbone allows the guides to be placed to provide the greatest rod strength for the blank itself, so the rod will not break when a big fish is on the line. This improves the balance and performance of the rod, also ensuring straighter casts.”

When building a spinning rod, the spline is marked (it runs the entire length of the blank) and the guides are placed opposite the spline.  On a casting rod, the guides are placed on top of the rod blank spline.

“There’s nothing like catching a fish with a custom-made rod,” smiled Marks.

The Simple 6-Step How-To:

  1. Select the rod kit and order it to meet your needs as mentioned earlier. Or see a humble custom rod builder like Tom Marks and ask him questions, then he can design a kit for you and build exactly what you want.
  2. The physical components need to be prepared. This includes adjusting the rod grip to fit the blank. It might mean using some special tools to ream the internal diameter of the grip as necessary to fit the rod blank, no matter if it’s cork or carbon fiber. The grip will be held in place on the blank using epoxy glue later. The rod blank is then measured and marked to determine the location for the grip, real seat, and rod guides.

    The grip or handle of the rod is reamed out.

     

  3. The grip (handle of the rod) is dry-fitted to the blank by attaching the reel seat and aligning the combination with the spline, and when this all looks right, epoxy is used to permanently fasten to the blank.

    Dry fit the handle before placing epoxy glue on.
  4. The top side of each guide foot is sanded to allow a smooth transition for the thread winding to track onto the foot. The guides are then aligned on the rod blank to the marked, spline-oriented, locations from earlier. The guides are attached temporarily using rubber bands cut from silicone tubing (some builders use masking tape for this step). The thread of your color choice is then used to wrap and hold the guides to their designated place. Again, the guides need to be straight and all in-line on the blank. Before the epoxy is applied, the guides can be moved ever so slightly to assure they are perfectly in line. Tom uses the recommended placement of guides from “Mud Hole,” an online supply company of custom rod building kits.
  5. A light coat of epoxy glue is placed on the thread wrap and allowed to cure for 24 hours while slowly rotating the blank to assure no runs occur from the epoxy. Marks will use two to three coats of thread wrap epoxy to assure the wraps and guide feet are sealed and impervious to the external environment.
  6. Lastly, the tip-top is glued in place with hot melt glue.

The rod-build is done.

“The rod is now complete and decorative items can be added including special extra wraps, marbling, decals or really special things such as rattlesnake skin,” added Marks.

“The reasons the custom rods are better than those purchased off the rack is because the rod is crafted to your chosen specifications, your color choice, special highlights with a preference for action, length and all that. Extra care is taken in the building process,” concluded Marks.

Other advantages of a custom-built rod become obvious when you use that rod. Accuracy in casting, heightened sensitivity, best overall performance, including matched balance for rod weight and reel weight, and simple enjoyment.

The author is ready to field-test his custom rod.

A wide variety of options are available when designing your custom rod; I selected a rattlesnake skin handle for my custom rod. “I use a power-winder to turn the blank and place the thread on for each guide, though it’s a time-consuming process. It takes from 6-7 hours to place the components (precision alignment), add the handle glue, sand and place the guides, add the thread wraps, tip-top and epoxy coat the final product,” stated Marks.

Discovering a new hobby is an added benefit for the fisherman who wishes to expand his knowledge of fishing and gain a new appreciation for the various learning opportunities that fishing can offer as a recreational sport.

Prices of a custom fishing rod kit can range from $50 and go up to several hundred, depending on the quality of the rod blank, quality and type of guides, and personalized artwork. Turnkey rod kits can be purchased from Mud Hole direct. The finished custom rod is a function of time and materials…and skill. Every builder values his time, and time has a value. If it takes 2 hours or 10 hours, you add that on at the end. Do it yourself? Yes, you can save a lot of money, but it just might not be the same.

The memory of that first-cast with a custom-rod will last a lifetime.

Tom Marks is a retired engineer and a discussion with him can help you decide what type of rod, type of action and all the rest, might be best for you. Tom receives satisfaction from designing and making custom fishing rods for others. “I like to see everyone happy with the finished rod. For many, it’s a once-in-lifetime thing, their custom fishing rod is what they’ve been dreaming about,” says Marks.

To review the many rod kit choices or for a free catalog, visit www.mudhole.com or call 1-866-790-7637. They also offer free advice and rod-building classes. To visit Tom Marks, drop me a line (bholzhei@gmail.com) and I’ll put you in contact.

 

Steelhead, Steelhead, Steelhead…and Browns and Lakers and Bullheads, OH MY!

Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston with a big Lower Niagara River brown trout from last week.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for March 18, 2020 from Destination Niagara USA

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a “chromer,” a steelhead, caught on a spinner in the lower Niagara River.

Fishing the waters in Niagara Falls USA has been one of the few constants in this time of uncertainty in the world.

Fishing in the lower Niagara River was on fire this week.  Double-digit catch days were the norm for boaters drifting a mix of minnows, egg sacs, and Pautske fire dye minnows.

Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown and Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston reported banner days on the water this week, nearly all steelhead.

Nick Hudak of Pa. with a lower Niagara River steelhead from this week, fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown.

Three-way rigs bouncing the bottom was the way to go, especially upriver as far as Devil’s Hole.  If the winds are switching to the southwest, throw on a MagLip or Kwikfish.  Speaking of winds, there will be something severe blowing in on Friday that could mess things up again, including some heavy rains.

Shoreline casters are picking up some fish, too.  Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls hit some steelhead on spinners this week in the gorge. There is 4 to 5 feet of visibility being reported.

Some bullheads were hitting in Wilson and Olcott and Lake Ontario was hitting the magical 40-degree mark.

Trolling the shoreline for brown trout and other fish is an option, as is casting the piers with spoons, spinners or stickbaits.

The Wilson Conservation Club announced this week that they are cancelling their Bullhead Contest set for April 3-5 due to the coronavirus.  Not because of the fishing, but because of the weigh-in and afterparty.

There have been good numbers of steelhead and brown trout in some of the main streams like at 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam after last week’s rains.  Best baits have been egg sacs, wax worms and beads tipped with waxies or run clean, according to Ken Jackson of Sanborn.  Rain in the forecast will help the small to medium streams out for sure.

Nick Hudak of Pa. with a lower Niagara River steelhead from this week, fishing with Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Youngstown.

April 1 is the opening of the inland trout and salmon season.  Hyde Park Lake, Gill Creek, and Oppenheim Park Pond will be stocking on April 8 starting at 10 a.m.  For other stockings call the hotline at 358-2050.

There are a few cancellations or postponements we should report on due to health concerns.  The next Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA) meeting set for April 2nd in Amherst, complete with a new flea market option, has been canceled. The LOTSA folks have even cancelled public involvement with the pen rearing project installation on April 4th in Olcott. That said, LOTSA board members will be doing all the work to get the job done in preparation for receiving the salmon and trout.

The Niagara Musky Association announced last Friday that they will be postponing its popular Awards Banquet set for April 4 at the Pearl Street Grill in Buffalo. The group has also cancelled its April 7 monthly meeting that was scheduled at the Eldredge Club in Tonawanda.

The Antique Fishing Tackle Show set for April 4 in Lockport has also been cancelled for the time being. It may be rescheduled in the future.

We will do our best to keep everyone updated on events such as derbies and tournaments. And, of course, the fishing. Stay safe out there!

Mike Ziehm with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught this week from shore.

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director

Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
f: 716-285-0809
www.niagarafallsusa.com

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Let’s Stay Aware, Use the Outdoors to help Control Corona Fear

There is something magical and relaxing to be found near the sea.

By Forrest Fisher

It helps. The beach, the sand, the lake, the trees, the birds, the fish, the deer, the sunset.

These are wonderful diversions.

As all folks are responsible when we need to be, corona-fear is legitimate. Visiting the beach with your close family can help. Controlled numbers of people, people you are with regularly, are good things to share. The air is fresh, beach attendance is relatively nill, there might be fish to catch and shark teeth to find. Good stuff.

Mind diversion can be a key resource option for many. Want to stay at home? Read a book. Find one with birds and fish and wildlife. So relaxing. Want to laugh? Pulldown an internet from Patrick McManus. He was my favorite American humor writer. He wrote such classics as, A fine and Pleasant Misery, The Grasshopper Trap, and many others. Gut-splitting laughter can be the only result. After one chapter, everything in your life will be better.

So yesterday afternoon, my visiting family and I did all the responsible things first, We washed up with soap and hot water for 20 seconds, then used a recommended disinfectant to wipe down all of our door handles, light switches, faucets, counter tops, the car, the fishing rods, beverage cans and everything else. We’re in Florida and like many other places around the country, there is a gentle semi-fear and ready-to-respond awareness of things to do and not do. All good.

Birds of all sorts are common along the Florida coastlines. Casperson Beach near Venice is popular with birds and shark tooth hunters.

Then as I swept my email arrivals, this one site from Trip Advisor seemed to sum it up perfectly in fewer words than anywhere else.

Trip Advisor CEO, Steve Kaufer shared the following: “As a site that millions around the world count on for travel guidance, Tripadvisor is closely monitoring the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on both travelers and the travel industry. We care deeply about your safety, whether you are at home or traveling. With this in mind, I would like to share some resources we’ve created and the actions we’re taking to help you make informed decisions about your own travel plans.

Helping you make travel decisions: As this situation rapidly evolves, we know there is an atmosphere of uncertainty as travelers wonder if they should change their plans. That’s why, starting today, Tripadvisor will feature alerts for destinations that the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated as heavily impacted. We’ve also launched a new resource page to bring all the latest COVID-19 travel information from trusted sources together in one place.

Keeping you informed if you are traveling: As travel-related business owners continue to adapt as a result of COVID-19, they are making changes to their hours, making changes in service or even temporarily closing. We are making daily updates to the information on our site to keep travelers informed. We’re also doing what we can to help businesses in impacted regions, by providing them with tips and advice on how to weather this challenging time.

What you can do to stay healthy: Whether you’re at home or traveling, the WHO recommends practicing good hygiene to protect yourself against infection — by washing your hands frequently with soap or alcohol-based sanitizer, maintaining distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you become sick, please seek medical attention quickly.

For more information, anyone can visit the Tripadvisor resource page. You can also connect to other travelers and join discussions about COVID-19, and how it may affect your plans in Tripadvisor’s forums.”

After the beach last night, we arrived home, wiped down all the same things and we stayed aware. Then at dinner, we prayed. It helps us to share our strengths. The Creator is our biggest strength.

Please pass it on.

 

 

Gopher Tortoise Day in Florida, an Awareness-Celebration to Share With Others

Embrace the opportunity to learn about a threatened species and help the conservation efforts. Florida FWC Photo

  • Gopher tortoises are threatened due to habitat loss, let’s all share the need to be aware
  • Florida gopher tortoise awareness day is April 10th
  • Find gopher tortoises on a walk to any Florida beach, and at many other places 

Wildlife experts call the gopher tortoise a “keystone species” because it is the backbone of the plant and wildlife community in which it lives. A beachgoer here is helping to lure the tortoise away from a busy road and back to safety near Blind Pass Park on the Gulf of Mexico in Southwest Florida.

 

By Forrest Fisher

Gopher tortoises are charming creatures.

Above, “A guide to living with gopher tortoises,” contains information on the importance of the gopher tortoise in Florida and what to do if you encounter one. Courtesy FWC

They are also beachgoer stoppers. “Hey look over there,” said Matt Nardollilo, as he motioned to his family friends headed to the beach with towels and shark tooth screens.  His college girlfriend, Kelsey Voss, who is studying veterinary medicine, slowly approached the tortoise and said, “They’re so cute! We should really try to get her away from the road.” The group had already witnessed one other reptile tortoise that had lost its life to traffic on the busy highway earlier. Using grasses that the vegetarian gopher tortoise enjoys as a primary meal staple (often eating all day long), the tortoise was coaxed back to the safety of the sand dunes. While there, the group saw one other gopher tortoise digging a burrow in the dense foliage between the parking lot and beach.  Gopher tortoise burrows average seven feet deep and 15 feet long but can be more than 40 feet long. “It’s been such an incredible nature day,” shared Matt, “I love visiting Florida!”

Gopher tortoises are classified as a state-threatened species in Florida, primarily due to habitat loss. The slow-moving reptile is vital to Florida ecosystems, as it digs burrows that provide shelter for over 350 native species. The Gopher Tortoise Council declared April 10th as Gopher Tortoise Day to raise awareness for this remarkable reptile. 

There are many ways that EVERYONE can help conserve this keystone species on this special day and throughout the year!

  • Host your own Gopher Tortoise Day event to raise appreciation. At your event, you can distribute materials found on the Gopher Tortoise Day website to help attendees learn how to help gopher tortoises and the habitats they live in.
  • Volunteer at a local park to improve gopher tortoise habitat by picking up trash, removing invasive plants, or planting native plants.
  • Organize hands-on activities for kids at a local school or nature center using the materials found on the Gopher Tortoise Day website. The website includes gopher tortoise coloring pages, a taxonomic matching game, gopher tortoise hats and masks, and even an interactive gopher tortoise burrow. You can even design Gopher Tortoise Day T-shirts for your event!
  • Install gopher tortoise-friendly signs where tortoises frequent to increase awareness. Make sure to receive permission from property owners first.
  • Become a volunteer for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to help conserve these gentile reptiles!
  • Participate in a wildlife appreciation festival. You can request a local gopher tortoise expert from the FWC to give a presentation at the event. Email GTevents@MyFWC.com to see if someone is available to attend.
  • Plan native plants in your yard or neighborhood using the Florida Guide to Gopher Tortoise Friendly Plants.
  • Become a citizen scientist by utilizing the Florida Gopher Tortoise smartphone app to catalog gopher tortoises seen in your community.
  • Encourage kids to develop an appreciation for nature and gopher tortoises by using the Gopher Tortoise Field Trip Guide.

Visit the Get Involved page for more ideas on how to bask in the glory of Gopher Tortoise Day.

No matter how you choose to enjoy it, make sure to share on social media or invite local news media to your event! For a sample of social media posts and press releases,check out the Media page of the Gopher Tortoise Day website. Remember to promote your posts by using #GopherTortoiseDay!

Celebrating Gopher Tortoise Day is one way to help tortoises in your community, but many of these activities can be done year-round to benefit this important species!

For more information about Gopher Tortoise Day, hosting an event, or adopting a resolution, please contact GTevents@MyFWC.com or call (850) 921-1025.

 

Destination Niagara USA – Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls with a beauty 12-pound brown trout from the lower Niagara River over the weekend. He caught it on a No. 4 spinner from shore.

Hopefully, the spring weather has arrived with more consistent temperatures into the 50-degree range now. Be sure to mark your calendar for the Lewiston Smelt Festival – the date has changed from the first Friday in May to the first Friday in June – June 5 this year – to help with the weather situation. As far as when the smelt will be running, it’s always a crap shoot. With the removal of the ice boom and warmer temperatures, we could see an earlier run … if there is going to be one.

As far as the Lake Ontario tributaries, all streams have rainbows and browns now according to Roy Letcher of Newfane. Eggs, wax worms, and crawlers are all working. There was already a report of a couple of bullhead caught in the Wilson/Olcott area. Mark your calendars for April 3-5 for the 8th Annual Niagara County Bullhead Tournament out of the Wilson Conservation Club. More details to come. Letcher also noted that boats are getting browns along the shoreline out in the lake; piers are showing a few browns, too, on plugs, spoons, and spinners. Live bait under a bobber will also work.

Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston caught this steelhead in the lower Niagara River before the water turned to mud this week from the wind.

A mix of wind and rain continues to muddy the water up in the Niagara River and make fishing difficult from both boat and shore. More wind and rain is coming Friday. Shore anglers have been tossing spinners or drifting egg sacs or beads to take trout along the shoreline. Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught a beautiful 12-pound brown trout along Artpark using a No. 4 spinner this week, an impressive catch for sure. Boaters have been encountering tough conditions. Running bright baits with sound or movement could be the ticket, such as MagLips or Kwikfish. Water clarity was about 2-3 feet at the last report. Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston was hitting some lake trout on Pautzke-dyed minnows in chartreuse on Wednesday morning. He’s been averaging about 6-8 fish a trip, mostly a mixed bag of trout and the occasional walleye. Walleye, Northern pike, pickerel and tiger musky seasons close on March 15.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls switched gears when the lower Niagara was muddy and hit some Lake Ontario tributaries. First cast he caught this steelhead on an egg sac.

Scott Feltrinelli with another brown trout he caught this week in a favorite Lake Ontario tributary.

Some inland trout stocking is starting to take place by DEC around Western New York. Weekly updates are recorded at 358-2050 if you want to hear numbers and locations. No word on when they will be stocking Hyde Park Lake, Gill Creek or Oppenheim Park Pond yet.

 

Bill Hilts, Jr. – Outdoor Promotions Director
Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303
 

150 Venomous Snakes found in Private Home

  • Illegal Exotic Snake Breeding Den Identified in Orange County, New York
  • 157 Venomous Snakes removed
  • 29 species in all

Brown-spotted Pit Viper seized during the warrant. NYSDEC photo.

This year on Feb. 20, a Newburgh, NY man pled guilty to misdemeanor commercialization charges and agreed to pay a $500 fine related to the possession of more than 150 venomous snakes seized from his home.

On Jun. 2, 2019, St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital contacted NYSDEC at Central Dispatch reporting a subject was bitten by a venomous snake. The subject received several doses of antivenom. Darren Paolini explained he was bitten by a Taiwanese Pit Viper (Ovophis Makazayazaya) at his residence where he was attempting to breed the snakes. He was bitten on the left hand and transported himself to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital for treatment,  then was transferred to Jacobi Medical in the Bronx.

At Jacoby Medical, Paolini made a voluntary statement to ECO Ryan Kelly that he gets the snakes from importers, breeds them, and then trades the baby snakes for new snakes. Paolini stated that he had approximately 50 Pit Vipers and two Coral Snakes at his residence.

Pygmy Rattlesnake seized during the warrant. NYSDEC photo.

On Jun. 3, 2019, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigations (BECI) Investigator Jeff Conway obtained a search warrant for Paolini’s residence. The warrant was executed the following day with support from staff from the Bronx Zoo, who assisted with handling, transporting, and housing the snakes.

In total, investigators seized 157 live venomous snakes and 31 dead venomous snakes, representing 29 distinct species. Several years of breeding records were also seized.

No matter where you travel, stay aware, watch where you walk.

Sick Raccoon Near Your Home? What to Do.

  • There has been a drastic decline in raccoon harvest by America’s hunters and trappers.
  • Lack of proper wildlife management can cause wild animal diseases and can hamper human safety.
  • Call the proper authority to handle ANY Sick Wild Animal you may encounter to do your part in this modern world of conservation.

Nose-to-nose, dog inside, raccoon outside, I snapped this cell phone photo before sweeping the raccoon off the deck.

By Mike Schoonveld

Our dog Molly was barking more than usual on the back deck a few nights ago while outside on her evening “duty-call.” Investigating, it appeared that she cornered a raccoon, perhaps attracted by the residual odors of grilled pork steaks I’d cooked on the deck earlier. My wife opened the slider door and yelled for Molly to get inside. Surprisingly, the dog came in, leaving the raccoon. I expected the raccoon to beat a hasty retreat. Instead, it continued to sniff around, apparently unconcerned, as if being accosted and nipped by a dog is usual.

I flipped on the interior lights so the raccoon could see through the glass patio doors where both Peggy and myself, as well as Molly, were watching. Instead of scurrying away, it came over and peeked through the glass, nose to nose with the dog. It appeared as though if I’d slid open the door, the raccoon would have just walked right on into the house.

I have no nearby neighbors, the closest a quarter mile away (and they don’t have a pet raccoon). Other neighbors live a mile away. I was sure it wasn’t a stray pet, and even a pet would run off if cornered by a strange dog.

There was something “off” about this raccoon – most likely, it was diseased. Luckily, in our area, though possible, raccoons are very infrequently infected with rabies. The last rabid raccoon in my state (Indiana) was back in 1979. Farther east in the US, raccoon rabies is much more common.

Raccoons are susceptible to many other diseases, though some are more common than others. Likely, our deck-invader had either distemper or parvovirus, the same bacteria or virus found in cats and dogs, but closely related raccoon-only versions of those diseases.

Balance Will Prevail

For the past several years, the prices paid for raccoon pelts in the fur market have been meager. Though natural fur is still a fashionable choice, shorter-haired fur, such as mink, is now the popular trend. International trade policies, sanctions, and still-struggling economies in some areas are adding further downward pressure to prices paid for raccoon pelts.

Fur is a global commodity. The biggest markets for raccoon furs in past decades were in Greece, until their economy collapsed; Russia, also with economic issues, as well as international trade sanctions; and China, until the Chinese government imposed high tariffs on imported pelts.

The result has been a drastic decline in the number of raccoons harvested by America’s hunters and trappers. Without any profit incentive, casual raccoon harvesters stopped hunting or trapping completely. Without any profit incentive, many recreational hunters and trappers drastically scaled back their effort expended on setting traps for raccoons or hunting them.

As with many species of wildlife, good stable populations require proper scientific management activity for good health. A regulated harvest is a part of that management. With no human intervention, nature takes over management responsibility, and nature’s way is decidedly inhumane. Overpopulation is handled by disease, exposure, or starvation – often in combination – and none of these deaths are particularly quick or painless.

In raccoons, parvo and distemper are the primary diseases that play a role in cutting populations back when human management efforts fail. For squirrels, it’s likely to be starvation or mange leading to exposure. In coyotes and foxes, it’s mange, heartworms, or other diseases. Nature has a plan for every species, whether you like the program or not. That’s why legal and regulated hunting and trapping are vital to maintaining healthy and abundant wildlife populations.

I live in the country and had the freedom, tools, and wherewithal to handle my back deck situation myself. I grabbed a broom and a .22 Smith and Wesson.

I basically “swept” the raccoon off the deck, down the steps, and into my yard. I thought, perhaps, a couple of pokes with the broom would send the animal scurrying. It didn’t scurry. Instead, it just sat there looking confused.

Many diseases can result when raccoons are not properly managed – in a populated town or in the wild country.

Happily, it showed no aggression towards me, just as it hadn’t when Molly was nipping and barking at it. Even after I swept it down two steps onto the sidewalk, it didn’t dart off into the darkness. It just sat there like a punch-drunk boxer until I pulled the trigger.

There are plenty of raccoons living in urban areas where it would be unwise or illegal to use a firearm to put down a sick animal. A person should not assume every sickly raccoon or any other wild animal will be docile. They could just as quickly have a nasty attitude towards dogs, brooms, or humans coming after them.

If you ever have this problem on your back porch and are unable or unwilling to handle it personally, the best bet is to call your “most local” law enforcement department. Whether it’s the city police or the county sheriff, they’ll know if there are animal control officers, licensed experts, or Conservation Officers available and get them headed your way.

Don’t ignore it. If the diseased animal does retreat on its own, in so doing, it (and you) may be helping spread the disease to other animals, even to pets they could encounter before they eventually die.

THE END

 

 

Are Coho Salmon the “NEW SALMON” for LAKE HURON?

  • Kings, Cohos, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout…and their forage base
  • Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead have more extended lives and thrive on different forage
  • The Michigan DNR has an essential decision to make, in 2020: is the King dead?

Will cohos put the bend in the fishing rods of Lake Huron anglers in 2020?

By Mike Schoonveld

After the results of the coho salmon stocking experiment in Lake Michigan a few years back, the test was a success. Control of the overabundant alewife population had been established in Lake Michigan, so cohos were stocked in Lake Huron next. There, the experiment was also a success, but two things worked to keep the Lake Huron success in the background.

First, they were second. Who placed second at the Daytona 500 last year? Who earned a silver medal in Olympic ski jumping? Few people remember runners-up.

More importantly, after the resounding success of coho stocking in the Great Lakes, next came the stocking of chinook salmon. There’s a cute maxim about Great Lakes salmon: “A coho is a silver, a chinook is the king!” Coho and chinook are the names given these species by the indigenous people, explorers, and settlers to the Pacific Northwest who called them silvers and kings.

The emphasis in this aphorism is on kings, since king salmon are usually two or three times larger than cohos and two or three times harder to bring to net, even at equivalent sizes. Once kings entered the picture, few anglers put much effort into trying to catch cohos.

In Lake Michigan, cohos gained a loyal following – especially in the southern end of the lake – near Benton Harbor and New Buffalo in Michigan, and again in Platte Bay in October, when Michigan’s cohos show up for their spawning run. Lake Huron coho fans were much smaller in number, and far fewer cohos were fished for and caught. Add to this the expense of stocking cohos is roughly triple the cost per fish of stocking king salmon. It was an easy decision, 30 years ago, for the Michigan DNR to discontinue the coho program in Lake Huron.

The Michigan DNR reintroduced coho salmon in Lake Huron and they will be ready to catch this season, in 2020.

Things changed in 30 years, most notable was the collapse of the alewife/chinook salmon dominated ecosystem in Lake Huron. Sure there were lake trout, steelhead, walleye, bass, perch, even pike, muskies and smallmouth in certain areas, but the primary forage fish was alewife, and the central predator feeding on the alewives was king salmon.

The demise of the alewife/chinook ecosystem in Lake Huron is well documented. There were many moving parts in the collapse, but basically, king salmon numbers went up due to natural reproduction, and the resulting kings ate all the alewives.

Chinook catches crashed to near zero despite continued MDNR stocking in select locations. Biologists learned that most of the stocked fish that would hopefully provide a minimal background chinook fishery for Huron anglers had migrated to Lake Michigan, where alewives were available by the time they were big enough to catch.

The chinook/alewife connection proved to be unbreakable. When alewives were eliminated, native forage species (which had been suppressed by the abundant ales) flourished. Sticklebacks, sculpin, herring, and others increased, as did non-native smelt and invasive round gobies. Kings turned their nose up at eating these alternatives.

Not so with Lake Huron’s other predator fish. Walleyes, lakers, and others quickly responded by foraging on these alternate, often more nutritious prey fish.

Fishermen, by and large, weren’t as interested in fishing for lake trout, walleyes, and other species. It was king salmon that attracted the crowds and provided customers for charter captains, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. Fishing license sales attributed to Lake Huron anglers dropped dramatically.

Can anything be done? That’s the new question the MDNR hopes to answer.

One potential answer is to stock more steelhead.

Steelhead are more opportunistic feeders, seemingly as content to slurp beetles and moths off the lake surface as they are chasing shiners or other small prey fish.

Another potential answer is to stock Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic salmon program run by Lake Superior State at Sault Saint Marie in the St. Marys River, which flows into Lake Huron, seems to be vibrant. Perhaps the Atlantics could fill the void left by the shortage of Huron kings.

Perhaps an idea based on the concept “everything old is new again” could entice anglers back to Lake Huron. The MDNR recently stocked almost 50,000 coho salmon at Port Sanilac and another 50,000 at Alpena.

Food studies have shown cohos aren’t nearly as picky eaters as king salmon. They spend their first year of life, or longer, in the hatchery. When stocked at only seven or eight inches in length, they feed more on bugs than prey fish for much of their second year of life, and even in their third and final year (they spawn and die at age three), they will eat insects as well as smelt, gobies or most any other fish they can find.

The angling results of this experiment will be known this year. By spring, these cohos should be two or three times as large (16 to 22 inches), and many will be four to six pounds by mid-summer.

When it comes to Lake Huron salmon, a take-off on another familiar dictum may be appropriate, “The king is dead…long live the coho!”

THE END

 

 

Bill to Recruit, Retain, Reactivate Hunters Heads to Trump’s Desk

Bipartisan legislation to keep the government open and invest in conservation to become law 

By Randall Williams

Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill to safeguard hunting traditions, while paving the way for new investments in conservation.  

Bipartisan legislation to fund the government through September 2020 cleared both chambers and included language allowing excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to be used to address declining hunting participation.  The Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act was one of several key wins in the year-end appropriations bill.

“In times of political rancor, it’s clear that conservation and outdoor recreation unite people from all walks of life,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. This legislation invests in the future of hunting and fishing, public land access, habitat restoration, and ensuring healthy waterwaysWe are thrilled that it is making its way to the President’s desk and we look forward to seeing it become law.”

The bill also included $495 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $200 million for Everglades restoration to reduce harmful algal blooms, $55 million for WaterSMART grants to strengthen fisheries and water efficiency, and $175 million for NRCS Watershed and Flood Prevention Operationsand $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay. 

Master Your Own Turkey Call – Build it Yourself. Here’s How!

Jim Monteleone Photo

  • Learn about different turkey call materials that offer different turkey sounds
  • Soundboard, plating surface, striker – all offer options in tone choice
  • Learning the sound variations and practicing tone undulations with your own call, it’s the MOST FUN and  will help you learn the turkey calling ropes

By Jason Houser

Turkey calls are at the top of the list to be a successful turkey hunter. Walk through the doors of the NWTF convention, and you will see more people selling turkey calls than just about anything else.

A fun and inexpensive project during the off-season is to make a pot call all your own. To make things even better would be to make your own pot call and then kill a turkey with it. Several companies sell turkey call kits, but I recently bought a kit from Brookside Game Calls that included a walnut pot, glass soundboard, slate playing surface, striker, and directions. This is a fun project you can do at home.

The materials needed are easily obtained and include:

  • Fine Grit sandpaper for sanding the call. I used 150 grit with excellent results.
  • Brookside recommends GOOP, but I used Loctite with excellent results. It is essential to make sure the glue you use is waterproof.
  • Oil-based polyurethane to protect the call.
  • Nylon Style Clamp.

Step 1:

When I received the call kit, the pot had some rough surfaces. We used 150 grit sandpaper until the edges were smooth.

Step 2:

To protect the surface, I applied a fine layer of oil-based polyurethane that I wiped on with a rag. You could also use the polyurethane from a spray can. I finished the shafts of the strikers in the same manner, but the tip end was left unfinished for better sound.

Step 3:

After the pot was dry, we applied a thin layer of glue to the center of the call. Center the soundboard on the soundboard standoff, then clamp the soundboard into place and allow it to dry.

Step 4:

Once the soundboard is dry, it is time to apply the top of your call. This can be done by either applying a bead of glue to the underside of the playing surface or apply a thin bead of glue to the rim of the call where the playing surface will sit. I chose to apply glue to the rim of the call, and it worked well.

Step 5:

With the playing surface of the call in place, use your clamps and allow the glue to dry for about 12 hours.

Practice

Now that you have made your very own turkey call, the only thing left to do is practice with the call until you can make realistic turkey sounds and then go hunt.

Brookside Game Calls has many kit choices to choose from. Even though I purchased a kit that had everything needed to make a call, you can purchase products separately to make the call you like. There are a variety of woods to choose from for pre-cut pots and soundboards, including all the well-accepted materials and playing surfaces such as glass, slate, aluminum, and crystal.

There are also many different kinds of wood for striker pegs and tops to choose from to complete your pot call. Another option is to purchase a kit to make a box call. It is just as fun and simple to make.

Watch this video to see more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlG4XqklPws&t=29s.

Duck & Goose Callers head to Marsh Fest 2020 for Fun and Competition

  • Sure-Shot Game Calls, proud to be “Presenting Sponsor” for Marsh Fest 2020
  • Cash prizes with state and world fame qualifier recognition for winners
  • Contest and family event details for Marsh Fest 2020, visit www.marshfest.com.

By Forrest Fisher

When wanna-be world-class duck and goose callers gather March 6-8 at Winnie-Stowell Community Park in Winnie, TX for competition at Marsh Fest 2020, Sure-Shot Game Calls is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor. This annual caller recognition competition event will be a fun-filled family weekend that will include eight duck and goose-calling contests. Among other contests, the Southern Central Flyaway Regional and James “Cowboy” Fernandez Memorial Texas State Championship are part of the calling competition.

The Southern Central Flyaway Regional contest is open to all ages with a $50 entry fee. Main Street Routine, 90 seconds, 3 rounds. The first-place winner takes home $1,000, second place $500 and third place $250.

The James “Cowboy” Fernandez Memorial Texas State Championship contest is open to all ages. The contestant must be a Texas resident and pay a $50 entry fee. Main Street Routine, 90 seconds, 3 rounds. The first-place winner takes home $500, second place $250, third place $100 and fourth place $50.

These two contests are qualifiers for competing in the World Duck Calling Championships in Stuttgart, AR set for November 2020. The legendary World’s Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart is the longest-running duck calling contest, starting in 1936, and requires winning a preliminary sanctioned calling contest.

The James “Cowboy” Fernandez Memorial Texas State Championship contest is named after Sure Shot’s founder, James “Cowboy” Fernandez. Co-founder, inventor and world champion caller, who passed away in August 2018 at age 86. Cowboy worked with George Yentzen to design and patent the first double-reed duck call in 1950 and the triple-reed in 1968.

Cowboy was the first Texan and first contestant to win the Worlds Duck Calling Championship in Stuttgart, Arkansas in 1959 using the double-reed Yentzen Caller. It was the first time anyone had won with a double-reed, others followed, winning world championships with the Yantzen Caller.  Cowboy was well known for his calling skills, capturing many regional and international competitions, he was inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame in 2014.

Charlie Holder, the current owner of Texas-based Sure-Shot Game Calls shared, “Sure-Shot is proud to support our callers and our home state competitors. We’re happy to welcome some of the best callers in the country to our area for this competition.”

For Marsh Fest calling contest details and other Marsh Fest information, visit marshfest.com. Other Marsh Fest 2020 contest sponsors include Mossy Oak, Ducks Unlimited, Remington, Filson, Delta Waterfowl, Koplin, MOJO, and local businesses in the Southeast Texas area.

About Sure-Shot Game Calls: The 60+year old company was founded by James “Cowboy” Fernandez and George Yentzen in Nederland, Texas in the early 1940s. After many prototypes, their first product, the 1950 Yentzen Caller, became the very first patented double-reed duck call introduced to the marketplace. In 1959, Cowboy Fernandez entered several duck calling competitions and both he and the Yentzen Caller became world-class champions. Charlie Holder purchased the company in 2011. Today, Sure-Shot offers over two dozen game calls for waterfowl, predator, deer, and turkey. For more information about Sure-Shot’s complete line of game calls, visit sureshotgamecalls.com.

Image courtesy of Marsh Fest

Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Feb. 19, 2020 from Destination Niagara USA

The NRAA Roger Tobey Memorial Steelhead Contest is set for Feb. 22 in the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario tributaries. Sign up at Creek Road Bait and Tackle in Lewiston or the Lewiston Launch Ramp the morning of the event. It runs from sunrise to 2 p.m., with awards to follow at Lewiston No. 1 Fire Hall in the village. You must be a club member to participate, but they do give you a $5 discount to sign up for the year.

New steelhead leader in the Capt. Bob’s Outdoors contest is Andy Wengender of Webster with this 33-inch beauty from the lower Niagara River. 

Fishing was very good in the river until the winds and rain hit Lake Erie, causing stained water to slow things down.

Tracey Mikolajek of Orchard Park with her biggest lake trout of the day, fishing the Niagara Bar area of the lower river with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Buffalo Wingz Waterfowl.

Shore casters in the lower river have had it tough this week and Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls reported about 2 feet of visibility or less on Tuesday.

Boaters have also struggled but a few fish are being caught by fishing MagLips off three-way rigs or egg sacs in bright colors like pink or chartreuse.

Jacob Strycharz of Orchard Park caught this lunker steelhead fishing the lower Niagara River with Capt. Frank Campbell of Lewiston.

As far as the Lake Ontario tributaries, fishing has been a mixed bag of browns and steelhead according to Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters. “Conditions are actually very good on most creeks and this is a great time of year to get out and fish changing water conditions,” says Feltrinelli. Stonefly hatches are also occurring on many creeks so remember to “match the hatch.”

Tracey Mikolajek of Orchard Park caught this steelhead in the lower Niagara River fishing with Capt. Ryan O’Neill of Orchard Park last weekend.

Remember that the WNY Boat Show is next week, Feb. 26 to March 1 at the ADPRO Sports Training House, 1 Bills Drive, Orchard Park. Free admission Wednesday and Thursday. For more info, https://wnyboating.com/.

Bill Hilts, Jr. - Outdoor Promotions Director
Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA; 10 Rainbow Blvd.; Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Can We Make a Difference in the Lives of Kids Today? We Can.

  • As responsible sportsmen, we need to share our outdoor skills with more kids
  • As Christians, we need to consider our choices in order to bring kids closer to life through the outdoors
  • As neighbors to each other, let’s take the extra time to help kids find fun away from electronics and TV

Catching a Fish Can Change a Life.

By Larry Whiteley

Our kids today are growing up in a broken world.

All you have to do is turn on the TV and watch the news to know that. When all they talk about is shootings, rapes, drug busts and crooked politicians, it’s depressing.

It’s the same for newspapers.

Most TV shows and movies aren’t worth watching for kids or adults. The majority are filled with sex, drugs, and killing. Take time to watch some of the electronic games kids are playing today. They get points and win by how many people they shoot. Some of the things on the internet and all the other social media aren’t much better. Guns get the blame for all the shootings in America, but where do they think people develop those ideas from?

A Big Smile and a Big Turkey.

One of the reasons kids are caught up in our electronics world is they are not actively involved in the great outdoors. Their parents are too busy trying to make a living or the kids are growing up in single-parent families.

There is no one to help them discover the thrill of a fish tugging at their line, to know what it’s like seeing a deer sneak through the woods, to paddle a canoe across a lake or just sit around a campfire watching the flames dance and flicker. More importantly, they are growing up not knowing who created it for all for us to enjoy.

There is hope though. Cross Trail Outfitters (CTO) is working to change all that. They are providing opportunities to get kids outdoors and away from all the electronics and online diversions. CTO teaches them about our American hunting and fishing heritage, while at the same time sharing their faith. That is a combination that can change kids’ lives for the better.

“We want kids to know that life is different than what they see on TV, in the movies or on video games,” stated CTO Missouri State Director Kirk Bouse. “There’s a wonderful life out there in God’s creation and we strive to guide the next generation to Christ through the outdoors.”

Sharing the Outdoors and Sharing their Faith.

CTO is an independent, inter-denominational ministry primarily for boys ages 7-20, offering a wide range of year-round outdoor activities. There are also opportunities for families and girls to participate in such outdoor endeavors, depending on the outfitter and volunteers available within a chapter. “CTO is about building relationships,” Bouse continued. “We teach, mentor and disciple kids through life circumstances while also working at preserving our hunting and fishing heritage.”

They continually offer hunting and fishing opportunities of all kinds, skills training sessions, fun shoots, community service projects, summer camps and a whole lot more. CTO Summer Camps are the ultimate adventure. Can you imagine a week of pure fun activities for these kids like learning to accurately shoot a rifle or bow, hunting or catching big fish? All CTO summer camps feature hands-on, in-the-field instruction from a wide range of outdoor experts. They learn all kinds of outdoor skills through meaningful lessons, they learn Bible truths and they have campfire discussions about life and our Creator.

First Deer Brings a Big Smile.

So, have I got your interest in CTO? The first thing you need to do is go to www.teamcto.org and contact a chapter near you to get your child or grandchild involved.

There are currently CTO chapters and events in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Start by contacting your local outfitter. If there’s not a local outfitter, contact the state director. They will get you specific information on getting involved. Sign-up for a chapter or e-newsletter to receive updates about upcoming events and activities where you live (pick a state). Many of the chapters have a Facebook page and you can find links to their events by going to the local chapter’s page on the Facebook site.

If there is not a chapter near you, CTO will be glad to talk with you about starting one and train you on hos to do it. It’s a great project for churches and civic groups, as well. Bouse said, “My calling in life is to change lives by sharing the love of Jesus Christ through Cross Trail Outfitters and the great outdoors.” It could be your calling too.

There are many opportunities for you to get involved in chapters. You can participate in regular CTO events like Sportsmen’s Night, Family Night, summer camps and a variety of outdoor outings as well as community projects. Once involved, you might work directly with the kids as a Host Guide. You could serve on the prayer, fundraising or communications teams. If you love hunting and fishing or even if you don’t, but you love the Lord, there is no better place to serve.

Without the support of good people who are willing to donate time or help with financial assistance – it all adds up, CTO may not continue its mission. They never turn a child away due to financial limitations. That’s only possible through donations from all of us. I can’t think of a better tax deduction.

Men and Boy’s in the Great Outdoors.

If you are a landowner there is another way you can help. To conduct weekend outings or camps, CTO works with landowners who are willing to provide their land for activities that may include hunting, fishing, and other outdoor events.

May the words of this mom touch your heart and get you or your kids, or both, involved with CTO. The mom, Heather, said to me, “If you are considering CTO, absolutely do it! Kids can never have too many Godly men mentoring and guiding them. If you are a man who loves the Lord, who is equipped to help, then ABSOLUTELY do it! Those gifts of yours are meant to be shared.  You WILL make a difference… a real difference…in lives. There are so many boys who are lacking solid men in their lives and you could be the one who changed the course. Even if it’s just one.”

Can you possibly imagine what could happen in this broken world with our nation’s kids if CTO was available to them all across America?

It could change the lives of our kids.

It could change the lives of a lot of us adults.

It could change the world.

 

TURKEY HUNTING SECRETS: “Tag Them” – Part 3 of 3

  • Read the Bird, Listen to his Gobble
  • Understanding Gobble Talk and RESPONDING, or NOT
  • Over-Yelping, Biggest Secret to a Wise Old Bird

Some of the biggest turkey can be fooled with one simple trick that you can learn, see below. Jim Monteleone Photo

By Jim Monteleone

You can read a bird by listening to his gobble and I want to explain the different types of gobbles that you might hear.

A “volunteer gobble” is one where the bird gobbles on his own. Generally, that means he is searching for a hen.  If all is quiet you use an owl hooter before good light or a crow call at first light to elicit a gobble. YouTube has examples of owls hooting and crows calling if you need to hear the realistic sounds of either or both.

If he gobbles it’s a “shock gobble” and you are ready to do business when he hits the ground.  You can tell when he has come out of the tree by hearing wingbeats or when his clear gobble becomes muffled by the trees and brush. 

A “strutting gobble “is when the bird gobbles repeatedly to your calls but seems stuck or only moving ten or twelve feet and never gets closer.  He is in a strut zone and nature is telling him the hen will come to him when he displays.  In the natural order of things, this happens every season.  This is especially true when he has already been breeding receptive hens.  

A “going-away gobble” is when he gobbles frequently and you can tell he’s moving away.  He probably has been joined by a real hen who will lead him to her territory.  You might as well look for another bird or you can wait him out, but it’s going to be a while.

The “come here gobble” is when he gobbles every time you call.  Don’t be fooled.  Go silent on him and make him gobble on his own several (two or three) times before calling again. I call this a “breeding gobble.”  Repeat the same calling sequences and alternate some clucks and purrs with your yelping.  If he stops coming, start cutting if you are well hidden or blending in and have a hen decoy (or hen and jake in the early season), then you’re in business.

If he is cutting your calling sequence off with a gobble or a double gobble before you finish he’s committed to coming.  I call that a “hot gobble.”

No sudden moves and try to restrain yourself from over-calling.  I use only clucks and purrs for the last fifty yards of his approach to gun range. This is where a diaphragm mouth call is my go-to tactic.  A slate or “pot” call is my second choice in avoiding too much hand movement. Patience is your greatest weapon, other than your shotgun now!

Without any doubt, my greatest success and most exhilarating hunts have come after a prolonged sequence of back and forth calling.  My nature is not one of great patience, but turkey hunting has taught me to work to lure turkeys in with sweet talk.  Over-calling causes a bird to stay put, and as fired-up as he and you can be.  Slow and steady is the best advice I can offer.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. They have experience in gathering hens and also instinctively seem to know when something is unnatural.

If you follow the earlier tips, knowing the bird is closing the distance and your gun is on your knee waiting, watching and calling sparingly increases your odds dramatically.

There are those times when a bird will rush in, but this isn’t the norm for mature birds. Read what to do. Joe Forma Photo

I use two “secret” tactics for my toughest birds.  The first is yelping over a gobbler when he tries to gobble. As soon as the first note comes out of his beak I cut him off with some fast yelping or cutting.  Do this after you have him fired up if he stalls.

The other “secret” is the mock challenge of two hens cutting at each other.  It simulates the scene of two hens sparring for dominance over the right to breed in the territory.  I use one box or slate call and a mouth call, and cut like two girls arguing.  I do some alternating cuts on each call or some cuts like they are trying to “yell” over each other simultaneously.

I hope there’s something in here for hunters from “newbies” to veterans with decades of experience. Think safety in every move you make and never take chances.

You now have the “secrets” and you’re ready to experience. 

Good Hunting and Great Memories!