Float Suit Saves Ice Fishing Fatality in NY

  • The ice looked solid, but there was no one out there ice fishing.
  • It was my birthday, and this has been a tradition.
  • So glad that I had that Frabill Float Suit on.
When fishing over chilly cold water for musky in the fall and early winter, Carl Schenk includes that wearing his “Float Suit” provides an extra measure of protection. John Pensyl photo

By Forrest Fisher

Ardent musky angler Carl Schenk was fishing on his birthday Wednesday with his buddy Tom Reinhardt at the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor. When Schenk arrived at the harbor, he noted there was no one out there, but there was ice, and it looked solid enough for two hard-water fishermen not afraid of a little chill in the air. Testing the ice with a spud bar, the duo accessed the water at the old boat ramp near the restaurant. Not too far out, they auger-tested the white ice to find 4 inches of seemingly solid, safe ice. Then the air warmed up, and it had rained shortly before. It was Carl’s birthday, and Tom tagged along for the safety of the celebration moment when Carl would catch his first fish and call the day a success. It was Carl’s annual birthday custom, and he turned 69 years young this year.

It didn’t take long. Using a 3-pound test and a lightweight fishing stick, Schenk counted the first fish. As he sat there, he noticed the ice began to sink in a large, wide circle around him. He hollered over to Tom that he thought they should head back. “It might be getting mushy,” Carl hollered. Tom said he was fine. “I’m heading in,” Carl said.

Lucky angler, Carl Schenk, credited his “Float Suit” with saving his life on Wednesday when he crashed through the ice at the Buffalo Small Boat Harbor. Tom Reinhardt photo.

“I broke through the ice in 9-feet of water. I was wearing my Frabill float suit and spudding my way along the route we came in on. The spud bar went through, and I was going in before I could back up. Luckily, I threw my body forward, rolled a couple of feet, got onto my hands and knees, and scampered to better ice. I was soaked to the waist with my boots full of water, but it sure could have been worse. I was damned happy to reach the shore.” Tom came in, avoiding my body hole in the ice, and was OK.

Schenk added, “I went home to dry out and sat on the couch with a cup of coffee, waiting for the adrenaline rush to leave. It was a memorable experience that, hopefully, I will not ever repeat. That water was cold!”

For complete safety, float suits are essential gear when it comes to all-season ice fishing. Schenk explained, “The Frabill Float Suit is the only one rated as a Type 3 USCG Approved personal flotation device (PFD). Yes, it’s pricey at about $500, but on that day, it was worth every penny. In addition, it’s so warm and comfortable – and now I can attest to its buoyancy rating, too, that I wear it when fishing for muskies from my boat in the fall and early winter. You never know!”

In the end, it was one birthday celebration that Carl Schenk and Tom Reinhardt will never forget.

Larry Whiteley to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Larry Whiteley to be inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

  • Conservationist & Outdoor Journalist, U.S. Navy Veteran.
  • Host of the Great Ozark Outdoors from 1976 to the present.
  • Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years.

By Dave Barus

You might say that Larry Whiteley is a common and uncommon, outdoors Christian man. You would be correct, but there is so much more. He shares his life with others in a special way. With listening, honest caring and effective suggestions.

Larry Whiteley is a 1964 graduate of Nixa High School. A military veteran during our country’s time of need, he served in the U.S. Navy. Whiteley has hosted an outdoor broadcast show through The Great Ozarks Outdoors, Inc., his family corporation, since 1976. That includes 30 years for the award-winning Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World Radio, carried by more than 1,200 radio stations – including those as part of the American Armed Forces Radio Network.

He also was the Corporate Public Relations Manager for Bass Pro Shops for 23 years. Additionally, his voice was the one carried over every Bass Pro Shops store in America, as it welcomed customers, noted the latest sale and gave outdoor tips. He also was a crucial part of conservation and kid’s outdoor education programs.

To date, Whiteley has voiced more than 18,000 radio shows and written more than 5,000 articles communicating the great outdoors to people worldwide. He still writes for newspapers and magazines, including Hook & Barrel, Outdoor Guide, Show Me, CrappieNOW, ShareTheOutdoors.com, and Missouri Conservation Federation.

Whiteley, a winner of numerous awards through several outdoors associations, also is an inductee of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Through all this activity, Larry Whiteley, the gifted communicator that is everyone’s friend, has remained a humble man at every turn. Never looking for credit at any time, Larry is always encouraging others to step in and get going. With an ear-to-ear grin, he is a human spark plug for inspiring others.

Missouri Sports Hall of Fame CEO & Executive Director Jerald Andrews unveiled the Class of 2022 in early December. The inductees will be honored on Sunday, February 6 at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. A reception presented by Reliable Toyota will begin at 4 p.m. that day, with the evening program to follow at 5 p.m. Associate sponsors are Advertising Plus, Bryan Properties, Great Southern Bank, Hiland Dairy Foods and Hillyard, Inc.

Hats off, and hearty congratulations to Larry Whiteley!

 

 

An Outdoor Paradise for All Seasons

Summer or Winter, there is one place to add to your Bucket List!

  • In Winter, the Switzerland Alpines can be found in Gaylord, Michigan – snowshoeing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and river rafting peace and quiet
  • In Summer, relax and unwind with camping, hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, surf-boarding, wake-boarding…the list is long!
  • All year round, enjoy the forests, fields, the peace of sinkhole lakes, rivers and creeks –  all offer adventure and opportunity
During the winter season, scenic rivers offer the adventure experience of a winter wonderland from a river drift boat.

By Larry Whiteley  

Are you thinking you would like to go somewhere this year where you can get away from all the politics, COVID and the division that’s going on in America? Do you want to go to a place where you can really enjoy all the great outdoors has to offer and not have to worry about any of that other stuff? No matter what season of the year you want to go, I have just the place for you.

When you get there you will feel like you are in an alpine village in Switzerland, but instead, you will be in the small town of Gaylord located in beautiful Northern Lower Michigan. Gaylord and the surrounding Otsego county area is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can just relax and unwind from all that’s going on in the world or you can choose to enjoy a plethora of outdoor adventures.

If it’s water you seek for your adventure, Otsego County has over 90 inland lakes and the headwaters to five major rivers start here. The sinkhole lakes in the Pigeon River Country State Forest is also something you have to experience to believe. If you’re a fisherman, this is truly paradise. You can catch tiger Muskie, northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout just about any season of the year. Choose from open water, hard water or flowing water. Otsego Lake, the county’s largest lake, offers the opportunity to try and catch huge sturgeon which can grow to over 7-feet long and weigh up to 200-pounds. During winter Otsego Lake is known for its great ice fishing.

Depending on the season you can also enjoy canoeing, kayaking, boating, wakeboarding, wake surfing, water skiing, tubing, swimming or just relaxing on a sandy beach. There are plenty of rental places for whatever fun you want to try and several sporting goods stores where you can purchase your fishing license or anything else you might want for any season.

If hiking or biking is your passion there are 282 miles of trails in and around Gaylord for any age or skill level. The trails wind through meadows, along lakes and streams, and they climb the hills. When you get to the end of the trail, your reward is the view of the valley below. If you come to Gaylord in the spring, wild birds will be singing their songs, trees will be leafing out, and the mating song of peeper frogs fill the air. You’ll see butterflies fluttering around the wildflowers that include Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Bloodroot, Marsh Marigolds, and many others are everywhere. Bring an empty sack with you just in case you find some delicious Morel mushrooms during your journey. You and your family might also be thrilled to see a baby rabbit, a young black bear or a newborn fawn.

The Gaylord area is also known for its enjoyably mild summers, so now you know it’s not too hot to be on one of those many trails in the area. Sunsets and sunrises are magical during this time of year. If you visit during the fall season, you will never forget it. This area is known as one of the best places in America to enjoy the beautiful fall foliage. A kaleidoscope of colors awaits you. Brilliant displays of red, orange and yellow are everywhere and if you are on the trails or on the water, these are among great places to enjoy the view. It’s also a fun time to visit the local farmer’s markets and pumpkin farms.

Come during the winter season and truly experience a winter wonderland. The trails now become fantastic for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Snowmobiling is also a popular wintertime activity. If you come during the winter season you have to try rafting on the scenic Sturgeon River. It’s another adventure you do not want to miss. Your whole family would also love taking a sleigh ride. You can also enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding and tubing at either Otsego Resort or Treetops Resort. Both also offer golf in the other seasons on renowned championship golf courses. There are 17 other golf courses in the county making it a mecca for golfers. If you enjoy camping there are lots of places to pitch a tent or park your RV. There’s also plenty of cabins, resorts, hotels, motels and even a dude ranch to choose from.

There are plenty of things to do between all your outdoor adventures. Gaylord has that small-town charm but still offers plenty of dining and shopping opportunities. While you’re shopping, be sure and purchase some of their famous and delicious chocolate-covered potato chips to take home with you. There’s also another trail you might like and it is right in Gaylord. It’s the Craft Tap and Beer trail leading to craft and micro-breweries throughout the town for your tasting pleasure. Don’t miss taking a trip to the city park to see the elk herd that the city takes care of for locals and visitors’ enjoyment. The Call of the Wild Museum is also a great place to visit. To really appreciate any place you travel to across America it makes it even more special if you know the history of the area so I also suggest you visit the Otsego County Historical Society.

If I have painted a good enough picture with my words to get you thinking you might just like to travel to Gaylord and Otsego County, then I encourage you to get on your computer and visit https://www.gaylordmichigan.net/. Watch the videos, enjoy the pictures, and read about all there is to see and do. My hope is you will pick a season and go experience this beautiful part of America. I am willing to bet you will love it so much you will return again to sample another season and then another season and then another season. Gaylord, Michigan, and Otsego County will stay with you forever in your memories. It is an outdoor paradise for all seasons.

 

Saltwater Fishing Fun – Placida Harbor, Florida

Paddletail jigs with a wiggle and wobble catch fish in Placida Harbor.

  • Fishing Islands and Embayments in Southwest Florida
  • Speckled Trout, Snook and Snapper…Catching Fish
  • Topwater Plugs, Paddletail jigs and Lightweight Fishing Rods
Marty Poli with a healthy Placida Harbor Speckled Trout that was taken on a surface Mirrolure.

By Forrest Fisher

The morning radar was threatening possible rainstorms when my phone beeped. It was my friend Marty Poli, a retired master tradesman from New Jersey. “Hey Forrest, it’s a go! Just bring a rain jacket, we might get wet, but I’m in for at least a half-day if you’re good with the chance of getting a little wet.” It was still dark outside as I pulled back the curtains. It was a bit before sunrise. I answered, “Of course I’m in, let’s go!” My heart rate went up a bit. It’s always exciting to know you’re going fishing to a place where you might catch a 10-inch fish on one cast and a 30-pound fish on the next cast. Saltwater fishing is exciting!

I hurried through the shower and thought about what to put in the backpack, then grabbed two inshore fishing rods, a small cooler with bottled water, and I was out the door. As I reached the truck, I glanced up to see stars everywhere. The sunrise glow from the east had just started. Wondered who was running that weather radar station. It was a beautiful morning.

The Placida Harbor boat launch at Gasparilla Sound was deserted. Other fisher folks must have been watching that same radar. The sun was clearly above the horizon now, and the orange cast across the water was simply incredible.  I parked my truck and walked to the ramp to wait for Marty. A few minutes later, he was there. A 15-year old youngster hopped out of the truck too, “Good morning, sir!” Marty jumped in to share in the greeting. “This is Phillip Sokolov, a great young fisherman neighbor from the Chicago area. He is visiting his family folks down here. This kid is someone that might just show us up today, my friend.” We grinned and laughed.  Everyone was beaming with the morning sunshine glow. In about 2-minutes, we were off.

Marty knows Placida Harbor and Bull Bay islands area very well. He headed for a fishing area that catches a cross-current with the tide flow while watching the wind direction. The wave action and current mix create undulating bumps between the sandgrass and oyster beds in the sand bottom. Devilfish Key was just a short rock throw away. As the wind came up from the south, large bait schools of pilchards swimming near the surface became noticeable. Their surface riffles highlighted their location. You know what they say, find the bait, and you find the Fish.  The cormorants and feeding predator fish helped us to find the exact area to fish.

Johnson Sprite spoons in gold color are another good option for hooking up with many saltwater species at this time of year.
When we found the trout, they were hitting as they had never eaten before! Fun time.

Marty started out by tossing a Zara Spook saltwater version near one side of the bait riffles. It didn’t go 5-feet when something attacked from beneath. “Fish on!” Marty yelped. “Feels like a good one.” A moment later, Phillip hollered, “Fish on! I think it’s a trout.” Marty answered, “I don’t know what mine is, but it’s huge.” Phillip landed his Fish, a nice 16-inch speckled trout. Just then, Marty grimaced a bit, “Ugh, he’s gone. He tossed my hook. Darn!” Things got even better in the next 45 minutes as we caught 12-15 fish on assorted lures. Surface lures, spoons and plastic-tailed jigs. Color didn’t seem to matter.

We moved to Bull Bay next, inside Cayo Pelau, in 3 to 8 feet of water. We could see emerging seagrass and mudflats too. An excellent area of the bay structure that everyone looked for to find Fish. There were bait schools hereto. Marty used his electric bow motor to keep in position, then dropped his Talon pole anchor to hold on a good spot. Before we were set, Phillip had hooked and landed two trout. The kid was hot. Using a turquois-colored St. Croix Avid Inshore model fishing rod, a Daiwa Saltist Back Bay 30-series fishing reel with 15-pound Power-Pro braid and a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, Phillip was catching 3-fish to each one that Marty or I had hooked up. “OK, so what’s the secret Phil? Is it a special bait your tossing?” Phil grinned, “Nope, it’s just a light line and leader with a 1/8 oz chartreuse-colored lead head.” I looked at it and mentioned that I couldn’t tell what color the head was. “Well, it had a color when I started!” He grinned. “I just thread a Z-man flapper tail with gold flecks in it – but it needs to be perfectly centered, and then cast it out and jiggle it once in a while as I reel it in. You know. I give it some action. They just seem to be wrecking it! I’ve used this lure before, and it has always worked. My uncle told me about it.”

Phil Sokolov fooled dozens of fish using his soft-touch fishing style and a plastic paddle tail lure attached to a lead head jig. cast out, jiggle, yank, reel, jiggle…the kid might be known as the “fish-whisperer” in future stories. 

Phil’s excitement and energy level were contagious. He is a meticulous angler for a youngster, tied good knots and didn’t mind sharing his fishing prowess with others. That makes him humble and unique in my book, especially during this day and age. Together, we might have brought about 75 fish to the boat in this morning of fishing fun. Phile probably hooked up with about 50 of those. With Speckled trout back on the keeper list again, Phil took home a meal for his family.

As we headed back into the boat harbor at Placida, our conversations covered everything from the weather to fishing gear to lunchtime just ahead. We had caught snook, trout, grouper, ladyfish, redfish, blowfish, lizard fish and other species.  In the middle of our angler talk, Phillip stood up and asked Marty if it was OK to cast a line as we approached the bay with the boat ramps. The kid had eyes on the Mangrove overgrowth on the shoreline. “There are no boats around, so sure, Phil, looks OK,” Marty said. Phil hooked and landed a nice snook on the first cast, then another and even one more before Marty returned with the trailer. He returned all the snook unharmed.

Some fishing days are just exceptional! This was one of those that reminds us that good fishing is always about friends and fun. Catching Fish adds to the fun, and we had lots of THAT fun on this short fishing day. Tight lines, everyone.

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.

Lake Trout Limits on Lake Huron – No Monkeying Around!

Lake Trout tussle very well in Lake Huron near Alpena, Mi.

Bob Holzhei and first mate, Justin Grubaugh, admire the size of one of our lake trout.By Bob Holzhei

Lake Trout were targeted on this fishing trip and it wasn’t long before the first fish was boated. It was caught on a Monkey Fish lure. Then another and another until our limit was met! It was exciting! Gaylord, Michigan, was the selected Annual Conference site for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). Journalists, corporate members, and radio and television personalities from all across the United States are part of the trilogy that comprises the membership.

On this day, our morning departure from the Treetops Resort began at 8:00 A.M., arriving at the Alpena City Marina an hour later. Our boat was a 21-foot Voyager named Depth Charge with Captain Kevin Drummond.

We began fishing in his “honey hole,” in 110-120 feet of water, using 8 rigged fishing lines to cover the depth, which ranged from 30 feet to 120-foot depth. “I began fishing as a kid at 16 years old and only lived a block from the lake. Lake Huron has an amazing lake trout fishery, and I get pleasure from watching people catch fish,” stated Drummond.

The author strains as the 15-minute fun battle with another tenacious, large lake trout continues.

Also on board among my fishing partners was David Gladkowski, a staff writer with the National Turkey Federation and Brady Laudon, Assistant Director and Sales Manager for Visit Bemidji, Minnesota. Each year, three locations are chosen by AGLOW to present a conference bid, that is, to host a future conference.

“I’ve never done any fishing like that, being a South Carolina boy.

Of course, I’ll be back. I was thrilled! Gladkowski stated. This was also the first time Brady Loudon fished Lake Huron. “Our fishing party limited out on Lake Trout. I couldn’t believe how the honey holes produced so many fish,” added Laudon.

In addition, to a yearly conference, AGLOW – along with corporate sponsors – offers “Communicator Camps,” which consist of 6-10 outdoor journalists. Members apply for a spot and are selected by the tourism bureau. The Communicator Camps provide opportunities for CVB’s to gain additional exposure.

The excitement throughout the morning and afternoon continued, and soon, there were three lake trout in a battle to free themselves at the same time.

The anglers had to slow down the pace at bringing the fish in. The fishermen on our boat took turns landing the fish, allowing time to rest from the strenuous battles. Drummond spoke highly of the success with the Shimano Tekota reels and Talora Shimano rods. The reels spooled with a 20-pound test line, one item among the tools used to reach our limit of lake trout, a couple steelhead and a salmon.

“Lake Huron is also a world-class Atlantic Salmon fishery, perhaps the world’s largest landlocked Atlantic Salmon, and the finest angling,” according to Jim Johnson, a retired fisheries biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

According to Johnson, Lake Superior State University faculty and students have been stocking 20,000 to 35,000 Atlantic salmon in Lake Huron annually since the late 1980s.

Thanks to Captain Kevin Drummond and his first mate, Justin Grubaugh, on a boat named “Depth Charge” for a successful and unforgettable fishing day out of the port at Alpena, Michigan.

A significant difference between the Atlantic’s and Chinook salmon is that the Chinooks die after spawning. At the same time, the Atlantic’s can spawn multiple times and live longer. The Atlantic’s have been marked by removing the adipose fin and implanting a tiny coded wire tag in each fishes’ head. The tag provides information about the stocking date and location, which assists the DNR in measuring the stocking success. Anglers are asked to forward the heads to the area DNR office.

As we boated ashore, the rich memories of this fishing trip would resurface until I returned to fish with Drummond again!

For more information, contact: Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau 1-800-345-8621, www.gaylordmichigan.net and Alpena Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, 1-989 354-4181, www.info@visitalpena.com.

Jake’s Lost Life: Gun Safety is #1 – for ALL Hunters, for ALL Ages

Remember that Gun Safety is #1 at ALL TIMES. James Monteleone photo

  • With a profound passion, Jake loved to hunt for deer, turkey, waterfowl.
  • Does a deep passion for hunting and familiarity with firearms contribute to a lack of discipline for firearm safety? Keep safety rules in mind….always.
  • Shooting a firearm MUST INCLUDE THE COURAGE  TO CORRECT A FRIEND for any lack of gun safety: Where are the bullets? Where is the gun pointed?  
  • Read, learn, share with others – GUN SAFETY FIRST!

By James Monteleone

Jake, to my immediate left, was interested in the outdoors and hunting from a very early age. 

Dear Mr. Average Teenager – I turkey hunted once with a kid named Jake. Yes, I know there is a strange connection to the young hunter’s name and a young turkey. Jake’s real name is Jacob, and other than Jake, he is called “Spud” by those in his close circle of family and friends. I was introduced to Jake by a friend, and our paths crossed when I was co-hosting a Youth Day seminar. It was easy to see that Jake had the benefit of some good instructions when it came to using a friction call. His notes and cadence on both a box call and a slate call were better than the average man, much less a young teen.
The day we hunted was pretty ordinary as turkey hunting days go. Chuck Tiranno (my friend) and Jake headed down to the far end of a long field. I split off to the left to cover a long stretch of woods that bordered the same field. There was some gobbling from my left and I was set up in a great place to intercept the birds as they closed in on my position. I called in and saw four “jakes” that morning. They did their usual hard-gobbling routine and put on a little show for the decoy, but they were not my intended target that morning.
After 8am, I heard three shots coming from the spot where Jake and Chuck had set up. The timing of the shots led me to believe that someone may have missed. When we met up at about 9am, I found out that Jake had, in fact, killed one of several birds that came in to his calling. His shots were an attempt to anchor the bird that was a little farther out than the effective range of his shotgun. Chuck, who lives across the street from Jake, has been a mentor to Jake and wasted no time putting the teenager in his place for shooting at what he considered an extreme distance.
Jake, who developed a proficiency for trap shooting and archery hunting for deer, loved waterfowl and turkey hunting too. His ability to call in ducks, geese and turkeys gave him a unique ranking within his peer group and allowed him to compete with adults in pursuing these sports. Chuck always insists on youths like Jake patterning and sighting in their firearms. In addition to these steps, Chuck stresses the need for practice and safety. These are all part of the collaborative effort on which we focus during Youth Day seminars and lectures to all age groups.
In some ways, Jake is just an average 15-year-old boy. Although his hunting and shooting abilities are comparable to an adult level of participation, he, like many 15-year-olds, thinks he is a “top dog”. I think it’s great when a youth has an outlet for his energy and takes an interest in the outdoors. Jake won’t see his 16th birthday. Jake won’t be out for the deer season, and we will never know what Jake may have been able to offer the youth of future generations.
Jake lost his life to a terrible accident. Not an accident that you would have foreseen in his future. He died due to a gunshot wound that came while he and a friend were handling a gun before a waterfowl hunt. The other details are not necessary. But these young men have been drilled at almost every opportunity in the safe handling of firearms. I will not speculate as to the actual events other than to state the obvious. If you question why I would state the obvious, then think about what any and all of us could do to avoid situations like this in the future.
It’s too late for Jake. It’s not too late for the rest of us to take a lesson from a situation where a young boy who grew up around guns may have failed to take charge of a situation where his friend was not being safe. There was an adult in the home when the accident occurred. Could there have been a stricter approach to the firearms being handled that day? Of course, we can all use hindsight to say “Yes” emphatically. But that time has passed, and we need to honor Jake’s memory and the other people who have lost their lives in firearm-related mishaps. How do we honor those people?
We never miss a chance to reinforce the need for safety in handling guns and other weapons. Those basic rules like “treat every firearm like it’s loaded” and “always point the muzzle in a safe direction” and “be sure of your intended target” and “supervise all young and new shooters in the use of firearms.”

When more than one hunter is in a group, firearm safety becomes the ultimate consideration. Muzzle direction, chamber open, safety position. National Shooting Sports Foundation Photo

This has been difficult for the parents, Jake’s young friend and the community in general. I saw and heard the grief yesterday as I stood in front of the casket of a 15-year-old boy. He was dressed in camouflage, and the pictures displayed at the entrance showed a young man with a passion for the outdoors. He posed with his turkeys, some geese and several of the deer he had taken. The pride of competing in a man’s game and winning was etched on his face. Ironically, Jake had taken a deer with his bow only days before this tragedy took place.
Having had Jake as one of the participants in my presentation at the Youth Day seminars and seeing him in death was a painful reminder that nothing should be taken for granted no matter how many times we preach the safe handling of firearms. We cannot over-emphasize safety. No one is invincible or immune from a lapse in judgment. Don’t be embarrassed to remind people (and insist if necessary) that safety is an absolute part of our sport. It doesn’t matter how long you have hunted or how proficient and knowledgeable you are about firearms. Danger doesn’t take a day off. Yes, people can be dangerous; guns are only a part of the equation.
Put safety first. I have said to Jake and many others, “There is no deer, turkey, elk, bear or any other animal that is more important than coming home safely.” We all stress that “you can’t take a bullet back once it’s fired. You have lost any control that you have over the outcome of that shot once you pull the trigger”.

Hunt in pairs to stay safe, but always remember that guns are dangerous when safety rules are taken for granted. National Sports Shooting Foundation Photo.

There are no “do-overs” where guns are concerned. I doubt that anyone among us has not witnessed the poor and unsafe handling of firearms. Are you embarrassed to remind the offender of his duties to protect himself and others? Jake’s parents wish someone would have done that for him. If you appreciate this reminder, don’t thank me, thank Jake. He gave up his life to a lapse in judgment. His father said to me yesterday, “I hope something good can come from this,” and I told him then, “We have to be Jake’s voice now”. That’s my objective in writing this the day Jake will be buried. I want to be Jake’s voice. Not just today, but every day when there is a firearm present.
Will you join me and honor Jake by being his voice? It’s so much more important than “Good Hunting and Great Memories.”

From my friend, Tony TirannoMay Jake rest in peace.  I pledge to be “Jake’s Voice”.

THE 12 GOLDEN RULES FOR SAFE GUN HANDLING:

  • Always treat the gun as if it is loaded.
  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Always keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.
  • Never point the gun at anything you don’t intend to destroy.
  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
  • Learn the mechanical and handling characteristics of the gun you are using.
  • Always use proper ammunition.
  • Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before loading and shooting.
  • If your gun fails to fire when the trigger is pulled, hold your shooting position for several seconds, then with the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, carefully unload the gun.
  • Don’t rely on the gun’s mechanical safety to keep it from firing.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when handling guns so you don’t trip, lose your balance or accidentally point and/or fire the gun at anyone or anything.

A Magical Michigan Journey…Viewing Elk

A Gourmet Meal is served inside the majestic cabin overlooking the Elk herd.

Elk can safely be viewed in their natural fenced habitat at the Gaylord City Park in Central-Western Michigan.

By Bob Holzhei

The Pigeon River Country State Forest, consisting of 110,000 acres spread over three counties in the state, is located at Gaylord, MI.  It is a tourist destination where visitors can view elk in their natural habitat. “Elk viewing is one of the most popular area activities,” according to Kristie Walcott, Director of Marketing & Communications with the Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau. The Gaylord CVB even has an elk viewing page on the tourism bureau’s website.

“Four staff members take care of the elk and the herd is overseen by a licensed veterinarian that provides medical care on an “as needed basis,” stated Alan Zielenski, Supervisor, Department of Public Works, city of Gaylord.

I was spellbound as the very slow tour drive began in the fenced in area. As the outing began, my mind traveled back in time to an earlier era.  I found myself in the late 1800’s traveling in a covered wagon, pulled by a team of horses on the frontier.  I reminisced how my great, great, grandparents might have lived.

“In the late 1800’s there was a business called Project Nature that housed a variety of wildlife, including elk.  When Project Nature closed in the early 90’s, the elk were moved to their location on city property.  This also makes our Elks Lodge, the only ‘Live” Elks Lodge in the nation,” added Zielenski.

We did not want to spook the elk lying nearby.  Many elk were lying along the fence line under the cover of shade from the sun.  Photos captured the many majestic elk. In this case, a picture was worth a thousand words. I felt like I was traveling back to an earlier era in wild Michigan when the land was unspoiled.  In a time of settlers within small hamlets, forging out a life in the wilderness for their families.

 Upon entering the log cabin, guests will find a luxurious setting.

What is the history behind the current elk herd? Elk were extinct in Michigan during the 1800’s.  In 1918, seven Mountain Rocky Elk were relocated to Gaylord from the Western United States.  The herd grew to 1,500 elk in the nearly 1960’s, dropping down to 200 elk in the mid-1970’s, due to poaching and reduced habitat quality.  Over the past 40 years, public and private elk wildlife management has contributed to the success of the current population.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been a vital part of the rehabilitation of the elk herd.  The habitat consists of open and natural forested areas.  The unspoiled surroundings are the result of cutting timber, planting crops and controlled burns.

Gaylord has a City Elk Park allowing visitors to view the elk from their cars.  Currently in the park there are 30 bulls and 10 cows in a 108-acre fenced in area.  Feed for the elk each week consists of four round bales of hay, a supply of sugar beets, corn and vitamins.

The older bulls fight for dominance and the opportunity to breed the cows.  “One time two bulls were fighting, while a smaller bull went to service a cow,” added Zielenski. Observation details including maps with directions are available at the Gaylord Information Center. An additional elk viewing experience is available at Thunder Bay Resort located at Hillman, MI.

“People started requesting information on elk viewing opportunities.  In addition, we offer a wagon or sleigh ride through the forest, arriving at a log cabin where a gourmet meal is provided to our guests, cooked on 125-year-old cook stoves,” added Jack Matthias at Thunder Bay Resort. This unique outdoor opportunity has become so popular that making reservations ahead of time is recommended.

Thunder Bay Resort has been recognized as “one of America’s Best Attractions!  The award-winning elk viewing, horse-drawn sleigh or carriage ride, gourmet dinner and wine tasting event is ‘a real fairy tale’ as was declared by USA Today. Fox News Online declared it as ‘a Top Ten’ event!

The horse-drawn carriage or sleigh ride whisks guests “over the river and through the woods,” to the resort’s elk preserve to view Rocky Mountain Elk in their natural habitat. At the Elk Antler Cabin a warm fire awaits with a gourmet dinner including a pear & apple dumpling, shrimp cocktail, homemade chicken noodle soup, a sweet Napa salad & croissant, crown roast of pork with roasted skinned potatoes and a white chocolate mousse filled with pizzelles with fresh raspberries.

“Elk viewing dinner rides have now become part of destination weddings, holiday parties, and murder mystery weekends.  With five carriages or sleighs, the capacity for the experience is 104 guests,” added Matthias. This year Thunder Bay Resort celebrates its 30th year anniversary.  Over 120,000 folks have experienced the magic of an elk bugle and a gourmet meal! In concluding, Zielenski said, “Gaylord is known as a four-season outdoor recreation area offering boating, fishing, hunting, swimming, kayaking, rafting, hiking, biking and golf during the summer months. Come visit with us.”

For More Information: Gaylord Information Center, 319 W. Main Street or online at www.gaylordmichigan.net. Thunder Bay Resort: 1-800-729-9375, www.reservations@ThunderBayResort.

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.

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.  

 

America is Rediscovering the Outdoors – RV Sales set New Records

FLORIDA KEYS, LOWER KEYS — Beach-front camping can be found throughout the Florida Keys. Campgrounds vary in size, with some capable of accommodating recreational vehicles, others only tents. Some sites offer lecture programs and guided nature walks conducted by park rangers. Photo by Bill Keogh/TDC/NewmanPR

  • Family Campfires set new pace for outdoor fun as RV Sales Skyrocket during Pandemic

By Bob Holzhei

Sales of recreational vehicles (RV’s) have skyrocketed during the pandemic, as people discover a safe way to embrace nature! Enjoying the outdoors while camping is a safe way to travel while social distancing during the post-coronavirus pandemic era.

There are a lot of first-time buyers as well as veteran campers wanting to upgrade and travel. Folks are tired of being “locked down.” Camping provides one safe way to maximize family time while controlling the environment. And yes, RVs are becoming harder to find, with companies on lockdown.

Each morning and evening, I went to the Manistee Lighthouse to capture the many moods of Lake Michigan. Bob Holzhei photo

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), recreational vehicle sales were up more than 75 percent in May of this year. Many folks are discovering the joy of tent camping while cooking meals over a campfire. There’s something intrinsically worthwhile about enjoying the outdoors and getting back to nature. The RVIA adds, “The median annual usage of RVs is increasing from 20 to 25 days per year. This increase is indicative of the changing attitudes towards remote work and the ability for more people to be able to work from a destination more frequently than traditional vacation days afforded in the past.”

The author admits, that having a fresh fish for supper is an added bonus to camping.

Outdoor activities offer many benefits. A 40-minute walk each day reduces stress and calms people. 

I’ve camped in my backyard to experience a change of scenery. Camping at home allows me to think about things I need to take along on the first camping trip of the season. A picnic around a campfire in the backyard is a great way to wind down and discover a new perspective on life while slowing the pace of life down.  

Take a walk or hike as part of your daily routine, capture the memories by taking photos and share them later with friends and family.

Our family started camping with a nine-by-nine tent, eventually upgrading to a used pop-up camper, then a used Del-Ray pickup camper, which had a foot of floor missing by the entrance door. The $600 cost of the camper was affordable, and I repaired the flooring with a piece of steel and plywood. We owned this camper for 16-years before selling it for $400 to a gentleman who wanted the furnace and stove to place in his horse trailer. Tales can be told about that stove!

Eventually, a 26-foot new trailer was purchased, which had a bathroom in it. My wife was finally pleased to have indoor plumbing. The following RV was a 34.5-foot fifth-wheel followed by a drive-around 26-foot motor coach, which now allows us to explore the Wild West.

Many healthy outdoor opportunities await discovery while slowing down the pace of life.

 

Informational resource: https://www.rvia.org

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:

Rare Gulf Sturgeon caught in the Surf – near Orange Beach, Alabama

David A. Rose with a rare Gulf sturgeon caught in the surf at Orange Beach, Alabama.

  • Weighing 120-130 pounds, the rare fish fought for 40-minutes, was landed, then was carefully unhooked, and safely released alive and well.
  • Gear: Penn Battle II – 5000 series spinning reel, 8-ft Penn Battle II surf fishing rod, 20-lb Silver Thread mono, 40-lb test shock leader, and a Dusty Hayes Pomp Rig w-1/0 Circle hooks.
  • Secret: Live ½ shrimp bait, wrapped to hook w/Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net & Magic Thread.

Story by the angler, David A. Rose

When it comes to surf fishing the freshwater beaches of the Great Lakes and inland lakes near my home in the Traverse City, MI area, I can usually hold my own. On the other hand, when it comes to casting and proper fishing in saltwater, I’m an apprentice.

Ever so slowly, though, I learn something new about surf fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. The sugar-sand near Orange Beach, AL, provided the fun. The date was March 6, 2021, and my regular morning catch included the usual whiting, croakers, flounder, Gofftopsail catfish, and the like. Then at about 11:35, one of my two rods signaled another tell-tale hit. The day was about to change! About 40-minutes later, after coming close to spooling me twice, this fish, a Gulf sturgeon over 6-feet in length – a fish with prehistoric roots – was tailed, beached, and released.

This particular fish—one of the rarest species on earth and protected by the Endangered Species Act–would likely have been the all-time world-record catch for hook and line. No one on hand recorded any official length or girth before the behemoth was unhooked and freed to swim away, no worse for wear. I didn’t want to take any chances of injuring the fish.

To get an idea of the sturgeon’s length, I spread out my arms—which have a span of about 6 feet. The nose and tail of the fish were both well beyond my reach. I tried rolling the fish over to remove the hook from its mouth, but it was too heavy. The fish was on the sand, it was impossible to move the fish without possibly harming it, and I estimated that it weighed 120 – 130 pounds. It wasn’t until a large rogue wave rolled in that I was able to gain enough leeway to swing the tail so it could swim out. It still had the hook secured in the mouth, but thankfully, it could swim out, taking about another 100 feet of line with it. I reeled the giant in once more, this time to water about 2 feet deep. That’s when the fish could be turned belly up, and I was able to finally remove the hook.

The rig I used was a hand-tied “Dusty’s Pomp Rig – 2/Drop,” with multi-colored floats made by Dusty Hayes of Sam’s Bait & Tackle, of Orange Beach, AL. The fish ate half of a live shrimp that I purchased from nearby Lost Bay Tackle & Guide Service and I had wrapped with Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net & Magic Thread in orange color.

The fish ate half of a live shrimp purchased from Lost Bay Tackle & Guide Service in Orange Beach that I had wrapped with Atlas Mike’s Spawn Net & Magic Thread. It’s a neat trick that kept the bait tight to the hook during the cast, allowing the scent and sight of the bait to work as it should. The rig was a hand-tied “Dusty’s Pomp Rig – 2/Drop,” with multi-colored floats made by Dusty Hayes of Sam’s Bait & Tackle, also of Orange Beach. The rig is comprised of 20-pound-test Momoi Diamond monofilament and size-1/0 Mustad circle hooks. I fished the rig in the building surf with a 4-ounce pyramid sinker.

The rig is comprised of 20-pound-test Momoi Diamond monofilament and size-1/0 Mustad circle hooks. Mamoi photo

As for my gear, the reel was a 5000 Penn Battle II spinning reel spooled with 20-pound-test Silver Thread AN-40 monofilament, tied up a 20-foot shock leader of 40-pound-test Berkley Big Game mono. I used a Uni-to-Uni knot to bring those lines together. The rod was an 8-foot graphite moderate-fast-action Penn Battle II surf spinning rod rated for 12- to 25-pound mono. As a combination rig, it was enough to subdue the goliath.

Before getting a good look at the fish, there was no doubt in my mind that I had hooked some species of shark. But when its back broke the surface, there was no dorsal fin. By the time the fish was reeled in, over 100 spectators had gathered. When the fish started to tire, an onlooker—who, it was obvious, had some knowledge of fishing—tried tailing it for me. The armor plating of the fish was too slick. So, I asked my wife, Carol, to hand him my Rapala Fisherman’s Gloves. These allowed him to get a firm grip. That’s when the Sturgeon was able to be beached.

An educated guess, at the time, had me thinking the fish was an endangered species. So, I made sure the head and gills stayed in the surf while I posed for a very quick photo and checked for any tags. None of the latter were found.

Earlier that day, I had chosen my casts in the 2- to 3-foot surf along a section of a riptide that was flowing into the Gulf, thinking it would be an area fish would congregate to forage on bait wafting out with the current. My guess was correct. This particular fish was hooked out front of the Phoenix VI condominiums, about ½ mile west of the Perdido Pass jetty.

Gulf Sturgeon reside in the Mississippi Delta and east along Florida’s Gulf side. Via social media, a few people stated they’ve seen Sturgeon breaching at the mouth of Perdido Pass. After another post about this catch on the Alabama Gulf Coast Surf Fishing Facebook page, I hoped that local biologists might become aware of the catch. The ploy worked.

I discovered that the Gulf sturgeon is an anadromous fish (living in saltwater but spawning in freshwater). “Overall, these rare fish spawn in the freshwater rivers of the Gulf region in spring,” says Jeff Powell, assistant field supervisor from the Alabama Ecological Services Field Office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Powell added, “Our studies are showing there may be a few that migrate and spawn in the fall, as well. The Gulf sturgeon you landed is most definitely a once-in-a-lifetime catch.”

The one thing I love most about fishing saltwater? You never know what species you’ll hook next. This fish, a species so rare to even see let alone catch, is proof of that.

Branson Fishing Lakes rank among BEST-IN-AMERICA

The Tri-Lakes area of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas includes fishing hotspot waters, including Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake.

  • World class fishing is found everyday in the famous Tri-Lakes region of southwest Missouri.
  • Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake & Bull Shoals Lake offer trout, bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, perch and more.
  • Visitors discover affordable family fun, family fishing, family entertainment and restful accommodations. 
Big trout live here, including this 40-pound 6-ounce Missouri State Record Brown Trout from Lake Taneycomo.

By Larry Whiteley

Where can you go and fish three different lakes for 23 different species of fish in one trip? The answer is Branson, Missouri. Located in the famous Tri-Lakes area of southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas, this family fishing hotspot includes Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake and Bull Shoals Lake. All have been ranked among the best fishing lakes in America. In 2018, Branson was named #1 in ”Top 10 Lake Towns,” then in 2020 was ranked #2 in ”Top Affordable U.S. Lake Towns” by www.realtor.com.

Wrapping around the eastern border of Branson is Lake Taneycomo, renown as the “Trout Capital of America.” It is internationally known for world-class rainbow and brown trout fishing. The Missouri state record brown trout was broken twice in 2019 with a 34-pound 10-ounce fish, followed seven months later with a 40-pound 6-ounce brown. The world record is 42 pounds 1 ounce and was caught in New Zealand. In 1997, a dead brown trout was found floating in Taneycomo that was 41.75 inches long, and based on those measurements, it would have weighed over 44 pounds. Will the next world record come from Lake Taneycomo? The fabulous trout fishing is not the only great fishing that Taneycomo offers. The diverse fishery also features catfish, crappie, bass, sunfish and walleye that all thrive in the cold, nutrient-rich waters.

Massive fish thrive in the Tri-Lakes region, like this 65-pound 10-ounce Missouri State Record Striped Bass from Bull Shoals Lake.
Tasty yellow perch are among colorful fish to be caught here. This 2-pound 7-ounce Yellow Perch was taken from Bull Shoals Lake, it’s a Missouri State Record.

Table Rock Lake is also a big part of the fishing and fun in the Branson area, with shorelines covering both Missouri and Arkansas. When I say big, I do mean BIG! The 43,100-acre reservoir has excellent bass fishing year-round and is annually ranked in Bassmaster Magazine’s 100 Best Bass Lakes listing. If you have dreamed of catching the “Triple Crown of Bass” (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted), this is the place you could make it happen. White bass are also in these waters, so I guess if you caught one of them along with the other three, you would have a “Grand Slam of Bass.” There are also a limited number of striped bass, but I have no idea what you would call it if you caught one along with the other four. A miracle, I guess, and something you can tell your grandkids about. In addition to all the bass species available in Table Rock waters, there are also white and black crappie, walleye, goggle-eye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, carp, bluegill and longear sunfish. If you are into catching something really different, Table Rock is also home to ancient paddlefish.

Bull Shoals Lake is a short drive from Branson, and like Table Rock, is in both Missouri and Arkansas. It, too, is nationally known for its excellent bass fishing. Largemouth weighing up to 12-pounds have been caught here. There is also hybrid bass, smallmouth bass spotted bass, stripe bass, and white bass too. Bull Shoals is not known for hybrid bass, but a local angler recently caught a state record 29-pound 1-ounce hybrid that might very well also be a line-class world record if it passes all the judging criteria. A 65-pound, 10-ounce state record striped bass was also taken from these waters. Bull Shoals is also nationally recognized as a fabulous walleye lake. The Missouri state record at 21-pounds, 1-ounce came from Bull Shoals. Crappie fishing is also popular and, if you’re into catfishing, there’s plenty of those too. There are a limited number of rainbow trout and a few of the historic paddlefish here. Another fish in Bull Shoals, and conservation folks are not sure how they got there, is the yellow perch. This species is very popular in America’s northern lakes and in Canadian waters. The Missouri state record is 2-pounds, 7-ounces, which is a good size for this good-tasting cousin of the walleye.

Besides fishing, there are many family fun things to do in this beautiful area of America. Go to www.explorebranson.com and check it all out for yourself, then come explore all that Branson, Missouri has to offer for fishermen and families. For additional information regarding travel or accommodations, you may also  contact the Branson Visitors Bureau by phone: 1-800-296-0463 . 

Sandbar Pompano at Sanibel…During Spring Break!

Sanibel Island sandbar Pompano. Shelley Crant Photo

  • The tide flow is key for picking WHEN to fish.
  • The place WHERE to fish can change from day-to-day. Newly formed sandbars and emerging weed flats hold both – baitfish and predators.
  • Fish often hold to the current boundaries- FIND them, find the feeding fish
Shelley Crant shares, “Fishing lightweight jigs with the right retrieve, the right place – that my husband seems to able to find on every trip, can result in tasty Pompano near Sanibel Island.” Forrest Fisher Photo

By Forrest Fisher

There is nothing so fun as going fishing with friends when the fish are biting! When chilling inshore winter waters begin to transition to their annual warming trend in spring, coastal species of many saltwater varieties take note. On the incoming tide, it’s feeding time! 

Fishing near Sanibel Island and Fort Myers, a slow boat ride at low tide with polarized sunglasses will often reveal newly-formed grass flats and sandbars. Holding hotspots for baitfish and predator species know that. The island and beach areas are constantly changing with winter wind and the related current flow changes. As March begins, new grass is growing on the flats, and that draws even more baitfish.

We were rigged with lightweight jigs targeting Pompano on this day. Add a 7-ft medium-action spinning rod, 30-series open-face reel filled with 15-20 pound braid, and a short 3-ft length of 30-pound fluorocarbon leader – we were set for inshore fishing magic of any sort. The new YoZuri TopKnot Fluorocarbon leader has proven it is tough and abrasion resistant, and it’s essentially invisible to the fish. 

Heading out to fish, Dan said that there are several places where all boats are required to slow down to allow Manatee safe passage. There are so many more boats today than 30 years ago, it’s a good idea.” Forrest Fisher Photo

With the Sanibel Lighthouse in the near distance, our drift started in just 2-feet of water. We were within casting distance of small slots and caverned hollows in the sand where the water looked about 3-5 feet deep. The water was crystal clear.

Dan dropped the bow motor down and kept the boat angled. All four of us would have a primetime chance to cast alongside the depth break line and into the swift current edge occurring with the onrushing tide. We could hear beachgoers enjoying the clear water and warm sand in the far distance.  

Shelley took the first cast, and before the lure went 5-feet, she smiled and said, there’s a fish! Using a ¼ ounce silly jig with a little sparkle fly that Dan had added to the rig, we all watched as the rod bend seemed to dance to the music from the beach. A minute later, Shelley was smiling with an ear-to-ear grin as she brought aboard a 2-foot long Ladyfish. “Oops, guess they’re here too! They’re fun to catch!” She unhooked and released the fish that many consider an excellent baitfish for other saltwater species. 

All the fish we caught, like this beautiful speckled trout, were carefully handled and safely released alive and well. Forrest Fisher Photo

A minute or two later, Dan hooked a beautiful speckled trout of about 25-inches. We were releasing all the fish today, except for Pompano, the one legal species we had planned to keep for the day.

In the next hour, among the four of us, including my better half, Rose, we had caught 18 fish among five species, but no Pompano yet. A local expert, Dan whispered in his ever-humble voice that we might have to move out just a bit, but not too far – a few hundred yards or so, to find the Pomp’s. Finding a similar bottom area with subtle drop-offs that went from 4 to 7 feet along several sandbars, we started a new drift. In the next hour working that area, we caught another 20 fish. Among these were Spanish Mackerel, Jack Crevalle, Speckled Trout, Lizardfish, two different species of Blowfish, and, yes, Pompano. 

Dolphins – not a usual friend of anglers, seem to chase predator fish away as they feed on baitfish in the same areas we fished. Didn’t affect our catch rate! Forrest Fisher Photo
Jigs from 1/4 oz to 1/2oz were among our best artificial baits for the day. Forrest Fisher Photo

Dan was casting a ½ ounce chartreuse color jig, Rose was using a 3/8 ounce in solid pink, Shelley was tossing a ¼ ounce in pink/white, I had a two-tone chartreuse/white jig in the 3/8 ounce size. We all caught fish. Rose said, “I’ve never seen so many fish caught in such a short time! This is fun,” and grinning while she added a new whining joke-tone, “But now I’m getting sore arms.” We all laughed. Shelley said, “That means this has been a great trip!” Dan said, “Well, it’s almost noon, about time to head back. Is everybody up for one more pass?” Indeed, we were.

Shelley’s pink/white jig was the hot bait for the day, including for the Pompano. Her finesse method allowed the lure to sink slowly to the bottom of the deeper edge areas, then flipping her rod quickly upright about 1-foot or so, in vertical jig motion, then reeling in a few feet of line to let the jig drop again and repeating the action all the way to the boat.

The lightweight braid allowed for long-distance casting, and the heavy-duty leader allowed for surprising durability as we caught fish after fish. It was a blast!

Coated with choice of sour cream or mayonnaise, then covered with a mix of bread crumbs and spices, 4-minutes in the microwave is all that is necessary for a perfect, healthy, fish dinner. Forrest Fisher Photo

Inland waterway charter fishing trips are not expensive here in Lee County, Florida. We had used lightweight lures, fishing specifically for the sight-feeding Pompano. Still, we had also caught so many other species – that is a testament to the clean waters found here. On one drift, we were treated to watch surface-feeding Tarpon – that happened on two separate occasions with two different fish. It was amazing. Such big fish! Then on another pass, a 10-foot long Manatee came in, swimming right under and alongside the boat in the shallow water we were fishing. That was another thrill! 

There is nothing like a healthy ladyfish for a lady fisherwoman to add some fighting fun to the end of your fishing line! Forrest Fisher Photo

Fishing, sunshine, clear-clean water, giant Tarpon, Manatee, beach sounds of fun in the distance. Sound good? It was! If you’re looking for a place to stay, a guide to fish with, or a pristine beach to visit for the fun of finding the treasure of seashells and fossilized shark teeth, check this link: https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/order-travelers-guide, or call toll-free, 1-800-237-6444. Ask for their free guidebook. The pictures in it are amazing.

Invite yourself and your family to this party.

Carefully releasing fish we caught was part of our conservation-minded fishing trip. The future is in our hands. Forrest Fisher Photo

 

Ducks and Gators forge new Wetlands Preserve Partnership

Photo by the Late Joe Forma, a life-long supporter of wildlife conservation.

  • Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida work together for conservation at the DeLuca Preserve
  • Land donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth Deluca
Photo by the Late Joe Forma, a life-long supporter of wildlife conservation.

Thanks to the tremendous generosity of Elisabeth DeLuca, more than 27,000 acres of iconic Florida prairie and wetlands habitat have been permanently protected through a unique partnership between Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the University of Florida.

The land was donated to the University of Florida by Elisabeth Deluca, and a conservation easement was set up through DU’s land trust – Wetlands America Trust. The easement will protect important wildlife habitat and natural values on the property in perpetuity.

“This Kissimmee Prairie landscape is in the Everglades headwaters, yet at the edge of central Florida’s tourism and development core and is now a permanently protected piece of the conservation puzzle,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “For generations to come, students and researchers will make new discoveries alongside migrating waterfowl, endangered red cockaded woodpeckers and grasshopper sparrows on this massive outdoor laboratory. Future ranchers, water-fowlers, nature lovers and wildlife scientists will be able to apply what they’ve read in textbooks to what they’re observing on the landscape, thanks to Elisabeth DeLuca. This partnership between the University of Florida and Ducks Unlimited benefits waterfowl, wildlife and millions of Floridians who value clean water and the protection of the natural landscape.”

This property will continue to be grazed using sustainable methods, thereby protecting its grasslands, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country. Rates of grassland conversion in the U.S. have continued at a rapid pace, with a significant portion lost to non-agricultural uses.

“Elisabeth DeLuca’s generous contribution of such a significant property is a gift to all Floridians and really, to people everywhere,” said UF President Kent Fuchs. “The preservation of this land and what it will enable our scholars to learn, teach and achieve will reverberate around the globe.”

Through a multi-faceted partnership, DU and the University of Florida will utilize the property for education, outdoor engagement and working-lands conservation, including the training of future generations of natural resource and agriculture professionals in a living laboratory. The easement serves as a perfect launching pad for Ducks Unlimited’s expanding conservation programs in Florida. While this is the first conservation easement held by DU and WAT in Florida, DU has conserved more than 33,000 acres in the state through other programs. This easement is also the largest in the history of Ducks Unlimited.

“Located between a global tourism destination, with the Turnpike as a boundary, the DeLuca Preserve is an epic win for conservation, and an international model for research, education and outreach,” Putnam said.

This property, along with other state and federal lands, comprise 250,000 acres of protected areas of the Northern Everglades Headwaters which is an important ecosystem for wildlife corridors, watershed protection, flood mitigation and endangered species habitat. Livestock grazing is a highly compatible and economically important management strategy on this landscape.

The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund provided critical funding via the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida to help endow Ducks Unlimited’s permanent conservation easement and other costs associated with this once-a-generation gift of land.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Ducks Unlimited and the University of Florida to help conserve this outstanding habitat, which will serve as a national model showcasing how wildlife management, water conservation and ranching can thrive together,” said Bob Ziehmer, Senior Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. “We are grateful to our customers who, by rounding up purchases in our stores and online to the Outdoor Fund, directly support key conservation projects like this.”

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved almost 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.

Colored Egg Sacs and Mag-Lip Lures catching fish in Lower Niagara River/Lake Ontario

Dave Mika of Tonawanda, NY, with a lake trout he caught while fishing out of Olcott.

  • Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 31, 2021 from Destination Niagara USA
Capt. Ryan Shea of Tonawanda, NY, with a Niagara Bar lake trout. 

Happy Easter! April 1 is the traditional opener of the state’s inland trout fishing season. Of course, this does not include Great Lakes tributaries (they are open all year). However, it does include Gill Creek, Hyde Park Lake and Oppenheim Park Pond. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the state will not be announcing a specific time and date for when fish will be stocked. One way to keep tabs is to call the fish stocking hotline at 358-2050 to see when fish are stocked after the fact. They are usually stocked the first week in April. The NYPA Fishing Platform, including the elevator and the fish cleaning station, should be open starting April 1. Check the hotline at 286-6662 to see the status. The upper reservoir and the water intakes in the upper river are both open as well. Some mixed smelt reports in the lower river. We heard of one decent report prior to the water changing color, but most are coming up empty. Water temps are good and there are an awful lot of lanterns on the Canadian shoreline across the river.

Dave Mika of Tonawanda, NY, with a lake trout he caught while fishing out of Olcott.

Water clarity took a serious hit in the Niagara River after the wind and rain last week. With more wind and rain in the forecast, it will continue to have an impact on fishing success. Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls reports that he was down in the gorge this week and found 1-1/2 feet of visibility. He did manage to catch a small female steelhead using an orange/chartreuse No. 5 spinner. There should be some fresh fish around when the water starts to clear. Boaters have really been struggling, but a few fish have been caught on live bait like minnows and plugs like MagLips. Brightly colored egg sacs are also producing a fish here and there, which is what Capt. Joe Marra of Lewiston was using last weekend down river Anthony Gomez Jr. and Sr. from West Seneca. Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston found some steelhead in Devil’s Hole.

For Lake Ontario, the kings are starting to hit off St. Catharines, Ontario, according to reports this week, which means it will not be long before kings will find their way off the Niagara Bar, Wilson, and Olcott.

Mark Mika of Newfane reports that he wanted to share some early season action out of Olcott. He boated 15 Lakers, all big healthy fish, fishing with his brother Dave of Tonawanda and Paul Karelus of Williamsville. They were fishing in 60 to 65 feet of water between Olcott and Somerset using spoons and homemade body baits. A dozen were taken on an old Sammy Pac 07 that he repurposed for some added fun.

Capt. Richard Brant of Tonawanda was out on the Niagara Bar fishing for lakers this week and he got into them well trolling east in 65-75 feet of water on spoons with chartreuse and gold colors.

Evan Dietter of Ancramdale, NY, with a lake trout he caught in the lower Niagara River fishing with Capt. Steve Drabczyk of Lewiston.

Todd Ceisner with In-Fisherman was out trying to jig up bass and lake trout last week while fishing with Capt. Frank Campbell in the river and out in Lake Ontario. He pulled a walleye from the river that was released immediately, and then had several hits on lake trout using a jig tipped with a plastic smelt imitation. Swim baits worked the best.

Karen Evarts at The Boat Doctors reports that steelhead fishing has been good at Burt Dam. Egg sacs or egg imitations like beads. Action was good off the piers but slowed after recent storm activity.

Capt. Vince Pierleoni of Newfane,NY, with a big Lake Ontario lake trout he caught off Olcott.

Scott Feltrinelli with Ontario Fly Outfitters to his first smallmouth of the year last weekend with some customers. After that last rain, lake run trout are dropping back and out of the system while smallmouth have started moving in. It is a slow pick of scattered singles in the tributaries now.

The Niagara County Bullhead Tournament is coming up April 9-11. This is a shore fishing only event, with anglers vying for the best 2 bullheads total weight to win the prizes. The contest starts at 5 p.m. on April 9. Weigh in on April 11 at the Wilson Conservation Club from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. when the tourney ends. For more info call Eric at 628-6078.

 

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. Click here for our video message.

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.

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.

Niagara Falls USA Fishing Forecast for Wednesday, March 10, 2021 – Fish are Biting

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught from shore using a homemade spinner.

  • Weather in warm-up mode, spring on the way.
  • Mag-Lips w/Kishel Scent is hot lure for steelhead drift fishing n Lower Niagara River.
  • Shore fishing on upswing too, w/sacs+beads under a float
Capt. Nick Calandrelli of Lewiston (left) and Kevin Kishel of East Aurora with another steelhead caught on a MagLip lathered with Kishel’s Fish Scent.

Air temperatures are scheduled to break the 60 mark today so being outdoors is a must. While it will be cooling back into the 40s by the weekend, spring is just around the corner. March 15 is the final day for walleye, pike, pickerel, and tiger musky action in the state, but there is still plenty of trout fishing to be had here – in both the tributaries and the Niagara River. Our tip of the week comes for Captains Ernie and Nick Calandrelli, who took Kevin Kishel of East Aurora out on Tuesday in the lower Niagara. The trio did very well on steelhead using Kishel’s Fish Scent on MagLip plugs, and fished off 3-way rigs. It really seemed to make a difference. Lower Niagara River trout action is picking back up again and best baits have been egg sacs or egg imitations, minnows or shiners and any kind of a body bait like a Kwikfish or a MagLip from boats, all fished off 3-way rigs. Water clarity is good.  Fish can be found through the river and the Stella drift was productive last weekend.

Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls caught this steelhead Tuesday in the lower Niagara River, casting a white hair jig from shore.

Shore guys can still catch some trout consistently by tossing spinners or jigs according to Mike Rzucidlo of Niagara Falls, who caught some good fish in the gorge on Monday. Drifting sacs or beads under a float will also catch fish. Rzucidlo even caught a nice chunky 5-pound rainbow just above the upper rapids above Niagara Falls on a spinner on Tuesday.

For the Lake Ontario tributaries, the warm rain in the forecast for late Thursday could be what the fish doctor ordered to pull fresh fish into the streams. Some reports on the sly show that action has already been picking up on 18 Mile Creek and Burt Dam. Egg sacs and egg imitations are good baits to start, but jigs tipped with a wax worm will also work. Scott Feltrinelli of Ontario Fly Outfitters reports that waters were cold Tuesday from ice melt. He will always make sure to fish his fly “low and slow” in these conditions.

Mike Ziehm of Niagara Falls with a lower Niagara River steelhead he caught from shore using a homemade spinner.

One sure sign of spring is the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association’s pen rearing project preparation. Assembly for the pens will take place at the Town of Newfane Marina in Olcott on March 27 starting at 9:30 a.m. Dress warm and bring your side cutters to clip zip ties. The work party is early this year because of an earlier Easter.

Frank Campbell, Director, Outdoor Promotions

Destination Niagara USA, 10 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls, NY 14303

Overpopulation of Deer?

Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

  • Warm winters, High summer nutrition, Fewer hunters = TOO MANY DEER
  • Do we need DNR to consider additional expanded seasons?
  • Farmers need help, Home Owners have property damage and deer disease concerns (Lyme, CWD, etc.)
Wintering deer herds salvage food from all available sources, but there are concerns for overpopulation in many parts of the country. Concerns for spread of Lyme disease via deer ticks is one more concern. Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

By Bob Holzhei

Within a one-mile radius of our farm in Clinton County, MI, I counted over 40 deer. They were traveling in two different herds on our property, woodlot and an adjoining property.

This population of deer was much higher than in previous years, increasing by about four times what I had witnessed in the past.

What factors accounted for the high numbers? A mild winter this past season was possibly one factor. The immediate question is, do the high deer numbers have consequences as apparent overpopulation occurs?

“Overpopulation is more deer than the habitat can support.  This numbers growth occurs simply by having survival exceed mortality. We may be witnessing the survival theory that may have occurred for a more prolonged period of time than thought.  “The distribution of deer can vary throughout the year,” according to Chad Stewart, a Biologist and Deer/Elk Population Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“During the spring-time is when deer are clustered on the landscape, primarily around food sources. As green-up occurs, deer numbers redistribute themselves to more normal levels, and the concentration of deer in large numbers is likely to diminish,” added Stewart.

One way of looking at it might be that a reduction in hunter numbers means an increase in safe spaces for deer to evade hunters. Add high summer nutrition to high winter survival rates and mild winters, we might expect the trend to continue. For farmers, I am a farmer, crop damage occurs when deer numbers are high. The field edges are hit hard, but damage can extend into field centers as the deer numbers increase.

Healthy deer numbers are increasing rapidly with fewer deer hunter numbers. Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

“Clinton County, MI, has seen increasing trends in populations over the past 6-8 years,” stated Stewart. “Research has shown that about 20 deer per square mile is the threshold for detecting deer damage to forests.  Keeping deer numbers below that threshold is ideal for forestry management.”

“The Michigan DNR, in an effort to manage deer numbers, has liberalized the license structure by offering more flexibility for hunters to take antlerless deer with a combination license during the firearms and muzzleloader season.  The antlerless licenses are also transferrable between counties and properties.  A late antlerless season has also been extended in southern Michigan,” concluded Stewart.

If you enjoy healthy, high-protein venison steaks and burgers, this coming season could be a very special time for you and your family. AND, you could be helping the farmers with your harvest.

About the author: Bob Holzhei is a published author with more than 450 published outdoor adventure stories from across the United States. He has authored four books, including Canadian Fly-In Fishing Adventure, Alaskan Spirit Journey, The Mountains Shall Depart and The Hills Shall Be Removed. The latter was nominated for Pulitzer Prize consideration. His books are available at Amazon.

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!

Extraordinary Fun Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

  • Fishing sunrise to noon, we caught 8 species of saltwater fish, and well over 150 fish total, as a 3-man group.
  • Captain Terry Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, was savvy, funny, and deadly serious about having fun – we laughed a lot out there! So good for our pandemic souls!
  • We experimented with Circle-hooks vs. J-hooks. The circle-hooks hooked and landed fish 80% more effectively…a lesson for all.
Vietnam Veteran, Randy Baugus, retired minister from Burlington, KY, with a hard-fighting Gag Grouper that was released to swim another day.

By Forrest Fisher

It was dark when I left the house in Port Charlotte, Florida. The stars were spectacular, gleaming brightly above, but there was a warm orange glow on the eastern horizon, the sun was about to rise, suggesting a nice, warm February day – a sunscreen day. A great winter day.

About 30 minutes later – it was 6:25 a.m., I joined the right-hand turn signal line to enter the Placida Boat Launch area, a state park-like zone with a boat launch, ice-filling station, and restroom facilities that can accommodate about 100 cars and boat trailers. There is a frozen bait and live bait tackle shop (Eldred’s Marina) right next door, wonderfully convenient for boaters and anglers heading for Gasparilla Island shore fishing spots.

Affable Captain Randy Heller, Fish-On Sportfishing Charters, with another  nice porgy we caught, a tasty fish for the table.

Not long later, I met my fishing guide for the day, Captain Terry Heller of Fish-On Charter Sport Fishing, an ever-friendly source of fishing knowledge. He made catching fish easy and fun and seemingly transparent – like you’ve had the necessary skills all along, even with newbies and veteran anglers alike – young and old, no matter. Onboard, I met 70-years-young Randy Baugus from Burlington, Kentucky, a minister and Vietnam veteran, and his brother-in-law, 78-year-old Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, Ohio, but now a happy southwest Florida native who is enjoying his retirement years in the Sunshine State.

Captain Terry started up his nearly silent 225Hp Yamaha as the wide, spacious and sturdy 24-ft Polar (fiberglass boat) gently idled away from the dock. As we moved into Lemon Bay toward the Boca Grande Causeway Bridge, a bald eagle showed her head on one of the nearby island treetop nests. The tide was at a complete low as we came up to plane in the channel in Gasparilla Pass.

With Captain Terry using the navigational GPS map technology onboard, he marked safe passage for us. It wasn’t long before we were at 35 mph cruising speed on the way to secret offshore spots that Heller has identified over his years of local fishing here. About 20 minutes later, we slowed, shore was no longer visible, and after making a few circles into an area seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Heller dropped a marker buoy for boat position reference. Settling his electric motor into the water (with a 7-foot long shaft), he used blue-tooth technology to move away from the buoy toward one of three spots that we would eventually fish. All of them were within 200 yards of the brightly colored marker. “The marker is for letting others know that this is our fishing area for the moment. Other guys usually honor the courtesy of staying away from your fishing zone,” he said that with a half-smile.

Heller opened up two of his three live bait wells to show us that if we wanted to keep any fish, they could go in there and that he would let us know what fish was legal and what was not. “Now for the fun, guys!” He passed out a fully-rigged rod for each of us with a small bucket of cut-bait ready to rig. The rods were 7-ft long and were equipped with open-face Penn fishing reels. The 30-pound test braid mainline was attached to a 2-ounce egg sinker, then an 18-inch long leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a size 3/0 or 4/0 circle hook.

Randy Baugus with the second Remora that we caught that day, a nice 25 inch specimen. Remora usually are attached to the skin a shark. We released the fish to find a new shark buddy down below.

Heller is a happy sort of guy as he quipped, “Now guys, listen, you’re gonna catch a lot of fish out here, so if you get tired of reeling ’em in, don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of beverages onboard, and you can rest up.” We all looked at each other and sort of rolled our eyes a bit. Randy said, “Sounds like your pretty confident Captain!” Gary said, “I wanna drop my line.” A moment later, Heller showed us how to slide the cut baits onto the hook. He rigged all the lines for us.

“The water is 48-feet deep here, guys, so it won’t take too long for your baits to reach the bottom. When they do, reel up two turns or so and watch closely for a bite. When you get one, start reeling to set the hook. One more thing, there is one rule on board here, for good luck, you gotta yell, FISH-ON! You all know that’s the name of my charter. It’s for a good reason.  Our adrenalin flow talks to the fish!”

About 10 seconds later, Randy hollered,” FISH-ON!” His rod enjoyed a healthy bend toward the water. A few moments later, Gary shouted, “FISH-ON!” Before both lines were not yet in the boat when I, too, shouted out the same. A 3-Fer! Half-giggling and laughing a bit, Captain Terry said, “Are we having fun yet?!” We all agreed.

We moved around to a few other fishing zones on the bottom. They were configured sort of like the moon surface with craters and high points, next to cavernous hollows a few feet deeper around the crater edges. “The fish come out of those little holes down there to test your baits. They’re always hungry out here in this secret place.”

Gary Barnes, originally from Columbus, OH, is now a Florida resident and enjoys fishing in his retirement years. He released this small grouper.

We moved to other spots a few times, and in each location, we caught at least 50 fish among the three of us.

The live wells were getting crowded with good-eating reef fish. These included Porgy, Squirrel Perch, and some Key West Grunts., some were nearly 2-pounds each. We also caught Blowfish, Remora, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, and Spottail Snapper. My shoulders and arms were getting sore as Heller said, “C’mon guys, let’s reel up and go try one more spot where there might be some bigger snapper and grouper.

About 10-minutes later, we motored northward, we arrived about 1/2 mile from the 9-mile reef. The electric motor came down, and we were fishing. Wham! “FISH-ON! Randy hollered. A few seconds later, Gary screamed out too, then me. Four hours into our trip, it had been a fantastic day on the water. The sea was smooth, the water so clear, and the fish were definitely biting.

Our cut baits consisted of octopus, shrimp, squid, and sardines. All of these worked.  One of the cool things about fishing with Heller, his charter – Fish-On Sport Fishing, provides all the licenses, all the gear, and all the bait you need. Plus, you are welcome to keep your catch, and Heller will clean and fillet it for you. Maybe the most significant part not mentioned with “things provided” is Heller’s precision savvy about where to drop your line. That part is priceless!

Happiness is! Fishing dreams are made for days like this. I met new friends, caught lots of fish, laughed for about 5-hours! So fun. We released this small, hard-fighting grouper. Terry Heller Photo.

As we motored back to the Placida boat launch, it was 1:30 p.m., and the air temp was 87 degrees. A slight sunburn on all of our faces, I joked to Gary, “Pinch me, I think I miss shoveling my driveway back home in East Aurora, NY.” He groused back, “Yea, me too, NOT! I love it down here.”

Captain Heller asked us to follow him back to his nearby home, and he cleaned 81 keepers. It was probably about 1/3 of the number of fish we actually landed, as we had to release all the short gag grouper and red grouper. We had caught dozens of them—an excellent sign for the future of Florida fishing. We split ’em up, and there is only one or two choice words for the meal that followed later at my home. Scrumptious! Delicious!

There is nothing quite like a fresh caught fish fry! My better half does these up with four, egg and crushed crackers coked in olive oil…healthy!

I fell asleep that night with my ears ringing a bit. It was that tune from earlier in the day…”Fish On!” Can’t wait for the next time out. To fish with Captain Heller yourself, you can check schedules and open dates at: Fishing Booker.com 

National Deer Association (NDA) has Solid Plan to Empower Deer Hunters

NDA Photo

  • Education, Biology, Legislation, Recruitment included in the new plan.
  • Karlin Dawson named as Deer Outreach Specialist to Work with Missouri Conservation (MDC)
  • Special focus on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Field-to-Fork Programs
NDA Photo

During July 2020, the National Deer Alliance and the Quality Deer Management Association joined forces to merge their two groups, combine the strengths, resources and core initiatives to better serve deer and hunters more effectively when the need is greatest. Then in November 2020, they announced their new group name: the National Deer Association. They are a non-profit group and beyond a name and a logo, they also assembled a unified team, created a new strategic plan, and announced a Board of Directors. 

The National Deer ASSOCIATION is planning to focus on four critical areas: (1) education and outreach, (2) recruitment, retention and reactivation, (3) policy and advocacy, (4) deer diseases. Teaching the non-hunting public about the keystone position of deer in all wildlife conservation (success or failure) will be among new goals. Similarly, the new group will empower hunters to be more informed, and hence, more successful and engaged stewards of deer and wildlife, including mentoring young hunters. Deer diseases, including the invariably fatal chronic wasting disease (CWD), present a severe threat to all deer species’ future and related wildlife conservation/health. Wildlife policy and legislation are part of that new goal, at the same time bringing hunters, the non-hunting public, and wildlife managers together with a common education and realization theme. The new group includes memberships across all 50 states and Canada.

The National Deer Association (NDA) is pleased to announce that Karlin Dawson has joined the organization as a Deer Outreach Specialist in northern Missouri. A Missouri native and lifelong deer hunter, Karlin comes to NDA from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC), where she served as the naturalist for the Runge Conservation Nature Center.

Highly qualified Karlin Dawson has joined the National Deer Association (NDA) organization as a Deer Outreach Specialist in northern Missouri. Photo courtesy of NDA

“I am honored and excited to be joining such a wonderful organization,” said Karlin. “I cannot wait to continue my work in conservation and supporting our natural resources.”

As a Deer Outreach Specialist, Karlin will assist MDC staff with the facilitation of the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMA). Among mission objectives will be to provide guidance to landowners and deer hunters conducting deer population surveys and other data collection efforts, host local habitat management training, work with private landowners to establish and support Wildlife Management Cooperatives, coordinate and assist with chronic wasting disease (CWD) sampling training, and organize hunter recruitment and mentoring initiative – like NDA’s Field to Fork program, in northern Missouri. She will also serve Missourians by helping promote numerous private land assistance programs alongside MDC staff. 

Karlin’s duties will include helping increase NDA awareness by recruiting new members and publicizing NDA’s national programs and conservation partner programs.

“I am excited to have Karlin join the NDA staff,” said Matt Ross, NDA’s Director of Conservation. “Her past experience working as a public educator and naturalist for the state of Missouri, her enthusiasm for wildlife and the sustenance it provides, and her general knowledge and passion for the outdoors make her a perfect fit for this position.”

Karlin received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Westminster College, where her study emphasis was in conservation, ecology and field research. In addition to her recent position as a naturalist with MDC, Karlin worked as an assistant manager and whitetail guide at Safari Unlimited LLC, a Missouri-based commercial outfitting business specializing in worldwide hunting and fishing adventure travel and offers a free-range deer and turkey hunting service in the Show-Me state. She is a certified Hunter Education instructor, a certified CWD sampling technician and has substantial experience in virtual and interpretive conservation programming, including a unique content series about wild edibles, game recipes, and cooking. 

Landowners and deer hunters in northern Missouri who want to learn more about DMAP, deer management, or with interest in establishing a Wildlife Cooperative can contact Karlin at karlin@deerassociation.com.

Special Thanks to Brian Grossman and the NDA for details regarding Karlin Dawson.

Firearm Industry Embraces Real Solutions Over NEW Gun Control Call

  • Demands that Congress ban the modern sporting rifle (MSR).
  • Call to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law passed with wide bipartisan support.
  • Reality of crime is that more murders are committed with knives, fists and clubs than all rifles combined.

With a reminder note from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) in Newtown, CT – the anniversary of the tragic and senseless murders in Parkland, FL, three years ago remind us why the firearm industry is committed to Real Solutions. Safer Communities®. The loss of innocent lives because of the unthinkable acts of a criminal defies explanation but deserves our efforts to try to prevent them from occurring again.

President Joe Biden’s call for his gun control agenda is not working to address the shared American goal of reducing criminal misuse of firearms. His demand that Congress ban the modern sporting rifle (MSR), which he knowingly mislabels an “assault rifle” and “weapon of war,” denies the reality that more murders are committed with knives, fists and clubs than all rifles combined. Over 20 million MSRs are in circulation today, used daily for lawful purposes.

President Biden’s call to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law passed with wide bipartisan support, panders to the radical base of his party. Rolling it back would be akin to allowing activist lawyers to sue Ford for the wrongful deaths caused by drunk drivers.

The criminal responsible for the horrors thrust on Parkland, and the nation, must be held accountable for his crimes. Anything less is a whitewash of the failures of local, state and federal authorities to act on any of the 45 instances of warnings, tips and police responses prior to his final terrible crimes.

The firearm industry has been willing to take on this hard work. It has not waited. The firearm industry provides Real Solutions, including partnerships with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and local law enforcement to include:

  • Partnering with 15,000 law enforcement agencies to distribute 40 million firearm safety kits, including locking devices, for safe firearm storage through Project ChildSafe®.
  • Fixing the FBI’s background check system by changing the law in 16 states and in Congress to increase reporting of disqualifying adjudicated mental health records, resulting in a 266 percent increase.
  • Partnering with the ATF to prevent illegal firearm straw purchases and warning it is a crime punishable by 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
  • Improving security at firearm retailers, with ATF, to deter criminals from stealing firearms.
  • Matching ATF reward offers up to $5,000 to bring criminals to justice that steal firearms.
  • Preventing firearm suicides with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Department of Veterans Affairs.

The firearm industry is committed to the shared goal of reducing and ending criminal misuse of firearms, as well as accidents and suicides. That is the common ground. These are the proven answers to achieve this goal. Click here to learn more about Real Solutions®.

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.

Finally, a GUN SAFE made in the USA

  • WAY TOO HEAVY to carry, but this safe assembles in pieces easy to ship and move
  • 21 million NICS checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm in the past 12 months
  • NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020

By Forrest Fisher

Anyone that owns a firearm, one or more, is concerned about safe storage of their ammo and guns. Especially now. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Americans have registered record-setting firearms stats earlier this month.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reported that 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm in the past 12 months. That’s a 60% increase from 2019 with 13.2 million background checks, and it shatters the previous record of 15.7 million in 2016. NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2020.

Outdoor friend Kim Emery says, “It’s a good time to share gun safety information with new gun owners as well as those increasing their firearm collections. Gun safes are an essential component of this training.” From my perspective, what could be better than protecting your firearms with a fire-insulated safe made in the USA? There is such a company: Steelhead Outdoors.

The best safes are big and hard to move, so Steelhead Outdoors makes their safe products modular. Modular gun safes are easily moved and assembled by two people. You will not need to hire a specialized safe-moving company, which is costly, or enlist your family and friends on a dangerous do-it-yourself heavyweight moving adventure each time you move.

In a recent interview, Steelhead Outdoors co-founder Corey Meyer says, “Don’t wait until you have found your “forever home” to invest in proper protection and security of firearms and valuables. We created Steelhead Outdoors to solve the problem of fitting a safe into your lifestyle and home space. Modular safes can be moved into spaces that a traditional safe cannot. Plus, at Steelhead Outdoors, with our custom-designed options, we can literally create your dream safe.”

The classic Steelhead Outdoors Nomad series offers ceramic fire insulation rated to 2300 degrees and is non-moisture trapping. That means no dehumidifier is required (and will not release steam into the safe in the event of a fire). How cool is that?!

Size: Model 26: 26” x 18” x 54” assembled. The Nomad Model 26 is the perfect safe for smaller gun collections and small spaces. It is perfect for apartments, townhomes, temporary living situations and fits beautifully into most closets. The assembled safe weighs 375lb, every panel is easily moveable and weighs less than 100 lbs. The interior can be configured from 6 to 15 long guns.

The Model 38, size: 38″ x 24″ x 60″ assembled. The Nomad Model 38 is the perfect safe for larger gun collections and can be assembled in places a traditional safe could never get to. The assembled safe weighs 600lb, every panel is easily moveable and weighs less than 150 lbs. The interior can be configured from 10 to 34 long guns.

Both safes are available with a mechanical dial lock or a push-button digital lock. Custom color options and configurations available. To learn more about modular gun safes and the best options, visit SteelheadOutdoors.com. Follow on Instagram.com/SteelheadOutdoors, on Facebook.Com/SteelheadOutdoors, and watch how-to videos on their YouTube channel.

About Steelhead Outdoors: Founded in 2016, Steelhead Outdoors is an innovative safe company offering the only American-made, modular, fire-insulated gun safe available currently on the market. Longtime friends, engineers, and avid outdoorsmen, Charlie Pehrson and Corey Meyer, searched for a gun safe made in the USA, was adaptable, and offered a respectable level of fire and theft protection. Still, they soon realized this product didn’t exist. Since they couldn’t buy it, they decided to build it. Learn more at SteelheadOutdoors.com

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.

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.

Winchester SX4 Hybrid Hunter Woodland Shotgun

Gotta love the new durable camo coverage and protected metal-part finish on the new Winchester firearms in this modern world.

The Winchester® Super X4 Hybrid Hunter Woodland features a classic Woodland camouflage paired with a Cerakote Flat Dark Earth finish on the receiver and barrel. The is combination is an functional eye-catching performer. Rain or shine, fast cycling is never an issue with the proven Active Valve Gas System. Adding an extra level of durability is the chrome-plated chamber and bore.

This model includes 3 Invector-Plus choke tubes – including a choke wrench, TRUGLO® fiber-optic sight, reversible safety button, larger opening in trigger guard, and larger bolt handle and bolt release with a Nickel Teflon coating on carrier and bolt release button, .

To learn more about the features and specs, as well as access downloadable hi-res images, please visit:

Super X4 Hybrid Hunter Woodland

Super X4 Shotguns

Features:

  • RECEIVER –  Aluminum alloy; Flat Dark Earth (FDE) Cerakote finish
  • BARREL –  Chrome-plated chamber and bore; FDE Cerakote finish; Ventilated rib
  • ACTION –  12 gauge – 3 1/2″ and 3″ chamber; 20 gauge – 3″ chamber; Gas operated with Active Valve system;
  • STOCK –  Composite; Woodland camouflage finish with an Inflex® recoil pad
  • FEATURES –  Three Invector-Plus™ choke tubes (F,M,IC); TRUGLO® fiber-optic sight; New Inflex® Technology recoil pad; Length of pull spacers; New larger bolt handle, bolt release and reversible safety button; New larger opening in trigger guard; Sling swivel studs

MSRP is $1079.99. For more information on Winchester Firearms, please visit winchesterguns.com.

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.

Remarkable Hunting – Lightning, Rain, one Old Barn and one Old Deer

  • As I sat there, I thought, “Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.”

By Larry Whiteley

The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. Then I think about next year.

The forecast for opening day of the firearms deer season was for rain with a chance of thunderstorms. My son was out of town, and my grandson was at college in Kansas. It wouldn’t be the same without them, so why not just stay home? Wait a minute, this is opening morning I’m talking about. A tradition for goodness sake. How many years in a row have I enjoyed this special day? I had to be out there even if I was going to be by myself. Even if it was raining.

The alarm jarred me from my sleep. I got the coffee pot going, brushed my teeth, did my duty, grabbed my hunting clothes and rifle, filled my thermos, and was out the door. I could see stars in the night sky, so maybe, just maybe, the weatherman was wrong. My truck came to a stop at the metal gate on the gravel road, and I got out to open it. No rain! I drove on down the road, crossed the creek, and pulled up to the old barn sitting majestically in the field.

My plan was to leave the truck there and hike across the field to a tree where my stand waited for me. I got out of the truck, thunder rumbled, and lightning cracked and lit up the dark sky. I was sure thankful I had gone to the bathroom before leaving home. My hair would have stood on end if I had any.

I quickly decided I did not want to walk across a field with the lightning while carrying a rifle to go sit in a metal treestand. Then the sprinkles started, the thunder and lightning continued, and I got back in my truck. As I sat there thinking about what to do, the sky lit up again, and it seemed like heaven opened. I swear I heard the angel chorus singing hallelujah and trumpets bugling. There before me was the answer that would save this day. I would deer hunt from the old barn hayloft. My son, grandson, and granddaughter had all taken deer from the old barn before, and so had I.

I jumped out of the truck, grabbed all my hunting stuff, and ran inside. Then I remembered I had a folding chair I used when hunting in blinds, it was still in the truck, so I ran back out to get it. The rain was getting heavier, but the old barn would keep me dry. It was still dark, so I was in no hurry to climb up in the barn loft. I looked around with wide eyes, and my headlight assured me there were no wild animals in the barn ready to attack me. I also made a mental note not to step in all the groundhog holes in the dirt floor.

 

The old barn was built over 100 years ago by a gentleman named Christopher Columbus Meadows. I remembered the old black and white picture the owner of this land had shown me of Christopher Columbus holding a horse by the reigns and standing next to the barn.

My headlight shines on, the big stacked rocks and hand hewn beams light up. These are the foundation on which the old barn has stood for over 100 years. I look at the ax marks on the wood, and I see, in my mind’s eye, Christopher chopping and shaping the log to become this foundation. I imagine him in the wooden wagon, pulled by the horse in the picture, going down to the creek to find the flat rocks for the beam to set on.

I look around at all the weathered wood that covers the old barn. There was no electricity in this valley when the barn was built and wouldn’t be for another 30 years or more. So how did they get this wood to build it? How has the wood lasted this long? There is no paint or sealant of any kind on it. Where did they get the old rusted hinges and nails? I will never know the answers.

My mind travels back in time, and I see the horse in the picture standing in a stall. I see corn stalks stacked in another area. Maybe this was where they milked the old cow. Is that daylight coming through the cracks? It sounds like the storm has let up. I better get up in the loft.

I climb the stairs that are just as sturdy as they were when they were built but step carefully around rotted boards on the loft floor. I set up in the big opening where they once brought hay up from below to be stored in the barn loft. My chair is comfortable. I pour a cup of coffee and stretch out my legs. This is a great way to hunt deer, even if it’s not raining.

I look around the old loft, still amazed at how they built the old barn this big and how it has stood this long. The owner tells me it’s home to barn swallows, field rats, mice, a pair of black vultures that come here to raise babies every year, and the groundhogs who made all the holes, these will probably be the biggest reason the barn comes down someday.

The rain stops. Through my binoculars, I see a buck by himself – he has a weird set of antlers. On the left, it is normal but only three points. On the right, it is short with two points and ugly. He slowly saunters across the field with his head down. I figure all the bucks have teased him about his weird rack, and the females don’t want anything to do with this ugly buck.

I think for a moment about putting him out of his misery and click off the safety. But then I think maybe next year when he grows back a new set of antlers, they will be prominent and handsome. Then the ladies will be attracted to him, and the bucks that made fun of him will regret it when he kicks their butt. I click on my safety.

Rain starts again. He will be the only deer I see this day, but that’s okay. I don’t know why we have to get older to realize that deer hunting is not just about getting a big buck you can put out on social media to brag about. Deer hunting is about sunrises and sunsets, the wildlife that go about their daily routines, not knowing you are there. It’s about all the memories you make with family and friends or alone in a barn.

This day will be added to my storehouse of memories. Before I get too old, and as long as it remains standing, I would like to have a few more days of deer hunting from the hayloft of the old barn.

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!

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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. 

 

 

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.

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

Inline image 2
Destination Niagara USA
10 Rainbow Blvd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
p: 1-877 FALLS US | 716-282-8992 x. 303

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).

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.

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.

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. 

 

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! 

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.

 

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.

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.

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!

 

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.

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!

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)

Prized ‘Eyes – Lake Erie Walleye Count tops 100 MILLION!

  • Walleye Season open in New York State 
  • Lake Erie Walleye Population Exceeds 100 MILLION!

You don’t have to look far to find exciting walleye fishing opportunities in New York

Walleye are challenging to catch and delicious to eat, making them one of the most prized sportfish in New York. As the largest member of the perch family, adult walleye typically weigh 1-3 lbs., but they can get much larger. The state record is a remarkable 18 lb. 2 oz. giant caught from the St. Lawrence River in 2018. Walleye are found across the state and provide phenomenal fishing opportunities in select waters.

Walleye in New York

Historically, walleye only inhabited waters in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River, and Allegheny River watersheds in New York. Today, primarily due to stocking and other DEC management efforts, walleye occur in more than 140 waters from all of the major watersheds of the state. They thrive in large shallow lakes with gravel shoals and accessible tributaries, and in large, productive river systems. Walleye are a “coolwater” species, preferring cooler water than bass and sunfish, but warmer water than trout.

Walleye are named for their unique eyes that have a highly reflective layer of tissue. This gives them excellent vision at night and in turbid water, which enables them to feed (primarily on fish) in low light conditions, particularly at dawn and dusk. Walleye may suspend over deep water or move inshore or to other shallow-water habitats depending on the availability of preferred prey species at certain times of the year. Walleye spawn in early spring when water temperatures reach 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. Adult fish tend to congregate in large numbers and spawn over cobble, gravel, or sand in rivers or windswept shallows in lakes. Spawning success can vary greatly year to year, which often results in one to a few year classes making up the majority of the population. Walleye that are 25 inches or larger are generally considered “trophies” in New York.

Management

In New York, stocking and regulations are the primary tools for managing the state’s walleye populations. DEC annually stocks walleye in about 40 waters across the state to establish, maintain, or restore fisheries. To support the stocking program, DEC collects approximately 300 million walleye eggs each spring at the Oneida Fish Hatchery on Oneida Lake, where they are then incubated and hatched. About 212 million of the newly hatched fry (only a few millimeters long) are stocked into a number of waters across the state. Additional fry are raised at the Oneida, Chautauqua, and South Otselic fish hatcheries for two months and stocked as fingerlings (2 inches long). There are typically 600,000 fingerlings stocked every year. Walleye typically take 3-4 years to reach 15 inches in length.

Since most anglers keep the legal-sized walleye they catch, fishing regulations are important for managing the state’s walleye populations. New York’s walleye season opens the first Saturday in May. The general statewide regulation for walleye is a 15-inch minimum length and a daily limit of 5 fish, with a closed season from March 16 through the Friday before the first Saturday in May to protect spawning fish. However, many waters have special regulations where length and daily limits vary. Additionally, some short stream reaches are closed to all fishing to protect significant spawning concentrations of walleye.

In a Class of Their Own

Quality walleye fishing opportunities can be found throughout New York, with three top destinations-Oneida Lake, Lake Erie, and Chautauqua Lake-projected to be exceptionally good in 2020 and beyond. Why?-Multiple strong year classes.

Year Class
A year class is made up of all the walleyes that were produced and survived in a single year. Walleye can live a long time (10 years or more) and a big year class can support good fishing for years. Multiple strong year classes in a population generally result in excellent fishing that is sustained over the long term.

Lake Erie

Lake Erie is considered the top walleye destination in western New York and is supported solely through natural reproduction. Walleye angler catch rates in the New York portion of the lake have been relatively high for the last decade and were at record levels in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The quality of the fishery is primarily due to the prolonged period of walleye spawning success in the lake, with large year-classes produced in 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

The abundant walleye population affords additional harvest opportunity as Lake Erie is the only water in New York with a 6-fish limit. Overall good recruitment through recent years suggests adult walleye abundance and fishing quality will remain high for the next several years. There are even walleye from the exceptional 2003 year-class still hanging around, giving anglers a chance to catch trophy-sized walleye, with some exceeding 30 inches.

Oneida Lake

man holding up walleye from Lake Erie
Mike DiSarno with an impressive 25-inch walleye he caught from the Lower Niagara River. NYSDEC Photo

Oneida Lake is New York’s most popular walleye fishery, and according to Cornell University researchers who have studied the lake for over 60 years, the walleye population is on the rise. Currently estimated at approximately 1,000,000 fish, the adult walleye population is the largest it has been since the late 1980s due to strong year classes in 2010 and 2014. All indications are that there is another strong year class from 2016 that will push the walleye population up even higher. The abundant population has supported great walleye fishing over the last several years with angler catch rates indicative of a high-quality fishery. Fishing may even get better, as the 2019 targeted open water season catch rate was the highest seen in almost a decade and exceeded levels characteristic of an excellent fishery.

To help manage the fishery, more than 150 million walleye fry are annually stocked in the lake, and there is a reduced daily possession limit of 3 walleye per day.

Chautauqua Lake

Chautauqua Lake is a large, productive lake in western New York that provides a diverse mix of warm- and cool-water fishing opportunities, including for black bass, crappie, yellow perch, sunfish, and muskellunge. Despite the many options, anglers prefer walleye there, and for good reason. After a sharp decline during the early to mid-2000s, the walleye population has been steadily increasing since 2012 due to the implementation of a special fishing regulation (3 fish per day, 18-inch minimum length) and a walleye stocking program (2004-2015). Both the stocking program and special regulation were discontinued after two exceptional year classes were documented in 2014 and 2015. Recent survey results indicate that good recruitment of these year classes has created a highly abundant adult walleye population with an average size of 18 inches. There is also a good number of trophy-sized walleye in Chautauqua Lake, and angler reports of 30-inch plus walleye in the 8 to 10-pound range are not uncommon. The strong numbers of walleye in the lake combined with an overly abundant forage base suggest that the opportunity to catch a trophy walleye should only increase over the next decade. If this isn’t exciting enough, another very strong year class (2018), the second-highest on record, was found during a recent 2019 fall survey, suggesting that Chautauqua Lake should provide a high-quality walleye fishery for the next 7 to 10 years.

More information on New York’s many walleye fishing destinations here.

Find tips on fishing for walleye here.

 

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

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

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!

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.

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

 

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.

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

 

 

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

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.

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.

 

 

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

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.

 

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
 

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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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.

 

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!

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
 

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!

Baked Fish, Easy Recipe, Simply DELICIOUS!

  • This recipe works for any medium-thick fillet (1/2″ – 1″), including walleye, salmon, trout, even bass
  • Simple ingredients, easy preparation, indescribable deliciousness
  • Can also be prepared on the grill, simply use heavy-duty aluminum foil instead of the baking dish
We like this healthy, delicious dinner meal with a dinner salad and a small portion of carbohydrates, like cooked noodles, brown rice or a sliced red potato. Add a squeeze of your favorite tropical fruit as an option, like this sweet Florida juice orange from Lee County, Fl.  Undescribable deliciousness!

By Fern Fisher

Ingredients:

  • Pam spray or Olive Oil
  • Hellman’s real mayonnaise
  • 1 large salmon fillet (you can use any fish fillet)
  • 1 sweet white onion
  • ½ tsp ea of ground thyme, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Pinch of Black Pepper
  • 1 fresh orange, lime or lemon
  • Source of 375F heat (grill ofr oven)

When we met with winter friends in Fort Myers, Florida –  after their return from a trip to an Alaskan island in the middle of salmon season, they honored our get-together with a few vacuum-packed frozen silver salmon fillets. It was a mouth-watering trip all the way back to our kitchen, just thinking about this special-gift dinner! This recipe is so simple and so delicious. Try it!

  1. Spray middle area of a baking dish of size to hold the fillet with olive oil or Pam. Place the fish fillet skin side down in the baking dish and spread a thin coating Hellman’s mayo to the top of the fillet.
  2. Slice the onion thin and place several pieces across the fish on top of the mayo.
  3. Dry mix the ground thyme, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt with the bread crumbs and lightly disperse over the fillet.
    Once the mayo, onions, and seasonings are in place, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place into the oven set at 375 for 35-40 minutes.

     

  4. Preheat the oven to 375 and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.
  5. Place the fish into the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the fish fillet turns white. Remove from the oven, use a spatula to cut into portion size pieces and serve the fish. At your option, squeeze the juice of an orange, lime or lemon, your personal preference, over the fillet portion on your plate.
  6. We like this healthy and delicious dinner meal with a small dinner salad and a small portion of carbohydrates like cooked noodles, brown rice or sliced red potato.

Enjoy!

Mmmm, so good.

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.