What’s that Noise? Stay Safe on the Ice This Winter!

  • Talk to locals, bait shops, learn where the usual unsafe ice is located
  • Four inches of ice, minimum, for people and gear…not an ATV 
  • Simple Common Sense will usually prevent ice-fishing accidents
Safety should be first and foremost with fishermen. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. Mike Wec Photo

By Jason Houser
Ice fishing is supposed to be a good time during the winter months while we wait for the first signs of the thaw to arrive. However, every year ice fishermen fall victim to thin ice and the danger of falling through, then not knowing measures to take if that worst-case scenario happens.

There are precautions an outdoorsman can take to prevent falling through weak ice. Unfortunately, no matter how careful we are on the ice, there is always the risk of getting wet in these sub-freezing waters that can quickly take one’s life, especially if they do not know what to do in case of that unintended emergency. This article is intended to help prevent accidents and what to do should one occur.
One of the biggest reasons for people going through the ice is that they get on hard water that is not thick enough to support them and their equipment. Four inches of clear ice is the bare minimum for a person to safely walk on. An ATV or snowmobile will take at least five inches of ice, and a vehicle will require eight inches, with twelve being better. A lot of things can factor into whether ice is safe or not, and these are only guidelines. Early and late in the season is often the most dangerous times to be on ice.

Each body of water has its known danger areas. If you are going to be on winter water that you are not familiar with, check with locals who know where the problem ice might be. They can provide a lot of valuable information.

Even though I stated what the thickness of ice should be when driving on it, try not to drive a highway vehicle on it if possible. If you must take a drive, keep the windows rolled down and your seat belt off. Remember that a car or truck can be replaced, so do not hesitate to leave it in a hurry if things go awry.

Safety should be first and foremost with fishermen. Do not venture onto the ice unless it is at least 4 to 6 inches thick. This is the minimum thickness that will safely support a person and their gear. Keep in mind that snow weakens the stability of the ice. Do not test just one area of the ice and assume that it will be the same depth at all areas of the lake, reservoir or pond – it might not be.
Ice fishing accidents can quickly become deadly. Do not ice fish alone. Always have someone with you and let people back at the house know where you will be and when you expect to return. That way, if you do not return on time, they know exactly where to go and look for you.
Also, frostbite and hypothermia are concerns that ice fishermen must be aware of. You must be alert as to the amount of time you are on the ice and the weather conditions while you are fishing. Do not get overwhelmed with all the excitement and stay out too long.

Below are five more ice fishing safety recommendations:

  1. Wear a warm hat that covers your ears. In cold weather, 75 to 80 percent of heat loss from the body occurs from an uncovered head.
  2. Go with a partner and stay separated when going to and from fishing spots in case one of you falls through the ice.
  3. Carry a rope to throw if someone falls through the ice, go out to that person only as a last resort.
  4. Test the ice ahead of you with an ice spud bar or an auger.
  5. Do not leave children unsupervised.
Ice fishing is meant to be fun, not a dangerous situation. Mike Wec Photo

Ice fishing is meant to be an enjoyable time in the outdoors. Practice safety on the ice…always. The advice in this article will prevent many accidents from occurring, but the best danger prevention is simply common sense.

If something doesn’t look safe, stay away.

There will be plenty of opportunities to step out on the ice.

Does Your Venison Taste Awful? How NOT to Let It Happen Again

  • DO carry a small, sharp, pocketknife, DO NOT use a bone saw of any type
  • DO make a good shot, DO field dress quickly, DO watch the temperature
  • DO thaw frozen venison slowly for best taste

By Jason Houser

When grinding burger, we add beef fat at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds venison per pound of fat).

I hear people all the time say they do not like the taste of deer. Some people say that just because they know what they are eating and have a preconceived notion that it will not be good. Others have legit gripes. Mainly due to poor handling by the hunter from the time of the kill up until it was cooked.

This often results in gamey, tough meat.

Here are some tips to help combat bad-tasting venison:

  • Hunting in the real world is not like the Outdoor Channel portrays it to be. Hunters make bad shots from time to time and the deer has to be tracked for a while. Shot placement and the stress the animal received while being trailed plays a significant role in gamey meat. The faster a deer dies, the sooner it can be field dressed. This will reduce the amount of acid that builds up in the deer’s muscles. Concentrate on making a good shot with bow or firearm.
  • Hunters often fail to get the deer cooled as quickly as possible. The first step it to field dress the animal immediately. When possible, wash out the cavity with cool water, but be sure to dry the cavity out as the water to avoid creating a breeding ground for bacteria. If the temperatures outside are in the mid-40s or less, it’s OK to let the deer hang. Anything warmer and the deer needs to hang in a walk-in cooler, or it needs to get skinned, quartered and put on ice if you do not have a walk-in.
  • A whitetail deer is not hard to quarter.
    If at all possible, process your own deer to ensure it is handled properly and then you know you get all your venison back in return.

    Because of how joint and tissue are held together with a deer, a simple pocketknife will have a deer quartered quicker than you might think. However, if you use a saw of any type to cut through bone, it allows bone marrow and small pieces of bone shavings to get from the saw to the meat. Stick with a sharp knife and your meat will be free of small bone pieces that can contaminate the meat.

  • Growing up as a kid, I can remember how much my dad loved the taste of fat from a good cut of beef. The same DOES NOT hold true with deer fat. Simply stated, deer fat tastes awful. It is not red meat, cut it off before it is made into steaks or burgers. This includes all fat AND silver skin.
  • Recently, I began using cutting boards from John Boos & Company for this, particularly their Northern Hard Rock Maple cutting boards. The antimicrobial properties of these cutting boards actually kill bacteria, making them one of the cleanest and safest cutting boards on the market for hunters like you and me. A lot of home processors are concerned with contamination, by using this type of cutting board a lot of worries can be washed away.

    The antimicrobial properties of John Boos & Co. Northern Hard Rock Maple boards actually kill bacteria.
  • Every year before deer season begins, we call the local butcher shop for an order of beef suet. Even though we removed all of the deer fat, we need to add some sort of fat, whether beef or pork, when grinding it. If this is not done the lean venison will quickly fall apart when making burgers, meatloaf, etc. We add beef fat at a ratio of 3:1 (three pounds venison per pound of fat).
  • If you have the means, the time and the knowledge I recommend processing all your deer yourself.
    Good venison starts immediately upon the harvest.

    When you take a deer to a meat locker, you cannot be sure how the meat is handled, or if you even get your own deer back. For all you know you could be getting someone else’s deer back that was gut-shot and not properly handled after the shot. If you have to take a deer to a processor, research the facility by talking to other hunters who have used it, and also speak with the workers. Hopefully, they will be honest with you.

  • Do not overcook venison. Cooking deer for too long causes it to become chewy and dry. Venison is best prepared to medium-rare, but the outside needs to be cooked. To accomplish this, the grill must be hot enough to quickly sear the outside and lock in the flavors and juices. Turn your venison only once, and if there are no grill marks on the steak or burgers after three minutes or so, the grate is not hot enough.
  • Freezer-burned food, whether it is venison or other food, does not taste good. Some people use a vacuum sealer, but if you go this route, buy a good one. A cheap one will not seal properly and then will not keep the food fresh. When we butcher our deer, we make wrapping the meat a family affair with all involved. We put one-pound portions of burger in sandwich bags and the steaks and roasts are wrapped with plastic wrap (air isolator). After the plastic wrap, it is then wrapped again with good freezer paper and taped closed. We write on each package what cut of meat, who killed it and the date of the kill.

I hope this advice helps you have a meal that tastes great. A couple of other quick tips is the younger the deer, the better, more tender it will be. But this might not settle well with trophy hunters.

KEY POINTS:

  • What many cooks do not know is to thaw venison slowly to prevent toughness
  • Serve venison hot and keep the remainder hot to prevent it from getting a waxy taste.

Wisconsin Bear Hunt – Worth the Wait

  • Plan your Wisconsin hunt for a select zone- do the homework to identify the zone for success
  • Be patient, collect priority points for several consecutive years to score on zone selection
  • Research the guide, the gear, the location, and weather forecast…then count your blessings, control your aim

By Jason Houser

Showing up on trail camera photos frequently, this bear quickly became the author’s hit list bear.

If you are looking to bear hunt in Wisconsin, you need to start planning early. Years early, if you want to hunt in a zone with a lot of bears and a good chance for success.

After stacking up points for six years, I knew that I had enough points to put in for application on my seventh year for Zone D. This zone has a lot of bears and the success rate runs high. It is the only zone in Wisconsin that raised their harvest quota for the 2019 bear season while the rest lowered harvest quotas.

I settled on Big Bear Guide Service out of Iron River, WI. After talking with the owner Keith Holly and checking his references, I knew he was as good as they come, not only in Wisconsin but likely of any black bear guide in the United States or Canada.

Watching the weather on the days leading up to our hunt, it became clear that the weather would not be in our favor. High winds with strong thunderstorms, it would not be as suitable for us to be sitting or for the bears to be moving.

Opening day finally arrived and my wife and I went our separate ways. As predicted, the weather was not in our favor. The rain continued throughout the morning as strong thunderstorms were quickly approaching.

The forecast radar showed the rain ending early afternoon, but the winds would continue at about 13 mph. Because the storm and the rain were ending, I decided to return to my blind around noon to be there when the feeding frenzy might begin.

A few hours passed and at four-thirty the hoped-for feeding binge still wasn’t happening. Uncomfortable due to the cold temperatures and strong winds, I decided to keep pushing forward. Trail camera photos told me three bears routinely showed up around five every evening and I hoped that would hold true for this post-storm evening too. I had my eyes set on one particular bear that carried a beautiful “white blaze” on his chest.

At two minutes past five, I look up to see a black blob moving through the trees. Finally, a bear was visiting me.

Cautiously, the bear maneuvered around the bait, testing the wind with his discriminating nose. Satisfied he was not in any danger, the bear made easy work of knocking over the stump containing the cookie wafers he came to love in the weeks leading up to this day.

When the bear turned towards me to scent-check the area I knew it was the bear I was after. It wasn’t the biggest bear that ever visited the site, but the “white blaze” pattern below his chin and the long black coat was a dead give away. It was the bear I had hoped to have an opportunity for.

With the stump on its side and the sweet contents spread on the ground, the bear quickly began his evening meal. A few seconds passed with the bear having his back to me. My Carbon Express crossbow was shouldered, waiting for the perfect broadside shot.

Watching the bear through my Sightmark Core SX scope, he slowly began to circle. Knowing my shot opportunity was about to happen, I flipped the safety off and waited for the shot.

The Carbon Express crossbow and bolts partnered with Warhead broadheads from Rocky Mountain put the bear down quickly. Jason Bisby Photo

Stopping perfectly broadside to me, the bear put his head down for another snack. I quickly lined up the illuminated red crosshair for the perfect lung shot, settled my nerves the best I could and squeezed the trigger. The Carbon Express bolt flew true and with a loud thud, the bear fell for a split second before regaining his composure and bounding into the dense forest.

Within minutes, our guide and my wife Lotte and friend Jason Bisby were all on location. Telling the story of how everything went down, we decided to go to where the bear was standing when I took the shot.

Bright red blood was immediately noticeable as was half of my broken arrow. Looking through the thick vegetation it looked like someone took a red paint bucket and threw it all over the leaves and ground.

The bear ran less than 30-yards before toppling over. Years of waiting went into my first bear hunt ever and it lasted less than a day.

The author was all smiles after his first bear.  Jason Bisby Photo

The bear was not one of the giants from the area, but weighing in at 187-pounds I was quite proud of my first-time accomplishment. It might be a while before I can make it to Wisconsin to hunt bears again, but I will start the process all over again for collecting preference points until I have enough to be drawn in a predictably good zone.

In the meantime, there are other states where I can hunt bears.

Yep, I have bear-fever.

 

Simple E-Z to DO Alternatives for Game Meat

  • Burger, steaks, roasts, stew meat, and ribs are all fine and dandy, maybe you want more
  • It’s easy to put breakfast sausage, summer sausage, jerky, and other novelties in the freezer
  • What to do, where to buy supplies, how to process your game meat
Forget about the “gamey” taste of a big buck with these simple alternatives to regular cuts of meat. Photo: Eastman Outdoors

By Jason Houser

As hunters, we don’t have to hunt for the need to put food on the table like our ancestors once did. Today, we hunt for the joy of being outdoors, the thrill of the hunt, making memories, and much more. The food on the table is a bonus, a great gift, that many hunters look forward to for 12 months out of the year.

Many hunters like to process their own wild game. I fall into that category, enjoying the accomplishment of completing the process of taking the meat from the field to the table. It can get messy and take some time, but the payoff is worth it.

Too many hunters are not taking advantage of all the possibilities when it comes to processing their game. Sure, the old standbys like the burger, steaks, roasts, stew meat, and ribs are all fine and dandy, but you don’t have to stop there.

What if you could put breakfast sausage, summer sausage, jerky, and other novelties in the freezer? These foods are just as good, if not better than what a meat processor could do for you, or what you could purchase at the store. And, if you’re concerned with the “gamey” taste associated with a big buck, these simple foods take any strong-taste worry away.

These sausage novelty projects are straightforward and simple, and chances are the recipe will call for ground burger meat. Or, maybe you have an abundance of old ground meat in your freezer and are looking for some alternative uses. With added seasonings and possibly having to adjust the amount of fat to the burger mix, you will be well on your way to enjoy some excellent alternatives to the old standbys most of us are accustomed to with game meat.

Summer sausage is a favorite for many hunters.

Often, much of the food like brats, hot dogs, summer sausage, and other items, will require a sausage stuffer. Sausage stuffers can be purchased separately from your grinder, but most of today’s meat grinders come with the equipment needed to double as a sausage stuffer. If you don’t have a sausage stuffer, a manual hand crank stuffer will suffice for home use. The #10 meat grinder from Eastman Outdoors is equipped with everything you need to grind the meat as well as all your stuffing needs.

I have tried a couple of different sausage and jerky brands, but my brand of choice is Eastman Outdoors. Not to say the others are not good, but Eastman Outdoors has an enormous assortment to choose from, tastes excellent, and their supplies are user-friendly.

If you choose to make meat sticks, brats, summer sausage and other foods that require casings, make sure you purchase the correct type and size of casings for the recipe you are following. Casings come in several sizes and materials. For example, collagen casings are edible and are often used for hot dogs and brats. Fibrous casings, on the other hand, are not edible. These types of casings are used for foods like bologna, summer sausage and pepperoni. Double-check what you are purchasing to make sure it will work for the project you are doing.

A manual stuffer is much cheaper than an electric stuffer. Photo: Eastman Outdoors

When you use a grinder/sausage stuffer, there are some things you should know before you begin to make the process go smoothly.

Place the metal parts into the freezer ahead of time: plates, knife, head, auger, and tray. When the parts are cold, they will do a better job grinding the meat. The same with the meat. Keep it as cold as possible without freezing. Try to not touch the meat except when needed. Your hands put off heat.

Many recipes are going to call for an 80/20, 85/15, or 90/10 blend of meat/fat. To do this, you’ll need some help from another source, as your particular cut of meat may be too lean. Purchase beef or pork fat from your local butcher and keep it frozen until you’re ready to grind.

As soon as the meat begins to slow, or come out mushy, stop grinding and remove the sinew build-up from the knife and auger. Then, replace your newly cleaned auger, knife, and plate. The buildup will cause the meat to warm— and warm meat is never a good thing.

Making delicious foods from home with just a grinder, sausage stuffer and the ready-to-use kits for specialty food-making is a breeze.

Stop eating the same old deer meat and get creative this season. You’ll be glad you did.

Sweat Equity: Fertilizer Foundation for GIANT DEER

Turkeys, deer and other wildlife will appreciate the hard work you put into it and you will, hopefully, enjoy a successful hunt.

By Jason Houser

As much as we autumn-time deer hunters would like to throw some fertilizer under an oak tree and a few weeks later, have it rain to see results, acorns will cause many hunters to be disappointed. The first or even the second fall after you begin fertilizing will not produce exceptional amounts of acorns. It is usually the third fall before hunters start seeing results from their hard work. But even on the third fall, things can go wrong and you can have very low, if any acorns.

When deciding what trees to fertilize, my first choice is white oaks, followed by red oaks. White oaks are preferred by most wildlife because they not as bitter tasting as reds. However, if white oak trees are not available, deer, turkeys and other wildlife will have no qualms eating acorns from red oaks.

Finding the best oaks could be as simple as taking a look at the area you hunt from a distance. It will not be hard to pick out the tallest oaks on the property. These big, tall oaks that stand higher than everything else in the forest will receive the most sunlight, therefore, allowing them to produce a lot of mast (as much as 20,000 acorns). Oak trees do not have to be in the woods to work as a feeding station for deer. For example, many cattle pastures have oaks growing by their lonesome selves. Because of their solitude from other trees, they have the potential to produce an abundance of acorns.

Fertilizing trees is actually a simple task once you have decided what trees to fertilize. I recommend using a granular fertilizer of 13-13-13 in the spring though fertilizer spikes made especially for fruit or shade trees from any nursery work well too. Follow the directions on the packaging.

A good fertilizer program can result in a bountiful crop of acorns.

If using granular fertilizer, use two pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of crown (leaf shadow looking straight down). Say, the tree you are fertilizing has a crown of 90 x 90 feet, which is 8,100 square feet; the tree will need about 16 pounds of fertilizer. For best results, apply the fertilizer at the tree’s drip line to within five feet of the tree’s trunk. The drip line is the outer edge of the tree’s limbs. If the area has a lot of leaves and other types of debris on the ground, rake it away before applying the fertilizer. For even spreading, use a hand spreader to apply the fertilizer.

Typically, it takes until the third crop before you see an increase in acorn production. And, depending on a number of things, things such as freezing temperatures and winds during the early spring flowering stage, such factors can prevent a good acorn crop for that year. Or, maybe, the trees did not produce mast for that year. Hopefully, you have fertilized enough trees so if a couple of trees do not produce, you have standbys.

Also, all I have talked about is the effects of what fertilizer has on oak trees. The same techniques I have described for fertilizing the white oak will also work for other mast trees, both hard and soft. These trees are the red oak, sawtooth oak, Chinese chestnut, persimmon, apple, and crabapple and pear trees. You don’t have to have a green thumb to make a difference in what is available for wildlife to eat. All that is required is patience and the desire to attract deer to where you desire.

There are several ways a landowner can learn more about habitat management. One of those ways is through Donnie Buckland, NWTF private lands manager: dbuckland@nwtf.net. Secondly, QDMA has some great information on habitat management and even offers hands-on courses that are jam-packed full of information.

 

LOWA Hunter GTX® EVO – Extreme Review

  • The 1st Boot Question is always: Are they comfortable?
  • Then, depending on where you plan to hunt: Will the boots keep me warm if it’s cold outdoors?
  • Last, and very important: Are the boots durable, waterproof, and breathable?
The Hunter GTX® EVO Extreme from LOWA is a great boot for fall and winter.

By Jason Houser

There are a lot of things that can make or break a hunt.

Some hunters think of shot placement, the guide service proficiency, weather factors and more.

Many do not take into consideration the boots they are wearing on their hunting feet. The boots can mean everything.

For the past few months, I have been wearing the Hunter GTX® EVO Extreme from LOWA. These boots have been on my feet while Aoudad (Barbary sheep) hunting in Texas, chasing Coyotes in Missouri, Whitetail Deer in Illinois, and a lot of points in between. That’s a lot of footsteps to challenge my comfort.

Usually, I like to break my boots in before leaving the house on a hunt or outdoor excursion. Not doing so is only asking for sore feet and blisters. After trying these boots on for the first time, I felt comfortable enough to wear them hunting the next day going after my first bear ever.

These boots received a lot of use and abuse on a recent black bear hunt, deep in the wilderness of northern Wisconsin. These leather boots proved their weight in gold, as I have covered a lot of miles in them.

So, how do the folks at LOWA explain the Hunter GTX® EVO Extreme boot? “The Hunter GTX Evo Extreme is designed for hunters who are chasing big game in extremely rugged, above-tree-line terrain. With an extra-high shaft for superb ankle support and a high wall rubber rand for protection against abrasion, the EVO Extreme provides outstanding performance, warmth, and comfort in tough fall and winter conditions. It is compatible with strap-on crampons and snow spikes. They are durable, waterproof, and breathable.”

As a hunter, trapper, hiker, and ice fisherman that spends more time outdoors than indoors, I understand the need to be comfortable.

To me, being comfortable begins with your feet. Once my feet get cold, develop blisters or other sores, like most everyone else, I am done. I never experienced any of these problems from the first time I put them on.

Too many boots are built to last a season and be done. I can tell you that I feel comfortable that these EVO Extremes will be around for a few hunting seasons. They are constructed of the best leathers I have seen and the strong soles on the boots are made for tough terrain. And, just in case the soles wear out, LOWA can put new ones on. With minimal seams, there are fewer places for the leather to come apart than what you find on many brands of boots. Lacing up is a breeze with sturdy eyelets and the patented LOWA X-lacing holds the tongue firmly in place.

The hunt finally came to success with a beautiful black bear appeared out of the dense forest. It was a bear that I had watched many times on trail camera photos. The bear leaving the protection and cover of the forest proved to be a fatal mistake.

Lining up the crosshairs of the Sightmark crossbow scope, I settled for a 30-yard shot and squeezed the trigger of the Carbon Express.  With a thud, the bear took a direct hit and died almost instantly.

The author managed to take this nice bear while hunting in Wisconsin this past fall.

A lot of things went into making this hunt a success.  Scouting, quality bear habitat, and a lot of luck, usually are what hunters consider when it comes to being a successful hunter.  But, first and foremost, you need to protect your feet or you will not be on them long enough to get a shot off.

Trolling for Winter Crappie, Grenada Lake Style

  • Pontoon Boat crappie fishing offers spacious fun
  • Grenada Lake crappie are the biggest I have ever seen
  • Secret 20-foot long crappie rods are not imaginative, you should see the net!
Can you imagine fishing from a pontoon boat 24-feet long? The Model 824 Crappie Qwest Pontoon Boat has everything you need for fishing and more.

By Jason Houser

Are you looking for a big crappie? Well, look no further than the lake dubbed, “the home of three-pound crappie.”

Jordan Blair couldn’t be happier.

It might not have three-pound crappie hiding behind every submerged stump, but it holds its fair share of some big slabs. Not accustomed to catching crappie much over 12-inches in my home state of Illinois, the thought of catching trophy crappie was exciting. My wife, nephew, and mother were looking forward to this trip.

Our journey would be to Grenada, Mississippi to meet up with Jason Golding, owner of Grenada Lake Charters, who has decades of experience guiding clients to trophy crappie. Add-in state of the art, roomy, fishing pontoons from Angler Qwest, mouth-watering food and luxurious, yet cozy cabins, we knew we were about to embark on a fishing adventure that we would not soon forget.

Pulling up to the headquarters of Grenada Lake Charters, we found a spacious outdoor kitchen named the “Slab Shack,” it is equipped with all the amenities of a home kitchen, plus a fire pit. What more could you ask for? In no time, ribeye steaks and baked potatoes found the grill top that were soon on our plates along with fresh vegetables and bread. When you thought you had enough to eat, they brought out the homemade ice cream and pie. With full bellies, we planned out the next day’s schedule as we relaxed next to a warm fire. Soon after that, we retired for the night to a spacious “cabin” that I could have easily called home.

A grill full of perfectly-cooked ribeye steaks, does it get any better?

Having the opportunity to catch big crappie is one thing, but being able to do it in comfort is something different. Something else that was different was the act of trolling for crappies. Using 20-foot poles, we slowly maneuvered the pontoon through the stumps until a pole doubled over, raised the rod tip upward until the fish broke the water’s surface and was scooped up by an extra-long net. Admittedly, it took a little while to get used to not reeling when a fish took advantage of our minnows.

My wife, Lotte, holds up a pair of nice crappie caught while fishing with Grenada Lake Charters

Several times we had doubles and even triples. Not only that, but enough times that I lost count, the same angler was pulling in two crappies at once. Thankfully, the Model 824 Crappie Pontoon Boat by Angler Qwest provided enough room that we were able to stay out of each other’s way when things got a little hectic. Even I was able to make easy work of netting the fish. With a whopping 24-feet of pontoon boat length, it was pretty nice not having to trip over each other as we fought fish after fish.

If you have ever wanted to catch your limit of big crappie, Grenada Lake Charters are the people you need to contact They will work hard to get you on the fish. With fully exclusive packages, these trips are great for the entire family, a group of friends, or corporate events.

A warm fire on a cool autumn night was a great way to kick off the start to a great fishing trip with my family.

While this is the first time I had fished out of an Angler Qwest pontoon, I can’t say enough about these boats. I had never given any thought to fishing out of a pontoon, but have quickly become a believer in their many capabilities, even in rough water. With ample seating, plenty of storage, room to easily move about and a smooth ride, these boats are everything you need to fish or swim or picnic.  A great advantage to this boat is that they are built with the fisherman in mind, but they can be used for water skiing, entertaining, or doing absolutely nothing. These options might make it easier to convince your significant other to let you buy a “new pontoon boat for the family” without using the word “for fishing.”

Not only are crappie one of my favorite fish to eat, but the excitement of non-stop action has me already planning my next trip to Grenada Lake. And, after fishing from that Model 824 Crappie Pontoon Boat from Angler Qwest, I am doing a little more thinking about my next boat purchase.

For more info on those secretive 20-foot crappie poles, or to catch some whopper crappie just for the fun of it, give Grenada Lake Charter a holler at www.grenadalakecharters.com.  For more info about the Model 824 Crappie Pontoon Boat and other Angler Qwest Pontoons, visit www.anglerqwestpontoons.com.

The Slab Shack, the perfect outdoor kitchen.

Someone is Looking for a Little Tail, Lots of Them!

  • Wanted: Squirrel Tails
Trade your squirrel tails into fishing lures or money.

By Jason Houser

The Mepps brand of fishing lures is best known for natural hair-dressed spinners. Over the years, they have tried many types of hair, including synthetic and other natural materials, as well as the hair from Angus cowhides, bear, and fox, coyote, and badger fur. But they have never found anything better than squirrel tails, and they buy more than 250,000 tails each year, mostly from squirrel hunters.

Mepps is the leading buyer of squirrel tails.

If you shoot enough squirrels to collect a sizable pile of tails, you can make a little cash selling those tails to Mepps. But the first thing the company (and I) want to emphasize is not to shoot squirrels just for the tails. The pay isn’t that good, and it would be a wanton waste of game meat. Instead, look at the tails as a harvestable by-product from the squirrels you clean for the table. Also, you need to make sure you are not violating state laws that govern the sale and shipment of sport-harvested wildlife. California and Idaho prohibit this, and Oregon specifically forbids the sale of the western grey squirrel.

Do not split and debone the tail. Just cut the tail and freeze it or salt the butt end for air drying. Table salt or a strong saltwater solution both work well. While a salted tail is drying, make certain it hangs straight. Mepps doesn’t want tails that dry in a curved shape. Make sure flies, and other insects cannot get to drying tails, and tails that go in the freezer must be laid straight and packed loosely.

To prevent spoilage, keep tails in the freezer until the end of the season when you can either deliver them yourself or ship to the company. Dried tails can be shipped any time of year, but drop the package on a Monday, so it is less likely to sit in a handling facility over the weekend, and only ship frozen tails (that haven’t been dried) while the weather is still cold. Never put tails in a plastic bag for storage or shipment, as this can promote spoilage.

If the package is less than 10 pounds, you can ship it First Class or Priority U.S. Mail. Over 10 pounds should be shipped UPS. Mepps refunds shipping charges for 50 tails or more. Make sure your name, address, phone number, and email address are included in a letter placed inside the package. Let them know if you are willing to trade the tails for lures. If you trade, Mepps doubles the value of the tails.

Once received at Mepps, the tails are graded and sorted.

After Mepps grades the tails, they mail you a check. If you chose to trade the tails for lures, you will be contacted so you can place an order for the lures you want.

The type of squirrel, the quality of the tails, and how many are in each shipment determines what Mepps pays. Currently, a bundle of 100 or more premium tails may fetch as much as 26 cents each. Prices drop from there.

More information including pricing for specific tails may be found online at www.mepps.com if you click on the “Resource” tab at the top of the page and then click “Squirrel Tails” on the pull-down menu. A video that shows how to package and ship may be viewed on the Squirrel Tail page. Or you can address the package and ship to Sheldon’s, Inc., 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409-2496.

 

Conservation Practices are Vital

  • “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation: it is the way in which we use it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

By Jason Houser

In my view, conservation can be broken down into three subcategories: Habitat, Wildlife, and Fish. Each plays a vital role in successful conservation practices.

Within the outdoor world, there is an organization for just about every outdoor activity, whether it is the National Trappers Association, Whitetails Unlimited, Quail Forever, Muskies Inc., Pope & Young Club, or any of the many other non-profit organizations on a national and state level.

Most of these organizations play a vital role in successful conservation practices by donating millions of dollars to improve habitat, wetlands, land management policies, wildlife restoration, youth education, and more.

Conservation efforts include many things, and each has its role. Whether it prescribes burning to help shape forests to be productive for wildlife, such phrases as “habitat days” remind everyone of the importance for habitat management, federal CRP and tree programs, fish stocking programs, elk reintroduction, creating wetlands, butterfly gardens, pollinator fields, improved fish habitat and much more.

Many, if not all, of the non-profit wildlife organizations, host multiple banquets throughout the year – nationally, regionally and locally. Money raised through such banquets goes towards conservation efforts earmarked as playing a vital role in continued successful conservation and wildlife efforts.

It is up to outdoorsmen and women to help sustain these efforts. Even though it is a group effort, it is up to each individual to get involved. Become members of these organizations and find out what you can do. It is not always about the money, but the time you can donate to help their efforts succeed, educating others, volunteering at banquets and events, and more.

Many of their websites provide great information on how you can help. Whether it is gathering Christmas trees after the holiday to introduce to ponds and lakes to create restorative habitat for fish, providing cover for ground-nesting birds, performing a prescribed burn, or one of the many other tasks they recommend, it’s just a click or phone call away.

These conservation programs reach every corner of the country. Each species of wildlife and fish and their respective home areas are affected by conservation practices. As outdoorsmen and women, we can do our part to see that conservation efforts continue, and they will make a positive difference for generations to come.

To help promote conservation efforts and sustain wildlife numbers, we MUST get more people involved. One exciting way to get this done is through the “R3” program. The R3 program is the hunting industry’s emphasis on recruiting, retaining and reactivating new hunters. It’s simply pointing out to existing hunters that it is up to us to preserve our sport, and if we each put a little effort into finding, encouraging, helping, and supporting both novice and non-active hunters, anglers, trappers and others, we can grow the sport we love.

Do you know someone you can help? Visit www.nationalr3plan.com for more resources.

“It is not what we have that will make us a great nation: it is the way in which we use it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Milwaukee’s Hidden Ice-Fishing Gem

  • Fun to catch fish through the ice in a new way: “FISH ON!”
  • Ever use the ice as a live well? Learn why. Catch, Care, Release.
  • Walking (running) on the ice to a raised Flag…an Adventure!
Bait down, lines, set, it wasn’t a long wait for a flag to rise, indicating a fish.

By Jason Houser

When you think of ice fishing for big trout, the last place you probably expect to drop a line in Milwaukee.  If you haven’t experienced fishing with the Milwaukee skyline as a backdrop, you are missing out.

Getting the call from Pat Kalmerton, owner of Wolf Pack Adventures, stating he had a cancellation for a couple of days was all I needed to hear. I dropped what I was doing and pointed the truck north from my home in southern Illinois. My wife Lotte was quick to start packing, and my nephew Jordan Blair quickly jumped on board too.

Arriving in Wisconsin, the cold temperatures and snow on the ground screamed ice fishing.  It was a restless night as we anticipated with hope what the following day would bring.

Jordan Blair holds a nice trout before releasing it.

Winding our way through the streets of Milwaukee, we could only hope our GPS was taking us to where we were supposed to be.  After a few stoplights, we spotted waves bashing against a rock wall.  Then there it was, the marina had ice, and ice shanties were visible in the distance.

Roe from previously caught and released fish tied in colored mesh cloth was the bait of choice.

Parking the truck, we made the short walk to the Wolf Pack crew that already had their Frabill shacks in place, and the heaters were putting out enough heat to stay comfortable from the brutal elements outside.  Tip-ups belonging to numerous anglers dotted the ice, all with the hopes of a flag-waving proudly to signal a bite in the near future.

With an explanation from Tyler Chisholm, Jordan Bradley, and Jerrad Kalmerton what to expect throughout the morning, we went to face Mother Nature to get our rigs baited.  Our bait was going to be one of two things: shrimp or eggs that were milked from previously caught and released trout.

Having our bait lowered to the proper depth, it was just a matter of waiting.  If you like to toss a football, there is no better time to do it than when you are waiting for a tip-up to spring to life. Or, maybe grilling a burger on a portable grill better suits your taste.  Within 30 minutes, shouts of “FISH ON” came from our guides.

As they ran to the flag, we southerners gingerly made our way to the hole.  Not wanting to lose the fish, they set the hook on a fish as they patiently waited for our safe arrival.  I’m sure a few jokes were made on our behalf, but at least we didn’t fall.

My nephew Jordan was first up to bat.  Having never ice fished before, he was anxious to pull a fish through the ice.  Jerrad and Tyler did a great job coaching him as he worked the big trout to the surface.  When they realized Jordan was a little too forceful with the fish, they got him to calm down.  After a few minutes of reeling and lifting, a glimmer of silver showed right below the hole in the ice.

A makeshift Livewell was chiseled into the ice.

It was easy to realize that this was a nice trout.  Within seconds, a nice Brown Trout emerged from the hole.  The fish was quickly taken to a live well that had been chiseled into the ice.  This would be done to allow us to get the fish in water and prevent the fins from freezing, a critical practice for catch and release intentions.  Then, it was a simple task to take some fun photos of the fish, as time allowed, before releasing it back into the chilly depths of the big lake.

The action continued for the next couple hours as we caught brown trout and steelhead.  By noon, we were ready to pull our lines to get someplace that was a little warmer.  The shack was heated, but with all the action we were having throughout the morning, a seemingly permanent chill invaded our bodies.  Our hands received the brute of the punishment from wanting to get first-hand instruction on baiting the hooks and holding big chilly fish.

Throughout the course of the day, we were able to witness eggs being harvested from big trout and then releasing the fish to be caught again sometime in the future. This practice is something I have never seen or even heard of before, but it is special. It is a sustainability practice. The care that was taken with the fish to ensure survival was something I will never forget. It was a great reminder that fishing isn’t about filling the freezer, but about enjoying the catch, keeping enough for a meal, and releasing the rest.

Wolf Pack Adventures is based out of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and offers ice fishing for other species, including whitefish, walleye, panfish, and more.  Fishing out of one of their many boats from spring through fall is another option for anglers looking to land walleye, trout, salmon, musky, and more.  And, if turkey hunting suits your fancy, they do that too.

With the City of Milwaukee in the background, the fishing was exceptional.