Lake trout fishing often seems like a contest to see who can go deeper and farther from shore, but as the old saying goes, “there’s a time and a place for everything”. During and just after ice out on Lake Michigan there’s an opportunity to catch lunker lakers in fairly shallow water (10 – 30 feet) and you won’t need a second mortgage to put gas in your boat to find them. The Milwaukee Harbor is just one good example of where you can use tactics more common with walleye fishing to locate near-shore trout.
When the water warms and ice begins to break free of winter’s grasp it doesn’t do so evenly. There are several factors that eat away at the ice in a protected harbor. The Milwaukee River, like virtually all rivers and streams running into Lake Michigan, is warmer than the lake water. So is any outflow from power plants, water treatment facilities, and storm sewer runoff. That warmer water, especially when corralled and guided by the protective break walls, is an attractant for baitfish, and baitfish tend to attract baitfish eaters – like trout. It’s easier to reach these fish because they come up from their mid-winter depths of 100 feet or more to feed on the abundant and shallow prey population. Sure, down-riggers are handy for keeping minnow imitators like Bombers and Rapalas close to the bottom, but on a mid-April trip with Captain Steve Everts we had just as many hookups on inexpensive and easy to operate planer boards with about 75 yards of line running behind them.
It’s best to think like a walleye angler for strategy. Your depth finder will be showing occasional rock piles and other bottom debris that’s a magnet for hungry lakers. We scoped more fish hanging near
those features than out in the mud flats, so it’s a good idea to target them often. Laker trout tend to hang in small schools and an area that produces one or two fish on a slow trolling pass, typically under 2 m.p.h., is worth hitting a second or third time. We didn’t bother to mess with dodgers or spinner blades – just a simple snap swivel on the crankbait and a detachable bell sinker rigged about 30 feet farther up the line was trolled behind a planer board. The fish tend to be fairly aggressive so getting a good hook set without having to yank the rod is the norm.
Lake trout are long-lived fish so consider releasing those fat 15 – 40 pounders that may be as old as 30 years. They don’t grow on trees so keep a conservation ethic. Also, early spring is no time to be taking chances with the weather. Wear a life vest and if the wind kicks up have the sense to fish within the protective confines of the break wall. By the way, it’s not just lakers that know about the candy store being open for business – an added bonus might be a big brown trout or even an occasional steelhead that’s answering the dinner bell. And you can’t beat a 2 – 4 lb. coho salmon if you need a few good eating fish to take home for dinner. We hooked into all 4 species in less than 2 hours.
If you need a quick cure for cabin fever, you might want to try early season open water on the protected ports of the Great Lakes. The fish seem as anxious to get the season rolling as you.
No, “hey bartender” is not the correct answer to this question, but the actual answer to this question is really based on what you are trying to accomplish with the call. At its base, calling a gobbler in is the most rewarding part of the hunt with the exception of sitting around the table with all the family enjoying the harvested bird. It is also the most tried and true method among Turkey hunters and one in which skill with a turkey call becomes a vital part of the hunt.
Before we get into the types of calls used and the circumstances surrounding the use of the call, it is important to understand that calling poorly can be as detrimental to a hunt as walking through the field with your radio blasting an anthology of Van Halen tunes. The most adept of turkey hunters can easily move through the woods and take their share of Gobblers without the use of a call, so in addition to being proficient with the call, the hunter must all have an understanding of Wild Turkey habits and be a skilled woodsman as well.
The first part of Turkey hunting is finding the birds, and as so many of us begin our turkey hunting careers by sitting in a blind at some ungodly hour, we will start our discussion with locator calls. Locator calls are used to draw a response from a bird, thereby giving away his position, without alerting him to yours. Turkeys are known to respond to loud noises such as thunder or the noises made by other animals. I was once sitting in a blind in the dark on the edge of a southern Wisconsin field when a coyote began to howl. About a second or two later it seemed like the entire woods had become the Turkey boy choir as Tom’s began gobbling from every direction. Many calls on the market today are made to simulate other animals, such as crows, and owls, and even thunder has been know to cause the Turkey to respond. Wild Turkeys can hear your call a long way off and it’s important to keep your calls short, keep very quiet and immediately listen for even the faintest response. The response to this type of call is referred to as a “shock gobble” as it is a fear reflex.
I have had very good success the night before a hunt using an owl locator call and standing in an area where I have previously seen Turkeys late in the afternoon. If I can pinpoint a direction and distance to a response, I can set up a blind in an area that I feel the turkeys will fly down to or will want to pass during their morning habits. I my predictions are correct I can usually then wait for them to come or use another type of call to bring them into range.
Turkey Calls that are intended draw the little beasties into range may be in the form of what is called a friction call or a mouth call. Both are capable of simulating the various yelps, clucks purrs and putts that Turkeys use to communicate with one another. Friction calls are probably easier to use but both have their advantages or detractions. I have found that since I am probably the most tone deaf person around the box call works the best for me; however it requires a bit more movement in its use and then placing it down when a bird moves in. It is quite simple to use although some practice is required to properly make the variety of sounds used in various situations. There are numerous other types of friction turkey calls such as the slate and peg call and the push pull box. At some point it becomes a matter of preference and proficiency.
Diaphragm calls are another extremely popular call and are considered the most versatile of all Turkey calls. These types of calls are merely reeds strung across a frame shaped in a “U” and then placed in the mouth. Many hunters prefer this call as it is small, relatively inexpensive and can be used on an approaching bird with no visible movement. The only disadvantage for this type of Turkey call is it could be difficult to learn to use properly. Many Diaphragm calls on the market today come with a CD that demonstrates the various sounds, which makes its mastery quite a bit easier.
Although there are many other types of excellent Turkey calls on the market, these are by far the most popular. I would suggest practice with these types of calls to get a good knowledge of not only what the sounds should be like, but also when to use them. Again, a poor call can ruin a Wild Turkey Hunting experience. It’s also important not to practice calling in those areas you or others wish to hunt as once again, poor calling and overcalling can have a negative effect.
Spring is in the air; trees are budding, flowers are blooming. Days are longer, blessing us with more active waking hours to spend outdoors with family and friends. Now the question becomes not ‘where’ to spend your free time, but ‘how’. If hiking and biking have become commonplace and stale in your household, maybe it’s time you consider partaking in an outdoor adventure everyone in the family can participate in regardless of age or fitness level. There are few activities that fit this description as well as geocaching. While you may not be familiar with the term geocaching, once you learn the basics, it’s hard to resist.
As outlined on one of the major websites on the subject, geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played all over the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. To check out geocaches located within your area, visit www.geocaching.com, enter your zip code and read about the caches hidden right in your own backyard. If your treasure hunting options are limited, you may consider being the one to hide a cache for others to find. This is a fun project for kids to get involved in; they can help choose the items that will go in the cache, set up the logbook to accompany it, and look forward to tracking it via any of the online sites or going back later in the season to read the logbook and see how often it was found.
What sort of equipment do you need to enjoy geocaching? The great thing about this pastime is that it requires a minimal amount of equipment; a basic GPS will serve the purpose and can be picked up on eBay or Amazon at a marginal cost. If you’re just starting out, buy an affordably priced used model until you become comfortable with using it and decide whether or not geocaching will become a hobby. Other than the GPS to hone in on the coordinates during your hike, you need not be outfitted with anything more than comfortable shoes, appropriate clothing, a day pack to hold your water, a snack, first aid kit and camera (don’t forget the camera!).
So if you’re looking for a new way to get out and enjoy the outdoors, check out geocaching at
www.geocaching.com for more on the subject as well as supplies used to initiate your own treasure hunt.
Two very nice Blackfin Tuna caught just outside of Bouynton Beach inlet in South Florida. According to the angler who sent us this picture. He was drifting live Pilchards and caught these along with several King Mackeral and 1 Sailfish.
Although using blinds and decoys are not essential in pursuit for the majority of turkey hunting, they do provide an incredible edge when used properly and in the right situations. They can in some instances be the added factor that will make a hunt successful and in other occasions be the factor that keeps a wary gobbler from coming into range. A blind is designed to conceal motion and is a great piece of equipment for those who plan on Turkey Hunting by sitting in one spot for prolonged periods of time. It is also a great tool when teaching youngsters about turkey hunting or for those who may a bit fidgety or have trouble sitting still.
A Turkey blind need not be an elaborate piece of high tech equipment with all the bells and whistles of deer blinds. It should be noted that if your blind is to do double duty as a blind in which you will be hunting animals with exceptional sense of smell such as deer or wild boar, you may want to consider upgrading to a blind that contains some manner of scent protection. There are many wonderful blinds sold in all the best sporting goods stores and you need only think about where you will be doing a lot of your hunting to decide which may be best for you. Take into consideration if you hunt alone, the ease of which you can maneuver your shotgun and the profile of the blind. Also make sure that you have enough view to sides as it happens so often that as you are watching a Jake stroll in from the front, that a 4 year old gobbler is standing 15 yards to your side. The Blind that I shot my first Wild Turkey from was merely a collection of branches and twigs laid out under a large tree, two feet inside from the edge of a large field. The tree was big enough to provide support for myself and my friend who was calling for me, and had enough break up cover behind us for added camouflage.
The previously mentioned Turkey Blind is quite often constructed the evening before a hunt after gaining a good idea of where the birds might be roosting for the evening. This is accomplished by either visually seeing the birds entering the woods towards dusk or using Wild Turkey calls to try and elicit a response from an edgy gobbler, and then constructing some manner of Turkey Blind in a position that you feel the Birds will either fly down to, or need to travel in the course of their morning habits. When constructing this type of natural Wild Turkey blind you may also want to pace off about 20 yards in order to get a good idea of distance for when the birds come in. Do not forget to check any possible shooting lanes for obstructions, so bring along a pair of gardening shears to remove any small branches or weeds that may cost you a shot. You also need to make sure you mark the area in some way so you can find your Turkey blind easily and not tip off your presence.
In regards to the Wild Turkey Decoy, at the beginning stages of my Turkey hunting career I was probably a bit too dependant on the use of decoys as I had little confidence in my own abilities. As time progressed and I understood how to hunt wild turkeys, I became less dependant on the decoys, and more on my understanding of how Wild Turkeys in various areas and hunting pressure may react. It is important to understand why to use a decoy. Depending upon the terrain and your ability to call a turkey in, the gobbler may not come within range if he cannot identify a hen or other bird as the source of the call. If he can identify the bird making the sounds he may be more apt to come into range and begin his display. In some areas, as was the case during a few Missouri Turkey hunting trips, the birds are so heavily hunted that use of a decoy can be about as detrimental to your hunt as bad calling. When properly used the Turkey decoy can not only lure birds within range but keep them in the area longer, increasing the chances of a big gobbler strolling in. The key again is to know what a Wild Turkey is looking for at what time of the year. One fall Turkey hunting trip near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a friend and I sat in a small blind we had picked up at Gander Mountain that day and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee while several hens meandered around our other decoys and even took turns napping for about an hour.
Finally, when determining what type of decoy to purchase, your local sporting goods store can be a great source of information, but keep in mind what a Wild Turkey is best at, seeing motion, so in addition to buying a life like Turkey decoy, also try and find one that may have some natural motion when there is a bit of breeze or can be made to move by some other influence. Remember, that you will be carrying these decoys into the woods and perhaps for several miles so weight and ease of carrying should enter into your decision as well. There ya have it! Enough information to get you started on using blinds and decoys for this years Wild Turkey hunting experience.
More and more people than ever before are hitting the national parks and local campgrounds for a relatively inexpensive way in a difficult economic period to enjoy the great outdoors and spend time with family and friends. With experience short hikes may turn into overnights and a good night’s sleep can make the difference between planning you next expedition and making reservations and the nearest super 8 motel. We’ve decided to begin our series of articles on camping equipment with sleeping bags. This is the bare minimum information but should get you started searching for the sleeping bag that suits you best.
Sleeping bags are most commonly made using either down or synthetic materials as insulation, each has its important points to consider before making a purchase. Sleeping bags that utilize down for insulation generally provide more warmth for their weight and can be compacted into a smaller volume than synthetic sleeping bags. Did I mention how wonderful it feels to crawl inside a down sleeping bag at the end of a long day? The downside, pardon my pun, is that they are also quite a bit more expensive and if they get wet, you may as well be lying in a wet rag. You can take many precautions against getting a down sleeping bag wet such as good insulators such as DryLoft, but chances are if you camp or live in area prone to moisture or wet climates, it will get damp. If for whatever the reason including condensation caused by breathing in the tent, you are prone to moisture buildup, the synthetic sleeping bag may be the choice for you.
The shell fabric can go along way in saving you from a miserable night in the tent and should play a considerable role in which sleeping bag you purchase. For those who are merely the occasional camper and are constrained buy a tight budget, the shell material of choice might be polyester and nylon taffeta. Nylon Taffeta has a reputation for being resistant to abrasion, while the polyester taffeta does a great job in standing up to the menacing effects of ultra violet rays. The poly taffeta also will absorb less moisture than the nylon.
The next level of fabric choice for the shell would be microfiber. This will cost more than the previously mentioned fabrics but also offers more in protection and resistance from both wind and moisture. It is a good choice for tent campers in the mid range but brings us to the next level of shell known as DryLoft.
The cost of purchasing a DryLoft sleeping bag is higher than the other two materials and with the increase in price there is also an increase of the overall weight of the bag. You will however now have the ultimate in wind protection and breathability with a substantial increase in water-resistance. If you are the type of camper who likes to sleep outside on a cool night and gaze at the stars, this might be the sleeping bag for you.
Cheka of Eau Claire, Wisconsin proudly displays his Prize, a North Dakota, Pheasant!
Cheka is a product of Tainter Creek Brittanys of Soldiers Grove WI. This picture is what Pheasant hunting is all about.