Sunday, April 24, 2011

Catchin' Crappie

Last week I was able to find a few hours that I could get away and team up with Matt to smack some crappie on the river. Matt picked up about 3 dozen minnows and we headed out. The weather wasn't real promising as there was a 95% chance of rain that turned out to be all of a sprinkle and a cold front had moved through taking the temperature south with it.

The spot we fish on the Little River is well known and if you don't get there early, or on a week day, you are liable to have people walking all over you. There is an "S" curve in the river which pushes the bait fish, and in turn, the crappie up against the south bank where plenty of dead trees and brush abound for the fish. Here's an overview video of the immediate area.

The crappie are wrapping up their spawning soon, so we have been trying to make the fishing days count. We've ran into multiple fishermen while in this spot and each time they've had 15+ fish on their stringer. This particular day, I made an effort to film what I could with my iPhone, and will be taking the video camera on our next outing. We ended up with a fairly heavy stringer and a total of 23 crappie. Here's a couple videos of catches.

One of the last fish that I caught looked a bit nicked up. His skin was missing on a section of his back and Matt decided to take a closer look at him. That's when we noticed the fishing line sticking out of his mouth that wasn't mine. With his mouth propped open, we could see a minnow in the back of his mouth with another hook lodged in the roof of his mouth. Unfortunately I didn't get as detailed of video as I would have liked to, but it sure was interesting. I've always been told that when a fish has a hook in it's mouth, or has been caught recently, that it will not bite again. We proved that wrong.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

When Turkey Season Lasts For a Day

Tuesday night, I got baby duty. Went to sleep at 11:15pm and was up every 1-2 hours until 4:30am when my alarms went off and yet I'd already been awake for an hour. I was on my 3rd cup of coffee as I walked out the door. The temperature was a bit brisk at around 45 degrees, and the 45 minute drive flew by with anticipation. The shear distance to Lexington WMA from my house prevented a lot of my scouting opportunities, but also that fact that the baby came a month early threw off my pre-season scouting plans as well.

Matt and I met up at 5:30am to give us plenty of time to get situated. While we are loading his gear in my truck, another vehicle drives past us, headed into the WMA. It's a Wednesday and we still have other people to deal with? Yep. We leave a few moments later heading toward our pre-picked spot all the while noticing that we are driving into a cloud of dust. We round the corner to where we were going to park, and there is the other vehicle, parked right where we were going. Out of 10,000 acres, they chose the spot we had talked about for months. We chat with them for a minute to insure that we are not going to run into each other and Matt and I head to a backup location. Given that pre-season scouting wasn't performed as we wanted to, our spirits sank a bit. We drove about a mile and a half from the other hunters and setup at the back of a 100 acre field. 

Our owl hoots went unnoticed and the darkness was perfectly quiet, save for the owl who apparently thought he had a new neighbor. We had a decoy placed at 17 yards at our 11 o'clock position. The setup looked perfect, now for the birds to come in. 

With daylight, I called sparingly without any response still. The higher the sun got, the more I plead with my yelps, cuts, and purrs. The birds were having none of it though. Around 8:30, we still had no responses even after utilizing a crow locator call, so we packed up and drove around the property attempting to locate a gobbler. 3 hours later, we still hadn't heard any turkeys, much less seen any, and this is where our planning comes into play: When hunting public land, always have a backup plan. When that backup plan fails, go fishing. This is exactly what we chose to do.

By 1:30, we were on the river bank of the Little River and had 2 dozen minnows ready to go. I hooked a minnow, tossed the line toward a brush pile, and barely 2 seconds after the bobber hit the surface, it disappeared. The crappie were hitting the minnows so quickly that most of the time the minnows were still on the hooks and alive after we threw the fish on the stringer. We got pickier along the way as to the size of the fish that we would keep. The afternoon and minnows went by quickly and we ended up having a pretty solid stringer for being on the bank of the river. All in all, Wednesday is the kind of day that makes a one day turkey season strikeout seem like no big deal.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pictures From The 2010-2011 Duck Season

Here are a few pictures of our duck hunting adventures in the 2010-2011 season. Wanted to give you something visual on the blog here. Mind you, I just started duck hunting during the 2009-2010 season.

The first picture is of a quick trip I took to Lake Thunderbird by myself with a dozen decoys and hiking in with full, chest-high, rubber waders on.

The second is picture is of a female hooded merganser that I dropped at 40 yards on a slow day at Fort Cobb (sorry for the dark pic, it was taken with my phone).

The third, I did not compose for public viewing, but to show Matt, who was laid up with a broken leg my near-limit while again going to Lake Thunderbird as a novice duck hunter. Yes, there is a headless drake in there.

The fourth picture is from the same trip to Fort Cobb as the second picture. It was early November, 70+ degrees, and we were lucky to see these birds in the 5 hours we sat. On the way back to the truck, I found the skull in the background. It appears to be a kill from 2009-2010 due to the bleaching of the skull, however the lack of rodent marks on it and the remnants of hair and some skin on the upper lip area led me to question this. Judging from the teeth, it appears to be a 2 1/2 year old buck and a decent 7 point by any public hunter's definitions. An interesting note, the right side of his rack only has 2 points as it does not have a brow tine, making it one of the larger fork-horn racks that I've seen personally.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Countdown To The Hunt

I somehow made it through the first week of turkey season without going completely insane from being at the house. It's probably due to Matt coming over twice to give me a chance to hang out in the garage and have some relaxation. We fixed a cheap fishing real that bound up on me last season, fine tuned a slate call, and hung a couple of racks and skins that I have on the walls. I'll see if I can get some pictures up of the trophies final resting place.

We are trying to find our target day for next week. I have a feeling the answer will simply be, ASAP. The weather seems decent with highs in the mid-70's and lows in the 50's. My main concern is the wind. Wednesday there will be a south wind at 20+ mph. Thursday and Friday the wind switches to the north at 15mph. This may impact us a bit more than we anticipate, but that is why we are ready to run-n-gun these toms if need be.

Being on public land and hunting an animal that is incredibly vocal, such as the turkey, can be rather dangerous as not only are the birds zeroing in on your position via the calling, but other hunters can too. Matt and I have chosen to start off using my pop-up blind to not only assist us in hiding our movement as we try and record the hunt, but also to allow other hunters to recognize that there is a blind there and not just a sound, hence protecting us should we not see them approach. One thing that I like to do while hunting on the ground is to take some of my trail marking ribbon and place it about 15 yards to the side of my blind/setup at about 9 inches in length. This not only assists with using my bow, but will attract the attention of another hunter far enough away from where I am to keep my safety a priority. If you are worried about animals keying in on the ribbon flailing in the wind, it's not as big of a problem as you think. If the animal spots the ribbon and focuses on it, that gives you more liberty to prepare for your shot, especially if a tom sneaks up on you and you're busy picking your nose.

Another note for safety is to never gobble, not even to tempt a tom in closer. If you can't get the tom in with clucks, purrs, cuts, etc. then there is no need to risk drawing other hunters to you, especially if you are using a decoy. I have seen plenty of articles lately on decoy placement, never leave home without your decoy, swear by your decoy. All these are great info, but mostly geared to those individuals who happen to be blessed with private land access. Decoys can function quite well on public land, but use them with caution. Do not place them less than 15 yards from where you are located, you don't want another guy's pot-shot hitting you. Also, place the decoys away from where someone would typically sneak into your area. If you used a well marked path, place the turkeys further beyond your setup than you originally would think to. For example, if you walked in on a trail to a small field, and you intend to hunt the exact opposite side of the field, do not make a beeline across, setting your decoys up, and sitting directly beyond them. Instead, set the decoys where you are wanting to ambush the toms, but angle yourself at least 45 degrees to the left or right when looking at the decoys from the original path you walked in on.

Hopefully several of you have already been successful in harvesting birds this season. We'll try to get some pictures up of our adventures soon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turkey Season: Choose Carefully

Matt and I have been looking forward to turkey season since duck season ended. After months of anticipation, it is only days away. With hunting public land only, you have to really do your homework and make that first week of the season pay off. March 29th, all the planning and and hard work that we put into the season was place into a holding pattern, my first child was born.

As much as I live for hunting, fishing, and the outdoors in general, I will be missing the first week of the season, the best week of the season, to take care of my daughter and wife. There won't be anymore just picking up and spending every day off in the woods. Luckily for myself, my mom is coming into town the second week of the season and will give Matt and I the chance to team up and whack a gobbler.

We hope that there won't be much pressure on the turkeys that first week, but there is not guarantee. In fact, we are almost promised to be chasing birds that have been shot at, squealed at, spooked off the roost, and generally scared to death. We will be making this more difficult on ourselves with trying to harvest the bird on camera, and with a bow. For the sake of our viewers and readers, we will have a shotgun there for backup should we get busted trying to draw on him. We weren't planning on taking this approach, but for everyone that has a child, much less a newborn, you know that time away is precious, and you must use it wisely, especially when trying to film it. I'm already looking forward to next week, even though tomorrow is the opener.

For those of you getting out tomorrow morning and chasing the elusive roosted birds, good luck and straight shooting.