Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hunting License and Permit Reminders and Updates

A couple of permit and license things I thought I'd throw out as reminders. There are some changes from previous years (these are just a couple of the changes for the upcoming year).

deer with turkeysImage by bjamin via Flickr

First, Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permits are going away. They will be replaced by regular deer and turkey permits, but sold at half price to youths who qualify. MDC says, "...young hunters – whether residents or nonresidents – will be able to buy regular firearms deer hunting permits at half the price paid by adult Missouri residents. Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permits purchased during the 2009 spring turkey season will remain valid for the fall firearms deer and turkey seasons."

I personally like this change. I found that many license vendors were confused under the previous system. Having one type of license that works for everyone will be much simpler.

The other reminder is that August 15 is the MDC deadline for applying for managed hunts.

You can get additional information by visiting the Missouri Department of Conservation website. For additional information on deer and turkey hunting, visit Family-Outdoor Hunting Tips.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Roaring River State Park

Roaring River FishingImage by dfellow via Flickr

The Roaring River in southwestern Missouri is one fine trout stream by any standards. It has it beginnings in Roaring River State Park, which is designated by the state as a Trout Park.The first stretch of water, or zone 1 is daily stocked with rainbows from March 1 through October 31, and artificial lures and flies only are allowed. The second beat of water, or zone two is designated as fly only, but Missouri definition of a fly is fairly liberal, and some single hooked spinning lures including single hooked rooster tail spinners and marabou jigs are allowed. Zone two is divided into one daily stocked catch and keep section and one catch and release section. This catch and release section is well known for producing behemoth brown trout. The third section of water in Roaring River State Park is stocked twice a week from during the spring, summer, and fall, and is open to catch and keeping fishing with all bait, lures, and flies. In all, Roaring River State Park has about two miles of stream, all of which holds trout.

Trout habitat does not end at the lower end of the Trout Park. It then becomes a White Ribbon Trout Area, which means it is stocked about once a month. Access to this section is from the Trout Park, and from Roaring River Conservation Area. The White Ribbon Area is known for having a lot of shallow, fishless water, but any good pools and riffles you find will hold many rainbow trout, as well as some brown trout, and even an occasional cutthroat or brook trout that may have migrated from the Beaver Lake tailwater. Year-round trout water only stretches about two miles below the Park, but they during wintertime trout can be caught all the way to where Roaring River becomes impounded by Table Rock Lake, and even in the reservoir itself. The lower river is a good early and late season trout fishery, and provides good bass fishing in high summer. The Roaring River is a small stream, fifteen to twenty feet wide in most places. It is beautiful, and productive even by the highest standards.

Get a wealth of additional trout fishing info at Missouri Trout Fishing.
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Catching Bass in the Summertime Heat

Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)Image via Wikipedia

Catching bass in the hot summer months is not only possible, it may be the best time to catch bass. There are a couple of things the angler should keep in mind. In this article we will try and dispel some myths and hopefully arm the summertime bass angler with the knowledge and confidence to go catch fish.

  1. Bass Fishing Slows Down in the Summer Months

Bass do not stop feeding in the summer. On the contrary, bass feed MORE often and digest food faster in warmer temperatures. In fact, evidence seems to suggest that bass fishing slows down in the summer for two reasons. First, fishermen fish fewer hours in the hot summer sun. Less time with your bait in the water means less fish. Second, and the evidence for this is merely anecdotal, fishermen have heard the myths about bass fishing in heat and have less confidence and this negatively impacts their fishing. I can speak from experience that a bait that I had not previously had success with gets fished less well than one I have had success with. As soon as I have success, doing nothing differently except perhaps working it into those little nooks and crannies where I know bass are holding, all of a sudden that bait becomes a winner. Similarly, if you don’t believe you will have success on a cast, I don’t believe you try as hard to work it into those prime locations. Believe and you will achieve, to coin a rather corny phrase.

  1. Bass Go Deep in the Heat

Bass do not need the water temperature to be 60 degrees to be active. In most cases here in the Midwest, just a few feet down, water temperatures are ideal. Very often, fish are holding in that 10 foot to 12 foot range and can be targeted there. You do not have to have state of the art electronics to validate that the water temperature is cool a relatively little ways down. Cool off and go for a swim. Very likely the top foot or two will be bathtub temperature and below that, down by your toes, you will feel a water temperature that will give you confidence you do not need to be fishing in 45-50 feet of water.

  1. Bass are Lethargic and Should be Fished Slow

To the contrary, speed up the presentation in summer heat. Go ahead and fish your plastics on a texas rig if you like, but try giving a little zip to their presentation. This may in fact be a time when you want to present that plastic worm without a bullet sinker. Let the worm settle and then give it a snappy retrieve. When you have worked the bait to the upper range of the depths you wish to fish, let it sink and repeat the procedure. Also, try mid-level crank-baits. Choose crank-baits designed for the depths you will be targeting and the prey native to your waters. Finally, buzz-baits and spinner-baits can be deadly at this time of year. If you are fishing the evening hours, try surface plugs and poppers.

Finally, the heat is a concern for anglers. Stay on the water longer by observing these rules. Drink lots and lots and lots of water. Wear loose fitting cotton clothing that covers you up. A loose long sleeve cotton shirt is what I often wear. Finally, a hat, preferably one that covers the back of the neck, is a must.

Get out there and fish and believe in the idea that you will catch fish. You will be successful if you work at it like you do other times of the year. Best of Luck! For more fishing information, visit Family-Outdoors Fishing.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Life in a Treestand

Originally written Fall 2008
At 4:30 in the morning my inclination is to ignore the alarm and roll over and go back to sleep; and I have on a few occasions. Usually I am with my two sons in a tent somewhere in the state of Missouri and it is cold outside and it is ever so hard to roll out and get the water started for our normal routine of instant oatmeal, juice, coffee for me, and hot chocolate for them. Once I am up and going it all starts to make sense to me as my excitement level always begins to build for what may be in store for me that day.

I rouse them from their slumber and we begin to proceed in the normal fashion. We eat, make one last check of our gear, and then get in the truck to drive to where we will strike out for our pre-scouted stand locales. That time in the truck is precious because from the time we got out of our sleeping bags we have usually managed to become quite chilly. The heater in the truck raises our body temperatures and it feels oh so good.

We arrive somewhere on a dirt road after squinting at every opening thinking it’s the one we are looking for, or if we were smart, using our GPS to guide us to our starting point. From there, it’s loading fanny packs, tree stands, and rifles for a hike through dark woods for a quarter mile and usually much more. We try so hard to be quiet, no matter how far we are from our stand sites. There are hushed voices, sometimes with a few curse words interspersed, softly shut truck doors, and attempts to keep dangling objects from clanking against the deer stand on your back.

Stumbling through the dark and trying to balance the notion that a headlamp will scare every deer in the county against the reality of bumping into trees and doubting your innate directional ability or the accuracy of your GPS, is a balancing act every stand hunter is familiar with. Occasionally you find that tree you scouted and maybe even decorated with some orange surveyor’s tape. Sometimes you end up in a tree you didn’t really plan on residing in.

A few minutes is spent attaching cables, safety harnesses, and a pull up rope with your gear attached to the ground-end. Up you go, as quietly as you can possibly be, as high as you feel is necessary and is possible. You try your best to get the seat of your stand at an angle where you won’t be pitched forward at a 45 degree angle. You get all safety mechanisms dealt with, and then you pull up your rifle and whatever else is at the end of the line. You get set in your seat and quietly load the magazine and chamber and check your safety. Then it’s time to sit back and wait for “legal” light. For me legal light isn’t always enough to feel like I could take an ethical shot, even with the extra light gathered through the optics of a 2x7 Redfield scope.

This is one of the times where in cold weather I feel the bite most acutely. My heightened senses are in combat with the pain of cold fingers and toes. Occasionally I have remembered to pack my thermos with coffee and a few sips are a luxury with few rivals. Gradually, the squirrels begin to chatter and rustle in the nearby trees and on the ground below. Squirrels are what get me through the times when the deer are scarce. Each movement retunes my senses as my first inclination is that the rustling in the leaves that I hear might in fact be an approaching deer.

Light gradually begins to take hold and I am able to take stock of my surroundings, even in a place I have hunted before. I try to study every feature, taking in how it should look so that the smallest change, which might be the tail or antler of a deer might be noticed. It is always amazing to me how things I see in this early light change as full light makes its presence known. This hypersensitive state is balanced against the numbing fatigue I feel; often we have arrived at our camping site the night before at 8:00 or later, and by the time we were in bed asleep it was pushing midnight.

Still, the thrill of the hunt overwhelms the fatigue of the body and the hope of success keeps me finely attuned to my surroundings. As the morning wears on, sometimes a deer is seen and passed on, or perhaps seen but not in a position for a sure shot. Sometimes the hunt ends early with success, but that is a different story. It’s the days I remain in the stand for the duration that I believe bring me the greatest benefits.

As midmorning arrives and a hunter realizes the “prime time” has passed, is when the thinking on life begins. There’s no better place, save church perhaps, where the mind is in a better environment for putting things in the right perspective. As I sit high in a tree, usually in the Fall with colors at their climax, it is hard for me to contemplate that there is much wrong in the world. My thoughts wander from what is going on in the tops of the trees where my sons reside, sometimes they are in view but usually not, to where the details of my daily life fit into the context of where I am now. I wonder sometimes why I don’t just go climb a tree at any time of the year just to get this feeling back – but I know it would be different.

What usually snaps me out of this fog is the combination of bodily urges brought about from the coffee I hopefully remembered and the fact that the sun is warming me to the point where I must shed some layers. Once these matters are accomplished (usually one water bottle must be consumed in preparation), a bit of trail mix and teriyaki jerky courtesy Wal-mart brings me back to sitting down and starting my mental gyrations once more. I often get a bit antsy as mid-morning progresses to mid-day progresses to mid-afternoon. Around 3:00 my mind begins to re-focus on the hunting aspect of my time in a tree.

When there is a bite to the wind, as afternoon begins to wane, my lower body temperature seems to again heighten my senses. The squirrels and other small mammals as well as flying creatures seem to increase their activities and this raises my senses to an even greater degree. I begin to question my stand placement at this time if I have not observed much in the way of deer activity. I wonder if I should have come down and re-placed my stand somewhere else, but I remember those times where it has been the end of the day that has brought success. I stick it out and keep hoping, watching, and listening to the fullest extent my senses will allow.

The last half hour of legal hunting hours is always the same. I start looking at the time every five minutes. It is a mixture of thoughts balanced between hoping those last moments will bring success and thoughts of a hot fire back at camp and our typical fare of chili over fritos – a true delicacy. It is kind of like when you tell yourself you will take ten more casts on a fishing trip; it rarely ends in success but you always think this time will be different. Just like the morning, I always think at the end that I couldn’t possibly make a shot in this light – I have a hard enough time at any time of the day.

The day ends and it’s time to climb down. Stiff limbs make the process of descent an arduous journey – especially extricating my feet from the straps on the base of the stand. I pack up my stand and other gear and head to the bases of the trees where my sons have spent their day, or to a pre-ordained meeting place. By this time, when we are gathering at a meeting point it is the bobbing of a headlamp or flashlight that signals each arrival at our rendezvous point. From there we swap tales of our day as we make our way back to the truck and ultimately to camp. We might nibble some snacks on the way back, but our minds are on a warm fire, a hot dinner, and sitting afterwards for a time watching stars and perhaps listening to coyotes begin their nightly songs.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Montauk Trout Park Fly Fishing

I sure don't want to present myself as the expert on this area. I have been to this park probably five or six times. Of the parks, I do enjoy it the most, especially when I can get there on a weekday. A week or so ago, I fished it with my younger son, he concentrating on the bait area while I stayed exclusively in the "fly area."

I put fly area in quotes, because if you are not familiar with the park, spin fishing is also allowed here, but there are restrictions regarding terminal tackle allowed. Generally speaking, there is no negative interaction between spin and fly fishermen here as I have heard there can be in some places. Some of the spin fishermen here have shared pointers with me that even though I am using a fly rod, I have found very helpful. The caveat I will throw in is that there seems to often be a lack of stream etiquette in the parks.

This lack of etiquette seems to be equally displayed by spin and fly fishermen. I do not have a confrontational personality, so when someone comes thrashing through the stream right by where I am fishing, or casts directly into the area where I am drifting my flies, I usually just move on. I always hope they get the idea, but doubt they do.

More often, folks are polite and stay an acceptable distance, and sometimes pleasant conversations ensue. Last time I met a couple of retired gentlemen from Illinois. One of them had grown children who lived in Alaska and Colorado - both places where I have lived. We shared stories of streams, lakes, and ocean areas where we had both fished. He was spin fishing, but was also a fly fisherman and shared some advice on what to try. Because I didn't know the flies he was talking about I nodded like I did, but remembered the names so I could learn about them later. I wasn't having much luck (it was slow for everyone) and when I told him I wasn't sure I was gonna catch anything, he said "sure you will."

We parted ways and a bit later I took a break. I went back to my truck, rested awhile and re-hydrated. I then tied some new tippet and headed back out. I got to my favorite hole and started cycling through the options I have had luck with in the past. This time I used a strike indicator, which normally I avoid. First I went through my offerings at a depth where I was just ticking the bottom. Then I shortened up to a depth of about 24". When I tried this with an orange and red glo-ball I started getting meager taps. Ten minutes of this later, the fish for reasons inexplicable to me began inhaling my offering.

Some trips at this park I have limited in a very short time (4 fish). Other times I have had to work at it a bit. I enjoy the latter more. My thought on being successful in the fly area is to find and area that I know or can see (depends on clarity of water) and keep trying things until I find what is working. In these parks, I am convinced that generally, fish in a given area are just waiting for the right offering at the right time. It really is like a switch gets turned on and then off.

For information on the park, visit their official site at Montauk State Park Official Site. For more information on trout fishing in Missouri, including trout parks, visit Missouri Trout Fishing.

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