Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pig-Out Deer Feeder

Wheel-Chair Snow Board
Wheel-Chair Snow Boarding - New Olympic sport!
Yes, we get do get snow from time to time in Louisiana and strangely most always in February.  Usually that is preceded or followed by a visit into spring which I am eager for.  It's late winter and as spring approaches, deer management should always be in the back of our minds.  All of those shows on television showing pro hunters taking massive deer do not just leap into creation.  They are meticulously designed and and thought out. If you are going to grow a deer herd with spectacular antlers, then it is time to begin plotting out what supplements the deer will need and how to deliver it to them.

By now, the majority of deer have or are in the process of shedding their antlers.  Bucks go through a sort of puberty every year.  Instead of a cracking voice and a need for a Dermatologist, it's all about their antlers.  No sooner do they shed these majestic bone growths than their bodies begin preparing for the next set to begin their growth.  Bar none, this is the greatest time of the year that you can aid and control in the development of true trophies.  So it should not be dismissed.

Mature Deer
Mature Buck at maximum genetic potential
Deer need certain minerals that a block placed on the ground can provide.  Even more important is the need for protein.  Not only will this aid bucks in antler growth but it will also help does carry the fawns successfully and allow for good lactation to feed in later months.  The problem is that mineral blocks which are necessary are open to the elements and anything else that might want to take a lick or two. Additionally, hunters get tired of feeding high priced protein pellet to pigs and raccoons.  Hogs have even been known to destroy high priced casting feeders leaving you to not only replace the pellets but the feeder too.

Pig-Out Deer Feeder
The boys at Big Rack Innovations have come up with a genius solution.  The Pig-Out Deer Feeder is a gravity style feeder that keeps the varmints out.  The back of the feeder is designed to be placed either on a t-post or strapped to a tree at deer height making it impossible for wild pigs to steal your feed.  To overcome the raccoon and squirrel issue, the lid has been fitted with a push-pin so that those incredibly smart critters can't intrude on the gold inside as well.  The slick sided barrel of the feeder deters even the most athletic varmint.

Pig-Out Deer Feeder
The Regular Size hold 40lbs of pellets or corn and is reasonably priced at $49.99.  Do you ever get tired of having to go back every other week to refill the feeder?  Cha-Ching! The Extra-Large sized feeder holds 100lbs and only has to be refilled about once a month depending on your herd size.  The price of the XL Feeder is $89.99 which is a very nice price point on that as well.  If you purchase the Extra-Large, Big-Rack Innovations will ship it to you free of charge.

Reasonably priced and getting the job done!  Now that is two things I like to see.  You can pick yours up in the store or just click on the links in the paragraph above.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

It’s Almost Bed Time!

Courtesy of Mike Long Outdoors
Courtesy of Mike Long Outdoors
A biiiig 'ole thank you to Mike Long for giving me permission to display his amazing pictures!

As a follow up to last week’s article, we focus on the spawning habits of large female bass.  Quick side-note - when speaking about this topic try to never stop or pause when discussing large female…bass.  If you pause whilst saying that line and your wife or girlfriend is nearby, you may become seriously injured.  Be sensitive and let your words flow - Large Female Bass!!!

In my fishing career, I have been very fortunate to have figured out the equation that is the spawn.  And, like finding the intersecting magnetic lines of the Bermuda triangle, when you put these pieces together, something dramatic is certain to follow.

Both males and females will “stage” (get into position to move shallow) on the edge of a deeper channel or creek ledge close to a shallow area with cover.  Don’t forget that depth can be cover…more on this in a bit.  It is actually during this staging period that some of the greatest catches of large female bass (no pause) can be had.  They are full of eggs and are looking for full sized meals.  Large swim baits are great at this time of the spring.  Big crank-baits, spinner baits, jigs with a plastic trailer resembling something crawfishy, etc, all are great options.  The old adage is true, big baits = big fish.  These females are gearing up.  They are adding weight because believe it or not, once a female is ready to lay eggs, she will not eat until after the spawn.  I know, I know, you’re saying, “Don’t eat, then why do they bite?”  Be patient my Padawan.  All the answers are just below.

Courtesy of Mike Long Outdoors
Courtesy of Mike Long Outdoors
It is actually the males that will move shallow first.  When the water hits the magic numbers between 55-60 degrees, it is go time.  The males begin to prep a spawning bed and release pheromones to attract a female.  Sandy bottoms are awesome.  Places that many fishermen overlook is spots adjacent to a swimming area in a lake.  It’s unlikely that a guy on a blow up toy is going to be lounging in the lake in March.  Some sand with cover whether it’s a type of moss or wood is ideal.  If your lake doesn't offer sand, no big deal, they will beat out a crater in the mud or rocks too.

Earlier I mentioned the concept of depth as cover and I told you that I was fortunate enough to figure out the big-girl’s rubics cube to spawning.  You can catch a lot of fish spawning in depths from six inches to three feet.  However, the vast majority of bigger bass, five pounds and up, that I have caught during the spawn came in water from 4-6 feet deep.  Big bass spawn deeper than smaller ones as a general rule.  I am not sure as to why except that the depth does add an element of cover.  I have always been told that if you can see the fish then they can see you.  If you find an area where fish are actively spawning, try a bit deeper for Big-Mamma.

“I thought you said bass don’t eat during their spawning activities?”  I did indeed!  They don’t eat, but instead both the male and female will protect the nest at all costs.  The female will not stay long on the bed, while the male will remain for about 7-10 days until the eggs hatch and become fry.  Again, while they are in this protect mode, they don’t really ingest what they are killing.  They will hit stuff violently but it only lasts for a second or two.  They pick up an intrusion and blow it out of the nest.  A great video illustrating this behavior can be viewed below.  Anything that naturally would attack the eggs like bluegill, baitfish, crawfish, or salamanders (plastic lizards) are good choices to mimic.

I want to mention that we should release these incredible fish at this time of the year.  If you want your lake or pond to continue to produce the very best genetics then you have to manage the lake and yourself. Removing the best fish from said water should be frowned upon.  With the amazing ability of modern taxidermy to take the measurements of a fish and give you a very good reproduction, is there a need to destroy the beast?  The majority of the fish I have caught that exceeded five pounds were returned unharmed.  I hope you do the same friends!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Love Is In The Rain, Not The Air

Happy Valentines week! I love my readers and wish I could send a valentine to each of you.  Hey, I just did. Ok, enough of the gushy stuff right?

February is the month when fishermen start to feel their casting hands beginning to twitch.  Deer season has ended and although the cold of winter is still biting, the first invasions of spring are also being felt.  Those glorious few days when the air temperature reaches into the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s is a good clue that true change is on the horizon.  Please stop listening to the large rodent in Pennsylvania that hasn’t viewed his shadow since Julius Caesar was a corporal in the Roman army and look to the weather as to when spring will burst forth in all of its beauty!

Although those first days of nice temperatures are marvelous, air temperature is not what makes the bass begin to think romantically.  Nothing warms water like…water.  Rain is what really gets them in the mood.  As weather systems move across the continent, they sweep warm moist air out ahead of the cold front.  The rain that these systems produce can warm a body of water much faster than air temperature alone.  As the water warms to 55-65 degrees the bass will move shallow and begin spawning.

Why does it seem that certain spots on a lake get really good quicker than others?  It’s based on their location in relation to the wind and sun.  Their location does two things that give these spots a leg up on the rest of a lake.  South-westerly winds are typically warmer and will aid in warming these areas quicker.  Additionally, the sun’s angle in the sky puts the warmest portion of the day on the north and eastern sides of a lake. This allows these areas to produce catchable large females first.    Fish in these areas can be aggressive in February hitting spinner-baits and swim jigs.  I have even caught fish in certain years spawning as early as the first half of March here in Louisiana when the weather permits it.

The good news is that all of the fish do not spawn at the same time on a lake.  In review, target north and eastern spots from early to mid-spawn then focus on more south and western sides of the lake from mid to late-spawn.  All of this is very dependent on the weather you are experiencing in your area.  Again, stop listening to the varmint.  Punxsutawney Phil is lucky he doesn't live here in Louisiana…we would just eat him!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wheelin’ Sportsmen

A major player in getting people with disabilities introduced or returning to nature is Wheelin’ Sportsmen a hunting heritage program of the National Wild Turkey Federation.  This is important to know when you visit the Wheelin’ Sportsmen website because if you aren't aware, you will think we are talking turkey.

Wheelin’ Sportsmen provides all people with disabilities opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. NWTF chapters host Wheelin' Sportsmen events across the United States that help participants gain a sense of independence by learning to stay active in the outdoors on their own in between Wheelin' Sportsmen events.

Events are held in each state and you can find your state by Clicking Here.  You may be able to find the coordinator for your area at the event sight as states are typically broken up into sections.  Additionally each states site differs and the number of events vary by participation.

So what do they offer?  Great question.  Wheelin’ Sportsmen offers a wide variety of activities from fishing to hunting and shooting depending on the participation level in your state or area. In case you haven’t picked up on it, participation drives the group in your area and funnels resources from NWTF to your chapter for events.  The more you do, the more events will get planned.

Robin Clark of the famed Clark Gun Rest is the State Coordinator for Virginia’s chapter.  I spoke with him about the Wheelin’ Sportsmen activities in his state.  He reported that due to the growing number of participants, they provide numerous opportunities virtually year round in Virginia.

Robin also gave me insight to the program at a more national level. In the upper tier of directors is Mandy Harling, NWTF Hunting Heritage Program Coordinator - East Region, who handles events in the eastern portion of the country while Teresa Carroll, NWTF Hunting Heritage Program Coordinator - West Region, heads up events for the western part of the nation.  These two fabulous ladies have the sheer pleasure of making sure that each chapter has the resources they need to operate and grow.

What I love about this program is that it takes away any excuses anyone might have as to why they are not being active.  If a person needs an able bodied helper to shoot, fish or hunt, then they have events designed just for that.  So, not only do you get to enjoy nature, you also get to gain a friend.  The events are at no cost to the participant except for whatever licenses are required by law.  Weapons and ammo can be provided.  It’s always a good idea to check with the event coordinator to be sure of this fact and on the availability.

If you really want to go hardcore, there is a membership available with NWTF.  Of course there are many benefits to becoming one like, discounts on multiple items, a subscription to Turkey Country magazine and helping wild turkey conservation and the preservation of our hunting heritage.  For a complete list of benefits, Click Here.

In closing, the ball is really in your court.  Never let excuses define you.  Break through the barriers.  Drop the fear.  Stop thinking of what living might feel like and begin experiencing it.  Contact your local chapter and be a participant!