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Pre-Season Scouting The Key to All Hunting Success By Gary Howey

  If you are in the process of planning a hunting trip, the first question you may ask yourself is where do I start my hunt?

  Even if you have hunted in the same area for years, things will change from one year to the next. The cropping system may have changed, high water may have altered the terrain, the ownership of the land changed or disease could have eliminated a better part of the wildlife.

  So, each year, prior to the season, I like to put myself one up on the game, no matter what I am after, I need to do some sort of scouting, to spend a little time in the field before the season..

  You do not have to be a rocket scientist to scout an area and figure out what the game is doing.

  One excellent way to see where the deer, turkey and other game are located is to use your eyes; scouting with your binoculars as it allows the hunter to check out the area without spooking any game.

  This can be accomplished no matter what species you are after, as all wildlife needs to feed and if you can locate their food source, you can be there before they leave their bedding area or roost.

  If it is waterfowl you are after, you will need to look for them in the field just before it gets dark as chances are unless they have cleaned out the field or been pressured hard by hunters, they will be back around sunup.

  All waterfowl have a tendency to feed in the early morning and later in the afternoon unless the weather is extremely warm.

  When it is warm, geese do not need much feed as they do when it is cold, so they may feed only once during the day.

  Scouting for spring turkey is done in much the same fashion except the terrain the turkeys live in is a lot rougher.

  In the spring, I try to make the most use of my time in the field, trying to accomplish several things with each trip.

  I am not just looking for turkey sign, but I am also on the lookout for last year’s deer sheds.

  Late winter, just before spring arrives is a perfect time to scout for turkeys as they bunched up, as all wildlife will bunch up into large flocks or herds when it is cold, close to their food source.

  A flock of turkeys leaves lot of sign, so locating areas that turkeys are using in late winter and early spring is simple!

   Turkeys are scratchers, so they turn over leaves, manure and sticks always looking for a tender shoot, small insect or waste corn to eat. By looking over their scratching, you should be able to tell in which direction they moved. [Read more…]

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Shed Hunting! One of Mother Nature’s Most Beautiful Art Forms By Gary Howey

I think we’re all ready for spring, something we have been waiting on for a long time, with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the warmer weather.

As it gets closer to spring, this is when I head to the woods, to do my pre-season turkey scouting.

While I’m out there sneaking through the woods looking for turkey sign, I’m also keeping an eye out for deer sheds, Shed Hunting.

For those of you that haven’t hunted sheds, it’s a great thing to do this time of the year. Sheds are the buck’s antlers from the previous year shed or dropped after the rut.

Bucks shed their headgear/rack/antlers annually and if you can beat the rodents and other critters out there that chew on them to obtain a source of calcium, you’ll have the opportunity to find a shed or two.

A buck’s antler/rack is a lot different from cattle horns, which are hollow, as a deer’s rack consists of honey combed solid bone.

Pedicles, are a knobby nub protruding from the buck’s skull, this is where the new antler/rack grows and what supports the buck’s rack.

When bucks start to grow their new racks/antlers, they’re no more than bony growths covered with skin and hair known as velvet.  They grow incredibly fast in 3 to 4 months, making them the fastest growing living tissue there is.

These pedicles are a permanent part of the buck’s forehead, the point where the antler comes off when shed.

Shed hunting in the spring is also an excellent way to determine if the big buck you hunted last season made it through the winter

If you find his sheds, he’s still around, unless the winter did him in and once you’ve found his shed, you can start putting together your hunting plan for next season.

Once the rut is over, bucks no longer need their racks. They needed their rack during the used to attract and impress the does and most importantly to fight off other bucks trying to draw the females away from his harem.

It’s a known fact that not all of the bucks will drop their racks at the same time. Some will begin to lose them following the rut, when their hormone levels begin to drop.

Generally, deer in the upper Midwest will shed their antlers in February and March.

The amount of daylight in a day, the fluctuations in the deer’s hormones, their diet and stress will have a lot to do as to when a buck will shed.

There are several reasons deer shed their antlers, one allowing the buck regeneration, or re-grow a new set of antlers.

Others believe they shed, making it easier for them to make it through the winter, as winter, with its harsh conditions and less food make it tough for a deer coming out of the rut to survive.

When the buck sheds its antlers: it helps them to conserve energy while eliminating excess weight.

The entire shedding process will take two to three weeks to complete, while the re-growth will take the entire summer.

The first to drop their antlers are more likely to be those bucks, which chased hard during the rut, those that have become fatigued from fighting and breeding during the rut.

If you don’t have an area where you’ve found sheds in prior years, a good place to start looking for sheds would be to drive through the country, looking for those well-used deer trails crossing the roads.

I’ve found heavily traveled trails; those leading from heavily wooded areas, crossing a road heading into the deer are feeding areas to be a good starting point.

A good trail to start looking for sheds would be those resembling a hard packed cattle trail. [Read more…]