Chasing Smallies: The Magnificent Obsession
The sun dances off the waters of Chequamegon Bay as a light wind ruffles the surface of the water. Oak Point stretches out in front of us. It is a line of dark green trees and rocks that have survived thousands of years, battered by the winds coming off Lake Superior. In the shallow water, are perhaps hundreds of old logs, washed up against the point. Those logs broke free of the log rafts that have floated across Lake Superior over the last hundred years in the days of the logging boom. Today they provide cover for the huge smallmouth bass cruising these waters. Although it’s calm today, you can see this land and water have endured great storms and wild weather. Only the toughest live here and smallmouth bass are one of the toughest fish in these waters. Doug Hurd of Eagan, Minnesota, and I are here in search of the great smallmouth bass.
It is a warm mid-June morning. Doug is slowly motoring through the water with his eyes on the depth finder. “There is a rocky ledge right in front of us,” he tells me. “The water drops into about 5 to 7 feet of water right off the ledge and I think this might be the best spot.” Doug pulls back on the throttle to shut off the motor, stopping us about twenty feet from the edge of the shallow water rocks. We are fishing wacky worms rigged Texas style. We cast into the edge, letting our plastic worms drop into deeper water. Within the first half dozen casts Doug pulls back, setting the hook as his rod tip plunges. A fish swirls on the top of the water before it dives and charges off.
“It’s a good fish,” Doug says as I quickly reel in my line, dropping the rod on the floor of the boat to grab the net. The fish makes a couple of runs by the time Doug gets it close to the boat. As I extend the net, the fish keeps darting off. Smallmouth bass are tough fish. There is no give up in them. Finally, I get the net under the fish and pull up. The fish is twisting and turning in the net as I bring it in the boat. The fish is a thick, muscular seventeen inch smallmouth bass. We take a quick photo before Doug slips it back into the water. “What a pig,” Doug says as the fish bolts off. A few minutes later Doug connects on another fish. It is about fifteen inches long. It puts up a strong, tenacious battle; never giving up. On the next cast, just after Doug releases his fish, I feel my line shooting out. I pull back on my spinning rod, out of instinct. There probably is no reason for me to set the hook as the fish is on solid.
I see my line slicing through the water as the fish is racing for the surface. I am cranking furiously on my reel to get in the slack before the fish gets to the surface. I don’t make it. The fish vaults out of the water, clearing the surface by about 2 feet before it splashes back in the water. I am lucky. The hook held and I still have the fish on. My drag is clicking as it is letting out line. Doug is now standing at the side of the boat with the net as my fish continues to race off. I turn it but the fish still doesn’t give up and races off again. My spinning rod is bent in half. I start getting the fish closer, but like all smallies it doesn’t give up; even when I finally get the fish close enough for Doug to net it. When I press the fish against the measuring tape on the side of the boat, the fish measures seventeen inches. “This is what we came for,” Doug exclaims as I release the fish and he and I exchange high fives.
We continue to work along the ledge and within an hour we catch 9 smallmouth bass measuring from fourteen to nineteen inches. The sun is higher now in a cloudless, pale blue sky when the fish stop hitting. We move into shallow water and try again without getting a strike. We try deeper water and again, get nothing. We look around us, seeing a rocky windswept point jutting out into the water, separating Chequamegon Bay from Lake Superior. At the tip of the point is a lighthouse, standing as a lone sentinel against the waves and winds that tear at it. We motor over. A rocky point with deeper water nearby should be a magnet for fish. Doug and I work it hard but do not get a strike. For the rest of the day we hunt smallies but do not find them. Finally, we head for the landing.
We have a broasted chicken dinner at a little restaurant in Ashland and are now back in our motel room talking and planning strategy. Out of the window in our room we see the sun sinking into Lake Superior to the west. Doug and I have been coming to Ashland and Chequamegon Bay early in the season for several years. We have been coming here because of our obsession for smallmouth bass. They are probably, pound for pound, the toughest fighting fish in fresh water. In the early season, these smallies are in Chequamegon Bay in astounding numbers. We normally catch fifty or so fish a day. There are also lots of big fish. One year Doug and I both caught our personal best smallmouth bass of twenty one inches within an hour of each other. But this year we are stumped. We fished all the same places we caught fish in other years. We caught only 9 fish and except for one hour never had another strike. What has changed? “I think we came too late this year,” I suggest. Doug agrees with me.
Normally, we fish here mid to end of May. Even in nasty weather the smallies are hitting during that time of the season. This year is different. Due to scheduling conflicts, we ended up in Chequamegon Bay in mid-June. As well, summer came early this year and temperatures are considerably warmer than expected. Doug and I fished all day in short sleeves. Normally, we have several more layers of clothing on. “We are probably a couple of weeks late,” Doug added.
It was one of those things that couldn’t be avoided but what do we do now? Chequamegon Bay wasn’t working. Would going out on the bay another day be just another exercise in frustration? There was no indication anything was going to change for the better. Plus we made a lengthy drive to get here. Have we wasted our time? Perhaps not. “I have an idea,” I said. “Why don’t we go to Shell Lake?”
“I was just thinking about that too,” Doug adds. Shell Lake is about an hour and a half drive south of Ashland. In fact, we drove right by it on our way to Chequamegon Bay. But most importantly, Shell Lake has smallmouth bass in it. When you are obsessed with fishing for smallies it seems like a good alternative, especially when the first spot is not working out. Doug and I are obsessed with fishing for smallmouth bass. We have been chasing them for years. For us they are hard fighting fishing, tough and tenacious. Adding to their mystic is that you don’t find them all over. For the most part you find them in lakes in the northern third of Wisconsin or in rivers. It is a magnetic combination that fuels a magnificent obsession.
Doug and I have fished Shell Lake for a lot longer then we have been coming to Chequamegon. It was one of our first smallmouth bass haunts and we make several trips a year to it. Admittedly, the smallies there are not as big as the ones in Cheguamegon Bay but regardless of size, smallmouth bass are always fun to catch. “Let’s do it,” Doug said. We walk over to the motel office to tell the folks there we are checking out the next morning and want an early wake up call. The next morning we stopped at one of our favorite cafes in Spooner, had country fried steak and eggs with a pile of hash browns and by late morning are motoring across Shell Lake. The sun is bright, the sky is light blue with a ribbon of thin white clouds and there is only a little wind to ripple the clear water.
On Shell Lake I switch from a sinking worm to a tube jig. For years I have used only tube jigs when I fish Shell Lake. We are fishing a rocky point and I feel my jig bounce off the rocks on bottom. Suddenly I feel weight. Dropping the rod tip, I reel up the slack and pull up the rod tip. I still feel weight and now a slight thumping so I pull back hard to set the hook. My spinning rod is bouncing as the fish is racing off and then for the surface as I am trying to get the slack out of the line but the fish flips out of the water, throwing the hook. I always hate to lose the first fish of the day. It seems like a bad omen. I think I said some unkind words. Half a dozen casts later I again feel weight. The fish in one built solidly and after a brief, hard fought fight I lead the fish into the net. It is a foot long smallmouth bass. It is good start to the day and I have shaken off the effect of losing the first fish of the day.
From there, Doug and I work along the shoreline. We skip tube jigs under and around docks and catch smallies. We expected that with the docks providing shade and cover on a bright sunny day. What we didn’t expect was picking up fish between the docks where the fish are in the open in clear water on a sunny day. The water in Shell Lake is amazingly clear which is what makes it such a special lake. Even in mid-summer when other lakes are discolored from summer weed bloom, Shell Lake is always clear. There have been times we have been sitting in 10 to 12 feet of water and can see the bottom. In the clear water I have seen schools of smallmouth bass and when I cast to them I am often rewarded by seeing a fish move towards my bait.
Today the fish appeared to be in the shallows and might be in their post spawn patterns. Sometimes, however, we move into deeper water and still find fish. It seems wherever we go we find fish. Most of our fish are smallies but occasionally one of us picks up a largemouth bass. I am not sure if this is a good sign or not. I have heard that once largemouth bass become established in smallmouth lakes they take over and push out the smallies. I would hate to see that happen in Shell Lake since it is has such good smallmouth bass fishing. Where else would Doug and I go to indulge our smallmouth bass obsession?
We are now in a spot where the shallow sandy bottom drops off into deeper water. Although it is some distance from the bank, there are several boat lifts here. The owners of these boats either have long docks to get out this far or they need to wade out to get to their boats. Doug flips his bait to one side of a lift and I flip my bait to the other side. “Got one,” Doug says. I look over toward Doug and I see his spinning rod bent in half. I feel a tick on my line and then a couple more. I strike back as an instant reaction without looking at my line. I feel a fish surge off.
I got one too,” I yell as I am trying to turn the fish. The fish stops and I start getting it coming toward the boat when it takes off again: Another typical fight from a smallie. The fish dove, flew out of the water and took off again. Finally, I had it next to the boat. And reaching over I grab my fish, I pull it in the boat. I look over at Doug and he is also holding his fish. Both fish look to be over a foot in length. “A double,” he says as he holds up his other hand for a high five. “Can’t ask for more,” I reply as we exchange high fives. It is late in the afternoon. We are hot and sweaty and caught a bunch of smallmouth bass. Our biggest was about sixteen inches, which would have been considered an average fish in Cheguamegon Bay, but it doesn’t matter. What started out slow in one place but ended well in another. Plus, we caught a bunch smallies. What a magnificent obsession.
It’s Here . . . and It’s Bad!
By Lawanda Jungwirth
Well, this one snuck up on us! Invasive water hyacinth has been a huge problem in the lakes, rivers and streams of Africa, South America and the southeastern United States for many years. We thought we were protected from it up here in Wisconsin above the 40th parallel, the supposed northernmost reach of the plant. We were mistaken.
Whether the fact that water hyacinth is now able to flourish this far north is due to climate change or that the plant has somehow adapted to cooler temperatures is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it’s here in Wisconsin and it has the potential to cause as much trouble as it has in warmer climates.
Like many invasive plants, water hyacinth was intentionally brought into the United States. Way back in 1884 it was introduced as an ornamental plant for water gardens at the Cotton States Expo in New Orleans. It escaped the confines of backyard water gardens and has become a serious weed of rivers, lakes, ponds, canals and reservoirs. As far back as the 1940s, the state of Louisiana was experiencing losses of $75 million a year due to water hyacinth.
Large floating mats of water hyacinth displace native plants and animals, cause economic hardships to communities that depend on fishing and water sports for revenue, decrease waterfront property values, interfere with hunting, fishing, boating and other water sports, clog irrigation pumps and water supply pipelines and impede runoff and water circulation. The mats become mosquito factories, creating calm water for larvae to proliferate while denying access to mosquito larvae predators. Mats are so dense that they decrease light to submerged plants, depleting the water and animals that live in it of oxygen. Shifting mats have been known to prevent boaters from reaching their docks, stranding them offshore.
Water hyacinth is an erect, free-floating perennial plant. It has thick, green, oval, waxy leaves up to 6” wide. Leaves form rosettes that can rise 1-3 feet above the surface of the water. Pretty six-petaled flowers are lavender blue with a yellow blotch on one petal of each flower. Up to 23 flowers may occur on a single spike. Feathery roots are submersed below water and are blue-black to dark purple.
The flowers last about 14 days, after which the stalks bend down to release seeds into the water. A single plant can produce as many as 5,000 seeds. The small seeds sink and bury themselves in sediment below. No worries if conditions aren’t right for germination – seeds can remain viable for 15-20 years.
The bad news is that seeds aren’t even the main way that water hyacinth plants reproduce. They also reproduce vegetatively, by producing daughter plants. In four months, two water hyacinth plants can produce 1,200 daughter plants. A population can double in as little as six days. A healthy acre of water hyacinth can weigh up to 200 tons, and still remain afloat!
Water hyacinth supports little native wildlife and has few pests. It can tolerate extremes of water levels, flow velocity, water temperature, pH and nutrient availability. How do you fight that?
The USDA has introduced two weevils, a moth, a mite and a fungus to try to control it, but the going is slow. These biological controls work just fine, but often can’t keep up with the explosive spread of water hyacinth. And just because the weevils, moths, mites and fungi are successful in warm climates doesn’t mean they can survive in cooler climates to do their good work. Pesticides have been used liberally and successfully to control water hyacinth in many areas, but they have a nasty way of killing everything they touch, including important native plants and animals.
For small infestations, the best way to control water hyacinth is to physically remove it before it flowers and sets seed. You can do this. Get out in your boat and haul it aboard. Take it home and let it dry out on a hard surface like your driveway before composting, burning or trashing it.
In autumn of 2015, water hyacinth was discovered near Winneconne at the confluence of the Wolf River and Lakes Winneconne and Butte des Morts, thanks to the sharp eyes of waterfront property owner Valerie Stabenow. She immediately reported her find to the DNR and within days a team of people from the DNR, UW-Extension and other agencies interested in aquatic invasives arrived to scout the area and physically remove the plants. Because of the early discovery and the quick response, the spread was contained before it became uncontrollable. However, in 2016 and in years to follow, monitoring will be necessary to be certain that it doesn’t return and gain a foothold. This is especially important since it wasn’t discovered in this area until October when it had already flowered and set seed for the year.
Winneconne is a small village of 2,400 people that relies extensively on boaters, water skiers, jet skiers, swimmers, fishermen and waterfowl hunters to support its economy. It’s no exaggeration to say that if left unchecked, water hyacinth has the ability to shutter the town in a very short period of time. And that would be bad.
Water Hyacinth is PROHIBITED in Wisconsin. This means you are not allowed to possess, transfer, transport or introduce it. You may possess and transport it in the process of working to remove it. If you have it in your pond or water garden, GET RID OF IT by removing it and letting it dry out before composting, burning or trashing it.
If you discover water hyacinth in a lake, river or stream in Wisconsin PLEASE report it to the DNR IMMEDIATELY. Go to this website or call your local DNR office:
You can help stop the spread of aquatic invasive plants!
Trying to figure out where to place your tree blind for deer hunting can be an arduous process. You can’t exactly move the tree stand with ease when you have put it up, and deer hunting is extremely difficult. There are a few key factors which you need to consider where you are going to put it, and choosing between tree blinds vs ground blinds adds yet more difficulty to the process.
The best placement for your tree blind or ground blind depends on the terrain which surrounds your hunting are and, of course, what you are hunting with and its shot distance. Before you decide where to place your tree blind or ground blind, you need to take into consideration a few key variables.
#1: Are You in a Woodland Area?
When you are hunting in a woodland environment, proper placement of your tree blind is crucial for the overall success of your hunt. In a heavy woodland environment, visibility is limited at best and you are adjacent to various obstacles which make aiming and clearing your shot difficult.
It is important to place your tree blind where you will have the best chance of a clear and successful shot, whilst remaining hidden and out of sight from any deer which are perusing through the area. The point of a tree stand is to keep you out of the deer’s line of sight and to remove the scent trail, however, you cannot just pick any tree and throw it up – take time to learn the deer’s travel patterns and study them carefully.
#2: Open Areas and Fields
The major negative to hunting in a field is all the open space. Although the visibility is better, and you can see the deer easily, the same goes for them too – they will be able to see you easier and thus making the hunt harder.
You can set up your ground blind anywhere in a field to hinder the deer’s vision and throw them off the scent, but the higher up you can get the better. Elevated ground blinds are great for deer hunting, but keep in mind that they will be able to see the ground box easier if it is in an elevated position. It is always better to use the natural setting for cover when hunting deer – such as haybales – so use these if available.
#3: Go with What Works
It is down to you to determine which method – tree or ground blind – works best for you, and where you use them. You can quite easily use a ground blind in a woodland area if you find that it works for you.
There are many variables which you need to consider when deciding which sort of blind to use, and where, and the longer you take to monitor and study your hunting area, the more long-term success you will have.
Hunting deer is a time consuming and delicate process. Deer are very timid and switched-on animals which will flee at the first sign that something is not right, this includes an out of place tree blind or an off-scent. For these reasons, proper placement of your tree or ground blind(s) is crucial and is something you should put a lot of time and research into deciding on.
Color Contrast in Training
There are No Grey Areas
By: Jeremy Moore
Chances are, if you look outside this time of year, you are going to see white, a lot of white. In our home state of Wisconsin, deer seasons have come to an end for the most part and we are moving on to the next season of outdoor activities; most of which include ice and or snow. These are also the kind of conditions that make most professional dog trainers load up their trailers and head south. But for trainers and dog owners like myself, these are the conditions I look forward to during those potentially hot, humid months of June, July and August.
I can’t wait for cold temperatures, which allow me to exercise and actively work dogs on quartering and casting with little or no concern for overheating and exhaustion. When I say quartering and casting, most think of their upland dogs working the CRP for roosters or the tag alders in hopes of flushing the King. But, much like the deer season, the small game season has come and gone this time of year as well.
So, what’s next on the list for our dogs and I? With the close of the deer season, I immediately shift into the mode of shed-hunting season. My approach to preparing our dogs to pick up antlers will be picking up right where we left off during bird season. In fact, one way I prepare my shed dogs for spring is no different than working my dogs for birds. I can take the quartering and casting drills we’ve been using to prepare our flushers and simply change from bumpers or birds to antler dummies and real antlers if the dog is ready.
For many like myself, shed season can be as much, or maybe even more exciting to look forward to than deer season. It happens at a time of the year when we are limited as to what other “hunting” we could be doing and it’s a great way to spend time working our dogs. I am asked often whether or not shed hunting with them will affect their bird hunting. My answer, yes, I think it does…in a very positive way.
I look at my dogs like they are my kids in many ways. In fact, I know some dog owners that may prefer their dogs over their kids! One of the ways I look at my dogs as I would my kids is when it comes to their hunting being relative to kids playing sports. I have always been a believer in the idea of kids that play multiple sports develop into better overall athletes. I think this happens because different sports require different skill sets, different muscle development, use different styles and types of coordination and different meanings and understandings of the concept of a “team.” Better athletes will typically excel at sports, so by developing my dog into a better athlete/hunter, ultimately I am developing them to excel in sports/hunting. A dog that I can use to hunt birds and track deer in the fall, hunt and find sheds in the spring, and have with us on family trips to the lake in the summer, is the perfect “athlete” for me. Overall, I think that all of these activities build off of and help strengthen each other.
So, what are some ways we can prepare now for that transition from fall to spring and how can you use the snow that is likely to be around to your advantage in training? One easy and obvious way is by using color contrast for training. The white of the snow is clearly going to cover and hide sheds visible to the eye. It can also create issues with white training dummies and white antlers on the surface as they blend in and become “camouflaged” easily. At times, this can be a struggle for us as trainers when setting our dogs up for success. No different than when we start young bird dogs, we use the right tools to help us find that success. Bright white bumpers with young retrievers are helpful to ensure our young dogs are able to find those early retrieves and develop confidence. Later in training, we may use feather-laced bumpers that not only add realistic scent, but also make the bumpers blend into cover using nature’s camouflage. When working in snow conditions with my young or inexperienced shed dogs, I use a contrasting colored bumper, or in this case I use a brown training dummy that will surely stand out against the white snow. Prior to snow being on the ground, when the woods and fields are predominantly brown and grey, the bright white antler dummy stands out and makes for a great opportunity for our young dogs to find success visually.
Shed hunters know it’s not uncommon to find antlers varying in color from nearly chalk white to the richest of dark browns. Shed hunters dream of the dark chocolate color finds that North Country bucks are famous for. And when they are down in the prairies of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas, it’s not uncommon to find a fresh shed that appears to be nearly bleached white. There is an old saying in sports that you need to “practice like you play.” When it comes to training dogs, I think that saying is true as well. By using a variety of colors in your shed training both with the antler dummies as well as with real sheds, you are able to control and prepare your dogs for success when it comes to the real thing in the field. Keep this in mind when you’re preparing for the next few months of shed season and you will be much more likely to produce on your trips to the field whether there’s snow on the ground or not.
For much more information on training and training products available for game recovery be sure to check out our website (www.dogbonehunter.com) and social media outlets @dogbonehunter. Best of luck in the woods!
If You Love Something, Set it Free
By: Tony Blando
Richard Bach is an American writer who wrote some bestsellers in the 1970s, including “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.” I very much enjoyed these as they are chock full of wise quotes that can be applied to everyday life.
You can find these little nuggets by simply Googling “quotes by Richard Bach.” That way, you don’t even have to read the books to become as smart as me. Just kidding. Seriously, there are lots of great quotes, but here are a few of my favorites:
“Bad things are not the worst thing that can happen to us. Nothing is the worst thing that can happen to us.”
“You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however.”
“Avoid problems and you’ll never be the one who overcame them.”
I’m guessing some of you may never have heard of Richard Bach and these quotes may be new, but I’d bet many of you will recognize this one:
“If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.”
I don’t know when Bach first wrote these wise words, but I do know the first time I saw them was in the mid-1980s while I was stationed in Georgia — and even then it wasn’t the actual quote, but another version some redneck had altered.
I recall the day I first read it while bass fishing with one of my Army buddies. He had a shirt that said, “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it.” That version was funny at the time, while the accurate version seemed a little corny.
But time and circumstances change things, and I found that quote quite useful while raising three
daughters and helping them navigate the drama of dating and breaking up in high school. When I struggled to find words to console them, I knew I could always reassure them by saying, “If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.” I said those words, but I thought the other version because I really wanted to hunt down the snot-nosed punk who hurt my little girl’s feelings.
I saw the original quote again recently on a greeting card, and I couldn’t help but think about those early Army years and the time I first saw the altered version on my buddy’s t-shirt while bass fishing.
Back then, when I wasn’t working, I hunted and fished every chance I got. I especially became hooked on bass fishing, and my only goal at the time was to catch a “hog” larger than 10 pounds. Although I came very close several times, the biggest I ever caught was a 9 pound, 8 ounce slob. I also caught a whole bunch of fish in the 7 to 8-pound range. Yippee for me. It was nice to brag about those fish then and it was even cooler driving around the Army base showing my large female dead fish to all my buddies because, I’m embarrassed to say, I kept every one of them to mount, to eat or both. We all did back then.
I know. Some of you are thinking, “Blando — you actually kept large female spawning bass? Didn’t you believe in catch and release?” If you asked me today, I would say, “Of course I do!” But it was different back then because neither I, or anyone I fished with, had ever heard of catch and release — just like we didn’t know about quality deer management (QDM) then either.
In 1988, I was proud to bring the fish in the pictures below home to my fiancée. It might be hard for you to get beyond those glasses I’m rocking, the goofy hat or those dorky shorts, but take a look at the series of three pictures. In the first picture, I’m holding a large female bass in the 7-8 pound range. In the next, the one with the sinister look on my face, I’m cleaning the fish that should still be swimming around laying eggs. And in the final picture, I’m posing for my future wife with a “see what a great provider I will be” look.
We never thought about the future back then. We only thought about bringing home the big one to show family and friends, catching enough fish for dinner, and stocking our freezers for future meals with fish of any size.
Fortunately, times have changed for the better. My research indicates the practice of catch and release started sometime in the 1950s – but I don’t think I ever heard the term until some time in the 1990s, and even then it seemed to be something that only musky fisherman were concerned with.
I read somewhere that a female largemouth bass will lay between 2,000 and 7,000 eggs per pound of body weight. Do the math and that means a 7 to 8-pound bass, like the one I kept in Georgia, would lay somewhere between 14,000 and 56,000 eggs. I’m still kicking myself for keeping that fish.
I’ve had similar experiences with walleye. One of my fondest memories was an ice fishing tournament in the late 1970s on Pewaukee Lake. Fishing with my dad and brothers was always memorable, but this particular day remains very vivid because my dad took the top prize with an 8-pound walleye he caught on a Beaver Dam tip-up. We had that one mounted and probably ate the fillets as well.
Now I don’t know how many eggs a female walleye lays, but the Wisconsin DNR website indicates an average of around 50,000. Had we let that fish go, we’d probably still be fishing for her great-great-grandfishies today.
Today, most fishermen I know let these spawning females go. Please don’t think I’m judging you if you keep them. As the Gospel according to Matthew says, “Take the plank out of your eye before you try taking the speck out of mine.” Lord knows, in regard to this subject, I have multiple planks in both eyes, so I certainly won’t begrudge you for keeping large spawning females of any species.
Unlike 30 years ago, I now practice “catch and release,” at least for any large females and even small ones if they have a belly full of spawn. I love fishing and I love to catch large fish and I’m guessing most of you feel the same. I know that the odds are good that if I let these fish go, they will come back. Maybe not that specific female fish, but she will return in the form of her offspring and her offspring’s offspring and her offspring’s offspring’s offspring and so on and so on.
I also love my kids and will love my future grandkids and I can help ensure their fishing futures by only taking what I will eat and releasing those fish that will produce future generations for them to catch.
I hope you will consider doing the same.
Are Your Ducks in a Row?
By: Steve Jordan
Planting food plots is done in many different ways. Some very serious food plotters have two or four-row corn planters to plant corn or soybeans, and some also have six to eight foot grain drills for the smaller seeds.
For years, I have been broadcasting seeds exclusively. This method can be done by hand by throwing seeds (almost like feeding the chickens on old western movies). You can also use a hand held crank or electric seed spreader or a pull behind wheel driven one. For bigger projects, you can hook up a PTO driven spreader to a mid-sized tractor.
One question I often get when I talk about broadcasting is, “Doesn’t it hurt the seeds when you drive over them while covering and/or culti-packing the seeds?” The answer is always, “No!” If you spread the seeds on concrete and run them over a couple of times, I would say you would do some damage. In the soil, the seeds just press down nicely without getting harmed.
I also get asked why I don’t use a grain drill for the turnip mixes, alfalfas, and other small seeds since I plant so many food plot acres in central Wisconsin. The main reason I don’t use a grain drill is that the average food plot is a half acre or less. One half acre of turnip mix is about a coffee can of seed which would barely cover the bottom of a six foot grain drill, and it just wouldn’t work. To fill up the grain drill with seeds and plant several different food plots at once is just not practical. Everyone’s land is different and is ready to be planted at different times. As expensive as these seeds are, hand spreading seems to be most efficient.
In the spring, when I am planting corn or soybeans for a fall or winter feeding of deer, I go through these steps:
For my summer planting of a fall plot, I do it a little differently. In the past, I have written about planting soybeans every three weeks during the growing season right up through August. This keeps the deer eating on the young, tasty plants all summer and early fall. This allows for the older patches to seed out for winter feeding. Once my window for planting a good turnip mix comes along (mid-July through mid-August), I still have the chance to plant soybeans. Here’s how I do it:
The soybeans come up and attract the deer immediately and will keep them coming to the plot daily up until the first frost. After that, the soybeans die and the turnips thrive.
When talking about a good turnip mix, variety is the key. My custom mix consists of three varieties of turnips, two varieties of canola (rape), Swiss chard, two types of sugar beets, kale, two different brassicas, Korean lespedeza, crimson red clover, rutabagas and a forage radish. A turnip mix with this much variety encourages the deer to graze through the plot picking out different kinds of plants as the fall progresses. The deer hit this plot a lot earlier than a straight turnip mix. Now having soybeans coming up with my turnip mix really gets them in the plot early.
Now let’s move on to row planting. I am starting to become more of a fan of row planting. I have a one-row wheel driven planter that hooks up with a three-point hitch and works great. I like to plant 45-inch wide rows for soybeans. This leaves plenty of room for a late turnip planting between the rows. The turnips will have plenty of room and sun to get started. If you did a good job of weed control all summer, and just have soil showing between the rows, then all you have to do is broadcast a good turnip mix onto the soil. The first rain will start the growth of these new plants. Wheat or rye can be broadcast between the rows as another option with good results. You may want to alternate wheat and turnips every other row.
Forty-five inch rows planted in a pumped out reservoir in the spring for fall duck hunting works well. The wide rows allow the ducks to land and take off for a quick escape in the fall when flooded.
One disadvantage of row planting over broadcasting is in high deer density areas the rows tend to get eaten off clean because there is not enough plants to withstand the grazing. Broadcasting will hold up better in these areas.
Diversity and variety of different plants, along with row planting and broadcasting seeds can add to the quality of your food plots. There is no right or wrong when it comes to broadcasting your seeds or row planting. You can get your ducks in a row or use the shotgun method. Do what works best for you and your circumstances. Both can be very productive.
Wild Apple Trees
By: Lawanda Jungwirth
Do you remember the story of Johnny Appleseed from grade school? It is more than just a story; Johnny Appleseed was a real person named John Chapman, born in 1774. Legend has it that he spent years walking throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada randomly dropping apple seeds along the way. The truth is that he was a knowledgeable nurseryman and a noted conservationist.
Johnny Appleseed didn’t go around tossing apple seeds everywhere, he went around planting deliberate orchards. In the early 1800s, frontier law allowed people to claim land by developing a permanent homestead. One way to make a claim was by planting 50 apple trees. John Chapman did just that, planting apple seeds in orchards. Once planted, he put fences around the orchard and left a neighbor to care for it. He would return every couple years to check each orchard’s progress and when they were producing sufficiently, he sold the land. By the time of his death at age 70, he had covered 100,000 square miles and owned more than 1,200 acres of land.
The apples Johnny Appleseed planted were not the sweet eat-out-of-hand apples we look for today. They were small and tart, called “spitters” because that’s probably what you’d do if you took a bite of one. The apples he cultivated were mostly pressed to make hard cider and applejack. Unfortunately, when Prohibition came along in the 1920s, FBI agents took the ax to the majority of Johnny Appleseed’s apple trees. The last known apple tree to be planted by Johnny is 176 years old and still stands in Nova, Ohio. However, there are trees that have been grafted from his trees still growing throughout the area of his travels.
The apples we buy today in the grocery store and the apple tree saplings we obtain from nurseries are not grown from seed. They are the result of careful grafting of existing apple trees, forming clones that are genetically identical. Often, they’ve been grafted onto the roots of other types of apple trees to control how large they will grow.
There are still “wild” apple trees to be found in Wisconsin, along country roads, beside farm fields, at forest edges, along abandoned railroad tracks and in cemeteries. These apple trees may have grown on their own from seed and the size, flavor, ripening time and color are purely left to chance. Sometimes these apples aren’t the best tasting, but sometimes they rival the sweetest apples in the produce aisle. If you come across a wild apple tree, sample the fruit. If it’s awful, wait a few weeks and try again. Even though the apples appear ripe at first taste, they may not have been ready for harvest.
Since wild apple trees haven’t been doused with poison to control for insect pests and diseases, the apples may be wormy or misshapen. On the other hand, you may come upon a tree that is naturally resistant to insects and diseases and find a tree full of perfect, beautiful apples. You can always cut the bad parts out of less than perfect apples and use the good parts. You can’t beat free!
Wild apples can be used in all the same ways as commercial apples are used. Pies, cakes, apple slice, apple crisp, apple cake, apple Betty, applesauce, apple jelly, apple chutney, apple cider, apple wine . . . a truly versatile fruit. Like commercial apples, they can be frozen, canned or dried for long term storage.
Clam Pro TackleTM
Announces New Open Water Tungsten Jigs
Rogers, Minn. (February 15, 2018) – The secret to catching fish through the ice is out and being embraced by open water anglers. For many years, Clam Pro Tackle has been helping ice anglers achieve success by using the benefits of tungsten in a vertical presentation. With the launch of a new initiative, CPT365, Clam tackle innovators are giving all open water anglers a new deadly weapon for their arsenal— the Drop Tg Tungsten Jig.
The evolution of Clam Pro Tackle continues in the form of the Drop Tg. This industry-first, multi-specie jig brings the many advantages of tungsten to all open water anglers. Bass, walleye, pike and panfish anglers that use vertical tactics will quickly see its benefits…
Heavier & Denser
Helps to Stay Vertical
Makes More Noise
Cleaner Water and Pressued Fish
Drop Tg Tungsten Jig
“Anglers used to have find fish by time-consuming casting, drifting or trolling tactics. Now with more advanced electronics, they can ‘hunt’ and find the fish first, THEN fish for them,” explains John Crane, Clam Pro Tackle Developer. “Tournaments are being won by an angler that finds that one giant fish, groups of fish or baitfish, then vertically targets them. This ‘Vertical Drop System’ or VDS, is a new and evolving tactic — see ‘em, drop to ‘em, and catch ‘em — and Clam Pro Tackle is providing the tool to help it take off. Feel what you’ve been missing with the Drop Tg.”
Whats up. Im Todd. I like my dog, boats, the open water, the American flag and guns. Some might describe me as a "basic bro", but I'm really just a down home country boy. And a country boy can survive! Im usually out on the water in my fishing boat or canoe with my dog drinking a beer. Stuff on here is stuff I like. Cheers.