Great Days Outdoors - March 2021

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ls n e a i c ari e p S iM Make it a r e k t Super Cool White Winter Win S u z u with some amazing deals rf om from Suzuki Marine



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INSTANT SAVINGS Instant Savings on select models when you buy a new Suzuki Outboard. See your dealer for details.

Rates as low as 5.99% on new Suzuki outboards on approved credit.* [60 Months]

SIX YEARS OF PROTECTION 3 Years Limited Warranty + 3 Years Extended Protection, No extra charge. charge.

Gimme Six Extended Protection promotion applies to new Suzuki Outboard Motors from 25 to 350 HP in inventory which are sold and delivered to buyer between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21 in accordance with the promotion by a Participating Authorized Suzuki Marine dealer in the continental US and Alaska to a purchasing customer who resides in the continental US or Alaska. The Gimme Six Promotion is available for pleasure use only, and is not redeemable for cash. Instant Savings applies to qualifying purchases of select Suzuki Outboard Motors made between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21. For list of designated models, see participating Dealer or visit Instant Savings must be applied against the agreed-upon selling price of the outboard motor and reflected in the bill of sale. There are no model substitutions, benefit substitutions, rain checks, or extensions. Suzuki reserves the right to change or cancel these promotions at any time without notice or obligation. * Financing offers available through Synchrony Retail Finance. As low as 5.99% APR financing for 60 months on new and unregistered Suzuki Outboard Motors. Subject to credit approval. Not all buyers will qualify. Approval, and any rates and ™ ™ terms provided, are based on creditworthiness. $19.99/month per $1,000 financed for 60 months is based on 5.99% APR. Hypothetical figures used in calculation; your actual monthly payment may differ based on financing terms, credit tier qualification, accessories or other factors such as down payment and fees. Offer effective on new, unregistered Suzuki Outboard Motors purchased from a participating authorized Suzuki dealer between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21. “Gimme Six”, the Suzuki “S” and model names are Suzuki trademarks or ®. Don’t drink and drive. Always wear a USCG-approved life jacket and read your owner’s manual. © 2021 Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. Gimme Six Extended Protection promotion applies to new Suzuki Outboard Motors from 25 to 350 HP in inventory which are sold and delivered to buyer between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21 in accordance with the promotion by a Participating Authorized Suzuki Marine dealer in the continental US and Alaska to a purchasing customer who resides in the continental US or Alaska. The Gimme Six Promotion is available for pleasure use only, and is not redeemable for cash. Instant Savings applies to qualifying purchases of select Suzuki Outboard Motors made between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21. For list of designated models, see participating Dealer or visit Instant Savings must be applied against the agreed-upon selling price of the outboard motor and reflected in the bill of sale. There are no model substitutions, benefit substitutions, rain checks, or extensions. Suzuki reserves the right to change or cancel these promotions at any time without notice or obligation. * Financing offers available through Synchrony Retail Finance. As low as 5.99% APR financing for 60 months on new and unregistered Suzuki Outboard Motors. Subject to credit approval. Not all buyers will qualify. Approval, and any rates and terms provided, are based on creditworthiness. $19.99/month per $1,000 financed for 60 months is based on 5.99% APR. Hypothetical figures used in calculation; your actual monthly payment may differ based on financing terms, credit tier qualification, accessories or other factors such as down payment and fees. Offer effective on new, unregistered Suzuki Outboard Motors purchased from a participating authorized Suzuki dealer between 01/01/21 and 03/31/21. “Gimme Six”, the Suzuki “S” and model names are Suzuki trademarks or ®. Don’t drink and drive. Always wear a USCG-approved life jacket and read your owner’s manual. © 2021 Suzuki Motor of America, Inc.


6940A HIGHWAY 59 | GULF SHORES, AL 36542 HWY 59 @ COUNTY RD. 8


11/12/2020 9:53:36 AM




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Troy, AL Baker, FL Fountain, FL NOW OPEN: Cantonment, FL



A-Team Fishing Adventures I N S H O R E G U I D E S E RV I C E Mobile Bay + Mobile Delta + Dauphin Island



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(251) 661-7696


877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 3





CONTENTS Fly Fishing for Beginners. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 by Ed Mashburn Alabama’s Turkey Season 2021. . . . . . . . . . . 12 by John E. Phillips Chigger Bites: How to Prevent, Identify, and Treat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 by David Strickland Best Speckled Trout Lures for Seasons Ahead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 by Ed Mashburn What Size Tractor Do You Need?. . . . . . . . . . 28 by Joe Baya How to Catch Big Crappie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 by John E. Phillips Spring Food Plots in the South . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 by David Strickland Tips for Trailering Transmissions. . . . . . . . . . . 42 by William Kendy The Easiest and Least Expensive Way to Build & Pay for a Farm Pond . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 by John E. Phillips Fishing Tips for Catching Wahoo. . . . . . . . . . . 50 by Chris Marlin Hood Land Financing Rates Update. . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 by William Kendy

In Every Issue


4 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


Best Bets. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 by William Kendy Camphouse Kitchen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 by Hank Shaw New Gear for Outdoorsmen. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 by William Kendy From the Commissioner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 by Chris Blakenship From the Director . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 by Charles Sykes The Gun Rack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64 by Craig Haney Paddle Fishing. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 by Ed Mashburn Coastal Outlook. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 by Chris Vecsey Pier & Shore. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 by David Thornton Regional Freshwater. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72 by Ed Mashburn Prime Feeding Times, Moon, Sun, and Tide Charts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76 Pensacola Motorsports Trophy Room. . . . . . 80 Great Days Kids Corner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 Classifieds & Fishin‘ Guides . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Fishing Tips. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 by William Kendy A Great Day Outdoors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 by Jim Mize

Pinehill Plantation Hunting, Recreation, and Timber Tract

DIVISIBLE Cowpen Creek Farm, Quail, Lake, & Hunting Preserve

Pinehill Plantation is the ideal hunting and recreational tract for anyone searching for a turn-key place that is convenient to home, nice enough for the entire family to spend the weekend there, yet also offers high-quality deer and turkey hunting. The custom-built 2-story lodge is gorgeous and offers 3 bed/ 2 bath plus a large loft upstairs that can sleep 4-6 more, a large kitchen, dining area, living room with large fireplace, and a screened porch in the back. The large barn is perfect for storing all equipment and vehicles. It possesses power, water, and paved road frontage. The majority of the land is comprised of marketable pine plantation which offers immediate income potential to the new owner if they chose to sell the timber. Additional highlights include over 5,000 feet of Sims Creek frontage, superb deer and turkey hunting, 10+ strategically-placed food plots including multiple chufa patches and several that are large enough for summer food plots, and a high-quality, extensive road network. The recently harvested area also offers a prime lake site if desired. Situated less than four miles from the interstate, it is a 20-minute drive to Tuscaloosa and just over an hour from Birmingham.

Fishing lake, tillable farmland, well managed timber, & superb hunting. Just east of Atmore in the Canoe community, easy access off of Hwy 31 & Jerkins Lp Rd, short drive from I-10 & I-65. Wildlife habitat has been meticulously managed for quail, turkey, dove, trophy deer, ducks, & other wildlife for years, w/as many as three dozen coveys of wild quail present, an abundance of turkey, & 140+ inch deer harvested or seen regularly. Fantastic gravel road & internal trail system throughout the property, dozens of wildlife food plots, several duck ponds. Cowpen Creek, a lg yr round creek, flows through the property for over a mile. Constructed improvements include 4 water wells at strategic locations, a 2BR cabin, a 1BR cabin, several camper hookups, equipment shed, pole barn, & fenced acreage designed for equestrian use that adjoins a 10 stall horse barn w/tack rm, full BA, & office / condo w/kitchen. 90+/- acres of income producing farmland is some of the highest yielding in this region, & a lg 35+/- acre dove field. Stocked fishing lake is 4+ acres with a pier and tackle shed, & there are multiple scenic home or lodge sites around the lake overlooking the surrounding farmland.

Greene County, Alabama, 386+/-Acres

Escambia County, Alabama, 1287+/-Acres

FL Panhandle Listings

Alabama Listings COUNTY Autauga Autauga Autauga Autauga Autauga Baldwin Baldwin Baldwin Baldwin Baldwin Barbour Barbour Barbour Barbour Barbour Bibb Bibb Bibb Bibb Bibb Blount Blount Bullock Bullock Bullock Butler Butler

ACRES 545 298 151 120 116 1995 926 555 463 372 884 342 278 92.7 37 653 416 188 168 152 60 9.3 2436 167 99 436 395

COUNTY Butler Butler Butler Calhoun Calhoun Cherokee Chilton Chilton Chilton Choctaw Clarke Clarke Clarke Clarke Clarke Cleburne Coffee Colbert Colbert Colbert Conecuh Conecuh Conecuh Coosa Coosa Coosa Coosa

316 197 166.81 80 48 938 421 164 13.64 122.51 620 176 54 9.2 4.6 856 200 80 17.37 10 40 40 22 430 128.5 100 99

ACRES 78 360 140 63.04 22 3 164 63 43 20 20 20 1283 1204.51 860 782 555 338 6 4.53 3.09 3.06 264 194 163 111 97

Coosa Covington Covington Covington Covington Covington Cullman Dale Dale Dale Dale Dale Dallas Dallas Dallas Dallas Dallas DeKalb DeKalb DeKalb DeKalb DeKalb Elmore Elmore Elmore Elmore Elmore

COUNTY Escambia Escambia Escambia Fayette Fayette Fayette Fayette Fayette Franklin Franklin Franklin Franklin Franklin Greene Greene Greene Hale Hale Hale Hale Hale Henry Henry Henry Henry Henry Houston

1287 654 68 672 640 484 473 344 244 234 10 8 0.5 490 386 38 127 120 80 70 53.2 200 151 100 26 20 325

Houston Houston Houston Houston Jefferson Jefferson Jefferson Jefferson Jefferson Lamar Lamar Lamar Lamar Lauderdale Lauderdale Lauderdale Lee Lee Lee Lee Limestone Lowndes Lowndes Lowndes Lowndes Lowndes Macon

ACRES 229 155 137 17.5 633 108 78 20 19.45 373 202 92 90 40 3.5 1.17 4505 171 53 33 1.6 1013 783 656 500 2 2370

Macon Macon Macon Macon Marengo Marengo Marengo Marengo Marengo Marion Marion Marion Marion Marion Mobile Mobile Mobile Mobile Mobile Monroe Monroe Montgomery Montgomery Montgomery Montgomery Montgomery Perry

486 483 232 94.12 1164 558 551 404 264 286 88 51 50 40 1800 439 308 260 160 129 95.36 3314 926 788 768 591 610.58



Perry Perry Perry Perry Pickens Pickens Pickens Pickens Pickens Pike Russell Saint Clair Saint Clair Saint Clair Saint Clair Shelby Shelby Shelby Shelby Shelby Sumter Sumter Sumter Sumter Sumter Talladega Tallapoosa

330 270.21 240 163.61 837 150 121 57 40 521.95 50 656.08 66 62 5 200 135.84 126 94 90 2151 740 530 400 67 115 160

COUNTY Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa Walker Walker Walker Walker Walker Washington Washington Washington Washington Washington Wilcox Wilcox Wilcox Wilcox Wilcox Winston Winston

500 479 280 280 220 203 154 144 132 1320 456.8 240 213 190 2365 522 436 370.12 312 160 2.3

Santa Rosa Santa Rosa Walton Walton Washington

ACRES 680 95 454 52 22.5

Over 700 more tracts across 47 states available...


877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 5


BEST BETS FOR MARCH These are our top targets for hunters and fishermen this month! BY WILLIAM KENDY


Match is the prime time on the Emerald Coast for surf fishermen and the main target for most of them are the hard fighting and delectable pompano. Pompano are strong jawed schooling fish and like to roam sandy beaches where the crashing surf can dislodge their favorite foods, which are ghost shrimp and sand fleas (mole crabs) and shrimp, either dead or alive. While sand fleas can be had at bait shops, it is hard to find ghost shrimp. Sand fleas can be caught by patrolling the beach with a sand flea rake but ghost shrimp are a bit more involved and necessitate using a plunger-like sand pump. Sand flea FishBites are also effective. When ghost shrimp spawn their eggs turn orange. A pre-tied “pompano rig” with two or three hooks with red or orange hooks is standard fare for surf fishermen. White and pink feathered jigs and banana jigs cast in closer troughs can also work.


Nobody wants to have car trouble when you are towing your boat or camper for some fun. It is even worse if that trouble stems from your transmission. Most general automotive shops don’t have anything to do with transmission repair and neither do most dealerships. They are just too complicated and there are too many specific fluids to stock. You should put as much emphasis on maintaining your transmission as you do in maintaining your engine. First and foremost, make sure that your transmission oil is up to speed. It should be a translucent red, at the correct level and not smell like burnt toast. Remember to always check your car in park with the engine running and be on level ground. For more tips and information on maintaining your transmission read “Tips for Trailering Transmissions” in this issue.


When one thinks about fly fishing for trout, images of rivers out west, pine surrounded rivers in Michigan and the upper Great Lakes region, the upper Northeast and even in the Smokies and Ozarks. That isn’t the case. Alabama offers some quality rainbow trout water. Sipsey Fork and Black Creek- Noccalula Falls are two examples of first-rate rainbow trout fishing waters within reasonable driving distance. For those aspiring to become fly fisherman the best way to start out is fishing for bream and bass. Casting poppers on light weight fly fishing tackle with a three or four-pound tapered leader makes a bluegill feel like a huge trophy. Then there is bass and even saltwater species. To get the inside scoop on fly fishing for rainbow trout and advice on how to get started refer to “Fly Fishing for Beginners” by Ed Mashburn in this issue. 6 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237



Great Days Outdoors (USPS 17228; ISSN 1556-0147) is published monthly at P.O. Box 1253 Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459 Subscription rate is $30 for one-year, $54 for two-years, and $72 for three-years. Periodicals Postage Paid at Mobile, Ala. and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Great Days Outdoors Media, LLC PO Box 460248 Escondido, CA 92046 SUBSCRIBERS: All subscriptions begin the first issue for the month following receipt of payment, if payment is received by the 15th. Great Days Outdoors assumes no responsibility for delivery after magazines are mailed. All delivery complaints should be addressed to your local postmaster. CONTACT US: EDITORIAL | ADVERTISING | SUBSCRIPTIONS | Great Days Outdoors Media LLC PO Box 460248 Escondido, CA 92046 877. 314. 1237 All rights reserved. Reproduction of contents is strictly prohibited without permission from Great Days Outdoors Media, LLC.



Fly Fishing for Beginners Trout Fishing 101 BY ED MASHBURN

Beginning fly anglers will find success in a very short time.

8 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


WHY TRY FLY FISHING FOR TROUT? It’s a historic and honorable tradition- fly fishing for trout. One of the most potent images of fishing in general is an angler standing in the water and casting a fly in hopes of fooling a trout. And the wonderful thing about this image is that it is real and it is a great deal of fun. Catching trout on a fly rod is a challenge, and it is not always successful, but when it all comes together, there’s really no better way of fishing. And the truth is, fly fishing for trout is often very successful, Too many anglers from the Deep South tend to think of fly fishing for trout as a “Northern” thing and not a possibility for Southern anglers. Like many assumptions about fishing, this idea that fly fishing for trout is not for us Southerners is wrong. So let’s look at fly fishing for beginners - Fly Fishing for Trout 101. WHERE CAN ANGLERS FLY FISH IN THE DEEP SOUTH? First, a beginning fly angler looking for trout will not have to drive a long, long way to find trout. Trout are not limited to the cold waters of the Smokies or the Ozarks or the Rocky Mountains. Thanks to the efforts of concerned and hard-working organizations, there is some fine cold water fly fishing for rainbow trout

right here in Alabama. THE SIPSEY FORK- DEEP SOUTH TAILRACE TROUT The classic southern trout fishing situation is a Tail Race which is cold water released from a dam which impounds a huge reservoir upstream. This kind of cold dam-release water is found all across the South and it has come to produce some of the best trout fishing to be found anywhere in the world. Probably the southernmost tailrace trout fishing water is right here in Alabama at the Sipsey Fork which lies just below the dam impounding Smith Lake. Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, in agreement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Alabama Power Company, stock Sipsey Fork with 3,000 eight to fourteen inch rainbow trout on a monthly basis meaning that the river always has a good population of catchable fish. Beginning fly anglers can access the Sipsey Fork by wading, but a float trip is one of the most rewarding ways to learn this fishery. The folks at Riverside Fly Shop on the banks of the Sipsey Fork in Bremen, Alabama know the river, they have float trips providing equipment and instruction, and they can help new anglers learn about the world of fly fishing for trout. BLACK CREEK- NOCCALULA FALLSA FREE-FLOWING STREAM Located near the town of Gadsden is Black Creek and the

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Fly Fishing for Beginners- Trout Fishing 101

famous and popular Noccalula Falls Park. This stream offers fly anglers some gorgeous free-flowing water, and recently a group of interested anglers and concerned folks decided to improve on an already wonderful location. Starting in November of 2019, trout have been stocked in Black Creek and it appears that these rainbow trout are doing quite well. Anglers have had great success catching these trout which very soon become acclimated to the water of Black Creek and behave just like wild-born trout. Trout fishing is only legal by fly rod. Traditional spinning reel is allowed for other species. The creek is stocked twice annually, in November and February and at least 1,000 twelve to fourteen inch long trout are released at each stocking. There is indication that a good number of these stocked trout survive and held over throughout the year, and this gives a chance for some really big trout in the future. “This past year we had some hold-over trout that were in the 20 inch length- fat fish,” says Frank Roden of Rainbow City Fly Shop Black Creek and its fly fishing for trout is easy to walk in and access for beginning fly anglers. There is a wide range of activities in the Gadsden area for non-anglers and a wide range of places to stay. This new fishery on Black Creek and the Gadsden area would make for a really fine family vacation and some great trout fishing. BEST START-UP FLY FISHING RIG Although beginning a fly fishing life will require some equipment that might not be on hand, it really doesn’t cost any more to start getting needed gear together than it does for any other kind of fishing.

Fly rods and reels present a big part of the purchase requirements for fly fishing. And there is a bewildering range of brands, sizes and weight of fly rods, and a very wide range of cost. It can get confusing quickly. Brandon Jackson of Riverside Fly Shop recommends beginners look at a five weight rod with matched line and reel. This is a good starting point rod which will work well on a wide range of fly fishing situations. Riverside can put this rig into an angler’s hands for around $180 to $225, and this rod is warranted for five years. Getting some knowledgeable advice about fly rod purchases is really very important. Buying the wrong rod and rig for specific fishing situations can make fly fishing very frustrating. Waders will be important for trout anglers who are serious about trout fishing. Trout live in cold water, and trying to “wet wade” gets very old and cold very quickly. Good waders keep an angler in the trout fishing game for all seasons and they provide good protection from scrapes and other problems well. A good set of waders will run around $300, but they can be picked up for considerably less on sale. Other gear for beginning fly anglers will vary greatly, and for proper fly selection for trout fishing, it is better by far to talk to local guides and fly shops before purchasing a bunch of flies for trout fishing. Local knowledge can save a beginning fly angler a lot of money by allowing the new angler to buy just those flies that tend to work on specific waters. FLY FISHING LESSONS? Probably the most important part of starting out in the fly fishing game for trout is to get some instruction. Seriously now, someone who knows fly fishing can insure the success of a beginner more than any other single factor.

Black Creek is a wonderful new fly fishing stream.

10 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

Fly Fishing for Beginners- Trout Fishing 101

Is learning to fly cast possible without help from a teacher, who may either be a friend or professional? Absolutely, but learning to use a fly rod is in many ways like learning to ride a bicycle. If you try it on your own with no help, the learning will be slow and it just might not come very easily.

Sipsey Fork holds some fine rainbow trout for fly anglers.

And just casting the fly is only part of the process. Learning where to cast and how to present the fly is crucial for trout fishing success. Probably more people attempt to learn fly fishing on their own and fail and then give up the whole thing than from any other cause. One of the best ways to learn the fly fishing thing, including casting, equipment, and presentation of the fly to the fish is to book a trip with the folks at Riverside Fly Shop on the Sipsey Fork and spend a day listening and learning from the Jacksons and their staff. A half-day float trip will cost $250 for two folks and this is very reasonable for a guided trip. Riverside will furnish all gear and equipment, and during the trip, they can instruct the beginner on casting and fly presentation. After the trip if the new fly fisher is interested, the shop will offer a discount on rods, reels and gear purchase. “My main focus is helping beginners. We do classes for beginning fly anglers. We try to start them with modest cost but good quality equipment. We want beginners to have fun and catch some fish,” says Roden from Rainbow City Fly Shop who offers beginning anglers education and guidance as well as equipment. FLY FISHING IS NOT JUST FOR TROUT Even though this article looks primarily at fly fishing for trout, the truth is that fly fishing for warm water fish and even saltwater fish is a wonderful way to catch some fish. The same gear and the same casting skills that work for rainbow trout will work especially well for bream, bass, crappie and other freshwater gamefish. There is no better fishing than catching a bluegill on a popper on a five weight fly outfit. And the first time a beginning fly angler hooks a redfish on a fly rod, that angler will be hooked as surely as the redfish.

Important Contact Information To learn more about the fly fishing at Black For general activities and vacation For equipment and instruction in the Gadsden area Rainbow City Fly Shop 114 Steele Station Road Gadsden ,Al 35901 256-442-5919 256-490-5450 For help choosing fly gear and fly fishing instruction on the Sipsey Fork Riverside Fly Shop 17027 Alabama Hwy 69 S Bremen, Al 35033 256-287-9582


10670 U.S. Highway 31 Spanish Fort, AL 36527 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 11

Alabama’s Turkey Season 2021 BY JOHN E. PHILLIPS

12 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

HUNTING Often during that first two weeks of turkey season in March when the turkey gobbler flies down off the roost, and his toes touch the ground, his head gets filled full of lead from modern turkey guns and new and improved shotshells.

According to the findings of wildlife scientists, Alabama must change the times of turkey hunting season to later in the spring or not have as many wild birds to hunt. In the last six or seven years, research has tended to indicate that turkey populations are decreasing in the Southeast. Hunters have reported seeing and hearing fewer gobblers each year. According to several different research teams, if this trend doesn’t stop quickly, states may have to shut-down their turkey seasons to protect the species. Arkansas recently has changed its turkey season to allow only 10 days of hunting and only one gobbler per hunter, per season. One of the problems we have in Alabama is that we hate change almost as much as the devil hates Holy water. Think back to when Alabama’s Department of Conservation recommended the harvest of does in Alabama for the betterment of the deer herd. Hunting clubs, individual hunters and landowners as a whole resisted this change. Finally, after about five or six years of a strong education program, Alabamians began to better manage their deer herds for older-age bucks and healthier deer. Let’s look at what the research says about Alabama’s turkey flock, and why the state is in a desperate situation for change. The person responsible for the protection of the species is Chuck Sykes, the Director of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries for the State of Alabama. Chuck Sykes Explains the Turkey Problem “I was a turkey hunter long before I became a wildlife biologist, and I was a wildlife biologist a long time before I became the Director of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries for the State,” Chuck Sykes explained. “Looking at the evidence and the research that our department has been doing with other states and with Auburn University, we’ve seen a slow decline in the numbers of turkeys in Alabama over the last decade. Like all other wildlife populations, the turkey population has experienced ebbs and flows. However, with turkeys specifically, we’ve recorded a steady decline in the number of poults (young turkeys) being born and surviving to a harvestable size. There also has been a decline in the number of turkey hunters harvesting turkeys and hearing turkeys’ gobble.” About six years ago, state biologists started studying the “Avid Turkey Hunter Survey” (see sidebar), brood surveys and major research on wild turkeys with Auburn University. From that research, the participants realized that the number of turkeys in Alabama, as well as the Southeast, is in a state of decline. Alabamians must decide if they will continue to let the turkey population decline, possibly to the point of having to close the season, or do something proactive to prevent the inevitable. Sykes and other biologists feel strongly that being proactive 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 13

For Those That Do, The Seasons Never End



14 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

When it comes to managing the land, Bill Jordan and his team at Realtree don’t settle for anything but the best. That’s why they trust SunSouth for quality John Deere equipment to manage their property year round. Visit or visit one of our convenient locations near you and see how affordable it is to own a John Deere. SunSouth - For Those That Do.

Alabama’s Turkey Season 2021

will help to stop the decline of the wild turkey populations in Alabama. The ultimate solution is for all landowners and hunters to begin habitat management for turkeys, and predator control to protect turkeys and start hunting turkeys later in the year, rather than beginning the middle of March. State biologists know what has to be done, but only three percent of Alabama’s land is controlled by the state. “All the research that we have now tends to indicate that we’re harvesting too-many gobblers at the first of turkey season,” Sykes reported. “So, hunters are having a negative impact on the number of hens being bred and the number of poults surviving to maturity. By moving the season to start April 1st to be closer to the time when hens begin nesting, we’ll give the gobblers more time to breed the hens, which should result in a more-successful reproduction of wild turkeys, instead of a declining population of turkeys. If we go strictly by the recommendations of the scientific data of the last six years, we probably shouldn’t start hunting turkeys in Alabama until the 15th of April, but in reality, that’s never going to happen.” “State researchers and biologists have asked the Governor’s Advisory Board of the Department of Conservation to move the opening of turkey season as far forward as they can politically with hunter approval,” Sykes said. “Like many other Alabama die hard turkey hunters, if I hadn’t been convinced by the scientific data gathered over the last six years, I wouldn’t be in favor of change. I love to turkey hunt just as much as any other hunter in Alabama.” The DCNR’s proposal is to move the opening of turkey season from the middle of March to the first of April and extend turkey season until the second week of May. Then state hunters still will have the same number of days to hunt turkeys they’ve had before. By making this adjustment, hunters still will have the same bag limit on turkeys (five per season) that they always have had. Also more hens will be bred than in past seasons, which will result in more turkeys being produced each year than in the past, and more hunters harvesting more turkeys than in the past.

Like you, the author, John E. Phillips, Sr., enjoys calling and taking turkeys, but he’s learned from wildlife scientists, after their years of study, that we’re taking too-many gobblers during the first two weeks of Alabama’s turkey season in March and not allowing enough hens to be bred.

Steven Mitchell - Alabama’s Mr. Turkey Steven Mitchell is Alabama’s Mr. Turkey, although his title is actually “upland game bird coordinator”. Mitchell has been involved with and has studied all the research that has been done in the field by the DCNR and Auburn University and has boiled that research down to help the state make the best decisions possible to stop the decline of Alabama’s wild turkey population. “The wild turkey is the only game bird in Alabama that is hunted almost

Alabama’s 2021 Turkey Hunting Season Dates You can visit to learn about the 2021 season dates and see a state map with zones. You can take only gobblers – one per day with a total of five gobblers per year. You can use turkey decoys during spring turkey-hunting season that runs March 20 – May 2 for most of the state; with Zone 2 – March 27 – May 2; Zone 3 – April 17 – 21; Zone 4 – a fall and spring turkey season in Clarke, Clay, Covington, Monroe, Randolph and Talladega counties; and Zone 5 – no season in Limestone County, south of Highway 72. Spring turkey season will be delayed to March 27 to May 2, 2021 for research purposes on these WMAs: Barbour, J.D. Martin-Skyline, Hollins, Oakmulgee, Lowndes, Choccolocco and Perdido River. 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 15

Alabama’s Turkey Season 2021

In the past, a turkey hunter called and shot his own gobbler, however, hunters have learned that to be more successful, one hunter can do the calling, and the other hunter focuses his attention on the turkey coming to him.

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exclusively during its spring breeding season,” Mitchell explained. “The projected path, if we don’t make a change in the time of the season and its length, is that Alabama’s wild-turkey population will continue to decline. In the last three years, serious discussions have taken place about reducing the bag limit on turkeys from five birds per year to three gobblers per year - just one option being considered to stop the decline of Alabama’s wild turkeys. “We’ve been looking at a growing body of evidence that tends to indicate our wild-turkey population has been in a steady decline. Other state agencies throughout the South have become aware of this same problem on a region-wide basis. Alabama’s harvest to index to population trends, our brood surveys and our productivity surveys all have shown a tendency to decline. The data we’ve conducted on turkey harvest and turkey reproduction indicate that the harvest of wild turkeys in Alabama has been trending down for 10 years, but hunter numbers have remained the same. So, we can’t explain the decrease in the harvest by a decrease in the number of hunters. Also, our brood surveys have shown a decline over the last 10 years, and the number of poults per hen has declined. The size of the brood that each hen produces has declined too.” All this current and ongoing research tends to indicate that there’s a problem with the number of turkeys being born each season. Alabama’s peak time for nest initiation (the time when hens start sitting on their nests) is the second week in April. Our spring hunting season in Alabama opens a month before the peak of the nesting season. This means: * about 40% of the gobblers that are harvested in Alabama are taken 16 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

before April 1st each year; * 20% of the gobblers harvested are taken during the first week of turkey season, all of which is well before peak nest initiation (hens going to the nest); * too-many gobblers are being harvested before the hens get bred and start laying eggs. That’s why Alabama has less turkey reproduction each year and a decline in the turkey population each year. As Mitchell emphasized, these factors are limiting the growth of the wild turkeys in Alabama. The only solution appears to be to move the opening of turkey season, so that the gobblers can breed the hens before the gobblers are harvested. “We feel that moving the opening day of turkey season to the first week of April to increase breeding, nesting and poult production will satisfy our hunters in Alabama,” Mitchell explained. “We know as a department that we have to balance hunter satisfaction with increasing the number of gobblers that breed hens before the season opens. We believe that the best way to balance hunter satisfaction and increase the number of hens that get bred before the hunters take the gobblers is to move the season two weeks to April 1st and let it run until the second week of May. Then gobblers will have two more weeks to breed hens before hunters start to hunt the gobblers. By adopting this strategy, we feel certain that we will have more hens bred, which should result in more turkeys to hunt in future years. This tactic should stop the decline of the wild turkey population in Alabama, and at least restore the turkey population to what it was before the

Alabama’s Turkey Season 2021

decline began. With this tactic, we won’t have to reduce the number of turkeys hunters can take nor reduce the number of days that the hunters have to hunt turkeys. However, the DCNR recognizes that any change in turkey season or the turkey bag limit will make many hunters unhappy.” To insure a healthy, sustainable turkey population in Alabama for future generations of hunters to hunt, new steps must be taken. Some Alabama hunters have told the DCNR, that they don’t mind taking fewer gobblers. The DCNR’s research shows that 75% of Alabama turkey hunters harvest three or less gobblers each season. Mitchell mentions that he’s an avid turkey hunter, and just like most avid turkey hunters, he wants to legally take his number of turkeys each year. “Turkey hunting is a precious resource to me personally, but after studying the data, I know that if we don’t do something quickly, we may lose that precious resource,” Mitchell said.. “I think that this compromise is best for the turkey hunters and for restoring our wild-turkey heritage, instead of watching it decline and not doing anything to stop that decline. The bottom line is that we’ve got to allow more hens to be bred and not take the gobblers out of the population, until after a majority of the hens have been bred. We know that no change will take place in the 2021 turkey season. However, if right-minded turkey hunters don’t start pushing for this change, we’ll continue to watch the turkey population in Alabama decline.”

Organizations That Can Help about Changing Turkey Hunting Season’s Start * The Alabama’s Governor’s Advisory Board to the DCNR recommends season and bag-limit changes to increase hunter satisfaction and protect the decline of wildlife species. Although the members of the Board have been given the scientific data that proves how important making this decision to move the opening of turkey season to April 1st from March 15th, this Board hasn’t followed the science and hasn’t voted for what’s best for the turkey population and hunters. We have one of two choices as turkey hunters: we can continue to let the turkey population in Alabama decline, face silent woods and hear no turkeys gobble in the spring; or, we can push for moving turkey season to begin on April 1st, which will help stop the decline of Alabama’s wild turkey and actually increase the number of turkeys we can hunt each season without losing any days to hunt and being able to maintain a five-bird limit instead of a three-bird limit.

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Avid Turkey Hunter Survey

The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) is asking turkey hunters who hunt at least 10 days during turkey season to participate in the department’s Avid Turkey Hunter Survey. All who participate in the survey will receive the state’s annual turkey report “Full Fans & Sharp Spurs,” that provides biological and sociological data used by WFF to monitor and manage Alabama’s turkey resources. Email your request to participate in the survey with your name and Conservation ID number to Steven Mitchell at, or call 334-242-3469.

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* The Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) has numbers of turkey and deer hunters who support the organization. To contact the AWF, call 334-285-4550 or write * The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) needs to stand-up for this new and better research to protect the wild turkey and wild turkey hunting in Alabama. To contact, visit or call 800-843-6983 or 803-637-3106. These groups, as well as concerned individuals, who love to watch the sun come up and hear the thunderous roar of Alabama’s wild turkeys, need to decide to support this change.

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Alabama’s Turkey Season 2021


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Recipe and image courtesy of

Turkey Tenderloins A simple yet festive main dish. If you’re not up to the task of roasting a turkey this dish is for you. Serve with Cranberry Chutney. Originally submitted to


Prep: 1-4 hours • Cook: 22 mins • Total: 1-4 hours 22 mins Ingredients • 1 pound turkey tenderloins • 3 tablespoons soy sauce • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed Instructions 1.

Place the turkey tenderloins in a sealable plastic bag and set aside 2. In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, mustard and rosemary. Pour over turkey, seal bag and shake to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours shaking once or twice. 3. Preheat the oven on the broiler setting. Remove the turkey from the marinade and place on the rack in the broiler pan. Broil 4 inches from the heat, turning once, for 20 to 22 minutes or until meat is cooked through and when pierced with a fork the juices run clear. Slice and serve with Cranberry Chutney.


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How to Prevent, Identify, and Treat BY DAVID STRICKLAND

Redbugs “chiggers” are the enemy of warmer temps.

20 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

HUNTING The blueberry bushes were near the tree line. The grass was short, and the weeds were sparse. My grandkids love blueberries, so I stopped the Jeep. Corbin and his older brother Daniel picked the lower ones and I gathered the ones they couldn’t reach. We filled our bags with delicious ripe berries and made the short trip back home. I told my daughter to check both boys for ticks when they bathed that night. She called the next day and said both boys had red welts around their ankles and waist. “Dang redbugs,” was my reply. I’ve encountered many Alabama insects, but few produce the skin irritation and intense itching caused by redbugs. It took nearly two weeks for all of our welts to heal. It had been many years since a chigger assaulted me, and I was determined to search for information about reducing the itch and irritation caused by the enzymes in the chigger’s saliva. Technically redbugs are not insects but are classified as mites and included in the arachnid family with spiders. These bugs are a case of misery bundled in a tiny package. After the berry picking incident this past summer, I discovered several alternatives to scratching that can help stop the constant itch. I remembered my Aunt Louise heated a spoon over the stove many years ago and placed the curved bottom onto where a wasp had just stung my arm. I was visiting for the weekend, and I ran into her kitchen, crying as I told her about knocking down a nest on her front porch. In my search for answers about insect stings and bites, I discovered my Aunt was pretty smart. HABITAT Redbug is the name my family uses when they refer to these tiny orange pests. Chigger is the more proper term but they are also known as harvest, scrub, and berry mites. They survive under the soil during cold weather and begin their life cycle after the last spring frost. They become inactive in the fall when the temps drop below 42 degrees. Chiggers prefer warm, moist, shaded areas and are most active between 77-86 degrees. They are more prevalent around creeks, rivers, and ponds. Wherever small rodents and wildlife flourish is a prime environment for these orange mites. Blackberry thickets and undisturbed openings with weeds are very likely to have a thriving redbug population. LIFE CYCLE Female chiggers become active in the spring, and once the ground temperature reaches 60 °F (16 °C), they lay up to 15 eggs. They deposit them in moist leaf litter, damp soil, rotting logs, and vegetation. The eggs are round and hatch in about seven days. After hatching, they begin their larval stage as they climb nearby plants and wait. The larva has six legs at this stage but grows two more as adults. Two or three could fit onto the period at the end of this sentence. After climbing a short distance, they gather on the edge of leaves, grass blades, and stems. They can survive up to 30 days as they patiently wait for a passing host. The skin of small mammals, toads, lizards, birds, snakes and even large grasshoppers is their usual food source. They don’t jump but fall onto their victims and immediately begin crawling to find a soft spot to bite. The larva chews or uses its sharp claw to create a tiny hole, inject saliva, and wait for the skin to liquify. The digestive enzymes dissolve skin cells and form a hardened tube. The larvae feed for two to three days and then fall from their host onto the soil to molt. This larval stage is the only part of the chigger’s life cycle that creates problems for humans. In 7-10 days, they emerge as a nymph with eight legs. As adults they feed on organic matter and small critters in the soil. HEAT FOR INSECT BITES & STINGS I discovered a study that used heat to disrupt the itch and inflammation caused by the bites 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 21

Chigger Bites - How to Prevent, Identify, and Treat

and stings from various insects. The experiment tested a battery-powered device made in Germany. It has a small ceramic tip that quickly reaches 124 degrees after pushing one of two buttons. The testing concluded that quickly applying a precise amount of concentrated heat directly onto an insect bite or sting can reduce the pain, itching, and swelling. I contacted Faron Sagebiel, U.S. director of sales and marketing for MibeTec - the makers of the device used in the study. The battery-powered device is named Bite Away. I wanted to know if this German device offered relief from the itch caused by our Alabama redbugs. He assured me, “Bite Away does indeed provide relief from the irritation caused by the enzymes in the chigger saliva. We have many testimonials from customers who tell us about its effectiveness in reducing the itch, pain, and inflammation caused by chigger bites.”

The BiteAway device is very effective at immediately reducing the pain and itchiness of chigger bites.

“The Bite Away pen is an FDA approved, type 2 medical device. Two buttons provide a three or 5-second heat treatment, and you can apply the heated ceramic tip up to five times an hour to each bite. Batteries last for around 300 uses, and it has a two-year warranty,” Faron explained. ITCH REMEDIES FOR CHIGGERS Excessive scratching of chigger bites can slow the healing process and lead to secondary infections. Relieving the itch can help with the inflammation and allow the wound to heal quicker. At the first sign of a chigger bite, it’s a good idea to take a hot show-

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Chigger Bites - How to Prevent, Identify, and Treat

er to remove all the hitchhikers from your skin. Baking Soda- Bathe and then use baking soda to scrub the area around each bite. Wait for a few minutes before rinsing off. Salt- Another idea that seems to help is to mix salt into a small amount of vapor-rub and dab some onto each bite. Apple cider vinegar - If rubbed onto the inflamed area, it can temporarily reduce itching and inflammation. Here are three common OTC medicines that can help with the common symptoms of chigger bites; 1. Calamine lotion 2. Cortisone cream 3. Benadryl PREVENTING CHIGGER CONTACT I spent a lot of time in years past scouting sloughs and creeks before deer season. I tucked my pants legs inside my boots and sprayed Deep Woods Off up to my waist. It kept me mostly bite-free by keeping ticks and redbugs from hitching a ride. You can also use Permethrin on your outer clothing. The military developed it several decades ago to protect soldiers from an array of insects. Carefully follow the directions on the label. After spraying your outer garments, it must be allowed to dry completely before wearing. It not only repels but can also kill insects. One application is sufficient for up to six weeks, and you can wash the garments several times in between treatments. CHIGGER MANAGEMENT For those that want to ensure their yard is not a chigger haven, it’s a good idea to reduce the habitat favored by rodents and critters that redbug larvae prefer. Examine your yard edges for clutter or weeds and keep them mowed down. Any damp, overgrown areas that might attract rodents are prime habitat for redbugs.


Beware as you venture into the wilds or decide to pick some berries this summer. If you suspect your path may have crossed into redbug territory, immediately wash your clothing in hot water when you get back home. Hop into the shower and scrub the little buggers off before they can inflict any damage. However, if you experience an intense itch 12-24 hours after your outdoor trek, relief could be as simple as pushing a button. I’ve got a Bite Away device on order for the grandkids. We’re planning on picking some more blueberries this summer.

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Best Speckled Trout Lures for Seasons Ahead Have a “Soft Scented” Spot in Your Heart


No matter the season, anglers who are serious about catching speckled trout in our coastal waters need to think about things that smell and we’re not talking now about unwashed anglers after a long day’s fishing. Lures which provide action, color and scent are much more effective at fooling big speckled trout than lures which don’t provide all of these three factors. And for day in and day out good trout lures, it’s hard to beat the Fight Club series of soft-body scented lures made by Fishbites, based out of St. Augustine, Florida. We reached out to Fishbites to find out why their lures are so effective. AND HOW DID FISHBITES COME ABOUT? “Our bait research was undertaken by Dr. William Carr who was the foremost authority on chemoreception in marine species. His research concluded that bait odors we humans smell in the air, gasses, have virtually nothing in common with the chemicals that fish detect in the water. Fish can only detect substances that actually dissolve in water. As they swim, fish will detect these chemicals with their nose and mouth because they use both in tandem to detect and track down injured prey items,” says Michael Carr, vice president of Fishbites. “But the scent component is only part of what makes an effective bait. Once the fish bites, the mouthparts take over and if the anticipated flavor does not 24 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

match the scent the fish tracked, the fish will often spit the bait out,” Carr explained. “Think of it this way: if you drive past a fast-food restaurant and smell french fries, and you pull in to get some, if these french fries taste like cardboard, you’re probably not going to get past the first few fries. Fish are somewhat the same way and Fishbites’ unique flavor/scent formulation has taken this into account from day one of its introduction. Fish not only attack our lures aggressively, but they hold on longer because of the flavor we infuse into each bait.” THERE ARE SCENTS, AND THERE ARE TOUGH SCENTS Scott Jones, Sales Manager for Fishbites and an avid speckled trout angler pointed out that one of the major benefits of their lure is their long “hook life” and the fact they hold up to abuse. “One thing that’s special about all of the Fishbites baits is their durability. Unlike other brands of scented lures, Fishbites are tough,” Jones said. “It’s common to catch over a dozen specks on a single Fight Club bait. This morning, I caught two redfish and seven specks on a single one.” Captain Mike Wilson of Bama Slam Inshore Adventures in Gulf Shores fishes the Alabama Gulf Coast region for specks quite often and he agrees. “Fishbites Fight Club saltwater baits are extremely durable and outlast other


scented soft baits by far. They last cast after cast, fish after fish, making them a very cost-efficient alternative to other scented soft and live bait. But most importantly, they catch fish,” Wilson said. With many other kinds of scented soft lures, anglers are lucky to catch more than a single fish on each bait and this can get very expensive quickly. Fishbites baits attract fish, and the fish can’t tear up the soft scented body easily. Still, there are lots of choices for anglers to use when throwing Fishbites Fight Club Series soft scented baits to the specks. A multitude of forms, each with different actions and different colors are offered. The Fight Club series consists of the Dirty Boxer, which is a curly tail with great action, the Butt Kicker, a paddle tail, the Fighting Shrimp. a natural-looking shrimp and the Brawler, a jerk bait that is deadly on specks when fished unweighted over grass beds These baits do not require a jar or other cumbersome vessel to store them. A simple zip-lock bag will keep the baits in great shape and they don’t dry out as quickly as other scented lures.

Big specks will jump all over Fishbites

Fight Club baits come in different actions and shapes for different situations, and these trout catchers come in eight different colors. HOW TO FISH THE SCENTED SOFT LURES FOR SPECKS “I like to use the Fight Club series of lures in clean, moving water around sharp bends in creeks and bayous, and if there’s a drop off, that’s even 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 25

Best Speckled Trout Lures for Seasons Ahead

The Dirty Boxer ripple-tail bait gets lots of attention.

better. In deeper water, I may go to a 3/8 oz jig head. Around docks and oyster bars, the Fight Club lures can be deadly,” Jones said. Also, the Fight Club series of scented soft lures are great under a popping cork for a “search” lure to help locate active specks. “The Dirty Boxer in white or chartreuse color, specks will take even a motionless bait because of the scent which draws the fish,” Jones commented. “If the specks are on a hot bite and then the bite tapers off, try switching color or body style. A different color or a different action from the lure may trigger the bite again.” Captain Mike Wilson from Bama Slam Inshore Adventures has found Fishbites baits and the Fight Club Series in particular to be very effective for specks. “I use a variety of Fishbites Fight Club lures, and if specks are present, one or more of the four selections will usually catch fish,” Wilson said. When it comes to some of the specifics of fishing Fight Club baits in winter and early spring,

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Best Speckled Trout Lures for Seasons Ahead

Wilson has some advice.

All of the Fight club soft scented baits are deadly on big trout.

“Whatever bait I select, I rig it on a FCC Lures ¼ oz. jig head. Most of the time I choose red, but occasionally I will try unpainted, white or yellow. I tie it on eight pound Vicious low-vis green mono. But when the water is really clear, I drop down to a six pound. test which will garner more strikes,” Wilson said. “I fish the bait ‘low and slow’, and I mean really slow. The specks are slow and lethargic in the winter cold water, and they are on the bottom. Let the bait drop to the bottom before retrieving. Fish it like you are bass fishing with a plastic worm: slow retrieve, bump off bottom, let it sit, bump it again, slow retrieve. If you think you are going too slow, slow down a little more.” “Adding Fishbites Fight Club saltwater baits to your tackle arsenal will help to consistently catch more speckled trout,” Wilson concluded.

Important Contact Information Capt. Mike Wilson Bama Slam Inshore Adventures Ft. Gordon Road, Gulf Shores, Alabama 36542 251-747-6941 Fishbites Carr Specialty Baits 164 Nix Boat Yard Road St. Augustine, FL 32084 877-840-2248


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What Size Tractor Do You Need? BY JOE BAYA

28 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

LIFESTYLE You’ve researched, shopped and finally closed on your very own piece of hunting land heaven. Be it 10, 40, 100 or even more acres, the question is, now that you own it, how are you going to maintain and manage it? You might be doing everything from cutting lawns and clearing brush to maintaining roads and planting large acreages with food plots or even managing areas for prescribed fire. To do that you either need to have a lot of strong friends, a huge family or invest in a tractor and appropriate implements. The main question is what size of tractor do you need? I broached this question in a recent Great Days Outdoors Huntin’ Land podcast with Todd Ward of SunSouth, a company headquartered out of Dothan, AL with 21 locations in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. SunSouth offers a full line of mowers and tractors ranging from small up to the “Big Boys” for agriculture and heavy-duty jobs along with implements and full service. Ward points out that even though a lot of people will ask for a specific tractor that they think is the right one, he advises them to step back and determine exactly what they want to accomplish. While price is always a factor in the purchase process, the “time is money” concern enters the loop, especially when property owners only have weekends to devote to projects. “I try to qualify customers as to exactly what they need, according to the tasks they want to do or achieve. They need to consider their budget as in how much money they will spend but also in the time they budget to get projects done.,” Ward said. “You can do the same task with a smaller tractor and spend less money but it is going to take you more time to complete than if you bought a larger one.” In addition to money and time considerations, customers should keep in mind the type of implements that they are going to be using and the requi-

site size and horsepower needed to allow them to deliver peak performance. Other things in the mix include the type of terrain you have. Is it flat or steep, wet or marshy? What is the primary service and function of the tractor? Then there is expediency. In terms of food plots, there is a “window” period in which you need to get the work done (as in preparation and planting) and if you can only devote a limited amount of time to the project you need to have enough power to get the job done. “There is an old adage for tractors that says, ‘It is better to have horsepower and not need it than to need horsepower and not have it’ and if you undermine horsepower you are really being counterproductive,” Ward said. “If you are planting a lot of acreage you will need bigger and wider implements and more horsepower.” THE ECONOMY OF SCALE AND THE FUTURE Things have a tendency to compound and if you are going to make a substantial capital expenditure it makes sense to evaluate what you may need down the road. Can that smaller tractor handle projects five or even ten years in the future? It may cost you a certain amount of money for what you think you need but for a 50% increase in cost you may be able to get a 100% increase in capacity and capability. Sometimes, the bigger the tractor you buy, the bigger the bang for the buck. In the world of tractors, four-wheel drive pretty much rules simply because if you want to utilize the full force of the horsepower of the tractor you need to get all four wheels engaged on the ground. When it comes to transmissions, the choices are gear drive, a hydrosphere (shuttle shift) and then a hydrostatic which is basically an automatic transmission with just one pedal. “Probably more than 95% of people looking for tractors want a four-wheel

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What Size Tractor Do You Need?

Getting “right sized” for a tractor requires that you are honest with yourself about your needs now, and even 5 or 10 years into the future.

drive because probably 99% of them are going to put loaders on the front,” Ward said. “That four-wheel drive front axle allows you to handle larger loads on the front end as well as the back end of the tractor.”

are easier to maneuver around brush and low hanging tree limbs are more convenient to transport and store. He also says that they not only pack a lot of power for their compact size they are comfortable for people to use.

Another factor to take into account when determining the size of tractor you need is the size of the implements you will be using. “I ask them what type of implements are you using. If they have a turning plow or pull a tractor, subsoiler and I know it takes extra horsepower for those,” Ward said.

“In our line, the hydrostatic transmissions are more prevalent in one through the four series tractors and if you can make it easier for someone to operate then they will be a safer operator,” Ward said. “When a person is uncomfortable they become nervous and can make a mistake and that is how accidents happen.”

I asked Ward if someone just bought a little hobby farm and would be working 10 acres or less and had no implements what size tractor would he set them up with. That simple analogy is actually not so simple.

“Everyone does this for their enjoyment and nothing can take that away like an accident, and farm accidents can happen in the blink of an eye and when someone is comfortable, they tend to be safer.”

“I would set them up anywhere between 30 plus horsepower to maybe 50 or 60 depending on the circumstances. If they don’t have a lot of experience operating a tractor I’d lean more toward the compact line with hydrostatic transmissions,” Ward explained. “If a person is a more experienced operator, they can step it up for even more horsepower which also means bigger implements. It actually all goes back to the productivity formula.”

On that safety theme, Ward is a proponent of a Rollover Protection Structure (RPS) and seatbelts, especially if the operator is inexperienced.

Ward explained that there are different scenarios and obstacles that need to be addressed in determining the right tractor “fit”. “You can step up to a bigger sized tractor frame but not a whole lot more horsepower but then you need to address how you are going to transport it to a different work site or for repairs. You can get a lot of horsepower in a small package. Everybody is different and you really can’t ‘cookie cutter’ anything. It all goes back to the productivity formula.” Ward says that a lot of people are interested in smaller tractors that feature hydrostatic transmission since they are the right size to handle food plots, 30 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

“I tell people that if you buy a tractor that doesn’t have a ROP structure, have one installed with a seatbelt or else it does you no good,” Ward said. WHAT ABOUT A CAB? “One thing to keep in mind when you add a cab is that you are going to have some power loss so you step up a little bit in horsepower,” Ward said. “I’ve had customers trade in tractors because of allergies, like ragweed. I’ve also had them want a cab because they experienced going down lanes to food plots and ran into a banana spider web in the face.” Some horsepower loss seems like a small price to pay for me!

Contact Information

877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 31

“Everyone wants to catch big crappie, but to do that consistently, you must be able to recognize which crappie in a school is the largest and know how to follow that crappie to continuously put your bait in front of it, until finally the fish takes the lure,” Brian Young says. (Photo by Ron Wong). 32 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

How to Catch



What if you could catch crappie that weighed 1-1/2 pounds or better almost every time you went fishing? What if you didn’t have to spider rig with four poles per person and only used one pole to catch the biggest crappie in a lake? What if you could use your depth finder to pinpoint the biggest crappie, follow it until the fish stopped and then put your bait right on the crappie’s nose? What if you could tell the difference between a crappie’s head and tail before you ever released your bait? This new technology is some of what has been introduced to the crappie-fishing world in the past couple of years by some Oklahoma anglers that all Alabamians need to know. Brothers Brian and Darin Young of Eufaula, Oklahoma, have been crappie fishing and fishing in crappie tournaments and winning them for 20+ years. Their equipment has helped them be successful – even in open water. Some days they may catch and release 50 – 60 big crappie. TYPES OF JIGS The Youngs like to fish with Pro Built jigs with June Bug-colored hair ties. “We especially like these jigs because of their extremely-light wire hooks,” Brian Young said. “For a bigger size, we use the Pro Built Extreme Sickle jig heads, and for live bait we like to fish with the Pro Built Minnow Capps Coleman Minnow Riders. When fishing in open water, we primarily fish black-and-chartreuse Bobby Garland Slab Slay’R 3-inch tubes with either an orange, a pink or a red jig head. Although the hair jig seems to be critical for our success, we usually tie a 1/2-ounce sinker above a 1/16-ounce hair jig on a Pro Built Extra Lite No.2 crappie hook. Occasionally, we’ll put a minnow or a waxworm on the hook behind the jig, and sometimes, we’ll just fish minnows alone.” The Youngs rig their poles with various types of baits because over time, they’ve learned that every crappie doesn’t have the same preferences. Sometimes, a big crappie won’t take the hook until a different bait is put in front of it. THE GARMIN PANOPTIX LIVESCOPE The Youngs explain that the LiveScope is the reason they can catch so many big crappie. They’ll search likely-looking crappie hot spots for crappie, areas between trees, bushes and flats. If they don’t have any

You can take large crappie by learning to fish with and read a Garmin Panoptix LiveScope.

luck seeing crappie they’ll totally depend on the LiveScope. Brian emphasizes that he’s spent more than 400 hours studying and learning his LiveScope screen. “The 2020 pandemic has given me time to hone my skills on the water every day. I’ve learned how to use the LiveScope more effectively to catch bigger crappie than ever before,” he said. Brian recommended you go out fishing at least three times on different bodies of water to better understand what the LiveScope and the fish are teaching you. “If the crappie are holding on structure, you quickly and easily can learn how to detect the bigger crappie from the smaller ones. But, in open water, you’ll have to spend a few more hours searching for those big fish. My brother and I will mark numbers of routes to good places to fish for big crappie. We also fish at night with the LiveScope,” Brian said. Brian reports that the Garmin Panoptix has been on the market for about four years, but LiveScope only has been available for about 2 years. He said that he and Darin are still learning about the information the LiveScope provides and how to interpret that information to find and catch more crappie. Before they got their LiveScope, they were spider rigging and using anywhere from two to four poles per angler, while slow trolling, except in the summertime. During that time, they used single poles to fish near underwater trees. “When I was spider rigging, sometimes my jigs or minnows were at different depths of water, while the boat was moving,” Brian said. “Let’s say you’ve got your baits at 12 feet and 14 feet, but suddenly on your depth finder, you see a fish at eight feet. Your line and bait will go right by that crappie without a reaction from the fish. But with a LiveScope, I can take the closest rod to me and try to put my bait right on the nose of the crappie I want to catch. By using the LiveScope and a single pole, I can be more selective, only fishing for the big crappie I want to catch and keep. “By learning to use the LiveScope, my brother and I no longer waste 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 33

How to Catch Big Crappie

time fishing for a crappie that only weighs one pound. You can tell the difference between a one pound crappie, a one and a half pound crappie, a two pound crappie or a two and a half pound crappie.” To learn how to distinguish between a one and a half and a two pound crappie, the Youngs have concentrated on the echo sound they get from the LiveScope when it detects a fish. Their units have grids with two foot screens. They know a three pound crappie will fill-up that entire screen. The Youngs travel to different lakes that hold big crappie and study how those fish behave. Then they better can identify big crappie on other lakes. “We’ve learned that big crappie move and attack baits in a different way than smaller crappie do,” Brian said.. “Pinpointing big crappie is easier when you understand how they bite and swim. We’ve learned that you can catch bigger crappie in open water than on structure, especially if the water is stained. White crappie roam in open water often from December until June. Then when the water becomes really hot, they move into deeper water. Of course there’s a good number of crappie holding on structure in most lakes.” The Youngs often are asked why they don’t use the side-scanning feature on their Garmin electronics. “Side scanning will allow you to see crappie or shad in an area and also will show you if the fish are holding on trees or stumps. But by using the LiveScope, my brother and I can see where crappie are holding in comparison to the trees more vividly,” Darin Young explains “We generally can determine the size of every fish before we catch it by using the LiveScope, looking at how a crappie has behaved and noticing how the crappie has eaten the bait. A small crappie will come up to a

34 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

hair jig and plow right through it, sucking the bait in as it swims into it. Bigger crappie often will come up to the bait, stop and look at it. Crappie usually attack minnows aggressively. If you’re fishing a jig, the crappie may come up, turn vertical and eat the jig, coming down on the bait.” RODS The Youngs like B‘n’M Mossy Oak Brushcutter Rods and B‘n’M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive Jig Rods . They’ll use 18’ B‘n’M Pro Staff Trolling rods to catch spooky crappie. But they only fish one rod at a time, while catching the biggest crappie they can locate. OTHER BIG CRAPPIE FISHING TACTICS Sometimes if the Youngs spot a big crappie on their LiveScope, they’ll start chasing it until it stops and gives them the opportunity to put a jig right in front of its face. They say they’ve even chased large crappie for 1/4-mile before. “At one point, we were following a big crappie that weighed 1.96 pounds,” Brian recalled. “When my brother dropped a minnow in front of the crappie, the fish stole the minnow and swam under the boat. Since I could see the crappie with my LiveScope, I turned my trolling motor on, so that the transducer was also under the boat. Quickly, I backed-up. Then I could see the crappie in front of the boat. I dropped a hair jig right in front of it and caught it. After we caught that one, I spotted another crappie on the LiveScope about 20-feet out in front of us and told Darin, who had an 18’ B‘n’M pole to wait until I got the crappie 16 feet in front of us before he dropped his bait right in front of the crappie’s nose. However, before I knew it, Darin got too excited and mistakenly dropped the bait behind the crappie, spooking the fish. I couldn’t chase it since there were four stumps right in front of me.” The Youngs mention that one of the problems some people have with

How to Catch Big Crappie

Managing Wild Turkeys Through Teamwork

By studying their Garmin LiveScope, Brian and Darin Young have learned how to identify the crappie signatures on those electronics and determine the size of the crappie. (Photo by Ron Wong).

the money spent on turkey is permits, which partthe of difference the licensusing a LiveScope that they can’tis tell ing requirement huntbass, turkeys in Florida, goes into betweentosand catfish and crappie. Butthat by fund. practicing, the Youngs have learned how to distinguish between theNWTF fish bymembers the way they swim. For example, “Many hunters and are heavily involved in they’ve crappie in one raising funds fornoticed the wildthat turkey and sometimes its habitat bysitparticipating andheritage hover but eventually flick their tails and in NWTFplace hunting banquets, whereby a portion of glide. Sand bass swim all the time, and catfish wag those funds raised goes into the cost-share program,” Nicholtheir tails while holding in one place, unless they’re son said. “Hunters’ purchases of hunting equipment also helps flathead catfish. support wildlife conservation through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, which brings federal grant funding to state wildlife management agencies such as the FWC.” Contact Information

Through this combined effort from the NWTF, FWC, FFS and Pro Built jigsthe wild turkey population is healthy Florida turkey hunters, ( flourishing in Florida. And, if you’re a turkey hunter, then tail-Company/ProBuilt-Jigs-551232151900273/) you must be getting excited because spring turkey season and the youth turkey hunt Slab weekends just around Bobby Garland Slay’Rare 3-inch tubes the corner. ( The Garmin Panoptix LiveScope

Contact( Information B‘n’M Mossy Oak Brushcutter Rods Wild Turkey Cost-Share Program ( State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) tion-brushcutter) Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) B‘n’MService Sam Heaton Florida Forest (FFS) Super Sensitive Jig Rods ( Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area (WMA) . Plain Ecosystem Partnership Gulf Coastal B‘n’M ProFish Staff Trolling Rods Wildlife and Sport Restoration Program (

42 APRIL 2020 // // 877.314.1237

877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 35

How to Catch Big Crappie



Recipe and image courtesy of Scott Leysath at The SPORTING CHEF (

Sauteed Crappie with Butter Sauce Ingredients • 8 3-ounce crappie fillets skin removed • 1 cup all-purpose flour • 1 tablespoon salt • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper • 1 tablespoon garlic powder • 5 tablespoons butter chilled • 2 tablespoons olive oil • 1/4 cup dry white wine • 1 lemon juice only • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves • 8 slices tomato about 1/4-inch thick • 1 avocado sliced into 8 thin slices




Instructions 1.

Combine flour, salt, white pepper and garlic powder in a small bowl. Dust fish with flour mixture. 2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fish and brown on one side, about 3 – 4 minutes. Flip fish over and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove fish and keep warm. 3. Add wine and lemon juice and stir to loosen bits stuck to the pan. Reduce liquid to just a few tablespoons. Stir in basil and remaining chilled butter, stirring until butter is melted. Remove from heat. 4. For each serving, arrange 1 slice of tomato on a plate. Top with 1 piece of fish and then avocado slices. Place tomato over avocado, then fish and then 2 mores slices of avocado. Drizzle butter sauce over and serve. 36 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237




All hunters are required to report their deer & turkey harvest using Game Check. Doing so helps the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources effectively manage wildlife for future generations. Game Check your harvest in seconds at or by using the official ADCNR mobile app Outdoor AL

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We’ve made it easy to check-in and out of your favorite WMA. Download the Outdoor AL app and check-in today! Use the WMA Check-in feature on the Outdoor AL app prior to or upon arrival, and Check-out when departing the WMA. Hunters who do not use the digital WMA Check-in on the Outdoor AL app must have a signed paper copy of the WMA Map permit in their possession and necessary paper Daily Permits.

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877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 37

Spring Food Plots in the South BY DAVID STRICKLAND

Southern food plots have evolved from fall or late summer plantings of oats or wheat into a serious management strategy to help produce trophy deer. Biologists and savvy land managers have discovered that turkey and other wildlife also benefit when they plant high-quality, year-round forage in their food plots. With the right mix of plants in your fields this Spring, the added nourishment can help with antler development, body size, and increased birth rates for your deer. Biologists know that a turkey feeds on some of the same plants as deer, and the insects present in fields are a vital food source for newly hatched turkeys. I spoke with Daniel Bumgarner of Wildlife Management Solutions(WMS) about various seed combinations that can benefit both deer and turkey’s in your fields this Spring. Bumgarner discussed several factors that can help a landowner or club choose the best mix of plants for their property. “If a landowner knows the type of weeds or grass that they have problems controlling, we can help them choose plants that are tolerant of herbicides to help manage those specific weeds. Broadleafs can tolerate herbicides to control grass issues, but some weeds can be challenging to suppress in cereal grains. So, knowing your weed issues before planting can be beneficial,” Bumgarner said. Bumgarner recommended two specific WMS seed blends for springtime nutrition. “If you have issues with Johnson grass, then I suggest a broadleaf seed mix like WMS Peapatch. If your plot has little or no issue with grass, then I recommend WMS Dove Magnet,”Bumgrner pointed out. According to Bumgarner, the mix of seeds in WMS Peapatch is “a carefully chosen mix of peas, beans, buckwheat and sunflowers provides quality forage from Spring until the 38 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 39

Spring Food Plots in the South

Proper Fertilization makes food plots more attractive to wildlife. Photo courtesy of Alabama Liquid Fertilizer.

first frost. Buckwheat emerges within a few days and grows fast to provide early forage. This early forage serves as an excellent nurse crop for establishing peas and beans, and sunflowers provide the climbing structure for the peas. This blend consists of the three different varieties of running and bush type peas and beans. These varieties offer palatable, leafy forage at various stages, providing feed from the Spring into the summer. Plant 40lbs. per acre. “WMS Dove Magnet is possibly the best mix available for your birds! Millet, sunflowers, and sorghum are combined to produce an irresistible blend of grains with early blooms. It’s great for turkeys, quail, and even pheasant! Plant 25lbs. per acre,” Bumgarner said.. Below are a few other considerations that can help you develop your plan to nourish and keep your deer and turkey coming to your fields. SOIL Soil types range from sandy to clay. The best dirt is a mixture of both and is called loam. Some plants do ok in sandier soils, and some can tolerate clay. Few hunters are lucky enough to have the perfect ground, so matching seeds to your specific soil type is a good starting point. A soil test before planting will show what your plants will need to achieve maximum growth. Smaller plots tend to have one kind of soil, but larger fields can have a mixture of soil types and require sampling dirt from a larger area. In large fields, take samples from different sections and mix them in a clean, dry bucket to get the best testing sample.

40 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

Most hunters are not farmers but they would do well to talk to one. Farmers keep up with the weather and plant just before an incoming rain. Your field needs to have a level seedbed after plowing before spreading your seed. A cultipacker is the best tool for leveling the soil, but many hunters use a home-made drag made from chains, logs, pipes, or a piece of weighted fence. It is vital to have a relatively level surface to prevent smaller seeds from being buried too deep. Going over the field again after seeding with the cultipacker or drag will ensure good seed contact with the soil. LIME/PH Farmers understand the importance of lime, but some hunters have a tight budget and sometimes skip adding it to their soil. Some estimates show that plants in soil with low ph use as little as 20% of the applied fertilizer. Lime not only allows plants to draw in more nutrients, but it can also help retain moisture and allow roots to grow deeper into the soil. It also allows plants to draw in other nutrients to the plants that can benefit the wildlife’s health. PLANTING Achieving maximum plant growth depends on knowing your soil type, plot size, elevation, drainage, and even the amount of shade in a field. In larger fields, mowing strips between fall/winter plants is an alternative to plowing an entire area. Often deer and turkey tend to forage near the edges of a field, and mowing the perimeter of larger plots in the Spring is a good strategy. In an area previously planted in clover, mowing the taller plants a few times in early Spring will allow the clover to thrive.

Picking the Best Sheepshead Rig...and more!

CLOVER Clover is one of the best choices for a turkey/deer food plot. It provides a high-quality food source and attracts lots of insects for young poults and adult turkeys. It grows best when planted in combination with oats or wheat. An excellent way to establish clover is to plant and cover 50-80 pounds of wheat, oats, or a combination per acre. After that, spread a 10-15 pound mix of white and red clover on top of the planted cereal grains. The small size of the clover seeds requires a planting depth of no more than 1/2 inch, so use a cultipacker or drag to establish good contact with the soil. If planted just before a shower, it will ensure good germination. Many hunters plant their clover in the fall. As spring approaches, they mow the higher vegetation a few times to allow the clover to reestablish itself. If mowing is not enough to keep the grasses from overcrowding the clover, then using a specific herbicide to kill only the grass is an option. Adding 0-20-20 fertilizer to the clover will allow it to reinvigorate and provide some much-needed Spring protein for the turkey and deer. SEEDS/SOIL The soil type, ph, moisture level, and amount of shade will be factors that help determine the seed combination for each food plot. Discuss your management goals with your seed supplier. • Clover-White clover (Ladino-Murano) generally do well in heavier clay type soils that stay a little wetter. Red clovers (Crimson-Red) are usually better in drier


soils. Cereal-Cereal rye and wheat can tolerate wetter soil, while oats and triticale do better in drier plots.

WILDFLOWERS From the moment a turkey hatches till about four weeks of age, it is called a poult. If insects are readily available, they will make up to 90% of a young chick’s diet. Planting a mix of low growing native wildflowers is a great way to attract additional insects to your Spring plots. Growing a strip or seeding around a field’s edge provides young turkeys with an increased source of protein. Wildflowers will grow in almost any type of soil and with very little assistance. Don’t just dream about watching deer and turkey grazing in your food plots this Spring. Develop your strategy now for keeping your game healthy and on your property by having the right plants in your food plots. If you have questions about what to plant and are serious about year-round nutrition for your wildlife, give Daniel Bumgarner a call at Wildlife Management Solutions.

Contact Information WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS, INC 14281 Hwy. 11 South Eutaw, AL 35462 Toll-Free: (877) 400-8089 Local: (205) 372-4100 Fax: (205) 372-4101




(251) 333-9355

Call us! We can Help! Your homes first responder MDH Foundation Repair 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 41

Repairing and/ or rebuilding a transmission is a job for a professional.

Now that is real maze...what goes where?

42 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

Tips for Trailering


Transmissions BY WILLIAM KENDY

Here is the Scenario

damaged transmissions.

You bought the fishing boat of your dreams. Or, you purchased a 19foot camper or trailer that has air conditioning, stove, refrigerator, sink, oven, shower, potty, generator, wet bar. just about every convenience known to humankind.

“The manufacturers all came together and the federal government required that everything had to be similar as far as electronic components and what things say so everyone was in the same general vicinity,” Wilson said. “They put in a tow haul mode or switch and you just pushed the button and it took the vehicle out of overdrive so not to damage the transmission”

All of this is predicated on you owning a vehicle with enough power to pull the load that you will be towing and a transmission that is up to the job. It is safe to say that most vehicle owners don’t really know much about transmissions or how to service and maintain them. They change their engine oil on a regular basis but seem to forget about maintenance on transmissions until there is an issue. Laura Wilson is the co-owner of Advanced Transmissions in Spanish Fort, AL. Advanced Transmissions is a locally owned and operated 25-year-old company that does everything transmissions. That includes electrical and non-electrical diagnostics, transmission repair and rebuild, cooler installation/service and much more. I reached out to Wilson for some advice and tips as to what vehicle owners who tow boats, camping or any type of trailer need to consider and do before they get on the road. TIP #1 – FLUID LEVEL AND CONDITION “Before you tow anything you should always check the transmission fluid level and condition,” Wilson said. “If the fluid is in good condition, it should be a very translucent red and have no offensive odor (Editor’s Note: If it smells like burnt toast, there could be an issue. It should smell slightly sweet.) According to Wilson most transmissions have dipsticks but some don’t have dipsticks at all, which means that they have to be checked from the undersides. The only way you can do that is to put them up on a rack and check at a certain temperature or revolutions per minute (RPM). “If you do have a car with a dipstick, on most vehicles it should be checked with the engine running in park on level ground,” Wilson said. “You take it out, wipe it down and do it a couple of times just to be accurate.” “Checking the fluid level and making sure that it is in good condition and full is the most important thing you can do before you start towing,” she said. DRIVING GEARS – NEVER TOW IN OVERDRIVE Wilson explained that years ago it was unclear what gear you should be in to tow. Some people had a circle around one of the “D”s. Other vehicles just had a “D”. Some had a “3”. All of this resulted in a lot of

Wilson pointed out that when you stop and turn the vehicle off it will default to the overdrive mode. It is critical that when you restart the vehicle for you to engage the tow-haul mode. IT’S ALL ABOUT WEIGHT…TONGUE AND TOW Wilson explained that the two benchmarks for safe towing is to know what the tongue and tow weights for your vehicle are and sometimes they are not easy to find. The tongue weight refers to the weight that a fully loaded trailer exerts downward on the hitch ball of the tow vehicle. “A lot of times the tongue weight is stamped on the bumper right where the hitch would be. Knowing that is important because the tongue weight isn’t right for the vehicle it can cause more stress on the engine and transmission,” Wilsons said. “Plus, you need to make sure that you have the right hitch so the weight is distributed correctly.” Tow weight (capacity) is basically how much your vehicle can safely tow. You can find out that information in your owner’s manual or on a sticker in your glove box or sometimes on the inside of the driver’s seat door. You can also use your vehicle identification number to get that information from the manufacturer or a dealer or even search online. “There are different factors when it comes to tow weight including engine size, rear differential ratios and other things,” Wilson said. Wilson said that towing weight is classified as “dry weight” which basically means the minimum and unloaded weight of whatever you are towing. “If you plan on pulling a camper with a dry weight of 2,000 pounds keep in mind that that really isn’t the weight you are towing. You need to consider water, food, bedding, dishing and cooking utensils, propane tanks for the grill and all of the gear,” she pointed out “. All of those pounds need to be added into the tow weight.” KEEP YOUR TRANSMISSION COOL According to Wilson towing is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your transmission because of the heat it causes. Many of the new cars have an information panel and you can use that to find out your transmission’s temperature. “It is important when you are towing to keep track of the temperature and 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 43

Tips for Trailering Transmissions

make sure that it doesn’t go over 200 degrees because at that level you are causing damage,” Wilson advised. “You want to keep it preferably 180-190 at the most but if it is over 200 there is something bad wrong.” One of the ways to control transmission heat is to add an external transmission cooler. Wilson explained that all automatic transmissions are cooled through the radiator which has an enclosed cooler inside of it. That cooler can be bypassed and an external cooler added which means that if your engine runs hot or your coolant runs low, it won’t overhead your transmission. DON’T “OVER-TOW” “A lot of people think that just because they only tow their boat twice a year to and from the dock, they don’t have to worry, but if you are “over-towing” you can cause damage in just that very short period of time,” Wilson pointed out. “It is important to pay attention to maximum loads.” TRANSMISSION WARNING SIGNS Wilson said that there are some signs that indicate you may have transmission issues. Torque Converter Shuddering is a shaking of your car and happens when the clutch inside the converter on a transmission is being applied and the transition from slipping to locked up doesn’t occur smoothly. Slipping is when the revolutions per minute (RPM) go higher (revving) and it doesn’t match your acceleration and the clutch material isn’t matching and engaging the gear.

CCA AL Events Banquet Fundraisers will return Spring 2021 Until then, check our website for our online silent auctions and giveaways this month!

MAINTAINING A HEALTHY TRANSMISSION “We recommend that you have your transmission checked at least once a year to make sure that there are no leaks and everything is working well,” Wilson said. “We also suggest you change your transmission fluid every 30,000 – 50,000 miles.” Wilson points out that while people are regular in having their engine oil changed most forget about their transmission service until they start experiencing issues and, at that juncture, service won’t solve the problem. She also advises people who do have transmission problems to take the time to find a clean,, reputable transmission repair business with the proper certification. “Your transmission service expense will not cost you any more than your oil change expense but you do fewer of them at different intervals,” Wilson said. “You need to make sure that you have a proper diagnosis by professionals who specialize in transmissions because general automotive shops and dealerships are unfamiliar with transmissions and most of the time just replace the whole thing,” Wilson pointed out. “99% of transmissions are re-buildable and making minor repairs or even a re-build will save you a lot of money.” Contact Information Laura C. Wilson Owner/Office Manager 10670 US Hwy 31 Spanish Fort, AL 36527 (251) 626-6061

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The Easiest and Least Expensive Way to Build and Pay for a

Farm Pond BY JOHN E. PHILLIPS All photos courtesy of Southeastern Pond Management

To produce a monstersized bass like this one in a relatively short time requires intensive management and an abundance of food for the bass.

46 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

FISHING So, you want to build a farm pond. You probably think that all you have to do is get a bulldozer, dig a hole in a low spot and let the rain fill it up. Wrong! Instead take more time to decide: * where you need to put a pond that will fill up very quickly, and most importantly, where the dam won’t eventually burst; * what time of year you need to stock baitfish in your pond and why; * when you should put sport fish in your pond; * how fast you want the fish to grow; and * how much money you’re willing to spend to accelerate the numbers and/or sizes of the fish in the pond or lake. To get the lowdown on the best ways to build, stock and finance a farm pond Great Days Outdoors interviewed Norm Latona, president of Southeastern Pond Management of Calera, Alabama and Michael Williams of Alabama Ag Credit.

haul it to the dam site becomes very expensive. Southeastern Pond Management also wants soil that’s very compactable. Water will find a way to go through a dam, if there are any cracks or crevices. Building a dam and backing up water in a pond puts the water under pressure, increasing the likelihood that the dam will leak, if you don’t use the correct materials. GDO: How do you decide what type of structure to clear, put in or leave in the bottom of the lake? Latona: Most of the lakes we build are for recreational sport fishing and are designed to attract and concentrate sport fish. We construct the bottoms of our ponds not only to make the fish happy, but to give our anglers specific targets at the bottoms where they can catch fish. We believe in leaving and planting structure in the bottom of a lake and at different levels of the lake bed where baitfish can hold, predator fish can ambush them, and where sport fish and prey fish can bed and produce young.

Latona: We prefer to start construction on a pond in the warmer months – late spring, summer or early fall – which means fewer delays due to rain or mud that can slow down construction. Hopefully the lake will fill-up fairly rapidly with fall and winter rains. Then we can start stocking fish before the spring. One mistake that new pond owners often make is they believe that the lake has to be absolutely full before we can stock fish. Once 10-15% of the pond is filled, we can begin stocking.

The least-expensive kind of structure is what’s already there - tree stumps, treetops, brush and/or windrows. Usually before a lake’s filled, a lot of wood structure needs to be cut. We recommend leaving an abundance of stumps and wood brush in the lake before it’s filled. We strategically place that wood to be the most attractive for fish to hold on it. We also bring in rocks and other materials to enhance the bottom and the sides of the bottom before the water’s raised. We use earth-moving equipment to create shallow-water areas around the pond, ditches that run from shallow water to deep water, humps on the bottom of the pond and spawning areas in relatively-shallow water. Shaping some of the sides of the ponds enables us to create natural bedding areas. We may add sand or gravel to those spots to attract fish to spawn. We use various techniques to make the pond the most attractive it can be for the fish and the fisherman.

GDO: What’s First?

GDO: When You Can Start Stocking a Pond?

Latona: We recommend that our company first look at a map and a topographic map to learn what the land contours are, and where the best watershed may be. We’ll visit the site to verify what we’ve seen on the map and make sure it is the best place for your pond or lake to take advantage of the watershed. We build primarily hillside or watershed lakes in locations where we can build a dam, and the water that runs off both hillsides into the valley will be backed-up by the dam.

Latona: When to begin stocking a pond isn’t an easy question to answer, since the size of the pond, the size of the watershed and the frequency of rain impact that decision.

NORMAN LATONA ON BUILDING A POND As president of Southeastern Pond Management in Calera, Al Latona assists people who want to build a pond or need assistance in managing and developing their existing ponds. GDO: When’s the Best Time to Build a Lake or a Pond?

We search for a site where the two hills come together the closest, which will allow us to build an effective dam without having to move so much dirt and will save everyone time and money. We also want to look at how much land the water will run off of once the dam is built, so the lake stays full all year long. GDO: What’s Next? Latona: We need to know what soil types are on this land closest to where we’ll build the dam. Some soils have the ability to hold water, and others don’t. The soils with high clay content are usually the best soils to use for dam building, since they tend to be the most-impermeable to water. Water tends to pour through sandy or gravelly soil. The least-expensive way to build a dam is for our company to locate soil with a lot of clay content on the land where we want to build a dam, and particularly on the lake site. Bringing in the right type of soil from another property and having to

For instance, a watershed that requires 10 acres of land to catch one acre of water won’t fill-up very fast. A one-acre pond with a 30–40-acre watershed will fill-up fast with normal rainfall. Another consideration is how deep the pond will be. If the pond you’re considering building has 20-30-foot-deep water in it, that lake will require much longer to fill than a six- to eight-foot-deep pond will. We’ll know from our site inspection and your desire to have specific water depths about how fast a pond will fill-up. GDO: What Fish Do You Stock First and Why: Latona: The first fish we put in the lake are the forage fish that bass will feed on once they’re in the pond, which are fathead minnows. Also, generally 80-90% bluegills and 10-20% shellcrackers are put in that pond that bass and even bigger bream will eat. Lakes and ponds at an adequate level for stocking in December or January means we can begin adding forage fish to the ponds then. The traditional stocking rate of forage fish is about 1,000 bluegills and shellcrackers and 1,000 fathead minnows per acre of water. Our goal is to let those fish grow and start reproducing before the bass are introduced. Fathead minnows may begin reproducing as early as 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 47

The Easiest and Least Expensive Way to Build and Pay for a Farm Pond

February, but the bluegills won’t reproduce until the water reaches 70–80 degrees, which usually occurs in the South in late May or June. Once the forage fish are reproducing, we’ll bring in fingerling bass. These stocking rates were developed 30 years ago and are 1,000 bluegill/shellcracker mix and 100 bass fingerlings per acre. Depending on how fast a pond owner wants his bass to grow, we will deviate from that traditional stocking rate. GDO: What type of bluegills and bass do you use for stocking, and what makes them grow? Latona: We prefer to stock a strain of bluegills called coppernose, but you can stock the regular northern strain of bluegills just as easily. The coppernose bluegill seem to have the tendency to grow faster and produce more offspring. The last 20 years have seen a great improvement in the genetics of sport fish like bluegills and bass. The bass we are stocking now is an intergrade commonly known as F1, a cross between the northern strain and the Florida strain of black bass. The northern strain seems to be a more-aggressive feeder than the Florida strain, however, the Florida strain seems to grow faster. Although genetics plays an important role in how fast a bass grows big, our company believes that the same factors that cause deer to grow bigger and have larger antlers in a short time, which include genetics, age and nutrition are the same factors that cause bass to grow bigger, quicker. A trophy bass needs time to grow. But regardless of what genetics that bass has or how old it is, if you put it in a bathtub and feed it one goldfish a month, that bass probably won’t be bigger than 1-1/2-pounds - even in five to eight years. Nutrition is a huge factor in growing bass quicker. Other factors that speed up the growth of the bass is managing the quality of the water where the bass live by putting lime and fertilizer in the water, controlling weeds in the water and supplementary feeding. Factors that Impact the Growth of Bass: GDO: About how fast can a landowner grow a bass to three to four pounds and what food is required? Latona: With more natural food, not pelleted food, shad, shiners, fathead minnows, shellcrackers and bluegills added to a pond, I’ve seen bass reach three to four pounds in one year. Since a bass requires about 10 pounds of food for every pound it adds, a bass has to be able to eat 30-40 pounds of forage fish in that first year of growth to reach that weight. GDO: How can pond owners maximize the accelerated growth of bass during that first year of stocking? Latona: We suggest putting layer after layer of additional forage fish like shad, shiners, fathead minnows and tilapia into the pond. We recommend placing feeders around the lakes too to feed the bluegills and the shellcrackers, so they grow faster. Then the bass have bigger meals to eat. Managing the fertility of the water by fertilizing and liming the pond regularly helps the bass grow quicker too. We also manipulate the recommended stocking rate. A 10:1 ratio of forage to bass which was developed in the 1950s by Dr. Swingle and his colleagues at Auburn University to produce a large number of bass a pond owner could feed to his family. However, today most people who fish a pond will throw back 90% of the fish they catch since generally people prefer quality over quantity. To produce those 48 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

big bass for lake and pond owners, we manipulate the stocking rate of forage for bass up as high as 50 forage fish per bass in the initial stocking of the pond to create a pond that’s forage-crowded. I’ve seen plenty of three-year-old bass weighing eight pounds each that have been in ponds stocked heavily at 50-70 forage fish to one bass, the water fertilized and limed regularly and a supplemental feeding program in place. These principles can accelerate the female bass growth in the pond to where a one-year-old bass weighs three plus pounds during the first year and at two years old, a female bass may weigh five to six pounds, and a three-year-old bass may weigh six to eight pounds. However, to grow past that six-to-eight-pound range after three years, we have to stock a different-sized forage fish to continue that growth. Most pond owners are happy with their ponds holding six to eight pounders. GDO: Using this management strategy, how fast will the bluegills and shellcrackers grow? Latona: Bluegills will grow to seven to nine inches possibly in a year or two. To grow a bluegill to ten to twelve inches and weighing up to a pound, usually will require five years. Most anglers are excited to catch a bluegill that big. GDO: To learn more about how to build a successful lake or pond, how to manage that pond, and how to grow their bass and bluegills, how do they get in touch with you? YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISOR CAN HELP YOU HAVE THE LAKE OF YOUR DREAMS Unless you’re a farmer or a rancher, you may not be acquainted with an Agricultural Federal Credit Union, but you may have heard the words Federal Land Bank, known today as Farm Credit Farm Credit lends money to farmers, ranchers and individuals who want to buy and/or improve land or create a business or plant a crop on the land. Some advantages of working with a state Agricultural Credit Union is that it will understand the needs of farmers, ranchers and other people who make a portion of their livings or have an interest in using the land. They understand the needs for credit, if you’re buying a large ranch or a five-acre tract in the country. An Agricultural Credit Union is a lending institution that also pays dividends, and when you borrow money from one, you become a member of that credit union. These institutions understand how building a farm pond definitely increases the value of the land and can be used to generate more income from that property. Farm-credit organizations are located all over the United States. To get a better understanding of Agricultural Credit Unions, we talked with Michael Williams, the relationship manager for Alabama Ag Credit. “One of the advantages of having a local Ag Credit Union is that we better understand the wants and needs of the people who buy or own land in our area,” Williams said. “We finance every kind of property, business or interest and everything related to agriculture, such as equipment like tractors. We provide lines of credit for farmers, and we also loan money for the construction, stocking and maintenance of farm ponds, boat docks and piers. My Alabama Ag Credit appraiser estimates that a pond or a lake increases the value of land by $4,000-$5,000 per acre. “We can offer a loan that’s like a construction loan in that you don’t

The Easiest and Least Expensive Way to Build and Pay for a Farm Pond

have to borrow the total amount of money you’ll need to build a farm pond, and you don’t pay interest on any money you already haven’t borrowed. You either borrow exactly what you think you’ll need for the farm-pond construction, or you can get a line of credit that allows you to borrow as you build. One of the advantages of a line of credit is that often construction projects like building a pond may exceed the estimated costs. If you need more money, you can draw it out of the agricultural credit union. An advantage of having a term loan is that an Ag Credit Union often will fix a rate of interest over 20 years, rather than 5-10 years, and you’ll have a longer time to pay back the loan. “Alabama Ag Credit does a wide variety of recreational loans that relate to the land. Besides loaning money for the construction, the stocking and the management of the pond, we do rural-construction loans for houses too.”

Contact Information Norman Latona Southeastern Pond Management Text: (205)288-1371

To help bass grow quicker, plenty of shad are added to the new ponds and lakes that Southeastern Management builds to ensure that numbers of forage fish are available for the bass to eat.

Alabama Ag Credit (800) 579-5471, (251)743-3560



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OUR LOCATION 1159 South Broad St. MOBILE, AL 36603 1-800-239-2191

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The vicious wahoo puts up a tenacious fight and provides constant excitement to anglers. (Chris Hood photo) 50 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


o o h a W g n i h c t Ca

Fishing Tips for


Because they are arguably one of the most vicious predators in the sea with their lightning fast speed, bad attitude and a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, catching Wahoo is without a doubt one of the most prized catches for sport fishermen around the world. Catching wahoo provides constant excitement to anglers and crew members as they suddenly skyrocket 8 to 10 feet in the air behind the boat with a lure in their mouth, the crew not realizing what they just saw until the reel starts screaming as line rips off. These fish use the element of surprise as they ambush prey at the blink of an eye and the flash of teeth, a shower of sparkling fish scales is the only evidence of the attack left behind. They are notorious for sending even the most experienced crews into frenzied delight as several fish attack the spread at once, resulting in a multiple hookup of two, three, or even four fish. They also provide excellent table fare, being considered by most anglers as one of the best-tasting fish out there. WHEN AND WHERE TO GO Wahoo are one of the few pelagic game fish found in the northern Gulf that can be consistently targeted and caught year-round. However, the best time of year for catching wahoo is February and March. The only drawback to fishing offshore this time of year is that weather windows (periods of time in which the weather allows for a safe and/ or comfortable fishing experience) are often few and far between due to the high number of winter fronts that hammer the Gulf Coast every winter and early spring. Those who are tough enough to brave the bitter, cold ride offshore are instantly warmed up with one of the hottest wahoo bites found anywhere in the world with boats catching as many as 20 to 30 wahoo in a day. Obviously, those fortunate enough to experience such a day are able to practice catch-and-release, keeping only the biggest fish caught because it’s just as much work to try and give all those wahoo fillets away before they spoil as it is catching wahoo and cleaning them. Using any of the numerous online marine weather forecasting sites is imperative for any offshore trip, but even more so during the winter months. A hard lesson learned can come to someone who heads offshore on a seemingly nice day without first checking a forecast, only to have a front follow behind them, bringing very high north winds with it. Being such a shallow body of water relative to other saltwater bodies around the world, it takes very little energy to kick the seas up in the Gulf of Mexico, and it can go from slick calm to 12- to 14-foot seas in a matter of an hour. Trust me; I’ve been among those who learned that lesson the hard way.

When a weather window presents itself, and it’s time to decide where to go, there are certain clues to look for that can help narrow down locations where you’ll find the best fishing. First, for catching wahoo, it’s important to fish areas that are in blue/green, blended blue or blue water. Online services such as Hilton’s Realtime Navigator are excellent resources to minimize the guesswork when planning a trip offshore— numerous tools and analysis pinpoint the hot areas to fish. “Hilton’s is arguably the best resource for offshore fishermen of every experience level from weekend warriors to professional tournament crews. The service has countless invaluable tools and reports to help fishermen plan their trip to maximize the chances for success. Hilton’s provides daily updates on Chlorophyll (water color), Altimetry (nutrient upwellings), Sea Surface Temperature, Currents and many more. These are all combined to find the optimal locations to fish on a given day. There are even trip planning tools and Major/Minor feeding times by day. Combine that with the stellar customer service always provided by owner Tom Hilton and this service is a no brainer for blue water fishermen!” Although they can be caught in the deeper areas of the Gulf, wahoo tend to congregate in areas where either natural or man-made structure exists in 150 to 450 feet of water. Natural structure being the dramatic bottom contour changes that can be found all along the 100 fathom curve, and man-made structure being oil/gas platforms, artificial reefs, and even floating debris. Areas in which all three of the previously mentioned factors exist provide the best opportunity for filling the boat with trophy wahoo. There are several spots that match such criteria. Using Orange Beach as the reference point, to the southeast, fishermen can troll along the 100 fathom curve, specifically areas where the most drastic bottom features are present. The Oriskany is another hotspot for catching wahoo in that area. However, heading southwest provides substantially more options such as The Steps, Alabama Alps, any of the fixed platform rigs in 150 to 450 feet of water, and contrasting bottom features along the 100 fathom curve. When looking for the best bottom contour changes to fish, fishermen can use the chart on their GPS. The older GPS software has lines that represent bottom contour change, so if fishing with an older unit, look for areas in which there are several lines close together. Most 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 51

Waves lapping. Warm coastal breezes. Pelicans and herons soar overhead. Steam rising off a plate of fresh shrimp. A big fish pulls on your line. When you’re ready, come experience the sights, sounds and scents of the Alabama Gulf Coast. We’ve missed you.

877-341-2400 52 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


Fishing Tips for Catching Wahoo

of the newer GPS machines feature a 3D bottom contour map that shows fishermen exactly what they are trolling over and makes finding fish much easier. RIGGING FOR SHARP TEETH Catching wahoo is fairly easy since they can be enticed with shiny, fast and erratic swimming lures such as Rapala diving plugs. Although they can be consistently caught using heavier monofilament leaders (300-pound test or more), your best bet is to employ short wire or cable leaders, especially for diving lures like a Rapala, Yo-Zuri Bonita, or a Mann Stretch +30. Cable leaders around 400 to 500 pound test are the best option because if heavy wire is accidentally bent at a sharp enough angle, it will break. Cable is much more flexible. Several manufacturers make lures specifically for catching wahoo. A typical wahoo lure has a tapered and/or jet head that is made to troll at high speeds and commonly features hair-like skirt material because those sharp teeth will rip a traditional plastic skirt to shreds. Black Bart has several wahoo lures, including Rum Cay Candy, San Sal Candy, and Crooked Island Candy. When targeting wahoo, it’s hard to beat the good ol’ Ilander-ballyhoo combo. A real or artificial ballyhoo can be used here as well. Other deadly lure brands include Bahama Lures and SevenStrand. All the lures mentioned above, except for the diving plugs, work well when rigged with a trolling weight that serves to keep the lure in the water and/or under the prop wash at higher speeds. A 16-ounce trolling bar weight should keep most lures in the water at high speeds, but sometimes a heavier weight might be necessary. Due to the high speed and amount of weight being trolled through the water, a 20- to 30-foot-long monofilament leader around 200 to 250 pounds is suggested to serve as a shock absorber to prevent line and tackle damage that could result in not only losing a nice fish but all the tackle, too. Attach the lure to the trolling bar, then the other end of the trolling bar to the shock cord leader. Lastly, attach the shock cord to the snap swivel on your rod. Another key piece of equipment is a ball-bearing swivel that will turn smoothly at all times, thus preventing your line from twisting.

HI-TECH WAHOO HUNTING “Wahoo are much like their cousins king mackerel in that they like to hang around structure such as surface platforms, wrecks, rocks, salt domes, and ledges. Yet they can also be found on open water rips and weedlines,” says Thomas Hilton, president of Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator. “Offshore conditions are dynamic and continually change, so it’s important to know what the water conditions are on those spots when wanting to venture out and target them,” Hilton said. “We track as many variables as we can; sea surface temperature, water color (chlorophyll), surface currents, upwelling and downwelling currents (altimetry) and other factors all presented in relation to known fishing spots and underwater topography.” Hilton pointed out that each image will have favorable and unfavorable areas and the key is to find where there are the most overlapping favorable conditions for increased chances of success. “While wahoo can be found from inshore waters to well over 100 fathoms, their preferred depth is 30 to 40 fathoms,” Hilton said. “They are warm-water fish, primarily inhabiting blue Gulf Stream waters, but can tolerate temperatures as low as 65 degrees as long as a warm water rip is close by. These rips, collecting flotsam and Sargassum are continually moving and Hilton’s provides the tools to ascertain which way and how fast they are moving so that you can interpolate how to intercept them.” Thomas Hilton Hilton’s Realtime Navigator Phone: 713 530-2267

Contact Information Bahama Lures Yozuri Black Bart Lures Rapala Mann’s Lures Iland Lures

A screen shot of date collected for a fish catch location of a recently caught 60-pound wahoo

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Land Financing Rates Update BY WILLIAM KENDY

Farm Credit of Northwest Florida is headquartered in Mariana, Fl (pictured above) with offices in Milton, Monticello, Jay and Tallahassee with a mission of “Helping Rural America Grow”.

When it comes to the type of loans available, Chappell said he typically does long term fixed rate loans and tries to stay away from balloon loans.

As a cooperative lender, excess profits (above capitalization and operating needs) earned by Farm Credit of Northwest Florida are refunded to the members. This profit sharing provides members the opportunity to lower the cost of borrowing below already competitive interest rates. This unique structure may also save members money on closing costs. .

“In a low-rate environment like we are in, you are going to get a better deal going with long terms,” Chappell said. “We can go up to 20 years on land and we require 20% down but you are also able to use additional collateral. So, if you are buying 100 acres if you own 20 or 30 acres free and clear you can use that to put up for the 20% instead of coming out of pocket for the down payment. We’ve got a lot of options.”

Farm Credit realizes that “one size lending doesn’t fit all” so they offer options for interest rates, terms and repayment, including no prepayment penalties and no acreage limitations. For most loans, if interest rates fall, your lender can work with you to lower your rate with no hassle and no costly refinance.

Chappell pointed out that the “patronage” refund that Farm Credit of Northwest Florida offers lowers the overall cost of the loan in terms of interest.

Logan Chappell is a loan officer at Farm Credit of Northwest Florida and works out of the Marianna office. He specializes in all types of properties, including agricultural, recreational, timberland, row crop land and cattle. Chappell says that demand has been strong in 2020 and believes that it will stay strong through the first quarter of 2021 and property values have remained constant. When it comes to what type of property buyers are inquiring about, Chappell said that recreational land is “hot”. “There definitely is a focus on timberland and timberland that has a little bit of pasture or cropland on it and most of it is going to be used as recreational property,” Chappell said. “Specifically, undamaged timberland is a big thing. We’ve had several hurricanes come though so timber properties with minimal damage are really getting a lot of interest right now.”

54 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

“In 2020, Farm Credit of Northwest Florida distributed $3.5 million back to our borrowers. So effectively, that’s reducing your cost of borrowing,” Chappell said. “It’s lowering your interest rate, because you’re getting back money that you paid in an interest.” Current Interest Rates from Farm Credit of Northwest Florida (As of 2/10/21) 5 year – 3.65 7 year – 3.75 10 year – 3.95 15 year – 4.25 20 year – 4.60 Contact Information Logan Chappell CP (850)-209-0250

Serving gardeners, farmers and everyone in between


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BY HANK SHAW Photos by Holly A. Heyser

Venison and Kidney Pie Prep: 20 mins • Cook: 3 hours • Total: 3 hours 20 mins Ingredients FILLING • 2 pounds venison shank, shoulder or neck meat • 1 pound venison kidneys • 1/2 cup flour • 1/4 cup lard, bacon fat or butter (or beef drippings) • 1 pound chopped fresh mushrooms (any kind) • 1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly • Salt • 2 cups stout or porter or other dark, malty beer, divided • 1 teaspoon dried thyme • 4 bay leaves • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley stems • 1 celery stalk, minced • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried) • 2 cups venison stock • 3 turnips or parsnips, peeled and diced • 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves • Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and black pepper, to taste PASTRY • 1 17-ounce box, puff pastry (I use Pepperidge Farm) • 1 egg, lightly beaten • 1 tablespoon milk Instructions 1. Chop the venison and kidneys into chunks. Salt them and toss in flour. Heat the bacon fat in a large pan and brown the meat. Don’t crowd the pan and take your time; you might need to do this in batches. You want them all nicely browned. Remove the pieces as they brown. 2. Preheat the oven to 325°F. 3. Deglaze the pot with the fresh mushrooms and the chopped onion; their moisture will loosen all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, which you want to scrape up with a wooden spoon. Salt these as they cook, and cook them, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. 4. Add 1 cup of the beer to the pot and use it to scrape up any more browned bits from the pot. Add the thyme, parsley stems, bay leaves, rosemary and minced celery, along with the rest of the beer and the venison stock. Return the meats to the pot along with any juices in the bowl where you’d left them. 5. Cover the pot and cook in the oven for 90 minutes. After that has elapsed, add the parsnips or turnips. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Cover the pot again, return it to the oven and cook until everything is nice and tender. This could be 30 minutes, could be another couple hours, depending on how old and tough your game was. 6. Remove the lid, and add Worcestershire, Coleman’s dry mustard and black pepper to taste. Let this cool. At this point, the filling can be stored up to a few days before making the pie. 7. Jack the oven up to 425°F 8. To make the pie, let the puff pastry thaw according to the directions on the box. Press in one sheet of pastry into a standard pie pan and dock it by poking it all over with a fork. Fill the pie generously. It should be sorta jellified if it came out of the fridge, and even if you just let it cool, it will be very thick once cooled. Top with the other sheet of pastry and seal the edges. 9. Whisk together the beaten egg and milk and paint the whole pie with it. If you have stray bits, make a fun deer or whatever out of them and stick it in the middle; it will adhere because of the egg wash. Paint the decoration, too. Finally cut vents in the pie here and there. 10. Bake the pie for about 45 minutes, or until pretty and browned. Remove, and let it rest 10 minutes before serving. 56 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


Taiwanese Venison Noodle Soup


2. While you are waiting for this to happen, chop all your

Prep: 20 mins • Cook: 3 hours • Total: 3 hours 20 mins Ingredients

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

2 deer shanks, or 3 to 4 pounds of similar shank meat 3 tablespoons lard or peanut oil 6 to 8 green onions, divided 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed A 4-inch-long piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thinly 4-star anise pods (optional) 1 heaping teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional) 2 to 6 dried hot chiles, broken and seeded 1 cup Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry 1 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup Chinese black bean sauce 1 tablespoon sorghum syrup or dark honey (optional) 2 pounds Chinese wheat noodles (spaghetti or ramen noodles can substitute) 4 baby bok choy heads, leaves separated 1/2 cup chopped cilantro 1 cup chopped pickled mustard greens (optional)


1. Submerge the shanks in water in a large soup pot. Bring this

to a boil and let it roll for a couple minutes. Remove the shanks and toss the water. This process removes some of the scum that floats to the surface, and will make a cleaner tasting, clearer




6. 7.

vegetables. Separate the white parts from the green parts of the green onions. Leave the white parts in large pieces, but finely chop the green parts. Wipe the pot out and heat up the lard or oil over medium high heat. Sauté the white parts of the green onions, the garlic and ginger for about 1 minute. Add the star anise, Sichuan peppercorns and chiles and stir to combine. Return the shanks to the pot. Pour in the Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sorghum syrup (or honey) and bean sauce, then enough water to cover everything by about 1 inch. Bring this to a simmer, cover the pot and cook gently until the shanks are tender -- about 2 hours for beef, up to 4 hours for a very old deer or moose or elk or whatever. When the shanks are tender, fish them out. While they are cooling, strain the broth. Pull the meat off the bones and cut it into largish chunks. Discard the bones and any weird, vein-y looking things. Wipe the pot again, then pour in the strained broth and add the shank meat to keep warm. Taste it for salt and add some if needed. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, then add the bok choy. Boil the bok choy for about 2 minutes, then remove. Add the noodles. To serve, when the noodles are done, put some in everyone’s bowls. Top with broth and meat, then add some bok choy, the green parts of the chopped green onions, cilantro, and pickled mustard greens. Some people like a bit more heat, so if you have Chinese chile sauce handy, have that at the table. 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 57


SPRO Introduces New E POP 80 Popper

The E POP 80 serves as the popper bait providing anglers a perfect bait for that aggressive topwater bite. It offers an extremely loud popping action with a loud knocking sound. It is designed to be walked and creates a life-like action. It is paired with a Gamakatsu #4 treble hook in the front and a #4 feathered treble in the rear. Available in nine patterns. Suggested Retail Price: $8.20

Moultrie Revamps Popular Feed Station

Able to hold a 50-pound bag of feed, the Feed Station II comes with dual feed ports and features integrated rain shields and weep holes to keep feed try. This redesigned and updated gravity-style feeder can handle corn, protein pellets, rice bran and more. It comes with an easy twist-on/twist-off lid and can be quickly and securely strapped to a tree or post. Suggested Retail Price: $26.99

Stealth Cam Reactor Wireless Trail Camera

The Reactor is easy to set up, requires less batteries and provides fast image and video transfer from remote camera locations to anywhere you have a network connection. Just employ the free Stealth Cam App and download photos and videos on demand, set transmission schedules, delete data and all camera functions and more off-site. It offers 26-megapixel photo and 1080P video recording. Suggested Retail Price: $199.99

New Bucking Shrimp Acts Like Real Shrimp

When rigged forward and when pulled on the bottom the Bucking Shrimp does move forward but, when jerked quickly it creates a vacuum under the head and legs. The lure then reverses and starts “bucking” like a real shrimp does in evasive maneuvering. Available in 12 different patterns, it incorporates Intelliscents®, which uses real fish and shrimp bits for smell and flavoring. Suggested Retail Price: $7.99 (4 pack, 2 rigged)

Woods Portable Folding Lo-Set Aluminum Camping Cot The Woods Portable Folding Lo-Set aluminum camping cot is lightweight and easy to fold and transport. It features a high strength Powerlite aluminum component frame and is made with high-density Dacron fabric. It weighs less than four pounds, is 6.5 inches high, has a weight capacity of 265 pounds and features a compact design that allows it to fit into tight compartments like a backpack. Suggested Retail Price: $95.00 58 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237


Fight the Bite with Mudtrek Snake Boots

The lightweight 17-inch brown Irish Setter® Mudtrek Snake boots offer wide leg and ankle openings, and a side zipper for easy on/off and their vulcanized rubber construction resists fangs and thorns. TempSens™ technology helps regulate temperature with the boot to maintain constant foot comfort by wicking moisture away from the foot allowing evaporative cooling. ScentBan™ antimicrobial scent control helps eliminate odors. Suggested Retail Price: $229.99

The Zeus Portable Jump Starter & USB Charger

This portable battery charger can get your vehicle back on the road, fully recharge your power tools, and revive your dead devices if no power supply is nearby. The Zeus offers 20,000 mAh which is enough power to start even the largest trucks multiple times. It can charge your iPhone Plus at least 10 times and has a built-in flashlight. Suggested Retail Price: $150.00

Merge into the Wild with QuikCamo’s Leafy Suit

Designed to be worn over clothing with a special ops tactical design, the QuikCamo Mossy Oak NWTF Obsession leafy suit offers the ultimate camouflage. This super lightweight, breathable and packable 1.2-pound Ghillie suit is made with durable, high quality and tear-resistant mesh base with hundreds of 3D leaves. The camo pattern is printed on both sides of the leaves and designed to move naturally in any breeze. Suggested Retail Price: $119.00

Stoeger Condor O/U Now in Synthetic Stock

The Stoeger over/under Condor Field shotgun makes competitive shooting and hunting affordable. In addition to its weather resistant textured synthetic stock it offers a single trigger, tang mounted safety, 28-inch barrel and extractors. Available in 12 gauge, it can handle 2 ¾ and 3-inch shells, comes with screw-in modified and improved cylinder chokes and only weighs 7.3 pounds. Suggested Retail Price: $349.00

VOORMI Men’s Diversion Hoodie

The VOORMI Division Hoodie is a combination of versatility, relaxed fit and clean good looks. It features a surface hardened thermal wool technology, a durable water-resistant repellent finish and can be used as a pullover or a full zip garment. It offers integrated hidden thumbholes, two hand warmer pockets, internal chest pocket with headphone port, a full cover hood and adjustable elastic hem with cord locks. Suggested Retail Price: $269.00

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The Past Four Years Were Good for Sportsmen and Let’s Talk


BY CHRIS BLANKENSHIP Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources

With the craziness that was 2020 and the volatile start to 2021, it might be easy to forget all the good that was done during the past four years for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.

Fishing Permit for 2018 and 2019 and led to the permanent state management that began in 2020. Without the willingness of Secretary Ross to help make this right, we might still have a three-day season.

From my experience, the Trump Administration really listened to the states and have been responsive to our calls to make improvements in access to fisheries and to federal lands in Alabama and beyond.

Also in 2017, the Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reached out to the states to ask what it could do to provide more access to federal lands. As you can imagine, we had a list of suggested improvements to hunting seasons on National Forest lands as well as other federal lands such as refuges, national recreation areas, and Corps of Engineer properties.

In 2017, shortly after Senate confirmation, Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross was made aware of the extremely short three-day red snapper season in the Gulf of Mexico and how that was hurting the coastal economies. He tasked his Chief of Staff Earl Comstock to work with Alabama and the other Gulf States to find a solution. After much negotiation among NOAA Fisheries, the Gulf Coast state fisheries agencies, and the coastal congressional delegations from Alabama and Louisiana, a 39-day season extension was implemented for 2017. The negotiations also resulted in allowing the states to manage the red snapper season under an Exempted

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That dialogue also gave us an opportunity to bring hunting regulations and seasons in line with state seasons to be less confusing to the public. Opening some of these public federal lands has been good for the hunters in Alabama, providing increased opportunities, especially in the northern half of the state. Many of our Alabama residents travel to western states to hunt. Much of the acreage in those states is made up of land managed

FROM THE COMMISSIONER by the Bureau of Land Management. Millions of acres of this land have been opened to hunting. I have already seen pictures of great harvests of game from these newly opened areas. Another change during the Trump administration that was good for Alabama was the appointment of Leo Miranda as the Southeast Regional Director for FWS. Leo has been a true friend of sportsmen and other outdoors enthusiasts. The working relationship we have enjoyed for the past few years has resulted in opening access to some of the refuges, granting of millions of dollars for species recovery and enhancement work, delisting many threatened and endangered species, and support for our and land acquisitions and Special Opportunity Area hunting programs. For those who would rather hike a trail or pull out the binoculars and birdwatch, President Trump pushed for and supported the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). This act permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and adds more than a billion dollars to the LWCF for land acquisition, park enhancement and trail building. The GAOA also provided hundreds of millions of dollars for much-needed maintenance and improvements to National Parks, National Forest Service properties, National Wildlife Refuges and other federal lands and facilities. Ammunition and gun sales have also been good the last four years, and those sales are great for conservation. An excise tax on guns, ammunition, hunting and fishing supplies and other outdoor gear goes into a fund that is divided among the state conservation agencies. You may have heard of it, the Pittman-Robertson Act or PR. These PR dollars are used to match state license dollars 3 to 1 to do good work in Alabama and other states. I think we can expect some of the highest PR deposits ever into this fund for 2020, which will translate to increased funding to the states by 2022.

Many other great accomplishments have been achieved over these last four years; I only highlighted a few. I am hopeful that the next four years will be just as productive working with the Biden Administration to recover endangered species and to continue to acquire land and open more access for the sportsmen and women of the United States. TURKEYS It is almost turkey season! I for one am excited. I saw a bunch of turkeys on my lease during deer season. I told them to just hang in there and I would be back to see them in late March and April. I have spoken to other people who have not seen many, or any, turkeys while in the deer stand. The Conservation Advisory Board will be meeting in Montgomery on March 6 to discuss seasons and bag limits and other ADCNR regulations. One of the hot topics is sure to be turkey season for 2022 and beyond. We need to do something to enhance the turkey population. ADCNR has seen about a 30% decline in harvests over the past 10 years. We are not at a point right now where turkey numbers are crashing, but we don’t want to get there either. With a few changes to the season dates or early-season bag limits to ensure gobblers get plenty of opportunity to breed before they are harvested, we think we can make a big difference for the turkey population. We are not proposing to shorten the season, just to move it ahead a few days to give those dominant birds time to do their thing. Research has shown that the closer to nest initiation the season is opened the better it is for the turkey population in the long run. Having more turkeys is certainly better for hunters, too, in the long run. To reverse the declining turkey numbers, we need to be proactive. Sitting on our hands and doing nothing is not in the best interest of the birds — or the hunters.

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Alabama’s Public Fishing Lakes

Spring is here and the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division has a local fishing spot for everyone.

BY CHARLES “CHUCK” SYKES Director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF)

Now is the time for anglers to get out and visit one of Alabama’s 23 Public Fishing Lakes (PFLs). For more than 70 years, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) has operated and managed PFLs with the sole purpose of providing quality fishing at an affordable price. Currently, WFF manages 23 PFLs that encompass 1,912 surface acres of water in 20 counties. Their small size and numerous locations around the State provide the perfect opportunity for a fun day of fishing. PFLs were designed to offer extensive bank fishing areas, fishing piers, boat ramps, bait shops, and rental boats to get people fishing. For just $3 anglers can enjoy a relaxing day at one of WFF’s intensively managed lakes. Snacks and drinks can be purchased at most lakes, and restrooms are conveniently located onsite. The Alabama PFL Program originated in the mid 1940’s, when officials of the Alabama

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Department of Conservation and Natural Resources saw a need to provide fishing opportunities in areas of the state that lacked enough public waters to meet the demand. Initially, construction was authorized to build the first 10 public fishing lakes to meet this need, and the PFL Program was born when Crenshaw County PFL completed its first year of operation in 1950. Over the next 40 years, 13 additional PFLs were constructed and they continue to offer a variety of fishing opportunities. Most PFLs are operated by a private contractor, better known as the lake manager. Lake managers operate the bait shop, sell fishing permits, and maintain the grounds. In addition, they can help someone new to fishing with all the resources and knowledge of how to fish. Lake managers are not state employees and their income is directly related to fishing permit and bait shop sales. Each permit sold goes to support maintenance and operations of the PFL.


WFF fisheries biologists continually strive to improve the fishing at these lakes to suit the demands and preferences of the many different types of anglers. When the program started 70 years ago, public demand was to provide the highest possible yield of fish. While today’s anglers still harvest a lot of fish, many prefer larger average size over abundance. Biologists strive to maintain a balance between having larger fish and catching good numbers for the dinner plate. The lakes are intensively limed and fertilized to increase production to maintain this balance. Each year biologists survey fish populations, sink fish attractors, and make management recommendations on fish stockings and creel and length limits to provide the highest quality fishing experience. Whether you’re fishing for hand-sized bluegill, trophy largemouth bass, or a stringer of crappie, each PFL offers an exceptional fishing experience. WFF fish hatcheries stock approximately 80,000 harvestable-size channel catfish annually as well as supplemental forage to maintain healthy largemouth bass populations. During the winter months, Madison County PFL and Walker County PFL fish-out ponds are stocked with rainbow trout to provide a unique and readily catchable winter fishery. These lakes have been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year WFF saw over 50,000 more fishing trips than normal and the most fishing trips in the last 17 years. With bait shops at almost every PFL and lake managers with lots of fishing knowledge, anyone interested in fishing for the first time could walk in and purchase everything needed for their first day of fishing at an affordable price. This allowed people interested in fishing last year to get

outdoors and try something new without being burdened with expensive equipment, crowded areas, or a lack of knowledge.

PFL Locations:

WFF is constantly putting resources back into the PFL Program to ensure it will be around for future generations. Occasionally a PFL fishery becomes unproductive, which requires the lake to be drained and restocked. While the lake may be closed for a couple of years for the fish to grow, the benefits of new fish populations are well worth the wait as some of the best fishing occurs a few years after restocking.

NORTH ALABAMA Clay County PFL (3 lakes) DeKalb County PFL Fayette County PFL Marion County PFL Walker County PFL Madison County PFL Lamar County PFL

Managing PFLs is not just about fish, WFF is also reinvesting in the infrastructure of the dams, spillways, and drain towers. In 2016, partnering with the City of Troy, Pike County PFL was totally renovated with a new multipurpose facility, new concrete drain tower, and the lake was completely restocked. This year the PFLs in Barbour County and Chambers County were closed and drained to rebuild drain towers that were nearing the end of their useful life.

CENTRAL ALABAMA Lee County PFL Bibb County PFL Barbour County PFL Dallas County PFL Pike County PFL Chambers County PFL

One last important fact about the PFL Program is that it’s operated entirely through user fees. These fees are derived from the sale of fishing licenses and from a federal excise tax on fishing and boating supplies. These funds are directed back to WFF through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program. No State General Fund money is used in their operation. Seventy years later, the wise decisions of the program’s creators are still paying off. To date, more than ten million fishing trips have been made since the program started in 1950. Now that you’re aware of WFF’s PFL Program, everyone get out there and Go Fish, Alabama!

SOUTH ALABAMA Crenshaw County PFL Dale County PFL Escambia County PFL Geneva County PFL (2 lakes) Monroe County PFL Washington County PFL Coffee County PFL

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The first turkey gun I hunted with was not mine but belonged to the late Red Kelly, a family friend who took me on my first turkey hunt. Red was a large imposing bear of a man who moved quiet as a ghost in the woods and would rather hunt turkeys than eat or sleep. His turkey gun was a 12 gauge A5 Browning semi-auto with a 30-inch full choke barrel. The bluing was nearly worn off the receiver from being carried so much in the spring woods. In the fall and winter, he carried that same gun when he squirrel hunted with his Mountain Feist squirrel dog. It has been quite awhile since the days where hunters like Red used their shotgun as a multipurpose hunting gun. Back in the day, a hunter might have had an adjustable Poly-Choke installed by a gunsmith which offered a wide range of choke settings or bought another barrel in the choke he wanted for other game. In time, easily interchangeable screw-in chokes were developed for shotguns and made it simpler to own a true multipurpose shotgun.

BY CRAIG HANEY Photo submitted by Craig Haney

But serious turkey hunters wanted dedicated turkey shotguns and the shooting sports industry happily obliged. No longer do you need a shotgun barrel “as long as your leg” like you did in black powder days to let the slower burning powder burn completely. A shorter overall shotgun length makes the shotgun easier to handle when set-up and less likely to spook the gobbler. CHOICES ShotgunType. The first choice should be what type of shotgun you want to buy to be your dedicated

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turkey slayer. Here are some suggestions to check out at your local gun shop. Most turkey hunters realize the first shot is the best shot so why carry the extra weight of a pump, semi-auto or over/under when you will rarely take a second shot. The single-shot turkey gun offers lighter weight when you have walk-in further than you planned to set up for your gobbler. A brand-new turkey gun for this season is the Henry USA model H015T-12, a break-action, single- shot 3 ½ -inch chambered for 12-gauge. It features a 24-inch barrel equipped with front and rear fiber optic sights and is drilled and tapped for optics. The shotgun is stocked in American walnut, entirely finished in Mossy Oak Obsession camo, equipped with a recoil pad, comes with a turkey choke and sling swivel. The weight is 6.7 pounds. MSRP is $667. The Stevens 301 Pro Turkey Hunter .410 is a less expensive alternative break-action single-shot for those on a budget. The 26” barrel has a Winchester extra-full choke tube. The receiver and barrel are black while the stock and forend are finished in Mossy Oak Bottomland. The barrel is fitted with a Picatinny rail and bead front sight. The picatinny rail is unique in having a central groove machined on top of it to be able to see the front sight should the user not use an optic. Weight is 5.07 pounds and the MSRP is $209.99. Turkey hunter’s wanting more than a single shot find the pump-action turkey shotgun a great alternative


as they can carry three shells and are less-expensive than semi-auto’s or over/under models. The Winchester SXP Universal Hunter pump features a composite stock and fore-end and is fully finished in the new Mossy Oak DNA camo pattern. The Winchester Speed Pump action utilizes a pair of rigid action bars to give reliability and record-setting cycling speed. The redesigned trigger group features a reversible safety button to accommodate lefthand shooters and a ramped trigger guard to make loading easier. The SXP Hunter is offered in 3 ½ and 3-inch gauge chambering and 3-inch 20-gauge chamber all with the choice of a 24, 26 or 28-inch barrel which comes with 3 choke tubes, sling swivels and fiber-optic sights. The SXP Hunter weighs 6.12 pounds in 20-gauge and has a MSRP of $509.99. Semi-auto shotguns offer less felt recoil and faster cycling for hunters wanting a quicker second shot than offered with a pump-action shotgun. The Savage Renegauge Turkey shotgun is a semi-auto 3-inch chambered with a 24-inch vent-rib barrel featuring fiber-optic sights. This is a great gun for someone hard to fit as the length-of-pull, comb height and drop at the heel can be adjusted to fit almost any shooter. The Regulating Inline Valve operating system of the Renegauge’s action insures excess gas vents before it drives the boltless felt recoil, a fast cycling rate and consistent hull ejection. The Renegauge is offered in Mossy Oak Bottomland or Obsession camo with an MSRP of $1549. Fit and feel are important when you shoulder your shotgun. Hunters may choose an over/under because they shoot clays or bird hunt with one so it’s just natural for them compared to the other shotgun styles. The

Tristar Hunter Mag II over/under shoots 3 ½ shells and comes with 26inch barrels with interchangeable choke tubes. The gun is fully finished in Mossy oak Break Up and weighs 7.3 pounds. The Tristar Hunter II has a solid frame for durability and strength, sealed actions to keep dirt out and an injection molded stock and forend. It comes with five Benelli / Beretta interchangeable chokes. It weighs 7.3 pounds and the MSRP is $760. Optics can be essential for any turkey hunter whose vision is not perfect and has not been corrected. The turkey hunter should choose a dedicated turkey shotgun that has been drilled and tapped for a red dot or scope. The hunter with good eyesight may not need optics now but will benefit from them if he chooses a red dot or low-power scope for his shotgun. Ammo and chokes available today are the best ever for turkey hunters. Take the time and expense to try various turkey ammo and chokes at the range. Each shotgun will have their own personality and when you find the best load and choke for your turkey, the time and money spent will prove to be a great investment in your turkey hunting success. THE BEST TURKEY GUN Only you can decide the best turkey gun for your needs. Talk to your turkey hunting buddies about what accessories or model of turkey gun they prefer and why. Remember their needs or likes may be somewhat different from yours so think through the process about which accessories will be really beneficial and help you become a better turkey hunter.



(251) 479-5264

457 Dauphin Island Parkway “At the Loop” Mobile, AL 36606 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 65

Best Low-Cost Fishing Kayaks

Sometimes You Get More Than You Pay for

The fish don’t care how much the kayak costslow-cost boats can work well.

I have put myself into a lot of low-cost kayaks through the years and my experiences with trying to get on the water as cheaply as possible have taught me a number of things.

BY ED MASHBURN Photos by Ed Mashburn

First, there are some really bad low-cost kayaks. These kayaks tend to be found at big box stores and they tend to paddle badly and their seats tend to be almost torture for an angler who spends any time at all in them. Just a few years ago there

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were really no acceptable low-cost kayaks that were worth messing with on a serious level for anglers. However, I have found that in recent years some quite acceptable fishing kayaks with good seating and some good fishing options have come on the market and some of these low-cost kayaks are absolutely good fishing boats. Are these lower-cost kayaks as good as the bigger, better equipped boats? Nope. You really do get what you pay for with fishing kayaks but some of the low-cost boats can be retro-fitted with all of the gear and accessories that an angler needs. In that respect the angler can often save a lot of

PADDLE FISHING money by adding on the stuff that she or he really wants and needs. In fact, with a lot of low-cost fishing kayaks, a buyer gets a whole lot more boat for the buck than was possible just a few years ago. Not so long ago, kayak anglers looking for a low-cost boat faced an impossible task in that there just weren’t many kayaks that could be considered “fishing” boats. Today, the problem is different. There are a whole lot of good, low-cost fishing kayaks and it can be hard to sort through the pack of low-cost kayaks to find the one that best suits an angler’s needs. So let’s look at just some of the lower-cost fishing kayaks out there for anglers to examine. BEST FISHING KAYAKS UNDER $500 When looking for the lowest cost kayak for fishing purposes, potential buyers need to closely examine the cheaper kayaks and see what they offer. Some very low-cost boats have poor construction and less than tip-top materials. This can show up with rough seams, rough hull finish, and even hull warpage from the kayaks sitting in long-term storage in the stores. First, the hull of any kayak needs to offer some good sea-keeping features. In short, a potential buyer must be very wary of any kayak which has a flat bottom with no chine or ridges built into the design. These flat bottom kayaks tend to be hard to paddle, difficult to control, and often just plain hard to fish from. These kayaks tend to be sold at stores which are not commonly thought of as “kayak” stores.

that there aren’t any. The problem is that there are a whole lot of some very good and nice fishing boats in this price range. In fact there’s at least one under $1000 fishing kayak with pedal drive- really. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 $849. This kayak offers the Phase 3® AirPro seating system which is very nice for long days on the water. There’s a large rear storage well, and SlideTrax™ accessory rails are standard. This kayak is 10 feet, six inches long, weighs 55 pounds, and has 325 pound capacity. Old Town Sportsman 106- $899. This double-U hull is very quiet. There is premium seating, and two forward mounting tracks and there are two built-in rod holders. There is forward dry storage. Perception Pescador Pro 12 $879. This very good kayak is 12 feet long, weighs 64 pounds, and has 375 pound capacity. The removable, adjustable camp chair seating is very comfortable. There is a large rear well for storage, two rod holders, and the kayak comes with a 5 year warranty. Bass Pro Ascend 12T – $649.99. This kayak offers a tunnel hull for stability, and the kayak is stand able for fishing and has an anti-slip mat deck. There are mounting rails, rod holders, and adjustable seating. And finally, there is something we didn’t expect to find- a pedal-powered kayak for under $1000- not much under, to be sure, but even so, this is a remarkable price for a pedal kayak.

Even low-end kayaks need to have seating which won’t create pressure points after a few hours’ sitting and fishing. If the seat of a low-cost kayak is not adjustable, it just might be a boat to pass on.

Riot Kayaks Mako 12- $999.99- This kayak offers a comfort adjustable seating system, tracks for accessories and four rod holders. This boat uses Impulse Pedal Drive System- which works on a bike-pedal system. The seating is adjustable.

Now, a disclaimer. We have no connections with Dick’s Sporting Goods nor Bass Pro Shops, but all of these lower-cost kayaks are sold through these stores. Here are a few of the many very low-cost kayaks which might serve as a starting point for a kayak angler.

AND THE PICK OF THE LITTER I’ve spent a lot of time in a wide range of lower-cost kayaks and I don’t even have to hesitate when it comes to picking my best less than $1000 fishing kayak.

Lifetime Teton Angler- $399.99. This kayak features adjustable frame seating, front and rear tackle well storage and comes with 12 inch accessory tracks and two flush rod holders. The boat is 10 feet long.

The Perception Pescador Pro is the boat that my wife and I fight over when we go fishing and she always wins and gets the Pescador, by the way. This boat paddles great, tracks well, and is stable as a rock. It has plenty of storage for gear, and the space for angler’s feet is generous. This under $1000 kayaks offers good open water handling, and it really shines in smaller backwater fishing situations.

Perception Swifty- $399.99. This boat from a highly regarded company is 9.5 feet long, weighs 44 pounds and has a 325 pound capacity. Front and rear handles are standard. The high seatback seat is adjustable. Pelican Mustang- $349. This is a sit-in kayak that features two rod holders, RAM-X impact resistant hull material, and Ergo Form seating system. The footrests are adjustable. This kayak weighs 39 pounds, is 10 feet long, and has a 300 pound capacity. Ascend D10 Sit In Fishing Kayak. The 9 foot 10 inch kayak has a tunnel hull for good tracking, deluxe removable seating with adjustable foot braces. This kayak is 9 feet, 10 inches long, weighs 45 pounds, and has 300 pound capacity. BEST FISHING KAYAKS UNDER $1000LOTS OF CHOICES When we start looking at fishing kayaks for under $1000, the problem is not

We’ve carried this kayak to a lot of places and fished it hard. It has held up well, and so far, no problems of any kind have emerged. I really do like the Perception Pescador Pro.

Important Contact Information

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Gulf Coast Fishing Outlook

A HUGE Wahoo for Captain Tim Kline with Recess Fishing Charters. Expect Wahoo to start showing up off the Florida Panhandle this month.” Photo courtesy of Recess Fishing Charters

Spring is in the air! March is the month of change and each day can be very different from the next. Warm to cold, flat calm to gail force, blue-bird skies or torrential downpour. Good thing the fishing is consistent! MISSISSIPPI The inshore waterways will see big movement this month as forage and gamefish make their way out of the marsh and backwaters and into the sound, off of the beaches and around the barrier islands. Captain Bill Hancock, who operates Reel Outlaw Charters out of Biloxi, will be plying these open waters looking for redfish and trout as they follow the bait. “This time of year, smaller shrimp will be flushing into the bays along with finfish like croakers, pinfish and others,” Hancock said.. “With water temps slightly above average for the year, these fish will be on a prespawn feed.”


Hancock uses a variety of tactics to target these fish, but favors a handful of lure selections to get the job done. Since most fish will be suspended midwater, lures that suspend or sink slowly will produce the most.

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“I mostly use small jerkbaits like the Rapala Shadow Rap and Rip Stop, the Mirrolure MR27 and paddletails like the Matrix Shad,” he said. Hancock likes to fish his plastics on the lightest jigheads possible so that they stay above the bottom. He also pointed out when redfish are the prime target, anglers should add soft plastic crawfish to the mix. “Redfish love crawfish patterns but certain colors produce well over others. I use a few colors but avocado and black/blue are my favorites. The blueish tone resembles a molting crawfish or shrimp and the reds love it,” Hancock said. Hancock keeps his terminal connections streamlined and simple. “I like to use a three to four foot leader of 15-20lb mono or fluorocarbon and I tie it directly to my 30lb, braided main line via an Alberto knot. I like to avoid swivels and other terminal hardware for simplicity and stealthiness,” he explained. ALABAMA Alabama waters will see a large variance of temperature

FISHING OUTLOOK and salinity ranges through the month as spring rains move down from the Mobile delta. Locations for inshore fish will change often as these factors “push” them around. Cobia are a species that will arrive this month and in high anticipation, but the temperature and salinity will dictate when that first migratory fish will be caught. When water temperatures approach 67-68 degrees off the beaches, cobia will make their appearance. Captain Andy McKinnell of Tightline Charters will spend many days and hours riding the beaches looking for these big, brown trophies. “I’ll cruise the beaches from 50 yards off the shoreline to a mile out, looking for free swimming fish as well as big rays, turtles, debris and other objects that might attract a cobia,” McKinnel said. Bait options for these fish are nearly endless. Cobia are voracious and opportunistic feeders, but McKinnell has his go-to baits which are live eels, small catfish and crabs. Cobia have the nickname of “crab cruncher” for a reason, but given the choice, McKinnell prefers a live eel over anything. “I like to hook the eel in the nape or collar of the neck, just behind it’s head with a 6/0-7/0 circle hook on a 50 pound fluorocarbon leader,” he said. For his main line, McKinnell prefers 30 pound mono and likes to tie his leader straight to his main line. Picking gear and bait is only one step though. It still takes time and eyes on the water to find and then catch these migratory fish.

to stick to artificials although at time he will use both live and dead bait. “I’ll look for bait schools on the surface and on the depthfinder and target these fish both trolling and casting, Kline said. “I like to use small glass minnow jigs and spoons, both on the surface and on small planers, pulled at speeds of four to five miles per hour. Once Kline finds a school of mackerel, the same lures as well as Gotcha plugs can be cast to the schooling fish. Further offshore, wahoo, blackfin tuna, mahi and even white marlin will begin showing up. Kline likes to target these speedsters with a classic spread of skirted ballyhoo. “I’ll pull areas like the Nipple and Elbow at speeds of around 6.5-7kts. Most of my lures will be surface running but I will get a bait deep when focusing on wahoo,” Kline said. Kline likes to use a high speed #8 planer in conjunction with an Ilander/ ballyhoo combination. This allows the bait to stay deep, even at the faster speeds. He also uses his planer “poor man’s downrigger” style, running the planer on a shorter line off a cleat and attaching the line to the planer cord with a paper clip or rubber band. “When the fish hits, the line detaches from the planer, so the planer can be cleared and kept from interfering during the fight.”Kline said.. March is also prime time for swordfish, and Kline is well versed in both daytime and nighttime tactics for these awesome gamefish.

“Once I find a fish or group of fish, I want to make my cast well ahead of the fish but in line with his path, not past him or inside. I want the bait to be in his path of travel,” McKinnell pointed out.

“I’ll target a wide range of depths for swords. Sometimes as shallow as 1000 feet and as deep as 1800 feet,” He said.. “I prefer whole baits of mullet, small bonito and spanish mackerel.”

Once the fish takes the bait, McKinnell likes to freespool the bait to the fish for anywhere from 20-30 seconds so the fish gets a good hold of the bait and allows the circle hook to find the corner of the mouth.

According to Kline, anglers need to take the proper time to rig each bait so it remains durable, yet lifelike. Careful bait rigging also ensures that the hook is exposed and kept free of fouling, which is very important when targeting a fish a quarter mile beneath the boat.

Inshore, McKinnell will hit the piers and grass flats heavily for speckled trout. In terms of live baits he fills the well with croakers and spots and he believes that they produce better quality fish and less bycatch then live shrimp or other baitfish. McKinnell likes to go light on his terminal rigging when targeting trophy specks. Using a 10 pound mono main line and light, 12-15 pound fluorocarbon leaders with small circle hooks sized to the baits, McKinnell freelines his baits along grassflat edges and potholes and current swept piers. Once there is a take, he lets the fish run for several seconds before coming tight. “Croakers and spots are larger baits and often take a few seconds for the the Trout to swallow.” FLORIDA PANHANDLE With many bottom fish species out of season this month, many anglers through the panhandle will switch gears and target the abundant pelagic species arriving this month. Captain Tim Kline of Recess Fishing Charters likes to cover the wide range of options and targets migratory fish both nearshore and offshore this month. Kline offers trips aboard his 31ft and 21ft Contender center consoles so he can effectively fish both inside and out from Pensacola Bay. As water temps warm into the low 70s, Kline will focus on both king and Spanish mackerel from just outside the pass to a few miles offshore. He likes

Other options that’ll add to the offshore game plan will be vermilion snapper, golden tilefish, and deepwater grouper species like snowy and yellowedge, which aren’t affected by the shallow water grouper closure. It’s only heating up from here, so get ready to hang the winter clothing, come out of the woods and start rigging.

Important Contact Information Reel Outlaw Charters Captain Bill Hancock 601-807-5811 Tightline Charters Captain Andy McKinnell 251-233-0251 251-747-7291 Recess Fishing Charters Captain Tim Kline 850-341-8670

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Pier & Shore Fishing Outlook

Spanish mackerel arrive just off the gulf beaches in March.

“... once they show up, Spanish mackerel quickly catch the attention of many pier and jetty anglers.”

Coastal fishing really picks up momentum through March as our weather transitions from winter into spring. This phase should become especially evident in the second half of the month after the Equinox on the 20th. The tidal phase will be at full strength that week, and the moon will be fuller each night. Some anglers will be wary of the three NEAP tides this month (1st, 15th and 29th). BY DAVID THORNTON Photos by David Thornton

The days should be getting progressively warmer, and longer. That will seem even more evident after the Daylight Savings Time change initiates on the 14th. All these changes translate into March being a month when shorebound anglers can

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expect good things to happen on the fishing front. For one, the heralded return of coastal pelagic species signals the start of spring fishing for many pier anglers. The migrations of Spanish mackerel and cobia into the warming coastal waters along the Emerald Coast mark the first of many species to return from their wintering areas. Sheepshead should be in full spawn mode after mid-month. In addition, being bunched up to spawn makes them easier targets for those inclined anglers. Making up one’s mind about which fish to target isn’t always easier with the

FISHING OUTLOOK rapid increase in available species and numbers of individual fish. Pompano schools in the surf zone grow by the day. As they gather in pre-spawn aggregates to feed on prey that are becoming more abundant and active in the shallow, rapidly warming waters. Water temperature near the beach usually rises quickly through the 60s this month as the weather becomes increasingly mild. Though March can easily live up to its “lionish” reputation when moderate to strong winds rake over the Gulf. High winds and surf can ruin coastal fishing for days. So, watch the weather forecasts closely to make your fishing time in sync with calmer periods between storm systems. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing about a good bite yesterday, while you battle rough seas and dingy water. Sheepshead gather in large schools in the Gulf near passes and isolated “hard” structures like piers, jetties, and other artificial reefs. They typically orient up current from these structures and use them as orientation points for mating. While the actual spawning activity may distract them at times, they are inclined to bite more aggressively at this time. Usually, all an angler has to do is dangle a small live shrimp in their midst to illicit a bite from these scrappy gamefish. They are loads of fun on medium to light tackle when conditions allow. They also give a good account of themselves on medium heavy tackle in windier or rougher conditions. At times, they may rest near the bottom in loose schools where they can be enticed with live shrimp, ghost shrimp, fiddler crabs, etc. Their bulk (commonly weighing two to six pounds) often necessitates the aid of a landing net to assure the hook doesn’t tear out of their mouth during the lift. In fact, sheepshead are often “lip hooked” as their thick “rubbery” lips are one of the few soft places around the mouth where a hook may take hold. The fight is a series of dives toward nearby obstructions that may last for several minutes. But the rewards of the battle are tasty light fleshed fillets, either fried, baked, broiled, or grilled. In fact sheepshead-onthe-halfshell is an extremely simple recipe, popular with many Gulf Coast residents and visitors. Pompano are another popular fish for shore anglers as well as pier. Available year round, they are just coming into seasonal abundance beginning in the later part of March. So numerous at times, pompano can even be targeted by using ½ to ¾ ounce jigs bounced off the bottom. Pier anglers along the Florida Panhandle often sight cast to schools in a competitive/cooperative atmosphere over the longshore trough between the beach and longshore sandbar. Set rigs (with bait weighted to the bottom) are popular with many pier anglers when the water is not clear, but also the mainstay for surfcasters working from the beach.

match their bite. There can be a good number of “by-catch” species as well to this method. Gulf and Northern kingfish (small members of the drum family) are often commonly caught on these rigs. Also, red and black drum, bluefish and a host of other small panfish may be taken as well by this method. But once they show up, Spanish mackerel quickly catch the attention of many pier and jetty anglers. They are very fast swimmers, and the strike is often just a silvery flash and a bump on the line. Spanish mackerel tend to stay deeper in the relatively cool water this time of year. They will occasionally follow a lure up in the water column, or briefly trail one of their hooked comrades. This makes them very susceptible to being caught on 5/8 to ¾ ounce leadhead jigs, or even the lighter tandem jigs like Speck Rigs. Spanish mackerel are fun fighters on light to medium spinning tackle and great eating, especially when fresh. The latter half of March is the traditional start of “the cobia run”, for whatever that has been worth the past few years. Not nearly as plentiful as in years past, the large brown gamefish can still be landed from the Panhandle piers beginning in early spring. Most are caught on two or three ounce jigs cast on 8-10 foot spinning rods. Not for the faint of heart, cobia fishing is a waiting game punctuated by moments of bedlam as the fish gets within casting distance of the pier. Some piers have “first shot” rules, so check on the local pier protocol and fishing regulations. Also, anglers are subject to rules about Covid ‘social distancing’ which problematically restrict the number of people on a pier at one time. In Alabama, anglers have returned in groves to the Gulf State Park Pier which reopened the last weekend in January. The iconic pier was breached by hurricane Sally in September 2020. Since then, over 1050 feet of the pier has returned to service, to about 105 feet south of the middle platform. The water there is about 15 feet deep, which may be deep enough to catch spanish mackerel. The pier sports a new fish cleaning station with a grinder pump. It is hoped this will eliminate carcasses being tossed overboard which drew in hordes of ravenous pelicans and sharks. Toward shore, anglers can expect to catch pompano, sheepshead, whiting, redfish, some flounder and even speckled trout as the shallow water warms. Options for from-shore anglers increase almost daily in March, as temperatures and anticipation rise along the Emerald Coast. As we venture forth to enjoy our great days outdoors!

The trick is to locate a point, or sandbar edge where the pompano may be feeding or working around. The double drop pompano rigs with colored floats or beads as attractants take many pompano as they mass up in the spring. The rigs are usually tipped with fresh shrimp or even synthetic colored and flavored baits like Fishbites. Pompano are extremely active and constantly on the move. They are quite curious and often competitive about striking anything that resembles their natural prey. Those are mole crabs (sandfleas), ghost shrimp, coquina clams and other small invertebrates. Small seems to be the key as the mouth of a pompano is not much larger than a quarter. And having no teeth, they must inhale and swallow their food whole. So keep your bait in the two to three inch range to 877.314.1237 // // MARCH 2021 71

REGIONAL FRESHWATER Fishing Outlook BY ED MASHBURN Photos by Ed Mashburn

As the water warms, the bass get very aggressive.

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LAKE GUNTERSVILLE Captain Jake Davis of Mid-South Guide Service has seen many early spring seasons on Lake Guntersville. He predicts that bass anglers will have good luck with Rat-L-Traps in the standard Guntersville red colors, and Texas-rigged soft plastics will also be very good. Square-bill crank baits will be good bets to cover a lot of water in order to find the best concentrations of bass. It looks like just about every kind of offering made to the bass this month should be good. Davis advises anglers that they will need to look for water warming into the upper 50 degree level or above for actual bedding to begin. When the water temperature hits the low 60s, things should get very good for bass anglers as the bass will go to the shallow bedding areas. Bass anglers should work the staging areas, drop offs and channels, near the flats where most of the Guntersville bass go to make their beds for spawning. Crappie anglers should have good results in March by fishing the bigger creeks where the slabs will be getting ready to spawn in April and May. Both small jigs and live minnows worked slowly around deeper structure will be good.

SIPSEY FORK This month will see March browns hatching as well as black caddis. Blue wing olives have been hatching all winter, and they will continue into March. Fly hatches can occur anywhere along the run of the Sipsey Fork. Riverside Fly Shop which is a full service located in Jasper, Alabama and is all about Sipsey Fork.. They have flies on hand to match all of the hatches and the tackle to go along with them. Another kind of fly fishing will occur in March as fly anglers throw streamers in white, silver and black top to match the run of threadfin shad. These one to three-inch streamers can attract some of the biggest trout in the river. Trout will be stocked monthly at the Sipsey Fork, but the folks at Riverside have a donation jar where anglers can drop a few dollars in for the purchase and release of three to five pound rainbows in the river. Ed... what is the normal size of the “plants”? .

movement and a more natural presentation. The bass at Weiss are starting to get tight to the shorelines in preparation for bedding. Anglers need to really focus on hard clay and gravel and rock bottom. The bass will be holding on hard bottom structure at this time. ”I cover a lot of water at this time using a Larue Bifflebug on a jighead. I can feel the jig hit rocks. I also throw spinner baits. I like a Talon 3/8 oz spinner bait with double Indiana gold blades. I like chartreuse and white colors,” Pitts advised. MOBILE DELTA “Everything about fishing in March is predicated on the river stages. The higher the rivers, say eight feet or higher at the Barry Steam Plant, and you’ll be fishing down around the Causeway because of the very high water,” predicts long-time Delta angler and guide Captain Wayne Miller. Miller said that it is not impossible to catch bass in the very high water and fast currents, but it can be close. After the high waters run down, bass will find lots of food coming out of the flooded woods. The bass will bulk up and get really healthy, and this benefit can carry on through the rest of the year. In March, the Delta bass will be eating crawfish and lures need to match this food. Really bright reds and oranges are good choices for crankbaits. Jigs can be very good too. “March is the one time I get away from my usual advice which is to ‘Think small’, Miller reported. “In early spring we see large crawfish, and the bigger bass will target big crawfish. Use big jigs with trailers, and I will bulk up the size of jigs and crankbaits in the crawfish patterns.”

, g n i t n u H , e s Defen cal i t c a T , g n i t o Sho

Riverside offers guided drift boat trips, wading trips and striper fly-fishing striper excursions above the dam in Smith Lake. Anglers who want some world-class fly fishing fun should contact the shop for coastal saltwater fly fishing trips to various Gulf Coast locations. WEISS LAKE ”It’s March and THE time for crappie here.” says veteran guide and tournament angler Captain Lee Pitts Anglers can fill a big ice chest with fine eating crappie by long-line trolling jigs over open water and then, as the month moves on, fast results will come from a jig fished under a float. This rig should be cast over submerged stumps on flats.

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“Throw it out, and let it sit. Then, move it a foot and let the jig settle back under the float. Keep moving the float and jig a foot at a time. The crappie usually hit the jig as it falls,” Pitts said. Anglers who are crappie fishing on Weiss at this time need to think about using light line. Six pound test is good because it allows good lure

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Regional Freshwater Fishing Outlook

LAKE EUFAULA Sam Williams of Hawk’s Guide Service, predicts that the bass will be in pre-spawn pattern, which means they will be feeding heavily. Smaller crank baits and lipless crank baits fishing in five to seven feet of water should be quite good in March. Anglers need to work creek mouths very hard. Look for water grass which will be starting to grow. On another note, anglers can have some serious fun trolling along drop offs and old creek channels for white bass, hybrids, and even some very big stripers in March. White jigs and shad pattern crank baits are good choices for slow trolling for the whites and hybrids.

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The crappie at Eufaula will be off deep ledges, and as the month goes on, they will move to the tops of drop offs and ledges as they get ready for the big spring spawn.

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Anglers need to pay attention to the weather. If the weather and water warm sooner than usual, the crappie may start their spawn earlier than they most often do- April and May.

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WILSON LAKE Long- time guide and big catfish specialist Captain Brian Barton advises us that in March the catfish at Wilson are getting ready to spawn. Anglers should look near the lake flats and long points. Between Wilson Lake Shores and McKiernan Creek is a very good region to find these prespawn catfish. Look for rock and wood cover, and work the bait just above or beside the cover. Catfish anglers should try cut bait, chicken livers, and live shad if they can be found. Big catfish will be found right below Wilson Dam so try big chunks of shad or whole shad in deeper holes along bluff walls. Use electronics to find holes on the bottom that are five feet or deeper than the surrounding bottom- the bigger cats love these areas. As March moves on, bigger catfish will be moving up in shallower water for spawning. MILLER’S FERRY Joe Dunn spends a lot of time fishing Miller’s Ferry when he’s not helping customers in Dunn’s Sporting Good Shop in Thomasville. “In March, everything is on the banks in a pre-spawn or actual spawn pattern. When the water gets at 60 degrees, everything will start to happen,” Dunn predicted. Bass anglers can flip jigs in grass that will be starting to emerge, and chatter baits and spinner baits will also be very good. All lures need to be in some kind of shad pattern since shad are the primary forage for bass. Dunn reminded us that lots of anglers will be riding around the lake at this time looking for the right conditions, because the lake doesn’t all have the same water and temperature conditions at the same time. Some bays and sloughs will be warmer and more productive than others. The Miller’s Ferry crappie will be up on the banks by late March, and they will be shallow near wood and grass. Crappie anglers should look for crappie to be just off the banks. Use a cork with a jig a foot or so below the cork. This rig works very well on suspended crappie along the banks at this time. 74 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237 Call 800.579.5471


Regional Freshwater Fishing Outlook

Important Contact Information Capt. Brian Barton 256-412-0969 Capt. Jake Davis Mid-South Bass Guide Service 615-613-2382 www/ Crappie will be on fire in most area lakes and rivers.

“I like a Southern Pro jig, the color depends on water temperature and clarity. Silvers and blues work well for clear water. Chartreuse, black, and electric chicken are better for stained water conditions,” Dunn said.


LAKE TALQUIN Buddy Cartwright of Whippoorwill Lodge on Lake Talquin tells us that anglers should visit the lake early in the month for the best shot at the biggest bass as they will be moving on the beds for spawning. The bedding bass will take worms, lizards, and other soft plastics, and March is a good time for sight fishing the big girls as they are on the spawning beds. June Bug has been a consistently good color for the March soft plastics. Crappie anglers will find plenty of slabs in the shallows as they continue their spawning, but some of the biggest fish will have moved off the beds and back into more open water. Try trolling creek mouths and deeper creeks with jigs and live minnows.

The catfish will still be in deeper water in March,

but they will be getting ready to move on the flats and ledges for spawning as the water warms. WAKULLA RIVER Rob Baker of Wilderness Way Kayak Shop says that as the water warms, the bass will start moving into shallow water bedding areas, and depending on the water clarity, some good sight fishing for bedding fish can occur. This will be a good time for top water frogs worked over very thick cover. Work the soft-plastic frog slowly and be ready for some violent strikes. Plastic worms in watermelon color on Carolina rigs will catch bass near heavy cover. Look for logs and old blowdown treetops, especially in the Wakulla River. For panfish anglers, the bream will be moving into quiet backwaters off the main river channels, and tiny artificials and live crickets and worms will collect a mess of bream in short order.

Joe Dunn Dunn’s Sports 334-636-0850 Hwy 43, Thomasville, AL 33356 Rob Baker Wilderness Way Kayak Shop 850-877-7200 3152 Shadeville Road Crawfordville, Fl 32327 Whippoorwill Lodge 850-875-2605 Randy Jackson Riverside Fly Shop 17027 Hwy 69 N, Jasper, AL 256-287-9582 Captain Wayne Miller Mobile-Tensaw Delta Guide Service 251-455-7404 Capt. Lee Pitts 256-390-4145 Capt. Sam Williams Hawks Fishing Guide Service 334-355-5057

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©2018 Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. (BRP). All rights reserved. ®, ™ and the BRP logo are trademarks of BRP or its affiliates. Some models depicted may include optional equipment. Carefully read the operator’s guide and safety instructions. Observe applicable laws and regulations. Always wear appropriate protective clothing, including a personal flotation device and wetsuit bottoms. Riding and alcohol/drugs don’t mix. See your authorized BRP dealer for details.

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When Submitting Trophy Room photos, be sure to include as much information as possible about the person and the trophy. Final Decision is made by the editorial Staff of Great Days Outdoors Magazine. Submitting a photo does not guarantee it will be published.

PHOTO of the MONTH Nita Hall with her 170lb 6pt.

Steve Martin harvested this 8 point on the Upper Delta WMA out of Mobile County

Allison Alred posing with her snapper

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Ashtyn Blount’s 1st Bass caught with her own rod and reel @ her Grandpa’s Lake- Citronelle, AL.


Avery Tyde Schmierer, 11, from Grand Bay, AL. Killed his fist buck (8 point) after 5 years of hunting. Killed in Clarke Co in January. Weighed 175 lbs.




Clayton Kilpatrick, 14, shot this 10 point on private property in Oakman, AL with a 6.5 Creedmoor in January

Layton Duggar’s first time to deer hunt and he shot the buck of a lifetime on January 30, 2021. Pictured are Layton Duggar and his little brother Rob.




Casey Martin, 5, from Bay Minette with his “personal best” sheepshead out of Mobile Bay

Janie Kate Kilpatrick, 11, shot her first buck while hunting with her big brother in Oakman, AL with a 6.5 Creedmoor.

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March Fishing Tips BY WILLIAM KENDY

Not only are wahoo delicious table fare, but they are sharp eyed, fast swimming, razor edged toothed predators that are a challenge for even the most experienced anglers. I reached out to Chris Vescey, who authors the Great Days Outdoors Coastal Fishing Report and is a skilled wahoo fisherman in his own right, to share a few pearls of his wisdom and experience. The following are his four top tips. STRUCTURE Obvious structures like rigs, floating debris and rips are the go-to structures, but depending on location, rigs may not be an option and you won’t always find floating debris and major rips. That’s when it pays to look for other features like temp breaks and fishing sharp bottom contours. TEMPERATURE BREAKS A temp break of only one or two degrees can hold bait and fish. They aren’t always the most visible on the surface, often a weak line, so closely watching your temperature gauges helps in identifying them. Bottom contours that break up current and create upwellings are prime wahoo spots as well. TROLLING AND WHAT TO PULL I pretty much pull two speeds, 7-8 knots or a high speed of 11-12 knots. When trolling at the slower speed I use plugs and ballyhoo/skirt combinations. In the faster mode of 11-12 knots I pull large jig heads. When I bump troll I use live baits. You need an ample supply of bait. Wahoo move a lot and have high metabolisms so they will always stay near a steady food supply. Bonito, blue runner (hardtails), small tunas are preferred but any bait mass will hold wahoo. COVERING THE COLUMN. Wahoo can stack at various depths in the upper column. I take many on surface baits but there are plenty of days where getting deep is the ticket. That means Incorporating a deep diver or two into your spread, like the Rapala X Rap Mag 30 and that helps cover depth. Live baiting with baits set at different depths off of a down rigger are also very effective. Chris Vescey Sam’s Bait and Tackle Orange Beach,AL (251) 981-4245

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Bragging on Your Dog Now that’s a dog. Intelligence isn’t the only point to brag on either. How about personality? “My dog’s never bitten the mailman,” you add. “At least, not where it shows. And even though he still chews boots, he’s learned not to touch mine. And he won’t eat the cheap ones . . . he’s a connoisseur.” BY JIM MIZE

Retrievers these days have become finelytuned machines. They retrieve, take hand signals, and respond as if they read your thoughts. They’re the sort of dogs that when an owner drools over them, they drool right back. They’re so good in fact that it’s difficult for the average guy to brag on his dog. Think about it. If everyone has a great dog, how do you make yours greater? The answer, of course, is through creative bragging. For instance, let’s say you have a dog of above-average intelligence. Rather than saying that, why not claim, “My dog’s so smart, when he lines up a duck, he uses a compass.” How many dogs do that? You don’t have to explain how or why, just leave them guessing. In fact, if you’re going to stretch the truth tighter than a bungee cord over a sack of decoys anyway, why not give it a little extra? “Not only that, but I got him one of those electronic collars,” you say. “He dialed his in to the weather channel. Now when we hunt he gives me a heads-up if the weather’s about to turn bad. I’m training him on Solunar Tables and tide schedules because I can’t read those things worth a hoot.” Everyone else will at least have to pause and wonder. But why stop there? “Even as an old dog, he keeps learning new tricks,” you brag. “Why, when he retrieves my ducks, he keeps track of the bag limits. In fact, he can keep track for up to three hunters, but to do more, he would have to do multiplication or something.” The truly great dog will be multi-talented. Unique. Ingenious. “While he’s in the water, my retriever doesn’t just dog paddle, he backstrokes.”

A dog like that probably has a little attitude as well. “Fleas? No, they don’t bother my dog. He’s way too much trouble.” In fact, he’s become trouble for lots of people. Sometimes bragging can sound like a simple warning. “Be careful if you say, ‘Heel’. He usually points at my partner.” “And no one is allowed to curse around the dog. I don’t want him picking up bad habits and too many of these words sound like commands he might just try to perform.” Still, your pup may have just a little problem with his advanced training. For instance, you might want to note that he not only takes hand signals, he gives them back. Likewise, you’ve never had to worry about him being gun-shy. Sometimes shooting doesn’t even wake him. Talk about a soft mouth, your dog has it in spades, you say. “Why my dog’s mouth is so soft, I train him with marshmallows. Hot ones.” Even with all this attitude, you can bet your dog is helpful. At least, who can dispute a claim like, “My dog goes all out. On float trips, he takes his turn in the stern so I can shoot.” “Of course, he could probably take a turn shooting as well, but there’s no way I’m bringing ducks back in my mouth. I’d be spitting pin feathers for a week.” At times like this, you’ll want to move on before someone asks how he grips the paddle. Some guys make a big deal over bloodlines. They’ll want you to know every champion on either side of pup’s family tree. They’ll want to convince you that their blueblood hound somehow outclassed yours at birth. But why let them?

86 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237

“Hey, my dog’s bloodlines are so good, the Red Cross lets him donate.” And talk about a nose. “Why, when my dog stands downwind of the TV, he can tell without looking if I’m watching bird-hunting shows. And I can’t even turn the station to a cooking show. He would show up at my recliner with his bowl in his mouth.” Part of breeding, of course, is good looks. Your dog stands head and shoulders above the pack here, too. At least, according to you. “He looks way too good for his age,” you say. “Sometimes I suspect he’s using Grecian Formula. I was once approached to see if I’d let them carve his head into Mount Rushmore but he’s too particular about the company he keeps.” And just so people don’t think your dog is high maintenance, you can let them know he carries his share of the load around the house. “He’s also cheap to keep around. My dog more than covers the cost of his food by modeling for hunting calendars. And when prospective buyers for one of his pups come around, he poses.” Who can possibly own a dog that compares with yours now? But if they do, then above all else, you can brag on his manners. “When my retriever rides in the truck, he doesn’t even lick the windows.” Now that’s manners. Yet it doesn’t end in the truck. Your dog takes his good taste indoors, too. “My dog is not only housebroken,” you conclude, “he flushes.” On that note, you can go home proud.

JIM MIZE let his dog write this column. But Jim did write two award-winning books of outdoor humor available at

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Some discounts, coverages, payment plans and features are not available in all states, in all GEICO companies, or in all situations. Boat and PWC coverages are underwritten by GEICO Marine Insurance Company. In the state of CA, program provided through Boat Association Insurance Services, license #0H87086. GEICO is a registered service mark of Government Employees Insurance Company, Washington, DC 20076; a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. subsidiary. © 2019 GEICO 88 MARCH 2021 // // 877.314.1237