F R E E Feb/Mar Issue
Mississippi’s Only Locally Owned Hunting & Fishing Magazine
In this Issue Signs and Wonders MS Duck Hunt Chotard Results
How Many Dogs Does It Take? Fishing is For the Birds 12 Tips for Rabbit Hunters
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Vol. 4 No. 2
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Magazine 158 East Rd. • Ecru, MS 662-419-1541 Dean Wells Editor, Advertising& Publisher firstname.lastname@example.org Pam Locke Art Director Maury Giachelli Account Executive Jessica Johnson Account Executive Anne Wells Billing Inquiries Hillcountry Outdoor Magazine Publisher Pro Staff North Mississippi
Maury Giachelli Kathi Hurst Gary Miller Roger Stegal Dean Wells
Will Edgar Tony Kinton Phil Pilphie Sonnie Snyder Contributing Writers Cowboy Benjamin Photography Al Stanford James Stanford Robbie Hale
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Table Of Contents From the Editorsâ€™s Desk........................................ 4 Mississippi Duck Hunt:........................................... 5 Chotard Results...................................................... 6 How Many Dogs Does it Take?............................ 7 Fishing is For the Birds........................................... 8 Outdoor Truths....................................................... 9 12 Tips for Rabbit Hunters.................................12 News and Notes...................................................16 Lakes with Fishing Reports.................................18 Gulf Island National Seashore............................21 Taking Early- Season MS Turkeys.......................26
“From the Editor’s Desk”
Signs and Wonders
that day, but it was the one that got away as it often always does, that left a lasting memory for all of us. Ole Sam was jumping up in the air and hopping around, as he always did when he winded a rabbit in the snow drifts, but it was what the rabbit did that I never forgot. He disappeared under the snow and to his and my surprise, when he popped up, he was between my legs. He ran between my legs as I bent over and shot at him upside down and behind me, Sam soon followed the same route almost knocking me over. A missed rabbit and side splitting laughter soon followed the ordeal that I have never had happen since. 34 years have come and went and so have the lives of those dogs, but the memory of that day is still pure in my mind as the snow the wind finally blew away, along with our foot prints. Life is short; don’t let the busyness of life cheat you from the wonders of the great outdoors. Until next time the Editor
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The critters didn’t lie, I said to myself as I walked across the frozen hard mud. The signs of a bad winter that God sent his critters last fall, was a tell tale, a sign for what we were about to embark, upon as one of the coldest winters in years. All of the acorns I saw and the squirrels nesting in the lower sections of the trees were all there. It was a winter similar to this one, I think it was when I was about 12 or 13 years old, you know back in the day, about 1977 as I recall. Hunting season was wrapping up and it was time for maybe the last hunt of the year. The quarry was the cotton tail rabbit. It was in the good old days, days when the cotton tail was plentiful. The hunt consisted of my Uncle Gary Allen, my Grandpa Carl Allen and I, but I must not forget the dogs. There was Minnie my black Lab, Moe which was one of Minnie’s puppies from a couple of years before and a black Lab mix that belonged to my uncle named Sam. Sam came from an animal shelter if my memory serves me well. Farm and hunting dogs then had many purposes. They retrieved ducks on hunts, chassed rabbits, treed squirrels and often did a great job of herding cows. These dogs had talent and most had a sense of humor it seemed and love to wrestle and play with me as a kid. I had spent the night with my Grand parents the night before and had listened to my grandpa tell his tales of hunting in the hills and bottoms as a boy in the Bunkum hills of the Fairfield , Blue Springs area. So by bed time to say I was pumped would be an understatement. There was one problem though, I had to con my Uncle and Grandpa into the mind set, that going hunting for rabbits in the snow was the only sensible thing to do on a Saturday morning. The next morning began as usual at my Grand parents’ house. We were met by the wake up call of my Grandmamma Cymbeline, that breakfast was ready. Hot coffee from the percolator, fried eggs, country ham from the hogs we had slaughtered in November and a skillet of hot biscuits with red eye gravy. After some arm twisting, the cows fed, we were off. Pop carried a single shot Stevens 12 ga, my uncle a Fox side by side 20 ga. and me with a 20 ga. Remington Wingmaster, I had received on my last birthday from my Dad. and the three dogs I mentioned before. The snow was ankle deep and drifts where as high as boot tops. In those days when we went hunting, it was for anything that got up in front of us, quail, rabbits and squirrels. Anything and everything was on the menu. We killed a couple of squirrels our dogs treed and a couple of rabbits
Mississippi Duck Hunt: Battling Bad Weather and a Lack of Toothpaste
Heather Redmann and Shannon Salyer I’m not usually the kind of woman who hollers out to perfect strangers in public. But, my choices were continue lurking around a Memphis airport telephone booth or find out if the two women strolling by, one in a camouflage jacket, were my ride to Hunter’s Paradise Lodge. “Hey, are you Shannon?” I blurted. The woman in the camo coat, who was pushing a cart piled high with pink luggage accented with white polka dots, turned around and said “You must be Tammy.” Imagine my relief. I was lucky because the two women I had waylaid, Ann Smith of the NRA and Team Winchester’s Heather Reddemann, were on the same Winchester/Mississippi Department of Tourism duck hunt I had been invited to. Turns out the woman I was supposed to meet, Winchester hunt hostess Shannon Salyer, was delayed at the Houston airport. Within moments of meeting each other, Ann, Heather and I were in fast food heaven at the airport Arby’s. In a rush of introductions and comparing notes on people we knew in common, I finally got the scoop on the pink polka-dotted suitcases. I quickly realized that Heather was a serious waterfowler with a capital S. Not the kind of young woman I would associate with Barbie Doll bags. I learned, though, it was Heather’s foolproof way to ensure that when (not if) the airlines lost her luggage; it would be easy to describe and find. It made sense in a kooky kind of way. Shannon finally arrived many curly fries later, and we all piled into an SUV and headed south. The Mississippi Delta is known as the birthplace of the blues and the land of catfish, cotton and waterfowl -everything from snow geese and specklebellies to mallards, wood ducks, scaups and shovelers. Lucky bum that I am, I was cruising down I-55 with three new friends on our way to hunt these heavenly creatures. Our destination was Hunter’s Paradise Lodge outside of Charleston, Miss. in Tallahatchie County. Presumably it was the same area where Billie Joe McAllister flung himself off that bridge. When I asked the local guides about it, they looked at me like I was a flake. However, it was too late. I couldn’t get the song or the movie out of my head for days. When the pseudo female voice from our SUV’s navi system curtly instructed us to “turn right in .2 miles,” we were more than ready to finally arrive at Hunter’s Paradise. Lodge owner Tim Gray and his guides immediately whisked our luggage inside, and soon we were mingling with the rest of our hunting party: co-host Mike Jones from the Mississippi Department of Tourism, freelancer Stephanie Mallory and Hillary Mizelle of Grand View Media. It was immediately clear this was a fun group of people, and I was quite pleased at how things were turning out. As my roommate Ann and I were chatting and unpacking, I was hit with the sinking feeling I had forgotten to pack something. Last time I traveled it was undergar-
Written by Tammy Sapp
ments. This time it was my toiletry kit. No deodorant, shampoo or facial cleanser. Just as this group was getting to know me, I had to be the doofus who couldn’t remember to pack a toothbrush. For the rest of the trip, I was forced to panhandle for contact solution, toothpaste and lotion. But everyone was kind to me, and I decided I could make do with the group’s generosity and the odds and ends I found in my briefcase. At least I didn’t forget my hunting boots. The first night at Hunter’s Paradise, I vowed to eat dessert like there was no tomorrow. That was a good decision, as Lucille, camp cook, makes a mean chocolate chip cake. I even woke up one morning before the rest so I could devour the last piece. I admit it was a desperate act for someone living on the shampoo charity of others. After dinner, Tim visited with the group about what we could expect on the hunt, covered some safety basics and let us check out the firearms we would use. I was pleased that we’d be shooting some quality sporting arms. There was a nice selection of Browning Silver and Gold autoloaders in 12 and 20-gauges. Both models are a splendid choice because they employ Active Valve gas operation making them low recoil choices as well as a beautiful combination of wood and metal. I chose a sweet little Silver 20-gauge because it shouldered almost perfectly. We also examined our Winchester ammo choices (12 and 20 gauge Supreme Elite Xtended Range HD Waterfowl and Xpert Hi-Velocity Steel). I knew I’d enjoy getting to test the various loads to discover what would have maximum impact on birds and minimum impact on me. Tim, who has duck hunted since he was 8 years old, left no doubt he is passionate about waterfowling. For some, hunting ducks and geese is a hobby. For Tim, it’s a way of life. By age 18, he had already decided he was going to own, or at least run a guide service so he could introduce others to what he loved. For the next 20 years, Tim worked towards his dream while he held “bill-paying jobs” before finally opening Hunter’s Paradise Lodge. Today, it’s a popular destination for duck hunters across the country. Situated in the Mississippi Flyway, the area boasts a heavy concentration of waterfowl. I was getting pumped just thinking about birds circling our decoys, and finally cupping their wings as they made the commitment to join their faux friends. Our first morning, after only four hours of sleep, we were up and pulling on waterfowl bibs, coats and boots - ready for snow goose action. About an hour later, our vehicle was bouncing down a mud road leading to the middle of a field. Just as the guides were getting ready to unleash a bevy of decoys, it happened. A flash in the distance. Could it be lightening? The ensuing clap of thunder verified that it was, in fact, lightening. And we got to see many more examples of it. For the next 16 hours I swear, every thunderstorm in North America rolled across the Delta. Luckily, we got a brief respite after sunrise when we saw the wind hurl about 25,000 snow geese high overhead. I was thankful my layout blind had doors, because with that many birds in the air, chances of being pooped on were pretty high. The first wave of rain that morning alternated between a gentle pitter patter on my layout blind to fatter, more frequent raindrops. Tucked away in our little camo coffins, we stayed fairly dry, each in our own little world watching birds and clouds sail by. As morning progressed, a blasting wind and cold rain conspired to make our surrender inevitable. Finally, the guides began to load up dogs and decoys, while we tried to snap a few photos. Afraid to ruin cameras, we packed them up and stood with our backs to the wind. And passed the time telling stories and laughing at how funny we looked with hoods cinched tightly around our faces. This was a plucky group of women so I might have been alone in this thought, but I was thankful to be excused from picking up blinds and decoys in a driving rain. After this gallant effort, we headed back to the lodge where our growling stomachs were greeted by one of Lucille’s big country brunches. Hurrah! It rained the rest of the day. And I don’t mean sprinkled. Or drizzled. I mean a full on toad-floating downpour. There wasn’t much more to do beyond accept our fate. Fortunately, the lodge is a spacious and comfortable place to fritter away an afternoon. A great room includes a huge living room, ringed with several comfy sofas and a big screen TV, perfect accoutrements for a mid-day snooze. Connected to that is a roomy, cafeteria style dining room while the six bedrooms are off the beaten path down a quiet hallway. Five private bathrooms means even in a group of women, nobody has to wait for a post hunt shower. After eating, a few of the women grabbed blankets and sprawled out on the sofas for a siesta, but not before checking email and text messages first.
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Chotard Results MCC held its 4th tournament Saturday, January 16, 2010 at Chotard Lake (MS River Oxbow) north of Vicksburg, MS. The weather was favorable, overcast skies, no wind and light sprinkles, until weigh-in. The weatherman had called for 100% chance of rain and high winds. The crappie weather gods found favor and allowed us fish our tournament without all these perditions. The fish were very cooperative for 40 degree water. We had some very heavy sacks, some nearly 15 pounds. With over 34 teams registered to fish, all teams were successful. We congratulate the team of Ray Williams and Rodger Womack who weighed in MCC Tournament’s new record for the year—7 crappie weighing 14.83 pounds. Ray and Rodger won both big fish prizes with a 2.66 pound and a 2.61 pound crappie. Jackpot! This gives Williams and Womack both big mamma prizes for first half of the season. Ray and Rodger caught all their fish spider-rigging in Albermarle. They fished the deep holes in front of old Dents Landing, fishing 16 to 17 feet in 20 feet of water. These guys are a fairly new team and they proved that they can fish. Rodger says it was luck, we say it was persistence and skill. Coming in a close 2nd was Johnny Smith with 14.64 pounds of white crappie. Johnny fished by himself in Albermarle, boating over twenty large crappie. Johnny used the same spider-rigging technique, fishing 18 to 20 feet in 25 to 30 feet water with minnows. No split here, Johnny took home the whole check. Good job Mr. Smith, you had a great game plan and stuck to it. 3rd place was no big surprise, Joe Lowery and Randy Bouchillon with only a fish scale separating them from 2nd place, with 14.63 pounds. These guys consistently finish in the Top 5. We were glad to see Joe compete with us today. Way to go guys and keep up the good work. 4th place was captured by none other than Shelton Culpepper and David Thornton with 12.79 pounds. Shelton and David are locals and as Shelton told me; “It’s hard to win on your own lake, you know too many places to catch fish and you always second guess yourself”. Coming in at the 5th slot was the team of Brad Taylor (MCC President) and Chris Criswell with a 12.71 pound sack. Brad and Chris spider-rigged Albermarle all day and caught good fish. Good work, guys. That should keep you near the top in points.
1st Place Ray Williams & Rodger Womack 14.83#s
2nd Place Johnny Smith 14.64#s
3rd Place Joe Lowery & Randy Bouchillon 14.63#’s
4th Place Shelton Culpepper & David Thornton 12.79#’s
5th Place Brad Taylor & Chris Criswell 12.74#’s
Mike McMurtrey Ego Net & Tackle Bag
2009-2010 MCC Tournment Schedule Date Oct. 17,09 Nov 7,09 Dec 12,09 Jan 16,10 Feb 13,10 Mar 6,10 Mar 27,10 Apr 24,10 May 22,10 Jun 18-19,10
Lake Lake Ferguson Wolf Lake Eagle Lake Lake Chotard Lake Washington Arkabutla Reservoir Grenada Reservoir Ross Barnett Reservoir Enid Reservoir Magnolia State Championship
Location Greenville, MS Yazoo City, MS Eagle Lake (Vicksburg), MS Eagle Lake (Vicksburg), MS Glenn Allen, MS Hernando, MS Grenada, MS Madison, MS Oakland, MS Ross Barnett Reservoir Madison, MS
Annual membership for MCC is $35. Fishing members pay an additional annual fee of $15 for insurance. Regular tournament entry fees are $90 per boat with the exception of Barnett where the entry fee is $95 per boat. MCC pays back approximately 120% more than total entry fees. That’s right--we actually pay back more than we take in at each of our events. Payouts are awarded to the Top 15 teams. Teams weigh best 7 crappie.
Entries limited to 2 people per boat, six poles per boat, two hooks per pole. Kids under age of 16 are not charged membership or insurance fee. For more info call Brad Taylor 662-820-4581 or Hugh Krutz 601-9463111.
Lowell (Doc) Jones Cedar Ridge Tackle Gift Set $30 Cedar Tackle Gift Certificate
BIG FISH Ray Williams & Rodger Womack 1st Place Big Fish 2.66# 2nd Place Big Fish 2.61# Door Prizes - Splash4-Cash
Rounding Out the Top 10 6th Place Lowell (Doc) Jones & Kenny Blackwell - 12.50#’s 7th Place Gerald Jones & Kenneth Pickett 12.39#’s 8th Place Hugh.Krutz & Steve.Stevenson 12.27#’s
9th Place George Walker & Ray Clary 12.08#’s 10th Place Kenny Middleton & Larry Nipper 12.03#’s
How Many Dogs Does It Take?
By The Sand Creek Wild Man
How many dogs does it take to get a hog, is a question I hear quiet frequently by many hog hunters. Well, that is a question I don’t mind addressing at all. The answer is it all depends. You knew I was going to say that didn’t you. Well it’s true. Topography, styles of hunting, and the sheer amount of terrain to be covered are all parts of the equation that must be considered. There are many hog hunters today, that believe there is strength in numbers, but that is more often than not true when it comes to hunting and killing wild hogs. I once knew a fellow hog hunter that only had one dog and he killed more hogs on a regular basis than those who wished to fill the woods with 3 or 4 packs of dogs. In order to solve this maddening puzzle one must first think like a hog. Hogs are not like a deer in many ways. So the methods for hunting them must be a bit different. A wild hog from birth has the mentality that they can either turn and face their pursuer are run to the nearest state. These two different characteristics of a wild hog’s behavior have plagued those that have chassed pigs all over the south for years. Addressing the first characteristic often will solve the second. Since hogs will often turn and face off their pursuer, one might be inclined to believe that one dog of a small breed like a Mountain Feist, Jack Russell Terrier or maybe even a medium size dog like a cur can get the job done. Without a doubt this is probably true in over 50% of all hog hunting situations that a hog hunter will encounter. That is until you have what hog hunters refer to as a runner. More often than not these hogs fall into the other 50 % of the other hogs that are pursued. These hog must be hunted a little different. Often these hogs have been run by dogs before, hogs that are the victims of high hunting pressure. Although these are the hardest to harvest, it can still be done with less than 10 or 12 dogs. You see the way a hog thinks is that he is already the bad dude in the bar, so why should he run from a little punk running his mouth. That is what he thinks and that is how he must be hunted if you wish to bring home a trophy boar. If he encounters a street gang of 3 or more biting and growling, he is going to move on to a different location in a hurry. This mind set is the one that sends most hog hunters back home with lost dogs and an empty pickup bed. Whether you use a gun or catch dogs it really doesn’t matter. It’s the correct use of the track and bay dog that will mean success or not. Here is what years of hog hunting have taught me. 3 dogs or less is the key to killing more hogs. The perfect pack of hog dogs is a dog or dogs that can be herd from more than 300 yards on day with 15 mph winds, that wont intimidate a pressured hog , three catch dogs , or a big rifle or a pistol, in 44 caliber and larger. www.hillcountrymags.com
Fishing is For the Birds Most of my customers might think I am rude guy on the boat ride out. After getting the boat on a plane I will rarely look a customer in his or her eyes (something my dad always told me do). I like to think I am a very polite guy, but I am a very passionate fisherman. The reason I don’t lock eyes with anyone, or anything for that matter, is that I constantly scan the horizon. Being aware of your surroundings can turn a good day into a great day, quick. Training your eyes to look for feeding birds can put you on fish in almost any body of water on the globe, but diving birds in the marsh usually mean one thing, trout. One good flock of diving/feeding birds can put a cooler full of trout in your box in no time. Fishing birds is very easy to do, but there are a few things that make it very effective. With a few simple tricks and observations you can put up good numbers of fish and have fun doing it. The reason for fishing diving birds is very simple one. The trout (and other fish) are feeding on shrimp and minnows. The fish push the bait the surface were it jumps, or stays close to the surface. The birds are hovering above and dive to get the easy meal. Not all birds follow trout and not all conditions produce them either. Once you find a flock of birds take a few seconds and watch what is going on. I know in the Biloxi Marsh area, if the birds are mostly gulls, then more than likely the trout are under them. The smaller birds, usually terns, seem to follow the rain minnows. Yes, trout eat rain minnows, but with warm water is now here and the trash fish are here too. Lady fish, Blue fish, Mackerel, and the beloved Cat fish for seem reason follow the same thing the little terns do. Gulls are more prone to follow the shrimp and trout are gorging on shrimp, so play the safe bet and follow the gulls. In trips past, location has played a key factor for the quality and quantity of our (Shore Thing Charters) catch. Open water has not produced as well as bays. I prefer diving birds as close as possible to land for a nicer box of trout. For the area we fish the closer the birds are to land/ marsh the better the catch has been. Open water for our area is usually in 10 to 12 feet of water, while the marsh area is in 8 to 1 foot. Rarely have we put together a nice catch in water less than 8 feet while fishing birds. Approach to a flock of diving birds is crucial. If you come full speed into the diving birds pushing a big wake, they are as good as gone. Come in slow and watch which way the birds are diving, they will tell you which way the fish are swimming. Ease your trolling motor in the water and try to travel parallel to the birds. If you do not have
By Capt Sonny Schindler
a trolling motor get up current or upwind (which ever is stronger) and try to drift on the outside of the feeding birds. If you are in water shallow enough and the birds are not moving too fast drop an anchor over. The anchor scenario works very well especially if you have a cajun anchor for quick and quiet anchoring. The fishing under the birds is usually fast and furious until the fish move, taking the birds with them. We hook fish, sling them in the boat, measure if need be and throw the keepers on the deck. If you keep making trips back and forth to the fish box you will make noise and not be making casts. These fish will feed like piranhas for 5 minutes (or longer) and then get a good case of lock jaw. Make every cast count, and try to cast in the spot were the birds dove last. Keep looking around for other flocks in the area, rarely is there just one. I prefer a good spinning reel for this type of fishing. The fish are not sows, with most fish being in the 1 to 3 lb range .More importantly, you will have situations were you will have to cast into the wind and the bait casters backlash too often. 30lb power pro can usually handle anything that swims under the birds. A good popping cork (Cajun Thunder or Old Bay Side) is a must for several good reasons. The corks with extra weight cast extra far and that is what you want. A good popping cork makes that “clicking” sound to mimic a feeding trout, which also draws strikes. 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig heads give you enough weight to launch your rig while keeping your boat well away from the fish. Plastics are a must with local tackle maker Deadly Dudely coming in 1st on my list for all around best plastic. Light almost clear colors work best for me but I try to mimic the color tone of a shrimp (match the hatch). If you are just getting started fishing or would like to get your children involved, this is the type of fishing you need to do. Imaging taking your young child to a flock of birds and getting bit every single cast. Fishing the birds is not only fun, it produces good numbers of fish for you and your family. If you need help getting started charter a boat and ask questions. Most captains don’t mind showing areas were birds are, because there are usually many flocks of them. Lastly if you come upon a flock of birds, and another boat is fishing them, look for another flock. If you cannot find another flock stay out of the primary boats way, he was there first. Try to be as quiet as possible and stay on the opposite side of the diving birds. As always, have fun and be safe.
Gary Miller email@example.com
Most of the time when I write about the outdoors I am writing from the perspective of being a hunter or fisherman. And even though these hobbies make up most of my time outside, they do not define all of my activities. Not only do I enjoy running, but I love simply going and sitting in the woods. I actually have one particular place that I affectionately call my happy place. It’s where I go to reflect, read and pray. There are actually several ways to enjoy the outdoors. I have friends who love to take their kayak down the river and just take in the sights. I have other friends who love to hike and camp as well as explore off the beaten path. One of the most popular hobbies is bird watching. And what about those who ride horses? And many hunters I know prefer at times to take their camera instead of a weapon. All of these are ways to enjoy the outdoors differently. I am also blessed to live in an area that has both a state and national park. Thousands of acres are managed in a way that not only preserves wildlife of all sorts, but also makes this property accessible to every individual. The amazing thing about all of this outdoor treasure is that we humans had nothing to do with its creation and yet we value it more than anything that we have. Millions of dollars are spent each year just to protect and care for something that was here before we were. And our biggest fear is that somehow it will be destroyed either by a natural or man-made disaster. But why all of this concern? It is because it is irreplaceable. Once it is gone, it is gone for good. And what we lose is not only its use but its tonic – its unique power to heal our mind, soul, and spirit – the picture it gives about our grandiose universe – the message it gives about our God. That is what draws us to its places and that is why we must give it some of our time. This outdoor world reminds us of our limits. Whether it is by the power of the rapids or the peak of a mountain, we understand that our ability is limited. But these also remind us of the unlimited power of our Creator and that if He can build such magnificent structures, surely He can take care of those things in my life that weigh me down. Nature is not a museum where we only ponder our history and admire our accomplishments. It is a spiritual, psychological, and physical hospital where we check ourselves into in order to find God’s healing balm for whatever ails us. I hope you are taking your medicine.
Others sat at one of the many dining room tables, looking at photos, snacking and talking. While we waited out the rain, Mike Jones filled me in on the birding opportunities in Mississippi, which are plentiful and easy to identify thanks to the tourism department’s handy map and brochure. Shannon, Heather and I also
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discussed the art and science of waterfowling and the best ways to reduce felt recoil. We agreed that while butt pads and shooting vest pads work wonders, gun type and fit as well as proper stance and handling are key. The next morning, after it had rained about 6 inches, I figured the ducks would be scattered from one end of the state to the other with so much water available. Still, Tim and his guides were steadfast about getting us out there for a chance to shoot some ducks. They set us up on some old catfish ponds less than a half hour away from the lodge, which also meant a bit more shut eye for us hunters. It was drizzly, windy and cold (an ongoing theme), and we were all dressed to the teeth, each in our own way resembling the Pillsbury Dough Boy or some other enormous roly poly figure. Kirstie Pike, who founded Próis, sent us beanies and neck gaiters from her line of functional women’s hunting apparel. We pulled the hats down over our ears and pulled the gaitors up over our noses so all that was visible were our eyeballs. Still, we managed to shoot some ducks. And some photos. Driving back to the lodge through the Mississippi Delta, I could almost imagine what this swampy wilderness looked like 100 years ago. The fertile soils of this alluvial floodplain were too good to pass up for the sharecroppers and landowners of yesteryear, and they quickly cleared it for cotton. Today, you’ll see huge working farms, growing cotton, soybeans and rice, bordered by acres of forest and sloughs. Though impressively flat, the meandering rivers and pools of water lend the area a backroad beauty no serious traveler should miss.
While the weather remained a challenge, I got just enough of a taste to want to go back. There’s no question that if the weather had cooperated, we would have had our hands full shooting ducks and geese. Next time, though, I’m making contingency plans in case there’s another monsoon. The Delta is a hotbed of American culture and on my return visit, I’m going to soak it up. First, I’d head over to Clarksdale to check out the Delta Blues Museum and maybe actor Morgan Freeman’s joint, Ground Zero Blues Club. Then there’s the BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in nearby Indianola. In Oxford, there are several historical sites linked to Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulker that I’d like to see. Just to be well rounded, I think I’d opt for some wacky entertainment, too - the Catfish Museum in Belzoni or the Jim Henson Museum to pay homage to Kermit the Frog’s birthplace in Leland. Maybe I’d wrap things up with a stop at the Home of Scissors, World Champion Hog just outside of Charleston on Route 32. While there’s plenty to see and do, it’s worth going back just to take another shot at duck hunting. After eight reflective hours in the Memphis airport (the inconvenience of storms had moved from duck hunting to air travel), I realized that the take home message from this trip was that when you’re in a wonderful area, eating delicious food and surrounded by people who are smart, funny and thoughtful, a limit of ducks is merely a bonus.
March 24-28, 2010 www.hillcountrymags.com
12 Tips for Rabbit Hunters
written by Keith Sutton
Although most rabbit hunters bag a few cottontails or swamp rabbits on each trip afield, certain techniques can bolster your success. These 12 tips should help you better enjoy the experience of rabbit hunting this season. Leapfrogging As farming operations and urban development encroach on prime rabbit hunting areas, large contiguous blocks of hunting territory are harder to find. This has caused many rabbit hunters to abandon the traditional method of hunting all day in one large swath of brushy territory. Instead, many now opt for “leapfrogging, “ where hunters cover one brush patch or overgrown fencerow in an hour or so, then drive on to another rabbit hideout. By leapfrogging throughout the day, hunting first one spot then another, chances are good you’ll locate more rabbits. Farm help Savvy rabbit hunters know that farmers are an invaluable aid for finding cottontail concentrations. Since they work their land daily and see rabbits regularly, farmers know where huntable populations are likely to be. Most are eager to keep cottontails thinned out so they don’t cause crop damage. Rabbit hunting is a great way It’s a simple matter to cultivate your own contacts in farm country. Remember these things. to get afield and put some goodAsk permission before hunting, every time you tasting meat on the table. visit. Follow all rules the landowner asks you to abide by, like passing up shots at the coveys of quail he’s nurturing. Leave everything just as you found it, and always take time to thank the farmer personally. Offer to share your game, and follow up with a thank-you note and a token of your appreciation. Make these easy-to-follow guidelines part of all your farm visits, and you’ll always have prime rabbit lands on which to hunt. Sunrise and sunset scouting Driving rural roads near dawn and dusk is another good way to find potential hunting sites. Cottontails are most active early and late in the day, especially along the fringes of fields and roadside cover, where briars and thickets provide sanctuary near favorite feeding areas. Drive slowly, and note any spot where you see several cottontails. Then inquire at nearby homes for the name of the landowner so you can request permission to hunt. Dress for success Most good cottontail thickets have one thing in common -- thorns. Whether you’re hunting behind dogs, kicking up rabbits yourself or retrieving downed game, some type of sticker will be clawing at your ears, fingers, thighs and other tender parts. Wearing protective clothing can do wonders to make your trips afield more enjoyable and less painful. Blue jeans are preferred by many rabbit fans, but offer little protection. A good pair of briar-busting breeches with thorn-proof material covering the front should be considered essential equipment no matter where and how you hunt. It also helps to wear a briarresistant hunting coat, gloves and some type of hunting cap with flaps that can be pulled down over your ears. Remember the orange rhino A buddy of mine often describes dense rabbit cover by saying, “You couldn’t see a blaze orange rhino in there.” In some locales we hunt, this is darn near true. Cover is so thick, you can only see a few feet. For this reason, we wear hunter orange hats and bodywear on every trip. Safety should be the foremost consideration on all your rabbit hunts. Remember the orange rhino, and make hunter orange clothing a must for everyone in your party. Barrels and bullets When stomping for cottontails in thick cover, use a shotgun with an improved cylinder choke and No. 6 or 7-1/2 shotshells. Since cottontails jumped in thick cover usually are close and moving fast, a wide, yet sufficiently heavy, shot pattern is needed to put a rabbit down without excessive damage to the meat. When hunting cottontails with beagles, you may want to switch to a modified or full choke. A pack of dogs will push rabbits across fields and woodlots, and the shots you’ll make are usually farther than those presented when you flush rabbits yourself. Use the tighter patterning choke and increase your shot size to No. 4s or 6s. Icy weather equals hot hunting Cold, miserable days often provide the best gunning. Rabbit fur has poor insulating qualities, so rabbits are forced to take shelter from the weather, making them easier to find and less likely to flush wildly. To find bad-weather bunnies, think like a rabbit. Where would you go to escape the cold if all you had to wear was a light jacket? Hunt places that are sheltered from wind and
open to warm rays of sunshine, then move to other locales offering protection from adverse conditions. Look ‘em in the eye Stalking rabbits as they sit in their forms is great sport, especially when hunting with youngsters not yet adept at bagging running rabbits. The trick is to spot the rabbit before it spots you. Considering the rabbit’s superb camouflage, this can be tough. Old hands at this endeavor have a rule: look for their eyes instead of their whole bodies. A rabbit’s round, dark eyes look out of place against the crisscross of cover, and are easily spotted by a hunter who walks slowly, carefully examining all brush and weeds. You may overlook rabbits huddled in their forms, but you’ll also bag a few at close range after spotting the eye. Watch over your shoulder In isolated patches of cover, a cottontail may head directly away, disappearing from sight, then circle well behind the hunter. Others sit tight until the gunner passes, then squirt out behind. Look over your shoulder every few minutes, and you’ll glimpse some of these renegades before they make good their escape. Snap shooting is a must, so be careful to identify your target before shooting. Stop-and-go hunting A veteran nimrod taught me a rabbit hunting technique that has proven very effective over A good pair of briar-busting the years. It’s based on the idea that rabbits are breeches with thorn-proof matehighly nervous animals, and suspense is some- rial covering the front should be thing they can’t handle very well. It works this considered essential equipment. Project5:times
way. Enter a covert and begin walking very slowly. Walk ten paces, then stop for at least a minute, then repeat the process. The sound of the approach is sometimes enough to make cottontails flush, but itâ€™s just as often the silent period. Apparently, the rabbits think theyâ€™ve been detected and decide to make a run for it. Woodland rabbits Most hunters think of thickets and field edges as the places to go for a rabbit race. Some fail to realize woods harbor rabbits, too. Look for cottontails and swamp rabbits in brushpiles, honeysuckle patches, fallen treetops, cane brakes and other forest cover. Because such areas usually receive less hunting pressure, they often hide extraordinary numbers of rabbits. Take a kid hunting Look for cottontails and swamp To get the most out of your next rabrabbits in brushpiles, honeysuckle bit hunt, take a kid with you -- a son, a patches, fallen treetops, cane brakes daughter, a niece, a nephew, a grandchild and other forest cover. or maybe a neighborâ€™s child. It was in the cottontail fields most of us were trained as young hunters. We may have dreamed of deer or more exotic game like grizzlies and lions, but with cottontails, we learned the crucial basics about hunting, nature and ourselves. Share these things with children. Share the fun and excitement, the triumphs and disappointments, the barrage of wonderful sensations experienced on a rabbit hunt. Our heritage of hunting is a priceless treasure. Do your part to pass it on.
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Bragging Rights Rodney Moore Pratss,Ms Muzzleloader-Thompson Center Encore Morgan County, IL 11 point November 21, 2009
Delta Ducks & Geese Casen Giachelli and Friends from Georgia Greenwood, Ms
Double in Pasture Dixion Simmons & John Christopher Simmons New Albany, MS
Caleb Giachelli 180 lbs. Hog MS River Delta
News & Notes A pair of bills passed by the House potentially threaten Mississippi bow hunters.
ARGUING H.B. 1282 Pros Biologists feel that the deer herd is now strong enough to sustain additional pressure that affords more hunters opportunity to hunt with their weapons of choice. Since the largest user group is gun hunters, they are given more time. Additional harvest is needed to keep the herd in balance and from devastating habitat. Raising limits makes less statistical sense since the average harvest is around two deer per hunter, far below the season limit. Increasing opportunity with guns would give more hunters the chance to take more deer. Moving primitive weapon seasons from early December to Nov. 1, creates two more weeks of early gun opportunity for youths, who can use regular guns during primitive weapon seasons. Plus, wildlife officials can still create a youth season prior to primitive weapons. The Cons Archers, who will lose about three weeks of exclusive time in November, argue that if increased harvest is a goal, raise limits and allow non-resident hunters to take antlerless deer instead of shortening bow season. Sporting goods store owners worry that the timing of the bill catches them at a horrible time, since most orders for archery equipment have already been made and they could be stuck with inventory. Some hunters believe the biologists’ estimates of deer populations are far too liberal and that steps that could lead to an increased harvest are wrong. Others just say it is wrong for some areas.
Archers take aim at Senate
MBA plans to fight deer bills Bobby Cleveland • firstname.lastname@example.org • February 7, 2010 The Mississippi Bowhunters Association, with a membership of 1,200 acting on behalf of an estimated 60,000 archers, said it will fight two bills it says threaten the sport. “We’re not done yet, and neither are these issues,” said Max Thomas, the legislative liaison for the MBA. “We will focus our attention on the Senate and continue to fight.” On Wednesday, the House passed by an 88-27 vote H.B. 1137, which would allow state wildlife officials to authorize the use of guns to take antlerless deer on certain lands where the need is dire. On Thursday, H.B. 1282, a more controversial bill that restructures the long-standing deer season framework, passed by an 86-30 vote. Both bills have been sent to the Senate for consideration. The wildlife committee has three options: pass, kill or amend the bill. The deadline is March 2. It is 1282 that most archers dread, since it would immediately eliminate up to three weeks of exclusivity in November. Under current season structure, only bows and arrows are allowed from Oct. 1 to the Friday prior to Thanksgiving, except for a week-long youth gun season. Under the proposed frameworks, archery would be just Oct. 1-31. Primitive weapons would be moved to a Nov. 1 opening through the Friday prior to Thanksgiving. Gun hunters, by far the largest group in the state with over a quarter-million residents and non-residents combined, would gain the most. Gun season would open on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, and continue through Jan. 31. That includes gains of the Dec. 2-15 period and the late January period previously held for primitive weapons. State wildlife officials are seeking higher participation, which they hope would lead to higher harvest rates. Mississippi’s deer herd continues to expand and is exceeding the capacity of the habitat in many areas.
“We do not want to give up exclusivity, but we understand what the goal is, to increase harvest and won’t argue that,” Thomas said. “We believe there are other alternatives besides shortening bow season, like increasing limits or allowing non-residents to take antlerless deer.” Archers are supported by some sporting goods owners, like Jimmy Slater, who owns Slater’s Quality Outdoor Products, a popular sporting goods store in Indianola. “I just don’t think they have considered the impact on sporting goods stores,” Slater said. “The way our industry operates is that we have already done most of our buying for the 2010-11 archery season. We’ve got new bows and accessories. If they change the season now, we could get stuck with inventory. “The same thing happened a few years ago with primitive weapons. There’s got to be a way that they can stop making these changes without sufficient warning, like maybe make the changes but hold off a year from implementing them.” Archers also fear the ultimate goal is to open the entire season, Oct. 1 to its conclusion to weapon of choice. “In that respect H. B. 1137 is scarier,” Thomas said. “Long-term, it could be worse than 1282.” That bill would allow state wildlife officials to authorize certain deer clubs and landowners, to use guns even earlier, in October, to help reach their quota of antlerless deer. “Nothing good that can come out of that, unless the ultimate goal is to let everyone use a gun whenever they want,” said Terry Williams of Jackson, an avid archer. “Once you open that door, you open yourself to everyone wanting to use guns.”
JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi senators voted Wednesday to join Tennessee in allowing handgun-permit holders to carry their guns in most Mississippi parks, as well as restaurants and other locations. The National Rifle Association-backed legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, originally covered only parks but was amended to let permit holders carry their guns in restaurants, bars and unsecured government buildings unless the owners of those facilities post notices barring guns. The measure now goes to the House and would have to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour if it passes the Legislature. “This will open the door for citizens to protect themselves in the time of need in a whole lot more places than they currently can under the law,” Flowers said. “Law-abiding citizens should have the right to protect themselves at all times.” Permit holders in Tennessee also would be allowed to carry their weapons in DeSoto County and other Mississippi state and local parks, restaurants and government buildings. However, Flowers said the bill prohibits weapons by anyone in parks where youth sports are played. That limitation would prohibit guns in many local parks, such as Southaven’s Snowden Grove. Also, businesses and employers can ban handguns from inside their offices, but not in parking lots. And under existing state law, guns cannot be carried on school property or at any sporting events, including those held in parks, Flowers said. While allowing handguns to be carried in unsecured government buildings, the measure defines a secured area as “any area to which access is restricted or limited by the use of metal detectors or security personnel conducting individual screening as a means of restricting or limiting access.” Flowers noted that handgun-permit holders must undergo extensive background checks and FBI fingerprint checks before they receive permits to carry concealed weapons, such as pistols, revolvers and stun guns. Flowers, who called himself a strong Second Amendment www.hillcountrymags.com
advocate, said he decided to file the legislation when recalling New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s attempts to take up privately owned guns after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In a show of the NRA’s strength with the largely conservative Senate, the measure passed with only three members objecting. There were no comments against the legislation. Under current law, concealed-handgun permits are issued by the state Department of Public Safety’s Highway Patrol and are good for four years. The cost is $132 for first-time applicants and $82 for renewals. Among other requirements, applicants must be at least 21, a Mississippi resident for one year, have no mental problems and have no violent misdemeanor convictions in the previous three years or a felony conviction.
Miss. House OKs spring squirrel season
By Bobby Cleveland • email@example.com • February 3, 2010 Paul Brown/Special to The Clarion-Ledger Mississippi’s legion of squirrel hunters got a step closer Wednesday to having a spring season. The Mississippi House gave overwhelmingly approved House Bill 1298 after a brief discussion on the floor. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration. Under 1298, the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks would be authorized to create a spring season May 2-June 1 with a daily limit of four. In addition, the bill would unify the state’s fall/winter seasons into one time period, instead of being separated into three zones with different opening days. Under 1298, the season would be Oct. 1-Feb. 28 statewide. State wildlife officials say the added spring opportunity would have no impact on the resource or interfere with the reproductive cycles of squirrel. Larry Castle, chief of game for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks said several southern states have a spring squirrel season, which he said are set to coincide with the maturity of mulberries. “Basically at that time of year, while the hard mast food sources (acorns) are forming, squirrel feed heavily on mullberries,” he said. “If you can find a mulberry tree with fruit, you can sit down and wait. The squirrel will be coming.” In other action Wednesday the House passed two deer related bills: H.B. 1137, which would allow state wildlife officials to permit firearms to be used prior to the gun season for antlerless deer on lands involved in its Deer Management Assistance Program. H.B. 203, which would continue the wildlife agency’s regulatory authority over hunting over bait and supplemental feeding. H.B. 1282, the controversial bill that would restructure the deer season, was read for a third time, a procedural move that assures that if and when it is called to the floor before the Feb. 11 deadline, it will be given proper debate. House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, reminded House members that hunting is an “extremely serious” issue to thousands of constituents. “It makes a massive difference in the economy of the state,” he said.
Impressive Pace to appear in third Classic
The Clarion-Ledger • February 7, 2010 Bassmaster.com/Special to The C-L Cliff Pace came close in the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, taking a brief lead the last day before finishing second. Cliff Pace of Petal continues to make a splash in the world that is big-time tournament bass fishing. He gets a shot at the sport’s most coveted title - and the
$500,000 top prize - in two weeks at the 40th annual Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake near Birmingham. Don’t bet against Pace, who is coming off an impressive 2009 BASS Elite Series season in which he easily qualified for his third Classic. Pace finished 10th in the prestigious Angler of the Year standings in only his third Elite regular season. He moved up to eighth in the postseason (the top 36 advance to the Classic and make up the bulk of the 51-angler field). It will be Pace’s third Classic, having qualified once before joining the Elite series and now twice in three Elite seasons. In his most recent Classic in 2008, Pace finished second, and he briefly enjoyed being the leader and in the spotlight before eventual winner Alton Jones weighed his final day catch. The Feb. 19-21 event will be headquartered at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. The Outdoors Expo will be open daily at noon on Friday and at 10 a.m. the final two days. For more information, visit bassmaster.com. MDWFP SESSIONS The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks has announced two outreach projects in February open to the public. On Saturday, biologist Keith Meals will conduct a free small pond management seminar at 2:30 p.m. at the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery at Enid Reservoir. For more information, call (662) 563-8068 or visit the hatchery’s Web site at http://home.mdwfp.com/ NMFH. On Feb. 20, biologists will conduct a Gamebird Management Workshop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center in Tupelo. It will focus on habitat management for bobwhite quail and wild turkey. The cost is $5. Continuing forestry education credits and contact hours for Certified Wildlife Biologists will be available. Call (662) 325-7490 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best Fishing Days Forecast Feb-Mar. February 13–28 March 15–29
Feb-Mar Mississippi Weather Forecast
FEBRUARY 2010: temperature 45.5° (0.5° below avg.); precipitation 6” (1” above avg.); Feb 1-8: Rain, then sunny, cold; Feb 9-13: Rain, then sunny, seasonable; Feb 14-19: Periods of snow north, rain south, then sunny, cold; Feb 20-22: T-storms, warm; Feb 23-28: Periods of snow north, rain south, then sunny, cold. MARCH 2010: temperature 53° (6° below avg. north, avg. south); precipitation 6” (avg.); Mar 1-3: Sunny, chilly; Mar 4-9: Rain, then sunny, turning warmer; Mar 10-15: Rain, then sunny, cold; Mar 16-20: Rain, then sunny, chilly; Mar 21-25: Rain, then sunny, seasonable; Mar 26-31: Scattered t-storms, warm.
Lakes with current fishing reports... ABERDEEN LAKE (TENN-TOM): Several anglers are
heading to Aberdeen. Most are pre-fishing for upcoming bass tournaments. Water temps are running in the low to mid 40s. Most of the lake is stained to muddy. A few bass bites are being reported in the very backs of the sloughs where clearer water can be found. Jig-n-pig combos and t-rigged lizards have been best baits. As water temps continue to warm, spinnerbaits will be a popular choice. The crappie reports are few and far between. The crappie should get hot about the 2nd or 3rd week of March. COLUMBUS LAKE (TENN-TOM): Water temps are still in the 40s. Several boats over the weekend were pre-fishing for upcoming tournaments and reported a pretty tough bass bite. Slow presentations like jigs and T-rigged plastics seem to be the best patterns. The crappie reports have been slow coming in but will improve with warmer water temps. Big catfish are being caught in the deep holes and below the dams on cut-bait. BAY SPRINGS: Bass reports on Bay Springs have been inconsistent, and dependent on the weather each day. Water temps have ranged from the high 30s to low 40s over the last week or so, and depending on what part of the lake you are in. Mainlake points, ledges and creek channels are still popular areas, with a few fish starting to show up on secondary points and brush as well. Jerkbaits, jigging spoons, and shaky head worms are picking up the most fish. The crappie bite has been inconsistent as well, as it is still a little early for the best crappie fishing. Those that are being caught are coming from deep areas in or near standing timber. No other reports coming in yet on other fish. LAKE LAMAR BRUCE: Water temps are running in the 40s. Bream fishing is slow due to cold temps. The fish should be holding around points in 8-10 ft of water and can be caught by tight-lining meal worms. The bass reports are fair. Most anglers are hitting deep brush piles that have been sunk off main lake points. Best baits have been texas-rigged plastics, jig-n-pig combos, and crankbaits. The crappie reports have been fair. They have been caught off points in 14-16 feet of water. Small white grubs have been best baits. LAKE MONROE: Water temps are running in the low 40s with water clarity around 40 inches. The crappie bite is fair to good depending on the weather. The Lake Manager reports that the best technique has been to use an Alabama rig, with a black squirrel-tail jig tipped with a crappie nibble. Minnows have also catching fish, all though not as well. The 10 to 14ft range seems to be where most fish are holding. The bass bite has been slow due to the cold temps. The fish seem to be suspended off the primary drop-offs, out from the flats and points, and can be tricked into biting a black/blue jig-n-pig. Both bream and catfish can be caught tightlining redworms on the bottom. OKTIBBEHA COUNTY LAKE: Water temps are in the 40s and the lake is stained due to recent precipitation. The crappie anglers are catching a few by targeting deeper water along the creek channel. Jigs have been catching more fish than minnows. The bass anglers are primarily hitting the piers on the south shoreline and the riprap along the levee. Best baits have been white spinnerbaits and jig-n-pig combos. The catfish anglers have been fishing from the piers and also along the levee. The bite is fair, and average size is good. The best bait has been cutbait. Several fish attractors were put out last week. These should start attracting fish throughout the next couple of weeks just in time for the crappie early-spring bite. TOMBIGBEE STATE PARK: Some fair bream reports continue to come in from this NE MS park. Both bank and boat anglers are reporting success in deeper water (8 to 18 ft) off the piers and the mouths of the coves. Tight-lining mealworms or nightcrawlers has been the best technique. The crappie and bass bite has been fair. The crappie are coming out of deeper water near the points. Trolling minnows off points in 8 to 15 ft of water will also produce some keeper crappie. The bass anglers are hitting shoreline structure on the deeper banks and picking up a few fish. Best baits are jig-n-pig combos and 1/8 oz shaky head worms. LAKE LOWNDES STATE PARK: Water temps are running in the 40s. Fishing has been slow due to the cold weather which hasnt helped the bite either. Best areas have been around deep structure and around the creek channel, with jigs catching the most fish. Most crappie are running around 3/4lb. The bass reports have been fair, but average size has been good. The deeper banks that have any wood on them have been the best areas, as well as around the creek channel. T-rigged plastic worms and crankbaits have been best baits. Also try a rattle trap around drop-offs adja-
cent to spawning flats for some early pre-spawn fish. The bream have been caught around deep structure using tightlined crickets and red worms. PICKWICK LAKE/J. P. COLEMAN: Pickwick Lake elevation: 410 ft and TVA is still spilling. Water temps are in the high 30s to low 40s. The bass reports have been somewhat inconsistent due to the weather. It took 17lbs to win the Team Trails event this past weekend. A good jig bite was reported. Shallow to medium running crankbaits and jerkbaits are picking up the most bites. Shaky head worms are catching fish on tough days. The crappie reports have been fair. We are getting reports in both Yellow Creek and Bear Creek. Best depths have been anywhere from 18 to 25 ft of water. Jigs have been working better than minnows. As water temps begin to warm, Indian Creek will be a hot area as well. Catfish are holding in deep holes and biting cut-bait. For current lake levels and current generation schedules, go to http://www.lakeinfo.tva.gov/htbin/lakeinfo?site=PKH&DataType =All&SUBMIT=View+data TRACE STATE PARK: Water temps are running in the 40s. Bass Fishing is good, with crankbaits, slow rolling spinnerbaits, and large worms producing best. The best areas are in 8-20 ft of water around points and creek channel areas containing brush. Bream fishing is fair with the best areas being in creek channels in 14-25 ft of water dragging bottom and tight-lining crickets and red wigglers. Crappie fishing is fair. Most are being caught around the concrete spillway in 15-25 ft of water. Catfish are fair. Most are being caught in the day use area by tight lining and few have been caught in deep creek channels in 10-30 ft using night crawlers, liver, and cut bait. TIPPAH COUNTY LAKE: Water temps are running in the low 40s with clear water conditions. Very few anglers are turning out due to the cold weather. Bass and crappie reports have been fair and the bream reports have been slow. The crappie anglers are trolling minnows and jigs along the creek channel. A few anglers are hitting sunken brush tops with some success in 12 to 18 ft of water. The bass anglers are picking up a few fish by beating the banks with t-rigged lizards and worms. The better quality fish are coming off the drop-offs using jig-n-pig combinations. The bream reports are from the bank anglers that are tight-lining meal worms or nightcrawlers off the fishing piers. ELVIS PRESLEY LAKE: A few anglers were out over the last week with crappie and bass getting most of the attention. Crappie are coming out of deeper water off of points and near the dam. The best depths have been 12 to 18 ft, with both minnows and jigs catching fish. Bass anglers are fishing these same areas and using Carolina-rigged plastics and t-rigged finesse worms to catch a few keepers the quality bite has been tough to come by. Crankbaits should also produce a few fish. The bream and catfish bite is slow with both being caught on tightlined redworms. DESOTO LAKE: The MS river water level near Desoto is 33’ (Helena gauge), which is much higher than normal for this time of year. Water levels are projected to be on a slow fall for the remainder of the week. Fishing pressure on the lake continues to remain low, with no new reports from bass or crappie anglers. Fishing should pick up in the next few weeks as water and air temps warm up, hopefully. For current fishing info contact Warren Rico at Rico’s in Rena Lara (662-624-4980)and Mike at Great River Road Country Store (662-627-4837). For up to date river levels, go to www.rivergages.com then click on the Memphis district (Helena gauge) and Mississippi River and Passes. For river lakes, the fluctuations of the Mississippi River is an important factor for determining how the fishing is going to be. Slow rises and slow falls produce the best fishing. The best crappie fishing on DeSoto Lake is at water levels between 16-18 feet (Helena Gauge). Online Map For a general map go to Http://outfitters.org Click on public waters and then click on Desoto Lake under “more area lake maps”. LAKE WHITTINGTON: MS river levels near Whittington are much higher than average for this time of year (31.7’ on the Ark. City gauge). Water levels should begin to fall slowly through the rest of the week. The best bet for crappie has been to target deep water areas along steep banks with structure, fishing slowly. No new reports on the bass. There is currently no public access to Whittington, as the Nibblet’s landing boat ramp has been purchased by the Merigold
Hunting Club and is now a private ramp. Little Man’s landing, which is south of the Outing Club, is closed during the winter but should hopefully open back up soon. Contact the Benoit Outing Club baitshop at(662-742-3752)for current conditions. Anglers can navigate the chute to/from the river when the river is at, or above, 6 feet on the Arkansas City Gauge, but they should be careful of snags when doing so. As the river drops below 6 feet access through the chute gets extremely difficult and treacherous, and Boaters are advised not to try to navigate the chute when the river is below 6 feet ( Arkansas City Gauge). When the lake is at a level equivalent to 6 feet (Ark. City Gauge) one can get from one end of the lake to the other, but anglers need to be aware that at this water level very shallow water is present at the flats at Burnt Island (up lake from Benoit Outing Club & Goat Island). At a lake level equivalent to 3 feet (Ark. City Gauge) a narrow channel runs through the flats at Burnt Island and very shallow water is present above the ironwood forest (begins where the barge is at below the Outing Club), and further down the lake in the flat below the old pump pier (where the poles are). Although reference is made to lake level from RIVER level on the Arkansas City Gauge the two may not be the same at stages below 16 feet as the constriction at the chute causes a delay in the falling, or rising, of the lake. Anglers should also take note that when the river is on a fast fall (or rise) a large difference in elevation may be present between the lake and the river. This can create such a high water velocity in the narrow chute that boats with large outboards will find it difficult to navigate and impossible for small outboards to negotiate. LAKE BEULAH: Water levels in the River near Beulah are much higher than normal for this time of year (31.7’ and and slowly falling at Ark. City). Fishing pressure is still low, with some crappie anglers fishing the blue holes or around the big docks with structure. No new reports from bass fishermen. Lake Beulah is at a relatively high elevation compared to other Mississippi River oxbow lakes. When the river is below 18 feet (Ark. City) the water level of the lake is stable. Between 18-20 feet lake level is controlled by drainage through culvert in dam. Above 24 feet lake rises/falls close to same rate as changes in river. A description and a general map of this lake can be seen at the internet address - Http://outfitters.org Click on public waters and then click on Lake Beulah under “more area lake maps”. LAKE WASHINGTON: Crappie fishing continues to be slow on Washington due to the cold, windy conditions. The best bet is a slow troll in deep water to pick up some fish. Fishing should pick up in the next few weeks. There is no new reports from bass fishermen. For up-to-date fishing information, contact Ms. Pam Hammond at Roy’s Store on Lake Washington (662-827-2588) For information about Roy’s Store and the cabins there, go to (royscabins. net). The creel limit for crappie at Lake Washington is 30 a day. There is a 10” minimum length limit for crappie, but 5 fish under 10” may be kept. The creel limit for largemouth bass at Lake Washington is 10 a day. There is a 15” minimum length limit for bass, but 2 fish under 15” may be kept. The limit for bream is 100 per day. Yo-Yo Requirements All yo-yo’s must have a waterproof or metal tag attached and visible above the water surface. The tags must contain the angler’s full name and address. Yo-yo’s must be attended on Lake Washington. Attended means devices must remain within sight of the angler during daylight hours. Online Map A description and a map of this lake can be seen at the internet address - Http://www.outfitters.org Click on public waters and then click on Lake Washington under “more area lake maps”. LAKE FERGUSON: The MS River water level on the Greenville gauge near Lake Ferguson is 44’, much higher than normal for this time of year and almost at flood stage. River levels are projected to be at a slow fall for the remainder of the week. Fishing effort has been low for all species so far this year. The best bet to pick up crappie is to troll in deep water areas with structure. Bass should be in deep water areas also....try lures with a slow presentation to coax them into biting For up to date river levels, go to www.rivergages.com, click on the Vicksburg district, Mississippi River and passes. If anyone would like to go fishing in the Greenville area or need more information, call Terry Bates at Big River Guide Service at
2/16,17&23/2010 662/390/3886. Online Map For a general map of the lake go to www.outfitters.org Click on Fishing, Public waters, and then scroll down to find Lake Ferguson under “more area lake maps”. MOON LAKE : There’s still not much happening at Moon, with no new reports from bass or crappie anglers. Target crappie by slowly trolling with jigs or minnows in deep water. Target bass off points or on deep brush piles with soft plastics or slow running spinnerbaits. For more information on lake conditions, contact the BMW Pit Stop (662-337-2732) HARVEST RESTRICTION Bass - 2 fish a day Crappie - 30 fish a day, but only 5 crappie that are less than 10 inches in length can be kept. Online Map For a depth map of Moon Lake, go to the MDWFP website at http://home.mdwfp.com/pdfgallery.aspx?Albumid=84&Page=2 BEE LAKE: According to Ms. Bell at Bell’s Store on the lake (662-235-5930) not many people are fishing yet. The crappie bite should pick up in the next few weeks. Right now, target fish in deep water with jigs or minnows. For bass, your best bet is to target deep water areas with some structure with slow moving lures like plastic worms or soft jerkbaits. Go to the USGS website http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ms/nwis/ uv/?site_no=330359090194135 to get information on water level, water temperature and visibility from the USGS gauge on the bridge at Bee Lake. Tunica Cutoff - 2/23/2010: The Mississippi River was at 13.6 ft Tuesday. It should bottom out at 12.4 ft Thursday, then rise to 14.8 ft by Sunday. For the river level and 5 day forecast, call (901)544-0408 (press 2) or check http://www.mvk.usace. army.mil/riverstage/bullet.txt Charlie’s Camp (662)363-1353 bait shop is still closed for the season. The ramp is open, please use the honor box. Fishing is generally best here on a slow fall, toughest on a fast rise. Fishing peaks about a month later than on other
area waters due to the cooler river water. Charlie says a handful of folks have been going out lately, but without much luck because the water is still cold and has been dropping fast. Water levels look more stable this week, but temperatures are going to remain below average. Best luck will likely be for crappie or catfish on live/natural bait. If the fishing is slow, it is a good time to make it better. Memphis District Corps officials allow anglers to set out brush/tree fish habitat on Tunica. The lake desperately needs cover at lower water levels. Set them 5 to 15 ft deep at minimum pool (about 5 ft on the gauge at Charlie’s Camp). Set them at different depths since fish may hold shallower or deeper depending on light, temperature, and oxygen. If you mark them by triangulation or GPS, you should have your own fishing hot spots. Although cedar is usually considered best, some crappie experts report sycamore and hackberry (both plentiful in the Delta) are excellent at drawing fish. Thanks for your help in improving fish habitat. Horn Lake - 2/23/2010: The Lakeview Boat Dock (662)781-1550 has gotten a few reports of crappie and bream coming from the runout recently. Water temperatures are still cold and fish inactive. Live bait (minnows for crappie, waxworms or redworms for bream) has been working best. Bream and/or crappie can also be caught off the pier. No reports on bass or catfish yet. Crappie limits on Horn Lake are proposed to change sometime this spring. There will be a 10 inch minimum size, 30 fish creel limit. Size and creel limits on crappie will be the same in the Tennessee and Mississippi portions of the lake. Tennessee changed to a 30 fish limit on their portion of the lake last year. MDWFP trapnetting for crappie last fall showed a weak 2009 crappie spawn most fish were from the strong 2008 year class. Fish were fast-growing and white crappie grew faster than black crappie. Only 1 out of over 400 crappie was over 3 years old in this heavily fished lake Arkabutla - 2/23/2010: Water level 211.39, falling 0.2 ft/day, muddy. For water level information, call (662)562-6261 or check http://www.mvk.usace.army.mil/riverstage/bullet.txt With a
couple of pretty days this past weekend, a few folks tried the fishing even though water temperatures were near 40 degrees. Probably more bass than crappie have been taken so far. Best luck has been in backwater sloughs (Mud Hole, Duck Hole, etc.) separated from the main lake. These are staying clearer and warming faster. Both crappie and bass have been holding 4 to 6 ft deep. Temperatures are predicted to be below normal for at least a week. The lake was 1.4 ft above rule curve (210 ft) Tuesday. See http://www.mvk.usace. army.mil/offices/ed/edh/plots/arkaplot.jpg . The spillway had 2 gates open 5.0 ft, and one gate open 15.0 ft (3400 cfs) Tuesday. This is probably your best spot for crappie right now fishing jigs and/or minnows in Elbow Creek. The Corps has been maintenance dredging into the ramps. Hernando Point has been done and others are either done or in progress. The daily creel limit for crappie on Arkabutla Lake is 20 per person. The minimum length limit for crappie is 12 inches. Anglers fishing Arkabutla Lake may use no more than 5 poles per person. The 12 inch length limit does not apply to the reservoir spillway, but the spillway has a 20 crappie creel limit. Sardis Lake - 2/23/2010: Water level 260.37, falling 0.1 ft/day, murky to muddy. For water level information, call (662)5634531 or check http://www.mvk.usace.army.mil/riverstage/bullet. txt White bass should be moving upriver if we ever get a warming trend. Long’s Sporting Goods and Quick Stop (662)487-2187 reports a few folks went fishing during pretty weather this past weekend, but they got no reports back, so assume they didn’t do so well. Best luck for crappie would likely be trolling 15 to 20 ft deep in the area from Clear Creek to the dam. Radio telemetry has shown most crappie suspended over deep water 12 to 26 ft deep. The lake was 20.0 ft over rule curve Tuesday. See http://www. mvk.usace.army.mil/offices/ed/edh/plots/sardplot.jpg. Water tem-
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Lakes with current fishing reports... 2/23/2010 peratures are in the low 40s. Temperatures are predicted to be below normal for at least a week. The spillway had 2 gates open 12.0 ft each, one gate open 1.0 ft, one gate open 2.0 ft (6000 cfs) Tuesday. There have been very few crappie flushed out of the reservoir this winter, making for slow fishing in the spillway. Best luck recently has been for a few crappie and catfish. White bass should be moving into the spillway soon. Wyatt’s Crossing ramp will be closed for renovations to the ramps and parking lot. Bass limits are proposed to change sometime this spring. The slot limit on bass will be dropped, the daily limit will remain 7 fish. MDWFP’s fall, 2009, electrofishing found abundant bass, particularly those less than 15 inches. On Sardis Lake the daily creel limit for crappie is 20 per person. The minimum length limit for crappie is 12 inches. Anglers fishing Sardis Lake may use no more than 5 poles per person. The 12 inch length limit does not apply to the reservoir spillway, but the spillway, including Sardis Lower Lake, has a 20 crappie creel limit. Grenada Lake - 2/23/2010: Water level 215.23, falling 0.2 ft/day, murky to muddy. For water level information, call (662)226-5911 or check http://www.mvk.usace.army.mil/riverstage/bullet.txt Gary Collins at Collins’ Bait Shop (662)226-3581 has gotten very few reports lately although a few people fished this past weekend with the warmer weather. Crappie have been holding relatively deep for this time of year. White bass should be moving up the rivers if we get a warming trend. The lake was 17.8 ft above rule curve Tuesday. See http://www.mvk.usace.army.mil/offices/ed/edh/plots/ grenplot.jpg Water temperatures are 40 - 45 degrees. Temperatures are predicted to be below normal for at least a week. The spillway had two gates open 2 ft each and one gate open 14 ft (5100 cfs) Tuesday. There have been very few crappie flushed out of the reservoir this winter, and that has made for slow fishing in the spillway. Best reports recently have been for crappie fishing a jig and/or minnow about 14 ft deep in the old river run. The daily creel limit for crappie on Grenada Lake is 20 per person. The minimum length limit for crappie is 12 inches. Anglers fishing Grenada Lake may use no more than 3 poles per person. The 12 inch length limit does not apply to the reservoir spillway, but the spillway has a 20 crappie creel limit.
Gulf Islands National Seashore Stretching from one end of Mississippi Sound to the other, the Gulf Islands National Seashore encompasses three long and narrow barrier islands -- Ship, Horn, and Petit Bois. Of these, Ship Island is easily the most accessible to sports fishermen intent on taking advantage of the fine angling opportunities that these offshore gems provide. Pan Isles Excursions together with the United States Department of the Interior’s Park Service operates several tour boats that make twice-daily trips to Ship Island. The Pan American Clipper, Pan American, and Island Clipper depart each day of the summer at 9:00 A.M. with a second scheduled mid-day trip. You have the option of staying the entire day or of returning on the first boat. Either way, there will be plenty of time to catch your share of fish. The boats are docked at the Gulfport Small Craft Harbor just north of Marine Life and across from the Coast Guard Station. Round trip fares are reasonable; and food and drink are also available both on the ferry and on the island, but most folks will bring along an ice chest of goodies for the day. Fishermen with an eighteen to twenty foot powerboat, of course, can easily make this trip at their leisure, negotiating the seven to twelve miles that separate the islands from the mainland in short order from any number of good boat launches. Gulfport’s Bert Jones launch provides virtually a straight shot to Ship Island following the Gulfport Ship Channel directly southward until you reach Ship Island Pass. Ship is easily recognized by the looming Fort Massachusetts that can be seen for some distance away, and Cat Island just to the west is equally distinctive with its heavy tree cover. Biloxi area fishermen also have an easy run to the island from the small craft harbor. Of course, they can also opt for the far closer Deer Island. Only a mile or so off the mainland, Deer Island provides some good seasonal action with trout off both of its tips. The east tip of the island has a patchy area of sea and marsh grasses that are attractive to fish, and the west end of the island has been reinforced with rip-rap rubble that also attracts its share of fish. In between, there are countless sand bars, mud flats, guts and gullies all of which are productive areas for catching spotted and white seatrout, flounder, red drum, black drum and a host of other estuarine-dependent species. Pascagoula area fishermen can launch at Tucei’s Fishing Camp near the mouth of the West River or Mary Walker Marina for a straight shot at Horn Island and the best access to Petit Bois as well. Besides being the largest of the barrier islands, Horn Island is dotted with huge sand dunes and pastures of sea oats. High in the trees, the massive stick nests of ospreys or fish-hawks that also know of the island’s reputation for attracting fish. Between the Jackson County Shoreline and Horn Island lies small and picturesque Round Island with its lighthouse and seabird rookeries. This island too provides for seasonally good fishing from its shores. For those intent on fishing Cat Island, Long Beach and Pass Christian Harbors provide the nearest access. Not to be overlooked on any trip to the barriers are the numerous channel markers, cans, buoys
and other navigational aids that guide the way offshore. These structures attract cobia, tripletail and other shade-loving species; and a cast or two in their direction can oftentimes prove to be most rewarding. How ever you might decide to get there, an all-day trip to the islands requires some careful planning. Be sure to take along a cap, long-sleeved shirt, sun glasses and sunscreens to protect yourself from the fierce summer sun. You’ll also need plenty to eat and drink. And, of course, you’ll want to be sure that you have all the necessary tackle and plenty of bait for the species you’re after. Standard spinning or bait-cast gear with six to fourteen pound-test line is perfectly adequate for catching trout, rat reds, mackerel, flounders and such. But you’ll have to gear up accordingly if it’s heavyweights you’re after. One of the reasons that these islands offer such superb fishing is the diversity of habitat that their waters provide. To the south lies the open Gulf of Mexico. These waters are haven to marine species that prefer the high salinities that are found here. Sharks -- bull, sandbar, bonnethead and spinner sharks -- are common along the island’s wave-scoured southern shores; and these fellows can wreak havoc on light tackle fishermen trying to land a prized speckled trout. Jack crevalle, pompano, and southern kingfish too are frequently taken by wade fishermen fishing the long guts and gullies that parallel the shoreline of the surf. The currents can be swift and treacherous here, and fishermen should use caution when wading. The legendary west bar of Horn Island is known for each year producing the first of the season’s cobia or lemonfish. Just off the island’s west tip, this perennial hotspot is best fished by boat. During spring freshets, estuarine- dependent species like spotted seatrout will also take up stations on the island’s southern shore. In fact, whenever water conditions within the Sound deteriorate as a result of excessive turbidity and low salinity, fish of all description seem to congregate around these islands. At such times, the fishing can be particularly good. Silver or gold casting spoons like Johnson Sprites, Mr. Champs and Sidewinders are good choices for fishing these waters; and anglers are well- advised to use black steel leaders here. One never knows exactly what manner of toothsome critter the Gulf might provide, and it is far better to be safe than sorry. Shiny steel leaders are a poor choice because mackerel and bluefish, often found in these waters, mistake the shiny metal barrel swivel for a meal. Many times their speed carries them right up the swivel and onto the monofilament line, resulting in an abrupt parting of the ways. A nine- inch black Steelon leader will remedy these problems and also make changing lures a snap. If the island’s south shore is characterized by surprises, then the relatively tranquil waters of the island’s lee side provide an even measure of predictability. The eighty-mile-long body of water that laps up on the sugary sands of the barriers is Mississippi Sound. Extending from Mobile Bay in Alabama on the east to Lake Borgne in Louisiana on the west, the Sound is in the very center of what fisheries biologists term the Fertile Fisheries Crescent. Its productivity is unequalled in the Gulf, and that very productivity makes it an ideal location for the avid sports fisherman. Great quantities of fresh water are emptied into the Sound by the Pascagoula and Alabama Rivers on the east and the mighty Pearl River on the west. In between, the Jourdan, Wolf, Biloxi and Tchoutacabouffa Rivers also provide for substantial freshwater flow. Along with the freshwater inflow there are nutrients, and these nutrients result in the Sound’s great productivity. Altogether, the Sound is about half as salty as the open Gulf; and it is in the brackish waters of the Sound that some of the most popular gamefish species thrive. Spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus), or speckled trout as it is locally known, is by far the overwhelming favorite of coastal anglers, and the northern shores of the barrier islands provide an ideal habitat for the species. All three of the barriers are attractive to trout, but Ship and Horn Island and their verdant seagrass flats top them all. Fishing the barrier island flats for specks this time of the year is a proposition for the wade fisherman. During the summer months and especially during the early hours of the morning on a strongly rising tide, trout will roam the skinny waters of the shoreline in search of prey. Finger mullet, anchovies, Spanish sardines, pin and pigfish, Atlantic croakers and, of course, the ubiquitous shrimp are staples in the diet of these fish; and any lure that resembles them is certain to provide a hookup. Topwater baits like 5-M-series MirrOlures, Zara Spooks, Lucky Thirteens, Rebels and the locally hand-crafted Norm Bait are all good choices for flats fishing. Locals oftentimes will fish these plugs with a trailing jig for added effectiveness. Tied sixteen to twenty inches above the trailing treble using twenty pound-test monofilament, a StingRay Grub or similar shrimp look-alike will allow a fisherman to effectively work the top three feet of the water column. In coastal shallows that often translates top to bottom; and with that kind of coverage, you cannot help but catch fish. When the trout are uncooperative, north shore fishermen can always count on something else to take up the slack. Red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), or redfish in the five to ten-pound-class are not uncommon on these shores, and they are oftentimes taken on the same baits that are effective for the generally smaller but more popular trout. Running the narrow gullies and guts that parallel the shoreline, these young redfish too are in hot pursuit of the smorgasbord that the shallows provide, so it is not surprising that they can be caught on similar baits. Being principally bottom feeders though, the most effective bait for red drum is a gold spoon fished with a whip retrieve just off the bottom. On a calm day when waters are clear, the spoon will kick up a puff of sand as it strikes the bottom, attracting the attention of any nearby red. The red will nose right up to the spoon to investigate, and when the spoon is lifted off the bottom a second time -- Wham, that sucker will nail it. The Johnson Sprite is a personal favorite, but the Chandeleur Special, a Sprite look-alike, is equally effective and much less expensive. And for those that feel more confident using natural baits, a piece of shrimp or other market bait soaked on the bottom will also catch these shallow water reds. Current state regulations allow fishermen to keep up to fifteen spotted seatrout provided that they are at least fourteen inches long. The redfish limit is three fish with a minimum size of twenty-two inches. In addition, it is illegal to keep more than one redfish that exceeds thirty inches in total length. When trout and reds fail to be cooperative, fret not, for there are always sea catfish and ladyfish to keep you from getting skunked. While catching sea catfish is a definite nuisance when the trout and reds are around, when nothing else is biting, these fellows will provide a tug at the end of the line that can salvage what would otherwise be a very dull fishing trip. The catfish’s dorsal and pectoral spines can inflict a painful would so anglers are advised to use caution when removing one of these critters from the hook. The ladyfish (Elops saurus), on the other hand, is a genuine blessing that is a joy to catch. Though not considered to be table fare, this diminutive relative of the mighty tarpon can provide light-tackle enthusiasts with action aplenty. Like the tarpon, the ladyfish likes to take to the air when hooked; and its aerial acrobatics have thrilled many a barrier island fisherman. The same artificials that one might use to catch the more popular red drum and spotted seatrout will
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“HE AIN’T RIGHT MAN” To my darling husband, Before you return from your business trip I just want to let you know about the small accident I had with the pick up truck when I turned into the driveway.
Fortunately it’s not too bad and I really didn’t get hurt, so please don’t worry too much about me. I was coming home from Wal-Mart, and when I turned into the driveway I accidentally pushed down on the accelerator instead of the brake. The garage door is slightly bent but the pick up fortunately came to a halt when it bumped into your car.
I am really sorry, but I know with your kindhearted personality you will forgive me. You know how much I love you and care for you my sweetheart. I am enclosing a picture for you.
I cannot wait to hold you in my arms again. Your loving wife. XXX
P.S. Your girlfriend called.
Taking Early-Season Mississippi Turkeys with Preston Pittman Follow the Flock with the Gobbler
Editor’s Note: In mid-March, I hunted with Preston Pittman of Pickens, Mississippi, at Lifetime Hunts, LLC, (601-859-8313; www.lifetimehuntsllc.com) located at Brookson Plantation in Macon, Mississippi. As most of you know, at the first of turkey season, the gobblers oftentimes are still bunched-up and/or with hens. This week, Preston Pittman, the creator of Pittman Game Calls (601-5448090, www.pittmangamecalls.com) and a World Champion turkey caller, will tell us how to solve the problems resulting from hennedup gobblers, as well as explain how to get your early-season bird. Question: Preston, you had another good hunt at Lifetime Hunts recently. Tell me about it. Pittman: There was a turkey gobbling from a tree just at daylight. I’d set out a decoy and began giving this turkey some tree calls. Hens tree-called back to me. Then suddenly, a hen pitched out of a tree and flew right to our location, landing in a tree not 10 yards from where I sat. She looked down at the decoy for about 10 minutes, flew right back and lit on the ground below the tree where the tom was gobbling. After awhile, the hens flew down intotwo-different groups. One group came to us and began to feed and preen their feathers. The other group flew to the gobbler and took him away from us. I’ve seen this happen before. The group of hens that came to us was young hens, and the old hens flew to the gobbler taking him off. When that happens, you have to get-up and move to get ahead of the flock with the gobbler in it. You don’t want to stay with a flock of hens that doesn’t have a gobbler with it. Always try to call-in the flock of hens with the gobbler. Too, I learned on this hunt from checking with my turkeyhunting buddies that none of us saw turkeys out in the fields. The gobbler we took had a craw full of acorns. Because we had a good mast crop of acorns this year, the turkeys remained in the woods eating acorns, rather than moving-out into the fields feeding-on young grass and insects during the early season. I found that in this area, the gobblers stayed in the woods longer than usual. So, to take a turkey, hunt him in the woods and not the fields, especially during the early part of the season. Question: What’s another problem you’ve dealt with at this time of year? Pittman: Because there’d been so much rain at Lifetime Hunts, on this hunt, we had to deal with flooded timber. Oftentimes when you have flooded areas to hunt, the turkey will gobble on one side of flooded timber, while you’re on the other side. To solve this problem, take some type of johnboat turkey hunting with you to reach the turkeys the water prevents you from reaching. Or, if the turkeys aren’t more than 30- or 40-yards away from you, separated by water, call the turkeys to the edge of the water where you can get a shot. If you down the turkeys, you can wade the water and retrieve the birds. The best way to take a turkey on the other side of the water is to get wet, wade the water, get close to the turkey and then start calling to him. Early-season hunting presents several unique problems for the turkey hunter, but that’s what makes turkey hunting so much fun, and why I love it. Contact the sponsors of this turkey hunt to learn more: Mississippi Department of Tourism (1-866-SEE-MISS, www.visitmississippi. org); Longleaf Camo (1-866-751-2266, www.longleafcamo.com); and Vicious Fishing Line (1-866- 645-0024, www.vicious-fishing. com). Page 26
Continued from pg 21 Gulf Islands National Seashore also provide their share of connections with this species. The third major environ that characterizes the barrier islands is the pass -- the waters that separate one island from the other and connect the Sound to the Gulf. Horn Island Pass separates Petit Bois from Horn Island, and Dog Keys Pass lies between Horn and Ship Island. Farther to the west, Camille Cut, aptly named after its creator, separates East and West Ship Island. Finally, Ship Island Pass, through which the Gulfport Ship Channel runs, separates Ship and Cat Islands. These passes, because they provide a mix of characteristics of both the Sound and the open Gulf, provide for superb mixed bag fishing. Spanish mackerel and hard-hitting bluefish are frequent visitors to the passes, and casting a Mr. Champ, Sidewinder or Johnson Sprite spoon into the fray will guarantee a hookup with one of these fast-swimming gamesters. Fishing the passes on a falling tide is particularly productive since the water movement through the pass is accentuated by the ebbing current. Currents here can, in fact, be so strong that it is ill-advised to wade farther than chest deep or to stray far from the nearest shoreline or boat. Top hotspots on each of the barrier islands include the Lighthouse jetty rocks, the sunken barge affronting Fort Massachusetts and, of course, Ship Island Pass and Camille Cut on West Ship Island. East Ship Island also has a small rock jetty on its western tip. This hotspot, because of its proximity to Camille Cut and the waters of the open Gulf, oftentimes produces snapper, grouper and other reef fish species. Casting a jig or spoon directly into the rocks will usually coax a strike out of these visitors when they’re around. Horn Island offers a deep water haven designated as the Horseshoe on charts. Located near the center of the island and several hundred yards off its northern shore, the Horseshoe is only accessible by boat. The twenty foot depths here are attractive to trout during the heat of midsummer when they will lie near the bottom on the upcurrent side of the hole awaiting bait fish to pass above. Fishing a 52-M-series MirrOlure, Cisco Kid, Rattle Trap, or other deep-running lure at such times can produce some bragging sized trout. The Horn Island bar is yet another of this island’s hotspots that has earned its reputation over the years. Each season, the Bar gives up some of the first cobia (lemonfish) of the year. Also on the surf side is that area known as the stumps. Here, an old treeline extends for some distance into the water. The trees have long since succumbed to the salt water, and the remaining stumps are the only structures along an otherwise homogenous beach. Trout and other passing fish often linger here for a breather on their way down the beach, making this one hotspot you’ll not want to miss. As on Ship Island, the passes here are also a good choice for anglers. Cat Island, though not officially part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, also has some notable fishing hotspots. South Bayou, Smuggler’s Cove, and Sawmill Bayou on the surf side all offer excellent trout fishing during the summer months. North Bayou, an expansive waterway on the island’s north shore, is also a good spot to try for trout; but the flounder fishing here is some of the best around. With a thick fringe marsh of Spartina and Juncus around its mouth and a sandbar that adjoins deeper waters on each side, North Bayou is always worth a trip for any fisherman within easy striking distance. Anchoring just outside the mouth and casting into it will usually produce plenty of good action with speckled trout, white trout, reds, flounder and all the rest of the island entourage. Then, there is the so-called Bird Cage marking the shoal waters off Cat Island’s westernmost tip. This shallow water oyster reef is especially good for early morning trout fishing, and the area just south is a good spot to chase birds. Chasing birds is one good way for the inexperienced fisherman to locate fish. When herring and laughing gulls can be seen diving into the water, it is a sure bet that fish are feeding underneath. You see, the feeding fish drive the shrimp, anchovies and other baitfish that they’re after right up to the surface; and the gulls are there to take advantage of the situation. Spot the diving gulls, and you will have found the fish as well. Chase the gulls or head for any one of the mentioned island hotspots, and you’ll understand what Island Madness is all about... For further information on Ship, Horn, and Petit Bois Islands and the superb fishing opportunities that they have to offer, you can call or write United States Department of the Interior Gulf Islands National Seashore Davis Bayou Area Visitor Center 3500 Park Road Ocean Springs, MS 228/875-0821 Ship Island Excursions 228/864-3797 If no answer, call 228/436-6010 Mississippi Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau 135 Courthouse Road Gulfport, MS 228/896-6699