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THE IOWA SPORTSMAN • 1517 3rd Ave NW • FORT DODGE IA 50501 • 877-424-4594 Presorted Standard U.S. Postage


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Welcome to the December issue of The Iowa Sportsman Magazine! On the cover this month is a photo of an ice angler holding up a nice jumbo Perch. December will get the ice fishing season started here in Iowa as the once open waters freeze over into ice covered lands. As always be extra careful out on the ice as there is no such thing as “safe ice.” Good luck during this hardwater season! 4

The Iowa Sportsman

December 2017

December 2017


TIS THE SEASON…TO SPREAD THE GOOD IN LIFE I apologize, I will be standing on my soapbox this column, so please bear with me for about 600 words. Over the course of the past year the amount of terrible things that have occurred has been staggering. From hurricanes that have decimated entire cities and countries, to wildfires that have scorched everything in their path, to the unthinkable events that happened in Las Vegas, to the divisiveness between the American people and politics, and to an unknown future with North Korea, and to all of the other crap that we hear about on a daily basis. One thing is for sure 2017 landed several gut wrenching punches. Don’t get me wrong, if we know one thing we should all know that there will always be terrible things that happen. However, lately it just seems to be a bottleneck of horrific events. So much so that it might have many of us thinking where is all the “good” in the world these days? While we should never forget about these events and continue to support in any way we can, I think it is time to flip the switch and start putting some good back into our lives, or more importantly other people’s lives. There is no better time than during the holidays to start, as this time of year should be full of joy and happiness, not doom and gloom. Where do we start? How does one go about putting some good into another person’s life or even your own? Well, luckily it really isn’t all that difficult and you don’t have to go out of your way to do so. By simply being a nice person you have the ability to affect another person. A simple good deed or a random act of kindness might do the trick. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture either. Something simple that lets other humans know that there is still plenty of good in the world. There is literally hundreds of things someone can do or say to someone else that might help make one’s day a little better. It is also a great time to volunteer for events to help those in need. Go to a shelter service and see if you can help serve or sponsor a holiday meal for a family in need. The cold of the winter is coming and will be here soon, donate some old winter clothes to the Salvation Army or buy a new coat for a kid that needs one. Many places of business have a giving tree, pick out a few names and make a child smile this year at Christmas. How about ourselves? What can we do to put more good in our own lives? Well the above will help, if you can try and make others feel good it naturally will make you feel like a better person. Aside from that and as cliché as this sounds be the best version of yourself you can be. Be a good employee, be a good husband, be a good father, be a good sibling, be an overall better person. I don’t say this to suggest anyone reading this is a bad person either, quite the opposite actually as Iowa Sportsmen are some of the finest people on this planet. However, going that extra mile may just make the difference you have been looking for. Question yourself, if you think you can be better at something in your life, then set out to make that happen. Again I apologize for the speech, but I felt with all the terrible things that have occurred lately it was an appropriate topic and hopefully one that will bring some “good” to people across the state. Have a Great December Everyone!

Patrick McKinney



The Iowa Sportsman

TWIN RIVERS MEDIA, LLC. 1517 3rd Avenue NW Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501 877-424-4594


Gale W. McKinney II, President & CEO Patrick McKinney, Publisher Audra McKinney, VP of Finance Dustin Hector, VP of Sales Aaron McKinney, Field Editor Brandon Peterson, Art Director/Graphic Designer Dawn Busse, Office Manager Shawna Nelson, Circulation Manager


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Tom Peplinski, Nick Johnson, Rod Woten, JD Rogge, Joel Johnson, Earl Taylor, Jason Smith, Bob Jensen, Troy Hoepker and Ben Leal.

The information and advertising set forth herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable and compiled with great care. Twin Rivers Media, LLC. however, does not warrant complete accuracy of such information and assumes no responsibility for any consequences arising from the use thereof or reliance thereon. Our advertisers are solely responsible for the content of their respective advertisements appearing in this publication, and Publisher shall not be responsible or liable in any manner for inaccuracies, false statements or any material in such advertisement infringing upon the intellectual rights of others. Publisher reserves the right to reject or cancel any advertisement or space reservation at any time without notice. Publisher shall not be liable for any costs or damages if for any reason it fails to publish an advertisement. This publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopied, recorded or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved.

The Iowa Sportsman was awarded the Niche Magazine Award for best consumer magazine in the nation!

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The Iowa Sportsman

December 2017

December 2017




IOWA SPORTSMAN ONLINE POLL HOW MANY STATES, INCLUDING IOWA, HAVE YOU BEEN FISHING IN? One 4 (3.48%) Two 11 (9.57%) Three 18 (15.65%) Four 20 (17.39%) Five 16 (13.91%) Six 14 (12.17%) Seven 9 (7.83%) Eight 8 (6.96%) More than Eight 15 (13.04%) 115 votes


Please send your guesses to The Iowa Sportsman at 1597 3rd Ave. NW Fort Dodge, IA 50501 or email to Answer will be given in the following month on the interactive page.


The winner of last month’s “What Am I” was Joe Thorp. The answer was: breech of a geode.

Like us on Facebook! @ theiowasportsmanmagazine

FIND THE MISSING ANTLER We need your help readers! The antler in The Iowa Sportsman logo has come off and we need your help to bring it back! This antler could be anywhere, but most likely it will be hiding in a photo, so it will not be easily found. If you find the missing antler in this month’s The Iowa Sportsman magazine, send in your guesses via email to info@twinriversmedia. com or by mail with the page number and a brief description of where the antler is found. A reader with the first correct answer will be listed in next month’s magazine. Good luck! The antler last month was located on page 24.



Answers: Striping on guys right shoulder, guys hat is darker, guys sideburn, part of pole is missing, girls hair is different, girls coat collar is pink, spine of walleye missing, walleyes belly is bigger, piece of Vexilar is mssing, ice hole is bigger, piece of walleye tail is missing, pocket is over a bit.


The Iowa Sportsman

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December 2017



The Iowa Sportsman

December 2017

December 2017



AROUND THE STATE By Steve Weisman Legal methods of take for hunters using a late DNR INVESTIGATES FISH KILL RULE CHANGE ALLOWS BOW muzzleloader tag include: bow, muzzleloader, NEAR DYERSVILLE HUNTERS WITH PERMIT TO CARRY crossbow (resident only) and handgun. Monday and Tuesday DNR staff from TO HAVE A HANDGUN DURING the Manchester field office looked for the ARCHERY SEASON. INDIANOLA MAN FALLS MORE source of a fish kill on Hickory and Hewitt A rule change approved by the THAN 20 FEET FROM TREE STAND Creeks in Dubuque County. administrative rules committee during 2017 Iowa legislative session allows hunters who have a valid permit to carry to carry a handgun while hunting deer under an archery tag. The change was included as part of a gun rules package approved by the committee. Hunters may not use a handgun to shoot a deer while hunting under an archery deer tag. While hunting under an archery tag, hunters with a permit to carry may have a handgun in their possession, but may not use it to shoot or dispatch any deer. Hunters who do not have a permit to carry may not have a handgun in their possession while hunting under an archery tag. Archery season closes during the two shotgun seasons and reopens after the second shotgun season closes. This coincides with the opening of the late muzzleloader season. 14

The Iowa Sportsman

An Indianola man was injured while climbing into his treestand on Sunday while deer hunting. Bobbie Joe Stephens, 24, fell approximately 23-feet into a ravine while hunting on private land in southern Warren County. He had not been able to hook up to his harness at the time of the fall. He was able to call a hunting partner for help after falling. Stephens was taken to a Des Moines area hospital and was treated for a broken ankle. Further investigation revealed the treestand straps were broken due to weather exposure over time. The treestand had been left up since last season. The DNR reminds hunters if you leave your treestand out year-round, be sure to check the straps before using the treestand.

Starting at the Highway 136 Bridge in Dyersville, DNR staff followed dead fish upstream for about 5 miles to an unnamed tributary of Hickory Creek. The likely source of the fish kill is manure washed into the stream from an animal feeding operation in the upper part of the watershed. The fish kill was reported Monday, but the caller noticed dead fish on Sunday following rainfall over the weekend. The investigation is ongoing as DNR awaits laboratory test results from water samples. DNR fisheries staff estimate thousands of fish were killed, including white suckers, stonerollers, minnows and creek chubs. An official count will be available later. DNR will seek enforcement actions as appropriate.

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The Iowa Sportsman

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IN THE GREAT STATE OF IOWA, we have what is referred to as ‘Party Hunting’, for deer Shotgun 1 and Shotgun 2 seasons. The 2017-18 Iowa DNR Hunting Regulations, Pages 30 & 36, describes ‘Party Hunting’ as:


Resident and nonresident deer hunters with a valid deer hunting license may hunt with and assist other deer hunters only in the season specified on their license. Party hunting is allowed in Shotgun 1 and Shotgun 2 seasons. Hunters must have a valid tag for the county in which they are hunting. During the first and second regular gun seasons anyone present in the hunting party may tag a deer with a tag issued in that person’s name. Party hunting is not allowed while hunting with a youth tag, regardless of the season. I’ve read, heard, and participated in many conversations pertaining to party hunting over the years. Some people like it, and some don’t. Some people think it’s safe, and some don’t. Some people have legality type questions that aren’t easily answered by the limited information provided by the state regulations. In short, party hunting deer in the state of Iowa is a way for parties (groups) of hunters to hunt together throughout the

entire season, and legally tag each other’s harvested deer. If your party has ten members with a total of ten valid antlered and ten valid antlerless tags amongst them, as long as the personal tag holder is actively participating in the hunt at the time of the harvests, any one member in your party can legally harvest all 20 deer, and the other members of the party can legally tag them with their personal tags. Also, you can continue hunting within your party after your personal tag(s) have been used, as long as at least one valid

almost exclusively cover these two hunting methods. That didn’t seem to be the case when I was a teenager and was introduced to deer hunting. I didn’t know anyone who had a muzzle loader, and I only heard of a couple who bow hunted, without much success. I, like many of my grade school friends, cut our teeth on deer hunting, via party hunting, during one of the two shotgun seasons. I’m one of those guys who absolutely fell in LOVE with the party hunting method, and love it still to this day. The comradery amongst the party members is probably the best part, followed closely by the hunting itself. Even if nobody ends up with a wall hanger, everybody goes back to work tired and happy following the season. Our party hunts a g g r e s s i v e l y. We use ‘posters’ and ‘drivers’. A ‘poster’ is someone who goes to a specific location and posts (waits) for deer to present themselves. A ‘driver’ is someone who walks through a ‘draw’ (piece of timber) or field, etc. in an attempt to drive (push) deer to the posters. Drivers can and do get shot opportunities, but a majority of our shots are taken by our posters, especially when everything works out the way we planned it. On the first few drives of opening day, deer tend to group together and pretty much


December 2017

tag is still in possession of another active hunter within your party. It seems to me that there are many more youth and adults getting started into deer hunting today via the use of bow and arrow and / or muzzle loader, and I think that’s great. I imagine the improvements made in both technologies within the past ten to twenty years have aided these trends, along with the many hunting shows that


Successful Party Hunting Techniques follow each other out of draws, following their favorite escape routes, usually led by does and yearlings, trailed by bucks, (if there are any). If our party has made filling freezers with venison the number one priority, shot opportunities are taken on bucks and does alike. If our party has made wall hangers our number one priority, then does and small bucks get free passes, at least for the first morning or the first day. Big old, wise bucks can sometimes follow the masses out into the open during a drive, but they usually don’t, not even on opening morning. Wind direction is something to take into consideration, just like it is during bow hunting, but it’s not as vital, because deer are preoccupied with staying ahead of the drivers. Some draws that we hunt can only be effectively driven and posted in one direction, and we are limited on the land that we hunt, so we will hunt these even if the wind is not in our favor. But, ideally, posters should have their scent blowing away from the section of land being driven to them. If our party wants to fill freezers, we will place posters off of the end of draw fingers. If they are fingers with a short gap of open space between them and another draw, we may strategically place two posters. One at the end of the finger that deer will be exiting,


The Iowa Sportsman

and one at the end of the other finger that deer will be heading toward. Obviously, the more you hunt a piece of ground, the better you are equipped to hunt it in the future. Groups of deer will tend to use the same exit routes year after year, unless dramatic changes are made to the terrain, (e.g. natural structure has been removed, buildings are erected, or the side of a ravine has sloughed off, etc.). If possible, posters will try to get to their positions by staying out of eyesight, earshot, and scent range of the draw being driven. They will then try to find a spot where they can somewhat conceal themselves or at least break up their outlines, so that they aren’t standing out in the open like big neon pumpkins. They should post where they have an optimal view and shot opportunities of the draw, and specifically the finger, that is being driven. If possible, I personally like to position myself

forty or fifty yards directly off of the tip of the finger so that I can see and shoot to both the left and right sides of the finger, as well as the tip of the finger itself. We always make sure we have the game plan effectively communicated prior, so that everybody knows where all posters are and how the drivers are going to push the draw. If the drivers are thoroughly covering the terrain the way that they are supposed to, it doesn’t take long for this method to produce enough venison to keep our families fed for the year. Provided our shooting abilities are up to snuff. If our party wants to target wall hanger bucks, we will set our posters up a bit differently. Obviously, we will try to target exit routes that we may have seen cagey old bucks sneak out of in past years, but we will do a few other things too. As mentioned before, we will pass on all does and small bucks. Sometimes, big bucks can and will hang back and watch what happens to the deer ahead of them before they make a move into the open. If the lead deer make it out without being accosted, the buck may confidently step out and follow in their footsteps. We will also set posters in between fingers, or use what we call a ‘walking poster’ on the outside edge of the draw. Smart bucks somehow recognize when they are being hunted and will either get to the edge of structure and not exit until the last moment, or will pop just to the outer fringe and head back toward the direction that they are being driven from, and circle back in behind the drivers. That’s where these posters come in. They can catch these deer as they swing out wide and back in. The walking poster walks at a slow pace, staying behind the drivers. They can either start out with the drivers, or be the first poster picked up by the drivers as they pass by. This can be very effective, especially when dealing with well-educated bucks that have lived through a few seasons. Don’t overlook small pockets of structure. As soon as the first shots start ringing out, some bucks make their way for these secluded little islands, and wait out the season in safety. Sometimes, smart bucks will sit out the season in nothing more than a grassy fence line. They don’t get big and old by being stupid. Bucks will lie in these


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pockets all day long; chewing their cud and watching the orange armies walk and drive around, without getting nervous. They will position themselves in a location to best see, hear and smell in all directions, and usually have multiple escape routes. We usually don’t hit these little spots until our hunting party has dropped in numbers, mid-week. We will play the wind and strategically place our posters to cover the most ground possible, without getting too close. Then we will send one driver in to kick around. If deer are in there, we’re going to see them. Being positioned to get a good shot opportunity has more to do with the luck of the draw than it does skilled posting placement. I’ve talked quite a bit about posters, but not much about drivers. Drivers are essential to our aggressive style of party hunting. At the beginning of a hunt, drivers will give posters ample time to get into position before starting in. Smaller draws that we are able to lineup and begin from a definitive outer edge are relatively easy to start in on. Larger draws that we have to work in sections are more difficult. Either way, we try to space our drivers out relatively evenly distances apart. If we are driving a segment of a large draw, we will walk into the timber in a single file line, dropping off drivers at their designated starting points. When the last driver gets to their starting point, they holler over to the next driver, and they to the next driver, and so on. This signals all drivers to begin walking. Due to the size and density of the draws that we hunt, without snow on the ground, we rarely keep in eye contact with one another. We communicate via hollering and whistling to each other. This lets us know where we are in proximity to one another. The goal is to keep all of us in a relatively straight line, walking in the same general direction, toward our posters. Like a large picket fence of bright orange men pushing deer out of the timber. Sounding off to each other lets us know if our spacing is good and if someone needs to speed up, slow down, or stop altogether. The more in sync we can stay, the more effective we are at driving deer out to our posters. Drivers don’t walk straight toward the posters. We zig-zag back and forth as we move in the primary direction toward the posters. Much the same way I learned how to pheasant hunt in the foxtail. In theory, we should all be zigging in unison and zagging in unison. In reality though, we’re lucky to stay in a semi straight line and to end up in the same order that we originally started out in. Smart bucks can and do stay just ahead of our drivers, and will take advantage of times that we get too far apart, and slip back between us. For this reason, we, as drivers, December 2017

don’t sneak through the woods. We make all sorts of noise. We sacrifice our own potential shot opportunities for the benefit of providing our posters with more and better shot opportunities. In situations where we have realized bucks were getting between when driving specific draws, we have implemented the use of a secondary set of drivers, similar to the walking posters that I described before. These drivers sneak through the woods, staying a ways back behind the initial line of drivers. They specifically target those areas where we have witnessed deer repeatedly getting through our drivers in the past. When we are successful with this method, it usually produces a buck that would adorn any proud sportsman’s den. If you’ve logged many miles walking Iowa timbers, you have realized why they haven’t been converted to farmland. There are usually one or two main stream or creek valleys with multiple smaller fingers or runoff tributaries flowing into them. Timbers are full of these hills, valleys, ledges and knobs. When I’m driving, I do my best to thoroughly cover each of these structures. Two tributaries close together will usually have a hilly knob or ledge at the inside edge of the draw, between where the two tributaries either come together or join a larger creek. Educated deer will move to and hang out on these knobs, and will let you walk by or squirt back behind you here if you let them. In an attempt to prevent this, I walk out to where I can thoroughly cover the finger (tributary valley), then I walk back and around the inner knob, and then back out and up the other finger. The timbers that we hunt have hundreds of these structures, and if you’re hunting in Iowa, I have no doubt that yours do too. As the crow flies, you might only be covering a quarter mile, but you walk like twenty. Good seasoned deer hunters know the land that they hunt. They remember the lay of the land and know where specific points are and how to best get to them. They’ve seen how smart bucks can be and what they have done to escape in the past. If you’re just joining a group, or hunting land that you aren’t familiar with, pay attention to your surroundings and listen to your veteran party members. They can’t guarantee success, but their advice can help speed up your learning curve and save you much frustration. If you have access to a printer and the Internet, the use of aerial maps helps quite a bit too. May my shared hunting experience provide you with some new bits of wisdom to implement on your next party hunting adventure. Best of luck, shoot straight, have fun, and stay safe.


THROUGHOUT MY YEARS in the ice fishing industry, I’ve fished more lakes than I NOT WILLING TO LEAVE FISH TO FIND FISH

can count from one end of the ice belt to the other. During this time, I’ve noticed several things that ice anglers do or don’t do that causes them to struggle. These things don’t seem to be limited to one region or the other or specific to anglers chasing one specific species or the other. Rather these seem to be universal things that plague ice anglers across the country. Realizing that you are guilty of at least one or two from time to time and working to fix these can have an immediate impact on your ice fishing success. 20

The Iowa Sportsman

This is a tough one, and I’m guilty of it from time to time myself. It’s exciting to have fish coming into your jig…even when they won’t eat it. After this has happened a couple of times however, it’s time to try something different. More often than not, the best answer is to move and find fish that ARE actively feeding. It’s SO HARD to leave those fish, though…they’re right there, and they’re To Subscribe CALL 877-424-4594

coming to your jig...maybe some miracle will happen and they will suddenly start feeding??? A similar scenario is sitting in the same hole pulling up dinky fish after dinky fish. Sure, you’re catching fish, but wouldn’t you really rather spend your time catching bigger fish instead of all those dinks? Again the answer is to MOVE. Statistically speaking, the largest fish to come out of any hole are the first few. This means that if you start catching dinks out of any given hole, the chances of caching a bigger fish become very small. It’s okay to leave fish to find fish, so don’t be afraid to do so.


All too often I see ice anglers jigging away with coils in their line that look like a Slinky. Not only does this mean that their jig is probably spinning like a top below the ice and scaring away everything that swims by, but on the off chance that they do get a bite they would never see or feel the bite through all those coils or be able to set the hook because of all the coils that must be straightened out before the line will tighten up enough to drive the hook home. A proper balance between line and jig will cause the line to hang taut. A proper balance between line and rod will transmit the bite and give the

angler total control over the action of the jig, yet cushion the line from breaking when a hooked fish tries to make a run.


This is one I was definitely guilty of in my early years. I used to bring doubledigit numbers of ice rods with me, multiple bags of tackle, radio, cooler…you name it. It took me a few years, but I finally figured out that with that much gear, I actually spent as much time dragging it on and off the ice and rummaging through it looking for a specific item as I did fishing. I also realized that of all the gear I was dragging along, I was only using about 10% of it. One day I decided to start whittling it down. I put my gear into three piles as soon as I got home. The stuff I used constantly, the stuff I used a couple of times and the stuff I didn’t use


Practice makes perfect applies as much to ice fishing as it does to anything. I’m a firm believer that there is no substitute for time spent on the ice. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that all the good ice anglers I know put in loads of ice time every season. The more time you can spend on the ice the more weather patterns, lake types, fish moods, structure types, water clarities, etc. you get to experience. All of these experiences give you a better database to pull from as you fish, which makes it easier to figure out any given situation you might encounter on the ice.


The first and last hours of daylight of every day are often called the golden hours by ice anglers. That’s because during these precious few hours, EVERYONE becomes a better angler. The microscopic aquatic bugs that are the foundation of the food chain become very active in the water column during these hours. This activity trickles up through baitfish all the way to the top predators in the lake. It can be a virtual feeding frenzy and if you’re not fishing at this time, you’re really missing the boat. All too often I see anglers arriving at the lake at noon (during the toughest bite of the day) and packing it in


December 2017

at all. On my next trip, I left the third pile at home and repeated the process after my next trip. I highly recommend this approach. You would be amazed at how little gear you actually NEED to ice fish.


The Bad Ice Angler by 3 p.m., completely missing one of the best fishing opportunities of the day.


If you arrive to the lake without a plan, you waste valuable fishing time figuring out where you want to start and where your next spots will be for the rest of the day. If you do your homework and arrive to the lake with a plan, you can quickly and efficiently move from spot to spot until you contact fish. This homework should involve looking at maps. Look for inside corners, funnels, points, depressions, submerged islands and the tell-tale sign of a weedbed or mud flat – bulges between adjacent contour lines. If you can concentrate on these types of structure it’s almost a given that you will eventually contact fish.


Your flasher will do a lot more than tell you that fish are down there. It also gives you a good idea of their mood. Do fish come racing in, slowly slide their way up to your jig, or hang on the fringes before finally coming in? Each of these are subtle clues to what the fish are wanting that many anglers overlook. For those hesitant fish or outright refusals, they are telling you that they don’t like what they are seeing. It might be as simple as a cadence change,

but it could also indicate they are looking for a different color or wanting a smaller profile. At any rate, the fish are telling you to change something. If you change all of those a couple of times with no change in the results then it is time to re-visit my very first point and move to find fish that ARE actively feeding.


I’ve never seen a sport with the follow-thecrowd- mentality that ice fishing has. It boggles my mind, especially when you understand how these crowds form. The thing with these community spots that draws these crowds is that the crowd forms because the word is out on the good bite. This often means that the best bite was two weeks ago and fishing in the group is now less than mediocre. One of the reasons that the fishing deteriorates is because many of the fish that were originally there have gone home in buckets. The other reason is that for the fish that haven’t gone home in buckets, the fishing pressure has been so great that they have retreated to other less pressured areas. If anything, this would suggest to fish AWAY from the crowd to see if you can track down those fish that have moved away from the pressure. It’s much better to be on the other end of the crowd….the end where you find the fish before the crowd forms (when the bite is

the best) and the crowd forms AROUND you!


I strongly feel that the biggest driver for fish behavior is the barometer. Fish react to changes in air pressure because it presses down on them through the water column. Fish are especially sensitive to pressure changes because of their swim bladders which regulate their buoyancy. When pressure is high or rising, it presses on their swim bladder causing them to feel full and putting them in a neutral or negative mood. When the pressure is low or falling, it relieves this pressure and puts them in a more positive mood and makes them more willing to feed. That would explain when fish often take baits very well prior to or during a storm, which is always accompanied by falling or low pressure. It would also explain why fish are hard to catch on those bluebird sky days, which are always accompanied by a high barometer. Does this mean you shouldn’t fish on those high-sky bluebird days? Absolutely not, but it does tell us that we should be ready to work for them and employ smaller baits, slower cadences and be willing to be highly mobile to find the few active feeders. It also tells me that I should chase deeper fish rather than shallower fish. Fish in deeper water are already under the increased pressure of the water column that changes in air pressure are much less significant to them.


Who doesn’t like to catch big fish? I think just about everyone does! But it’s impossible to catch those big fish if they aren’t swimming in the lake to start with. One of the best ways that I know of to ensure that there are big fish swimming is to put the big ones back. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against harvesting fish for the table at all…far from it, in fact. I like to eat fish just as much as (or more than) the next guy, but I target the medium sized fish for harvest. Once you return a big fish to the water, you are not only returning a big fish, but you are also returning the genetics that allowed that fish to grow to that size back to the lake. If we keep all the big ones, that leaves only little fish and little genetics in the lake for future years’ batches of new fish. Long story short, keeping the big ones condemns our fisheries to a future of small fish, and I don’t know anyone that wants that. So…how many of the above are you guilty of? Being a good ice angler is all about the details and these are the details that I see most often negatively impact ice anglers across the country. I have to admit that once in a while my focus slips and I’m guilty of some of them. Nobody’s perfect, but I honestly feel if you can try to avoid at least a couple of the above habits that you are guilty of you will see an immediate improvement in your ice fishing success. 22

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WATERFOWL HUNTING as a whole is a pretty straightforward concept. It is the QUALITY DECOYS different variables that factor in given the time of season that make it challenging and rewarding, maybe even frustrating. The variables that we cannot control such as weather, migration patterns, hunting pressure and even water levels are ones that hunters may curse but also must face regardless. The ones we can control such as scouting, concealment, calling and decoys can be tailored to suit the uncontrolled portions and increase success. It’s all about eliminating the odds that are stacked against us. If I were to make a list of the most important factors in waterfowl hunting to me, decoys and decoy placement would be third but only by a very close margin to the first two. First being quality scouting and hunting where the birds want to be or where you may intercept them, which I tend to beat to a pulp in many of my articles. The second would be good concealment and really, this should be tied for first because this can truly make or break a hunt if not done properly, especially mid to late season. Decoys are part of what makes this sport so much fun though, and yes, expensive too. Without decoys, your

chances of pulling ducks and geese in close enough for a shot are minimal, unless of course you prefer to pass shoot which I will refrain from comments there. So many things play in to success using decoys from early season to late and I have learned a lot of lessons

The days of killing ducks over a spread of painted milk jugs or geese using trash bags on sticks is long gone. The market is loaded with high quality, realistic decoys that have made waterfowl hunting more competitive than ever. Birds become educated on the most realistic decoys so you shouldn’t settle for using sub-par quality, especially later into the season. Early season you can get away with doing so a bit but it becomes more challenging as the migration sees continued hunting pressure. For those that are budget conscious and have a mixture of old and new decoys, I suggest using the older decoys as filler birds, putting the best and brightest along the edges and along the landing hole. For field hunting geese, I like to scatter these older worn out decoys around and between the blinds to further conceal hunters. Also, pay attention to what type of birds you will primarily encounter. If you hunt a spot that has a lot of Teal, Gadwall and other smaller puddle ducks then run a spread comprised mostly of those. Mallard decoys serve a broad purpose in many duck scenarios but



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over the years hunting both public and private ground on fresh and even heavily pressure birds. Let’s dive into a few topics that may help improve your decoys strategy.

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a diverse spread looks very natural and realistic. If you are hunting larger ducks like Mallards and Pintail, it doesn’t hurt to throw a group of honker decoys into the mix for visibility. Many duck species including divers aren’t shy about landing near geese and it offers the added bonus of pulling a goose or two in as well. One other thing to note is shine on decoys. This can happen from seasons of wear and rubbing in the decoy bag and is a huge red flag for ducks and geese alike. Even frost on decoys in the morning can be bad news. If your decoys are old and worn out, either buy some new ones or spend a little time to re-paint or even flock them to look fresh again. With frost or snow, dunk them in the water or brush them off periodically to keep them looking natural.


In any waterfowl hunting scenario it

December 2017

pays to watch the attitude of the birds. The ideal goal is to have them toes down in your spread but that isn’t always the case. Study their behavior and how they approach the spread. If they circle out wide a few times and then leave, something wasn’t right and they didn’t feel safe. Either your concealment was inadequate, the decoys looked off or possibly they have been shot at from this spot before and they remember. If birds are landing short, then it could be decoys or even wind direction. Make adjustments as needed but don’t think too much into it. Look at the blind

first and go out into the spread to look back and check it out. If everything looks good, then see how the decoy spread can be modified. Some of the following topics will play into this one.



Nothing screams “fake” to an approaching flock of ducks or geese like motionless decoys on flat calm water. I have had this very circumstance trash a hunt for me all because I left the jerk cord at home. After that event, I have never left for the water or field without some type of motion or attention grabbing ploy for my


Decoying Waterfowl – Costly Mistakes setup. Jerk rigs are incredibly easy to set up and use and they can really change the odds in your favor in calm settings. Other motion systems like a Pulsator, Crazy Kicker or Wonderduck also work great and offer hands free movement. When field hunting geese I always bring a flag to grab their attention at a distance. When a flock approaches, I put the flag down unless they begin to veer off in which case a quick couple flaps or the flick of a wing on the flag can sometimes turn them back towards you.


When these first hit the market years ago they were a total game changer. Even today, they work but mid to late season birds start to become educated and weary. I love to use them through the season but if ducks are unwilling to commit this is one of the first things I put away. They are awesome for grabbing the attention of a flock from a distance but sometimes weary ducks are wise to the tricks when they get closer. One thing you can do if you still wish to utilize one is to place it in sparse reeds or emergent vegetation. This makes the Mojo, Lucky or whatever you use less pronounced and harder to decipher from keen, scrutinizing waterfowl eyes above. Just make sure when geese are en route to turn the spinner off or take it down alltogether. Geese are notoriously spinner shy.


Sometimes in the dark it can be hard to judge distance and how the spread is being placed. Packing decoys in tight can be okay in cold, late season field hunting especially using sleeper shells as this looks natural but doing this on the water can raise some red flags for ducks and geese. If you ever see a flock packed tight together on the water all facing the same direction, chances are they are


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nervous, unsettled or getting ready to take off. If you look at relaxed feeding or loafing birds on the water, they tend to be more spread out and facing in different directions. Keep decoys far enough apart so they aren’t bumping into each other and be sure to rig them so 1/3 or more are tied to the rear and not just the front.


This may seem elementary but many hunters don’t utilize the landing zone or “hole” to their benefit. Not only does this give an approaching flock a target to key in on, it also can take the focus off hunters hiding behind or within the spread. In field hunting situations where geese were landing short I have even used a landing

hole behind the blinds which seems outrageous but it can work. The landing zone doesn’t always have to be a hole either. It can be the bend in a “J” shape or possibly multiple pockets in some other arrangement. In any case, position this pocket or hole so that hunters have the best opportunity to make clean shots safely within their shooting lanes. Keep in mind some of these tips when venturing out and really pay attention to what the birds are telling you. They will let you know right away if something isn’t right to them. Make adjustments to the blind or spread when this happens and don’t be afraid to put in a little extra work and move the entire spread if need be. Good luck this season!

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December 2017



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WHEN I FIRST started ice fishing it was literally a foreign language to me. Moving to the mid-west and experiencing days of temperatures below zero was quite the eye-opener. Long before my first adventure out on the ice, I had visions of a guy wrapped up in a flannel shirt and coveralls, sitting on a bucket. Rod in hand and a thermos full of hot coffee, or at least it started off hot, sitting next to him. In my mind’s eye, I could see this poor sap out there all alone shivering as he hoped a fish would take his bait. Well…fortunately for me and you, that was far from reality. My second winter here in Iowa I was introduced to ice fishing, thankfully, and I found a way to get out of the house as well as finding a way to feed my fishing addiction. The challenge then was to learn what rod and reel combos to use as well as the type of line.


Do a quick search for ice fishing rod and reel combos on Google and you’ll get about 800,000 results and that can overwhelm any angler, experienced or not. So let’s break this down and make it a tad easier. First close Google! While using modern technology to help in your search for the perfect match is a great idea maybe we can help simplify a bit. There are quite a few great rod and reel combinations offered by some of the major manufacturers that are a great place to start. My first combo was a medium light 24-inch rod and reel by Berkley. Other notable manufacturers that I would consider are Frabill, Clam, Eagle Claw, St. Croix and Shakespeare. All of these offer what I would call entry level combo’s; rod and reels that are paired together making the decision process easy. These all come in a variety of lengths and action. Choosing the right combo really is based on the species of fish you’re going to target. Most common lengths are 24-inch to 28-inch and start with ultra-light action to medium action. “It’s all about balance”, said Cold Water December 2017

Guide Service owner and Ice Team Pro Rod Woten. “Pick a length that suits your style. Shorter if you fish inside a fish house or longer if you fish more outside.” Woten added that he likes to fish with the longest rod he can get away with. Many of these will come with line preloaded. My recommendation is to remove that line and load it up with new. Typically for panfish applications, you’re looking at 2 to 4-pound line. For bass or walleye, you can go to 6 and 8-pound lines. Though honestly, I don’t have a reel with anything more than 6-pound test and I’ve landed plenty of nice size bass and walleye. Obviously, there are going to be rod/ reel and line combinations you’ll use for some of the larger predator and toothy fish we chase after, match your rod length and action to the species you are targeting. Let’s talk about the line here for a minute, probably the most important factor when it comes to choosing the rod and reel combination you’re looking at. “Match the line to your jig”, advises Woten. “The line should be light enough that the jig pulls it taught, but not so heavy that you can’t feel

the lure bounce when jigged.” Matching your line to your jig and then rod to line will help in sorting out the right combo for your target species. “You’ll probably want slightly bigger and heavier jigs and spoons for bass and crappies than you would shallow bluegills,” continued Woten. “Walleyes will require something bigger and heavier yet. Matching the line to the bait and then the rod to the line ensures you have a correctly balanced setup for each of those situations....or any others.” Now that we’ve broken the ice on line selection, (pun intended) let’s get a little deeper into the types of lines that are out there and when and where you might want to use them. I’d say that most of you if not all are familiar with monofilament. It’s the line that we all started using long before specialty lines came on the market. Okay, well maybe not all of us but a lot of us. Fluorocarbon fishing lines were originally invented in Japan in the mid-1970’s, however, it wasn’t until the 1990’s when it was introduced as leader material for saltwater applications due to its invisible properties, strength and abrasion resistance.


Ice Fishing Gear - Getting Your Combo On Now fluorocarbon lines are common in both open and hardwater applications. “Each of these lines has their place”, noted Woten. “Use thin monofilament for shallow fish where line stretch during the hookset isn’t critical. Mono also has less memory than fluorocarbon which means less jig spin, which is important when fishing bluegills or shallow crappies.” Fluorocarbon line is good for line-shy fish or for slightly deeper applications due to its low visibility and lower stretch properties. It also sinks better than monofilament because it absorbs water but that also means that it can cause more issues with freezing. “Fluorocarbon is also good for larger fish due to its strength or for slowing the fall rate of a lure due to its tendency to float rather than sink,” he added. Don’t overlook co-polymer lines either. They are a great combination of all the best properties of monofilament and fluorocarbon. A recent trend in ice fishing and one that will improve your chances for shy fish is the use of level wind reels. Clam Outdoors improved on the level wind reel a bit with the Genz 200 Ice Spooler Reel. These are great reels, especially for sight fisherman. This reel was really designed with West Okoboji Lake’s finicky bluegills in mind. This reel has a longer reel foot allowing an angler to get a more efficient grip and detecting bites more effectively. When you’re sight fishing, a big West Okoboji gill will approach your bait, and as he does you’ll slow the jigging down and stop just before he takes it. As Woten noted, any spinning induced by line twist spells disaster for that type of fishing.


We’ve punched a hole in the whole ice rod, reel and line combination scenario and provided you with some great recommendations on what to look for when you purchase your combo’s. How about a few tips on using the right gear at the right time for the right application. Let’s be honest, if you’re like me you have at least two rods…okay maybe just a few more for your open water applications, same holds true for ice fishing. Well for starters and an easy one is using the wrong rod and reel for the type of fishing you’re getting ready to do. It goes without saying that if you’re chasing bluegill you don’t want to use a rod combo filled with a line that was designed for bass or walleye. Why? Your rod action will be too stiff to detect bites if you get any at all. Warry bluegill will see the line and the movement and reject any offering you may have. 30

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“One of the things I see anglers’ doing is fishing too deep”, said Clear Lake Bait & Tackle Inc. owner and Ice Team Pro Kevan Paul. “Crappie feed up and I see anglers fishing near the bottom or below the school of fish and they wonder why others are catching fish and they aren’t.” One thing that Paul recommends when fishing for crappie is to use a rod with a fast tip. You’ll want to see the up bite; in other words, you’ll see your jig load the line and tip of the rod as your jigging. If you see the rod tip go back to neutral versus a downward pull, then a fish has taken your bait and is rising with it. “Definitely a big issue is fishing with a rod that is too stiff where you can’t detect the bite”, adds Paul. “You may not even feel the strike if it’s a tough bite”. Pay attention! If you’re not looking at your line and rod tip you may miss bites that normally would go undetected. “I see it all the time where guys are out just shooting the breeze and jigging at the same time”, noted Paul. “They’re so focused on the conversation or what’s going on around them that they miss a bite or it goes undetected.” There are also some advances to monofilament line, one, in particular, that is being offered by Clam Pro Tackle is the new Frost Ice Monofilament Line (Metered), designed for ice anglers by Sun Line Co. This metered line has a section of high visibility orange followed by clear monofilament section. “It’s a great way to watch your line since you can clearly see the orange section of the line as your making your presentation. The clear section is obviously where you’d tie your jig, but it offers anglers another way of keeping an eye on the line as they jig”, stated Paul.


To ask questions…quite honestly this all but scratches the surface of possibilities when it comes to paring ice fishing rod combos. One of the great things about the sport that we all enjoy is that there are plenty of folks out there that are more than willing to share their knowledge, and in some cases whether you asked for it or not. Ice fishing is a great way to spend a day outdoors during the cold winter months. Remember that first and foremost be safe on the ice. Share the passion with a friend or family member. Remember to pay it forward to our youth…they are the future of our sport. For more information about Cold Water Guide Service and Clear Lake Bait & Tackle Inc., visit their Facebook pages and give them a shout. Expert advise you can count on. Tight lines all!

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December 2017


ASK ANY ICE ANGLER from Iowa what their favorite fishery is and you’ll hear names like Brushy Creek, Clear Lake, Spirit Lake or Okoboji. For good reason those are all near the top of everyone’s list. There’s another fishery on the state’s eastern seaboard that you don’t hear mentioned much. I can assure you that the quality of this fishery is right up there with most of the others in the state, yet those that fish it are relatively tight lipped about it. Ask any ice angler that fishes these waters about “Prairie”, Bussey, or O’leary’s and you’ll be met with a glassy eyed stare. There’s also good reason for that….


Anglers in eastern Iowa are very blessed to have the Mississippi River running right through their front yard. While the river and all of its associated backwaters can be dynamite fisheries during the spring 32

The Iowa Sportsman

summer and fall, many are unaware of how great the winter fishing can be in the backwaters. These off-the-mainchannel areas can resemble everything from a small stream to a large lake, but they are numerous along the entire Iowa portion of the river and the fishing can

be dynamite in any of them. One of the biggest issues with these backwaters can be access, some can be accessed only through larger parts of the river or a braidlike tangle of channels and flowages. For the backwaters that have shoreline access, parking can be limited, ranging from small gravel lots to shoulder of the road parking. For some of the more obscure backwaters, your best bet is to find a local to show you the ropes or gather as much information as you can from the local bait shops. While many of these backwaters can be challenging to find and access, your diligence can pay big dividends!


One characteristic that most of these backwaters share is that they are fairly To Subscribe CALL 877-424-4594

December 2017


Backwater Hardwater shallow. For many of these backwaters, six feet is fairly deep, with some averaging as shallow as two to three feet. This means that noise can affect these fish very easily, so stealth is pretty important. Try to minimize walking around or dropping things on the ice. It’s also not a bad idea to allow newly drilled holes a few minutes to “cool off” as the fish below relax and resume normal activities once the noise of drilling has dissipated. It also means that your electronics won’t be giving you as much of the story as they usually do in deeper waters. Even at the widest cone angle, at only two or three feet of depth, your flasher will only be showing a very small view of the water below. In some cases the water may actually be clear enough to forego the electronics and sight fish. The structure and makeup of the backwaters can also change from year to year with flood, current and low water cycles, so the spot you caught fish in last year may not be the same spot you catch them in this year. The best way to fish these areas is to travel lightly and be highly mobile. Don’t camp out on a spot until you find a concentration of fish. Typically these high concentration areas will be a travel corridor and once you find one, it’s a fairly safe bet that you will have fish coming through pretty regularly. If things suddenly slow to a crawl, then something has changed and it’s time become mobile again and start looking for another concentration. One of my favorite parts of fishing the backwaters of the Mississippi is the abundance of fish species that you could potentially hook into. The list is almost limitless and includes bluegill, crappie, perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, catfish, walleye, sauger, northern pike, white bass, yellow bass, drum, carp, buffalo, dogfish and many others! When fishing the backwaters, I like to go with a little heavier panfish setup than I normally would just in case I hook into a northern, walleye, or bass. I am especially excited about the perch that


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are coming from the backwaters the past couple of seasons. The perch population is definitely on the upswing, and in addition to the quantity of perch being caught, there are many QUALITY perch being caught. Based on what I’ve been seeing, I honestly believe that the next state record perch will come from the backwaters of the Mississippi in the very near future!


The one downside to fishing the backwaters is that one must exercise an extra measure of caution when on this ice. While backwaters are by definition removed from the current of the main channel that does not mean that current does not flow through the backwaters. At times there may be no current, but at other times there may be current flowing in only to switch in 30 minutes and begin flowing out. Current is good for fishing because it brings in food and fresh oxygen to the fish, but it is bad for the ice because it will erode the ice from the bottom up. This means backwater ice can be variable, with 12 inches in one spot and 4 inches only a couple of footsteps away. For this reason I ALWAYS wear my picks around my neck when fishing backwater ice in event I go though and need to attempt to self rescue. I also always carry and USE my

spud bar (also known as an ice chisel) to test ice with every step. It’s also not a bad idea to bring a long a throwable PFD and 100 feet of rope. Caution must also be exercised for those backwaters that must be accessed via the main channel. Ice must always be considered as questionable and treated as such. The amount of current flowing through the main channel means the ice can be very weak in all but the coldest of years. I try to avoid this type of access whenever possible, but if I must go this route, I always go with a buddy, wear a PFD and check every step with a spud bar as I go.


Ice fishing the Iowa’s Mississippi backwaters can be a little bit more work than what many are used to. Access can be a little more difficult, the ice conditions can vary greatly and the current can make it hard to keep track of your jig. However…the benefits of persevering through these obstacles can be amazing. The backwaters can be loaded with fish, with a good shot at a BIG fish of any of the multitude of species that swim through them. It only takes one trip to the backwaters, and I’m pretty sure that you’ll be back for more!

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Brad, from Decorah We had a feeling this question would be coming down the pipeline sooner or later as it is one of the most popular questions we receive from readers. For the sake of not writing a full book on the question, as one easily could we will try and give you the best advice in the short version. A lot of smart people, have done studies on the whitetail breeding season. Many of these studies hone in on what is the determining factor that triggers the rut. The thought process is if we know what starts the breeding season we can then hone in on when would be the best time to hunt during the rut. Is it the moon phases, is it biological, meaning deer simply know when the time is right, or does the decreasing amount of daylight during the fall trigger the rut? Those are the three main theories and each has been studied expansively. The funny thing is each theory shows support for being the trigger of the rut. So scientifically our answer would be we have no idea as to what theory you should rely on because each theory has some evidence of being important or maybe not important, depending on how you look at things. 36

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Our answer based on no science what so ever would be to forgo the theories altogether and hunt as much as you can from late October through mid to late November. The one thing we know about the rut is that it will happen during this time frame, so if you can be in your stand the most during this time you will be fine and experience the rut. Probably not the answer you wanted, but we are talking about the rut after all. It is important to remember that the rut isn’t something that is set in stone. Some hunters 10 miles away from your hunting property may see bucks chasing does, and on your property you are seeing bucks actually breeding does. There are other factors too that can manipulate the rut…crop cover, human intrusion, weather, buck to doe ratio, food sources, etc. All of those and many more can play a role on rut. Again, our advice, pick the days that you can hunt and live with that decision.

risk losing a good friendship over a hunt? However this sounds like a pretty amazing hunt, private land elk in Colorado would be awesome! Here is our advice, go to both the wedding and the hunt. A wedding is really only one day, at least the important part anyways. If you can swing it hunt as long as possible then leave when you need to in order to make it to the wedding in plenty of time. Make sure you are up front and honest with everyone, let them know what you have going on and what your plans are. If everyone is an understanding individual (there is no reason why they shouldn’t be) there really shouldn’t be any problems and you will be able to be a part of both. If for some reason going to both doesn’t work, then you have to pick what is more important to you. We would suggest a friendship is more important than an Elk hunt, but that is for you to decide. Good luck!


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December 2017


Photos courtesy from Mille Lacs Area Tourism




hose looking for a winter thrill can find one in the comfort of a cozy dark house. Spearing is a fun and fascinating way to pursue northern pike on Minnesota’s frozen waters. The ancient art is actually enjoying a spike in popularity. Last year, more spearing licenses were sold in Minnesota than anytime in the past 27 years. The technique’s appeal stems, in part, from the fact the large hole at your feet glows like a big screen television. Yes, only there’s one channel, but what a channel it can be. It’s cool—way cool— when a large northern pike fins into the


hole. It’s also fun to see baitfish, walleye and other species as they swim through shallow water. No dark house? No problem. Many resorts and guide services rent dark houses, spears and fish decoys. In fact, several Mille Lacs area resorts have increased dark house capacity since a 2014 rule change opened the lake to spearing for the first time in 32 years. Mille Lacs northern pike bag limits are also more generous than the statewide regulation. “We added eight new spear houses,” said Dave Estrem, manager of Hunter Winfield’s Resort on Mille Lacs’ Isle

Bay. “People are really enjoying this new opportunity.” Other Mille Lacs resorts offering dark houses rentals include Max’s Twin Bay, Fisherman’s Wharf, Appledorn’s Sunset Bay, Garrison Sports and Brandt’s Ice Fishing. Check with Mille Lacs Area Tourism for other options and information. In the Baudette area, Zippel Bay Resort on Lake of the Woods rents dark houses in December, and Bugsy’s on Bostic Bay rents them as well. In the Grand Rapids area, Little Winnie Resort offers dark houses for rent. In the Brainerd Lakes area, Jason Trout of Minnesota Spearing Guides maintains dark houses on the CALL 888-VISITMN

Spearing is a fun and fascinating way to pursue northern pike on Minnesota’s frozen waters.

Whitefish Chain of Lakes. Check local tourism and visitor information offices for dark house availability in other fishing communities. A one-person dark house can rent for as little as $75 a day. Prices increase based on house size, amenities and other factors. Some resorts will drive you to the heated houses in a heated vehicle, and even ferry food and bait to you. A spearing license is required. Consult the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fishing regulations booklet for season dates, limits and other information. CALL 888-VISITMN






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FOR THE UNINITIATED, late season pheasant hunting may not start any different than your typical opening day. Let’s see now, is my gun clean? Check. Is the dog box loaded? Check. Do I have some shells in the truck from last season? Is my blaze orange in the truck? Check and check… Let’s go shoot some birds! Right…? Oh, if it was only that easy. For the trophy hunters reading this article, I would argue that bagging a limit of long-spurred January roosters is on par with any hunting achievement. Late season birds are surly veterans that have mastered Mother Nature’s version of Military SERE training. After months of pursuit by hordes of weekend warriors, these birds should be considered a distinct species altogether! These aren’t the naïve youngsters that flushed hysterically at the end of your dog’s nose on opening day. Late season birds are EDUCATED. They understand the sights and sounds of danger and rarely sit around and wait for the average hunter to idle into the parking lot, finish a cup of coffee, slam their truck door, rack some shells, and predictably march into their living room. More than twenty years ago, I was blessed to meet and develop lifelong friendships with several hardcore hunting buddies. As my Dad used to say, these are the type of guys you want in your foxhole. No matter how cold it gets or how hard the wind is blowing, I can count on this crew to go the extra mile for a late season rooster. As we’ve gotten older, busy schedules very often constrain our annual bird December 2017

hunt to the last week of the season. As a result, over the last couple decades, we’ve learned some hard lessons and developed some proven strategies for harvesting cunning late season birds.


Wily roosters aren’t the only adversary late season hunters face. The weather in late December and January cannot be underestimated. Bone chilling rain, crippling ice storms, blanketing snows, and biting wind chills are always a possibility; demanding a more thoughtful approach to clothing and boots. Dressing in multiple layers that can be easily shed and put back on as temperatures and tactics change is an effective way to optimize comfort and minimize sweating. I like to start with a wicking base layer that pulls perspiration away from the skin. On top of this I usually go with a couple breathable layers to prevent sweat from being trapped near the skin and causing chills. My last two layers include lightweight fleece and an insulated and waterproof Gore-Tex parka. When selecting your layers, avoid bulky garments as they tend to bunch and restrict movement, negatively influencing shooting mechanics.

Boots must also be carefully considered. Late season is not the time to break in a new pair. Instead, choose the most comfortable boots in the closet, and make sure they are water proof. This is more important than how much insulation they have, and any brand of boot is okay as long as they are equipped with GoreTex linings. Although counterintuitive, I choose lightly insulated boots during the frigid late season to minimize sweating. It is a guarantee you will walk more miles in thicker cover during late season, and I pack extra socks to keep my feet warm and dry throughout the day. Boots with high insulation numbers are typically heavier, stiffer, and can fatigue feet and legs more quickly. Moreover, unless you are predominantly blocking during the hunt, they can make your feet colder due to increased sweating and chills.


During the early season, pheasants can be effectively targeted in a variety of habitats including pasture lands, hay fields, grassy draws, weedy fence lines, and CRP lands. However, success in the late season depends on hunters’ ability to locate and bushwhack through brutal security cover. Frozen cattail swamps, snowed over switch grass, densely packed iron weeds, and impregnable cedar thickets are gold mines for late season birds. Finding these areas near standing corn, sorghum, and other high value food sources only increases their attractiveness.


“Tips and Tactics for Late Season Pheasant Hunting” Be forewarned though, mother nature does not give up these birds easily. Flushing birds within range in these areas requires planning, determination, endurance, and perseverance. For those willing to embrace the “suck” and enter these lairs, a trio of brilliant late season roosters may be the payoff.


To improve the odds of success during late season, spend time scouting the areas you plan to hunt. If possible, ask neighbors when they are seeing birds to see if there are any tendencies you can exploit. The objective is to figure out when and where the birds are hitting the grain fields, and most importantly, what time they are returning to security cover. With this intel you can confidently predict when birds are most likely to be in the cover, and maximize the efficiency and productivity of your time afield.


Roosters that survive into the late season have gained size, stature, and a heavy layer of insulating feathers. They also tend to flush wild or hold extra tight; flushing behind you and flying the opposite direction. As a result, hunter reaction times are decreased and shot distances are often increased. While a load of


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#6 or #71/2 shot was adequate on opening day, come January I don’t leave the house with anything less than #4 shot. I don’t use magnum loads when hunting with my 12 gauge guns, but I do opt for three inch shells when carrying my 20 gauge. The increased payload and powder from the longer shells levels the playing field while still allowing me to carry a lighter gun. The larger shot and increased energy provide the extra distance and penetration needed for tough late season pheasants.


To consistently harvest pressured late season pheasants, a more creative approach is required. Hunters need to think outside the box, and go beyond the “forked stick zone”. This is especially true on popular public hunting lands. For months, pheasants have been conditioned to react to vehicles parking conveniently at manicured lots adjacent to cover. As a result, when presented with the same strategy in January birds often flush wildly about the time parking brakes are set. It is important that hunters change the routine and approach pheasants from an angle they haven’t seen during the regular season. For example, make some phone

calls, knock on some doors, and try to secure permission to access the property from neighboring lands. Leverage brushy fencerows, swales, and draws to conceal your approach to the cover. Turn off beeper collars, remove bells, and limit talking to aid in the stalk. Surprise the birds from the backside, rather than knocking down the front door like all the hunters before you. Pursuing late season pheasants is not for the faint of heart. It is the pinnacle of pheasant hunting challenges. Many try and most fail to shoot limits of birds during these harsh conditions. However, late season bird hunting isn’t about body counts and limits. Leave that to the fair-weather fans on opening day that are satisfied to shoot wide-eyed chicks for the frying pan. Late season is about finding a group of diehard hunting buddies that will drop everything to make first tracks after a blizzard blankets an area; dreaming about 100 bird flushes from frozen cattails. January hunts focus on and appreciate quality dog work, companionship, and tenacity. Success is not defined by the number of birds you kill. Rather, it is determined by the intensity of the chase, magnificence of each harvested bird, sadness of a season ending, and longing for seasons to come.

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December 2017



The Iowa Sportsman

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SOMEDAY, WE AS trappers and hunters might refer to the last few years and possibly the next year or two to come as “the lean years” of selling fur when telling younger generation fur harvesters about the hard times and hard work for little money. For local fur buyers and trappers alike there hasn’t been much to smile about and most signs point towards this year as showing little improvement in prices, once again. The global marketplace of wild fur and all that influences it has had its large share of pitfalls. Have we reached the bottom already and are looking up for the future? Most would say yes, although it may be a very gradual climb back out for fur prices as a whole. Russian buyers were back at international auctions buying again this spring and early summer, a good sign, even if their purchasing power was much lower than it was in years prior to 2013. The Russian economy improved some in the early part of 2017 and indications were mildly promising for the future, however a lack of Russian participation at Toronto’s North American Fur Auction held in August and last major auction of the year left the auction weaker than some had hoped for. Russia continues to drive the worldwide market and like it or not, their participation and health of economy is the driving force for worldwide sales, garment manufacturer success and industry growth. Recent August sanctions from the United States against Russia along with North Korea have an impact on all wild fur species and

the political tension affects their ability or willingness to trade with North America. When sanctions hurt the Russian economy, it weakens and devalues their already fragile Ruble limiting their purchasing

strapped consumers aren’t buying hats and coats, countries such as these buy less fur to produce for them as well. China will export to other countries and may even have good garment sales by Northern Chinese people but as long as exports of fur garments are slow to Russia expect the Chinese to be stagnant buyers of wild fur. Military and political tensions between the U.S and North Korea also have a negative impact on the fur market. South Korean purchases of mink and muskrat goods would be seriously curtailed by any military action in the region, as would movement of North American furs to China. The business of ranched mink production affects sales of all species down the line in ways many never realized before. At this time we aren’t in a good place where ranched mink is concerned. When ranch mink prices plummet, some of the commercial goods that are marginal become cheaper per square inch than that of the muskrat for instance. At times like that, manufacturers who normally use rats for certain garments switch to using cheap ranch mink instead, further reducing the muskrat price. When ranched mink prices are cheap manufacturers prefer to use those skins because of the uniformity of skins, less damage to hides and volume of skins available. China buys very large quantities of ranched mink because identical skins are very beneficial to the mass production of


December 2017

power and volume of goods coming into Russia slows. Russia’s struggles have impacted the market greatly in the last few years. Countries such as China, Greece, Turkey and South Korea, are involved heavily in the fur garment making industry. Their main buyer is Russia. When Russia is no longer importing a high volume of fur garments because their own financially


Fur Markets Continue To Struggle garments that look uniform throughout the coat, and the Chinese love to mass produce items at a cheaper rate of production especially when they are desired by buyers. The cost of production with today’s market is just too high in the case of beaver skins when considering the price of the skin and therefore buyers will prefer to purchase commercial mink and trim their production costs for finishing goods. The price to dress mink is 3 or 4 times lower than the price of dressing out larger beaver skins. Comparably, wild mink prices are held hostage as well because of ranched mink surplus and the uniformity of ranched skins to work with by garment makers. In short, the ranched mink market competes directly with the muskrat, wild mink and beaver and to a degree even longer haired species. There are simply too many mink in the world currently. The ebb and flow of everything hits eventually and ranchers of commercial mink, who once held a position of power in setting the market, now are at the mercy of the buyer and as such, ranching has fallen upon hard times. See it with the opinion that you want to, good or bad, but we must get back to a suitable population of ranched mink for the sales of all other wild furs and ranch mink to compete more harmoniously. There are very few species in demand right now, coyote, bobcat, wolverine and marten among them. Supply is high for almost all other goods most notable raccoon. Inventories of skins in cold storage right now are at all time highs and even dressing plants, and retail stores have a surplus of fur awaiting sale. Coyote will generate a lot of excitement so anticipate a very good market for them this year as inventories are dry and the trim trade (fur used to trim parka sleeves and hoods) should be outstanding. Some veteran fur handlers suggest that a market desiring trim, could lead to some movement in raccoon sales once again but time will tell. Until something shakes loose and begins to get the raccoon market moving again, expect low prices. Even when and if sales increase and coon begins to move at a higher price, the backlog of hundreds of thousands of raccoon hides left unsold from previous years and stored in cold storage will flood the auctions likely contributing to a secondary hit on the market. We could be 2-3 years out from seeing good coon prices again. Now that we have looked a little at the current world geopolitical situation, supply and demand and other influencing factors of the global market, let’s break it down to our local area and see how things may be for the upcoming season in Iowa. 48

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North Iowa Fur Company’s Bill Drewelow from Fredericksburg, Iowa was willing to give some advice and perspective on this upcoming buying season. “The bottom line is I’ll be buying most species but with coon, I’ll be very selective. Coyote is in demand. People could see $30-40 coyotes here. It depends on how they look and how they’re prepared. Beaver has demand because of the hatter market but prices will remain low.” Bill said. “I would say have fun with it because it’s a down market. This is a good time to work on finishing goods. It’s good practice for those who haven’t done it before. If you mess up a skin, you’re not out as much in a year like this one.” Drewelow added. There are always things we can do to get the best dollar amount out there with our fur such as finishing everything before sale, targeting animals when fur is prime and being a marketer of our own goods. The latter means shopping around and that may mean checking with the local fur buyers, the traveling fur buyers and the possibility of sending your furs to auction. Drewelow agreed that finished fur will bring extra and that he, as a fur buyer, likes to reward those who spend the extra time to care for their fur all the way to a scraped and dried finish. North Iowa Fur Company regularly runs routes buying fur throughout the state of Iowa in the fall and winter. You can check their route schedule to see what towns near you they will be stopping at and when at their North Iowa Fur Company Facebook page. Local fur buyers all over the country have experienced tough times and some have had to close their doors. Our local buyers are our connection and lifeblood of the industry. Anytime you can support them please do. They’ll remember it down the road. No one is getting rich off of

furs these days anyway. I spoke to a long time trapping long-liner recently and he told me of how he dropped off a load of fur at a local buyer that he frequents and took nothing for his collection. The buyer offered his best naturally but the trapper refused, realizing the current conditions. He told me “It’s what that guy does for a living. I’m out here trapping for the enjoyment of it and to hopefully make a tiny profit and I’ve wasted the money I would have made on those furs on sillier things.” What a great act of support and respect. Bill Drewelow also encouraged trappers, hunters and all sportsmen to support the Iowa Trapper’s Association! The work they do to promote and protect the sport of trapping as well as educating youth in the ways of trapping will leave the future of trapping on solid ground here in Iowa.


Raccoon goods sit unsold in such great quantity from the last few years that only select sections of raccoon will be sold this year by the Iowa trapper. There is a market for Northern coon of the large heavy variety but that’s about it. If you’re trapping bandits, do it for fun and expect minimal return. Trap when the fur is prime and go after those large adults as those may be the only coons that buyers will purchase. Small coon, blue coon, carcass coon and damaged pelts will have no value. 4xl and 5xl raccoon may fetch you anywhere from $4-10 depending on the pelt and the handling, while some buyers may give you a buck or three for well handled mid-sized coon only as a gesture of good will for the work you put forth to get them to market. Muskrats will have a market but don’t expect much. As long as ranched mink To Subscribe CALL 877-424-4594

prices remain low, dressers could primarily choose mink skins over the alternative of rats holding muskrat movement stagnant. Well-handled rats will sell, it seems they always do, and you could likely see prices about what they were last year. $1-3 dollars a rat will be the norm. Rat prices could rebound sooner than other species depending on ranch mink sales and volume and because of lower numbers of fresh rats coming into auction. The hatter trade will keep Beaver above water and give trappers a chance to sell furs. The cost of dressing a beaver pelt is simply too high for garments but hat makers will buy beaver when prices are low to moderate. Underneath a beaver’s coarse, brown guard hairs there is a woolen fur that is transformed into a high-quality felt by hat-makers for fine hat making. A lower inventory of beaver combined with low beaver prices currently could mean good interest from hatters. Maybe you’ve heard the term “hatter prices” before referring to a sluggish not so popular market. This is a “hatter price” price year for beaver. So expect $7-10 for decent skins. Trapping beaver still has its advantages however as the price of Castoreum is skyrocketing in the wake of trappers taking less beaver in this depressed market. Castoreum is used in perfumes, lures and food flavorings and is experiencing a shortage. Skunk and possum will be hard to offload. Possum won’t be sellable furs but putting up skunk of reasonable size could fetch you $5-$10. Skunks are a non-target species and low skunk numbers in recent years at auction could mean a small rise in value soon. Otter prices may have picked up a tad, but remain on the low end. Speculative optimism for a rise in otter prices was firm this spring headed into auction time, but Asian buyer interest fizzled leaving the otter market soft. Expect prices to remain similar to last year with most average sized

December 2017

adult otters being caught up in the $15-$25 range with exceptions bringing a bit more. Badger should remain close to last year’s prices as well. Our Iowa badgers are fairly plain by international standards and so even though premium extra heavy, extra pale badgers from other regions might fetch upwards of $60 or more, our flatter, darker badgers won’t see great prices. Expect $10$20 for good quality and size and lower for flatter furs. Wild Mink keeps moving but at a lethargic pace. As long as ranched mink is so readily available expect lower prices. $10 could be possible, but prepare for lower especially for lower grades. Coyote demand is higher than supply, which is great news! Western coyotes with their paler, whiter and softer fur have fetched awesome prices at auction this year with good pelts going for $100 or more. Our Iowa coyotes won’t see that kind of money but the demand for coyote fur will likely drag Eastern coyote prices up. Manufacturers in the trim trade are seeking quality coyote fur to line the hoods of parkas and trappers all across the country will be setting heavy for coyote this season. Some will even dedicate their entire trapping efforts towards the coyote alone this year. Expect early prices of Iowa coyote to be similar to last year but as fur primes, December and January Iowa coyote prices could potentially be the best we’ve seen in years. $20-$30 early on and if we’re lucky, perhaps we could see $40$45 coyotes, as the good stuff rolls in to fur buyers locally. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Red Fox prices are down and they remain a slow moving item. Sections of Northern goods go higher but Iowa fox will trail behind significantly. 100% of the offering at the NAFA July Auction went for averages of $13-$17. Expect a price in that neighborhood for most with flatter goods lower and exceptional skins fetching

$20 or more this year. With a little luck, a strong trim trade market could produce more interest in fox and cause a midseason uptick in price. If only we had beautifully furred western Bobcats around here with unlimited catches! Western cat prices have been crazy in the last year or two, but the higher prices just haven’t filtered down to our flatter furred cats here in Southern Iowa. It’s disappointing to see Eastern and Southern cats not follow the trend of their higher end Western cousins. A lower number of skins were offered this spring so who knows, maybe they’ll be an upsurge but as of now expect Southern Iowa cats to average below $65 and that may be optimistic. Exceptional prime, large skins with wide underbellies and clear spotted bellies could certainly bring surprisingly more if you’re willing to advocate your case and shop around. If you’re an Iowa trapper or hunter, coyote is the target animal this year. For most other animals, you’ll need to be selective in what you spend time on. Wait until fur is prime. There are benefits to a year like this one however. You’ll likely have less trapline competition and you can use the down market to focus on learning new methods of catching animals you’ve never targeted before. Improve on your finishing skills because you can expect grading to be unforgiving. A year like this one is perfect to learn more about grading. Talk to buyers to understand what they are looking for. Farmers and ranchers are always needing nuisance varmints removed and catching beaver for instance for no money in a down year could turn into trapping permission for all species on that land for profitable years to come. Take the time to teach a youth who is interested in trapping the ways of the trade. Have fun and enjoy it for its simplicities!


ANOTHER YEAR OF Whitetails 365 is coming to an end along with another whitetail season! But before we throw in the towel on another season, let’s not forget that we still have over a month of solidly awesome whitetail hunting. December brings with it three gun seasons and the start of the second or late archery season. For any whitetail hunter this is almost like a dream come true…and yet for so many hunters who might have struggled so far this season, they are giving up just when in so many ways the hunting is getting really good. So much emphasis is given to the rut that when it comes and goes all too often hunters get themselves into a toilet bowl spin of despair. Hunter fatigue starts to set in and it becomes easier and easier to justify missing a hunt or two…or skipping evening scouting sessions glassing for a good buck 50

The Iowa Sportsman

over remaining food sources. And when hunters do stick to hunting they start to make mistakes or take short cuts. Instead of walking the “long” way around to avoid bumping deer on an evening hunt…they get a little too close to a doe bedding area and bump a doe or two…no big deal right? It’s

this sloppy let your guard down attitude that costs many hunters a chance at a late season dream hunt. If you find yourself in this selfinflicted pity party, it’s time to regroup and take stock in the fact that you still have some pretty awesome hunting left. I’ve spent my entire hunting career evaluating what is working…and what isn’t. If I try a new method or technique, maybe a new hunting spot or two, or maybe even new hunting grounds, I always evaluate the results. I started this perpetual continuous improvement method at a very young age in my hunting and continue doing it today. I bring this up because so many hunters go from year to year and from season to season repeating what they’ve always done hoping for the day a giant buck steps into view. If this is you, and you’ve not yet achieved To Subscribe CALL 877-424-4594

The author’s son’s muzzleloader buck

your goal of a mature buck or consistently harvesting good bucks, you might want to try making some changes to your methods. Late season whitetail hunting is a great time to start over. It’s also a great time to get back to the basics of hunting and good sound hunting skills. Forget the frills and all the complicated methods of hunting and put together a solid game plan for some good, if not awesome late season whitetail hunting.


1. A solid late season whitetail hunt will start with a good food source. Everyone already knows this but so many hunters just keep hunting the same old hunting grounds regardless of whether or not a good food source is available. A solid food source would be standing soybeans or corn. I’ve seen marginal results over cut corn or soybeans but only when other standing crops are not in the area. A nice stand of brassicas might do the trick…or even a good clover plot in a year with warmer fall temperatures. When a good quality food source doesn’t exist the deer will be spread out or vacate the area all together in search of those standing crops. Here’s the problem, and why many hunters fail this first and most important step…unless there are extreme weather conditions like what you see in northern climates, deer in the lower Midwest (like Iowa) will not yard up and congregate to save energy. In December 2017

almost all cases across the lower Midwest deer will simply find the best food sources in their home ranges. Unless there is a food source that is good enough to congregate deer and make them easier to hunt, they will be spread out scrounging around for their daily calories. Deer that are spread out across their home range are hard to pattern during the late season. Finding a good food source…one capable of congregating deer activity is what hunters that consistently kill big deer look for. If you don’t have a solid food source on your normal hunting grounds, expand your horizons or you will struggle in the late season. 2. Low hunting pressure is always important when hunting any game animal. Whitetail deer surprisingly will take a fair amount of disturbance. Urban deer for example live right among people and businesses and in most cases thrive. But, given the choice, deer will seek out and hunker down in areas where they see the least amount of pressure in their home ranges. Pressure during the late season could be hunting, cutting fire wood, fixing fences, vehicle traffic, and any other form of pressure that can and will disturb deer. Deer to a certain extent can distinguish between hunting pressure and things like cutting fire wood…but during the late season they don’t need any excuse to avoid an area. If you’ve worked hard to accomplish step 1 (finding a solid food source), the next step is to avoid the area at most costs. This is sometimes the


Whitetails 365 more emotionally difficult step because we want to get in there and scout, hang some stands, maybe run a couple cameras…but avoid any pressure that could affect the herd. If you’re going to hang a stand, go in on a windy day and make it quick and quiet. If you’re going to run a camera or two be super cautious to be scent free and only check the cameras when you can get to them without bumping deer…again a windy day works best. If you locate a good buck near your food source try to stay away from the area until you’re ready to hunt. 3. My last step when hunting late season whitetails is to hunt non-invasively. If the weapon of choice is shotgun or muzzleloader, learn your longest effective range and hunt from that distance. If you’ve practiced enough and are proficient and confident out to 150 yards, set up so that your shot is around that range. Setting up right over top of the action when you have a longer range weapon will ultimately put pressure on the deer as you go to and from your setup. A great food source this time of year can attract a lot of deer…being at a distance will help keep those deer from busting you while on stand. For this reason I’ll often use a ground blind that was put in place as early as I could get it there. A fully enclosed blind will conceal you from a deer’s eyes, ears, and in some cases even their nose. If you can use a blind go for it! Archery hunters have a big challenge here. As an archer, you obviously can’t setup at 150 yards from the action. This is where the transition area can really be a good asset for you. But, it also requires a little more scouting to more narrowly determine how your target animal is entering the food source area and what direction they feed to. If you can pinpoint a transition area that allows for an entrance and exit that doesn’t bump deer, this is one good option. Option two would be to simply set up across the food source in hopes of keeping all the deer out in front of you hoping your target animal makes his way into range. This is a classic case of cat and mouse recognizing that with each unsuccessful sit you are most likely putting more and more pressure on the deer you are hunting. Hunt only when the conditions are best for late season hunting…a breezy evening, cold weather, maybe snow on the ground. Make each sit count!


In 2016, my son and I had high hopes and anticipation for his late muzzleloader hunt. Because of work requirements, Forest had to pick one week of solid hunting to try and harvest a mature buck. With limited 52

The Iowa Sportsman

choices, we zeroed in on the time frame of December 23rd to January 1st. We had already “found” our solid food source, a standing corn field and standing soybeans that we had planted back in April. We were running cameras all fall and into December and a solid 8 point 5 year old bruiser was routinely visiting those two plots…so there was no need to scout too hard and put pressure on the local deer herd. Since mid-November, nobody had been on the farm including both shotgun seasons. We had two fully enclosed blinds set up on the food plots for multiple wind directions, and both were located off the plots at Forest’s effective range. In short, we had the food, low pressure, a good buck on camera, and our hunting sets were located to provide maximum coverage while limiting pressure while hunting. The stage was set! On the night of December 31st, getting down to our final two days of hunting, we sat in our blind once again overlooking both the standing corn and soybeans. The night was cold with a steady westerly breeze. An hour before dark deer started pouring into the plots to feed undisturbed like they had been doing for the past several weeks. And then, the buck Forest had nicknamed Vendetta stepped out with another smaller buck. After some tense moments, the buck finally gave a good angle and the classic CAPOWWW of the muzzleloader broke the evening silence. Luck had played no part in another successful late season hunt. Food, the absence of pressure, light scouting, and hunting in a way that didn’t disturb our local deer herd led to the successful hunt!

WHITETAILS 365 IN 2018 As 2017 comes to a close, I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed another year of Whitetails 365. I’ve done my best to bring the working class hunter the best most relevant information I could to help you be a more successful and satisfied hunter. In 2018, I will continue to try and bring Iowa whitetail hunters information they can use to better their habitat, tactics, and everything in between…only in 2018 the readers will be in charge of the content! If you have any questions, or content you would like covered please submit your questions directly to me at my email address provided. Please include as much information you can relevant to your questions so that I can answer them to the best of my ability. I will do my best to answer as many questions as I can in coming issues of Iowa Sportsman Magazine in this column. Please submit all questions to Thank you to all the readers of this column; it has been a pleasure writing it for you!

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December 2017


IT IS EASY to get all juiced up about hunting out west after watching a half hour hunting show where a celebrity hunter whacks a monster bull, buck or ram. Just as in ancient mythology where the Sirens called out to Oedipus to come to their beautiful shores, the mountains lure us into applying for a tag for an elk, or a moose, or a mule deer. Pictures of Randy Ulmer’s trophy mule deer seduce us into believing we too could harvest such an animal. We each create our bucket list; each is different from our buddy’s list. On nearly all bucket lists is the elk, followed by mule deer, moose, antelope, and bear. Most all hunters wish for an opportunity for a ram, a caribou, or a mountain goat. Understand the difference of having a bucket list that reads, “I want to go on an elk or mule deer hunt” and one that states, “I want to be successful in taking a list of animals.” There is a huge difference between having a bucket list and a wish list; with the one, you work to make it happen, while the other you only dream and wish that the hunting fairy will drop a hunt of a lifetime in your lap, complete with guide, horses, food, and shelter. I am 62 years old, and the hunting fairies have not found me yet; and quite frankly, I have stopped looking for them. My reality is what I am capable of doing with the physical strength I have in my arms and legs and the financial ability to pay for my dream hunts. After being proficient in shooting a few Iowa whitetails, I thought I was ready to try out my hand at a Colorado elk in 1983. I had the topo-maps, talked to DNR men about where they saw elk, and I was physically in great shape. However, due to being a young father, with six mouths to feed, my budget was meager. I settled for a do-it-yourself hunt in Colorado. Since that first trip as a 28-year-old, I have returned five more times for on-my-own western hunts. I finally arrowed a 5 x 5 bull in 2001. I settled for these hunts. They were cheaper, fun, demanding, and I enjoyed hunting in different areas over the years. I had always imagined that I could afford the time and the money for a guided hunt complete with horses and the needed equipment being supplied by someone else, but that was not my reality. My reality said I needed to make this affordable so that my family did not have to go without so that I could try to satisfy my embedded longing to shoot another animal besides the whitetail. Achieving any bucket list is not

accomplished in just a few years; it is sought after and pursued over a lifetime. When one reaches 60 years of age, you will have both more time and money, but you will lack the stamina and the strength to do some of the hunts that you have dreamed about your entire life. Choose your hunts accordingly. Plan your most rugged hunts while you are young, and leave the antelope and bear hunts for later in life. I recently returned from a mule deer hunt in South Dakota where the land is relatively easy to maneuver. While there, my brother and I began talking about another trip to Colorado for one last elk hunt. After a week of climbing the hills along the Missouri River, we both decided, that our mind was willing, but our bodies told us there would be no more self-packed-in elk hunts. We both knew our 60 plus-year-old, out of shape bodies could not do what we did in our forties; it is time to hire an outfitter to haul in our gear. You’re young, you are eager, and you are full of testosterone that says you can climb mountains and endure rugged terrain. You have shot several good

the country, your trip will not meet your expectations. It is imperative that you understand reality. In 2004, I had walked across Iowa from Minnesota to Missouri to raise funds for a new building we were building at the summer camp I directed. I was in great shape. I was 49 and had completed the 200-mile walk right before my last elk trip to Colorado. I struggled the entire time I hunted as I was attempting to climb over deadfalls and rocks. My body was in shape for flat, easy walking, but there is no flat in western Colorado. Knowing your states and knowing how the state DNR functions are the first steps in beginning your dream hunts. If you choose Colorado, then know that hunting on public land will be frustrating. If you want to have a quality rifle hunt, choose Wyoming. However, be prepared not to draw a tag the first year. Accumulating preference points will eventually get you a tag for a particular zone with limited hunters. But also know that Wyoming has a peculiar licensing system that takes hours and hours to figure out. Get the wrong tag, and you may be stuck hunting in an area with limited amounts of suitable animals or public ground. If scouring and understanding different states game and fish websites exhaust you, you may need to use something like what Cabela’s offers- www.worldwidetrophyadventures. com/tags, which will help in procuring the right tag; their websites states: “WTA TAGS is the only full-service licensing program available to today’s sportsmen. Bottom line – we help sportsmen draw the very best, limitedentry, big-game tags in the country. We offer professional consultation on where to apply and then properly fill out and submit your applications to the state.” Dollars drive decisions. If money is not an object, you are reading the wrong article. You need to go online and start researching who is the best outfitter and where in the United States is the best place to hunt. You have unlimited



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whitetails, and you think it is time to test your hunting skills on different animals. There is no better time than now to begin picking away at your bucket list. However, hunting in Iowa and hunting out west are not the same. What you have learned in Iowa or on other Midwest animals will help you as you hunt, but unless you mentally prepare for the intensity and the ruggedness of


The Poor Man’s Bucket List opportunities to hunt where and what you want. A certain percentage of issued tags are awarded to outfitters; if you are willing to pay, usually an outfitter will have the tag to fulfill your dreams. Most readers of Iowa Sportsman are probably more like me. Mama and the kids eat up most of what you bring home every week. Braces, mortgages, car payments, soccer equipment, dance lessons and home repairs consume the rest. Up to this point, you have been able to scrape together enough money to purchase the Iowa tags available to you each year. But the thought of finding thousands of dollars in the budget to blow on a hunt is a big pill for your wife to swallow. To drop sight unseen into an area is difficult. Though Google map gives you a good feel for the general lay of the land, it still is deficient in understanding how and why animals move in a certain area. Boots on the ground will be the only way to get this understanding. The more years you can return to the same area, the greater the chances of success. If you shoot something on your first trip to a new area, consider yourself lucky and not good. Consistently successful hunters return to the same mountaintop year after year. Test drive isolation and the lack of regular food. It is hard to find such a spot in Iowa where you are cut off from humanity and highways. I highly recommend a camping/fishing trip out west first. Pack in your equipment on your back, eat and sleep as if you are hunting, and spend your days familiarizing yourself with the terrain you hope to hunt. During this “mock” hunting trip, see if you have what it takes to endure two weeks of the grind. In three days, you can determine if you are cut out to withstand the rigors of the wilderness. Adjust your hunting trip accordingly. You may need to camp next to your truck and make the daily walk into your hunting area. There are two ways to approach a doit-yourself hunt: you can camp near your truck and walk in every morning the three to five miles needed to separate yourself from the crowd, or you can establish a

drop camp away from the comforts of cots, fires, real food, and coolers. Spike camp wears on you. You filter all the water you drink through a pump filtering system. You will be eating freeze-dried food for late suppers. You will eat instant oatmeal and drink instant coffee for breakfast. You survive on jerky, granola mix and dried fruit for snacks and lunch. There is no warm campfire to sit around. The hunt is a constant grind. Know your mental capabilities. I hunt as a loner in Iowa, so I want to hunt alone in the mountains. If you like the social atmosphere that surrounds many hunting camps, then a bare-bones spike camp would not be right for you. Know your limitations and don’t expect yourself to morph into something you are not back in Iowa; what you are and how you hunt is your reality. The wilderness is no place to pretend something that isn’t. Some hunters are wimpy and needy; others thrive on physical challenges and sparseness. Reality is what it is. I recently visited with my friend Jim, who attempted his first elk hunt in Idaho. His first comment was, “I wish I would have prepared my mind better for the trip; I was in good physical shape, but I was not prepared for the intensity and the constant mental edge I needed to hunt for hours at a time and for day after day. I lacked the mental toughness. And to top it off, I had certain unrealistic expectations that I could not achieve.” And this is a hunter who had hired a guide and had an outfitter spike camp complete with a cook, cots, and a make-shift shower. Lower your expectations: Iowa proficiency in shooting whitetails does not transfer to the mountains. A firsttime hunt to the mountains will feel like your beginning days of whitetail hunting. Don’t skimp and buy the cheapest optics; make sure the scope, rangefinder, and binoculars are the best you can afford. Spend the money and have the GPS system that will allow you to navigate in a wilderness area. The smartphone App from will identify all public land but will also give your exact location in relationship to where public land ends and private land begins. It



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also identifies private land owner’s name. There is no limit to what a hunter can find online; every detail and every type of equipment needed to enhance your hunt is available for the diligent researcher. As with our dreams, our hunts can turn out to be nightmares if you attempt the wrong type of hunt. Evaluate how you currently hunt and try to match the proper western hunt to your abilities. If you struggle to get up into a tree stand in Iowa, you are not going to be able to march up a mountain with thin air, and hundreds of yards of deadfall to find the herd. You may need to scale back the bucket list and stick close to the road; perhaps an antelope hunt is best for you. Start today researching all options; it will take you many hours to comb through all the DNR websites, looking for options that will satisfy your interest; apply before spring. Begin now to accumulate preference points for future dream hunts. If you don’t draw in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming then hunt Colorado where your statewide tag can be picked up on your arrival in the fall. Expect to spend several years of hunting before you put your tag on the animal of your dreams. Whereas

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in Iowa, the success rate is nearly 50% for whitetail, many western states can only boast a success rate of 10 to 20% on most animals. One of my favorite non-government websites is This site will allow you to look at the top western states zone by zone, breaking down archery, muzzleloader, and rifle success rates, number of tags, and number of points needed to draw a tag. If you are willing to put in the time, this site will give legs to your research and license

application process. There are two attributes needed to hunt the mountains: persistence and grit; the weak and the easily-discouraged need to stay on flat ground. Change your diet to give you consistent energy and stamina, exercise wearing your pack and hunting boots, and practice shooting excessively long shots. Just don’t wait until you draw the perfect tag; you may be too old, too fat, or too busy to begin working on your bucket list. Start today in achieving your dreams.

THE WESTERN STATES I have chosen just four western states: Colorado,Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Each state can be driven to under 24 hours from Iowa. Within one of these four states, most animals can be harvested by the do-it-yourself hunter. Montana, the Big Sky country is breathtaking. The licenses are the most expensive, but for $1010, you can harvest an elk and a deer. If you choose just an elk, you will pay $858. Where you hunt in Montana is your choice. There are different degrees of ruggedness, so do the research and figure out where you wish to hunt. Begin early in navigating the Montana DNR website.As a nonresident, you are bottom on the pile to receive the highly sought after tags. Wyoming is a great state to hunt, and it is close to Iowa; it is possible to hunt elk within 12 hours from central Iowa. The permits are reasonably priced, but the process of applying is complicated; the website reads like an IRS document. Elk tags are $577 for a bull, $288 for a cow, and $1057 for special draws in specific areas. Moose tags are $1402, and mountain goat is $2152. Wyoming can offer a better-quality hunt than Colorado due to the way the DNR divides the state into hunting zones and then limits the number of hunters within that particular zone. By buying preference points years in advance of the actual year you wish to hunt, you can better your chances of actually drawing a tag for a particular season. Idaho provides value for the nonresident. An elk tag is $416, a deer tag is $301, a pronghorn is $311, and a bear is $186. However, a $156.00 non-refundable hunting license must be purchased before applying for one of Idaho’s tags. Colorado has the most elk: 280,000. It also has the most hunters. Muzzleloader and archery seasons see moderate hunting pressure, but 2nd and 3rd season rifle have an avalanche of hunters due to the over-the-counter tags.Tags for the first rifle season are selected through a lottery system. While you are waiting to draw a more exclusive tag from nearby states, Colorado is a great place to improve your elk hunting techniques. Remember- practice makes perfect. Tags can be purchased for $641 for a bull tag and $481 for a cow tag.


SILENCERS IN THE FIELD For Tom Bowers, owner of the Bowers Group LLC, working in the suppressor industry comes second nature. Having a father who worked as a machinist, a gunsmith and who was also an avid shooter, allowed Bowers to literally “grow up” in the world of guns. As such, nearly 20 years ago Bowers embarked on the adventure of manufacturing his own particular type of firearm. During the R&D stage of this new venture, Bowers began designing and manufacturing suppressors as a way to bootstrap the

purchase of the machines needed for the future production of his propsosed firearm design. As his suppressor manufacturing business substantially grew and his firearm design was mimicked by another company, Bowers turned his attention

ANOTHER POPULAR SILENCER AMONG HUNTERS INCLUDES THE BOWERS GROUP VERS 50, WHICH IS A .50 CALIBER HIGH-EFFICIENCY SILENCER. THE VERS 50 IS DESIGNED FOR USE WITH CALIBERS .510 AND SMALLER UP TO 2200 FPS VELOCITY. to manufacturing suppressors full-time. The result? His leading suppressor manufacturing company has made a significant impact on the firearm industry and has become a household name for hunters and gun lovers throughout the U.S.


Sound suppressors, or “silencers” for firearms help reduce gunfire noise to safe hearing levels when attached to the end of a firearm’s barrel. The use of suppressors in the hunting field makes sense, as no hunter wants to wear hearing protection while they are hunting. Being able to hear other people in their hunting party, as well as other hunters and game moving in the brush is vital to being successful in the field.

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“The problem is that high-powered rifles are brutally loud and they can damage your hearing with a single event,” says Tom Bowers. “Whereas if you have a can that brings the sound pressure level down to a hearing-safe level, now you can take

that shot or two and you are not damaging your hearing. If you are successful and can launch a shot, you aren’t blowing out your eardrums.” Today the Bowers Group manufactures subgun/carbine suppressors in 9mm and .45, three .22 offerings, as well as the Bowers Group Vers 458 and Vers 50 silencers and the ultra lightweight ASP .45 pistol silencer. The company also offers 27 Versadapt inserts for its Vers series of silencers for subgun/ carbine and big bore cans and 11 ATAS inserts for their ASP .45 pistol suppressors, the company’s two Paradigm models and its USS 22 (User Serviceable Suppressor). “Quite frankly, what sets us apart is our mount system, as there is nothing vaguely close to it in terms of versatility,” Tom says. “We offer the type of cans that Iowa hunters


would be interested in. They will have the Aims mount system, which takes the Versadapt inserts, including 27 different inserts.” As they have worked to establish the Bowers Group within the industry, Tom and his wife Dorothy understood that it was time to raise the bar for customer experiences by re-thinking who their customers are, what they deeply value, and how their company can deliver a customer experience that is consistent, differentiated, and valuable. For the Bowers, it is about serving gun users in a fundamentally improved way. In fact, the exceptional customer service has won the Bowers Group accolades aplenty and truly sets them apart. “Bowers has been selling suppressors for almost 20 years,” Dorothy Conway says. “It has only been in the last few years that we’ve spent any type of money on advertising. So for the majority of our company’s history it has been word-of-mouth advertising that

has helped our company become as well known and successful as it is.” Service, performance and versatility are top of mind for the Bowers Group team. They also don’t change their models around to make something seem “new.” Rather, they make improvements to their previous models, allowing a “backwards compatible” product evolution for customers who may have purchased products years ago. “We offer retrofits and upgrades to our previous models,” Dorothy says. In fact, recently the Bowers Group provided a retrofit upgrade to one of the first suppressors ever sold by the company. “We do try to take care of customers because our products are durable goods and we try to treat them as such,” Dorothy says. When necessary, the Bowers Group will make parts for silencers they’ve discontinued so they can service those cans.

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The most popular suppressor models that are most conducive to hunting include Bowers Vers 9, 9s, 458 and 50 series. Vers 9 is the company’s full-sized, high efficiency 9mm subgun and carbine silencer and is rated for heavy fully automatic fire in 9mm. The Bowers Group Vers 9S is a small, high efficiency 9mm subgun and carbine silencer, rated for heavy fully automatic fire in 9mm. In addition the Bowers Group Vers 458 is the company’s purposebuilt .458 SOCOM silencer, rated for fully automatic fire. The Bowers Group is making this for people who need a can capable of taking the pounding from a full auto .458 firing supersonic rounds, but who don’t need the bore size of a Vers 50. It is rated to pass .460 diameter bullets and for

for minimal point-of-impact shift. “Versatility is what separates the Vers 30 and 30T from the competition,” Tom says. With the ability to mount to nearly every rifle on the market Bowers Group currently offers 27 different Versadapt thread adapting inserts. A hunter can use their Bowers Vers series suppressor on various platforms without hunting down a third-party thread pitch adapter or spending money on proprietary mounts. By directly threading onto the rifle the gun operator won’t spend hundreds of dollars on muzzle devices that have to be added to the firearm. And while customer service and versatility have led to the company’s

“WE OFFER RETROFITS AND UPGRADES TO OUR PREVIOUS MODELS,” TOM SAYS. IN FACT, RECENTLY THE BOWERS GROUP PROVIDED A RETROFIT UPGRADE TO ONE OF THE FIRST SUPPRESSORS EVER SOLD BY THE COMPANY. velocities up to 2650 feet per second. Another popular silencer among hunters includes The Bowers Group Vers 50, which is a .50 caliber highefficiency silencer. The Vers 50 is designed for use with calibers .510 and smaller up to 2200 FPS velocity. It is also suitable for any other slower rounds that will fit through the bore. As Tom explains, every silencer Bowers sells includes one insert of the customer’s choice. These thread adapting inserts are CNC crafted from billet and

success, it is the Bowers Group products’ performance, which is substantially better than many major manufacturers, that has helped earn the company an exceptional reputation. In fact, the level of product performance is why their customers are often repeating customers, eager to continue their relationship and outfit their guns with a solid suppressor product. Customers understand that while the Bower Group products have consistently improved over the years, the company

feature a hexagonal head so the gun owner can quickly and easily change the thread pitch on the silencer by changing the insert. This enables the operator to use one silencer on many different firearms. As part of the company’s ongoing goal to continually enhance and improve its product offering, Bowers Group has recently released its Vers 30 and Vers 30T suppressors. Both suppressors use the Versadapt series of thread adapting inserts. These are precision rifle cans, engineered

has always stood squarely behind their quality, versatility, and durability of their products. “We’ll keep working to improve our existing products and to bring out worthy new products after we’re satisfied they’re ready,” Tom says. “We have the track record to demonstrate that none of this is just talk; this is how we’ve operated since day one.” *Sponsored Content


R & R Sports 3250 Fields Drive Bettendorf, IA 52722 563-243-4696 No Limits Outdoors, LLC 212 11th St SW Plaza Spencer, IA 51301 712-580-7000 Fin & Feather 125 Hwy 1 W Iowa City, IA 52246 319-354-2200 Palo Outdoors 1204 1st Street Palo, IA 52324 319-851-5290 Sommerfeld Outfitters 330 N Main St Lidderdale, IA 51452 712-822-5780 The Iowa Outdoors Store 1597 3rd Ave NW Fort Dodge, IA 50501 515-955-HUNT (4868) December 2017




BE A BREEDER? By: Ryan Eder – President, Southfork Retrievers, Avery Outdoors

Being a dog breeder consists of several responsibilities to your dogs and your clients. You are providing customers with a family member and a twelve plus year commitment; not a responsibility one should take lightly. The time and money necessary to have healthy and quality dogs is much more than you think, and the work load to maintain such a program is seven days a week, all year long.


Breeding dogs should be objective, not subjective. You must have the discipline as a breeder to recognize characteristics and traits in your dogs or puppies that are not desirable and stop producing them. I would argue this comes down to ethics and morals also. There are breeders who prioritize profit over sustainable quality, and this is a big problem. I am not against making money; I believe any business should strive to profit. But I also know that the best breeders have the ability to say “I don’t want to produce this” and move on in a better direction. This applies (but is not limited to) confirmation, health tests and issues, temperament, intelligence, sociability, performance, etc.


If there is one priority as a breeder, it should be the produce the most genetically sound and healthy puppies 62

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possible. You must be familiar with your breed and know the prominent health concerns for it. Make sure you test for the major genetic disorders to ensure your breeding program is not producing “affected” (dogs affected by the genetic disorder) dogs. Testing is so easy to do, and not terribly expensive so there is no excuse for a breeder to not have health testing done on their dogs. In addition to genetic disorders, it is imperative that you work with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to evaluate elbows, eyes and hips on your breeding dogs. Again, this is easy to do, and helps us control the quality of dogs being bred when it comes to their eye and joint health. Think about how common it is to hear about dogs with hip problems; it is likely that the dog comes from lineage with similar issues. Having this information helps us make better breeding decisions. If you want to be a breeder, plan on spending hundreds of dollars per dog conducting these tests and certifications!


Those of you with dogs at home know that each month you feed them, provide heart-guard prevention and flea and tick prevention. Depending on the food and what products you use this is a monthly maintenance cost associated with owning a dog. Now imagine those costs multiplied by several dogs! This is the reality as a breeder with multiple dogs; your costs will go up and this is just the beginning! Imagine what your costs are when dogs aren’t healthy or need additional care beyond generic maintenance. As a breeder you start to learn tricks that can reduce cost, but of course the most important thing is that your dogs are taken care of at the highest level.


Housing multiple dogs can be done several ways. I have seen breeders with upwards of five or six dogs in their home, and I have seen breeders with To Subscribe CALL 877-424-4594

kennel facilities that range from garage built kennels, outdoor kennels or state of the art facilities nicer than some of our homes! Either way, you’ll need to make sure your dogs are clean, dry, protected from sun, rain and other elements. Depending on your weather, your facility needs to protect your dogs from cold or heat as well. Here in the Midwest we see it all; my kennel is climate controlled and is insulated with fans to move air. I also have floor drains to allow for adequate cleaning and disinfecting. Aside from a place to keep the dogs, the dogs will need adequate space to exercise. If you do not have property to satisfy this need, your dogs will need access to places where they can run and get appropriate amounts of exercise. Fortunately we are on 10 acres with some trails in the woods; our dogs receive daily “romps” through the trails at least

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once per day. We also train 4-5 days per week (other than winter time where we fight early darkness and snow) which helps in the way of physical conditioning.


Aside from how cute a bunch of puppies are, raising puppies is no easy task! The best breeders take several steps to ensure the healthiest dams and puppies possible. This begins with the care of your breeding females with vitamins or supplements, progesterone tests for effective breeding, ultra-sounds and x-rays to confirm pregnancy and so on. Whelping puppies can be simple if all goes well, and the mother does a great job. What happens when a mother is not experienced and does not do a good job? What happens when complications occur and puppies are not being delivered safely? If you want to be a breeder, make sure you understand

the whelping process and are willing to take action when necessary in times of complications or emergency. Do not underestimate the risks associated with whelping puppies for both pups and their mother. It is possible pups do not survive; it is possible an emergency C-section is needed. The list goes on, but as a breeder these risks need to be understood and plans need to be in place in case they arise. Breeding dogs can be rewarding and lucrative, but it can also be a difficult business. There is nothing “easy” about it, and it requires knowledge and attention to detail. This article is not to discourage someone wanting to get into dog breeding, but spotlight important elements that need to be understood and implemented before you simply decide to sell puppies.





For some anglers, the open water fishing season is history.

If you’re one of those anglers, there are some things you should do while open water fishing is still a fresh memory. If you don’t do those things now, if you’re like me, you’ll probably forget to do them, and that could create problems and expenses when the next open water fishing season returns. Following are some tasks you should do this weekend if you’re done fishing for the year. The best place to start is with your boat. You can probably get by with just parking it in the garage and not doing much to it for a year, maybe two, but eventually, improper storage will create headaches and expenses. Have the motor winterized. Some handy anglers can do this themselves: I’m not handy. However, the motor that I run, an Evinrude E-TEC, can be winterized by anyone. It’s a simple two minute deal. What I really like about this is, if I find out the walleyes are going on the river, I can go fishing and, when I’m done for the day, I can quickly and efficiently winterize the boat again. If you have to take the boat to a mechanic for winterizing, you’re probably not going to take advantage of those unexpected fishing opportunities. 64

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Remove the boat’s drain plug. Also, make sure there’s no water in the lower unit of the motor. If there is, and if it freezes, you could have big problems come spring. Check for line in the prop of your outboard and electric motor. Also check for dings in the prop and have them fixed. Some folks take the batteries out of their boats and store them someplace where it’s not cold, but if you want to leave them in the boat, make sure the battery is charged and then disconnect the wires. Check the charge of the battery a couple of times during the winter. Lots of anglers like to take the depthfinders out of their boats. Remove anything that could attract rodents. You don’t want a family of mice

to make their home in the boat over the winter. Open all storage lids and remove lifejackets to let them air out. If you’ve got inflatable lifejackets, check the canister to make sure it’s still good. Do a walk around the trailer. If you’ve got a bad tire, replace it. Make sure all the trailer lights are working. Now is the time to fix any that aren’t. When it comes to reels, back off on the drag. Reel experts say it’s harmful to the reel to store it with the drag tightened down for extended periods of time. Also, don’t store rods with a bend in them. If some rods are stored with a bend long enough, it will weaken it. If your line needs to be replaced, strip off fifty yards. This will force you to put new line on before you go fishing again. I like to take the line off now, but I replace it in the spring. Open your tackle box and let it dry out. You don’t want to store your baits in a wet tray. If you take care of these tasks now, you’ll be ready to go when the water warms up and the fish start biting in the spring. To Subscribe CALL 877-424-4594


WALLEYE CAKES INGREDIENTS • 2 Tbsp. Miracle Whip or mayo • 1/3 c. chopped red bell peppers • 2 chopped green onions • 2 tsp. fresh chopped chives • ¼ tsp. garlic powder • ¼ tsp. fresh oregano

• ¼ tsp. fresh parsley • Dash of cayenne pepper to taste • 1 large egg + yolk of 1 egg (lightly beaten) • 1 ½ c. Panko bread crumbs • 1 lb. cooked walleye (flaked) • ½ c. olive oil

DIRECTIONS • Combine all ingredients in a bowl reserving 1/3 c. of the bread crumbs and the oil to fry them in. • Divide and make into patties. • Place the remaining Panko crumbs on a plate to coat the patties on both sides. • Place the olive oil in a fry pan and turn to medium heat. • Fry the patties until brown on both sides. • Serve as an appetizer or on a bun with lettuce, tomato, pepper jack cheese, and homemade tartar.


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WALLEYE CHOWDER INGREDIENTS • 6-8 filets of cleaned and de-boned Walleye, cut up in chunks • 8 slices of thick cut bacon • 1 large onion, chopped • 1 stalk of celery, chopped • 4 cups of baby red potatoes or hash browns • 2 cups of milk • 2 cups of chicken broth

• 1 can of corn • 1 red pepper, chopped • 1 Tbsp of minced garlic • Salt & pepper to taste • Dash of cayenne pepper • Dash of crushed red pepper • ¼ cup of cornstarch in water to thicken

DIRECTIONS: • Sauté bacon until crispy and set aside to crumble on top of soup. • Reserve a Tbsp of bacon grease and sauté onions & celery until tender. • Add the potatoes & broth & cook potatoes until soft. • Add the remaining ingredients except the cornstarch & water mixture & the bacon. • Cook the walleye until tender. Do not overcook (& yes, add it raw to the soup, it cooks right in there!). • Add the cornstarch & water mixture to thicken to your liking. • Sprinkle the crumbled bacon, some cheddar cheese & some fresh cut chives on top to serve.

VENISON MEATLOAF INGREDIENTS • 2 eggs, beaten • ¾ cup milk • ¾ cup fine bread crumb • ½ a small onion, chopped fine • 1Tablespoon dried parsley • 1 ½ teaspoon salt • 1 teaspoon oregano

• 1 teaspoon dried garlic • ¼ teaspoons black pepper • 2 lbs ground venison • ¼ cup ketchup • 2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar • 1 teaspoon dried mustard

DIRECTIONS • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. • In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, onions, parsley, salt, oregano, garlic, and pepper. • Add the ground meat and with your hands gently mix all the ingredients, until well combined. • Lightly press the meat into an 8x8 pan and place in the oven. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. • While the meat cooks, combine the ketchup, brown sugar and mustard in a small bowl. • Remove the meat from the heat and spread the sauce over the top. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


We want to see what our readers are cooking up, more importantly we want to taste what you are cooking. Please send us some of your most tastiest wild game recipes and we will publish them in the Iowa Cookbook Section. You can send recipes to or mail them to The Iowa Sportsman, 1517 3rd Ave NW, Fort Dodge, IA 50501.

December 2017



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ONE COMMON FACTOR to most successful trapping lines is the ability to deploy a variety of simple yet very effective sets quickly, and with minimal equipment. Trappers at times tend to overcomplicate our craft, as is evident by some of the instructional material in print and online. At times it reminds me of the roadrunner and coyote cartoons, where Ole Wil-E Coyote gets his big box from Acme complete with a complex plan that’s sure to doom the roadrunner. The fact is, hard work is the number one component of any successful trap line, and your hard work is best spent mastering very simple, effective sets and making a lot of them. Think of it like this, will your catch increase faster running 200 fast, simple, effective sets which only took a few minutes each to make or by running 50 complex sets that took 15-20 minutes each to construct? I’ll take the simple sets and run more gear any day. More equipment in the field equals more chances for success. Running a successful trapline is simply a numbers game, and all the successful trappers that I know are masters of using their time and effort wisely.


The smear set, also known as the slap & go set, is one of the simplest and most effective water sets a trapper can use. The December 2017

smear set is predominantly a coon set although you will take most other animals that frequent the water in this set as well. To construct the smear set you need to find a vertical structure along the edge of the water where you have adequate coon sign. The vertical structure can consist of a steep, vertical bank, a log sticking out of the water, a rock, or bridge and culvert walls. Vertical creek banks are one of the most common vertical structures used for smear sets. Watch the coon sign along

your creek bank; the coon will show you which banks they’re hugging as they forage along the creek. Find a vertical bank at the water’s edge near the coon sign, or a large rock, log, etc., in the water, and you have found a smear set location. I then set my trap, usually a 1 ½ coil or #11 long spring, approximately 8 inches back from the structure, bed the trap and stake it securely. When I say bed the trap I turn the trap slightly side to side, kind of screwing it into the creek bank. You don’t want your trap to be covered in mud, just so the trap is firm and doesn’t move when stepped in by your target. This includes the chain which should also be pushed into the mud. Now that your trap is set and staked, bait the set by smearing approximately a teaspoon sized glob of paste bait on your vertical structure behind the trap, making sure the bait is smeared on the bank so they must work to get it off. There are many good smearable paste baits on the market. I prefer sticky loud baits such as Hansen recipe coon bait which is sold by a few suppliers, another good one is ADC’s Raccoon Payback. I like to set at least 2-4 sets per location to maximize my catch. If I’m setting two sets at a location I will bait each differently, one with Hansen’s and one with ADC’s, to give the coon some different options to find a smell they like. Smear sets are a


Simple, Effective Sets for your Trapline fast and efficient way to get a lot of gear working, and put a lot of fur in your truck.


The pocket set is probably one of the most used, and written about sets in water trapping. It’s what many trappers, including myself, started with, and the bread and butter for many long liners. When I’m pocket setting I look for similar sign and bank structure as when I’m smear setting. The “pocket” itself is nothing more than a hole dug in the bank meant to mimic a muskrat hole or a food cache. The animals you’re targeting along the water will all investigate any hole in the bank they come across looking for an easy meal, so place your pockets where the sign shows your target animal traveling. To construct a pocket, use a tile spade to dig a hole 10-12 inches deep into the bank, about as wide and as tall as the spade’s blade. Scrape the mud out of the front of your pocket so that there is water in the opening of the pocket. Set your trap right at the mouth of the pocket; a 1 ½ coil will fit perfectly in the size of hole described above, making sure to properly bed your trap and bury your chain. If you get your hole too large, mink can slip in the side of your pocket and miss the pan of your trap. If the hole gets too big you can push a few small sticks in the edges of your pocket to guide the animals across your trap. I bait my pockets with a chunk of carp, about the size of a baseball, and use my spade to push it firmly to the back of the pocket, a squirt of spiked fish oil above the pocket finishes the set. When I’m staking pocket sets I usually set a drowning/slider rig, even if the water isn’t deep enough to drown my catch it gets coons away from my set so they don’t destroy my pocket, costing me time on my set remake. If the pocket is destroyed by a catch, and you’re unable to reconstruct the pocket use your boot or spade to reshape the bank again and convert the set to a smear.

easy water set that I use often on my line. Fish sticks are great for flat, gently sloping banks that aren’t vertical enough for smears or pockets. To construct the fish stick I locate sign where coon, mink, otter, etc. are traveling down the bank, then I place a stake with a fish head impaled, and wired on about a foot out from the bank edge. The stake should be pushed down so the fish head is a few inches above the water. Make sure to wire the fish head on, the harder the animal must work to try and remove the head the longer he is at the set. Now that the bait is in place, I set two traps at my fish sticks; doubles are common at these sets, and both traps are set on drowners/

sliders running in opposite directions to get the catch away from the bait. To place my traps at this set, imagine the face of a clock, with the center of the face being the bait. I set my traps at 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock, approximately 10 inches back from the bait. Fish sticks are an incredibly versatile set that will take every furbearer that frequents the water; they are a particularly good otter set. This set is not legal in all areas of Iowa and you should check the exposed bait regulations for your area before setting. A great resource for anyone looking for more information about this set is a DVD by Mike Sells called The Fish Set. This DVD shows the set in detail, and although Mike’s setup is slightly different than mine, it shows just how fast and effective this set is.


shines in locations such as box culverts, and flat bridge walls. The block set uses a two hole cement cinder block as the anchor for your trap as well as your bait holder. Attach your trap chain to the block using heavy wire or cable, set the block upright against the wall of the box culvert so that the holes are on top of each other, and the block is tight against the wall. Set and bed your trap a few inches in front of the bottom hole, and smear some paste bait on the inside walls of the upper hole and you are done. The blocks aren’t easy to pull in muddy or sandy bottoms, and coons very rarely pull the block further than a foot or so. They actually tend to sit on top of the blocks to stay out of the water. The set is very fast to construct and very effective, the only downside being that the blocks are cumbersome to haul around. It’s a good idea to place your blocks in the culverts where you will need them during pre-staking two weeks prior to season. Once your blocks are on location the set itself is very quick to make. The block set is an easy set to hide from thieves. In high theft areas the block can be moved further into the middle of box culverts to hide your traps, and catch, from prying eyes. The common denominator in all these sets or really any set for that matter is to set on the sign the animals provide, read their sign and they will show you where the sets need to be, and if the sign is good make more than one set. Your truck fills up a lot quicker when you’re catching 2-3 animals per stop instead of 1. If you’re only making one set you’re missing fur. These are just a few of the different sets a trapper can employ on his water line, but what sets these four apart from the others is their speed, efficiency and effectiveness. Check next month’s issue when we’ll discuss some simple, effective sets for your dry land trapline.

The block set is another set that really


The Fish Stick set is another fast,


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The Iowa Sportsman - December 2017  

Iowa's premier source of hunting, fishing, and outdoor lifestyle content.

The Iowa Sportsman - December 2017  

Iowa's premier source of hunting, fishing, and outdoor lifestyle content.