Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Waterfowl Clothing buyer's guide
Author: Antone Oseka
The waterfowl hunter. Although human, the waterfowl hunter is most definitely a different breed. When many "normal" people are watching the weather and dreading the incoming snow storm, the waterfowl hunter is on the phone with his buddies making plans to sit outside in the snow.

I should know; I do it all the time.
Outside of the serious mental issues we must have, what allows us, the waterfowl hunter, such freedom that we could even think of staying outside in those conditions? Enter the world of waterfowl clothing. Canvas waders and wool socks used to be the most technical items a waterfowl hunter would have. Not anymore.

Fleece. Neoprene. GORE-TEX®. Dry-Plus®. WindShear™. Thinsulate™ Insulation. Hollofil™ Insulation. All different materials with different properties. All allow the waterfowler to brave the elements that have most people – even deer hunters – heading inside for a warm drink and a fire.

Pick up a Cabela’s Waterfowl catalog and you’ll find 80 pages dedicated to waterfowl hunting clothing, including waders. While waders are covered elsewhere, there’s a complete line of hunting gear designed to go under your waders for comfort. So where does a new waterfowler begin? First, he needs to decide what type of waterfowl hunting he’ll be doing.

Field hunting for big Canada geese and hunting flooded timber for mallards are going to demand different types of gear. Hunting from a blind or pit is going to be different than hunting from lay-out blinds on the ground. Once you know what type of hunting you’ll be doing, then you can start your search with the coat.

Probably the most versatile design for a waterfowl coat is the 4-in-1 parka, followed closely behind by a 3-in-1 jacket. Both use a two-coat system that zip together to provide an insulating layer and a protective shell. They’re the ultimate choice in versatility because a hunter can use either one on its own during the early and midseason or he can use them together for late-season arctic blasts.

When picking outerwear, it’s especially helpful to know the difference between a parka and a jacket. A parka is going to hit below the seat, usually with a drawstring waist to keep tight. A jacket stops right at the waist. For the waterfowler, a parka is a better choice for field hunting, while a jacket works better under waders where the extra coverage of a parka would hinder your freedom of movement.

No matter which cut you choose, the technical features you’ll be hit with could be a little overwhelming. So first, you want to tackle the big stuff: waterproofing and insulation. The biggest name on the market for waterproofing is GORE-TEX. It’s a waterproof, breathable membrane that’s lightweight. Manufacturer’s can easily add it to garments or boots. GORE-TEX coats can be some of the more expensive choices. In the same vein is Cabela’s-exclusive Dry-Plus, a similar material that also provides a waterproof, breathable barrier. Besides GORE-TEX and Dry-Plus, many other companies also provide a waterproof membrane. It’s definitely a feature worth looking for.

If the coat you’re considering doesn’t have a waterproof membrane, then you want to make sure it has some type of waterproofing. Some coats might use a urethane coating, like Weather-BLOCK™, to block both water and wind. If you’re not as concerned about moisture, WindShear, or a similar laminate, is the best choice for blocking the wind. Wind is the second-largest robber of body heat, after moisture, so keeping the wind at bay is crucial. WindShear also lets perspiration vapor escape so you stay dry and comfortable.

For insulation, many of the parkas and wading jackets carry with them Thinsulate Insulation in varying weights. Over the last few seasons especially, coat makers have started insulating jackets in zones for the maximum amount of effectiveness. Zone insulating is simple: the main body of the jacket that warms the internal organs carries a heavier insulation while the arms and sleeves will carry a lighter insulation. The lighter insulation cuts down on the overall weight of the coat and increases the mobility in the arms, shoulders and elbows.

If your choice in a coat isn’t lined with Thinsulate, then it’s likely lined with a polyfill or Hollofil insulation. Both are similar to Thinsulate in their insulating properties. One other choice on the market is goose down. Many waterfowlers will still turn to goose down, although it’s increasingly harder to find coats insulated with goose down in the systems style.

You can still find many single jackets or parkas insulated with goose down, but that’s a choice you’re going to have to make for your hunting situation. If a single layering piece will do, and you don’t need the versatility a systems garment offers, then you can choose an insulator like goose down without losing a lot of other features. In fact, you might find a better solution for your waterfowling needs in a single layer.

Hybrid TopsIf you’re going to go with a single outer layer, over the more versatile systems style, then you’ve probably noticed an increase in "hybrid" tops. A hybrid top has an upper layer of waterproof, windproof material like microfleece with a layer of fleece below the chest, which normally is the part under the waders. The layer of fleece below the waders offers maximum breathability and moisture management without the unnecessary waterproofing your waders already provide.

Since many waterfowlers like myself spend endless days in waders, the hybrid idea has really caught on the past couple years. Hybrid tops go from typical shirt styles like a turtleneck or mock T-neck to more of a jacket style with a full-zip, ¼-zip and hooded ¼-zip. The cut on garments like these is generous, allowing waterfowlers to layer under them for changing conditions.

Besides being one of the more convenient styles, the jacket-style hybrid top has caught on because of a number of features – especially cuffs and pockets – specifically for waterfowling. Neoprene cuffs on most models keep water from running back up your arms when setting or picking up decoys. Magnetic call pockets and call separators keep you from fumbling between your favorite call and your back-up call. Zippered security pockets even keep important things – like car keys – from getting lost. The latest innovation from Drake is probably one of the best ideas for waterfowlers in years: deep-water handwarmer pockets.

For a number of reasons (mainly trigger feel and calling) waterfowl hunters don’t like gloves. But keeping your hands warm is crucial when in the field. The deep-water handwarmer pockets sit above the waders, covered by waterproof, windproof microfleece and take advantage of your body heat to keep your hands warm.

Pants/BibsWhen moving down the body, the waterfowler has to know what the day’s hunt calls for. If you’re going to spend the day in a field in layout blinds, then a good pair of insulated bibs are in order. If you’re going to spend the day in the water, then you need to layer under your waders. First, let’s go field hunting.

Quite frankly, nothing beats a good pair of bibs for warmth and durability. When looking at bibs, you’ll see many of the same components as those in the jackets or parkas. First, you want a good waterproofing agent. Keeping your legs dry is the key to keeping them warm. GORE-TEX or Dry-Plus is a must when hunting in layout blinds. Along with that, you want to make sure you have a good insulation around your legs to trap your natural body heat and make the most of it. Lastly, you want to look for bibs that offer knee-length zippers or higher. That makes them easy to get on and off when needed, especially if they’re muddy and it’s time to go home.

If you’re hunting in a pit or field blind, then you want to layer accordingly down your legs. Many times, your legs will be protected from the wind and rain or snow and receive the bulk of the heat (if you have a heater going), so you might want to fall back on your regular cotton or waterproof uninsulated pants. That’s really going to depend on the weather, so if you’re hunting a new blind make sure to ask before packing.

If the day calls for waders, you have some options for layering. With heavier waders, like a 5mm neoprene, you want to gauge your layering on the weather. Overheating can be a problem from time to time. The best place to start is a good base layer. It will keep a lot of heat next to the skin. If you need a second layer, then use a fleece wader liner.

You might be tempted to use an old pair of sweatpants or jeans under your waders as your second layer. After all, that worked for grandpa, right? Grandpa also had sore spots on his legs where his sweats would ride up and holes in his waders where the brass rivets of his jeans would wear through. Wader liners use a stirrup strap to keep them in place when walking and putting your waders on along with eliminating any rough edges that wear through from the inside out. That means more life from your current waders along with a more comfortable hunt for you.

Now that you’ve waded through all the fabrics and types of garments, you have a good idea of what you need for your next waterfowl hunting trip. All you have left to pick is a camo pattern. Boy, does that open a whole new can of worms …

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dove Season Just around the corner

Welcome the Season with Doves

dove decoyI cut my teeth on dove hunting. Local farmers grew plenty of maize and wheat, and the last week of August always found me scouting the area, looking for the biggest concentration of birds.
Typical September weekends found my brother and I quietly closing the front door in the early morning darkness. We were weighed down with several boxes and shells and hefty expectations. While my older brother always was a better shot than me and usually returned with a full limit, I often scratched out a few birds, too, and we'd breast them out and take them to Ma. She'd fry them up with eggs and toast and we enjoyed a breakfast few others have ever imagined.
One particularly difficult morning the doves flared from our every move. My brother pulled out a Carry-Lite dove decoy and clipped it to the barbed wire fence just down from us. After that, I won't say we slayed them, but we did see a distinct difference in the way the birds acted. Instead of flaring, many of the birds swung around to join the plastic imitation.
As time went on, the farmers discovered they could make more money growing sod, and the wheat and maze fields, along with the doves that feed there, went away.
Dove decoys serve several purposes for the hunter. In addition to attraction, they also serve as distractions and guides. The plastic imitation distracts oncoming birds so that your movement is less noticeable, and by placing several dove decoys in a flock in the field, decoys can help guide the birds to where you want.
Tips for Placing Dove Decoys
The best way to use dove decoys depends on several things. If you're hunting a big agriculture field you'll want to use your decoys to attract and guide the doves to your shooting zone. Begin by placing one where it can be seen from a distance - on a tall treelimb or the top string of a barbed wire fence. Out front, where you'd like to shoot the birds, place two to four dove decoys several feet from each other in a small group. The addition of a battery-operated spinning wing decoy also has incredible pulling power.

One trick is to drag a big downed limb into the field and stick a few decoys on the limbs in addition to the ones on the ground.
The same scenario can be used for dove hunting waterholes. Place one or two dove decoys at the edge of the water and another on the bare limb of a nearby tree. Upon seeing these "birds" already at the water hole, any incoming birds will be set at ease and head right on in.
In many cases, doves will want to land in the top of a tree (preferably a dead tree) to check out the scene prior to dropping in. Use this knowledge to your advantage in your set up.
Dove decoys certainly work to angle the birds your direction and flat out attract them to sit down where you want, plus they're lightweight and easy to transport. Throw a couple in your game vest this year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Swamp People

Swamp People

Fast Facts About Hunting and Fishing in Louisiana

Click here to find out more!
  • Hunting and fishing for commerce and recreation are longstanding traditions in Louisiana, particularly in the Atchafalaya Basin.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries heavily regulates the state's hunting and fishing seasons.
  • There are regulated hunting seasons for deer, turkey, quail, rabbit, alligator, squirrel, raccoons, opossum, migratory birds and waterfowl.
  • There are regulated fishing seasons for crawfish, shrimp, oysters and seawater and freshwater fish ranging from shark to grouper.
  • Nutria, a rodent species that is considered a nuisance because it destroys Louisiana coastal wetlands, is hunted for population control and used as a food source by subsistence hunters.
  • An estimated 75 to 105 million crawfish–some for export and some for local consumption–are caught during the crawfishing season, which lasts throughout the year.
  • Shrimping season usually begins in April and is regulated by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, which monitors catch and population sizes in order to determine season length.
  • Hunting season for alligator begins the first Wednesday in September and last for 30 days.
  • Alligator hunting is intensely managed by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, which only allows licensed hunters to participate and restricts the activity to defined wetland habitats of the Atchafalaya swamp and coastal waters.
  • Alligator hunters must obtain a license and a limited number of tags from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries.
  • Alligator hunters must either own or lease land that is classified as wetland habitat in order to qualify for tags.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries only distributes tags for property containing sufficient alligator habitat that it has determined capable of sustaining an alligator harvest.
  • The goal of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries' alligator program is to manage and conserve Louisiana's alligators as part of the state's wetland ecosystem while providing benefits to the species, its habitat and other species associated with alligators as well as economic benefits to landowners, alligator farmers and alligator hunters.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries' alligator management program is one of the world's most recognizable examples of a wildlife conservation success story, and has been used as a model for managing various crocodilian species around the world.
  • Louisiana's wild alligator population is estimated at roughly 1.5 million animals; another 500,000 live on alligator farms.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hunting on a Beer Budget

Champagne Hunting on a Beer Budget at Cabela's

Champagne Hunting on a Beer Budget

Author: Don Gasaway
Most hunters look at hunting in Africa as belonging on "Someday Isle." That is, someday I will go there. Someday has arrived. Hunting in South Africa is a premium resource that hunters need to look at very seriously. It is possible to hunt there for less than many hunts in our own western states.
Don Gasaway with a trophy gemsbok. at Cabela's
"Wait, wait," cautioned Ed. The antelope was walking slowly away from us and did not present a good shot. Finally, Ed uttered the words I wanted to hear. "Ok, take him when you are ready." The Springbok ram turned broadside and presented the perfect target.
The explosion shattered the silence of the grassland. The beautiful antelope dropped and did not move. As with most hunts, I was both elated and saddened. Elated that my trophy was down, saddened that my first African safari was coming to a close.
We had covered many kilometers, and taken a representative sampling of the animals South Africa offers. Some of the hunting had been on the grassland. On other days, we hunted the mountains of the Eastern Cape Province.
Among the other animals I had taken were Kudu, Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Impala, Zebra, Blesbok, Gemsbok and Caracal.
The Kudu had proven the most difficult. They tend to stay high in the mountains and slip over the top to another valley when humans appear. Quick shots are a must. There are but a few seconds to decide to take the shot. After being too late to take a shot several times, I was able to put one down with a 400-yard shot at a running bull. It was the longest shot of my life: and verified with my Bushnell Range Finder.
Like most hunters, I always viewed hunting in Africa as belonging on "Someday Isle." That is, someday I will go there. For me, someday had arrived. Big game in South Africa is a premium resource that hunters need to look at very seriously. It is possible to hunt there for less than many hunts in our own western states. A deluxe, 7-day safari for five animals can be had for as low as $3,000 per person with two hunters hunting together. A non-hunting observer can go along for a little more than $1,000 additional. You will be hunting on millions of acres.
South Africa has the infrastructure to offer visitors modern roads, hospitals, medical facilities, a healthy climate, political stability and excellent communications facilities. The countryside offers hunts in forest, bushveld, mountains, open plains and even deserts. Each area has its own grazing and climatic conditions, as well as hunting methods. It is a whole world of hunting in one country.

A combination of factors, including lower overhead, has come together in South Africa to the benefit of the international hunter. The cost of living is lower, and the efforts of the people and government are geared toward encouraging hunters to stay in this beautiful country.

The game industry of South Africa is based on trophy hunting. Twenty percent of the land in the country is used for some form of wildlife utilization. Other countries on the continent suffer from misuse of wildlife and political instability that has caused immeasurable damage.

The ranches of South Africa are teeming with different species of animals that tempt the international hunter. The numbers of huntable animals are in the millions, just like when the first settlers came in the 1600's.

Because marginal livestock farming areas can be used to successfully raise native animals, many landowners turned to raising game as an alternative crop. Game ranching is usually a multi-species system that utilizes a wide range of habitat, grazing strata and veld conditions. It produces trophy animals as well as meat for the venison market.

In the 1960's, farmers began to realize the economic potential of indigenous game species. Today, tourism and the international hunter provide a welcome income for landowners.

Safari companies provide the services of a Professional Hunter (PH) and hospitality demanded by the international traveler who wants to hunt trophy quality animals. Most hunters are traveling with family members who desire comfort and interesting things to do other than hunting. The safari company will make such arrangements.

The PH is a guide, friend, wildlife expert, and authority on the country. "He is a special breed of man," says Rick Van Zijl, owner of John X Safaris. "He has a love of hunting and everything that goes with it." According to Rick, the PH has that extra spark of enthusiasm for every aspect of the safari. My PH, Edward Wilson, was such a man. He lived for the hunt and knew each animal intimately. Ed's philosophy was to not allow the hunter to take any animal that he would not personally want to harvest.

Edward and I became friends while attending a sports show in Chicago. The friendship continued in South Africa. He was familiar with the area, having been born and raised there. Once out of school, Ed attended the Professional Hunter's Certification School to become licensed as a Professional Hunter by the South African government. Years spent hunting has sharpened his hunting and people skills.

Day after day, we left the base camp at Hillside Farm for a drive out to a ranch in search of a particular specie of game. Often this meant driving many kilometers in the darkness to be in place on a mountain when the sun burst into the sky. The scenery was spectacular. The mountains were great, green monoliths rising from the earth. The animal life was a thrill to behold. From the lizards to lions, we saw dozens of species.

Each evening we returned to camp for a hot shower, cocktails and some fine dining. All the guests and their PHs sat down to a feast each night. Our host and his wife Susan joined in the lively conversation on a multitude of subjects. Topics ranged from the day's hunting activity to world events and everything in between.

Some of the spouses traveled each day to historical sites, private game reserves, shopping centers and any other item of interest. Some hunted with their spouses on particular days or they rested around the pool at camp.

There were four couples in camp the first week of my hunt and only one other hunter there for the second week. One hunter was interested in waterfowl hunting and spent most of his time out pursuing Egyptian Geese. He did take a few which were prepared and served by the camp chef. Most of our meals were domestic meats and fowl, but sometimes something exotic was added to the menu at the request of one of the hunters. All meals were top class, and the evening meal often included some fine South African wine.

At a relatively low cost, a hunter can take trophies, have them field dressed and prepared for the taxidermist, have his family enjoy luxurious food and accommodations, and take in the splendor that is South Africa. It is not necessary to pack a lot of clothing for the trip as daily laundry service is a staple of African hunting camps. The extra space in your suitcase can be used for gifts and souvenirs to take home in remembrance of a wonderful experience.

A final note for the hunter going abroad for the first time. Use a hunting or travel consultant to make your arrangements. They earn their living knowing where to get the best price on airfares and other travel arrangements. Ask them to book a few days at either the beginning or end of the trip for site seeing. South Africa has many interesting places to explore and sites to view.

Now is the time to hunt South Africa for champagne hunting on a beer budget.