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Tag Archive | "Jack Payne"

Icing Crooked Lake Bluegill with plastics


Dave Kellum deep in thought of a big gill.

Dave Kellum deep in thought of a big gill.

by Jack Payne

Crooked Lake has long been known as a lake that produces a lot of gills. It is fairly deep with many shallow weedy coves and bays. Excellent spawning grounds and feeding areas coupled with the deep water makes this lake a favorite.

Starting at the public launch anglers should hit the western shoreline. Logs, fallen trees and a few old boathouses provide plenty of cover. The long point and the small island are other options.

In winter, three prime locations stand out. The first is the big bay that leads into Lower Crooked Lake. This long and narrow bay has the shorelines lined with lily pads and cabbage weeds.

The center of the bay is 30-plus-feet deep. The best bluegill fishing is in 16-25 foot range. Most often the fish will be suspended and this is almost a guarantee when they are deeper than 20-feet.

On the south end of the lake anglers will find deep water mixed in with some shallow points. The bluegill suspend around these points and in the open water basin.

The center of the lake loads up with bluegill after a long spell of warm weather and southwest winds. The fish light up your graph like a Christmas tree.

Plastic baits have some notable advantages over an angler armed with just live bait. Plastic bait does not freeze hard like wax worms, mousies and spikes. Trying to keep minnows alive can be a challenge under any weather conditions.

Looking for an open bait store is not a problem. With plastics you can fish when you want without the concern of running all over town.

Last and one of my favorite reasons is that you re-bait much less. When it is cold nothing is worse than taking off your mittens and trying to re-bait a lure.

You can rig a plastic in different configurations. While the straight approach is often the best you can hook plastic bait through the center. This looks much like a wacky worm presentation.

The wacky worm presentation you slide the hook through the center of you plastic bait. The two dangling ends often entice a hungry crappie or perch.

Hooking plastic bait through the tip leaves the balance of the bait hanging straight down like a straight line. When the angler lifts up the plastic tail rises almost parallel with the surface and then flutters straight down when the jig or teardrop is left motionless.

Another way of hooking plastic bait is threading it up the hook. With some jigs or teardrops you can create an L shape to your plastic bait when hooked in this manner.

With plastic bait it becomes easy to match the hatch in size if necessary. You can trim the body of a plastic bait to create a smaller profile. I often cut the fat portion of the body down leaving only the thinnest portion of the lure. The Whip R Snap and the Whip R Knocker are both great plastics that you can alter and enjoy good results.

When using a bait such as the Whip R Shad consider cutting out a piece of the bait near the center of the belly. This will dramatically change the action of the bait.

Some days you can create a small feeding frenzy with plastic bait. Countless times in the spring when one angler catches a crappie or bluegill and the other angler casts in the exact spot that angler gets a fish. It then becomes a contest between the two anglers in seeing who can get their bait back into the honey hole first.

With plastics you can do the same. Instead of re-baiting just drop down your lure and start twitching your lure.

On one rod I would use a teardrop that has some motion to it when jigged. I run two Whip R rods or sometimes three. Two favorites include the Lave Glow with its semi U shape and the Tungsten Skandia ice jigs. Add a plastic tail and you are in business.

Remember that the angler cuts the most holes often is the angler with the most fish. If you hit a good hole cut a second and fish two rods. Experience a feeding frenzy on plastic baits and your days dependent on live bait will go down remarkably.

 

 

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Brush, stick-ups and timber for big gills and crappie


OUT-Jack-Payne-columnby Jack Payne

 

Stick-ups, bushes or wood of any type are a drawing card for crappie and gills. Winter time and early spring are my favorites but twelve months out of the year panfish will be found in wood if present.

Standing timber in most of our lakes are visible. Brushy shorelines are also easily spotted but some of the best brush might be under the ice during the winter. Early season success is often found in mud bottom areas, shallow water structure, canals and channels. Add the timber or brush it becomes a real hot spot.

Cutting holes is the one thing that I hate but the most important. Once a brushy shoreline is found or an area of tree tops cut a series of holes. Six holes is a minimum and depending on the size of your targeted area, maybe 10 holes.

Start fishing at the first hole and move down every few minutes if no action is found. If the action slows on a hole move down and return in thirty minutes. When fishing the brush along a shoreline you normally catch a couple of fish from each brush pile.

Tree tops that have numerous limbs might hold a limit of fish. In this case you might need four holes to fish one tree. Early in the season the tree tops closest to the shore produce the best. As winter takes hold the tops closest to deep water produce best.

A stump field can be a combination of the two. Stumps most often are located away from the shoreline and often in deeper water. They provide a great year around structure but a good graph is needed in locating them. Once a stump field is found a GPS becomes your best friend.

Backwaters of a river or a bayou almost always have brush along the shoreline. An undeveloped section of a lake will have logs, brush and debris near the shoreline or fallen trees that might reach the first drop-off.

Fallen trees create a canopy for the fish to hide under. The closer the drop-off is to the shoreline the longer or larger the canopy will be. Vision a majestic 50 foot oak tree that fell into the lake. Twenty feet from shore the drop-off begins. Part of the tree will be hanging over the drop-off creating perfect year around cover.

If the snow is not too deep you can often spot these trees. Deep snow requires some luck and good usage of your graph. Open water anglers should invest in a hand held GPS to mark these locations for the best winter action.

Bluegills require a smaller jig than a crappie. Wax worms work great but don’t forget the spikes. Stick-ups and wood are a natural fit when panfishing fishing. Simple techniques that allow pinpoint control deliver the maximum results. Use caution around any visible brush or timber when a warm thaw begins. Wood absorbs heat and the ice can rot out quickly near timber. For more information check out the website at www.jackpaynejr.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fishing out of the dark house


Keith Stanton and a monster fish

Keith Stanton and a monster fish

by Jack Payne

 

Spearing is a long time tradition in the northern states and a great way to pass a cold winter day. As in any ice fishing sport, safety is always an issue. Be sure the ice is thick enough to support you and the gear you’ll need.

Spear fishermen usually use a saw to cut a hole in the ice about 3-feet by 3-feet. An icehouse or shanty is placed over the hole. It is important to keep the interior of the shanty as dark as possible. The light through the surrounding ice will illuminate the water under the shanty and make the target fish visible. Most spearing is done near a break or on the shallow flat in 4-8 feet of water. Pick an area close to a marsh or a large flat where small perch and gills will roam.

Weighted spears are used to harvest the fish. These spears generally have six to twelve tines, and are five to six feet in length. A small diameter rope is attached to the spear for retrieval.

Keith Stanton might easily be called a dark house fanatic. He loves spearing and fishing out of any type of dark house. Keith created his own web site just to share the joy of this type of fishing with everyone. His site is called www.pikespearing.com. In addition he produces videos of spearing and fishing from a dark house.

“First and foremost, it’s a blast,” remarked Stanton on his thoughts of spearing. “The closest thing I can compare it to is bow hunting for whitetail deer.”

In his opinion, spearing fish through the ice offers much more of a challenge than tip up or hook and line fishing for this reason. And just like with bow hunting whitetail deer, when you see the fish swimming through the spearing hole you get the same adrenaline rush as you do when you are staring down a whitetail buck.

But pike spearing really offers so much more than just spearing the fish, especially if you have friends or family in the shanty with you. As you sit and wait for the fish to come in, it is a great time to catch up with old friends or just hear about what is new with your kids.  And of course just watching the aquatic life under the ice is also very cool. You usually see bass, pan fish, muskrats, carp, crayfish and other underwater water dwellers darting in and out of the spearing hole.

Pike spearing is a relatively inexpensive sport to get into, as all you need is just a shack or a portable shanty, a spear and a decoy. With the advances over the years in the portable fishing shanties, it is easier than ever to come up with a “dark house.”

When spearing for pike through the ice patience is the key. Some days you can sit all day without seeing a single fish. Other days it seems as though you can’t keep them out of the hole. Don’t get discouraged or give up until you have landed or speared at least one fish. And after you have experienced that excitement, you will be hooked!

Spearing provides solitude, quietness and a time to share a sport with a friend. The shanty provides a dark background and keeps the wind and snow off of you. I enjoyed sitting there and watching the perch and gills swim through nearly as much as the pike sliding in for a kill.

 

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Shallow water bass and walleye


Roscommon fishing: Mandolyn Machaffie jigging for panfish.

Roscommon fishing: Mandolyn Machaffie jigging for panfish.

by Jack Payne

 

This is that magical time of the year where an outdoors person can be both an angler and a hunter. This is also the time where a boat is not required. Sure, a boat will get you into more water but waders or hip boots will suffice.

When the weather turns cold and the frogs start their migration into the muddy bottoms, this is the time to hit the shallows. Most lakes have an area where frogs live and the lakes with the largest areas will produce the most fish.

Some of our favorite lakes have walleye and bass in them while others just bass. Muskegon Lake and sections of the Grand River will have both, other lakes like Crooked Lake harbor lots of large bucket mouth bass.

Our best fishing comes after sundown and a stealth approach is required. Noise must be kept to a minimum and on a quiet and calm night you can hear the game fish feeding.

If you are wading I would suggest chest high waders. One wrong step with hip boots and your evening of fishing is over. If using a boat a push pole is real handy.

You can make a push pole out of a piece of plastic pipe. Take a piece of plastic pipe and fasten a two by four to the bottom with some angle brackets. The wood section only needs to be a foot long.

You can slowly push your way through the lily pads and the mud without messing up the trolling motor. This is also a very quiet way to maneuver at night.

In most cases the best fishing will be within ten feet of the shoreline but do remember to try the first drop-off bordering the shallow flats. This often is a drop from 6 or 7 feet maybe into a 10-foot hole. You need to develop your night vision and if a light is required a black ultra violet light works best. You can tie your lures on, unhook a fish and still see the shoreline.

Two types of baits work the best. A jig and pig combo is deadly and a stick bait lure hard to beat. With the jig and pig you are hopping in the jig with short lifts and a slow retrieve. Flip it out as tight to the shoreline as possible and then slowly work it back in. Part of the joy is hooking a shoreline bush or a lily pad. Goes with the turf so to speak.

The crankbaits need to be fished very slowly with a lot of pausing. Cast, let it sit for a few seconds, turn the crank once or twice, let it sit for a second or two and repeat. Vary it up but remember to pause.

On the jig and pig we like the color of black. We also like using real pork, with Uncle Josh a favorite. To us, the fish hold on to the real pork a bit longer than when using a plastic tail. Very helpful when fishing super slowly.

We use a lot of black and silver body baits and we use some with an orange belly. On all of the baits we paint a line on the side with glow in the dark paint. Give the lure a quick shot of light and it throws off an eerie glow.

Night fishing in the shallows is fun and exciting. Most nights it is downright quiet, almost mystical. Some nights the action is great and other nights we really work hard for a fish. What we do end up with is most often our largest fish of the year!

The next best thing about this type of fishing is that you can still be home by ten after enjoying a few hours on the water. Give it a shot before the permanent cold weather blows in.

 

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Late fall whitefish


Tom DeMaat holding two whitefish.

Tom DeMaat holding two whitefish.

by Jack Payne

Late November and into December is an excellent time for whitefish and Menominee on the piers of Lake Michigan. Muskegon, Grand Haven, Port Sheldon, Holland, Saugatuck and South Haven are top piers starting in November and lasting through the winter. Fishing in the dark is best but cloudy days with a chop will produce fish.

In addition to these connecting waters, we have some dandy inland lakes. Most are up near Benzie County such as Crystal Lake but don’t forget Higgins Lake just north of Houghton Lake.

“Fishing conditions can be tough but the action rewarding,” said John Barr, a regular on the after dark whitefish crew. On top of the weather conditions these fish bite soft. Normally the best action takes place on the inside or channel side of the piers.

The first wave of whitefish feed heavily on the eggs from the king salmon. As the water cools and the steelhead move in some anglers switch to skein in hopes of catching both. Most whitefish anglers use a single egg when chasing this delightful and wary fish. Single eggs from a female steelhead are the best.

An egg sinker with a small orange or red bead just above a barrel swivel is the basic technique during daylight hours. A number 8, 10 or 12 egg hook tied to a leader completes the rig.

The ideal day has a chop similar to the perfect walleye day. The length of the leader is based on the size of the waves. Flat seas require a 6 to 8 foot leader. Two-foot waves work best with a 3-4 foot leader. Anything over 4 foot swells and a 6-inch leader works best.

Anglers need to hold their rods or keep a very close eye on the tip. One tap is about all that you will get before your bait becomes dinner. Savvy pier anglers often paint their rod tips with glow in the dark paint or some bright color for easier visibility. A seven to eight foot rod with a fast tip and a decent backbone works great regardless of the technique.

The Muskegon pier generally sees action before the other piers in West Michigan.  The action starts north and continues south with the cold water. Safety reasons dictate not to fish when the waves are crashing over or if they become icy.

Hopkins spoons are a favorite at night with the anglers. A long rod is used and most of the action is taken while vertically jigging. The smallest spoons that you can find work the best. Other good choices would include Kastmasters, Rapala and if you can find them the Zip Spoon from Blitzer Creek. We make our own using the Do It Molds and add glow in the dark tape with a red eye!

The key is to tick the bottom and lift up 6-12-inches. Drop down and repeat while paying very close attention for a hit. Snagging fish can be a problem with spoons and all snagged fish must be released. There is no size limit on whitefish or their cousin the Menominee.

The diehard anglers pull a shopping cart onto the pier. Most anglers mount PVC rod holders and carry a five-gallon pail. Inside the pail anglers carry tools and small plastic tackle boxes with all of required gear.

Parking is provided near the piers at all of the ports except Saugatuck. Saugatuck requires a mile walk from the Oval Beach in Douglas. Muskegon pier is the longest with a lot of riprap rock along the pier. South Haven pier borders the downtown district with plenty of parking and good lighting.

There are few fish that can match the quality of eating on a grill or in the broiler better than a whitefish. Some of the piers have a cable that you can lean over and not worry about falling in, and on others you need to pay close attention.

Remember to bring along a long-handled net or you will be lying on your belly sucking in Lake Michigan water while trying to net a fish. Been there and it was not fun. Give whitefish a try before the ice fishing season starts.

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Savor the taste of your deer


Eric Payne with a dandy buck.

Eric Payne with a dandy buck.

by Jack Payne

As daylight finally arrived, the sound of crunching leaves were heard. After much anticipation, a nice deer appeared in the firing lane. Quickly the Ruger M-77 was shouldered and the Leopold scope centered behind the deer shoulder.

That quickly and the season was over. Now the next phase of the work begins. What is the best way to get the deer out of the woods? What needs to be done to protect the great taste?

Starting in the field right after the tagging of your deer becomes the critical time to insure a quality meal. Take your time when gutting the deer to avoid punching a hole into the intestines.

A toboggan works well but a deer cart is much better. We hauled ours through a river, into a swamp, over logs and it always worked great. Center the weight towards the front of the cart for the least amount of work.

Once the deer is home or in camp it is important to clean the cavity thoroughly. A hose or a pail of water to wash out the blood and dirt will pay dividends when the deer hits the frying pan.

If the weather is warm then a couple of ice bags stuffed inside of the cavity will quickly cool down and protect the meat.

Skinning the deer and boning it out helps a lot if it’s warm. Skinning a deer only takes maybe fifteen minutes when the hide is still warm. Quartering the deer or better yet, boning it out and placing it on ice in a cooler will preserve the meat until you are ready to process it.

“Care must be taken with the hide and cape if a mount is desired,” said award-winning taxidermist Charlie Walker. After a deer is shot care must be taken with the head.

“Don’t cut the hide short if a shoulder mount is desired,” said Walker. If not sure then leave it for the processor or for the taxidermist.

Don’t drag the head across the dirt because it’s easy to damage the nose, ears and facial hair. Forget the rope tied around the neck when you hang it up. Hang it from the hind legs will preserve the mount and helps bleed the deer out.

You can butcher your own deer or bring it away. Most places charge around $75 bucks and the meat is frozen and ready for the freezer when you pick it up.

Adding marinade to your meat prior to freezing is the best way to ensure that special taste. This is the best reason for cutting up your own deer. Marinade your meat before freezing will enhance the taste like never before.

Vacuum packing your meat really helps on the shelf life. The bags are reusable and this is a fast way to package your meat as compared to the old way of double wrapping the meat.

Sausage and jerky making is really easy but time consuming. We used to do our own but now we bring it away. Some of the local folks do a fantastic job plus you can get half dozen flavors.

Speaking of fresh venison, nothing tastes better than fresh venison in deer camp.

The sweet aroma of onions and the sound of the mushroom gravy sizzling in the frying pan were welcomed by the entire hunting party.

Fresh as in never frozen is the best. Marinade the tenderloins in Italian salad dressing or use one of the commercial products like the Lowery or Mountain Man marinades. Let it sit over night and sprinkle with Lowery seasoning salt and pepper. Slice up a few onions and sauté’ with butter in a frying pan.

Place the tenderloins in the pan with the onions and sear both sides. Turn down the heat, add two cans of mushroom gravy and let simmer. If fresh mushrooms are available, then throw in a handful.

Fresh K-Bobs is another stand-by meal each season. The best meat comes from the hindquarter. Bone off a few pounds and cut into 1-inch cubes. A marinade of soy sauce or a sweat and sour marinade adds zest to the K-Bob.

A venison stir-fry is fast and very simple to make. Back straps or a chunk of the hindquarter will suffice. Cut into 1 inches wide, three or four inch long strips, an estimated half-inch thick.

Keep you deer cool and clean, marinade your meat prior to vacuum packing and use a few spices. Venison will never taste the same.

 

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Opening day of gun season


OUT-Opening-day-eric-payne-with-a-nice-8-pt-shot-along-a-transition-piece-and-a-wet-ditch-line

by Jack Payne

The countdown has started towards the opening day of gun season for deer. This season I am a bit more pumped up than normal. While archery season did produce a decent buck for me, the rut has not hit high gear like anticipated. Hopefully that changes next week.

Success during gun season encompasses a few additional items of consideration as compared to the archery season. Hunting pressure will greatly increase, some favorite food sources are gone and yes, the rut will factor in.

Our group success rate is way above that of the state. This can be attributed to the location. Location, much like in real estate dictates travel patterns, bedding areas and of prime concern, safety locations.

A nice buck will hole up in any type of cover that offers protection. In southern Michigan a one acre cattail swale, a small impenetrable thicket, a small group or trees out in the middle of a field, a deep ditch line with tall grass or a dense stand of pines can hide a deer.

Water is a great safety net. My favorite location has lots of water. On the worst years I needed hip boots to get into the small dry island. Most years knee high boots will work.

What a deer really wants is a location that they can either see danger coming to them or hear danger approaching. With water they can hear noise well before danger can reach them. A spot out in the open they can use their eyes and nose. A thick briar patch or a thick stand of pines they can hear and smell danger approaching.

Locating a likely spot that offers protection is the first step. Figuring out how to get there and how to hunt it is two other items of concern. Get there early is the first step. Try and get into your sweet spot well before daylight. You want to be seated before other hunters start pushing deer towards your cover.

Prune out a few lanes to shoot through. You need to see and determine if a tree is best or the ground. I sit on the ground. I listen, I wait and most often I see a piece of a deer long before I see a full deer. Then wait, wait for the deer to move into a lane.

Another consideration that we use is the location of other hunters. Where will the other hunter be? How will they get into and out of their spot. Let other hunters work to your advantage. Most hunters hunt 2-3 hours and then take a break.

You should plan on sitting from dark to dark. Carry in your lunch, extra cloths and possibly a book. I can’t read but my son does and he shoots nice bucks. Other hunters will spook deer walking in and out. Deer will run and hide anywhere and once it calms down return to their best security areas where hopefully you are sitting.

In the UP, where I will be for the opener, our best spot is huge. It covers hundreds of acres so we hunt tight to the cover, in a transition area, and catch the deer entering or leaving the sanctuary. We know where every other hunter sits; we know the location of the best available food source and the most likely direction that the deer will travel.

And then we sit. Some years we will see 2-3 bucks, some years only one. It only takes one to complete your hunt except when targeting a large rack. We have multiple stands in the same general area to contend with shifting wind patterns and the change from morning and evening travels.

When we hunt at home, in southern Michigan, we normally have one stand location for the entire day. We wait for the deer to arrive or leave. We shot a deer that we watched bed down that took hours before a shoot was available.

With the rut running later than expected, you will see bucks still on the roam. If pressured, they still will rut but under the security of thick cover, isolated pockets overlooked or under darkness.

My son shot his best buck to date late during the gun season, just before dark, as it left one small thicket and was heading into the next thicket only 50 yards away. His nose was to the ground and grunting when shot.

Patience, hunting spots where others will not travel, considering the effects of hunting pressure and deer travel routes, will place deer into your sight path. Security cover and access are the two primary areas of concern followed by patience. Good luck during the gun season.

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Excitement abounds during the rut


Jack Payne with a recent 2013 buck shot with a weird rack and loaded on the deer cart.

Jack Payne with a recent 2013 buck shot with a weird rack and loaded on the deer cart.

By Jack Payne

 

The hurried sound of leaves crunching under hooves meant one thing. A buck was chasing does that were not ready for his advances. Sure enough a group of deer came trotting by and a buck in pursuit.

Scrapes and rubs are all excellent items to consider but other things can spell success quicker. First and foremost is hunting the does. The does normally dictate what scrapes will be re-opened and used the most.

Find out where the does are bedding and feeding and the bucks will show up. The best locations are where the deer feel most secure during the daylight hours. The closer the security area is to a hot food source the better buck potential.

Cornfields are a magnet in our area. A thick swale, a pine plantation, river bottoms or a swamp are examples of good daytime cover. An overlooked area is a drainage ditch.

Having shot a buck on October I decided to try some fall turkey hunting. Jumped two bucks bedding in a corn field and one was an eight pointer. Bow in the truck and the buck looking at me a mere ten yards away. Can’t get a bedding area closer to a food source than a cornfield.

Carrying my camera while filming a few geese I jumped a nice fork horn bedded in a dried out drainage ditch. A cornfield on one side, a soybean field on the other with a briar patches on the end. Perfect area for a buck to rut and stay fairly hidden.

Keeping a stand just for the rut or having two stands to hunt from is a good idea. Don’t burn out a stand during the rut. Only hunt the stand when the wind is right and when accessing the stand without disturbing the deer.

Avoid walking over the runways when traveling. You heard this before but I will say it again, watch your scent. I wear Scent Lok from head to toe. Have a back up plan on how to get to your stand and the same when leaving. Don’t spook the deer and don’t leave any scent behind.

High ground in a swamp or a cattail marsh is an excellent all day location to hunt. The key is sliding in early and being undetected. Another good choice would be a small woodlot or briar patch that the other hunters walk right by thinking that it is to small to hold any deer.

Locating a hot scrape that reeks is always fun. I don’t see a lot of deer when scrape hunting but normally you will see a hot doe and the buck. Using buck lure has proven productive for many. I’ve had excellent luck at times and other outings only luke warm. Rarely have I had any negative responses when using scent. I use scent all season! Tinks and Buck Fever are my favorites.

Decoys can be fun to use but only during the archery season for safety purposes. Placing a decoy between a hot scrape and your stand or on the fringe of good bedding cover might work. Spray the decoy with some buck lure and try grunting. My experiences with decoys is less than thrilling unless watching a deer jump up in the air and then busting out. Only once did it actually draw in a buck for me but a friend has enjoyed great success.

Besides having faith in scent we use calling on each hunt. I call softly 3-5 one-second burps every 15-30 minutes. If I see a deer I call immediately. Once again, soft and short works the best. Get the buck to turn his head and let curiosity take over. Nearly every archery tag filled had calling involved.

Staying alert and checking out all sounds is important. After a few hours and especially after a month of sitting in a stand hunters get a bit lazy. Any sound could be a deer and often the soft and slow noise is a feeding deer heading your way.

The rut normally heats up around Halloween and continues through the opener of the gun season. Nothing beats the sound of leaves rustling and seeing a nervous doe file bye followed by the sound of a deer grunting. Hunt the rut properly not only will you see a buck, one might end up in the freezer.

www.jackpaynejr.com, realtor/writer

 

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Structure hunting your buck


by Jack Payne

OUT-Jack-Payne-deer-by-pine-tree

It was Halloween before my first opportunity on a buck came along. Well actually my first since opening night, when I blew a wide-open shot. The rut was just hitting full stride and I had mapped out what I thought was a few strategic locations.

The early morning quietness was broken by a grunt and the slow crunching of leaves. Sure enough a buck was working the scent line. I hit my deer call and the buck took notice and slowly continued onward.

The buck would walk a few steps, grunt, raise his head up and sniff the air. It quickly became obvious that the buck would travel into my lap following the drag line. I was sitting in my Lone Wolf Stand that was hung just that morning.

Using my Ten Point Crossbow I was able to shoot sitting down. The Carbon Express shaft tipped with the Muzzy head found its mark. Buck number one was down for the count.

Fish use travel routes and have a deep water sanctuary from cold fronts and when spooked. Deer use certain travel paths and have a prime bedding area that they call home. Migration routes are used to travel primarily from a bedding area to a feeding area.

A thick cattail marsh bordering a set of pines is one example. Another is a clear cut bordering a thick set of pines or a swamp or possibly an oak grove. A corn field or a bean field bordering thick cover is another good example.

A deer’s sanctuary is its prime bedding area. A good bedding area can be a thick grove of pines, a cedar swamp, a cattail bog or often times in Southern Michigan an isolated patch of cover. In the farm country these small parcels might be only a quarter acre to an acre in size.

The best migration routes have something unique about them. In fishing you look for the breaks or the objects on this path from the deep water to the shallows. In hunting these objects could be a small finger of trees that stick out. It might be a small inside turn or cup that is formed by the change of terrain or ground cover. Any type of change is a potential spot for a stand.

An inside corner or an outside corner where two types of ground meet is perfect. Deer love to follow edges and if both types of terrain have something that the deer needs then more deer will be using it. A stand of oaks bordering a young clear cut offers two types of food and the young clear cut doubles up as a bedding ground.

An over looked piece of structure especially in Southern Michigan is the usage of a ditch or gullies. These two types of structure allow movement of deer to be nearly invisible. Very critical when hunting thin cover or near open areas.

In hilly areas deer love to run the edge of a gully where they are completely out of sight from danger on the flats or the use the bottoms and play the ever changing wind currents to their advantage.

A young clear cut has plenty of lush grasses and many new buds in the fall. Finding a secondary food source close to a primary food source is critical. Weather conditions can alter a food source being used. Hunting pressure will alter a preferred food source.

Trail cameras are the same as underwater cameras to many anglers. Both show fish or game. While I do not own an underwater camera, I do own one trail camera. This camera gets moved each week and is fun in showing you an actual photo.

Waterways are fun to hunt. A river or even small creeks that you can jump across are great pieces of structure to hunt. Streams twist and turn creating natural pinch points. Follow a stream and mark each time that the stream takes a hard turn.  Hang a few ribbons in the tree and after the second or third hard turn you should be able to spot a location where a stand would be able to watch both of these hard turns or points.

Protect your areas, slide in quietly and don’t over hunt a particular stand. Whatever you do, don’t spook the does. I want as many does filtering through my area as possible. The bucks will show up if the does are there.

Hunting open fields requires a change of strategy. Bucks have a tendency to hang back until darkness takes over. They also love to stage or watch over the field from a safe distance. A lone tree or a small group of trees in the middle of a field can be golden.

Just like in fishing where an angler can alter a travel route, a hunter can do the same. Blocking a trail with fallen limbs will force the deer around the obstacle. This is one trick that we use a lot.

If you can force the deer to funnel through a location that is more desirable to you the higher your odds increase. Just remember to wear gloves when altering the terrain.

During the rut scent is huge. Making mock scrapes before the season starts and continuing throughout the season is an easy and very effective technique.

During the season we try and find an active scrape line or a least an area with sufficient deer traveling through. The best mock scrapes will have a licking branch so look for a bush or a limb that a deer can reach. One option is that you can snap a branch downward, just don’t cut it off.

Saturate both the ground and the licking branch with scent. This is where I like the scent from Buck Fever. It comes in a large bottle and really works great on the drag lines and the mock scrapes. Be extremely careful with your scent, the ideal is to lure in a deer, not give away your presence.

Think of deer hunting as you should when fishing. Edges, corners, change of elevation, areas where two types of terrain meet and your success will rapidly climb.

 

 

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Fall fishing for game fish


A large pike, caught on a spoon.

A large pike, caught on a spoon.

by Jack Payne

Fall fishing is a tale of opposites. Early fall you will find fish in their summer haunts, then as the evenings cool they will move shallower. Near the end of October many game fish can be found very shallow, almost on the shoreline feeding on frogs, as the frogs make their migration for the winter.

Once the fall frog or shallow water bite dies down, then the deep water and steep breaklines produce. Quick drop-offs near a large feeding flat are good bets. Sharp breaks that are close to any remaining green weeds are a sure thing.

Where the baitfish goes, so goes the game fish. Sometimes this means suspended fish, other times very deep water and on those Indian Summer days you might enjoy shallow water fishing.

Big baits become more popular in the fall and, as the water cools, a slower speed is needed. Walleye anglers often go with 3-5 inch minnows on spinners or jigs. Bass anglers step up to the magnum size worms early in the fall and then possible a shorter but heavier profile bait as late fall takes hold. Pike feast on large baits and are suckers for slow wobbling bait or lure.

A good bass and pike bait would be the Stopper Spinner Bait in the 3/8 ounce size. When the fish moves deep, try vertically jigging the spinner and add a piece of pork or a plastic tail to increase the bulkiness of the lure. By all means fish it slow.

Another dandy fall pike lure would be the Swim Whizz. The Swim Whizz has two depths setting to select from. One lure can be used while fishing over and along a cabbage weedbed and then over a deep water rock pile or a deep water flat. It is also fabulous alongside of a deep drop-off.

Our best fall walleye lure is the Jig Heads from Stopper lures. Most often we grab the two tone colored heads in the 3/8 or the ¼ ounce heads. If the fish are shallow then a 1/8 ounce head works great. Depths deeper than ten feet go with a heavier head.

We tip the head with meat unless the bite is strong and fast. Active fish that are hammering the jig will devour plastic tails. Slow action or under a typical fall cold front requires a more stealth approach and a large minnow worked vertically over a school of walleye is the ticket. The heavier jig heads work best in keeping the bait near the bottom.

Fall smallmouth bass love minnows. Smallmouth bass enjoy hanging around steep drop-offs and deeper water. A jig bounced along the base of the drop-off with a lively large minnow is virtually impossible for a bass to pass on.

Walleye and bass anglers can also use the Double Drop Fly rigs from Stopper Lures. As the name indicates this rig is set up with two flies and ready to be vertically bounced over deep water structure.

Fall fishing locations can change by the day. Do not waste time in one location unless certain of the results. We check the weed line quickly for active fish and we check the muddy areas to see what the frogs are doing.

If the fish are shallow, then casting a spinner or a Swim Whizz might do the trick. A small jig head with a minnow rarely fails. If the fish are deeper, then a slow drift or the use of the trolling motor while vertically jigging either a Double Drop Fly rig or the jig and minnow combo works great.

If the fish are scattered then trolling a Swim Whizz or a spinner works best. Just remember to fish slowly. Fall fishing produces the largest fish of the year with minimal fishing pressure.

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