December 21, 2011
Using Goose Stuffers and Scarecrows for Geese
Some goose hunters are very creative in their tactics for taking geese. On one hunt Mitch Sanchotena of Middleton, Idaho, pulled a horse trailer out in the middle of a cut cornfield before daylight. All the hunters had dressed in camouflage and carried their 3 inch Magnums to hopefully shoot Canada geese that morning. So, why bring the horse trailer? Then they started unloading mounted geese – real birds that Sanchotena had stuffed in a wide variety of positions – from the horse trailer and arranging them in a decoy-like spread in the field. According to Sanchotena, “After about two-thirds of the goose season, there aren’t too many decoys the local population of geese hasn’t seen,” Sanchotena explains. “As the popularity of goose hunting has increased, so have the numbers of decoys hunters put out in their spreads. After awhile, the plastic decoys no longer fool the geese. Since I had a small taxidermy business, in the off season I mounted 18 geese in various lifelike poses. After reading articles, I knew I wasn’t the first to try smaller spreads. But I was experimenting, and that’s what I came up with that worked best for me.”
Sanchotena explained that when he started using mounted geese for decoys no one else in his area did, although many of the hunters where he lived had begun to use smaller decoy spreads in the late season. The smaller spreads of decoys seemed to lure in the older, smarter birds quicker than the big spreads that most hunters utilized and that the geese had grown accustomed to seeing. Instead of leaving support wires coming out of the mounted geese’s feet, Sanchotena had the geese mounted on wooden planks. He explained that, “In our region, frost and frozen ground are big problems. If we were hunting where the ground didn’t freeze, then we could use just the wires coming off the bottom of the geese’s feet to stick the mounted geese into the ground. However, here, our frost level during goose season is probably 12 to 18 inches in the ground. So, a hunter must have something that’s fairly substantial to keep the goose decoy standing up in the wind and the freezing weather. We’re attaching a 14 by 14 inch, 5/8 inch thick piece of plywood to each to birds to keep them erect. Today, we’re hunting in a cornfield. So, we’ll put the cornstalks over the edges of the boards to hide them.”
Sanchotena has hunted geese for four decades in the Snake River Valley in southern Idaho. The local population of geese numbers about 5,500 birds. This section of Idaho gets a small migration of Canada geese during the winter months that pushes the goose population in the region up to 12,000 to 14,000 birds. These geese will weigh about 9 to 10 pounds each. Sanchotena had to come up with a better method of harvesting geese, especially in the late season, because of the small population of geese there, the intense hunting pressure and the long season. By combining his love for goose hunting and his skill as a taxidermist, Sanchotena created his stuffers.
According to Sanchotena, to bag the geese once they’ve spotted the decoys, you must decide what to say to the geese, when to say it and how much to talk. “I let the geese dictate what my calling strategies will be. If the birds are vocal and doing a lot of calling, they’re looking for responses to their calls. Then I’d better be prepared to give them some. Yet if the geese are coming in on silent wings and are committed, little guttural sounds and single honks may be all that are necessary for me to make to bring in the birds to within gun range. As the birds see the decoys, they get excited and make the double-cluck call. I got in touch with Harold Knight back 30 years ago. I had come across a little tube that read, ‘Harold Knight, Cadiz, Kentucky’ that Harold had made with a diaphragm across the front of it. Since I was always looking for something different to call geese with, I called information in Cadiz, Kentucky, and asked for Harold Knight. I got Harold on the phone, and we chatted for probably an hour and a half. He sent me a couple of calls. From that time on, I’ve been fairly loyal to Knight and Hale Game Calls, because I’ve had success with them, and the company is good about keeping reeds available for the calls. I can’t think of anything more frustrating than to have a call you really like, and in 3 years you can’t get a replacement reed for it. Then that call becomes useless to you.”
Sanchotena mentions that some hunters use their calls only sparingly – especially during the late season. They assume that hunters have called to the geese so much earlier in the season and believe that the more they call to the geese the more likely that they will spook the birds. But, Sanchotena has a completely different philosophy of calling. He explains that, “Live geese never quit calling when the birds are approaching. I think often hunters don’t have confidence in their abilities to call. Once the goose makes a commitment to come in at 100 yards, often the hunters quit calling. That works fine the first 2 weeks of the season when you’re hunting all the young, dumb birds. However, when hunting more towards the end of Idaho’s goose season, I think quitting your calling early is bad, because you alarm the birds that something isn’t real, and something’s wrong. Of course all goose hunters have a hard time reading the geese, because these birds don’t flare like ducks do when they see a person or movement within the blind. Geese simply lose interest and leave. If you’re not calling, then you’re not making the scenario real enough for them to make the final commitment and get within the critical 30 or 35 yards you need them to be to kill them.”
Using Scarecrows for More Geese:
Sanchotena puts out scarecrows in the fields where he doesn’t want the geese to light. He says, “We want to try to manipulate the geese for a few hours in the mornings. To keep them from landing in some of the other cut corn fields yet make them move around until they see this small spread of stuffed decoys we’re using, we’ll strategically place some scarecrows in those other fields. No matter how effective we get as goose hunters, we’re never going to be able to decoy ducks and geese like live birds can. There’s just something about live birds, the movement and the activity and everything that goes on, that once live birds start gathering up in the field, every bird that comes along will want to land in with those live birds. If we can keep the geese stirred up with a scarecrow, they eventually will give up on that field and move to the next field that has birds in it – hopefully the field where we have our stuffers.”
This article is part of a series on hunting geese. Click here to go back to part four, more advice for hunting geese.
December 20, 2011
Your appointment with destiny is upon you. It’s unavoidable and unfortunately, brings with it the feeling of abandonment. One way or another, your deer season is about to end. With that daunting thought casting a doom-and-gloom blanket across the deer woods, what on earth is a hunter to do?
Hit the hog woods! The hog “prob-ulation” continues to escalate. In Texas, home to as much as 50 percent of the nation’s hog population, we face a catastrophic problem. Annual reported damages now top $400 million dollars and pesky pigs are now found in at least 39 states and four Canadian provinces with a population estimated at over 5 million and growing.
Rabbits aside, wild hogs offer quite the reproductive conundrum. With a gestational period of 115 days, feral hogs can breed as often as twice per year, birthing litter averages of 6 – 8 with a 1:1 boar to sow ratio. Sitting down and doing some simple math does much to furl the brow of anyone interested in preserving habitat and conserving indigenous wildlife, of which, wild hogs are not; in fact, they present quite the competition or outright defeat of various native animals. Consider their unruly omnivorous appetites, reproductive rate, aggression and complete lack of natural predators (they have zero!) and you have the quintessential prey for those of us who appreciate living at the top of the food chain.
Experienced hog hunters agree, hog hunting is basically deer hunting in the off season. Strategies for hunting hogs parallel proven methods of successful deer hunting. Scouting for sign, as you would for deer, is key to establishing that your hunting has some uninvited guests. Scan your hunting area for rooting, hoof prints, scat, wallows and mud on trees. Use a trail camera to catch them in action. Ensure your camera boasts great night surveillance capabilities. I currently use a SpyPoint Pro-X because of its all-around day and night capabilities including high resolution infrared photos and video with clear audio; a lot can be learned from trail camera photos and video. Although patterning can be downright maddening, a trail camera also helps bridge that gap. HOT TIP: Hogs do what they want, when they want to do it. If you’ve patterned hogs two days in a row, be in the stand on the third day… they generally do not keep a long term routine, especially with any human activity.
If you find hog activity, it’s time to plan your ambush. Will you spot and stalk or still hunt? Will you hunt from a tree stand, tripod or ground blind? Hogs possess one of the greatest noses in the woods, if not THE greatest. Some reports claim hogs can pick up your scent on the wind as far as seven miles away!
Hogs also are incredibly intelligent. They know their environment and recognize changes quickly. Placing a ground blind means brushing it in and leaving it up to ensure that if they do pick up it up, they become comfortable with it. Many blinds also use scent eliminating technology. This year’s blind, my Ameristep Carnivore, not only uses carbon technology in the wall of the blind, it has a ground skirt to improve scent suppression while I hunt. Scent control is critical. Ensure your blind or stand setup is downwind from where you expect hogs to be located and follow a disciplined scent elimination and control routine.
Spot and stalk hunting is also effective but don’t believe the hype on a hog’s eyesight. They do not see well, but much better than most people think. They’ll spot you every time on open ground; within bow range they will also spot your movement in good cover. Approach from downwind and never expose your silhouette. Make sure the area behind you continues to break up your outline as you close the distance. Once in range pick your spot! Remember that a hog’s vitals are more forward and lower than vitals on a deer; more on shot placement later. Until then, leave your blanket of off-season doom and gloom draped over the couch and get back outdoors. Wild hogs are coming to your neck of the woods!
December 20, 2011
With 16 million Americans, including many hunters, riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), safety can’t take a back seat.
Like hunting, riding an ATV takes training and practice to build your skills and knowledge of how to stay safe. It’s also important to be realistic about your current skill level.
“ATV riders’ inexperience combined with an overestimation of their skills can spell trouble,” said Ed Huntsman, OHV education program manager for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “People never expect to be on the evening news when they start out in the morning. However, if riders don’t take basic precautions, they are vulnerable to accidents.”
From 1982 to 2009, more than 10,000 people using an ATV died, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of that number, 26 percent were youths under 16 years of age. In 2009 alone, there were an estimated 131,900 ATV-related injuries, with children under the age of 16 making up 25 percent of those injured.
Fortunately, most accidents are avoidable. Huntsman advises that new and experienced riders heed the following recommendations.
- Use your head by covering it with a helmet that has a sticker confirming it complies with the U.S. Department of Transportation or Snell regulations. In addition, always wear goggles or a face shield when you ride.
- Protect yourself with a sturdy pair of gloves and over-the-ankle boots. Also, wear long-sleeve shirts, jackets and pants that offer padding for knees, shoulders and chest.
- When riding on unfamiliar or rough terrain, slow down to a speed that allows you to control your machine. In addition, be on the lookout for rocks, logs, ditches, mud and other conditions that could cause an accident.
- Riding to your hunting spot in low light conditions also can present challenges. Make sure your headlights are working and clean. Wear reflective gear so you’re more easily seen. Plus, keep a good distance from other riders, and don’t overdrive your headlight. You should be able to stop within the length of the headlight beam.
- If you’re transporting gear or game, make sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and don’t overload your ATV. Make sure your headlights aren’t covered and that you can move around unrestricted. In addition, all firearms should be unloaded and fully enclosed in a gun boot or scabbard.
- Ride on designated trails, and be safe and considerate when you stop. Avoid stopping side-by-side, in the middle of the trail, at the crest of a hill, or around a corner on the trail. Also, never block an intersection. Don’t forget to shut off your engine when you take a break.
- ATVs are designed for off-road use and can be difficult to handle on paved surfaces. Riding on or crossing a road illegally or improperly is a leading cause of ATV rider fatalities. If you must cross a road, pick a spot where you can see oncoming traffic from both directions. Drive straight across when the coast is clear. Take it nice and slow and stand up for maximum visibility.
- Be weather wary. Rain, ice and snow can change trail conditions, making the ride more difficult.
- Accidents are more likely to happen at the end of the day when you’re tired. Fatigue impairs judgment and slows reaction time. Counteract that by making sure you dress for the weather, take regular breaks and stay hydrated.
- Get official training to learn how to safely and responsibly operate an ATV as well as laws and rules regulating ATV use. Many states require new riders to receive training. You can take a state-approved off-road vehicle safety course at www.offroad-ed.com.
Don’t forget these additional tips to ensure you stay safe.
- Don’t ride alone.
- Leave your travel plan and a map with a trusted family member or friend.
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV.
- Ride an ATV that’s right for your age, size, strength and skill level.
- Supervise riders younger than 16 years of age.
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
ATVs are not only fun, they can be a great tool for planting food plots, traveling to your hunting area and transporting harvested game out of the woods. Taking a course at www.offroad-ed.com and then practicing your new skills is your ticket to a safe ride.
Kalkomey, parent company of www.offroad-ed.com, is the official provider of recreational safety education materials for all 50 states. Our print and Internet courses have been providing official safety certification since 1995. We provide safety courses in boating, hunting, bowhunting, and off-road vehicle (ORV) and snowmobile operation. For more information, visit http://www.kalkomey.com/.