Thu04242014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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New Year updates on the outdoors

Happy New Year!

Anglers will be happy to be reminded about the Fishing Expo that will take place Jan. 17-19 at the Meadow Event Park just down the road from us in Caroline County. This is the 7th year that the fishing show is returning to the Farm Bureau Center there.

I have to admit it has been years since I have attended, but I am planning to go after a morning of duck hunting. This show is the icebreaker of sorts to the upcoming fishing season. Fly-fishing, bass fishing, lake and river angling, and saltwater pursuits are available for the entire family. Tickets are a bargain really, because once you buy a ticket one day, you can get a return pass if you want to come back another day. The adult price is $8, while seniors and military tickets are $7, and kids 6-12 are $5. Under-6 are free.

The show is advertised as a family event. Charter and professional guides will be on hand to chat you up. Boat suppliers, tackle dealers and seminars will be available, as well. As you may expect, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) will also be on hand to talk about fishing in Virginia. The reporters of the Fishin’ Report for the Outdoor Report e-newsletter will also be on hand to give fishing tips on their part of the state.

There will be a Kids’ Zone where kids can earn prizes with accurate casting. The Mountain Trout Pond has a new deal this year-- Channel catfish are in the pond, and prizes are given if a youth catches one. Trout caught may be kept or released. There is a fee for this feature.

The Bass Tub of Oklahoma will be on site, so seminar attendees can watch bass being caught by a pro and learn some new tips.

Don’t forget that boating class!

Beginning July 1, 2014, all Personal Water Craft (PWC) operators age 14 and older, and motorboat operators age 45 and younger need to take a boating safety course.

Motorboat operators 50 years of age or younger shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2015;
All motorboat operators, regardless of age, shall meet the requirements by July 1, 2016.

Take note from VDGIF’s website: PWC Age Restriction: No person under the age of 14 may operate a PWC. Those operators 14 and 15 MUST show proof of completing an approved and accepted boating safety course either in a classroom or online. The challenge exam or other provisions of the Education Compliance Requirement do not meet the requirements of the age restriction law.

To get certified, you may take a class in person or online. See the following website for details:
http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/education/requirement/steps-to-requirement.asp

Changes to squirrel hunting season
Remember that gray squirrel season in our area is now open until the end of Feb.. This is a change from last year. This should open up some new opportunities to get younger hunters in the woods even after waterfowl season ends. During Feb., squirrels will still be scrounging on the ground for shoots and long-lost nuts. I suspect that by the end of that month, they may be looking for early shoots on the ground and new buds in trees, too. A .22- or .17-rimfire is a fine tool to use when the woods are open and shots are long. Keep houses and structures that are nearby in mind as you take shots. A .22-bullet can travel a long way!

This may also be a good time to get your youth out to do some shooting with a .22. Ammo has become a bit more available at some retailers now, and some dedicated practice, not only to hit the target, but to handle a firearm responsibly, is a good idea. Some parents opt to let younger hunters carry an airgun that is empty for a few trips, to allow the youth to demonstrate safe gun handling before they are permitted to carry or use a regular firearm. If you do practice shooting, have the youth wear the hunting clothes they would wear hunting while shooting. Sometimes the heavier clothing can make for different shooting conditions. Practice now will pay off later to include spring gobbler season.

I love starting kids off hunting squirrels. It is great practice for turkey and deer hunting. There are certainly more squirrels and thus more chances to shoot, but you still have to be still and not move suddenly.

However, if a mistake is made, it is not the end of the hunt. Squirrels will often come back out, and/or another squirrel may come along, too.

Tips for winter squirrel hunting
-Wear warm clothes.
-Sit against a big tree to break up your outline.
-Rake out a spot along the ground free of leaves to be more comfortable and less noisy.
-Sit in a spot where you can see a long way and in several directions.
-Wear camo and a facemask, and avoid moving your hands.
-Congratulate your youth hunter on good shots, or even shots they did not take for safety or ethical reasons.
-Take a photo, even if you did not get any squirrels. Some of our most memorable photos are of small-game hunts.
-Take a snack for younger kids.
-If you know the spot is a good spot, but too open, consider using a blind in which to hide. Squirrels don’t seem to be as bothered by blinds as deer.

Mark Fike

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