Last updateWed, 19 Nov 2014 8pm

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Outdoor economics

All we seem to hear about right now is how bad the economy is. So, how does that apply to the outdoorsman? With times tight it may seem that spending time outdoors is going to get tougher. I beg to differ.
There are many ways to make that trip outdoors not only a great memory in tougher times but an economical one as well. Here are a few tips to get you going. We would love to hear of any others you may have and maybe we can put it at the end of the weekly column if it is good enough!

Small game
Many hunters overlook small game hunting. Most of us started our hunting with small game and those that went straight to deer and turkey hunting really missed out. Small game hunting does not require much in the way of equipment, can be done just about anywhere you can gain permission to hunt and the game is plentiful. A small game license is $18.
With that license and a box of shells or .22 cartridges you can easily feed your family several meals between now and the end of January. It takes approximately three squirrels to make a “loaded” version of Brunswick stew. Some may balk at eating squirrels but rest assured that these little critters eat only the best nuts and blooms and the meat is lean.
Squirrel is good fried if you par boil them to make them tender. I have also found that by aging them as you would a deer for a few days they become tender and it is easily done by leaving them in the refrigerator for two to three days prior to grilling, frying or making stew from them.
The same advice goes for rabbit. Rabbit is quite tasty, easy to cook and very nutritious. Again the rabbits eat good vegetation and are common everywhere. Rabbits are a whole lot easier to clean too. Both of these small game animals provide a good opportunity for entire families to spend time together. The stories told over dinner only add to the adventures and flavor of the day.

Big game
There are a few days of deer season left. I feel like I am pointing out the obvious here but going deer hunting and taking a deer will provide 30-40 pounds or more of meat that is lean, nutritious and very inexpensive. Again the memories made with your sons, daughters, spouse or friends are invaluable and the deer you take out of the herd helps the remainder of the herd by freeing up resources such as food.
It also cuts down on the number of vehicle collisions if we harvest enough deer. The cost for a big game license with six deer tags, three turkey tags and a bear tag is another $18.  A shotgun is standard fare and a box of buckshot or slugs can be had for less than $10. Remember your blaze orange!

We are very fortunate in that our local rivers are filled with fish. The most common fish in our waters has to be the catfish and the supply seems endless. They bite pretty much all year although the bite may be slower right now. Bottom fishing with worms, cut fish, or commercially prepared baits will bring home dinner quite easily.
But what if you don’t have a boat?
Well, there are numerous bank fishing opportunities from here to Fredericksburg. Wilmont Landing, the $5 Hole at the train tracks off Rt. 3, Little Falls, the whole riverbank in Fredericksburg, and Hopyard Landing is fair game and offers good catfishing. We could use more public access on the Potomac.
Local ponds in Westmoreland are open year around and offer free fishing with a license. There are bass, catfish and bream as well as crappie there. Chandler’s Mill Pond and Gardy’s Mill Pond are nice quiet places to fish and definitely good places to take family.
The fish you catch on your outing make good dinner and once again good conversation while saving money and spending time with your family. It is not unreasonable to expect to catch dinner, particularly once the weather warms up some. You do not need expensive gear to catch local fish. I have seen $20-$29 set ups that will do the job just fine. If taken care of correctly these setups will last years.
Finally, if you do not have the gear and do not know where to go to fish and have the time to learn or go often, don’t rule out a charter trip.
”But they are expensive,” I hear someone saying. Yes, they can be expensive if you pay for the whole thing yourself. But, consider the following first. If you take an average charter at say $600 and get a total of six or seven friends to divide the cost of the charter and the gas, you have significantly cut the cost for yourself. Some charters are still less than this depending on the species and the boat.
All gear and bait is provided and most will clean and bag your fish. I have never come back from a charter without some fish. Almost every time I have had my cooler slam filled with fish which will last months if you eat one or two meals a week. When you count the cost vs. the amount of fish you get, it evens out and you may even come ahead if the trip is successful. Do your homework on what fish are biting, the success of the captain and the time of year that is best to go.
This year don’t let the economy keep you out of the woods or off the water. Gas prices are reasonable and now is a great time to spend with the family and get back to the things that matter most.


How to have effective Man Drives for Deer

Deer season is winding down fast and doe days are now in for us in King George and surrounding areas. More hunters will take advantage of the either sex days in the woods, coupled with the Christmas break. A great many man drives will be attempted; some successfully and some not so successfully.

While your outdoor writer prefers to employ still hunting techniques over doing drives a well run man drive is tough to beat when you have the man (or woman) power to get it done and put meat in the truck. So what constitutes a good man drive?
Most would say a successful man drive for deer would mean that more than a few deer were taken. Certainly the drive must be completed in utmost safety.
Necessary components
To conduct a successful and safe man drive you need several things. First, you need a leader who will direct the drive. That person does not have to be one that is a dictator but certainly someone that is respected and one that knows the lay of the land well that is being hunted.
Second, you need a number of people to do the drive right. If you have too few hunters, the deer slip through your lines.
Third, a good topo and / or aerial photo is needed. Use the maps to figure out where saddles are located and deer slip through. Combine this knowledge with a discussion with hunters that use the property to get a clear picture of the comings and goings of the deer.
Fourth, good communication and a plan is necessary. You cannot just wing a drive and pull it off very successfully. Use of two-way radios is good to keep contact between standers and drivers. Drivers should be within sight of each other all the time for safety purposes and to keep deer from sneaking back through the line.
Last, good shooting to take deer humanely is very important. Hunters that take pot shots, long shots or spray and pray are not welcome on any drive I am part of.
Look over those maps, discuss with hunters in your group and lay out a plan well before attempting to move through a property. Anecdotal info is crucial to tightening up spots that need squeezed due to deer slipping through. Mark on the map where standers will be located. Use easily identifiable landmarks to emplace your standers.
Be sure to put hunters in places where they will be able to cover a decent area. Knolls overlooking a swamp, a treestand with a good view, a ridge top, and the edge of a field all make good spots. Pay attention to the habitat too. Deer cruise through the edges of habitats. Pine thickets that come to a marsh will be a good spot to find deer sneaking along.
Place veteran hunters near new hunters to assist them and put your best shooters in spots where the tougher shots may take place. Many drive hunts are conducted with buckshot. I prefer slugs but in some situations a slug gun is tough or not as safe to use on a drive. Put those slug guns overlooking open land where shots are longer and open. The buckshot users can take deer in the thickets. Use good quality buckshot that patterns well in your guns, too. I love the HeviShot buckshot because it really packs a punch.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. This is a very common mistake. Drivers want to walk through a huge piece of property with half dozen guys and three standers and wonder why they were not successful. If your leader of the drive insists on doing this time and again, it is time to convince them to try a different tactic or start hunting on your own. Sometimes the smaller drives covering a few acres of land are far more successful than a dozen guys trying to kick up deer to standers on forty acres or more. If the land is open, you might be able to get away with less manpower but in thick areas or marsh bottoms you need more people or make the drive several drives.
Lastly, be sure to hold a safety brief to ensure everyone knows what is going to happen, where the fields of fire are and when the drive will start and stop. No deer is worth an accident in the woods. I don’t care how big it is. Wear plenty of orange too. Take sure shots and think before you shoot. Is it worth crippling a deer and tracking it all-afternoon or just let it go and then maybe roust it on the next drive?
Good hunting these last few days!    Merry Christmas

By Mark Fike
Journal Outdoor Writer

Last Minute gifts for your outdoorsman or woman

I really dislike commercializing Christmas and would be perfectly content with just wishing my family and friends a Merry Christmas or just telling them how much I appreciate them. But, we all tend to find ourselves in a store looking over items to get those special folks in our life.
The economy has put a good dent in our wallets and like most people I tend to get tired hearing about that too. In order to help readers out I have assembled a few ideas for gifts for that outdoorsman or woman in your life that may be easily overlooked.
Turn on the lights!
How about a light for that special person? Streamlight makes an excellent pen sized light that easily fits in your pocket and it very bright. I love the one I have and keep it handy in the truck or on my desk should the power go out. The Cyclops cap lights that attach to your hat brim are perfect for getting to a treestand, fixing the truck, changing a tire or baiting a hook come summer. Bass Pro Shops has their own version of the light too. I have seen the cap lights at major retailers in our area as well.
Keep your edge!
Most outdoors people hate a dull knife. I have several sharpeners that I use but with all the cutting I do I tend to wear them out in a year or so and appreciate a new sharpener on a regular basis. Sharpening sticks with diamond grit on them work very well for putting a fast edge on a blade and will work on filet knives and little pocketknives. There are many varieties and most will work great.
A memory is forever.
Photos make great memories and bring back a lot of laughs and stories being retold. If you have captured a good shot there is no reason that you cannot get it blown to a larger size and frame it on the cheap or simply take a photo album and put a dozen or so pictures in it to get your recipient started on a memory book of their own.
Don’t forget to check out The Journal website for photos. Many of the talented photographers have taken sports shots, parade shots or other community event pictures. The cameras of the newspaper staff have caught a number of citizens of our community.
Get some bang for your buck or duck or …
Sorry for the play on words but I know that I tend to go through some ammo each year and it sure is nice to get a replacement without having to head to the store. Since the local stores have shut down and the prices of ammo have gone up I almost hate to purchase ammo unless I am very nearly out. Be sure that before you purchase the ammo you sneak over and take a look at what your honey or friend uses and get exactly that. Some guns don’t use other brands or loads well and we hunters get picky about what we shoot. If you need to, get your camera phone out and take a shot to take to the store with you.
Keep them warm.
Nothing makes a hunt end faster than getting cold. I hate being cold and if I ever move again it will be south where it is warmer. No one will complain about getting an extra or new hunting hat (blaze orange is good), new gloves (do gloves disappear where socks seem to disappear?) or some really well made socks. Redhead has some socks that are lifetime guarantee that they will not wear out. I am going to try a pair. I tend to wear out socks within one season. Don’t forget to purchase a few packets of those throw away handwarmers too. They can be a lifesaver for kids that are hunting with you and even for the veteran hunters they can keep you in the field just a little longer!
Don’t forget
There are several things I want to remind readers not to forget. The first is why we have Christmas. We tend to get caught up in the commercialization but really we celebrate for one reason only and that is our Savior’s birth. Let’s not forget.
Also, don’t forget about our men and women overseas and away from home. There are many of them serving our country from our area. We are proud of them. Why not send them a subscription to The Journal so they can keep up with what is going on or maybe a magazine subscription that they can pass around to the others that enjoy the outdoors?
Finally, don’t forget that shut in that never has company. Get over to their house for a visit. Take them some game or fish and swap stories for an hour. That hour you spend will be golden to them.

A Hunter’s Diary: or how he lost the big one!

By Jerry Dodd
Special to The Journal

It had rained overnight, so it was pretty wet morning with 10-20 M.P.H. winds blowing out of the north.
A lot of people think that deer don’t move on days like this, but I know otherwise. I’ve hunted in a lot of bad weather and have killed most of my big bucks on days like this, between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., the hours most people take a break!
This morning would be no different. I approached the alfalfa field that I hunt just off of and as I did I took a good look around making sure not to spook anything. It wasn’t quite sun up yet, so I was able to make it to my stand without bothering the one doe that was feeding in the field.
My stand sits 30 yards off the field on top of a hill loaded with oaks. I sat for three hours in the high winds not seeing anything. I had thoughts of leaving, but could not help but remember all the good hunts I’ve had on days like this, so I decided to hang in there.
Five minutes later I noticed a decent buck quartering away from me at the bottom of the hill approximately 100 yards away in a thicket. I rushed to grab my doe bleat, made three bleats, and the buck stopped and looked my way. A split second later he was headed right to me.
He came within twenty yards before turning and starting to quarter away, I took aim at 20 yards, fired my 20-year-old crossbow and watched the buck kick and run off like he was hit hard. I waited fifteen minutes, got out of my stand, found a good trail and fifty yards from where I shot him there lay a decent 8 point buck with 17” wide antlers and 8 inch tines. Status: A pretty good “bad weather” day for sure.
I decided to take a two-hour lunch to eat and check the deer before hanging it and skinning it. I was back in the woods by 2:30 when I decided to hunt my other stand 200 yards away. An hour later a doe and a yearling fed their way through the brush to me. I expected to see a buck trailing this time of year but an hour and a half later there was no sign of anything else.
At 5:45, near the end of the day I look to my right and saw a monster buck with eight points that was much bigger than the first one I had taken earlier. He was on the move and trailing the doe that had passed earlier. It happened so fast that I blew the shot at twenty yards away.
The shot was similar to the one I had made earlier that morning. I thought the shot was further out and therefore used my 40-yard pin. The shot went four inches over his back. He ran twenty yards, stopped and looked around and grazed out of sight. I was heart broken but it was I that choked the shot. I should have marked distances from my stand prior to hunting it. Lesson learned on that score!
Not marking those distances cost me a buck with twenty plus inches and ten-inch tines with six to eight inch brow tines. Remember to do those little things before the season that might cost you a big buck.
This story was told by Jerry Dodd. We are pleased to type it up and share it with readers. He passes along a good lesson. Mark Fike







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