The Migration Patterns and Population Explosion of the Snow Goose

By: Staff

The Snow Goose is a wildlife success story. Amid almost universal concern about the conservation of dwindling wildlife populations, the opposite is the case with the Snow Goose: the massive rise in numbers in the past couple of decades has resulted in various states implementing special ‘conservation orders’ designed to control the population by setting goals for the numbers of birds to be harvested. In the early 20th century the Snow Goose population was very low and hunting was severely restricted. Concerns were raised about the threat to migratory bird populations because of several aspects including the popular women’s fashion of wearing feathered hats, were the main causes of their drastic decline. The solution was the Migratory Bird Treaty Act 1918 in which the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, Japan and Mexico laid the ground rules for the complete protection of migratory birds. The Snow Goose is still a protected species under the act, hence the need for further legislation. In various states a special permit for hunting Snow Geese may or may not be necessary, and the hunter may be required by the regulatory authority to supply information on the number of birds killed.

Population and Habitat

A massive increase in agricultural production during the 20th century resulted in plentiful winter food for the geese, mainly in the form of waste grain lying on the fields after harvest, and this has helped to produce the current high population. Another factor was the strict hunting regulations in force during the 1970s and ’80s. A higher rate of adult survival and increased reproduction allowed this recovering population to flourish and become overabundant. A trend of warmer summers and better food supply in their summer breeding grounds in the high arctic regions of the northern Canadian islands west of Greenland, as well as northeastern Russia and Wrangel Island in the Siberian Sea, has possibly also contributed to population growth. An early thaw followed by a warmer summer also means a longer breeding season, while in years when the thaw is late, when the birds cannot build their nests until the ground is free of snow and they need to allow time for the young to mature, large numbers of a population may forgo breeding. The current trend of favorable climate and abundance of food has been good for the Snow Goose, although their success has had a harmful affect on the populations of other bird species because of the pressure put on the fragile Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems.

The Snow Goose’s favored breeding habitats are the shallow arctic lakes and marshy meadows that are safe from spring floods. Huge flocks of migrating geese settling to feed on similar areas of coastal marshland further south can severely damage these habitats, as well as deplete agricultural crops such as winter wheat, barley, rye and hay. The Snow Goose is mainly herbivorous and will feed on the leaves, fruit and roots of many different plants including agricultural grain. Its original wintering areas were in the Atlantic states from South Carolina up to New Jersey, in the Midwestern states around the Mississippi south of the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico, in northern California and the area around the border between Arizona and California. One of the largest original breeding colonies was on Bylot Island, north of Baffin Island, where there was a population of up to 70,000 birds that had been counted; of the two subspecies, the Greater Snow Goose nests in this area north of Hudson Bay, while the Lesser Snow Goose nests in central Canada and around the Bering straits.

The greatest damage to habitats, staging areas and wintering areas are caused by the Lesser Snow Goose because they are more thorough in digging up entire plants. On their migration they use the central flyway, which takes them across some of the most fertile agricultural land in the country and has allowed them to diversify their diet to include practically any crop they encounter. They travel farther than other populations of geese to winter mainly in the southern states, where the increasingly widespread rice crop provides an ideal habitat of flooded fields and newly planted rice grains. Wintering in such balmy surroundings gives them a distinct advantage over others that struggle to survive: by the spring the birds have suffered fewer fatalities, and they are healthy and have fattened up in preparation for the return flight north.

Hunting the flocks

Although the Snow Goose population is booming, it can provide the most challenging of all forms of waterfowl hunting, requiring a good knowledge of the bird’s habits and the use of specialized strategies. Few outdoor experiences can match the thrill of being in the center of a swirling flock of several thousand birds attracted by your decoy spread. The geese begin their migration from mid August onwards, usually reaching the prairies around September, the Central Valley of California around December or January, and the Eastern states south of the St Lawrence River from October onwards. These dates are variable of course, depending on the weather. A cool autumn with forecasts of early snows will mean the early arrival of the geese, so it pays to keep informed. Hunting seasons also vary between states depending on which flyway the geese have used and how far they have come, which will determine when they arrive from either their nesting grounds or wintering areas.

Snow Goose migration have three different migrating stages. The first wave is made by the older adults, which can be anything up to 30 years of age and with many similar journeys behind them. They will have experience of hunters and their decoys so will be difficult to fool. The Snow Goose is not easy to decoy at the best of times: a good rough guide is to use 500-1,500 decoys per spread. If the weather is stormy, cut these by half. You must have a clear plan that includes hiding areas, holes, family groups, landing areas etc. Groups of decoys separated by open areas will look more natural and seem larger. You might see a flock of thousands in one field and think this is easy pickings, but that is not the case. In the second wave there are fewer birds in total but more of them are younger juvenile geese and competition between the birds is not so intense. Use a good sized spread of decoys to achieve a good result, but this second wave of birds responds well to extras such as rotary decoys or fliers. Finally, the third wave consists of mostly all young birds in small flocks of about 5,000 rather than 20,000 or more in the earlier waves, making them hard to scout, although putting up good numbers of decoys will pretty well guarantee you success.

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Decoys and Calling: The Hard Facts


by B.C. Maxima

One sure way for you to double check how effective your current decoy spread is to leave the decoys up, walk away from the spread, and watch what happens. If the next flock that comes in flares at 50 yards even when you are gone, then a red flag should come up and you may have to make some adjustments to your spread!

In this article we will conduct a thorough evaluation of several types of decoys, we will discuss how to add movement and realism into your existing spread, and we will share with you some different ideas on how to set up your decoy spread. As a supplement to this article, we will also add an additional section for those of you who would like more information on “Calling Geese” and why it is so important to know how and when to use a quality goose call. This area will be located in the conclusion of this article.

Decoy Review and Evaluation:
Every decoy made was designed for a purpose. Even those old Flambeau floaters have some value. As ridiculous as they look on the shelf, if placed in a line spaced out approximately five yards apart outside of your main flock, they do simulate a small flock swimming into your main spread. The most important thing is to keep your spread uniform! The mosh posh decoy spread does not work! Try and use one or two types of decoys that match well together in an attempt to duplicate an actual flock of geese as closely as possible.

Silhouette decoys can be very effective in certain situations. If set up correctly, a large spread of silhouettes can be deadly, especially in those hard to access areas. The two main problems I see with these manufactured silhouette decoys are: most of the finishes on these decoys glare terribly in the sun so keep them in the trailer on those really nice days! As much as they state Non Glare Finish on the box, watch your next hunting video very closely and see what happens when the sun comes up in the spread. Therefore, I recommend making your own silhouettes. They may not look as pretty as the store bought decoys but if you spend the time they can actually work better. The next problem is that they are usually set up improperly. We will address this issue later in the article.
Glaring decoy finish on a sunny day!

The next decoy type we will review are those good old shell decoys. These are probably the most popular goose decoys on the market today or at least they were five years ago. Although, I still have a couple dozen I only use them in certain situations. For the most part, these decoys are becoming outdated as the geese are getting smarter and smarter each year. I feel that the Super Duper Magnum Shells that worked well 15 years ago, do not have the impact they did before the geese caught onto them. I do however like to mix in a couple dozen regular magnum G and H shells with my full body spread as these particular decoys mix in well to add bulk as well as realism during the colder months. If you are looking to add some shells to your spread, I also recommend looking for used decoys instead of paying full price for them since they are not cheap and almost every goose hunter has a couple dozen in the garage somewhere.

The latest in goose hunting technology is the Full Body Canada Goose Decoy! This product is becoming more and more popular and expensive as time goes on. Who would have thought that a goose hunter would pay 50 dollars per decoy and proceed to buy dozens of them! I believe there are over ten types of Full Body manufactures on the market today. I still think that the Big Foot decoy is the ultimate goose decoy. It is the most durable decoy ever invented, it is competitively priced, and it actually looks like a goose. I also like the fact that the legs can be removed to add realism as well as the fact that most every product made to add movement to your decoys is made for the Big Foot decoy. The new Avery full bodies are very nice as well. They are very reasonably priced and look even better than the Big Foots but they are not as durable and may blow over in a heavy wind. It is also much harder to add movement to this particular spread of decoys compared to the Big Foots. As for the other full body manufacturers in the $25.00 range, I would not develop a complete spread with their decoys but do like to utilize a couple of the different head positions into my existing spread. Lastly are the high end full bodies, these include decoys like the Hardcore’s, the Dave Smith‘s and the Dropzone Elite decoys.

They all look great, but are they worth the money? Well lets examine what they offer. They all need to be put into bags to keep the paint jobs looking good, most of them are a 3 piece system which adds to set up time and most of them are not as durable. I do recommend adding a dozen or two to your arsenal if you can afford it for those days when your massive full body spread isn’t working (late season) or when you are hunting alone and would rather try a distinct spread instead of a massive one.

As for Stuffers- which are actual stuffed geese, I believe these are best used in high end goose camps and are more for show than anything else. For the average or die-hard goose hunter who hunts in elements when the goose hunting is best, these decoys will not hold up, they take way too much time to make and if you are looking for the ultimate in realism, those decoys are now available in plastic models as discussed above. Most importantly however, they are not legal in many states.
The last type of decoy we will discuss is the Floater Goose Decoy. Again I believe that Big Foot has the best product on the market. One aspect I particularly like is the fact that they are very versatile and can be used with your full body Big Foots in the field as well. They are not too expensive, they are almost as durable as their full bodies and with four different head positions, I think they look better than any other floater on the market! Avery has come out with a close second. They are a little cheaper than the Big Foots and they offer a nice selection of head positions as well. One nice thing about the Avery decoys is that the heads are pre-flocked which is nice. G and H offers a nice decoy but their heads are broken easily and for the price, I would go with one of the two mentioned above.

Adding Movement and Realism
Why is movement so vital to your spread? Your traditional spread may work well during the early Canada goose season… for the first weekend but as the geese get hunted they catch on to the Frozen Soldier spread quickly! There are however several simple and cheap ways to add movement and realism to your existing goose spread. The most effective method of adding movement to your spread is “Flagging”. This technique was invented by Randy Bartz in the early 90’s and can be as effective as calling to attract geese to your spread. It is so popular that most every quality layout blind comes equipped with a flagging hole. My favorite new product on the market is the Bobble head. This is a wind activated product designed to fit onto your Big Foot goose decoy. The heads come pre-flocked and the slightest bit of wind will get them moving. A dozen of these heads at $5.00 a piece can really add life to your spread. Another new product is the Power Base. This product is battery activated and attaches to the base of your decoy to get it moving. The only problem is that they are expensive and set up can be frustrating in the dark. The cost is $100.00 for a pair which may be over budget for some hunters. The Decoy Dancer just came out this year as an alternative. This product is wind activated and has several settings for different wind speeds. It is pre-set so there is minimal work in the morning. They are $15.00 a piece or $168.00 for a dozen. At this time they do only fit on Big Foots decoys though. This is a new product therefore unproven but in theory this looks like a great idea.
The Wing Waver is also a nice product. This is a flapper decoy that is run off of a string which the hunter can pull when movement is needed. This product is nice because it takes the movement away from the hunter. They are $70.00 a piece but are very durable and should last a long time. The only downfall to this product is that it is manual therefore making it hard to call and operate at the same time. As for “Spinning Wing Decoys” and goose hunting, they don’t mix! As productive as the spinning wing decoys are for duck hunting, they as equally as unproductive for the goose hunter. My recommendation is to use your spinning wing decoy early in the morning when the Mallards are flying (if you believe in the use of them) and then take it down as soon as the first flocks of geese start flying.

Now let us get into adding more realism into your goose spread. The first thing we can do is flock the heads of our decoys. This works great and can be done fairly cheap. I recommend speaking with a local taxidermist about purchasing flocking by the pound before I would buy the kits at $35.00 a piece in the store. There are also several companies that specialize in professional flocking for close to the same price as it would be to buy the kit at retail price. Adding flocking to the butt of your decoy also adds additional realism to an already productive spread. As for flocking durability, if it is done right you can expect to get three seasons of hunting before they need to be touched up depending on how well they have been cared for. Now for the die-hard goose hunter, one way to use your existing spread and retain the new look of the high-end full-body decoys is to get your spread custom painted. This really works well to add realism while incorporating several different full-body manufacture designs into one uniform color scheme. Paddles Down Custom Decoy Painting charges $100.00 a dozen and does an excellent job!

Setting Up Your Spread
As a rule of thumb, I like to use two dozen decoys per hunter. That number can change depending on the hunting pressure and number of birds in the area. In the early season, three guys can get away with a spread of twenty or thirty decoys while during the late season birds are flocked up in the hundreds you may need a bigger spread to draw attention as well as to hide the hunters from wary birds. Depending on the type of spread you are using, there are many different ways to set up your spread. Let’s start with a walk in field or hard to reach area where we need to carry in our spread. In this situation, a backpack layout blind and a spread of silhouettes is our best bet. The problem here is that most hunters set up there silhouettes as if they were regular decoys five yards apart in a half moon design. That works fine until the geese get overhead and all of a sudden your decoy spread disappears. During the first two months of hunting season especially, I like to set my spread of silhouettes up in small tight family groups of a dozen decoys facing every which way, each group set 15 to 20 yards apart over a 75 yard span. This way when the geese come in, they are seeing decoys throughout the completion of their approach. Another nice feature of the silhouette design is that as the geese approach we have built in movement because these decoys are constantly disappearing and reappearing at different angles.

Now let’s hunt over water with our floater spread. I like to place the spread close to shore, off of an open shoreline or sandbar area that I know the geese are using. Another tactic for silhouettes is to place three or four dozen on the shore in conjunction with a water spread. They are a nice and compact decoy spread to fit into an already overloaded duck boat.
For a more traditional set up where we can drive into a field with a trailer full of full bodies and shell decoys; an early season set up again can allow for a set up of small family groups spaced out every 15 to 20 yards. With an effective caller and some flagging, we do not need to worry about geese landing out of range like we do while duck hunting. As the season progresses and they start to stage up into larger flocks, the number of decoys needs to increase. However, we also need to start being more creative than the old stand by half moon set up. On a windy day if you watch a real flock of geese, you will notice that they all line up vertically into the wind. We can try and emulate that while placing a smaller group of decoys off to the side to hide additional hunters in the spread. As the season grows colder you will notice that a lot of times the geese will curl up on the ground instead of standing up to conserve energy. This is when I like to remove the feet on the Big Foots or add shell decoys and floaters.

In conclusion, there are many new decoys coming out every year and they keep getting better each year. Do we need to buy the most expensive decoys on the market… probably not but washing off your old decoys and adding a fresh coat of paint once in a while is well worth the effort. If the birds in your area are getting stale, don’t be afraid to try new things. We need to get creative and think outside the box. Maybe a late season set up on an iced over lake with two dozen full bodies directly in a flight path is just the ticket. If everybody in the area has been hunting with spreads of 100+ decoys, try one dozen decoys in a field that is close to the main flock and don’t be surprised to see a couple smaller flocks drop in to your mini spread. Take some time to actually watch a flock of birds and see how they actually sit and what calls they make in different situations. It will be an education that can be used for many years to come. For additional information on Calling Canada Geese click here.

Retrievers & Chiropractic, Can An Animal Chiropractor Help Your Hunting Companion?


By Dr. Mark LaVallie, DC, CVSMT

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How Do I Know If My Retriever Needs Chiropractic?
This is by far the most frequently asked question that I get from pet owners. They go on to say, “They cannot tell you. Can they?” The fact is that your animals do tell you when they need help! You just need to know what to look for. Following are three signs that your pet may benefit from a visit to the animal chiropractor.

Incomplete Stretches and Shakes

We have all observed how cats stand and stretch. It’s the first thing they do in the morning. Absence of this full, high-arching stretch is one of the first indications of a spinal or joint problem. The “shake” that dogs and some cats exhibit is frequently observed but not consciously appreciated by owners. The shake that starts at the head and progresses without interruption through the lumbar and the tail is a healthy shake. Dogs that stop a shake somewhere along the spine may be self-splinting a spinal or joint problem. The body’s protective reaction is to splint the area through muscle spasm, so as to prevent further injury.

Swelling, Heat and Muscle Spasm

Through observation, touch, and massage, we can sometimes detect early signs of a treatable problem. When joints are damaged or injured, inflammation and swelling ensues. Significant swelling can often be seen and felt in the extremities, less often in the spine. A more common sign of inflammation in the spinal region is felt as heat or warmth in the tissues overlying the area. The easiest way to feel the heat is to take the back of your fingers and run them slowing down your pet’s spine, noting any significant differences in temperature. To heighten your sense of touch, close your eyes as you run your hand down the spine. Injured joints in the extremities also exhibit warmth when inflamed. Through touch and massage, you can also feel muscle spasms, or “hypertonic muscles.” Muscle spasms are a sign of the splinting action mentioned previously.

Altered Joint Position Sense

With dogs there is a simple and very useful test that provides early clues to nervous system dysfunction. With your dog standing, flip over one paw so it is “knuckled over.” Repeat with the other paws. A normal reaction in a dog with a healthy nervous system is to immediately “flip” the foot back over to its normal position. If your animal takes longer than two seconds to flip its paw back, its “proprioception” or joint position sense, is compromised. Joint position sense is the brain’s ability to know where the limbs are at all times. When a dog has spinal problems, this sensation is the first to go. Your doctor will typically refer to this sensation as “C.P.” Ideally, you should test your pet’s C.P. at least once per month after the age of two.

It’s extremely important to understand that all of the above signs typically go unnoticed by most owners. But these signs precede more severe signs and symptoms of pain and weakness. By the time I first see many animals, their condition has already progressed to weakness, paralysis of a limb or multiple limbs, gait abnormalities, severe pain, and often loss of bowel and bladder control. While a vast majority of these animals respond effectively to chiropractic and veterinary intervention, the earlier the treatment begins, the better the prognosis.

In a perfect world, our goal is to prevent these problems from occurring in the first place. Prevention is a primary goal of many pet owners that have working or performance dogs, show dogs, or have breeds with a hereditary predilection to various maladies. Dachshunds, for instance, have a very high predisposition to thoraco-lumbar disc herniations. German shepherds are prone to hip dysplasia and “degenerative myelopathy.” Small breeds are often susceptible to “luxating patellas.” Labrador retrievers, due to the way they grasp a fetched object, are prone to upper cervical and jaw problems. With any breed, prevention and early detection is the key. According to the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association, chiropractic may be appropriate for:

* neck, back, leg, and tail pain talebone3d
* muscle problems, nerve issues
* disc problems, joint problems
* limping and gait abnormalities
* slip & fall injuries
* jaw problems, difficult chewing
* bowel, bladder & digestion
* post-surgical care and rehab
* event or sports injuries
* seizures
* joint and spinal health

Chiropractic care does not attempt to replace traditional veterinary care. Animal chiropractors work with your veterinarian to ensure your pet has the most complete care. As a final note, we all realize that animals age at a much faster rate than we do. Therefore, prevention and early recognition of problems is imperative. Chiropractic is a very useful adjunct to traditional veterinary care to maximize your pets “golden years.”

The next issue of The Talebone will answer frequently asked questions regarding animal chiropractic. In future editions, we will discuss specific conditions, prevention, treatment, stretching, and exercise programs, and other topics. Until next time, wishing you and your four-legged friend the best of health.

Dr. Mark “Bones” LaVallie, DC, CVSMT (651) 332-1633

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Retriever Performance And Why You Should Care

1211By Greg Ye

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I’ve heard it all! “I don’t need a dog that good” or “Field trial dogs are too hyper for my needs” or “Trial dogs are too expensive.” Well, let me explain why all hunters should pay attention to trial dogs.ret4b

The American Kennel Club (AKC) offers two performance event programs for retrievers, which are Field Trials and Hunt Tests. Field Trials are competition driven and the dogs do work that is incredibly difficult over huge distances. The first time observer may find these events fascinating but of little relevance to their world of hunting. As a note, I’d be honored to spend a day in the field with an accomplished trial dog.

Hunt Tests by comparison gained their start by hunters interested in game conservation. At first, hunt tests were designed to meet the needs of hunters and
were conceived “by hunters, for hunters and of hunters.” Hunt tests are non-competitive and give the hunter an objective basis to determine what to expect in the field. Over time, professional trainers have influenced hunt tests to such a degree that hunt tests have become very demanding and require a very trained response from both dog and handler.

ret6Why does any of this matter to the average hunter or family? I’ll tell you why; Performance retrievers demonstrate routinely what retrievers were bred to do. They are the cream of the crop and are owned by only the most devoted folks to retriever genetics. Performance retrievers are bright, out-going, trainable, healthy, sound, birdy, intelligent, friendly and proven. Their offspring are predictably excellent candidates for a long and fruitful life of hunting and family devotion.

There is a second reason for hunters to explore performance events. I can guarantee that the average hunter will be awestruck by the experience! Try a hunt test first. The folks are friendly and eager to share with new comers. You will see young dogs at the Junior Level doing single marked retrieves on land and water and then coming briskly home to the handler and tenderly giving up birds. You’ll see Master Dogs marking multiple bird falls and then retrieving the birds unaided and independently only to come back to the handler to pick up a bird or two they didn’t see by taking precise direction to the bird from the handler. Make sure you bring your family. The kids will get an education in canine potential that may spark a life long passion. You’ll walk away thinking, “That’s what I got to have!” So the next time your buddy is bragging about his dog, you can say, “Well, can he …”

To find events in your area, the easiest way is to go on-line. Visit Entry Express at The site is used primarily for entering dogs in performance events but you’ll find a calendar of events. Each event has a “premium” which describes the type of event, location, times, etc. Once you’ve found an event to attend,
consider it like going to the beach. Bring lawn chairs, coolers, etc. One word of caution: Do not wear white clothing! White is very distracting to dogs and handlers. Wear clothing that is dark or appropriate for an outdoor occasion.

Hunters need to explore performance events. Not only will you receive first hand experience of what a retriever is expected to do, but you’ll start to become familiar with sound retriever genetics which will lead you to the dog of your dreams! If you are in the market for a pup, ask around and collect information. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover an off-season sport that the whole family can enjoy and participate in and make Ol’fido more than just a 10 month couch potato. In any case, I would rather go to a hunt test than clean out the garage!


For More Information On Professional Retriever Training Services Contact:
Trainer: Greg Ye
Phone: 715-246-7040

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The Scent Control Debate

scentlock1By Matt Sayer

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For the past decade the issue of scent containment in the field has been a hot-button issue. With the advent and marketing of “scent blocking/absorbing” technologies, an entire industry has grown around the containment and elimination of scent. Every year more and more products appear on shelves, in catalogs and are promoted on television shows. The products obviously sell yet there is still an intense debate pertaining to their effectiveness. Some even say they are worthless, a complete sham. Recently a lawsuit has even been filed against a major producer of these products, challenging the company’s claims of scent reduction.

Most scent containment clothing relies on activated carbon to absorb scent- human scent being the target. The premise is that carbon fibers absorb and hold various scent molecules, containing the scent before it is released into the air. It is advertised that carbon clothing can be recharged by running it through a high heat cycle in the dryer. The heat allows the carbon fibers to release the absorbed scent molecules, allowing them to absorb more.

Several studies have been done as to the effectiveness of these products and they have come up with different conclusions- essentially allowing the debate to continue.scentlock2

As an avid big game hunter with extensive experience using scent containment products, I feel the truth, as usual, is somewhere in the middle. When used properly, I feel that scent elimination clothing and other products are a valuable tool, particularly for the bow hunter. They will not make you scent free but are an effective tool in helping reduce in the amount of scent we release into the air. Getting high above the ground, not smoking, chewing or allowing ourselves to break a sweat are other ways we can help contain our scent. Touching as little as possible on the way into a stand also helps.

Many people expect too much from carbon clothing and don’t understand its limitations. The amount of scent a garment can absorb is limited so it is very important to protect clothing from everyday odors such as getting into the cab of your truck, refueling or from breakfast. Storing them in plastic bags and putting them on in the field and taking them off before leaving will help. Recharging often is another way to insure the clothing is as effective as possible. Keeping your body as clean as possible is another way to cut down on scent; hair is notorious for holding scent.

There is no way to be entirely “scent free” and you should always hunt the wind. Unfortunately many factors in the field are out of our control, so reducing the amount of scent we release into the woods may just buy us that extra ten yards or ten seconds that we may need to take an animal.

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pheasanthunting101By B.C. Maximas

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Let’s face it, come November those roosters sure can get smart. No matter how much cover you seem to push, if you happen to be in an area that has been hunted hard throughout the season, a limit of roosters seems to be almost impossible. There are however some things that can make your next upland bird hunting experience a much more successful and enjoyable experience. Listed below are some ideas that have been proven to give you the edge on your next pheasant hunting adventure.

1. No matter how much cover you push, without a well trained dog by your side you can forget about pumping up a rooster, no matter what state you hunt in. A well trained upland dog can be an invaluable tool for the pheasant enthusiast. What does it take to encourage a young pup to be the next pheasant king? Unlike waterfowl hunters, training an upland dog doesn’t take near as extensive of a training program, just the right training. The first thing any hunting dog needs is obedience. You need to be able to call your dog off of a flyer or a runner for that matter. Next is the proper introduction to birds. Most importantly we need to bring out pups natural instincts as young as possible. There is no time too young to introduce your new pup to a wing or dead bird. This will be very important down the road. What comes after that can be learned in many good training books available today. Remember you may be better off starting over right, than trying to fight a lost cause!

2. To follow up with hunting over a quality trained hunting dog. There are several factors that can aid your hunting dog into being more successful, thus making you more successful. First off, as most all avid hunters know, it is very important to hunt your dog into the wind when making a pheasant push giving your dog the edge on the birds scent. Next taking your pup to the local game preserve prior to his first hunt of the year can give your pup a push in the right direction as it may take a few times out before pup actually remembers what his job really is. Also keeping your dog hydrated during the hunt, even on a cool day is vital. A good idea is to carry a bottle of water in your vest or at the very least, pick up a gallon of water at the gas station when filling up; along with a bowl, which can be often forgotten.

3. Not to beat a dead horse but many hunters have heard about the terribly hot South Dakota opener a couple years back where numerous dogs died of heat exhaustion. Although heat exhaustion is a very dangerous situation, that particular incident may not have been from heat exhaustion as first thought, but from an algae bloom in the lakes and ponds. This can occur on very warm days and is lethal to many animals including dogs and livestock. If you are not aware of this problem, maybe it’s time to do a little research. You can detect a lethal algae bloom as the entire lake or pond will turn a hazy blue green especially on the down wind edge. Thus it is very important to keep an eye on what your dog is getting into and to bring an alternate source of water with for them at all times.

4. One thing that tends to get overlooked with inexperienced hunters is to be sure to be as quiet as possible from the time you drive up to the field, until the hunt is complete. Never slam a car door, no matter what time of year you’re hunting. If a member of my group ever slams a door, I refuse to hunt that area as they have just educated ever bird within a 1/2 mile that hunters are coming and be assured every rooster in earshot is running for the hills. To take that a step further, it is also very important to be as quite as possible throughout the hunt. Then old adage of yelling to get the birds moving only seems to work back at the game farm….not in the wild!!!

5. Now let’s get into some new hunting techniques. Many hunters like to hunt alone, just the hunter, his dog, and the birds. This is a very enjoyable way to hunt but can get frustrating if the birds are wary, won’t sit tight and continue to run on you. One way to combat these runners is to pick an area to hunt that gives the hunter the advantage. One way to do this in high water years is to use this water to your advantage. Many times when you start to push the birds into cattail cover, they are nearly impossible to get up if they have their highways already in place. If however, you can push the birds into an area that turns into water they are stuck. As you get within a couple hundred yards of the water cover make a quick sprint for about 50 yards. This will catch the birds off guard and push them right into the trapped area. Then at around 50 to 80 yards out, start to work the area very slowly, zig zag back and forth as these birds are either going to fly or try and double back. This is when you will experience your best success.

6. Now for the group hunters. Obviously larger groups have an advantage in covering larger areas of ground. However even though your hunting in a large group, if you can take advantage of a situation as stated above, your results will increase as well. Especially if you can plan ahead and have one or two hunters who are able to come prepared with hip boots or waders on. This allows the group to get down and dirty with those old school roosters. It is always important to keep safety in mind first, especially when hunting in larger groups, in the thick cover.

7. Another excellent time to hunt roosters is when the weather gets downright nasty. High winds are a pheasant hunter’s best friend as the cover makes more natural noise than the hunter. If you are quiet enough, your sounds will get lost in the wind and the birds get edgy. They do not know where you are or where to go and will end up sitting tighter or fly, thus allowing you to get up on them for a closer shot.

8. If high winds are not enough a full on blizzard is even better yet. Especially the day after. If you get a snowfall of over a foot that is not crusted up, those wiley roosters are unable to run on top of the snow and are forced to sit tight. And be assured they will be in the cattails after a storm like that. A group of hunters can spend all afternoon in an area where there are sure to be birds as they can’t go anywhere but up! Don’t be afraid to hunt a patch of cover full of birds, two or three times and you can never walk slowly enough.

9. The next piece of advice is to try and find out what the birds daily activity routine is. Learn as much about your prey as you can. This will help you decide where you should be hunting during a specific time of day. If at 9:00 am when shooting time starts, you’re in the thick cover and your having better luck scrambling after birds that the other guys are pushing out of the corn fields, guess where you should be hunting tomorrow at 9:00 am. That’s right, you’ll want to be hunting the edges of the corn fields or right in the standing corn instead of in the heavy cover, where you should be hunting right at dusk as the birds move in to roost for the night!

10. The last piece of advice to offer the experienced pheasant hunter is when the going gets really tough…think outside the box! Think about what every other hunter out there is doing and try something different. For instance if you have access to a boat, or your area ices up, try and hunt islands near the lake that you have watched birds sail to year after year when they get pushed from the heavy shoreline cover. Or if there is a specific area that never gets hit because it is just too thick, well guess where the birds are. Even if it is too thick to shoot out of, post a couple guys at the end and draw straws to be the grunt for your buddies. The idea is do what nobody else is doing….not what everybody else is doing!!!!

Well, hopefully these proven tactics will help you be more successful in the field next fall. Especially on those particularly tough days that seem to come around more often that not in the past few years as public hunting areas seem to keep getting overrun with hunters year after year! And just remember one thing, we need to continue to support our sportsman’s groups such as Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited, who are out there adding vital habitat, so that we continue to have places to hunt for the future!

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Wanton Waste Laws – What Do They Mean and Why Do They Exist?

By Dan Wennerlind

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Everybody has heard of one story or another of wild game gone to waste, whether it be a pile of dead snow geese left in a dumpster somewhere or a whitetail deer thrown in the ditch for the coyotes to eat. Is this a punishable crime and what are the consequences? We had a chance to sit down with a local Wisconsin State Conservation Warden in a question and answer type setting and find out exactly what “Wanton Waste” means in Wisconsin and what makes it such a travesty to hunters everywhere.

Question #1: What is the “Wanton Waste” law in the State of Wisconsin?

Answer: As it states in the Wisconsin regulation book- “23.095(1g) General prohibition. No person may damage or attempt to damage any natural resource within the state”. Describing the word Damage. – “Damage” means to commit a physical act that unreasonably destroys, molests, defaces, removes or wastes. This could mean damaging and/or wasting everything from a tree to a black bear as this law is written.

Question #2: What is the penalty in Wisconsin for damaging a natural resource?

Answer: If found guilty of “Damaging” a natural resource in the state of Wisconsin the standard fine is only $186.00. However, if found guilty of an “intentional kill” of a protected form of wildlife such as a Trumpeter Swan the fine can be as high as $5,000 and the revocation of one’s hunting privileges for 3 years.

Question #3 Do the Wanton Waste Laws vary from state to state?

Answer: Yes. Every state interprets the meaning of this law differently and it is up to each individual to know each state’s law. For instance in the state of Montana it is illegal to “breast out” a bird such as a goose and throw the carcass away. Legally all edible parts of the bird must be used. This law is highly enforced in the state of Montana. There are variations of this law in every state and province across North America and it is up the each hunter to abide by the law where he/she is hunting.

Question #4 Is the hunter who takes his game home, cleans it and puts it in the freezer for two years and then throws it away any different than the hunter who takes his game home that morning and tosses it into the garbage whole?

Answer: Ethically I don’t believe there is much difference between the two. Under certain circumstances such as a freezer that breaks down in which case the food goes bad, exceptions are acceptable, but for the hunter who just can’t get enough hunting each fall and stock piles more game than he can or plans to eat, there is not much difference. Each hunter has a moral obligation to make sure that he / she is able to use the game harvested each year himself or to make arrangements for all of the game harvested to be given away or used in some way, to be considered an ethical hunter. Many hunters provide some of their legally harvested game to local food shelves.

Question #5 What are some of the common examples of Wanton Waste that you have recently run across?

Answer: In my area the main sources of wasted game are whitetail deer. Each year we will find full deer carcasses thrown in the ditch after the hunting season. Many of those deer were never butchered but just dumped in the ditch to go to waste. We also get a few calls of deer still hanging in trees well into the spring from the past fall’s hunting season. The deer were gutted but never butchered. From time to time in the spring we also find piles of dead snow geese in the ditches- most likely from hunters returning from a spring snow goose hunting trip out west. We also find remnants from many ice fishermen who carelessly throw small bluegills and crappies on the ice and never take them home. All of which are ethically wrong, even the small pan fish that get wasted are detrimental to our natural resources, as insignificant as it may seem to some.

Question #6 Do you run into situations where the public, including farmers intentionally kill “Nuisance” animals because they are detrimental to them in some way? And what do you recommend in that situation?

Answer: Unfortunately it is not uncommon to hear about the public intentionally killing “Nuisance” animals. There is a Federal funded agency that will investigate and address these nuisance animal issues so people should not have to kill the animal. The right thing to do is contact us and we can work with them on the issue. We do run into situations each year where we will find a targeted nuisance species killed from time to time. One example would be lakeshore owners who will kill the Canada geese that summer on their shorelines. In situations like that we are able to site the guilty parties with a ticket for taking game out of season. That standard fine is $248.60.

Question #7 What about the honest hunter who is walking out of the marsh with a limit of ducks and his dog picks up a cripple bird on the way back to the truck or the turkey hunter who accidentally shoots two birds with one shot because he did not see the second bird? Are these hunters guilty as well?

Answer: There are always going to be honest mistakes made, we are only human. But it’s what we do after a mistake has been made that defines our character. Many hunters are so worried about what will happen if the Conservation Warden catches them doing something wrong that they end up doing many strange things that they would not normally do. The best thing to do in a situation like that is to call your local Conservation Warden and explain the situation. Hunters have a responsibility to identify their targets and what is beyond their targets. If they are not sure they should not pull the trigger. If your dog picks up a dead duck you did not shoot it is probably best to leave it there. If you walk out of the marsh with too many birds because your dog brought you one you did not shoot some questions are going to be asked by the warden. We are people to and will use our best judgment. If an honest mistake has been made we will work with the hunter to do what is right.

Question #8 Are there any blatant laws that are broken regarding the harvesting of game that you are able to enforce and work hard to do so?

Answer: Yes! The most important laws that we try and enforce are the bag limits. Those include daily and possession limits. If we run across a situation where a hunter has blatantly stock piled an over possession limit of birds or fish for example in a freezer we work very hard to catch him in the act and rely on cooperators to help us identify those subjects. In Wisconsin, we find some fishermen who take too many limits of fish in a day or will fish all week on vacation and go home with well over their legal possession limits. During the fall, we find a few archery hunters who shoot numerous bucks and find others to tag them. In Wisconsin, it is only legal to harvest one buck with your bow and arrow. Some unethical hunters and fisherman just get greedy sometimes and we hope the public cares enough to get involved to help us catch those types of violators.

Question #9 When situations such as the ones described above happen and make it to the news what does that do to us as hunters in the public eye?

Answer: It really hurts our sport and tradition. My experience as a Conservation Warden has shown that most hunters and fisherman are very ethical and do the things that are best for the resource. As with anything else, there are always those that don’t follow the rules and make us all look bad. Those are the ones we hope to catch. As Wardens we are hunters and fishermen too. When the public hears about incidents like these it gives all sportsmen a bad name and feeds the fire for those who want to stop hunting and fishing all together. We live in a time when it is more important than ever to get young people involved in the outdoors. Teaching them the right way early on in their lives is very important.

As you can see the Wanton Waste Law in Wisconsin is very broad which makes it tough for a Conservation Warden to enforce the law as it relates to the actual waste of game derived from an activity such as hunting or fishing. It must be proven in a court of law that the intent of an activity was actually to destroy or waste a state natural resource.

Since this law is so broad it does allow the opportunity for hunters in the state of Wisconsin to conceivably enjoy a successful morning of hunting, take their game home, let them sit in the garage for 3 days to spoil and then throw it away without any consequences from the law. But has a law still been broken? In this hunters’ mind- Absolutely! It may not be a law punishable by the state but as hunters and fisherman across the country we have a moral obligation to the natural resources that we enjoy taking from so freely, to utilize and take care of the game we harvest. It goes back to a moral backbone of human nature that one must eat what he kills! Are there exceptions to the rule? Sure there are, under certain circumstances if a legitimate accident should arise where all precautions have been taken but a bird or animal spoils there is not much one can do but those who are just to lazy to clean their game and allow there harvest to go bad or those who had no intention of eating or utilizing the game they harvested in the first place, those people have no business participating in the outdoor traditions many of us have grown to cherish so much. We as hunters and fisherman have a moral obligation to make sure that the game we harvest goes to good use and to make sure that it does not end up in a dumpster somewhere rotting away! This is also a very important tradition that needs to be embedded in the children of today so that they can understand the value of each and every creature that is harvested whether it be a sunfish or a bear… all wildlife need to be treated with the same respect no matter how big or small.

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