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Thursday, February 28, 2013



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Guns: 7 Hot New Shotguns and Innovations for 2013

We take a look at 7 new shotguns and innovations that were unveiled at SHOT Show. From slick new target guns to recoil reducers on your old duck buster, all were meant to make your shotgunning a little bit better.

New shotguns sometimes take the backseat to rifles at SHOT Show. But, it would be a mistake overlook the quiet advancements made every year by shotgun makers. In this gallery, we take a look at 7 new guns and innovations that were unveiled at SHOT. From slick new target guns to recoil reducers on your old duck buster, all were meant to make your shotgunning a little bit better (or at least a little cheaper).

Beretta 692
Beretta's 692 target gun is the successor of the esteemed 682 and fits into a price point well below the top-line DT11. Like the DT11, the 692 features a lengthened forcing cone (14 inches). The forcing cone is the section of the barrel in front of the the chamber that tapers down in diameter to the bore. The lengthened forcing cone can reduce felt recoil and create tighter shot patterns.

The gun is available in trap and sporting models and will retail for about $4,500 which is actually a pretty sweet deal for a high-performance competition shotgun. One shooter on the Beretta team told us that while he loves the DT11, (which retails for $9,000) he'll probably make the 692 his go-to gun.

Gauge: 12
Capacity: 2 (3 inch)
Barrel length: 28, 30, 32 inches
Overall length: 35.5 inches
                                                                                                        Overall weight: 7.7 pounds

Gauge: 12
Capacity: 2 (2 3/4 inch)
Barrel length: 30, 32 inches
Overall Length:
Overall weight: 7.8 pounds

Chiappa Triple Barrel
Don't write these guns off as a gimmicky just yet. Chiappa's unique offering for 2013 is a pair of triple-barrel shotguns: the Triple Crown and Triple Threat. The Triple Threat features 18.5-inch barrels and is designed for home defense. The Triple Crown is the sporting version with 28-inch barrels.

The gun has no barrel selectors but fires in a clockwise order starting with the lower right barrel. It will retail for about $1,629.
Triple Threat (pictured)
Gauge: 12
Capacity: 3
Barrel length: 28 inches
Overall length: 45 inches
Overall weight: 8.7 pounds

Triple Threat
Gauge: 12
Capacity: 3
Barrel length: 18.5
Overall length: 35.5 inches
Overall weight: 8 pounds

Remington Versa Max Sportsman
Building on the success of the Versa Max, the revolutionary auto-loader unveiled in 2010, Remington is introducing a stripped-down version of the shotgun for 2013, dubbed the Versa Max Sportsman.
The Sportsman will feature the same gas-porting technology that earned the original Versa Max so many fans and plaudits, as well as the same action, the same hammer-forged barrel, and the same SuperCell recoil pad. What the Sportsman will lack that the original possessed are the adjustable stock, overmolded grips, length-of-pull kit, and hard carrying case. The Hi-Viz sight has been replaced by an ivory front bead and steel mid bead, and the Sportsman will come with just one choke tube, whereas its predecessor came with a set of five.

If you’re willing to sacrifice all these features, your reward is a price that’s about $375 lower than that of the original Versa Max ($1,025 vs. $1,399).

Gauge: 12
Capacity: 3+1 (2¾ & 3 inch), 2+1 (3½ inch)
Barrel length: 22, 26, or 28 inches
Overall length: 43 15/16, 47 15/16, or 49 15/16 inches
Overall weight: 7.4, 7.5, or 7.7 pounds

Franchi Affinity Sporting
You may remember that the Franchi Affinity won the Editor’s Choice award in the shotgun division of our 2012 Gun Test. As Shooting Editor John B. Snow wrote at the time, “The Affinity has the magically elusive feel gunmakers always hope for when introducing a new shotgun. Its balance and handling are so lively that it springs to your shoulder with the speed and determination of a ruffed grouse exploding from cover.”
Enter the Affinity Sporting model, new for 2013. Like the original Affinity, this is a 12-gauge inertia-driven semi-auto, but instead of a camo cloaking, it features a brushed nickel anodized receiver and matte black stock and barrel. Its 30-inch barrel sports a stepped, ventilated rib, a red fiber optic front sight, and a set of three extended choke tubes (improved cylinder, modified, and full). Three different recoil pads afford the option of a 14 3/8-, 14¼-, or 15-inch length of pull, and an included shim kit allows for drop and cast adjustments. The MSRP for this new offering is $1,159.

Gauge: 12
Capacity: 4+1, plugged to 2+1
Barrel length: 30 inches
Overall length: 51¼ inches
                                                                                                        Overall weight: 6.8 pounds.

Franchi Aspire
This sleek new addition to the field of over/unders features a color-case hardened, round-action receiver that not only trims weight, but lends to the gun’s comfortable in-hand feel and attractive lines. Mechanical triggers and a barrel selector integrated into the safety are notable hardware features.
The shotgun will be available in 28 gauge or .410 bore, and comes with 28-inch barrels and five chokes (C, IC, M, IM, F). The barrels are interchangeable meaning on the Aspire meaning that one receiver can handle either the 28 gauge or .410 bore. A solid rib between the barrels will prevent the collection of debris. The handsome walnut stock is oil finished to enhance the wood grain and has a Prince of Wales grip. Some might argue that the fiber-optic front sight atop the upland-style 6mm vent rib defies the double’s classic look and feel, but that comes down to a matter of taste. This 5.8-pound beauty will run you a little north of $2,000.

SpecsGauge/bore: 28, .410
Barrel length: 28 inches
Overall weight: 5.8 pounds

Beretta A400 Xplor Action 20 Gauge
This is the first shotgun in Beretta's A400 platform to come in 20 gauge. It's designed to be a super light, easy shooting gun that points well, making it ideal for long days in the uplands. Like its big brother, this is a gas-operated semi-auto and is sort of a hybrid between the Xtrema and A391. Beretta says the A400 Xplor is the fastest shooting semi-automatic shotgun in the world.

To keep the light gun from bruising shoulders, it's available with Beretta's Kick-Off recoil reducer (which is a shock system built inside of the stock). This gun will be available for about $1,600.

Gauge: 20
Capacity: 3 (3 inch)
Barrel length: 26, 28 inches
Overall weight: 6 pounds 1 ounce

Mossberg Recoil Reduction System
This isn't a look at a new shotgun, but rather a look at how to make an old shotgun gentler. Mossberg is claiming that it's new recoil reduction system will cut down felt recoil by 20 percent. The company partnered with Matthews (yeah the bow makers) to implant a weight suspended in an elastomer unit to interrupt the "recoil wave" as it moves through the stock, according to Mossberg. The system will be available for select 500 and 835 models. Both guns have earned their keep over the years by burning through hard-kicking loads, so expect some hopeful waterfowlers and turkey hunters to be trying the new system.

It will add about $50 to the price of each gun.

Written by: Outdoor Life

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Special season set to reduce light goose populations
PRATT – The dark and light goose regular seasons end Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. However, from Feb. 11-April 30, 2013, hunters can hunt snow and Ross’ geese during the Light Goose Conservation Order. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established the special season 13 years ago to increase the harvest of light geese.

Since the mid-1970s, mid-continent light goose populations have increased more than 300 percent. These historic numbers of geese have denuded portions of their fragile tundra breeding habitat in the arctic, which may take decades to recover. This impacts other bird species that nest there, including semi-palmated sandpipers and red-necked phalaropes.

The harvest of light geese has more than doubled since the first conservation order in 1999, in turn reducing population growth. However, the management goal is to reduce the population of mid-continent light geese by 50 percent.

To increase hunter success, the conservation order authorizes hunting methods not allowed during the regular seasons, including the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. Shooting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset and there is no bag or possession limit for light geese.
For more information on goose hunting, visit and click on “Hunting/When to Hunt/Migratory Birds.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Stuff Of Which Legends Are Made

The stories in the states are nothing short of legendary when it comes to the whitetails that a few of the Canadian Provinces produce.  I had heard these stories for many many years, but this would be my first chance to actually experience it for myself.  On this trip, Kent Danjanovich, Senior Editor of Sportsman’s News Magazine and myself would be traveling to Alberta, Canada to visit Rob Reynolds, owner of Ranchland Outfitters in pursuit of one of these giant whitetails.  To make things even more exciting for me was the fact that Kent already had a commitment to hunt in Alberta this season and so I would be the lucky tag holder and Kent would capture all of the action on film in hopes to add to our future DVD line up for Sportsman’s News Television.

The flight to Edmonton was uneventful, the way I like flights and before we knew it we were loading our luggage into Rob’s truck.  His lodge is located about 2 ½ hours east of Alberta, not far from the Saskatchewan border.  We spent the drive playing the usual game, quizzing your new guide with a thousand questions, picking Rob’s brain about everything there is to know about his hunting operation.  I was especially excited to hear that Rob and his family have a large amount of private land tied up in five different hunting zones for deer.  They have a great management plan in place and having spent their whole lives ranching on the land, they know a lot about the routes the deer travel during any time of the year.  Because of that, Rob has been able to strategically locate all of his hunting stands where they will get the most activity, giving his hunters the best chance at one of the great whitetails roaming the woods on his properties.  Rob also uses a lot of trail cameras, so when his hunters arrive he knows which stands will be most productive during their stay.  I got really excited looking at the pictures of the bucks that he had on trail cameras.  I could tell that my biggest problem was going to be not shooting a big whitetail, so that I could get an opportunity at a giant.

The drive time seemed to go by quickly and we arrived at the lodge and unloaded our gear.  Rob uses a home he owns for his lodge and it of course has everything that the comforts of your own home has.  The lodge has three levels and could house up to eight hunters, but typically there are only four rifle hunters in at once or six bow hunters.  We unpacked and checked our gear as quick as possible before heading to bed to get some much needed rest from the long day of travel.  Plus, we knew that we would be getting an early start over the next few days and all the sleep we could get would be useful.

Our first day in the field found us  in tower blinds overlooking a fairly large opening in the woods that gave us shot opportunities out to about 200 yards.  The weather in Alberta had been unusually warm for November and if you have hunted whitetail before in Canada in November you know you want it to be as cold as possible.  Now don’t get me wrong, being from southern Utah where it does not snow, Kent and I thought it was plenty cold, but apparently the deer like it even colder.  I did realize quickly that my “Mr. Buddy” propane heater was my new best friend and it kept my blind nice and cozy.  While there wasn’t much activity this first day, we did see several mule deer that traveled through our location.  Rob picked us up at dark, made a quick stop back at the lodge so we could change our clothes and then took us to the family owned steakhouse where his wife, Lori, prepared a fabulous meal for us.  A definite highlight of each day would be ordering every evening from the great menu at their Outback 646 Ranch House Restaurant.

The next morning Rob decided to move us to a new location where he had several shooter whitetail bucks on camera.  There was one in particular that Rob thought was a 7-year-old plus buck that was sporting a very large 8-point rack.  As soon as we stepped out of the truck to get into the blinds, we could tell the temperature was much colder than the day before.  We settled into our blinds, turned on our heaters and immediately started seeing deer.  The furthest shot at this stand was to my extreme left, out to about 130 yards.  There were several does that wandered in and out of our sight picture over the next few hours.  Of course during the rut, that gets us hunters excited as we all know that where the does are, the bucks will be.  About noon, we had our first buck come in.  He was a smaller deer, but now the ice was broken and we knew it was just a matter of time.  The rest of the day we had several more deer come by our blind and five of them were bucks of various sizes.  No shooters, but we could see that with the weather cooling off the activity was definitely heating up.  Kent and I used four bottles of propane and with the weather for the next day forecasted to be the coldest of any day so far in November, we knew it was time to put on another layer of clothing.  Dinner at the restaurant that night was again nothing short of amazing.

With the activity we had seen the day before, it made sense to go back to the same blinds so that is what we did.  When we got out of the truck the air was very noticeably the coldest by far we had experienced.  After a few minutes we were both situated in the blinds, warming our hands on the heaters knowing that the cold spell could be just what we needed.

At about 11am we saw our first shooter type buck.  He came from the trees at our left, only about 75 yards away.  Before we knew it he was right out in the middle of the clearing directly in front of us.  The buck wasn’t necessarily a shooter because of score, but he was super unique.  His right side was a fairly normal 5-point frame, but his left side bowed way out past his ear and then swooped back up and in.  He also sported a very cool 5” drop tine right at the base of this same antler.  Kent and I debated for a while about taking this buck as we were filming and knew it would have made some awesome footage.  However in the end, we decided to pass on this buck.

As I sat there in my blind I of course wondered if I had done the right thing, when all of a sudden more deer started appearing from out of the tree line.  A couple of does and two smaller bucks were feeding along the edge of the trees.  After about 20 minutes there was just one of the small bucks left when all of a sudden his head snapped up and he stood at full attention, facing back into the trees.  We all know that usually means something is coming.  Well, that is exactly what it meant and out popped the second shooter type buck for the day.  This buck was only an 8-point, but noticeably larger than the last buck.  His body looked huge standing next to the smaller buck and I remembered how much bigger that buck looked next to the does when they were standing there together earlier.  The buck had solid mass and long times, but his most impressive feature was his gargantuan eye guards.  They appeared to be 8-10” long and gnarly.

Again Kent and I were contemplating whether I should take this buck or not.  I raised my gun and put the crosshairs on him several times, each time lowering the gun and then looking at Kent hoping he would make the decision for me.  Well as sometimes happens and for no reason at all, the deer suddenly picked up his head from the shrubs he was feeding on, spun around and vanished back into the trees where he came from.  Now I was really questioning myself.  I just didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not.  Both of the previous bucks would have been the biggest whitetail I had ever harvested.  I sat there in the cold with my heater, questioning myself the rest of the day.

With about 10 minutes of light left, I made the decision to start packing my stuff up and putting it back into my backpack.  While I was doing that I decided to look one last time at the tree line through my binos.  On the exact opposite end of the clearing where we had seen all of the previous deer I picked up a doe by herself coming into our field of view.  I just had a feeling there had to be a buck following her, so I strained and leaned as far as I could so I could look back to where she came from.  Just coming into my view I picked up a very nice 10-pointer hot on her tracks.  I told Kent the deer looked like a shooter and I was not going to pass on this one.  He quickly got the camera on him.  I needed the deer to move quickly to our left in order to have a clean shot at him and still have enough shooting light to film.  Well the doe must have read the script because she started running in the exact direction I needed the buck to move.

“Mr. Big” was right on her trail and was now only about 100 yards away from me.  He was behind some trees, but if he would just keep moving a few more yards I would have a clean shooting window.  I told Kent to be ready if the buck stopped in one of the two clearings.  In the second clearing the buck stopped and presented a perfect broadside shot.   Kent said he was on him with the camera and I had a solid dead rest with the crosshairs just behind his front shoulder.  I squeezed the trigger and the buck jumped and started running full tilt to my left.  Luckily, he actually came towards me about 10 yards first, which made it so he was running right out in the wide open.  I could see he was dragging his front leg on the opposite side.  I figured he would not go far, but if I could, I wanted to get a second bullet in him.  I racked another bullet in as fast as I could as I knew I had a very short window on this running deer from my blind.  I swung my rifle just in front of his front shoulder and shot again.  This second shot hit him in the chest again and he did a few cartwheels, throwing snow and debris everywhere like an automobile going end over end.   I could tell Kent was surprised as he let out a “goooood shot”, but to tell you the truth, so was I.  I would never have attempted that shot if I had not already hit the deer with the first bullet.  Now I realized that my heart is pounding and I am having some kind of a deer seizure as I am shaking terribly.  But I couldn’t have been more excited having just harvested my first Canadian whitetail.

My deer turned out to be a solid 10-point with dark chocolate horns.  I was very happy with my trophy, however Rob informed me that while my deer was respectable and he was happy that I was happy, this was the smallest of the shooter deer he had been seeing on camera.  In response, I told him I was saving the giants for my readers!  He did inform me that we had set the world record for most propane bottles  used and as I always say, any world record is something to be proud of.

If you are thinking about hunting whitetails in Canada, Rob Reynolds and Ranchland Outfitters is just the place you have heard all the rumors about.  Not only does he hunt whitetails in the rut in November with a rifle, but in the month of September they have opportunity to hunt them with a bow.  Along with the deer hunting, Ranchland is actually world famous for their waterfowl hunting.  They are in the middle of one of the most famous flyway zones on earth and the limits are extremely generous.  Ranchland also has one of the most unique combo hunting opportunities for waterfowl and whitetail as well.  During the month of September you can book a hunt where you get to hunt waterfowl in the morning, both ducks and geese and then sitting in tree stands in the evening where Rob says everyone will get an opportunity at a 145 inch or bigger whitetail.  I can tell you that is what I will be doing with my next trip back to see Rob!  We are excited to have Rob and Ranchland Outfitters as our newest platinum approved outfitter.  We are excited to have Ranchland Outfitters participating in our writers contest for the next 6 months.  Check out his ad in this edition of the Sportsman’s News and get your stories in to have a chance to win one of the most exciting waterfowl trips of your life.  Give him a call for your next adventure to Canada at 877-924-8440.  Or you can visit them on the web at or even on our website under Platinum Approved Outfitters.

Written By:  Kevin Orton

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hare Trigger - Extend your hunting season by chasing rabbits

Hunting dogs have a ritual prior to getting down to business. Perhaps it comes from days in a pen and hours in a dog box, but they must complete this ritualistic activity before they can get down to business.

Once the hounds are done decorating the tires of the trucks and adorning clumps of clay, it is anticipation time. Beagles sound like vacuum cleaners as they snuffle the ground for the sweet scent they crave.

Watching a brace of beagles hunt for rabbits is delightful to the senses - both canine and human. The anticipation builds.

Eugene Hunter cares for his dogs as a serious collector might care for a vintage automobile. They repay him with loyalty to the prey they pursue: They get tempted by deer, fox and coyotes, but they come right back and search the briars and thickets with gusto.

Hunter is rewarded by the beckoning bawl of his band of beagles. With a little luck there'll be a few pounds of sweet meat added to larder, as well.

"Not every day is a complete success," he said as we rested on a tree felled by a past summer windstorm. "Some days are so good the dogs will split up and run two rabbits at the same time. Other days the rabbits hold tight wherever they are, and the dogs never find them."

February is a time for houndsmen, as squirrel and rabbit hunters are free to run their dogs on the land where deer hunters staked claim just a month earlier. While rabbit season opens in October, many deer hunters are incensed by hunters and hounds clamoring through the thickets.

Truth be told, rabbit hunters probably stir the deer so the deer hunters have a better chance of catching a deer slipping away, ahead of the commotion.

"Most of the private land in Mississippi is either posted or leased to deer hunters," Hunter said. "We're lucky in that we have a lease where we have rabbits and deer, and hunt both at our will and pleasure.
"In February, a lot of land opens up to rabbit hunters. I know some deer clubs that only allow still hunting, and I start getting calls at the end of January with invitations to come hunt. A lot of those clubs have an excellent crop of rabbits."

And Hunter is always ready to accommodate.

"There were 29 days in February 2012. I rabbit hunted 25 of those days," he explained.
Hunter also said the level of enjoyment is enhanced by the ability of the dogs. He uses training collars that deliver a mild shock to the dogs if they are known to be chasing a deer or other undesired animal: Hunter’s beagles learned quickly that there is pleasure in chasing rabbits and pain in chasing deer.

"I will say this: For the person who wishes to invest in a pack of top-rated rabbit dogs, be prepared for a lot of expense and work," Hunter said. "Feed alone is a major expense; vet bills, keeping pens clean and sanitary, and other expenses can exceed several thousand dollars a year.

"But all that is negated on a cold winter day when the dogs and rabbits are the focus of the hunt.
Tat Simpson of Morton is another rabbit hunter with a passion for the sport. His has a pack of hounds, including beagles and beagle-mixed. The dogs are singular in purpose — the pursuit of rabbits.

"We have some land set aside, and I guess you could say managed, just for rabbit hunting," said Simpson. "For us, it’s all about the camaraderie of the hunt, the pleasure of the working dogs and enough rabbits for the stew pot."

Simpson said he likes to see young people get involved in small game hunting and especially rabbit hunting. He and fellow hunters have included their children and friends for many years.

"So many television shows and magazine articles are dedicated to deer and turkey hunting. And that is OK — it gets people outside and into nature," said Simpson. "But small-game hunting with dogs is a lot of fun, and is perfect for the young person or even the adults who want something a little more fast-paced."
According to Simpson, each of their hunts is planned around safety. Hunters are required to wear hunter orange, and rules of shooting are well understood before the guns are ever loaded.

"Rabbits run in circles, at least until they find a safe hiding place or manage to elude the dogs," Simpson said. "Hunters wait along bush-hogged lanes at our place and are instructed to pass on shots that might be close to another hunter or a dog."

Not every rabbit hunter has a pack of beagles. In fact, kicking up rabbits is a Southern tradition that remains alive and well. T. E. Beasley of Lauderdale County said hunting is his favorite pastime, and rabbits are a large part of that.

"I don’t have a dog," said Beasley as he emptied his tattered hunting jacket on the tailgate of his truck. "I just walk and watch, kick a few (tree) tops and the Lord provides me some targets."
A retired pulp-wood hauler, Beasley has permission to hunt some private farmland, in addition to several tracts of family owned property. His tactics are simple, but effective.

His harvest is, more often than not, a mixed bag of squirrels, rabbits and an occasional dove or raccoon. On this day, he had three rabbits, two cat squirrels and one fox squirrel. Not a bad tally by his admission.
"First you have to hunt where rabbits feel safe," said Beasley. "The rabbit is on everybody’s menu. Bobcats, hawks, foxes, coyotes, owls and us hunters all want a little rabbit meat in the pot, so to speak. So (the rabbit) has to be close to his cover just to survive as well as he does. 

"The day was when we could kick them up out of old garden patches and along fence rows where the grass and weeds were thick. Today, those places aren’t as common as they once were."
Beasley looks for areas where grass and briars provide cover and food. Where he finds droppings on stumps and logs, he knows rabbits are in the area.

Hunting with a well-used Stevens double-barrel, Beasley zigzags through likely cover at a moderate pace. When a rabbit is jumped he swings on the fleeing animal.
If a shot does not present itself, he waits a few moments.

"A spooked rabbit will sometimes run just a short distance and stop; sometimes you get a better shot that way," Beasley said. "Sometimes he’ll let you get a little closer. Shells are expensive, so I like to make every one count.

"I may see 10 rabbits or squirrels in a day, but if I know I can’t hit them, I don’t shoot. They’ll be there another day."

Written By:  David Hawkins

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gobblers On Your Home Turf

If you’re like most turkey hunters, you’ll work a gobbler anywhere you can find him. When you strike a bird, the game is on and where you, or the gobbler, are standing at the time doesn’t matter. Lots of times the particulars of the property doesn’t come into play until some time has passed and the hunt begins to grind to a slow-paced battle of unknown maneuvers by you or the bird. More times than not, particularly if you are on hunting grounds that you aren’t overly familiar with, you will find yourself wishing you knew a little more about where the bird was standing the last time he gobbled and what was between you and him.

That’s why I prefer to get into it with a longbeard on my home turf. I don’t own a big chunk of property, but that hasn’t kept me from learning some public pieces of ground like the back of my hand. Knowing where birds like to roost, where they like to go after fly down and where they like to spend the day is valuable information. That kind of information can only be known by the hunter who is willing to learn these things through time spent in the woods over a period of time.

My home turf has expanded gradually over the years. When I strike a bird in one of these areas that I know so well, I have an advantage. On the other hand, I have missed out on opportunities to even get in the game with birds simply because I had no idea where to even begin the hunt, much less end it.

Let’s look at the valuable points of turning a piece of property into your personal stomping grounds and how to do it.

Find the birds: I think it’s safe to say that at some point in our turkey-hunting careers we have all been a little shy about jumping into a piece of public ground with any real confidence. That could come from the amount of other hunters that might frequent the spot or simply just because you have no idea where to begin. You have to start somewhere, so you might as well dive in and start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. The best way to go about it is to find the birds first. This is better done in early March when birds are pretty much where they will be come opening day. That isn’t to suggest that you don’t need to spend any time in the turkey woods before March though. You can learn an awful lot about your hunting grounds just by poking around.

By early March the birds are generally in the area you will find them in when the season opens up. From there you can learn where they like to roost and which direction they like to travel when they fly down. Once they vacate the area, you can find the best places to set up on them once the season opens. It’s not enough to just get somewhere you might hear a bird gobble in the morning because it generally doesn’t do too much good to hear birds in the far distance. You want to be tight enough on them to get in on the first-light conversation. It’s always a plus to hear birds gobbling, but if he’s a half a mile away, you’re probably not going to have a lot of luck getting him interested, at least not while there are plenty of hens at his disposal.

Where are they going? Once the birds have flown down, it is important to pay attention to where they are going; first the general direction and eventually where that direction is going to take them. Turkeys are rarely creatures of random habit. They have a reason they travel in certain areas. It could be anything from something as simple as the food supply is better up one side of the creek or the terrain is more suitable in one direction than the other.

Pay attention to detail here. If a flock continuously heads in one direction, find out what the reason is for doing so. There may be a pine thicket in one direction and an oak ridge bordering a green field in the other. Common sense tells you where the birds are more apt to go. Of course, you don’t want to put all your faith in common sense when dealing with a wild turkey, but it pays off sometimes. Once you learn where birds like to go, you have really discovered a great place to get in their way in the process. As the season fades, along with the surplus of hens, gobblers will continue to frequent areas that netted him romance in the early season. They will be more apt to be on the move to cover as many areas as they can, so the more of these areas you can locate, the better your chances of scoring. These areas can produce gobblers at all times of the day.

Why did he do that?
I remember hunting an area of Cedar Creek WMA one morning where I had located a group of birds a day or so prior. I won’t overdo the details here, but I got my fanny whipped. Not to be discouraged, I tried the birds again the next morning, and the same results followed. A couple of days later, I tried them again, and again I was the loser. I had gotten the gobbler going each morning and had pulled him to within easy hearing of his drumming but never saw his face. Each morning, as I retreated to my truck with my tail tucked, I cursed the hens for ruining an otherwise beautiful spring day.

I was unable to hunt the spot for the next week, and when I finally got to hunt it again, nobody was home. I sat up in the same location as the previous hunts, and when the uneventful morning was over, I walked over the hill to see where the birds had been roosting. Once I cleared the hill, the old embarrassing “dunce” feeling hit me right between the eyes. There was a gully, just over the rise approximately 8 feet in depth and a good 4 feet wide. Not a huge obstacle for something with wings, but I have seen much less prevent a gobbler from dying.

I believe it was this gully and not the hens that ruined those previous morning hunts. I simply didn’t know what was over the hill and had never bothered to investigate. A little homework likely would have given me a passing grade on this bird before he decided to skip town. I have been guilty of being hard-headed on a turkey hunt or two, and this was just another case of it. I was bound and determined that he was going to die “my way.” I was wrong.

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply know what a bird did to whip your tail. It’s a good idea and can pay huge dividends later if you find out why he was able to do it so soundly. Most turkeys aren’t of the genius stature, though we are quick to label them as such at times. Also, I would imagine that most gobblers aren’t even aware that they are whipping your backside when they do it. They simply have their own set of rules, and sometimes they refuse to bend them. I think we are a little too quick sometimes to give a gobbler all the credit when we lose the battle. We just accept it as “he whipped me” and go to the house. The truth of the matter is if we try to figure out why, he may be a little less fortunate the next time we meet him.

I also believe if you have gained “home field advantage,” you are more likely to learn a particular turkey’s habits than if you just hunt an area every now and then. Some turkeys in certain areas will do the same things, travel the same routes and roost in the same areas as their ancestors did years before. If you know an area well enough, you will soon realize how true that is, even on public ground. And you will understand why it is so.

A good example of habits passed down occurred last spring while hunting with longtime friend Jake Hill. We were hunting a very familiar piece Cedar Creek WMA property one early April morning. The daylight chorus we had hoped to hear was nonexistent. After setting up and going through the motions for an hour or so, we finally heard a gobble a few hundred yards down the creek. He sounded as if he was on the other side of it, and I was pretty happy about it, too. Usually I’m not too happy about a bird on the opposite side of a creek, but this bird had gobbled from a spot I heard birds many times over the years. It was also in close proximity of a place where I knew birds liked to cross this creek. In fact, I had called birds across it several times over the years.

We hurriedly made our way toward the area I normally worked birds from across the creek. The first call I made got jumped on by two birds. One bird was on the hill above and behind us a couple of hundred yards away, the other bird was across the creek. I told Jake to pay close attention, and watch for the bird to slip in from across the creek. Five minutes passed when I called again, and the bird across the creek hammered it. He had cut the distance nearly in half and was probably only 150 yards or so away. The only thing between us now was the creek.

Ten minutes passed when Jake spotted the bird slipping in from his right. We watched as the bird stood strutting and drumming at 30 yards for the next several minutes before he gave in and strolled by Jake at just less than 30 yards on our side of the creek. This was his last stroll as Jake rolled the good 3-year-old.

It was a case of knowing what birds like to do in a certain area. It was history repeating itself.

Growing your own: When I first started turkey hunting, I had nothing but public ground to hunt. That’s fine, and I was proud to have that. I still am, but there was always a piece of me that wished I had the luxury of occasionally being able to hunt some unmolested private-land birds. Sometimes I will get an invitation to join someone on a piece of private property, but most of my turkey hunting takes place on public ground. My family owns roughly 160 acres and is made up of a slightly diverse landscape. A few different ages of pine make up the majority of the property, and there are four or five sections of hardwoods. I grew up deer hunting the property, but I decided a few years ago to try hard to get the turkeys to take notice.

Three years ago I planted eight food plots. The turkeys found it pretty much immediately, and last year I called up the first turkey that ever died on our property for my 10-year-old nephew, Walt. Last year, prior to the season, I conducted a controlled burn, and the results have been as hoped for. My youngest son, Andy, and I both killed birds on the property last year.

Not only is it rewarding just hearing a bird gobble on your own property, it should be a piece of ground you know better than any other.

One morning in March of this past spring, Devereaux, my oldest son, and I headed to a particular field on the property where Andy had taken a bird a couple of days earlier. We were set up well before daylight, and I can’t explain how excited I was to be hunting there that day. We didn’t have to wait long before a gobbler began cranking it up in a small hardwood head on another field about 150 yards away. He was where we thought he would be, but he was in a spot the birds liked to roost often, and as a result, we have decided not to hunt that particular field. So, I did a fly-down cackle, and he humored me with a hearty reply. He too was soon on the ground, but within a few minutes it was clear he had hens with him.

“No big deal,” I remember thinking. “He’s going to come over here anyway.” That’s when he threw me a curve and headed off in the opposite direction. He went silent for the next 45 minutes or so and then gobbled about eight or 10 times in a period of about 10 minutes from about 300 yards away. Then he went silent again. I thought about moving at this point but talked myself into staying put.

Thirty more minutes passed when I decided to call to see where he was. He answered from about 300 yards away, but this time he had traveled in a direction that made me think he just might be coming to see us. Ten minutes passed when the bird hammered again inside 100 yards. I knew he was likely to show up soon. I answered him, and within a couple of minutes a big white head came bobbing up the roadbed that leads into the field. Two hens passed him and made their way into the field in front of us. Five minutes later, he was flopping on the ground at 40 yards. I had killed my first bird on my own property! It was one of the most rewarding hunts of my career. When I was standing over the bird I remember thinking that every time he had gobbled, I knew precisely where he was standing. That’s some valuable information.

Now, I won’t try to convince you that you can live in downtown suburbia and own an acre of land that you can turn into a turkey-hunting paradise. I will tell you though that if you have a piece of hunting property and you want the turkeys to take notice, you can work toward that goal and maybe make it a reality. Food plots and control burns are great ways to grab a turkey’s attention. If you are low on budget, managing openings just by bushogging alone can help. Control burning is still one of the cheaper wildlife-management tools there is. Managing openings and creating more open understudy and promoting new growth through control burns will make your property more attractive to wild turkeys. Remember, generally, turkeys aren’t real crazy about thickets.

If money isn’t a concern, control burns and plot planting is the way to go. The same plots you plant in the fall for deer are often planted in the same things a turkey enjoys eating as well. Clovers, wheat, rye and other seedy head plants are turkey pleasers. However, my No. 1 choice for turkey plots would be chufa. It isn’t called turkey gold for nothing.

It’s all a matter of what you are willing to do to create home-field advantage. Whether you own 50 or 1,000 acres, or hunt thousands of acres of public land, you can create an advantage that will pay dividends for years to come.

Written By:  Donald Devereaux Jarrett

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Florida FWC Expands Hunting Opportunity, Improves Quota System

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today expanded hunting opportunities on private lands and on nearly 6 million acres of its public-hunting wildlife management area (WMA) system.

New rules also include allowing the use of air guns to take rabbits and gray squirrels, and make a slight modification to the boundary line between hunting zones C and D, south of Tallahassee.

Two new WMAs in the FWC’s Southwest Region of the state were also established and go into effect July 1. Both properties are owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and will offer a suite of hunting and other outdoor recreational opportunities. Lower Hillsborough WMA in Hillsborough County is 2,775 acres, and Weekiwachee WMA is a 2,850-acre tract within Hernando County.

“The specific changes to the quota system were made in response to requests from hunters and to increase opportunity and hunter satisfaction for WMA quota hunt participants,” FWC Division of Hunting and Game Management Director Diane Eggeman said. “Changes to the quota system adjust the bag limit on deer and spring turkey quota hunts on 39 WMAs to better accommodate guest hunters.”

Other changes allow a quota permit holder the flexibility to take a different guest each day of a quota hunt. The old rule allowed for only one person to make use of the guest permit for each quota hunt.

Another change to the quota system for next hunting season allows the reinstatement of hunters’ preference points only if they electronically return their unused quota permits 10 days or more prior to the first day of the quota hunt. This change will allow such returned permits to be reissued to other hunters on a weekly basis, instead of once a month, ensuring that more hunters are able to participate in the hunts.

Written By:  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

UPDATE: 2013 Python Challenge competitors turn in 68 Burmese pythons

Competitors in the 2013 Python Challenge™ trekked through more than a million acres of swamps and sawgrass in search of the well-camouflaged Burmese python. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) today announced the results: 68 Burmese pythons harvested during the Jan. 12-through-Feb. 10 competition.

The goal of the Python Challenge was to heighten public awareness about this invasive species, yet it also proved to be an unprecedented opportunity to gather important data about Burmese python populations and their impact on the Everglades ecosystem.

“Thanks to the determination of Python Challenge competitors, we are able to gather invaluable information that will help refine and focus combined efforts to control pythons in the Everglades,” FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley said. “The enthusiastic support from the public, elected officials, conservation organizations, government agencies and researchers gives hope that we can make progress on this difficult conservation challenge by working together.”

At the Python Challenge Awareness and Awards Event at Zoo Miami on Feb. 16, FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron and Wiley congratulated and presented trophies to the top competitors. Nearly 1,600 people from 38 states, the District of Columbia and Canada had registered for the competition.
Here are the official 2013 Python Challenge™ results:

The $1,500 Grand Prize for harvesting the most Burmese pythons went to Brian Barrows, who harvested 6 pythons in the General Competition, and Ruben Ramirez, who harvested 18 pythons in the Python Permit Holders Competition. The Second Place Prize of $750 in the most-harvested category went to Bill Booth, who harvested 5 pythons in the General Competition, and Blake Russ, who harvested 5 pythons in the Python Permit Holders Competition.

The $1,000 First Place Prize for harvesting the longest Burmese python went to Paul Shannon, who harvested a 14-foot, 3-inch-long python in the General Competition, and Blake Russ, who harvested an 11-foot, 1-inch-long python in the Python Permit Holders Competition. The Second Place Prize of $750 in the longest snake category went to Rigoberto Figueroa, for a 14-foot, 2.3-inch-long python in the General Competition, and Ruben Ramirez, who harvested a 10-foot, 6.8-inch-long python in the Python Permit Holders Competition.

Wiley thanked sponsors of the 2013 Python Challenge™ who provided prize money and other donations to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida in support of this event. Sponsors included Commissioner “Alligator Ron” Bergeron, Rachel Dodd, the Felburn Foundation, the Flowers Foundation, Golight Inc., Hoorag Bandanas, Incinc, K-Light Solar Lantern and Flashlight, Florida Wildlife Federation, Richmond Criminal Law and Mr. B.R. Slocum. Due to the generosity of sponsors, additional prizes were added.

Florida prohibits possession or sale of Burmese pythons for use as pets, and federal law bans the importation and interstate sale of this species. The public can help the fight to control invasive species such as Burmese pythons by:

  • Reporting sightings of exotic species to 888-IVE-GOT-1 or It’s helpful if you can submit a photo and location.
  • Not releasing an exotic pet into the wild, and reminding others of the dangers of releasing nonnative species.
Go to for additional information.

Media Contact:  Diane Hirth and Carli Segelson

Monday, February 18, 2013

Improve your hunting by understanding whitetail home ranges

Recently released results from an ongoing whitetail study in Washington State have shown that certain deer seem to travel much farther than most hunters would suspect. The long-distance champion thus far amongst the transmitter-fitted whitetails is a doe that traveled over 20 miles to reach her wintering ground

I’m fascinated by studies on whitetail home ranges and while it’s hard to draw too many comparisons between Washington State deer and those found in the Midwest and East, it’s still an eye-opener to see scientific proof of deer behavior.

I have to imagine that, even though the bulk of similar midwestern research points to home ranges of at most a few thousand acres, that these transitions between seasonal ranges explains some of the mysteries surrounding deer hunting. Think about how often you’ve watched a buck all summer only to have him completely disappear during the fall hunting season? He might have laid low and avoided detection, or he simply might have caught a whiff of impending fall on a cool late-summer evening and decided it was time to relocate to his fall range.

Ditto for the buck that shows up in late-December and drops an unfamiliar set of antlers in your food plots. It’s common to think he must have been there all fall, but perhaps not. Even a few thousand acres covers several sections, and for most of us a deer that moves even half of a mile is largely out of play as far as hunting is concerned. Although that may sound discouraging, keep your fingers crossed that the empty spot created from a mature buck vacating the area will quickly be filled by a new deer. Perhaps, a bigger one...

 "Studies on deer home ranges are fascinating. Depending upon geographic location and what seems to be simple deer preference, some whitetails willingly travel over 20 miles to reach winter or summer ranges".

Friday, February 15, 2013

Alleged cheater busted at Park Rapids tourney

Park Rapids, Minn. — To get a jump on the competition at a Park Rapids-area ice-fishing contest, one competitor brought along with him a couple specimens of his own, according to the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department. Now that person is facing possible attempted theft charges, as well as a DNR citation for transporting live fish from one body of water to another.

The fish the contestant was caught with wouldn’t have won the unnamed subject (charges hadn’t been filed as of Outdoor News press time on Tuesday) the contest’s grand prize, a pickup truck, but could’ve qualified him for any number of other fine prizes, according to Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes. The 15th annual Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Contest was held last Saturday on Fish Hook Lake.
Contests with big-buck prizes “sadly,” Aukes said, “make (cheating) more tempting.”

According to the sheriff’s department, the male suspect came to the American Legion fishing contest with two northern pike in a pull-type sled. Upon seeing the northern pike in the sled, other contestants confronted him, then contacted American Legion officials and Sheriff Aukes.

But the time Aukes located the suspect, he’d put one of his northerns down a hole. He still had one, however.

“We caught him red-handed,” Aukes said. “And he fessed up to what he did.”

The fish the subject kept was in the 2- to 3-pound range, according to Aukes. In the “northern, walleye, largemouth bass” division, the top fish was a 6.26-pound northern pike, and the angler won an ATV. The top fishing prize, however, went to the person who caught the 15th-largest fish (the 15th annual contest), which was a 2.06-pound northern.

The grand prize, the pickup, was won on a raffle ticket.

Aukes said some tournaments are operating that way – not awarding the largest fish – to dissuade cheaters.
“There’s less incentive to sneak fish in,” he said.

Aukes said he expects charges to be filed – and the subject to be identified – in a few days. Possible charges include attempted fraud or attempted theft by swindle, he said. A fine is likely, but jail time is also possible, depending on the individual’s criminal background, he said.

It’s likely, too, that the subject will be cited for transferring the fish between water bodies. CO Colleen Adam investigated for the DNR. She said the subject had a fishing license.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hunters Register 7,054 birds in 2012 Fall Wild Turkey Hunt

MADISON – Wisconsin wild turkey hunters registered a total of 7,054 birds during the fall 2012 wild turkey season, an increase of 28 percent from the 5,523 registered during the 2011 season. Success rates also increased, from 10.1 percent in 2011 to 12.9 percent during the 2012 season.

“The jump in harvest reflects favorable weather conditions over the past year,” said Scott Walter, upland wildlife ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “Right on the heels of a very mild winter, we experienced an early and relatively dry spring and early summer in 2012. This allowed hens to enter the nesting season in good condition and likely promoted high poult survival during the critical brood-rearing period.”

Variable weather conditions play a significant role in turkey population dynamics, and turkey populations can increase rapidly during years of favorable weather, according to Walter. DNR summer game bird brood surveys last year revealed the third-highest observation rate for turkey broods since 1987.

Also up in 2012 were permit numbers. Not including Fort McCoy, the total number of permits available statewide for the fall 2012 season was 96,700, a 1,000-permit increase compared to 2011. A total of 54,500 permits were sold for the 2012 fall turkey season; 37,721 via the drawing and another 16,779 permits sold over-the-counter after the drawing had been completed.

The number of permits available to hunters in each of the state’s seven turkey management zones is recommended by members of the wild turkey management committee, who consider recent trends in harvest, hunter success, and turkey reproduction, as well as hunter densities and field reports of turkey abundance.

DNR first initiated a fall turkey season in 1989 with the increase and expansion of turkeys throughout the state. Since then, hunters have been able to pursue turkeys in the fall and the spring.

“Hunting turkeys in the fall is quite different than taking part in the spring hunt, where hunters use the breeding behavior of gobblers to call one into range,” said Walter. “Fall hunters learn that the key to success is to pattern turkey flocks, and are adept at locating roost sites or feeding locations in order to get close to turkeys.

“Hunters that pursue turkeys during both the spring and fall seasons are really treated to two very distinctive outdoor experiences, and get to enjoy turkeys during very different phases of their annual cycle,” added Walter.

The spring 2013 turkey season begins with the youth turkey hunt, April 6 and 7. The regular season begins April 10.

“I would definitely say that the success hunters had last fall also suggests this spring’s hunt will provide plenty of outstanding opportunities for those who get out there,” said Walter.

Once harvest data for the spring 2013 season is available and biologists can assess spring production levels, permit levels for the 2013 fall season will be set.

“We won’t announce final fall 2013 permit levels until this summer, but hunters can expect plenty of opportunity to pursue turkeys in zones 1 through 5,” stated Walter.

Fall permit levels in northern zones 6 and 7 have been held at relatively lower levels, as turkey numbers have begun to build in these areas only in the last decade.

“There is less of an agricultural food base in these two zones and they are subject to more severe winter weather,” said Walter. “Lower permit levels thus afford turkeys in these areas some added protection.”

Written By: DNR

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Python Challenge 2013: Hunting snakes in the Everglades


Brains versus brawn would bag a python, Chris Harmon was convinced.

But after three weekends of peering at the Everglades through an infrared camera that registers animals’ body temperatures, the Boca Raton information tech specialist hasn’t spied a python. However, the gadget makes a handy gator locator.

“We saw all these huge bodies under the water and said, ‘OK, we’re not going there.’”

Hunting pythons, as nearly 1,500 hopeful hunters registered in Florida’s “Python Challenge 2013″ have discovered, is a “Where’s Elmo” game of finding a nearly invisible snake that could be right under your nose — or foot.

Brains versus brawn would bag a python, Chris Harmon was convinced.
But after three weekends of peering at the Everglades through an infrared camera that registers animals’ body temperatures, the Boca Raton information tech specialist hasn’t spied a python. However, the gadget makes a handy gator locator.

“We saw all these huge bodies under the water and said, ‘OK, we’re not going there.’”
Adam Gearhart of West Palm Beach figured hunting snakes while growing up in Indiana would give him an edge.

“Pythons are like garter snakes, right?” joked Gearhart.
He, too, came up snake eyes, after two long days of hiking deep into the Everglades with three friends.
Hunting pythons, as nearly 1,500 hopeful hunters registered in Florida’s “Python Challenge 2013″ have discovered, is a “Where’s Elmo” game of finding a nearly invisible snake that could be right under your nose — or foot.

Concerned about the snakes’ rapid spread through the Everglades, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) organized the four-week Challenge, which ends February 10. Those who bag the most snakes get $1,500; the biggest snake nets $1,000.
Almost anyone willing to tramp through razor-edged saw grass and endure boot-sucking muck can hunt this slithering form of bio-pollution that may be growing up to 20 feet long on Florida’s wild lands. Worried wildlife officials say the invasive snakes may be pushing native mammals to the edge of extinction in the southern Everglades.
But one thing is clear halfway into the hunt: The snakes are fairly easy to catch but confoundedly difficult to find.

Why are they so hard to track down? A python’s brown and black coloration blends seamlessly into the Everglades’ winter mantle of dry grasses.

Even long-time Gladesmen like Weston’s “Alligator Ron” Bergeron, can’t always spot them.

“I’ve actually stepped on them without knowing it,” said Bergeron, an FWC commissioner, after docking his custom airboat at a Tamiami Trail canal.

Bergeron has been pressing home the python problem by taking elected officials hunting on the tree islands dotting the ‘Glades golden saw grass prairies. Although Sen. Bill Nelson came up empty-handed on a recent safari with Bergeron, professional snake hunter “Python Dave” Leibman helped a Miami-Dade county commissioner catch a 9-foot python.

Leibman held the snake’s head while a Telemundo reporter wore the still-live snake during a stand-up.
Bill Booth found his first python by listening.

“I’ve never heard a sound like that,” said Booth, a Myakka City firefighter and lifelong outdoorsman. He and his hunting partners had motored their boat deep into the saw grass, then scrambled up a levee to look around. “It was a slow rustling of something big in the grass, not fast like a gator or a mammal.”

After some bare-handed snake wrestling and momentary panic — where the heck is the shotgun? — the snake in the grass became a live snake in a bag.

It was as big around as the fire hoses Booth uses on the job.

“They’re beautiful animals, but they don’t belong here,” said Booth, admiring the snake’s satin-smooth scales a few hours later at the drop-off site where hunters bring the day’s catch. “I feel like we’re helping save the Everglades.”

The snake was so big that University of Florida technicians had to stretch it out on the gravel road. It wouldn’t fit inside their tent.

One of the state’s partners in the Challenge, UF is performing the necropsies that yield crucial information for scientists. Stomach contents will reveal what the snakes are eating; DNA analysis might be able to link the snakes to a particular ancestor, the Patient Zero of pythons, likely a released former pet.

Booth’s python was longer than the technicians’ 10-foot tape measure. After a second tape measure was located, Booth heard the verdict: he’d snagged an 11-foot, 6-inch monster snake.
Fist bumps all around.

A big, no-nonsense guy who considers himself a conservationist as well as a hunter, Booth took a leave of absence from his job to hunt snakes through the vast gold and green landscape of the southern Everglades.

He’s sleeping in a small tent at a campground where a sign warns the area is panther country.

“Make yourself large.” “Maintain eye contact with the panther,” the sign instructs.

Making eye contact with a python requires a large outlay of time, patience and gas money.

According to his GPS coordinates, Booth covered 540 miles the first week, by boat, truck and on foot. In two weeks, he spent $800 in fuel.

Winning would not only defray costs, but the awards ceremony on Feb. 16 would make a fine 48th birthday present, and perhaps fulfill a dream.

Booth, who also is an award-winning taxidermist, hopes to have his own hunting show. The publicity from winning might capture the attention of an outdoors network.

To that end, his partners, Dusty Crum and Duane Clark, also from Myakka City, document Booth’s snake-snagging abilities on video, hoping to edit it into the pilot of a TV show. At the same time, a National Geographic crew has been following Booth while taping their own documentary, making a meta moment in the swamps.

Booth would rather turn the snakes in alive, but the Challenge’s rules stipulate pythons must be killed in the field, from a gunshot to the brain (Booth’s choice); a blast from a captive bolt (the weapon Javier Bardem’s psychotic killer used in “No Country for Old Men”) or decapitation.

A frustrating week goes by with only one more snake caught. Then, pay day.

Booth and his crew are now bumping down a saw grass-fringed levee in Booth’s camouflage-painted truck when they spot what every python hunter would trade his snake chaps for: two snakes sunning side-by-side in a clump of dry brush.

Leaping from the truck, Booth and his crew grab the snakes’ tails while trying to avoid the snapping, darting mouths lined with four ferocious rows of backward-curved teeth.

After gripping the captured snakes carefully behind the head, the men wind them into an Army-green duffel bag, then place the bag behind the driver’s seat before nonchalantly continuing their search.
“Snakes on a truck,” someone jokes.


To try to contain the snakes’ relentless spread through southern Florida’s wild lands, the FWC decided an open-invitation “incentive hunt” with cash prizes of up to $1,500 would drum up interest in hunting them.
They didn’t expect “Pythonathon 2013.”

The combination of Florida’s mysterious Everglades infested with huge exotic snakes chased by a gun-wielding, camo-clad crowd of hunters proved irresistible to sportsmen and media alike. On opening day Jan. 12, hunters bristling with guns, snake sticks and bravado set off into the Everglades, followed closely by a media herd brandishing cameras, boom mics and tripods.

With a purported tens of thousands of slithering targets, everyone anticipated easy pickings, as if grabbing a snake with the girth of a sewer line can ever be easy.

Yet, more than halfway through the monthlong hunt, almost all of the hunters have come up snake-less.
According to the FWC, which organized the hunt, 37 snakes were turned in by Tuesday, an average of about two snakes a day (0r .02 snakes per hunter.) Friday’s count was released too late for publication.
“Based on the hype, I thought I’d have 30 or 35 snakes the first day. Instead, I’ll be lucky to get that many the entire hunt,” said Booth.

By the middle of last week, Booth only had five snakes, likely enough to put him in the money for the contest.

How many pythons are spread over 1.3 million acres of Everglades? No one really knows.
“A lot,” said UF wildlife biologist Frank Mazzotti, one of the architects of the python hunt. “Honestly, any number you give after that is going to be wrong.”

Scientists do know the first python was caught in the Everglades in 1979, but few were reported until the 21st century, when the population seemed to explode.

In the first 11 months of last year, hunters caught 132 snakes. In 2011, they bagged 169 pythons.
The snakes are there, Booth agreed, if you’ve got the time and patience to find them. He estimates each of his catches required about 45 hours of hunting.

For casual hunters, that’s too much peering and poking for too little payoff when there’s a cold beer waiting down the road.

That leaves the Everglades’ new apex predators free to loll around inaccessible canal banks like basking cats.

Sooner or later, a meal will stroll by, since a big snake can dine on almost anything in the swamp: raccoons, opossums, wading birds, alligators, even a panther.

Unless the snakes have already devoured most of their food sources.


Experienced hunters say they’re shocked at the empty stillness of the southern Everglades.
“It’s a wildlife desert,” said Booth. “We’re not seeing many animals of any kind.”

Between 2003 and 2011, a survey reported that rabbits and foxes in the area have vanished.
Raccoon sightings declined 99 percent, opossums 98 percent and bobcats 88 percent, according to the study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Two years ago, water district workers killed a 16-foot python containing an undigested 76-pound deer.

It’s a crime, agreed Mazzotti, but we don’t yet know who or what is guilty.

“Pythons certainly have motive, means and opportunity, so you can indict them, but indictments don’t always mean a conviction,” said Mazzotti, who said man-made changes in water movement and pollutionalso might be culpable.

For now, hunting seems the best option to keep the lid on python proliferation, hence the creation of the Python Challenge.

“For every python removed, another wading bird will survive to next year,” said Mazzotti. “It’s like getting a criminal off the streets.”

Today, Sheriff Bill Booth is somewhere out there in the saw grass, trying to make the the ‘Glades safe for Florida’s critters.

“I still want to catch a super snake — one more than 14 feet long,” he said. “Imagine what that’s been eating.”

Written By :  Barbara Marshall

Monday, February 11, 2013



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Idaho officials decrease some moose hunting tags

Coeur D'Alene, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is decreasing the number of moose hunting tags available for northern Idaho.

Department spokesman Phil Cooper told the Coeur d'Alene Press that the moose population has remained steady in Idaho's panhandle, despite population declines in other parts of Idaho and Montana.

Overall, Fish and Game Commissioners added two moose bull tags and five antlerless tags to the panhandle region and they added four antlerless tags to the Clearwater region. But they reduced 51 bull tags in the Clearwater region to reflect population changes in the area.

Hunters can only take one moose in their lifetime, and Cooper says the department expects a 90 percent success rate for the number of tags released each year.

Written By: Outdoor News

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Roost: Reviews

Ol' Man "The Roost" Tree Stand
1/17/2013 7:20:30 PM
This stand is the best fixed position, strap-on tree stand that I have ever sat in. It has a large standing platform, the seat is comfortable, and it feels "secure".
Great Hang On Stand
1/16/2013 8:31:08 PM
Very comfortable tree stand. Easy to mount and has great features like a foot rest that is raised above the main platform, cushioned arm rests and backpack straps to hike it into the woods. Mesh style seat lets you adjust and reposition yourself without making noise.
Roost Fixed Tree stand
1/15/2013 3:37:54 PM
I love this stand. It was easy to hang and use. I only wish it had a different harness type. I would buy another one if I needed it! I would give it more stars if possible!!!

Go check it out and if you own a lock on roost we would love some feedback!