Category Archives: The Hunting Stories

North Zone Waterfowl – Ducks Done but There’s Still Geese

Wrote this on December 10th and never did anything with it…

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Some waterfowl observations.

For the first couple of weeks of the waterfowl season, it sounded like a war zone around Yorkville. Since then, things have died down considerably, hardly hear any shooting. There’s also not many geese hanging around down this way. They usually show up in bigger numbers when the ponds in the area start to freeze over. This stretch of the Fox River doesn’t freeze over because of the effects of the Yorkville dam and that’s a draw for the birds.

But, I have to drive east everyday for work now. I take Route 126 through to I-55. Between Yorkville and Plainfield it’s primarily farm fields. The closer you get to Plainfield, the more birds you see. Hundreds upon hundreds of them. In the fields, flying overhead in massive V’s and all over the DuPage River.

I’m assuming the draw for all these birds is Lake Renwick and all the strip mine pits in the area that are now fishing clubs. As those start to freeze over, a lot of the birds move to the DuPage River, which almost never freezes over.

A smart waterfowler would do a bit of research and check out the hunting opportunities around Plainfield. I know you can hunt on the DuPage River further south of Plainfield, only I can’t remember the details. No public blinds as far as I remember, so you’d need a boat blind. Better still, it might be worth someone’s while to find out if you can drift shoot out of a canoe through that section. I know you can do that on the Fox River down stream of Silver Springs State Park, why not on the DuPage?

As long as there’s open water around Plainfield, the birds will stick around. I’ve noticed for years that the geese hang around in that area all winter mainly because of the DuPage River. I would imagine there has to be a way to take advantage of this.

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Well, things have change a bit since then.

The season for ducks in the North Zone ended on December 18th, but the season for Canada Geese doesn’t end till January 17, 2013. There are still massive amounts of them around Plainfield, but the turn in the weather on Thursday has changed things a bit on the Fox River.

Friday night the geese were moving onto the Fox River down from my house. You don’t think of them flying at night, but I hear them all the time heading down to the river and then talking up a storm once they get there. That means this cold front has started to freeze the ponds in the area and they’re heading for open water. The river will get some skim ice now, but it won’t start to freeze over for awhile yet.

Cruising along the river on Saturday showed geese gathering all over the place. This is the first I’ve seen this all season. Remember my comment above about drift shooting down river from Silver Springs State Park?

I stopped on the bridge over the river that defines this down stream edge of the State Park. In the pool below the bridge and for down stream as far as you could see were geese, at least a couple of hundred of them. This is where you can supposedly start drift shooting on the river. If you want to try this I would get that info verified to make sure, but it’s been done in the recent past and I haven’t heard that things have changed.

That being said, I was out this morning around the beginning of shooting time watching a couple hundred geese leave the river and head for the surrounding fields.

No shooting to be heard anywhere.

The 10 day weather forecast shows low 30’s during the day and teens and twenties every night. This should bring considerably more geese to the river.

If you’re a dedicated Canada Goose hunter, you might not want to miss this.

Even a Deer Enjoys a Good Cuban Now and Then

For well over a dozen years while out cruising the internet, I’ve been using the same picture of a cute smiling me when I was four years old as an avatar everywhere I go. Keeps people guessing. How can someone so cute be such an ass at times.

I grew up, the picture didn’t.

That’s me on the left. The monkey sitting next to me is my brother and, yes, he eventually grew into those ears quite handsomely.

The other day I decided to change the picture on my Facebook profile to something more recent. I don’t allow many pictures of me to be taken any more, but this one was taken by my daughter and I kind of like it.

It started up the usual smartass comments from so called friends, but then Nicholas Kriho said, “Needless to say, you didn’t do any successful deer hunting for at least a month after that photo was taken.”

I replied, “Deer are drawn to the cigar smell. The things walk up on me all the time. Or, I smell like a deer.”

I actually think about this fairly often when I’m out and about. We all know how we’re supposed to cleanse ourselves of any kind of odor when heading out deer hunting. We’re even supposed to douse ourselves with all kinds of foul smelling stuff to attract deer.

This flies in the face of what I’ve learned.

The first and only time I’ve hunted deer was out in Virginia. My back won’t allow me to go climbing around in trees, so I built myself a ground blind and then sat there, for hours. It was grueling. Of course I had to smoke a couple of cigars while sitting around doing nothing. I justified this by convincing myself the deer were all upwind of me.

Sure enough, a deer came out of nowhere, stood there giving me a clean shot, so I took it. I always thought that was odd and I know I’ve mentioned it to others when the topic of deer hunting has come up.

Over the years I’ve walked up on, and have had deer walk up on me, hundreds of times while out fishing rivers and just wandering around in the woods. I’m always smoking a cigar, can’t help myself. Recently, these four hung out waiting for me to walk by before they made a dash across the river.

Another recent venture through the woods had me eyeball to eyeball with the biggest deer I had ever seen. Had been smoking a cigar the whole time and it seemed to not care one way or the other.

This happens all the time. On islands, off wandering around in the woods, out squirrel hunting and always with me smoking a cigar. You would think the deer could smell me coming and would keep their distance or hunker down and turn invisible like deer seem to be able to do.

It was this train of thought today after the comment that Nicholas made that finally made the little bells go off in my head.

Deer are used to smelling smoke.

At least around here. They have to be, I smell smoke all the time. All the houses around me have fireplaces and all their yards have fire pits. There’s always someone burning something. I can smell smoke coming from the homes on the other side of the ravine, a good half mile away. There are always deer hanging out around the ravine.

Not far away, the farm fields start. At times I can see and smell the smoke a mile away, coming from the brush piles being burned off by some farmer some where. I see deer all the time, cruising these fields and walking along the tree lines. This time of year it’s not unusual to see and smell a smoky haze traveling down the Fox River below my house. And there are the deer wandering along the river.

I enjoy these smells of smoke, I find them comforting somehow. The deer have to think something of these smells too.

So that has to be it. The deer are used to the smoke smells. When I go wandering around in the river and through the woods smoking away on one of my cigars, they must think nothing of it. They smell it all the time.

Now I have to get the deer trained. When they smell me coming, puffing away on one of my cigars, they show up with a little keg of cognac hanging from their necks.

And I’ll promise not to shoot them.

Gone Huntin’

“What are you doing?”

Well, I was thinking that over the last 10 years I’ve got out duck and goose hunting one time. I used to like hunting for ducks and geese. Setting up the decoys, sitting in a blind all day. I’d get to watch a sunrise and a sunset while sitting on the edge of a river. Very peaceful, very relaxing.

“Noooo, what are you doing with that stick and a loaf of bread?”

Oh, that.

“You’re going to make me regret this conversation, aren’t you.”

You know how I always joke about going after all these resident waterfowl, the ones that hang around here pretty much all year, with a nine iron and a loaf of bread? I thought I’d give it a try. They’re so used to people throwing food at them, they’ll walk right up to you. Nice easy whack upside the head and you got a meal.

I did have to give up on the nine iron idea though cause I don’t have one. I tried to take my dad’s, he can’t golf anymore, but I made the mistake of telling him what I was thinking of doing with it. Besides, if I go out there walking around with a nine iron some guy will think that’s an invitation to strike up a conversation about golf. Ever have a conversation about golf? It’s worse than a conversation about baseball, hockey, football and basketball COMBINED! After a few minutes I’d be begging the guy for a couple of tee’s so I can shove them into my eardrums. It’s brutal.

“I can think of worse things… all I asked was…”

I actually learned this from watching kids. Remember I worked with the Chicago Park District’s Kid Fishin’ program years ago. Kids would bring their lunch along, kids never finish their lunch. So they would start ripping it to shreds and feeding it to the fish. Before you knew it there were ducks and geese streaming in out of nowhere to join in on the feast. They’d eat everything that hit the water or ground. They’d walk right up to your feet. That’s when I first got the idea that I should just pop one.

“That’s baiting, even I know you can’t bait birds.”

Ahhh, most hunting requires baiting. Yeah, they make this stupid law that you can’t go throwing food on the ground or in the water, but it’s all baiting. Think about it, you throw all those decoys out there in a place that you think might be inviting to waterfowl. Then you sit back and start talking to them. You have no clue what you’re saying to them. Hey man, over here, we got food. Or, hey, take a break, nice spot here. Or, hey baby, you wanna get yourself some? You have no clue what your saying to these birds, it’s all baiting.

Squirrel calls, same thing, you’re baiting them with promises of something. Rotating wings on dove decoys, those stupid flapping flag like things waterfowl hunters wave around. Take a look at hunting in cornfields for waterfowl. You set up in a corn field after it’s been harvested and there’s corn everywhere. Brings in the birds by the hundreds. Oh sure, you can argue you didn’t put the corn there, but somebody did. It’s baiting.

Then, how about those idiots that go out deer hunting? There’s actually a product out there called #69 (like deer even know what that is) Doe-in-Rut Buck Lure. The graphic on the front, the one that’s supposed to entice you to buy this product, is an image of a big buck with his nose up the ass of a doe.

Really?

“Can I go now…”

That’s the ultimate in baiting. I know guys that would gladly give up food for sex. All I know is that if you’re dumb enough to put this stuff on then go out wandering around in the woods, I wouldn’t spend too much time bent over doing anything. You get what you deserve at that point.

“You really aren’t going to go do this, are you?”

There’s a score to be paid, remember. All I wanted to do was go out fishing and the geese picked the one spot I had to walk past that didn’t involve swimming in the creek. They honked and hissed, I tried to settle them down. Talked nice to them. Tried to hush them a bit, I’m heading on my way… and what do they do? They try to kill me.

Fun With Wildlife

It’s payback time.

But first, a decision needs to be made… white or wheat?

To: Fox River Waterfowl Hunters Below Yorkville

From: The Guy That Lives on top of the Hill Above the River

Some advice…

When you put your boat in the river at 4 a.m. at the boat ramp six blocks away…
When you start up you’re noisy little outboard motor…
I can hear you like you’re right outside my bedroom window.

The river has some pretty decent current through here.
It’s also not that deep.
So don’t be surprised if you hear a crunching noise come from the underside of your boat.
If you miss that shallow spot, turn around and try to come up stream…
Now you sound like you’re driving your boat through my living room.

I’ve been out on my front porch at that hour listening to you go through this.
There’s something you probably don’t notice because of all the noise you’re making.
Every duck and goose within a mile of you is now flying away from the river, squawking and honking like crazy.
Must have been hundreds of them down there.
Quite a few are flying over my house.

Try this, put your boat in at the ramp near Route 47.
Let your boat drift down the river to the blind you want to use.
DON’T START YOUR MOTOR. FIGHT THE URGE.
You have plenty of time and when you get there and shooting time arrives, you might actually have something to shoot at, instead of sitting there listening to all the gun shots coming from either side of the river.
Those are all the birds you normally would have sent their way.

When you’re done, DON’T START YOUR MOTOR. FIGHT THE URGE.
Just let your boat drift down stream and get out at the boat ramp at Silver Springs State Park.
The other hunters in the other blinds up and down the river will thank you for this…
…and then they don’t have to fight the urge to shoot the motor off the back of your boat as you go by.

Sincerely,

Ken G

Gobble, gobble, gobble…

Was out driving around the other day when a bunch of black specks out in a field, close to a tree line, caught my eye. Of course I had to slam on the brakes, throw on the flashers and ease off the road onto the soft gravel and dirt they call shoulders around here. This time of year with everything thawing, that can be a risky under taking. Particularly if you would like to get back on the road at some point without taking half the shoulder with you or spreading it out in a wide fan behind you.

For years I’ve been seeing a flock of turkey in this area. Sometimes here and other times in another field a mile or two away. Hopefully you’ll be able to see that the two birds that are the closest have pretty substantial beards on them.

Not sure if anyone hunts them in either of these fields.

In the above picture, as lame as it is allowing for the limitations of my camera, I count 14 of the specks heading through the field. There were quite a few more outside of the picture frame. This field is usually filled with cattle and is covered with grasses year round. The other field a mile or two away is either corn or soy beans. Can’t tell which one the birds prefer.

Not too far away is Silver Springs State Park. I know this flock comes off one section of the park, only there is no turkey hunting allowed at Silver Springs. The chances of getting permission from either of these landowners is probably slim to none. I used to have access to the land where I saw the birds this day, but for every conscientious outdoors person there is out there, whether angler, hunter, birder or hiker, there seems to be considerably more that are flat out slobs. This landowner had no choice but to ban everyone in one fell swoop.

I live along one of two cul-de-sacs with a heavily wooded ravine along one side. We used to get turkey and deer wandering through the neighborhood all the time. Of the 11 homes along these two short roads, eight of them are rentals. New tenants over the last two years have brought considerably more dogs into the neighborhood.

The house I rent is one of three that have a fenced in yard, our dogs never go beyond the fence. Apparently our neighbors don’t seem to care if their dogs wander freely around the neighborhood. Conversations have been had, promises have been made and yet I still find all the dogs wandering across my front yard, into those of other neighbors and down into the ravine. It has made scenes like this, turkey gathering at the feeder outside my living room picture window, nonexistent.

I have an old Beeman Airgun that shoots .177 caliber pellets. From what I understand, initial velocity is that of a .22. After 100 feet, the velocity drops off considerably. Conversations with my neighbors are over, I’m tired of trying to reason with these people. I’ll keep the range over 100 feet. We’ll see if the dogs get the hint after a few well placed pellets to their hind quarters.

Maybe then I’ll walk out my front door to see a few turkey and the occasional deer wandering down the street.

Instead of some neighbors dog shitting on my front lawn.