By Gerald Almy
Do you just hunt one species? I didn't think so. Most of us like the varied experiences that come from pursuing a number of different quarries to heavy weight whitetails and bear, and maybe even an occasional exotic adventure for moose, elk, mule deer or pronghorn.
With that in mind, here's a collection of 18 tips for a wide variety of species that might help on your future hunts.
Deer: It's tough to judge mass on a deer, but this trick helps. Compare the antler to the buck's eye -- about 3 1/2-inches in circumference. If a buck's beam is thinner than that, it's a youngster. If it's bigger, the buck's likely 3 years or older.
Woodcock: Normally the best woodcock hunting is found around marshy stream bottoms. After periods of heavy rain, though, nearby grassy and brushy hillsides can hold lots of these long-beaked black and tan birds.
Doves: Early-season doves are mostly young, lightly-feathered birds that are easily brought down with field loads of #8 shot. Later in the season, larger, heavily-feathered birds are more common. They're also warier, requiring longer shots. Use high brass loads of 7 1/2's for this hunting.
Turkeys: Diaphragm turkey calls will last much longer if you store them in the refrigerator. Dry thoroughly and store in a paper bag or cardboard box.
Grouse: Ruffed grouse love to roost in conifers at night. They'll also hang out in these areas if it's wet and stormy. Hunt near evergreens early and late during clear weather to intercept birds heading to their roost, or all day if it's cold and stormy.
Turkeys: When a gobbler hangs up because he's with hens, don't give up. Instead, tone down the calling and try to sweet talk the dominant hen into range. Duplicate exactly whatever call she is using and the hen will often come in -- with the gobbler in tow.
Deer: Try a staggered two-man still hunt. Have one hunter work slowly through cover with the wind blowing crossways while a second hunter works 75 to 150 yards downwind and slightly behind. The first hunter may jump a buck and get a shot, or the deer may circle back downwind, offering the trailing hunter a chance.
Ducks: Decide whether ducks are worth calling by how they are flying. Birds that are high up, flying fast and in a straight line know where they are going and aren't likely to come to your calls. Lower birds, however, that look more wavering or indecisive in their flight can often be lured in with a good spread and skillful calling.
Turkeys: If you bust up a flock of turkeys in fall but misplaced your calls, try whistling at a high pitch three to five times, like you were calling a dog. Young birds are particularly susceptible to this "kee-kee" call, which they make to regroup with each other when separated.
Deer: Let the weather dictate your hunting strategy. If it's dry and the leaves are crackly underfoot, take a stand. If a light mist or snow is falling, still hunt. If a major storm has blown in, put on drives -- deer will be bedded and you'll need to push them out.
Rabbits: Avoid open areas when going after rabbits. The thicker the cover is, the better your chances of jumping this quarry. Search for brier patches, clusters of brush, abandoned farm machinery overgrown with weeds, deadfalls wrapped in grapevines and honeysuckle-covered fences.
Quail: Don't think all quail flush in one simultaneous covey rise. Usually a few stragglers get up late. Save a shell and these quail may present the best opportunity of all when there are no other birds to distract you.
Ducks: When you first spot ducks far off, use the highball or hail call -- loud, high pitched rapid quacks. This gets the ducks' attention and turns them towards you. Once they spot the spread of decoys, scale back to softer, contented hen sounds.
Woodcock: When you flush a woodcock, don't fire your gun as the bird is rising. An easier shot will come if you wait until the timberdoodle levels off and starts to fly horizontally. At the point where it changes direction, it will be virtually motionless.
Ducks: Try to plan your float hunts for ducks from mid-morning through mid-afternoon. The birds will have done most of their flying for the day and be resting near islands or behind logjams before heading out in the evening to feed in fields.
Geese: To attract the most geese to a spread, put out the majority of your decoys in resting or lying-down positions. This lures in waterfowl more readily than decoys in alert positions.
Rabbits: In dry, hot weather, look for cottontails around spring seeps and along tree-lined stream bottoms where they find cooler temperatures, shade and moisture.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.