With hunting seasons fast approaching, here's a collection of tips for a variety of game species. Hopefully one or two of these will increase your success rate this fall whether you hunt locally in the Shenandoah Valley or travel West for even bigger game animals like elk.
Deer: To increase the effectiveness of your drives, place a few thickets of heavy cover "off limits" during the early part of the hunting season. Mature bucks will head for these un-pressured areas and be there when stand and still hunting aren't paying off and you need to put on a drive.
Doves: Early season doves are mostly young, lightly-feathered birds that are easily brought down with field loads of number 8 shot. Later in the season larger, stronger birds are more common and they may be warier, requiring longer shots. Use high brass loads of 7½'s for this hunting.
Turkeys: Try to roost a flock of birds by getting out 30 minutes before sunset and listening as they fly up into trees. You'll hear whooshing wings, snapping branches and soft calls as they settle in. Pinpoint this spot and be positioned close by the next morning right at daylight. You might call one straight off the roost. If not, you can rush in, break them up and call the birds back in.
Elk: Most hunters call too timidly for elk, in a perfunctory fashion. A better bet is to bugle and grunt loudly, with lots of emotion. A big, boss bull weighing nearly half a ton makes a real commotion. Try to duplicate it to make him think he's being challenged by an interloper.
Ducks: When choosing spots to set out decoys in rivers, think of past trips you've made fishing or hunting and where you saw birds. Top locations include eddies, backwater sloughs off the main channel, points of land, areas near logjams and the edges of islands.
Deer: Most hunters know that white oaks acorns are a favorite deer food, but there are plenty of other acorn species that whitetails feed on. Take a tree-identification book and walk your hunting territory looking for these other important oak varieties: pin, nuttall, chestnut, burr, scarlet, sawtooth, northern red, post and chinkapin. Draw a map showing their locations and hunt each species when their acorn drop is at a peak.
Woodcock: Tune in the Weather Channel and watch the weather patterns to the north of where you live. When sharp freezes occur and high pressure systems blow in, woodcock should arrive the next day in your coverts. They actually "ride" the north winds, which help buffet them along on their journey south.
Pronghorn: When you're driving through your antelope hunting area and see a good buck, don't stop the truck to look it over or try a stalk. Instead, keep going until your rig is out of the pronghorn's sight. Park there and sneak back to where you can get a better look or plan a stalk. If you stop the vehicle in view of the animal it will become suspicious and leave, or at least be more wary and difficult to stalk.
Deer: Forgot your grunt tube? No worry. Use your throat and diaphragm to imitate this common deer communication sound. Try to huff the air up from your stomach, lungs and throat to get a realistic guttural sound.
Turkeys: If a gobbler hangs up because he's with real hens, sometimes you can call the female turkeys in and the tom will come with them. Try to duplicate exactly whatever calls the hens are using. That will sometimes draw them in--and the gobbler with them.
Woodcock: When you come upon a good area for woodcock, write its location down in a notebook or punch it into a GPS unit. Chances are good that spot will produce more birds in subsequent years, since individual birds and their offspring tend to follow the same migration patterns each year. And if one woodcock liked that habitat, chances are other will next season, too.
Award-winning outdoors writer Gerald Almy is a Maurertown resident.