With deer season now over, it's time to turn to grouse and other small game to finish out the hunting agenda for the year. It's true grouse populations aren't at the levels they were 30 years ago. But there are definitely enough of these beautiful brown and russet birds to make hunting them a worthwhile endeavor.
While it may be bitter cold out and hunting seasons are winding down, there are still plenty of things for the outdoor sportsman to do during mid-winter. Among the most popular activities for this "off season" is visiting the many fishing and hunting outdoor shows throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
After the rut is finished, bucks find themselves in precarious shape. They may have lost up to 20 percent or more of their body weight from fighting, chasing does and eating only sporadically. Survival demands that they replenish their lean, worn down bodies.
Hunting before a major snowstorm blows in can be immensely productive because deer can sense it coming and will be up and moving. Hunting immediately after it clears out can also be excellent because deer will be hungry and getting up to feed after hunkering down during the storm.
Whitetails have consistent spots where they traditionally enact the "chasing" phase of courtship. By locating these chasing grounds and hitting them during the prime time when does are just about to come into estrous, you can be in the sweet spot for tagging a mature buck.
Vic Gaspeny is a name well-known to saltwater anglers. The Tavernier, Fla., resident is a light tackle fishing guide in the Florida Keys who works out of the famous Bud N' Mary's Marina in Islamorada, Fla. He's gained an international reputation for his ability to put anglers onto tarpon, and for helping pioneer "Day Dropping" for swordfish off the Florida coast.
Some hunters think staying put on their stand all day is a macho thing to do. Tough guys don't have to take a break and stretch or go back to camp for a hot meal. And they definitely shouldn't take a siesta during midday to recharge their batteries!
Two goals were foremost in Robert Hopkins' mind when he set out to build a new fishing spoon in the early 1940s. He wanted a lure that would cast for long distances to reach far-away gamefish. And he wanted a lure that would fool a wide variety of saltwater species.
Sure, virtually every fly fisherman enjoys fishing a dense hatch of aquatic insects where trout become frenzied in their feeding. If the truth be known, though, finding such a heavy hatch is not a common event on trout streams in northern Virginia today. And when you do run into such heavy emergences, they are usually short-lived affairs that last for an hour or two if you're lucky.
When Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, decided he would get into the business of producing and selling seeds for hunters to plant for deer, one should have known big things would come from it.
Lauri Rapala was born in Finland over a century ago, in 1905. When he was in his 20's, he moved to the shores of a huge lake to try to make a living as a fisherman. While waiting for the nets to fill with perch and whitefish, he would row his wooden boat, attempting to catch a trout with lures to add to the catch he could sell.
Mention crankbaiting and most anglers picture hefty baitcast reels, heavy line, stout rods and sore muscles at the day's end from hard reeling against the pressure of big-lipped lures. But there's another kind of diving plug, one that has proven its worth on a number of species in varied fishing conditions. And it's a lure that won't leave you sore at day's end from fishing it. That lure is the mini-crankbait.
As we approach hunting season, many people are still hoping to get in a food plot, but haven't begun yet. Don't worry. It's still not too late. In fact, this is the perfect time to put in many plant species. These fall into two broad categories -- cereal grains and brassicas.
If you like fishing, this is your time of year. Sure it's hot. But virtually every gamefish in fresh and saltwater is biting now. One type of fishing that you may have overlooked is fly fishing for largemouths. A lot of local anglers fly fish on the Shenandoah, but there's plenty of good long-rodding available for bigmouths, too. Lake Anna and the game department managed lakes nearby are good bets. But my first choice for catching largemouths on flies would be a farm pond of one-half acre or larger.
If you want to create a food plot that provides nutrition to deer and also attracts mature bucks out into the open during shooting hours (with a camera or a gun), you need to think creatively. Forget your preconceived notions of what such a setup should look like. Picture-book plots with one plant growing lush and green from edge-to-edge won't accomplish this goal.
I've had the good fortune to hunt bears in many Canadian provinces and western states over the years. But most of my experience with bears in Virginia comes in the spring when I'm not actually hunting them but instead repairing the damage they do to property and discouraging them from coming around the house.
If you enticed a wild gobbler into shotgun or bow range this spring, count yourself very lucky, very skilled, or perhaps both. This is one type of hunting where the majority of participants go home empty-handed, so wary and elusive are these big, majestic black and brown birds. But we keep coming back, because few thrills can match watching a big tom with its tail feathers spread wide slowly, cautiously sneaking in towards our hen calls.