In last week’s column, we talked about one of the most common problems that can occur with ponds throughout the Shenandoah Valley. The issue is failing drainpipes when metal is used for this purpose. It can happen anywhere from 15-25 years after the pond is built.

We’ve written often in the past about the joys of building, owning, hunting near, and fishing in ponds. But over time, many ponds develop problems. Some of them can be fixed easily, like having a trapper remove muskrats that are burrowing holes in the dam. But one problem that is more diffic…

Novice hunters tend to think the best time to scout for deer is during late summer or early fall. Winter through early spring, though, is in many respects a better time to gather the information that will help you have a successful hunt next fall.

With the bitter cold weather we’ve been experiencing, this is a good time to sit back in an easy chair or in front of a fireplace and think of strategic ways you can improve your success on hunting outings next year. Here are a few tips and tactics that will help for a variety of species of game.

Drifting quietly along with the river’s current, my hunting partner and I were greeted with the sight of yet another squirrel scampering across the limb of an oak tree along the bank. We were hoping we could flush a mallard or two, but after seeing several squirrels, we decided to make it a …

Deer and turkey draw the focus of most Shenandoah Valley sportsmen. But when those seasons are closed, as they are now, a surprising number of outdoorsmen and women still like to venture out and hunt both the gray and fox squirrels that inhabit our western Virginia counties.

With the arrival of January, it’s time for diehard hunters to turn their attention to a challenging game bird of the forest – the ruffed grouse. This quarry draws upland hunters to the woods no matter how cold the air and how deep the snow, with open season lasting through Feb. 13. It’s hard…

With all the attention focused on deer recently during the rifle and late muzzleloader seasons, it’s easy to forget there are plenty of other hunting opportunities for Shenandoah Valley outdoorsmen. One such activity is duck hunting. Hunters in the western counties don’t have classic waterfo…

With rabbit season remaining open through the end of February, here are some observations on hunting this great small game quarry from Marc Puckett, Virginia’s Small Game Project leader. And if you are worried that only those with a pack of beagles can enjoy this sport, think again.

Many hunters call it quits for the year when rifle season closes, usually in late November. But if you like the challenge of hunting in December, deer can still be pursued. You just have to use primitive weapons such as bows, crossbows, and during the special late season, muzzleloaders. Thes…

With rifle deer hunting finished for the year, many sportsmen are turning to fishing. Yes, even though the calendar says it’s December, gamefish can be caught on a number of waters throughout the Old Dominion. Here are highlights of a few angling opportunities available right now.

You won’t catch as many fish as you do on spring and summer outings, but no time of year offers a better chance for trophy bass than winter. You could well latch onto the fish of a lifetime now, with December through March being one of the best times of the year for citation-sized (8 pound) …

While COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the country, there’s a far less serious condition some hunters will deal with as rifle season swings in. It’s a malady that every hunter knows the signs and symptoms of. Fortunately, they do not last long. In fact, they are present for only a few…

When the weather turns cold, many sportsmen devote themselves exclusively to hunting. But this is also a good time to improve your fishing skills. If you’ve always thought about taking up fly fishing or want to improve your technique at that sport, you’re in luck. One of the best places to u…

At the end of October and early November, bow hunting can get especially hard. Deer that had not been pressured all spring and summer start to feel the effect of hunters coming and going into the woods every day and don’t move as much as they did during the first weekend or two of the season…

When gun seasons open for deer over the next few weeks, most hunters will be hunting from tree stands or ground blinds. But if you prefer to put on “drives,” here are some strategies to make them more successful and safe. Even if you don’t turn to this method regularly, sometimes it’s worth …

Legs weary from the long morning of hunting, I was just about to take a break when suddenly there they were, right in front of me: 10 to 12 turkeys. Their brown and black feathers reflected the bright midday sun like a mirror.

Sometimes the best lure for catching a bass, striper or walleye, isn’t the latest brand new hi-tech product but rather an old offering that has proven its worth over many generations of fishermen. One such lure is the Rat-L-Trap. Today, we’ll take a look at why that lure is still so producti…

Originally a bird of the seashore, over the centuries the 7-ounce woodcock has gradually shifted the habitat it favors to moist, brushy thickets bordering streams, swamps, beaver ponds and nearby hillsides. That’s where it finds abundant supplies of earthworms, which make up 90% of its diet.…

Some of the most fulfilling sights for a whitetail hunter are deer feeding in a food plot and deer eating acorns under a huge oak tree. But as we all know, acorn crops can be light, spotty, or nonexistent. Most red oaks only produce large amounts of mast every couple of years, the deer’s fav…

Some hunters prefer to stick with the same gun, ammo, and binoculars for many years. Others like to update when finances permit and check out new versions available. For that latter group, here’s a look at some of the newest products being released by hunting gear manufacturers in time for c…

Considering how many sophisticated lures today’s anglers have available, it’s hard to believe a plain metal bait designed over 100 years ago would be worth tying onto your fishing line. Well, it is. The weedless spoon is an often overlooked but deadly bait for bass, pike, muskies, pickerel, …

This week we’ll cover a variety of subjects with short tactical tips to help improve your luck fishing or hunting. You may already know some of these but hopefully a few will help you catch more fish in the Shenandoah Valley’s lakes, rivers and streams or succeed more in pursuing the wide va…

I’ve been fortunate to fish for trout with dry flies on some of the top waters in the country, from the Bow River in Alberta to the Big Horn in Montana, from the Beaverkill in New York to the Hiwassee in Tennessee. Over those decades of angling, several hatches have stood out for providing s…

When Frank Carbone’s surface lure sputtered across the weed-covered point and disappeared in a spray of water, I was thrilled. The guide had clearly found out where at least one large fish was holed up.

Cereal grains are one of the best types of forages you can plant in late summer to help wildlife. Oats, rye and wheat as soon as they reach a few inches tall will be attractive to deer, while brassicas (discussed last week) will often be more appealing after frosts convert starches in the pl…

A group of does fed on the lush green forage in front of my stand. I could have taken one with the muzzleloader, but I knew odds were good that a buck would soon join them. The acorns in the woods had been depleted. But the mixture of plants in front of my stand contained both large blue-lea…

James Heddon was just killing time one day in the late 19th century, whiling away the hours as he carved on a piece of wood. Taking a break, he tossed it into the swirling waters of Dowagiac Creek. Suddenly a large bass rolled up, grabbed the piece of wood and disappeared into the depths.

One of the most popular columns we write is a smorgasbord of various short tips on fishing, hunting, and wildlife habitat management. Here are some tactics that hopefully will help you enjoy your trips into the outdoors more, and also catch more fish or bag more game. As we all know, just be…

Catfish are gaining more fans every day as anglers realize they offer their best chance to catch a quarry in freshwater that weighs 20-75 pounds on a consistent basis. Added to the attraction is the fact that Virginia has some of the largest catfish in the entire country, with several record…

Few activities lend themselves to social distancing better than hunting — one person alone in the woods or with companions who are spread more than 6 feet apart from each other. As we think ahead toward fall seasons, here’s a look at some new gear that companies have unveiled for 2020’s hunt…

Most Virginia turkey hunters associate spring gobbler season with mixed farm country and wood lots or vast reaches of national forest land covered with mature hardwood forests. But there’s another kind of wild turkey habitat. And it offers an intriguing opportunity if you want to travel for …

Pieces of ice formed in the guides of the graphite fly rod and my breath exhaled in whorls of white mist as I cast to the dark forms hovering near the bottom of Michigan’s Pere Marquette River. Suddenly, almost imperceptibly, the head of one fish turned slightly. Its white mouth opened. Inst…

Steelhead are a blast to catch any way possible as they surge upstream, fresh from lake or sea on their mating ritual. Cast lures on wild Alaska rivers, drift spawn on New York’s Salmon, back-troll on the mighty Skagit River in the shadows of Mount Baker. But the fact is, taking these large …

Too often people think of habitat projects in terms of large undertakings such as planting food plots or selectively thinning a forest. Actually there are many projects that can be done inexpensively and with just a short amount of work that will benefit wildlife.

Many people associate spring with hunting turkeys, but if you travel to Texas or a few other states you can also hunt exotic big game animals at this time of year. In fact, a turkey-exotic hunt is a favorite combination trip in Texas in spring. Axis deer and blackbuck antelope are the two ma…

For those who want to catch lots of river smallmouths, fishing in summer is definitely best. If you want to catch big smallmouths, now is the time to hit the Shenandoah, James, and other Virginia bronzeback rivers.

The short answer to the question—what should you plant for early season food plots is—white or ladino clover. But how this type of clover came to be widely recognized as the best early deer season food plot seed of all is an interesting story. It traces all the way back to the 1980’s.