Land Of The Giants   

Land Of The Giants

By: Marc Drewek

Awarded! That special word you want to read when you apply for an Iowa non-resident deer tag. The journey begins in May when you begin the application process and ends in July when you go onto the Iowa DNR Website. It’s hard to describe the feeling when you make the final click on the draw results tab. When the tag arrived in the mail in late July it was like holding a bar of gold. The next five months flew by like a flock of migrating geese. What also helped were numerous family events to look forward to and of course the busy season at TRS.

Having hunted in Iowa since 2000 it is like going home to hunt. The largest bucks I have had the opportunity to harvest have all come from Iowa. All of us who love to hunt whitetails and watch outdoor television know Iowa is the place. Knowing that at any time a buck of a lifetime can show himself is a feeling that’s hard to describe.

The numbers of deer is another great element in an Iowa deer hunt. Over the years, I have had stands that I have seen over 40 deer in one sit. Although the area I hunt has suffered through EHD, (a hemorrhagic disease of white-tailed deer which is an infectious, and sometimes fatal virus that is characterized by extensive hemorrhages) the deer herd seems to be growing and staying healthy. The terrain I hunt is similar to western Wisconsin, deep ditches leading from the bedding areas into the agricultural fields. The trick here is finding the key bedding areas, setting the stand, and waiting for the right wind. (The one thing I have discovered hunting in Iowa is that the deer do not look up in the trees like the deer in Wisconsin.)

After a good night’s rest, day one was filled with excitement and anticipation, just like every other one. With all the rain they had, the fields were wet and extremely muddy so all the stands I wanted to hunt would have a long walk. I sat in a stand that was one of my favorites with five big ditches leading up to a saddle and then down one big main ditch, a perfect funnel. I would see four bucks and a few does that morning. With a missed opportunity with the muzzleloader, it was time to move to the back of the farm; another long walk but well worth it. This was an area that produced my first Iowa harvest, a 160-inch, 10-pointer. So needless to say, I was excited.

On this day, the wind was perfect for this stand; directly out of the southwest. At 4:00 the first deer came out and it was a shooter.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a shot. By the end of the day, I had seen several nice younger bucks and plenty of does.  The only negative was that the deer were coming out where I couldn’t get a shot. We needed to move the stand 20 yards south. If we could do this, I knew I would get an opportunity, granted the wind stayed the same.

Day two was uneventful at best. The wind changed and we couldn’t hunt where we wanted. We were watching the weather hoping the wind would switch and some colder weather would move in.

Day three we decided to move the stand. So I would sit in a blind on another property while the stand was moved. At 1:00 pm I was back on the stand where all the activity was. By 3:00 the deer were moving but they were coming out downwind. I would still see several nice bucks and a few does. Our hope was for the clouds to move out and the colder weather to move in.

Day four rolled in with colder weather and sunshine, which we hadn’t seen much of this trip. I sat in the timber for the morning hoping to catch the deer heading to the bedding area. By noon I hadn’t seen a deer, so I decided to take a slow walk back to the evening stand. Just as I had expected, the deer started moving earlier, the first ones at 2:30 and they just kept pouring out. The new stand position was perfect. The farthest shot would be 80 and the closest at 30. By 4:00 I had seen over 25 deer, including another nice 10-point. Needless to say, I was getting pumped. Just to give you an idea I had 17 does and fawns pass by me at once at less than 30 yards. After those does had passed, I noticed two more deer headed my way.  Both were bucks.  There was a smaller one and a really nice wide 8-pointer. If they stayed on their path, they would be at 30 yards for a shot. Thirty yards it was… and the wide eight was on the ground 20 yards away. After a few minutes of calming myself down, I climbed down and put my hands on him.  I couldn’t have been more grateful to harvest this animal.

After four days of pounding wind and rain, the satisfaction was overwhelming. Being aggressive and moving the stand made all the difference. Sometimes you have to make things happen and take a chance. The hunt was one of the most enjoyable due in part to where I was hunting, but also because I didn’t put pressure on myself to “shoot the big one.” Instead, I absorbed every minute of being in the outdoors, seeing multiple big bucks and having the chance to experience the thrill of the harvest. It’s not so much about the grail as it is the quest in the land of the giants.

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Refusing To Stop Short

Refusing To Stop Short

By: Luke Hartle 

Trail cams can provide as much invaluable information during the season as they can during pre-season scouting.

The leaves were already starting to change colors the first time I got a picture of him. Since mid-July I had been running multiple scouting cameras across the 210 acres I was hunting, and he hadn’t been captured in any of the more than 800 pictures I had logged.

The property extended for nearly 2 miles along a meandering creek bottom, surrounded on both sides by expansive crop fields and the occasional woodlot littered with hardwoods. This created thousands of hidey-holes in which this buck could seek refuge, but his sudden appearance still surprised me. Hundreds of scouting cam pics and hours of in-field summer scouting—not to mention hours of early season hunting—hadn’t turned up so much of a track from this buck.

But there he was in all his glory, suddenly flaunting in front of multiple cameras.

And the kicker? He was big enough to reroute my previous game plan and shift my focus directly to tagging him.

There are multiple reasons why whitetail buck might relocate, but rather than focus on why he arrived, change your perspective to determine why he might’ve left where he’d previously been living.

The Food Factor

Any deer hunter who’s been in the woods for more than one season knows that the rut does crazy things to a whitetail’s schedule and travel routes. No surprises there. But the buck I referenced above showed up during the portion of the season when deer typically don’t wander. The often less than exciting time as bucks shift from their highly predictable summer patterns to the movement halt of the October lull.

There can be many reasons for mid-season movements depending on your specific locale. However, if you can put your finger on why a buck might relocate, you can then determine what he’s seeking, or what he’s avoiding, and plan your strategy accordingly based on what your trail cameras are telling you during your continued scouting throughout the season.

For example, food sources favored by whitetails change constantly throughout the hunting season, most often dictated by the weather. An early frost can quickly alter a favored soybean field and push deer to a new primary location. Same goes for your food plots. Keep the cameras rolling all season and you’ll have tangible proof of deer movements rather than simply guessing if they’re favoring one food plot or another.

Seasonal Habitat

In areas consisting of large agricultural fields, I’ve found the cutting of cornfields to be one of the biggest influencers of deer movement. Throughout the summer months, and continuing into early fall, whitetails do not need to travel far at all if they have everything they need for survival, and a cornfield provides two of the big three necessities: cover and food. Add in a quick trip to a nearby water source, and I’ve seen whitetails limit their daily travels to as little as about 100 yards.

Similar seasonal patterns can be found in whitetail locales consisting of a lot of CRP fields. When the grasses are growing, cover is ample and there are many escape routes for mature deer. But as the season progresses, especially if a snowstorm rolls through, cover quickly becomes limited and deer are forced to relocate.

People Pressure

Of course, the biggest factor to influence deer movement is people movement. From farmers to hikers, and from hikers to hunters, it’s no secret that deer will rarely tolerate pressure from people. As simple as it sounds, deer that leave one area have to go somewhere else. Whitetail knowledge will oftentimes give you a good starting point about where they’ve gone, but a trail cam will let you know for sure.

Walking The Line

Working a line of trail cams throughout the season can be a risky venture. More cameras mean more eyes in the woods feeding you information, but they also mean more intrusion to pull memory cards.

I’ve found it extremely effective to check my trail cams after an extended morning sit. I’m already in scent-minimization mode, I’m already in camo and I’m already in the woods—so it logistically makes sense.

I do, however, plan my route carefully, minimizing the amount of distance I must travel to check all the cards, but I’m also very careful to travel downwind of bedding areas to minimize the potential for spooking deer in their late-morning beds.

Is the risk worth the reward? Absolutely. Information has proven to be the key to consistently tagging mature deer, and the information I gather while hunting, on combination with trail cams watching my blind spots all season long, maximizes information intake.

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Monster Buck-Burnett County Wisconsin

Huge Burnett County Buck Harvest!

Monster Buck shot in Burnett County Wisconsin!

Opening weekend of archery season in Wisconsin has started, and with that, many eager hunters hit the woods in anticipation on getting into the stand in hopes of having a shot at a monster buck! Well for this lucky hunter in Burnett County he sure had the hunt of a life time!

September 17th- Second day of season

With the first day of season in the books for Greg Widiker, he set out to his stand for another sit in hopes of seeing a buck he has been watching since 2014. According to Leader News Room, Widiker says, “I was definitely very aware of him and the last two years the focus was definitely on him. He was the only deer I was going to shoot.”

The morning of the 17th was more so an unsuccessful one. Widiker set his eyes that afternoon on a primary scouting mission around his property. Leader News Room says with Widiker that bucks on his 80 acre piece of property usually doesn’t hold big bucks until later in the year. The bucks usually feed primarily on the neighboring bean fields that surround the parcel of land. Thats unless there is a nice acorn fall on his property.

Widiker says, “One thing I do have is white-oak acorns” so he scouted for another place to sit for his evening hunt.

Later That Evening

With a quick search of the property a white-oak acorn ridge was found with ample amount of sign including a fresh scrape, and rubs all around.

“It was a white-oak ridge and it was just raining white-oak acorns. The sign was hot, with fresh droppings. There was a fresh scrape and buck rubbings already. So, for September, it was like, hello!”

With his stand hung the wait began with the anticipation of what could happen next. Over the course of the hunt Widiker saw 15 deer in total many of which were small fawns and does. A quick snort wheeze call from Widiker allowed him to see a massive bodied deer working his way to him. Thats when it happened.

The Shot

“I watched him in the binoculars for so long that I forgot I was hunting. I realized that my angle was right down when I was looking through my binoculars,” Widiker said. “I was just soaking it in and watching him. I could hear him sniffing the acorns and I could hear him crunching them, it’s amazing.”

The buck ended up only 15 yards away, sniffing the ground and eating those white-acorns. Widiker says, “I got buck fever and started shaking out of control,” he said. “I just closed my eyes and focused on my breathing and talked myself down, and it worked. And I regained my composure.”

He calmly drew back and settled his pin. He then let the arrow fly and THWAP! The smack of a Rage Hypodermic broadhead made contact. With excitement and an overwhelming amount of adrenaline, he made his way out to base camp where him and his buddy would begin the tracking process of the hunt. With a huge blood trail he found his buck only to have his friend say, “He’s right there!”

Widiker says, “It was overwhelming for me. It took me awhile to touch him. I just have tremendous respect for the animal. He’s just been what ruled my hunting for years. Part of me felt bad. Actually the first thing out of my mouth was that I apologize.”

With a huge range of emotion running through everyones veins Widiker finally bagged a buck of a lifetime. Through his patience, persistence, and knowledge Widiker walked away with a great story, meat in the freezer and a buck of a lifetime.

-For more to this story check out http://www.leadernewsroom.com/2017/09/21/burnett-county-hunter-arrows-buck-of-a-lifetime

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Fall Walleyes

Fall Bago Eyes

By: Kyle Sorensen

What a summer it has been! We have sure had some fun times here on the Winnebago System. The fish have been hungry this year, and the younger year classes have certainly been showing up in addition to the normal targeted sizes we find on the system. I have seen some big fish in the net, but I have also seen hundreds of the 10”- 13” Walters dangling on the end of my line. There are certainly some fantastic years of fishing ahead of us!

The dog days of summer have come, and they are now slowly slipping away into the cooler nights. The algae which had painted the surface of the water is now receding as we approach the last leg of the open water season. During this time, I’m sure some of you are making preparations in the woods as the buck bug grows and starts to nibble. While some have already switched out the open water gear for camo and their bow, keep those rods in the boat and at the ready as the fall walleye bite is here!

If we look at how the Winnebago System produces year round, we know fish can be caught in 30 FOW, all the way down to a couple feet, at any given time. Have you ever sight fished for walleyes under the ice in a few feet of water? It’s a blast, but it’s also a key area to take note. I am not going to tell you that to be successful you need to fish a reef during this time, and I’m not going to say you need to fish the deep mud flats. I’m going to tell you that you need to keep all of your options available and be prepared to sometimes switch things up when the current tactic or location isn’t producing.

If you saw the live broadcast I did on the OB Outdoors Facebook page while on the Fox River in Oshkosh, you saw a very nice two-man limit in the livewell. You also saw something that sums up fishing on the Winnebago System – a ton of rods with a lot of different rigs. Some days, fish are holding to weedbeds while sometimes the mud bite is phenomenal. This can go back and forth so we need to be ready. Let’s look at some important aspects of the range of bites on the Winnebago System during the fall time as each area can be useful at any given time. An important area to start on is the weed bite.

Whether you target submerged weeds or emergent weeds, it’s no secret; walleyes relate to both types here on our system. Some of the factors involved with a successful weed bite depend on forage, wind, temperature and oxygen levels. As we transition into the fall bite and the temperatures begin to drop, weedbeds that can normally hold fish begin to die off. As they die, they begin emitting less and less oxygen into the water. With less oxygen, the small bugs that the forage base consumes begin to die off and/or they move in search of a more desirable environment. With the bugs and forage moving, so do the ‘eyes. Knowing this, the only thing left to assume is that we need to target live, active weedbeds. This, however, can sometimes be a trick in itself as the season gets later and later.

When we fish weeds, jigging crawlers and leeches on the lightest possible jig head can certainly produce some great results while running the edges with the bow-mount. Plastics have their time and place in the weedbeds and due to their composition, they can allow us to rig the worm, leech, grub, whatever, in a way in which it produces less hookups with weeds. Depending on fish activity, sometimes anchoring and running slips on the outside edges can work. On a totally different side note, I have sometimes switched gears completely from ‘eyes to pannies while running slips on the edges. This becomes an absolute treat after a few hearty gills start dropping corks…

The next area of focus is the river systems. There are walleye on the system that never leave the river of their choosing during their entire life. As with springtime tactics, jigging minnows, crawlers, even leeches, all hold value in this topic. As I mentioned in a river jigging video I did this spring, looking for contours in the river channels is an integral part while targeting these fish. When I am jigging, you will always see me using the lightest jig possible to present my bait. By utilizing my bow-mount, I am able to slow down my drift speed and work each area longer before the full drift of the specific area has been completed.

The rivers are a unique environment by themselves. Some species spawn in the rivers, which in turn offers a hatch ripe for the chomping. With this happening, it not only brings in the jigging aspect but also the fly pulling tactics of springtime fishing. When we pull or pump flies, we are mimicking baitfish. With some hatches happening at any time into the fall bite, pulling flies yet again can create some amazing results. Our electronics can show these baitfish balls or clouds, and in a river system, you would be hard pressed to not see strong marks under and around these sometimes massive collections of forage. When you see one, it’s time to mark it and fish it good!

During the start of the fall bite, a lot of the spring forage has grown but some species have continued to spawn throughout the summer months as previously discussed. While crankbaits work throughout the year on our system, and crawler harnesses are a killer tactic on the system during the summer months, more and more anglers trade in the harnesses for cranks during this time. This coincides with a primary source of food for our walleye: the gizzard shad.

Gizzard shad have a very high fat content, and they are a slower moving object of prey. It’s a perfect combination for these ‘eyes as they begin to stock up. As with other species of fish in the system, the shad have a variety of year classes (many sizes) which allows for the various year classes of walleye to pick and choose what they want to fill their guts with. Because of the forage, the crankbait trolling bite sees an absolute spike during this time, and as always, we match the hatch. By doing this, we can select shad patterned cranks and run them slow to mimic the movements of the shad. Because Berkley’s Flicker Shad somewhat matches this movement, these are always a good starting point!

In my last article, we talked about trolling cranks out in the mud on Winnebago. This is still a tactic that will produce into the late fall so be sure to keep it in your arsenal.  If you want to check out that article, it’s available for free on Badger Sportsman’s online archive at http://www.BadgerSportsman.com for all of you subscribers!

The mud is not the only place on the Winnebago System that shows results while trolling cranks. The shorelines (especially around active weedbeds), mid-lake structures (reefs, humps, breaks) and rocky points all show great promise. With the cooling temperatures, fish remain in all areas of the water column as turnover takes place. Turnover is when the different temperatures collide in the water column and the water column becomes one… in so many words. As I previously stated, walleyes on our system can be had year round in the shallows to the deep trenches of our rivers. Because of this, I certainly do not see a huge impact that turnover presents to our walleye fishery here on the Winnebago System as there are always active fish here somewhere.

The last area I will cover is live bait rigging off of bottom bouncers. I love using bottom bouncers because they stir up the bottom and I also know exactly where my rig is running. The one aspect I do not like is the efficiency: usually only using one rod to cover the water area. This is a tactic that usually emerges in the early summer and pushes into mid-fall in my boat.

Growing up I was doing this in northern Minnesota, and now, I am continuing to utilize this technique here on our system. A leech or crawler “harness” can be deadly when all else seems to fail. As the rig options are endless and constantly changing, I will say that more often than not you will see some type of float on my setup. While sharp breaks coming from the shoreline, various reefs, or even rocky points are some great areas to target for this tactic, do not limit it to just those. This is a very versatile technique because it allows the angler to slow down and work a specific area in great detail while trying to coax a timid eye into snatching up the rig. With that said, my favorite area to start in is water around reefs that hold deep water.

As we all know, wind plays a huge role on fish location and activity. When running one of these rigs, you will see me starting on the windblown side, making an elongated “S” as I creep deeper and deeper into the main portion of the lake before restarting or jumping to a new structure. As the bouncer ticks bottom, I usually keep the speed between .5 – .8mph, sometimes even a slower drag. This is all dependent on the blade of the rig (if I even use one), the hardware, etc. A little pulse of the rod can sometimes warrant a strike, while other times the “S” turns being made suffice within themselves.

I have heard of some letting line out when a fish hits or even just waiting to set the hook. In my opinion, this is not good in any way shape or form, unless you are fishing with a single hook rig (leech, slow death, etc.). We have so many smaller ‘eyes (and goats) in our system that if you are running a two or three hook harness, those guys are going to swallow at least one of them. Are you going to keep a 10” ‘eye (or the bigger ones that are hooked badly), or do you mind having to clip a hook off of your harness? I don’t like the thought of those scenarios so I set the hook with a nice sweeping style when I feel the fish hit… No ifs ands or buts!

We briefly covered A LOT of different areas and topics here. Why? Because, like I have said over and over, the Lake Winnebago System is so versatile in the fact that any of these tactics (and more) could be the golden goose at any given time. When you fish the fall walleye bite on our system, be sure to come prepared for anything and keep trying different locations and tactics until you find the one that’s working for that specific day… or even hour! Before we know it, ice will be here and so will some fun videos that I can’t hardly wait to release! I hope you are able to finish the season off with a bang, and as always, until next time, “Tight Lines. Stay Dry.”

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