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Friday, August 29, 2014

Indiana dove season opens Labor Day; season expanded by 18 days

Indiana’s dove season opens Labor Day, Sept. 1, and will be expanded by an additional 18 days.
The 2014-15 season not only will have more than two additional weeks of hunting opportunities, it also will be broken up into three sessions.
To accommodate these additional days, the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife has added a third period for dove hunting, in December and January. 
Additionally, the DNR extended the first period, and modified the second period to avoid conflicts with the firearms deer season.
The 2014-15 mourning dove hunting season is comprised of three sessions:
- Sep. 1 – Oct. 19 
- Nov. 1 – Nov. 9
- Dec. 13 – Jan. 11
Hunting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset. The daily bag limit is 15 with a possession limit of 45.
“Most mourning doves are harvested in September, but great dove hunting can be found later in the season with a little scouting,” said Budd Veverka, DNR farmland game research biologist in a recent news release.
 “Looking at data from the past five years, I would expect to see approximately 11,000 dove hunters harvest nearly 214,000 mourning doves in 2014. With the extended season, the harvest could be even higher.”
The expansion is based on research by the Indiana DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Since 2003, Indiana has partnered with the USFWS to place leg bands on more than 1,000 mourning doves each summer in Indiana. The banded birds help biologists determine hunting harvest rates, estimate annual survival, and provide information on the geographical distribution of the harvest. 
“Doves are found throughout the state, but will concentrate in areas associated with farming,” Veverka said. “Recently harvested grain fields with water nearby are typically hotspots for dove hunting.”
To hunt mourning doves, Indiana residents must purchase the annual hunting license for $17 ($7 youth consolidated license) and the game bird habitat stamp for $6.75. 
Nonresidents must also purchase the game bird habitat stamp in addition to the $80 annual hunting license or the $31 five-day hunting license ($17 annual youth hunting).
Federal regulations require all licensed dove hunters (including lifetime license holders) to register with the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) and carry proof of registration while hunting. HIP registration is free and available at or by calling 1-866-671-4499.
Hunters using state fish & wildlife areas or state-owned reservoirs are required to use non-toxic shot when hunting mourning doves. 
Hunters who harvest a banded bird, should report it at 1-800-327-BAND (2263) Hunters may keep any bands they recover.
Information on regulations and licensing is available at
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Doves are a dark meat with a flavor somewhat like liver. Some people say they don’t like the meat, but properly prepared, doves are great eating.
My favorite way to prepare them is to marinate the breasts overnight. You can make your own or buy a commercial marinade.
The next day, wrap them in in bacon like rumaki, and cook them on a charcoal grill. They make a great meal-starter, or if you have enough, a main course themselves.
Another good recipe comes from Uncle Russ Chittenden’s book, Good Ole Boys Wild Game Cookbook or How to Cook ‘Possum and Other Varmits Good.
Russ calls for a limit of dove breasts (or whatever you can scrounge), salt and pepper to taste, two eggs (Dominecker preferred), Italian bread crumbs, 3/4 cup cookin’ oil, Ritz crackers (or something similar).
Remove the breasts with a sharp boning knife like you would those of a duck or goose. With luck, you’ll have 30. Salt and pepper to taste. Dip in beaten egg stuff, and coat with bread crumbs.
Fry in oil until brown, turning several times. Drain for a minute or two on paper towels. Serve “hot” on crackers.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Indiana DNR course helps deer hunters get started in sport

Deer hunters who get into the sport are fortunate if they have someone--maybe a relative or friend--who can teach them the basics of whitetail hunting. 
However, people who think they might want to take up deer hunting, may find it intimating to start without a mentor. That’s the primary reason the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has started a new program called Hunt, Fish & Eat.
A new four session free class starts Wednesday, Aug. 27 in Bloomington. It’s a bit of a drive from far southern Indiana, but could be well worth it for folks who want to learn about whitetail hunting,
Registration is open for the free DNR program that teaches participants how to hunt white-tailed deer in Indiana. The program is a four-session series, with an optional fifth session. Sessions are once a week in the evenings and offer hands-on learning in a safe environment.
Hunt, Fish, Eat helps new hunters ages 18 and older to improve their self-reliance skills and to learn to harvest a delicious source of fresh, local meat.
The sessions will focus on laws and regulations, firearms and safety, archery, locating a hunting spot, tracking and field dressing your harvest and handling and preparing your venison for the table.
Each session includes an opportunity to sample venison recipes from instructors and examine a variety of hunting gear and resources.
Participants should attend all sessions. All equipment is provided. A hunting license is not needed. Register for the Bloomington sessions at

Kentucky dove season opens Sept. 1 and there should be plenty of birds

Sept. 1 marks the opening day of dove season in Kentucky. It’s a day anxiously awaited by bird hunters, and also ammunition manufacturers.
Doves are fun to hunt, good to eat, and the weather usually is good, However, they aren't’ easy targets. They zig, they zag, and hunters should have an ample supply of shells on hand.
Most of the birds available during early dove season are those that stay in the area throughout the year. It takes a cold snap up north to push migrating birds into the state later in fall.
In Kentucky, dove season opens on Labor Day, Sept. 1 statewide. This season, hunters have an additional 20 days to pursue doves, with most of those days scheduled for the last two segments of the season.  The opening segment of dove season closes Oct. 26. Dove season opens again Nov. 27 and closes Dec. 7. The third segment opens Dec. 20 and closes Jan. 11, 2015.
“The crops are on time and on schedule and everything is teed up and ready for dove season,” said Rocky Pritchert, migratory bird coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, in a news release issued by the department.
“The outlook for dove season is positive. The habitat is looking really good,” he said.
Pritchert reports seeing early silage and tobacco harvest, which is a good sign for the upcoming season. “The one negative may be with the habitat so abundant, birds may be less likely to concentrate,” he said.  “Whenever you have an abundance of habitat, the birds could spread out after opening day to areas undisturbed by hunting.”
The public dove hunting fields on both private lands and on department wildlife management areas are in great shape for the upcoming season, Pritchert said. 
Fields on private land open to public hunting on Sept. 1 and close Sept. 2 through Sept. 5 and open again on Sept. 6 (fields hosting mentor/youth dove hunts don’t open to public hunting until Sept. 6). 
Dove fields on wildlife management areas open to public hunting Sept. 1, but those hosting mentor/youth hunts open to public hunting Sept. 2. All of the public dove fields on private lands close to hunting Oct. 24.
Consult the 2014-2015 Kentucky Dove Hunting Guide available online at for a list of public dove fields. Printed versions of the guide will be available in a few days wherever hunting licenses are sold.
Scout the dove fields you plan to hunt, whether public or private, before the season. Study how doves enter the field. “Look for any tree lines, power lines, fence lines or brush lines doves are using for flyways,” Pritchert said. “Position yourself along those flight lines. Place your back to the sun so you are not looking into it.”
Pritchert also recommends finding a position in the dove field with some sort of backdrop. “You don’t want to be silhouetted on an open hillside,” he said. “Find cover or a rise behind you.”
A 12 or 20-gauge shotgun loaded with shotshells containing No. 7 1/2 or No. 8 shot work well for doves. 
After opening weekend, hunting pressure often causes doves to change their behaviors and they don’t come to prepared fields with the same frequency. “Silage or harvested corn fields are good places to start later in the season,” Pritchert said. “Also, farm ponds can be really good late in the day when doves are coming for water.”
Target these areas in the additional days afforded during the second and third segments of dove season. “Those last two segments can be great hunting,” Pritchert said. “There are still a lot of doves in the state in late November, December and January.”
In addition to a valid Kentucky hunting license, dove hunters also need a Kentucky migratory game bird – waterfowl hunting permit. The bag limit is 15 doves per day.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Late summer, early fall top time for catching big catfish; Ohio River excellent cat fishing territory

Cecil Mallory of Derby, IN, with a big flathead catfish taken on a trotline in the Ohio River.

Late summer and early fall is prime time for catfishing the Ohio River and other rivers and lakes in Kentucky and Indiana.
With the advent of reality (or lack thereof) television shows, catfishing has taken on a different meaning, but for the old-fashioned kind for blues, channels and flatheads, this is prime time.
It is the time when big catfish start feeding for winter. It’s when many of the biggest catfish are caught, especially in rivers. 
The Ohio River has yielded a large number of big catfish already this summer in King Kat tournaments as well as to recreational anglers.. The tournament fish are returned to the river, but point out the excellent opportunity for big fish.
Two Arkansas anglers teamed and won the July 26 tourney at Metropolis, Ill., across from Paducah. They weighed in seven fish that totaled slightly over 139 pounds. They also had the biggest cat with a 71.38-pound monster.
A Bowling Green, Ky, team of Bob Benningfield and Nathan Helm took fifth with more than 104 pounds and Judy Beavin of Owensboro and Ben Goebel of Mt. Vernon, IN, were ninth with 87.12 pounds.
Wayne and Jennifer King of Mount Vernon were eleventh with 85.98 pounds, and their big fish was 44.8 pounds.
Back in May, Beavin and Goebel won a tournament at Henderson with 119.44 pounds.
The state record blue cat (104.5 pounds) was taken  August 28, 1999, from the Ohio River near Cannelton. During the week Bruce Midkiff caught and released the monster, numerous cats over 50 pounds were landed in the same area of the Ohio River, downstream from Cannelton.
Kentucky's record flathead catfish was a 97-pounder caught in the Green River during June back in 1956.
Catfish can be caught any time of the year and any time of the day, but probably the most likely time to catch big cats would be in warm weather and at night. Catfish seem to prefer feeding late evening and early night. Some studies show there also is another significant feeding period in early morning, before daylight.
Most cats go into deep, cooler, darker water in summer time, especially during the daylight hours. But like everything else, there are exceptions. They often will come up to feed in early evening,
Not all catfish are alike. There are number of different species of cats and they have different habits, including what they prefer on their menu. Blue cats and channel catfish select from a varied menu, and will bite on night crawlers and other worms, cheese and stink baits, plus minnows. 
Channels at times can be aggressive. I’ve caught a number of channels on bass lures. What I anticipated was a dandy largemouth turned out to have whiskers.
Channel cats like cut bait, but they also like chicken livers, stink baits and night crawlers. I have known folks to even catch them on hot dogs.
Flathead catfish, which earn their name from the shape of their head, prefer a diet of live fish, and among their favorites are shad, skipjack herring and bluegill.  In late summer they prefer staying deeper holes, but they will come up at times in search of food.
Among the big cats, most anglers would agree the flathead is the best eating.
Small channel cats also are tasty, but a big one caught this time of year is best returned to the water. The same goes for blue cats. Anyway, that’s one old writer’s opinion.
No mater which catfish you catch and decide to clean and eat, you should cut away the fat, especially the belly fat. Not only is it not tasty, this is the area of a big fish that can pickup and retain contaminants.
While hot weather may mean slow fishing for some species, it’s a good time for catfish.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tony Stewart's tragic mishap at sprint car race recalls 2011 column

When Tony Stewart’s sprint car hit and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward, Jr., last weekend in upstate New York, it was a tragedy for all involved.
I’ve seen drivers exit cars numerous times, and often there is good reason when it appears a fire is possible. I’ve also seen them shake a fist or exhibit some other response to another driver. But this time, the action resulted in a death.
I know nothing more about the tragedy than what I’ve seen and read, but in no way do I believe Tony would ever intentionally strike someone running on the track. He is a passionate person, but not the kind of person who would run down another.
The incident brought to mind part of a column I wrote about Tony and his love for the outdoors back in early April of 2011. It follows.
Tony Stewart ran out of gas on the final lap of Saturday night’s NASCAR race, and it dropped him from third to a twelfth place finish, however a favorite project of his continues racing ahead.
Stewart owns more than 400 acres near Columbus. It is named Hidden Hollow Ranch and is a place for Tony to get away when he isn’t battling on the NASCAR circuit.
But, the ranch has become more than a place for Tony to relax and enjoy the outdoors. It now is being used to study habitats and deer-related issues in a partnership with Tony and Mississippi State University.
Hidden Hollow Ranch is becoming an outdoor laboratory for biologists in a partnership with Mississippi State and the Catch-A-Dream Foundation, which grants hunting and fishing experiences to youngsters who have a life-threatening illness.
Since 2001, the Foundation has granted wishes to 339 children ages six to 18 from 45 different states.
According to Stewart, who started his racing career in a go-cart at Westport, IN, the cooperative venture between the school and Catch-A-Dream fits well with his  interests in wildlife and providing outdoor opportunities to young people.
The two-time NASCAR champion began hunting about six years ago, and since has become a bow hunting enthusiast, when he has time to get away from the track.
Tony has hosted seven ill youngsters for hunts at Hidden Hollow.
He said hosting such events and spending time in the field, “is what relaxes me.”
Stephen Demarais, a Mississippi State professor of wildlife and fisheries, said being able to study Indiana habitats will help scientists determine whether wildlife management policies translate from the Southeast to the Midwest. 
Mississippi State has an information-sharing program in place with state agencies in Kentucky, Missouri and Michigan and at Purdue University, he said.
According to researchers, growing deer herds have put stress on habitat, and creates problems in parks and urban areas, and creates increased human-deer conflicts. 
Tony hasn’t said how much his effort toward the project at  Hidden Hollow is worth, but he said he hopes the relationship between himself and the organizations is a long one.
In all of his philanthropic activities, his foundations has provided more than four million dollars to various organizations.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Squirrel seasons open across the Midwest as Mepps seeks the tails

Indiana and Kentucky’s squirrel seasons open this week. And while hunters are seeking meat for the table, a fishing tackle company wants the tails.
World-famous lure maker Mepps® needs squirrel tails to create hand-tied, dressed hooks for their world-famous, fish-catching lures. They’ve been recycling squirrel tails for over half-a-century. In fact, they recycle more of them than anyone else in the world.
French engineer Andre Meulnart invented the Mepps spinner in 1938, but it didn’t make it to the U.S. until 1951. 
According to the folks at Mepps, Todd Sheldon was the owner of a successful tackle store in downtown Antigo, Wisconsin. 
Sheldon was having a bad day on Wisconsin's Wolf River, and decided to try something different. He tied on a small Mepps spinner that had been given to him by Frank Velek, a WWII GI who had returned from Europe two years earlier. Within two hours, he had creeled four trout weighing more than 12 pounds total.
Sheldon was hooked on and began selling Mepps spinners, but soon discovered he couldn't get enough. Velek knew a French woman who sent spinners to the sport shop in exchange for nylon stockings. However, the lures were selling faster than she was wearing out her stockings, so Todd began buying his lures directly from a factory.
Soon, other fishermen were experiencing catches like the one Todd took from the Wolf. But, they were catching all kinds of fish, not just trout. As the Mepps reputation grew, so did sales. In 1956, Todd sold his store and formed Sheldons', Inc. to focus his attention on his growing import trade.
Now the Mepps folks need big numbers of squirrel tails to use for their spinners.
“”We’ve tried hundreds of other natural and synthetic materials; bear hair, fox, coyote, badger, skunk, deer, even Angus cow, but nothing works as well as squirrel tail hair,” explains Mepps® Communications Director, Kurt Mazurek.
The fact is squirrel tails are all hair–no fur. Practically all other animals have fur tails with just a few guard hairs. Fur doesn’t have the rippling, pulsating movement of squirrel hair in the water.
Squirrels are a plentiful natural resource. Plus, squirrel has some of the best wild meat and their skins are used for caps, coats, glove linings and many other items, but the tail is usually thrown away. Mepps is seeking hunters to help them recycle this valuable resource, And, they’re offering to reward you for their efforts.
Mepps buys fox, black, grey and red squirrel tails and will pay up to 26 cents each for tails, depending on quality and quantity. Plus, the cash value is doubled if the tails are traded for Mepps lures.
Mazurek says, “We do not advocate harvesting of squirrels solely for their tails.”
For all the details on the Squirrel Tail Program, either visit the company’s web site or call 800-713-3474. Mepps, 626 Center St., Antigo, WI 54409-2496.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Indiana squirrel season opens, Friday Aug. 15, Kentucky the following day

It’s not time to put away fishing rods, but hunting begins with squirrel season Aug. 15. Squirrel season leads the way for other seasons soon to follow.
Indiana squirrel season runs through Jan. 31, 2015, and the daily bag limit is five. Kentucky season opens Aug. 16 and continues till the end of February 2015.
Squirrels are a mainstay of small game hunting. While their numbers vary from year-to-year, squirrels continue to thrive and are plentiful. The numbers of other small game such as rabbits, quail and grouse have declined significantly in the past several decades.
Despite a very bad winter, indications are there will be plenty of squirrels to hunt this fall.
The state primarily has two types of squirrel to hunt -- fox and gray. Red squirrels may be found, but are so small very few, if any hunters, seek them.
Fox squirrels are larger than grays and they are characterized by their large reddish tales. Their backs are brown and the belly ranges from light cream color for younger animals to a darker cream or almost yellow for older squirrels. They usually weigh about a pound and a half to two pounds.
Gray squirrels are named for their obvious color. While their back has a touch of black most of the body and the tail in particular appears gray. The belly of the younger squirrels is white and as they get older it appears more cream color. They weigh about a pound to a pound and a half.
Diehard squirrel hunters take to the woods opening day, but ticks and heat keep many  hunters out of the field the first few weeks, while their counterparts further north sometimes get an earlier start. Many hunters prefer to wait until leaves begin to fall from the trees, while others enjoy sitting under an umbrella of leaves. It’s a matter of choice. 
Traditionally, when I have the opportunity, I like to get out opening day, if if is just a short trip, to kick off hunting season.
One of the advantages of early season squirrel hunting, is chances are better for shooting young squirrels. That equates to tender squirrels, which are better for frying. And, that’s what I happen to prefer.
During the early  hot days of the season, squirrels seem to be most active the first hour or so of daylight, and late evening, especially in hot weather. They also seem to prefer days when the wind is calm.
Squirrels are active in the fall as they scurry to store nuts for the winter. Often they are found on the forest floor looking for nuts, but at the first sign of danger they head for the nearest den tree.
Nut rich woods are good hunting sites in late summer and fall. Squirrels seem to particularly like shagbark and other hickories, white and black oaks, beeches and black walnut trees.
Squirrel can be cooked many ways, and the way they are best may depend on whether the squirrel is young or old. The younger bushytails are good fried, while the older squirrels are best baked of with some other similar slow-cook recipe.
Young squirrel, fried crispy brown is mighty tasty, and there is nothing better than squirrel gravy made with the skillet leavings. Fried squirrel, and the gravy over mashed potatoes make a great meal, unless you are on a serious diet. But even if you are, you can cheat once in a while.