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Arkansas: An Early Snow Goose Option

Part of the thrill of hunting snow geese is watching the big flocks work your spread.

It seems like everybody has a passion for some type of outdoor adventure. For many, bird hunting ranks at the top of the list. And, when it comes to bird hunting, it is hard not to love the spring snow goose migration.

 It has been more than a dozen years since a Conservation Order was put into place to reduce the population of snow geese in North America. These birds have become so plentiful they are endangering their tundra nesting areas in Northern Canada.

 The reason the nesting habitat is being destroyed is a twofold problem. First, snow geese love the roots of the plants that grow in this frigid climate and they use their beaks to rip up the ground to get at the roots.  Secondly, with the short growing season, plant re-growth is a slow process on the tundra. In reality, the geese are literally eating themselves out of house and home.

Chad Allen from Barrels Up shopping site holds some of the day's harvest.

 The Conservation Order was an effort to slow the growth of the continental goose population. It was hoped that liberal limits, electronic calls, and unplugged shotguns would be able to substantially reduce the snow goose population.

 Unfortunately, the Conservation Order did not totally fix the population dilemma. However, it has helped. It has also opened up a whole new opportunity for outfitters and hunters to participate in a phenomenal hunting experience.

 Over the past four years, I have had the chance to hunt snow geese in Missouri and South Dakota. These hunts have always taken place in March and have been enjoyable and productive. Although I am still planning on hunting the migration in South Dakota, I am also planning a trip to Arkansas in February.

 It was during a South Dakota hunt with Brian Cahalan from Goose and Duck Smackers Guide Service (gooseandducksmackers.com) that I first learned about snow goose hunting in Arkansas. Although Cahalan follows the migrating geese through Missouri and South Dakota, he spends a month in Arkansas first.

 According to Cahalan, the Arkansas hunt is a little different than hunting migrating snow geese in other states. Many of the snow geese in Arkansas actually winter in the area. Others are moving in as they begin staging for the migration process. Cahalan claims that for most of the month the geese are quite content to feed in the rice fields.  

 Cahalan likes the way geese decoy in Arkansas. He believes targets are generally closer during the early stages of the season than later in the spring. He also likes the fact there are plenty of juveniles around. Young birds are easier to decoy than the wary adults.

 Cahalan also stated there are fewer outfitters in Arkansas which means less pressure on the birds and more success in the field. His standard set of 1200 decoys gets plenty of attention.

 North American snow goose populations are estimated to be over 5 million. Any way you cut the pie that is an incredible number of birds. With the Conservation Order in place again this year, hunters will be working hard at taking out a few of the millions of geese that come north each spring.

 Although there are plenty of opportunities to hunt snow geese, the February start in Arkansas may offer a unique early hunting experience to help chase away those winter blues.

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Hunting | Leave a comment

Finding Time for Jumbo Perch

 It seems like I am always searching for time to participate in things I like to do. Schedules and deadlines have a way of creeping into the mix and forcing me to backburner some of my favorite activities. The day-to-day events we call life forces us all to compromise and prioritize.

Chasing jumbo perch is a favorite winter activity for many anglers.

When it comes to putting things in order of importance, I have gradually been moving perch fishing higher up on the list. It isn’t that I haven’t always enjoyed chasing perch, it just seems like it is more fun than it used to be.

 I am not the only one that feels this way about the lowly perch. It doesn’t seem to matter where you go or who you talk to, perch fishing questions and comments always seem to surface.

 One of the reasons perch are becoming more popular has to do with their eating habits. They are usually daytime biters and can be caught on a variety of gear. They are also scrappy fighters for their size.

 Perch are excellent table fare.  Although their tough scales make them more difficult to clean than other fish, their taste and texture on the plate is hard to beat.

 Perch limits are also quite generous. In Minnesota, the limit is 20 a day with 40 in possession.

 Finding a lake to chase perch on is not very hard. Most big-water walleye lakes have a healthy population of jumbos. Perch activity is a normal part of the reporting process for websites.

 My favorite perch lake is Mille Lacs, located in Central Minnesota. This 132,000 acre body of water is home to a very healthy population of jumbo perch and is definitely becoming one of the premier perch waters in the area.

 I have to admit that I cheat just a little when I head to the big water. In an effort to get the latest information about the perch bite, I check in with Mike Christensen from Hunter Winfield’s Resort in Isle.

 As part of his ownership responsibilities, Christensen guides winter anglers for both walleye and perch. Since he is on the ice every day, I can get a pretty accurate report about where to go and what to use.

Mike Christensen's clients know perch are excellent table fare with a taste that is hard to beat.

 Although Christensen’s clients catch perch all winter long, he believes the best action starts to set up after the first late winter thaw. This thaw triggers an insect larvae feeding binge that starts the spring migration to spawning grounds.

 From my experience, the bite can range from incredible to fussy. When the fish are fussy, I have found that neutral colored jigs, such as Woodtick Bro Bugs tipped with Euro larvae are hard to beat. Scaling down to two-pound-test Berkley Micro Ice can also make a difference. 

 In addition to presenting good looking baits, Christensen believes that bottom consistency is an important part of the equation. He feels transition areas where gravel turns to mud are ideal. He also emphasized the need to be mobile. Perch travel in large, loose schools and may have to be tracked down.

 Winter jumbo perch fishing is high on my list of favorite activities. Although there are days when the bite can be challenging, there are also times when the action is nothing short of phenomenal.

 Either way, I will prioritize several jumbo perch trips into my schedule this winter.

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Ice Fishing | Leave a comment

   

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