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OUTDOORS: Getting ready for waterfowl season

I pushed my flat-bottom boat into a maze of tall straight-leafed plants.

You see, if one uses the natural cover you save the labor of constructing a blind. Not only that, but it is cover that the birds are used to seeing. That way I am well-hidden.

There are many cover plants along a waterway, including pampas grass. I don’t know if that is the right name for it, but during the last 25 years it has grown all over. The slough I had entered had weeds that were overgrown with brown heads. There are about 30 species of this plant, but the common name is cattail.

The cattail has been called other names, such as bulrush, punk and corn dog grass. I guess it got this name from the large brown head it has that is a seed cone. As the plant matures and winter advances, a breeze will blow this cone apart and scatter the seed all over the area.

The root systems contain long shoots that tend to creep underground and in water. New plants will began to shoot up during spring. We used to dig up cattail roots and roast them in hot coals after a fire had burned down. They taste like regular potatoes and are very nourishing. I was surprised that very few individuals knew about this type of wild table fare.

The cattail provides a home and food for a variety of wildlife as well. Redwing blackbirds nest in them. Muskrat feed on them and make dens with the foliage. Canada geese lie on a bunch of the plants flattening them down and creating a nest to raise their young. They have also been used to make lifevests, as the down is very buoyant.

Early Indians used to weave the leaves together to make baskets. Some of the early settlers used the boughs construct a roofs.

Hunting report

Canada goose hunters continue to take limits of these birds, as there is a bumper crop of them locally. Using large decoys is best as they can see them from greater distances. As the season advances, we have learned that it is advisable not to call too much as they learn to relate this with danger.

Squirrel hunters are also doing well in some of the open state parks. Private property that is close to a creek and a cornfield is an ideal area to hunt. Young squirrels can be pan-fried in butter. Older ones require around 3 hours in a slow cooker.

Fishing report

River fishing again has improved. Using minnows seined from the waterway you are going to fish is very productive. If you used minnows or shad for bait, they must be gathered from the same waterway that you are fishing. That way you do not transfer any diseases.

Catfish, drum, sauger and walleye are all hitting in the river systems. You will need to fish early in the morning.

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