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OUTDOORS: The surprises are what keeps me coming back

The oak tree promises

I did a little preseason scouting last week while I was picking some early mushrooms. I noticed some of the big oak trees had a bumper crop of acorns. Back when I hunted with Dad, he called them over cups or burr oaks. He showed me how important these trees were for game animals like squirrels and deer.

The large acorns are bitter and are not the choice of fare during the early seasons when sweeter options are available. I did notice that deer and other game animals, including wild turkeys, would switch almost overnight to the large acorns after they had exhausted the supply of sweeter food. Evidently the food value was must more substantial as winter was approaching.

Another amusing thing was wild turkeys. I watched as a wild turkey hen harvested an acorn. Holding it in her toes, she picked the nut apart and slowly ate it while watching for predators. The deer pick them up and chew until the shell is exited out of the side of their mouth. Squirrels chew up the shell and only eat the fruit inside. In fact, one can find a good place to squirrel hunt by the discarded nut shell at the base of the tree.

I have friends that would be happy if they took one squirrel an outing. I think I would find that kind of a hunt monotonous. Like my timber scouting, give me a variety and the surprises that go with it.

That is one thing that keeps me addicted to the outdoors. You never know what you are going to see or find. Whether it's fishing or hunting, the surprises they create keeps one going back for more.

Hunting report

Early Canada goose hunters have done well during the season. Many juvenile geese were easy to decoy and are the best table fare. Some family groups came in to decoys all at once. This way, the hunters could be selective with their shots.

Squirrel hunters continue to do well near field cornfields and the big oak trees. I still have not heard from mourning dove hunters' harvest. I was told that the state park openings were slow as the sunflower plantings were way behind just like the farm crop. Again, hunting is dictated by food supplies.

Fishing report

Huge catches of channel catfish have been taken from the Illinois River. Fishing deep holes has been producing catfish over six pounds. The Fox River has also been good for channel and flathead catfish. Usually the flathead will lie in deeper holes near the end of fast water.

Fresh water drum (sheep head) can be caught just about everywhere in both rivers. All species are taken easier with live bait. Bait seined from the waterway you are going to fish is most productive.

Farm ponds are still producing blue gill and bass. Spinner baits and soft plastics are both working very well.

La Salle Cooling Lake action is still very good for channel catfish, but many are very small. Stripers are hitting chicken livers near the east side of La Salle. From what has been reported, Braidwood and Heidecke fishing has been very slow.

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