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February 2018 Articles

Woods and Waters and Skunks

Oooooh, what is that smell? Mercy, it’s making my coffee taste bad, roll down the windows please! Living in southern Oklahoma we all know what it is and this time of year it is really bad! It’s one of those cute little black and white striped furry creatures we see flattened on the road. Sadly enough they have given their lives in the name of “love!”

You see, this time of year is when skunks start their mating season. Their minds are definitely on something other than watching the road.

Even with their potent defense, there are predators who can attack swiftly enough to carry off a young skunk before a mother can spray. Great Horned Owls strike from above and without warning. Other predators include coyotes and domestic dogs. However, the main threats to skunks have been human, who either killed them casually or out of fear. Also there are a large number of skunks that are run over by automobiles.

Striped Skunks are the chief carrier of rabies in the US, especially in the Midwest. At one time Striped skunks were hunted and trapped for their fine and silky fur.

The mountain men of the early fur trade wore fur caps they made from the entire skin of a striped skunk. In those days with infrequent baths and questionable hygiene, the caps may have introduced the first use of musk cologne!

There are several types of skunks commonly found throughout the United States, including the striped skunk, spotted skunk, hog-nosed skunk, and hooded skunk. They all have slightly different appearances and habits but also share may commonalities. For example, most adults grow to be about the size of a house cat or small dog. Some of the North American species have specialized diets but most are omnivorous and eat what is readily available, like grubs, plants, small animals, and even garbage. Finally, skunks all use a foul smelling spray to keep predators at bay.

Striped Skunks are the most common throughout North America and can be found from Northern Mexico to the Northwestern Territories of Canada. Their distinctive markings are used to identify them. Striped skunks have white stripes running from the tops of their heads to the tips of their tails.

Spotted Skunks are most often encountered in the Eastern U.S. where they live in woodlands and prairies. They keep a diet of field animals, insects, wild plants, and farm crops. Despite their name, spotted skunks are not actually speckled. Instead, their black fur displays swirls of white stripes.

Hog-nosed skunks are typically found in the Southwest. They are easily identified by their stark white tails and the large, solid white stripe that runs down the length of their backs. These skunks also have relatively large noses that they use to root through the soil for food.

A pod of perfume

Hooded skunks are desert-dwelling mammals that primarily feed on insects. They are somewhat similar in appearance to striped skunks, but have longer tails and thick patches of fur around their necks. Some kinds of hooded skunks have two thin white stripes running down their backs and tails, while others have single, thick stripes and solid white tails.

Getting rid of skunks in an area first requires identifying the creature. Skunks are usually hard to miss, especially with the black and white striped body, bushy tail and scampering gait. If you encounter a skunk, pay close attention to whether it stomps its feet as this is a pre-spraying warning sign. Skunks start to move around in the springtime when temperatures get warmer and they begin their search for a mate and food. Since skunks can accurately spray between 10 to 15 feet, it’s important to move as far away as possible as they may assume you pose a threat. Getting rid of skunks can be challenging.

Skunks can be a pest, however, they do help control insects and other pests around your home.

Whew!

Growing up I remember the smell and horror experienced when a skunk got under your house, boy that was pleasant! They would manage to get into the crawl space in the foundation. Of course the best defense was to make sure these were areas were covered with screen or something to keep them out. If they did manage to get under the house it took a few days for breakfast to taste normal again!

The best advice is to admire them from afar! It’s time to get ready for fishing, get out and enjoy your Oklahoma!

Woods and Waters “Fishing” March 15 2018

Daylight savings time arrived this past weekend, and it signals my official start to “get ready for fishing season!” With the temps in the 60s and 70s in the afternoons and with plenty of sunshine to warm the shallows, the big bass will start cruising the shallows of your favorite spot.

My son in law Jeff Ross and Grady

The crappie bite and bass spawn is just around the corner we should all be smiling. It’s early spring—that funky time of year when the bass bite isn’t dead but it isn’t exactly on fire either. During the prespawn and spawning periods, when the water is still chilly, success with big bass has a lot to do with patience, being methodical in your presentation, and giving the fish a meal they can’t pass up no matter how lethargic they’re feeling. The beauty of early-spring bass fishing is that while bites may be fewer, you’re a lot more likely to connect with true trophies in the form of egg-laden females looking for some solid protein before taking to spawning beds, or heavy girls protecting their beds. If you struggle at this time of year—or don’t fish at all because you don’t think the bite is on—these tricks will help catch some big bass long before your favorite summer bite kicks into high gear.

A young Houston Scott.

During winter, fish often hole up in deep water with a soft bottom, and that holds true for both  lakes and ponds. In the early season, you’ll find these fish in those same winter haunts before the water is warm enough to prompt them to move shallow to spawn. These bass can be glued so tightly to the bottom that you won’t even mark them on your sounder, and it’s not uncommon for fish to have mud streaks on their bellies when you catch them.

They tend to be lazy, so presenting a bait that takes minimal effort for them to eat is key. It also doesn’t hurt to choose a lure that will kick up puffs of mud as it moves, like a sculpin or crayfish, to help draw attention.

Soft-plastic tubes shine in this scenario. Where you can get away with a long cast over a prime location, sometimes simply letting the tube slowly drag on the bottom works best.

Houston is always ready!

Jerkbaits are one of my favorite early-season lures. When bass begin to transition from deep water to the shallows, these baits cover plenty of water, which is key because the bass are often cruising a large area. Jerkbaits prompt reaction strikes, which is why you’ll see many anglers working them as hard and fast as possible. It’s a great technique during warmer times of year, but in early spring, it pays to pause for a long time.

When my jerkbait first touches down, I’ll give it a few hard rips just to make it dive, but after that, I’ll let it sit for five to 10 seconds without doing a thing. A suspending jerkbait works best for this method, although a floating model that rises slowly can be just as effective. The initial movement often catches a fish’s attention, but this time of year, the bass may not swim over at 100 mph to crush the lure if you continue moving it. The long pause gives any fish attracted by the initial motion time to swim over for a look. Sometimes they’ll strike at the paused bait. Most of the time, however, I find that the hit comes during that first twitch right after the pause.

As the waters continue to warm, early mornings and late evenings are my favorite times to cast. I like to cast and retrieve a spinner bait over likely spawning areas. You might try  slow retrieve of a slider type rig with a soft plastic trailer works great!  While using short lifts and pauses through likely spawning areas. You watch your line carefully to detect any movement of a soft take.

There is nothing any more satisfying than to be on your favorite Oklahoma waters, watching the sun give us another glorious sunset, while you pause a moment to thank “Our Creator” just before you return that six pound bass back to it’s home!

Get out and enjoy your Oklahoma.

Tools for the outdoorsmen

 

Monday morning, eighteen degrees, seriously! So much for my talk about spring fishing and bass boats last week! Well the groundhog did say 6 more weeks of winter, brrrrr, I am so ready for spring and rain.

Vortex Viper 10X42

One solution is to grab your binoculars, wrap up and get outside. This time of year there are significant numbers of waterfowl and raptors still in our area. Soon they will begin their journey back to far north to their summertime homes.

One of the most enjoyable and useful tools for the outdoorsman, hunter or fisherman is a quality pair of binoculars. Over the years binoculars have been improved and designed to offer great value for a reasonable price. Good quality binoculars can be found starting at about a hundred dollars and range upward into several thousand; let your budget be your guide.

There are two main styles or shapes of binocular and these are determined by what type of prism they use, either a Roof Prism or a Porro Prism design.

You may ask which is better, but the answer is neither, as both have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and so it is often down to your specific needs and preferences as to which you should choose.  I will go through these and explain their main features, advantages, shortcomings and what they are best used for.

One of the two main styles of binoculars is the Roof Prism. This refers to the type of prism used in their construction. In this design, the prisms are aligned with each other in a straight line, and thus they tend to be sleeker and more compact binoculars than the Porro prism design. You can easily identify a roof prism binocular as the eyepieces and the large objective lenses line up with each other.

The roof prism is my favorite being a compact design with fewer internal parts than porro prism design, so less to go wrong and it’s easier to make them dust and waterproof.

The image quality of roof-prism binoculars can suffer slightly because of the aligned prisms, although the top models of the roof-prism and porro-prism binoculars are now generally considered to have equal optical quality. To be really good, roof prism binoculars have to be in the high price range. Do not attempt to economize on roof prism binoculars.

How many can you find?

These are great for general use, wildlife viewing, hunting and sporting events.

The Porro-prism models are larger with the offset look of yesteryear. They are heavier, however the quality of viewing can be much better than the roof-prism. If you have ever watched old WWII movies of naval battles you would have seen these huge binoculars used by the military.

Hopefully you already have a good pair of binoculars, and if so, carry them with you when out driving around our great state or simply walking around enjoying hopefully a warm afternoon. There are so many wonderful critters in our Oklahoma, and showing them to our youngsters and allowing them to identify them is priceless.

When I was young I loved duck hunting and decided I wanted to identify every species common to our area. It took several years; I kept a list of dates and times of each kind I had found. It was fun and very educational.

Watching and identifying the birds common to our area is also entertaining. Its amazing how many you may have never noticed before. Bird watching has been around for years but that is understandable because it is so much fun. While living in Missouri I discovered birds common to Oklahoma also. However Missouri had many species that I had never heard of before.

If you have a camera with a telephoto lense you can double your fun with some great pics. If not, you might look into a PhoneScope device that couples your smartphone with your binoculars for some great closeup shots.

Be it wildlife or birds it doesn’t matter, binoculars are an important tool for the outdoorsman or wildlife enthusiast and just another reason to get out and enjoy your great Oklahoma outdoors!

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