Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Bill Cooper for River Hills Traveler March, 2010

Rumblings of boisterous, lovesick, wild turkey gobblers
are not the only raucous sounds being heard in the Ozarks
turkey woods these days. Hunters have grumbled and mumbled
the last few seasons about gobblers being difficult to
find and hunt.

The fact is that turkey numbers are down from historical
highs which we all enjoyed a few years ago. There seemed
to be a turkey behind every tree and a lot of us developed
the idea that we were superb turkey hunters. The abundance
of two-year-old birds that loved to gobble and run in to
any call that sounded like a rusty gate hinge fed our

Matters have changed. Numbers of birds are down and the
abundance of two-year-old birds that we once enjoyed is
gone. We are now dealing with a lot of older and wiser
birds. If you want to be consistently successful at
bagging your spring birds, your tactics will have to

Scouting - There may not be birds in the area you have
been accustomed to hunting in the past. It is impossible
to kill a bird that is not there. We all love it when we
have a honey hole which produces birds year after year.
Turkey hunters are passionate about their sport and love
to call and kill gobblers. Many hunters often waist
precious hunting days by remaining in areas that have
produced in the past, but obviously lack birds in the

Pre-season scouting is paramount during tough turkey
hunting years. If you return to your old stomping grounds,
scouting is easy. You know the areas where birds hang out.
If you don't find the usual signs in the usual quantities
and places, it is time to scout elsewhere. Look for
tracks, droppings, dust bowls, drag marks from strutting.

Look for sign along creek bottoms, dirt lanes, edges, pond
banks and other open areas. If you are in agricultural
areas, check for scratching around cattle feeding spots.
Turkey sign can often be found around cow flops, too.

If you insist on staying in your favorite area, your
scouting time can be greatly reduced, because you know
where to look. You already know where hens are most likely
to nest. There will return to the same areas and will drag
the toms along.

The next step is formulating a plan for opening morning.
The best way to do that is to be there well before
daylight for pre-dawn gobbling and the fly-down. Hopefully
the turkeys in the area have not been bothered all winter.
Stay long enough to determine which direction the gobblers
travel after fly-down. Staging your setup in a gobbler'
routine travel path is insurance for a shooting
opportunity on opening day.

To upgrade your odds for bagging a bird on opening day,
make one last scouting trip the evening before opening
morning. Pinpoint the spot where you here that bird fly
up. You want to know its exact location for the next
morning's hunt.

Tweak your camo - No modern day turkey hunter would dream of heading
to the turkey woods without his camo. However, even the best patterns
are a dead giveaway if it does not match the surroundings in which you
plan to hunt. While on your scouting trips, pay close attention to the
stage of vegetative development in the area. Woods with little
green-up will be wide open and will contain more brown than green.
Unless you are dressing for a camo pageant, mixing and matching
different styles of camo can help you blend into your surroundings.
And needed camo patterns may change by the day. Green-up can advance
quickly, or hunting plans may change. You may be hunting on a flat oak
ridge top one day, where everything is mostly brown, and on a cedar
glade the next where everything is mostly green.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Bill Cooper

Being married to a diehard football fan is time consuming to say the least. Being married to a Steeler’s fan is…well, something else all together.
Dian, my wife, headed to Pittsburgh recently, with me in tow. She spent her early years there and had not returned in 22 years. She spoke of people and places as if things happened yesterday. Yet, she kept saying, “I hope I will recognize places around home.” A lot can change in 22 years.
I tagged along on the trip on Dian’s promise to take me fishing in the Alleghany River, which flows right through downtown Pittsburgh. Although it became a very polluted river at one time, it is now a well known smallmouth and walleye fishery. I contacted Jeff Knapp, a respected outdoor writer and smallmouth guide from the area and he agreed to take us out for a day of smallmouth fishing on the beautiful Alleghany.
The hustle and bustle of city life enveloped us shortly after we left the Pittsburgh airport in a rented car. Traffic soon came to a halt where we crept along for the next hour. Dian explained that there were two seasons in Pittsburgh: winter and construction. Over the next few days, I found out the later to be true. We ran into highway construction, regardless of which way we went. I ached for the solitude of the Ozarks.
Dian lived near the Alleghany most of her young life and learned to smallmouth fish there, one of her redeeming qualities. We spent the first two days of vacation touring small towns where she had lived at one time or another. All were quaint little towns draped on the steep hills and ridges that cloaked the river. All had been tied to the steel mills of the old days. Dian reminisced of the people, places and events she had known. All had changed. She wandered the streets of Brackenridge in search of a tiny deli which she had frequented as a child. To her delight, it still stood in place. Dian strode into the little store pointing at this and that saying, “it’s just like I remember”.
A little old lady came from the back asking if she could help us. Dian said, “its’ Mrs. Dileo”. Mrs. Dileo broke into a smile as soon as she heard Dian’s voice. But the lights really came on when Dian mentioned her maiden name: Semprevivo, undeniably Italian.
Dian hung out at Mrs. Dileo’s place often as a child, finding a place of comfort and often a good word of advice. “I worried about you so much when you were growing up,” Mrs. Dileo said. “But, I have worried about many of the kids in the community. I have had dozens upon dozens, over the years, that would stop by the store after school each afternoon while on their way home. But, I remember you so very well, Dian. You were special.”
From Brackenridge, we were off to Saxonburg in search of another meat market, Thoma’s. There Dian hoped to introduce me to Saxonburg bologna. It took a little looking, but we eventually found the marvelous store. Ooh, the smells of smoked meats and spicy aromas made our salivary glands kick into high gear as soon as we got out of the car. We quickly acquired a round of the famous Saxonburg bologna, stopped at a local store for bread, mustard and soda. The bologna was everything Dian said it was. We had a feast.
We ambled through the countryside to Sarver, where Dian and her family lived in a small mobile home court for years. The court was much larger these days and the local ice cream shop had long since gone by the wayside. To her delight, however, the Lernerville Speedway, just down the road, was still going strong. And we drove several miles down Coal Hollow Road which led kids to Turtle Rock and the old swimming hole. The area had become much more populated, but still remained quite rural.
We met a short while with Dian’s cousin JR Semprevivo and family and caught up on all the family history. And there was a lot of it after a 20 year absence.
At long last I got to go fishing. Jeff Knapp met us early in the morning, in Kittaning and we followed him about 30 miles north to East Brady, another beautiful old river town. The broad river looked much like our Ozark streams, clear, cold and running fast. Knapp had rods rigged and we began fishing immediately. Dian caught a chunky smallmouth on her very first cast.
Knapp made several runs up and down the scenic river to show us sights and reach new fishing grounds. We caught beautifully colored smallmouth everywhere we went. When all was said and done Dian had caught the first fish on her first cast, the biggest fish, the most fish and the last fish. What can I say, it was her home river!
On Saturday we toured downtown Pittsburgh. One of our first stops was at the Heinz History Museum which happened to have on hand a traveling exhibit of Steeler history. All six Lombardi trophies were there. Of course Dian had her picture made with them.
Dian took me to the warehouse district, which is an old part of town that has been converted into a strip district with dozens of ethnic food shops and one Steelers store after another. The ambience of the place revolved around the jingle; “here we go Steelers, here we go. Pittsburgh goin’ to the suuuper bowl!” Every other store seemed to have the rhythmic song playing. It was definitely Steelers country.
We strolled around the shops picking up more Steelers garb for the game the next day. Hunger pains struck and we headed for another of Dian’s favorite eateries: Primanti Brothers. A long, waiting line of hungry fans strung out onto the street. Dian assured me it would be worth the wait. The speciality consisted of sandwich with your choice of meat on freshly sliced bread along with melted cheese, French fries and cole slaw. Yep, all on the same sandwich. And, oh, it was so good. The biggest problem was stuffing the monster sandwich in your mouth, but Dian managed.
Dian scarcely slept on Saturday night in anticipation of the big game on Sunday, the Steelers vs the Atlanta Falcons. We left hours before the game started. We parked near the Heinz Museum and walked approximately three miles to the stadium. Downtown Pittsburgh is gorgeous. The riverfront is very well laid out with attractive buildings and numerous old yellow bridges marking the skyline. Avid boaters had motored up the Alleghany and Monongahela (they meet in downtown Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River) and moored at the sports district for some serious tailgating parties.
Yellow and black cloaked Heinz Field as 65,000 Steelers fans turned out for the game. Dian could be heard over the roar of the 64,999 other fans. And after a dramatic bit of overtime play, the Steelers pulled it out with a score of 15-9. All I heard on the way home was: “we’re on our way to the Suuuuuuuper Bowl!” I dream of huge smallmouth bass.


Billie R. Cooper

Is there anything in waterfowling more frustrating than a huge flock of geese setting down in a nearby field? Here are some tactics to get close and jump up some BBB action.

A cold Thanksgiving Day wind rattled the cut corn stalks where my goose hunting buddy and I had fashioned ourselves a couple of makeshift one man burlap and cornstalk blinds. The blinds completely disappeared into the surrounding corn field stubble. My buddy and I were thoroughly convinced that even the wildest of Canada geese would not suspect the least danger as they approached our superb hides.
We had done our homework well. The 500 hundred acre corn field had been harvested only a few weeks prior to our well planned goose hunting adventure. Mallards had first caught our attention. We were passing by the farm on the way to another duck hunting destination when we noticed thousands of ducks going down on the back side of the cornfield. The old farmer had been a good friend of my father’s when I still lived on the family farm. We gained permission to hunt easily.
Three p.m. had rolled around by the time we reached the corn field. Ducks were beginning to blacken the sky to the west. We hurriedly set out a dozen decoys and found a spot to lie on the ground and throw cornstalks over our bodies.
We repeated the process for several days, never failing to fill our one mallard limit. However, on the last afternoon we hunted ducks in the corn stubble, a flight of some 200 Canada geese worked the field. The majestic birds circled numerous times, offering marginal shots, but we held our fire. Goose season would not start until the next day, Thanksgiving Day.
The drive home proved long. We each recited to the other the excuses we would use on our families to skip out as soon as the family Thanksgiving dinner was complete, pumpkin pie and all. There were black and white geese to hunt.
My hunting partner and I arrived back at the farm around 2 p.m. We huffed and puffed, from full bellies, as we struggled to carry dozens of goose decoys through the corn stubble. Within thirty minutes we had a very respectable spread of goose decoys deployed.
We climbed into our blinds to get settled. We each peered at the other to double check for any minute mistakes which might flare geese. We both passed the others scrutiny.
I drew my old flute-style Lohman walnut goose call to my lips and uttered a lonesome “woooork- woouurk-wooouuurk” out of it. “Listen,” my buddy said sharply. “Geese to the west.”
“Good calling, huh?” I jabbed back. “Shut-up and pay attention,” came my reward.
The situation looked good as the two of us honked to the approaching flock. “Let’s hold until we get them close enough so we can both down a couple of birds,” I said.
The giant panda-colored birds worked the outer edges of the decoys, with only a couple of birds swinging within 30-yards. We held our fire hoping for closer shots. The flock of 200 birds circled a half dozen more times, teasing us relentlessly with each pass. Our goose hunters’ mentality told us that the next pass would be ‘the one’.
I clinched my shotgun tightly as the flock swung to the east, swung south and looped to the north flying into the wind and straight to our decoy spread. “This looks good,” my buddy whispered.
Just as the big birds were about to wing into range, they hooked to the west, turned south and immediately began going down on the far end of the field. Our hearts sank. We knew that would be the only flight of geese for the afternoon.
As soon as the geese all settled into feeding mode my hunting partner began chattering. “I really want a Christmas goose,” he began. “Let’s sneak up on them and get a couple, OK?”
“We can’t sneak up on 200 hundred geese feeding in a field,” I retorted. “That is 400 hundred eyes watching for danger. We don’t stand a chance.”
“Well, how many geese do you have now, Cooper?” My partner whispered sarcastically.
“Alright, follow me,” he said. I had heard those words in my military days and it never turned out good. My partner had obviously been in the military at one time, too. He cradled his shotgun across his arms and began the perfect low crawl down a row of corn stubble.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“About a hundred yards back there is a low drainage ditch that we can slide into,” he instructed. “It will lead us to the major drainage ditch on the south side of the farm. We can easily maneuver up it. That will put us within shooting distance of the geese.”
We paused every few seconds to check on the state of the goose flock. They eagerly fed on the waste corn totally unaware of our presence. We gained ground quickly simply by staying low and utilizing the scant cover available.
An hour later we lay just over the ditch bank from 200 feeding Canada geese. Sweaty and exhausted, we took a short break.
We peered through the tall grass to get a fix on the situation. We could hear the guttural growls of geese as they competed for food. The closest birds waddled less than 15 yards away. My buddy yelled “shoot ‘em”. Seconds later, four Canada geese lay flopping on the ground. Our well executed mission had worked and we would enjoy a tasty goose dinner for Christmas.
Crawling over rough terrain is difficult at best. After years of experience, I have found that knee pads help prevent cuts and bruises. Most importantly, they reduce the pain from rocks and sticks significantly. Being in decent shape also aids the process. Struggling with gear and exerting lots of energy leads to profuse sweating as well. Carrying a small pack to store extra clothing in makes the crawling trip easier and certainly more comfortable. Clothing layers can be replaced after the crawl.
Packing as little gear as possible is fundamental to crawling success. The small pack should include a bottle of water and a snack bar or two, because the sneak attack method can be time consuming. As goose hunting buddy Bill Cobb of Missouri once said to me after I complained about his three hour planned approach to 20,000 snow geese, “what else do you have to do right now, Cooper?”
A shotgun and only as many shells as you will need for one volley and chasing cripples is all you need to carry. Shells are very heavy and you will suffer from the weight on long crawls.
Clothing under your outer coat should be of a good camouflage appropriate for the surroundings. Many waterfowlers often wear clothing of a different color under their outer layer. That is not wise if you are going to be sneaking up on birds. A crawler needs every advantage.
Make sure the camo clothes you select are terrain appropriate. The Mossy Oak Duck Blind pattern works well in corn stubble as does other patterns with a lot of tans and browns.
Matching the colors of the season is important. If you are hunting early season geese, there will more than likely be more greens in the surrounding vegetation. Select camo patterns which match the surroundings of your intended hunting area.
If you are traveling a long distance, be sure to check with hunting buddies or outfitters about the type and color of vegetation you will be hunting in. Nothing can ruin a goose hunting trip quicker than traveling a long distance to a hunting destination only to find out that your camo is totally inappropriate for the situation.
Pack more than one camo pattern in your gear bag. Meanings are often lost in phone conversations. I have learned that hunters interpret matters differently. A friend’s description of a blind or hunting cover may be misinterpreted. Or, vegetative colors may change in a hurry, depending on weather and the rapid progress of the season. So, adding additional camo patterns to your gear bag may well improve your chances of being successful.
Pack a white parka. If you are hunting in northern climes or late season further south, always pack a white parka or light suit to slip over your chosen colored camo pattern. Even a slight dusting of snow can change the look of the terrain in a hurry. And a black lump moving along in the white snow will be readily detected by wary geese.
Sneaking up on geese is risky business at best. Getting busted is part of the game, but one does hope to up the odds in his favor by doing everything just right.
One of the biggest problems encountered by goose sneakers is closing the deal. And nothing can be more frustrating after a long, tiresome crawl than blowing the shot. Practice ahead of time can greatly reduce problems at the ‘time to shoot’ phase of the hunt. Two hunting partners hunting together can practice together as well. Have one guy hide behind a berm or blind while the other places a life size goose decoy at an undetermined distance. Try this learning tactic on both land and water. Single decoys, or live geese, appear to be farther away than they actually are, while gaggles of geese appear closer than they actually are. Practice at estimating distance will greatly improve your shooting success when the moment of truth arrives.
Selection of chokes and shot size are another important facet of culminating a sneaky goose hunt successfully. Selection of each should be determined according to the style of hunting you are exercising. If you are approaching a small pond to flush geese, the shots will be close. An improved cylinder with B’s or BB’s will do the trick. If you find yourself making one of those long crawls to intercept feeding geese in a field, the shots are more than apt to be longer. In these situations a modified up to the more restricted goose hunting chokes are necessary. Shot size should be larger, including BBB’S, T’s and F’s. Using the best shot shells you can afford becomes paramount in these longer shot situations. It is especially frustrating to make a long sneak and then not have the firepower to bring down the geese. Hevi-Shot is hard to beat for this type of shooting.
Sneaking up on geese can be a perplexing chore, especially for beginners. Talking with, or better yet, hunting with experienced sneakers is worth its weight in gold. SFC Mel Avis, of Virginia, has hunted geese in many parts of the country at his various duty stations. “I resorted to sneak hunting geese primarily because I did not have decoys with me at many of the bases where I was stationed,” Avis said. “I found out quickly that I could be successful at sneaking up on geese by watching them for a while to make sure they were calm and unaware of my presence. Then I simply lay out the best plan of approach according to the lay of the land and the available cover. Next, I implement an extra dose of patience. Patience and moving slowly are the two major keys to being successful at sneaking on geese. Always remember that there are a multitude of eyes watching for danger.”
Army Reserve Lt. Col. Bill McKinney, from Arkansas, loves to do the “snow goose sneak”. “Crawling up on thousands of snow geese feeding in a field is about exciting as it gets,” said McKinney. I have been enjoying this activity for years in Missouri and Arkansas. I especially like it during the Conservation Order on light geese when you can take the plugs out of your gun and there is no limit on the number of light geese you take. That can be a real blast when you get several guys together.
Bill Cobb and McKinney occasionally hunt snow geese together. They still laugh about the time that they and three other buddies downed 82 snows on their first volley after a long crawl. “That is something to see,” Cobb said. “That is when my back Lab, Oreo really comes in handy to chase down cripples.
I had the distinct pleasure to hunt with Cobb and McKinney last season. I brought up the rear as we crawled up a deep ditch towards 20,000 snow geese. Those two old guys proved impressive as they negotiated the terrain. However, Oreo outshined them both. If you have never watched a Lab do the “snow goose sneak”, you owe it to yourself to experience that waterfowling hunting sight.
The migrations have begun and geese are filtering into favorite haunts all up and down the Mississippi flyway. Favored blinds are filled once again with goose hunters. Thousands of man hours are being expended on hauling and setting decoys, renovating blinds, practice sessions for calling and a sundry of other chores related to goose hunting. Sitting in a blind waiting on geese to come to decoys and calls is one thing, but why not try something different? There is a definite waterfowl hunting high to being able to sneak close enough to “goose the geese”.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Billie R. Cooper

If you can’t decide where to tag your tom this fall, may we suggest one of these great hunting spots?

Fall turkey hunting is the Roger Dangerfield of the bird hunting world. It just doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It has long baffled me why more hunters don’t turn out for fall turkey hunting. The colors are brilliant in the oak hickory forest. The air is cool and crisp and it is the time of harvest.
“It is simply a matter of not understanding the nature of fall turkeys,” says turkey hunting expert Ray Eye. “I hear it at the seminars I present all over the country every year. Hunters say that turkeys don’t gobble in the fall and are not as much fun to hunt. Then I show them film footage I have shot of turkeys not only gobbling in the fall, but fighting as well. Turkeys work on the pecking order all year long and they are more vocal in the fall than in the spring, because large groups of turkeys are flocked together. Turkeys vocalize more in the fall than at any other time of the year because the numbers are at their annual peak and birds are flocked up in big groups. They can be heard for long distances when flying up to the roost or when they are flying down in the morning. Hens are cackling and yelping trying to round up their young of the year. And the young ones make lots of noise while trying to find mama. It’s just a great time to be in the turkey woods.”
The hunting outlook in terms of turkey numbers will most likely be up for this fall. Resource Scientist Tom Dailey, the Conservation Department’s turkey specialist indicated in April (at the time of this writing) that the mild temperatures and relatively dry weather that prevailed the first three weeks of April made him optimistic about a good turkey hatch for 2010. He further commented that if those conditions held through May, this year could mark the start of a turkey population recovery in north Missouri where hatches have been below the long term average for several years running.
Dailey also noted that even though turkey populations have dwindled a little in recent years, Missouri still leads the nation in turkey abundance and harvest.
Fall harvests have fallen below the 10,000 mark in recent years, the product of lower populations and seemingly lower interest in the sport. “To me, it all adds up to the perfect time to hunt turkeys,” says Marty Eye a professional turkey hunter from Mountain View. “Numbers of turkeys are at their annual high in the fall and there are not that many hunters out. What more could a turkey hunter ask for?”
Regardless of all the talk about highs and lows of turkey population numbers in the Show-Me State, fall harvest numbers have never been significant enough to impact the success of hunters the following spring. Bird populations are at their highest in the fall after the spring nesting seasons. A certain percentage of turkeys will succumb to predators, disease and other natural causes. These combined mortalities are what biologists call the annual surplus in the population. The future of the overall population is not harmed as long as there is sufficient brood stock left for breeding the following spring. Fall turkey hunting is a method for hunters to harvest a part of the annual population excess without harming the future of the turkey population.
Hunting where the turkeys are located is a common sense way to approach the sport. Missouri hunters are very fortunate in this regard. Turkeys are fairly well dispersed in much of the state. Still, some areas stand out in each region of the state as better than the average turkey hunting spot. Following are a few picks, but they do not, however, exhaust the list of hotspots available to fall turkey hunters.
Truman Lake – This 200,000 acre U.S. Corps of Engineers land and water project in Benton, Henry and St. Clair counties in west-central Missouri should be on every fall turkey hunters list of places to hunt. Vast stretches of hardwood forests, old growth fields and openings surround the massive Truman Lake. Other than the rough and brushy areas around the lake, the Missouri Department of Conservation also manages 55,000-acres of Corps lands in the area. Managed food plots scattered around the project are another food source for the lake’s population of wild turkeys.
Many hunters discover the fine turkey hunting at Truman just as I did over 20 years ago. While on a spring time, week-long crappie and bass fishing trip at Truman, I was astounded at the number of gobblers I heard sounding off on surrounding ridges while my family and I were out on the lake fishing. It didn’t take me long to decide that I should combine a few turkey hunting excursions with my fishing trips.
A few years later, I began combining fall turkey hunting trips with fall fishing and bow hunting trips which I made to Truman Lake.
The lake sprawls through several counties. I studied lake maps to determine where the largest land mass areas were around the lake. I figured if I launched my turkey hunts from the water side of my chosen hunting area, there would be less hunter competition. I chose some of the areas which would be a long, tough walk for anyone approaching from the parking lot side. My method has worked marvelously over the years. I have never encountered another fall turkey hunter while hunting at Truman. My hunting methods have a great deal to do with my success of avoiding other hunters. I have found that I can hit the lake at daylight, fish for a couple of hours and then turkey hunt. Hunters often leave the woods after only two or three hours. I also make sure I cover some ground on the lake while fishing. I constantly scan the bank and woodline for feeding turkeys. I generally bank my boat just out of sight of a flock of turkeys and either attempt to call in the entire flock or approach close enough to them to run at them and scatter them out. I have been successful using both methods.
I choose my hunting method according to what the makeup is of the flock of birds which I encounter. If I find a small flock of adult gobblers, I setup on them and begin calling with a series of coarse clucks, or gobbler yelps. An unusual method, which I learned from Ray Eye, involves sounding like a gobbler fight. Yes, gobblers fight in the fall, too. They are constantly working on their position in the pecking order and teasing their egos is a good way to put one on the dinner table. When I find flocks of hens with young of the year, I like to scatter the birds out, let them calm down for 10 minutes or so and then begin hen yelps and kee-kees to bring the group back together. These hunts often last only a few minutes, because young birds don’t like to be alone and often come to the call very quickly. A young bird makes a delicious turkey dinner, too.
For information about fall turkey hunting at Truman Lake call the Missouri Department of Conservation at: 1-660-885-6981.
Scotia-Marcoot Walk-in Turkey Hunting Area – This 3,700 acre area in Dent and Reynolds Counties is one of 21 such areas in the Mark Twain National Forest of Missouri. All roads in the interior of walk-in areas are closed during turkey season. Scotia is bounded on the east by Highway 72, Forest Road 2340 to the south and private properties on the west and north.
J. R. Lanham, of Bunker, cut his fall turkey hunting teeth at the Scotia-Marcoot Area. “I have been turkey hunting there since I turned 16 and became legal to drive myself out there,” Lanham said.
The young Lanham is a pro staff member for Rut and Strut Outfitters out of West Plains, Missouri. He is fanatic about turkey calling and recently won the U.S. Open Calling Contest in Nashville, Tennessee. The National Turkey Calling Contest in Yellville, Arkansas fell to his calling prowess in 2008.
Lanham lives in the midst of tens of thousands of U. S. forest Service lands but indicated that he chose to hunt the Marcoot Area for one reason. “It holds lots of turkeys and I have never encountered another hunter there during fall turkey season,” he stated.
The area is made up of oak-hickory forest with scatterings of shortleaf pine. Old fields and ponds dot the area, but Lanham pointed out that many of the hollows hold water as well.
Access to the area is via a network of gravel roads and old fire lanes. Forest Road 2795 enters the area by the fire tower and is a good travel route into the area according to Lanham. “I like to hit the ridges when hunting turkeys there in the fall,” he began. “I generally head to the ridges above the fields on the east side. These are old farm fields near the headwaters of the Meramec River. If I don’t strike birds on the ridges, they will almost always head to the fields some time during the day.”
The Scotia-Marcoot Area has experienced good hatches the last two years according to Lanham. “When I hunt there, I know there is a good possibility that I will be the first human many of those birds will have ever seen. I like that.”
A grand feature of the Scotia Area is the fact that the ridges are fairly flat and the hollows are not too steep. “Between the roads and fire trails leading into the area and the gentle terrain, this area is relatively easy to hunt,” Lanham said.
Maps of the area may be printed from the USFS web page at: www/ Navigate to the recreation page and to walk in turkey hunting.
Peter Cave Hollow – World renowned turkey hunter Ray Eye spent much of his early days of turkey hunting on the Peter Cave Hollow Walk-in Area. At 7,700 acres in Iron County the rugged area gives hunters room to stretch their legs.
“I always find turkeys at Peter Cave,” Eye said. “It is a big area and very rugged terrain. I found it was to my advantage not to use the main roads leading into the area. Most people like convenience and that includes access to the turkey woods. Most hunters will walk the biggest road into an area. I always look for an old road or a fire trail well away from the main artery into an area. I eliminate a lot of the competition by putting in a little more effort to access the area.”
Eye likes to hunt later in the morning as well. “Most hunters leave in two or three hours and I often can have the area to myself by waiting until nine or ten o’clock to go out. Besides, we can hunt all day during the fall season. And if I do go out early, I burn some shoe leather to get away from other hunters. Most turkey hunters will hunt within one-quarter mile of a road, parking lot or their vehicle.”
“There are some big ridges in Peter Cave,” said Eye. “I like to walk those and call and listen. Often the ridges split. These areas have always produced turkeys for me.”
If Peter Cave Hollow doesn’t produce turkeys for you, check out the Bell Mountain Wilderness Area across Highway A. Here lies Johnson Mountain, one of Eye’s old favorites for fall turkey hunting. Both areas can be checked out on the USFS web site.
Deer Ridge Conservation Area – Located in northeast Missouri’s Lewis County, Deer Ridge CA consists of 7,000 acres of forests, old fields, croplands and wetlands. Twenty miles of trails, including horse trails, a campground, fishing lake and a shooting range makes this area a popular destination with northeast Missouri outdoorsmen.
Intensive management programs have greatly improved populations of deer, turkey and other small game animals on the area. In addition to 5,000 acres of woodlands, some of which consists of 150-year-old post oaks, there are managed field cropping areas, grass management areas and wetland management areas. The rich mixture of habitat types provides consistent food sources for a healthy population of wild turkeys.
Retired conservation department employee Ralph Duren, of Jefferson City, has turkey hunted on Deer Ridge CA many times. “Deer Ridge is a good place to hunt wild turkeys,” he said. “The mixture of woodlands, crops and fields creates ideal habitat for growing poults. If acorn crops are sparse, turkeys can rely on the crops and fields for food sources.”
Duren scouts for roosting areas on Deer Ridge in the hardwood forests and usually attempts to scatter the birds early the next morning. “One of the greatest pleasures of fall turkey hunting is to hear the noise created by a flock of turkeys that has been scattered. Old mama hens raise a ruckus trying to round up all of their young or the year. And the lonesome youngsters are just as noisy in their attempt to find mama. A hunter that gets right in the middle of all this action is going to have a very good time plus a Thanksgiving dinner.”
For more information about turkey hunting on the Deer Ridge Conservation Area call: 573-248-2530.
“Fall turkey hunting is some of the most enjoyable hunting available in Missouri,” concluded Marty Eye. “The turkeys are at their annual population peak, the colors are coming on, the air is cooling…I love it!”

Sunday, December 26, 2010



I took a much needed deep breath. I had been squealing hard on a diaphragm turkey call for five minutes or more. Indeed, that is not an effective turkey calling method. My ridiculous sounding calls were, in fact, to attract a coyote within shotgun range.
As I began to call once again, I caught movement far up the valley. A loping animal paused long enough for me to get a good look through my binoculars. “A coyote is on its way,” I whispered to my wife, Dian, who clung to her Stoeger 12-gauge in hopes of taking her first coyote.
I squealed on the mouth call once again imitating a dying rabbit. The coyote continued on its course towards us, pausing occasionally to get a better fix on the location of the meal in the bush. I paused my calling each time the coyote stopped. Another soft squeal from my call easily enticed the coyote to continue its search for an easy meal.
Dian watched intently, fully camouflaged and 15-feet in front of me and slightly downhill from my calling position. She eased her cheek down on the stock of her shotgun as the coyote closed to within 50 yards.
“Let him keep coming,” I whispered. I could tell Dian was a little nervous about the coyote approaching so quickly. I heard her safety click off as the coyote reached 30 yards. “Let him come,” I whispered again.
I squeezed one more soft call from the diaphragm and the coyote halted its approach at 15 yards. “Now”, I instructed.
Dian’s 12-gauge roared and the coyote tumbled over stone dead. The Winchester Extended Range 3-inch magnum number fours downed the animal cleanly.
“Man, that was exciting and a little scary,” Dian said with a rattle in her throat. “I could get into this predator hunting!”

Despite a long history of being hunted, trapped, poisoned and hated, coyotes are more abundant than ever. They readily adapted to the encroachments of mankind and are often the culprits behind the disappearance of urban pets. Recently new light has been shed on coyote predation of newborn fawns which will ignite the hunting prowess of deer hunting lovers everywhere. A study is currently being conducted by the U.S. Forest Service at the Savannah River Site, a 310-mile square nuclear processing facility in South Carolina. The study is focusing on fawns a week old or less. After three years of study, biologists have determined that an average of 75% of the fawns in the various study areas had been killed by coyotes within the first week of their life, when they are most vulnerable.
Coyotes can be found about anywhere in the country these days. Howling packs are commonly heard at dawn and dusk. Anxious predator hunters can drive around the countryside early and late in the day and often hear the serenades of hunting packs. Mark the locations on your map then seek permission to hunt on a later date. Few farmers and ranchers will deny access to coyote hunters. Most landowners would like to have the song dogs removed from their properties.
If you don’t hear coyotes sound off, don’t become discouraged. Scouting will more than likely turn up tracks, droppings and fur from kill sights. Coyotes prefer woods and hills and rough country. In open country they will seek out grassy depressions, gullies, swampy areas and brushy fencerows.

Don’t plan on sneaking up on a coyote. It is not likely to happen. They have a natural security system bolstered by keen senses and wild instincts. Begin your approach by keeping the wind in your favor, travel slowly and use the terrain to your advantage. And camouflage yourself from head to toe in a pattern which blends into the surroundings.
If you have trouble locating coyotes, rethink your approach into your hunting area. Make absolutely sure the wind is in your face. Improper wind direction ends more coyote hunts than any other single factor.
The best setup locations are normally elevated. This allows the shooter to see long distances. Approach the vantage points with stealth and do not skylight yourself. Circle a hill if needed rather than traveling across the top.

Coyotes are survivors. They are very efficient predators and their ability to sneak up on their prey is almost unparalleled in the natural world. They use every natural terrain feature and piece of vegetation to their advantage. Hunting from an elevated position gives shooters a distinct advantage over these wily predators, which are masters at remaining undetected.
My hunting buddies and I often coyote hunt in the woods with shotguns. Visibility is seldom over 75 yards. Utilizing the slightest elevation gives us the best advantage we can gain in thick cover. Humps, knolls, and even the slight rise made by the roots of a fallen tree have come into play in our coyote hunting adventures.
Our home territory is made up of oak-hickory forests with lots of open spaces such as cow pastures and hayfields. A favorite tactic is to hunt the edges of these fields while making sure to setup on a hillside so we can see long distances. The name of the game in this scenario is to make the long shot with our chosen caliber rifle for the day.

The market is flooded with predator calls. Choosing one or several can be a daunting task. Unless you want to spend the time trying them all, go coyote hunting with experienced hunters and see what they are using. That doesn’t mean you have to use the same calls as those guys, but it will give you some place to start as you figure out what you personally prefer. Too, one of the most enjoyable facets of the whole idea of predator hunting is figuring out the finite points which fit your personal style. As your predator hunting skills develop you will want to show your buddies what you can do and that often entails demonstrating how you can best use the calls you have chosen. Johnny Stewart’s Preymaster Electronic Game Caller comes with a variety of cards for both coyotes and other game. Randy Anderson Calls are some of the most sought after hand held percussion calls.
Your number one priority in choosing a call should be to select one that you can use to best imitate sounds made by animals which coyotes prey on in your area. Rabbits are a prime target for coyotes and your arsenal of calls should certainly include a rabbit squealer. However, don’t over use it just because it is easy to blow. Coyotes will catch on to you quickly.
Predator hunters mess with coyotes at every opportunity. I learned much about predators while deer and turkey hunting. Many years ago I entertained myself most of the morning, while on a deer stand, by squeaking like a mouse to tease a coyote crossing a field in front of me. The coyote took the better part of two hours to cross the field. It wasn’t that the animal did not like my mouse squeaks. It simply kept finding mice in the field as it approached my location. There is nothing like a bird, or mouse in hand, even for a coyote. The antics of the coyote, as it jumped, lurched and stalked to find a meal provided grand entertainment during a slow morning on the deer stand.
Experienced coyotes can be a tough adversary and will require a greater diversity of calls. They will eat about anything and are particularly susceptible to distress calls made by a variety of animals including rodents, birds, fawns and young calves and lambs. Master the raucous calls of a bunch of crows and you have another tool of deceit in your growing arsenal of calls.
Using hand held mouth calls is the ultimate in coyote calling, but has some disadvantages, especially when dogs get close. Electronic callers are available in many models and come with interchangeable cards for a wide variety of animal sounds to attract coyotes.

Witching a coyote approach your position can give even veteran hunters a serious case of “coyote fever”. Your success at taking the animal will be dependent on a number of items which should have been taken care of ahead of time. They include: excellent camo, proper setup, playing the wind, time on the range to know what your gun and loads will do and practice with your calls.
Unless you are a very experienced shooter, beginners should always shoot only at standing coyotes. A song dog running and darting through the grass and bushes can be a formidable target. That, too, is fun, but the more challenging shots will come with experience.

Coyote hunting, or any type of predator hunting, becomes quickly addictive. Watch future issues of “Trophy Whitetail Magazine” for more predator hunting stories to feed your new addiction!


Bill Cooper 1/11

I laughed out loud. The wriggly, bouncy, black, tan and white dogs in front of me wreaked of excitement, joy and anxiousness. They were about to chase bunnies. I giggled from the pure joy of seeing a pair of rabbit hunting beagles once again.
I grew up in the once rabbit rich country of southeast Missouri better known as the Bootheel. Our family farm In Mississippi County provided superb rabitat. We often kicked rabbits up only a few feet from the back door. Hundred of rabbit hunting trips occurred on our 40-acre farm. Friends, family and our ever present beagle, Rowdy, tromped, stomped and kicked every brush pile and weed patch on the place. Rowdy, however, proved to be the ultimate rabbit finder of our hunting band. He managed to find rabbits in the most unlikely places. Tractors and other farm machinery left unused for months at a time seemed to spark new weed growth. I suspect they packed their own weed seeds from field to parking spot. At any rate, new weeds sprang up around the machinery quickly, providing excellent rabbit hiding places, until Rowdy checked them out. He roamed the farm all the time and had stored in his beagle brain the whereabouts of most of the farm’s rabbit population.
Family members liked to hunt the fence rows, drainage ditches and cane patches. All were narrow and rabbits being chased by Rowdy would most often bound from the narrow confines of the habitat at hand and bolt down the more open country of cut bean fields to put some much needed space between them and the dog in as short a time as possible. Those escape attempts were often foiled by one of us standing at the field edges gripping our favorite 12-gauge shotgun.
Once we had satisfied our rabbit hunting urges for the day, our hunting party would slowly make our way back to the farm house, laughing and goading one another about botched shots. Those times when my brother, Dad and friends were together rabbit hunting provided some of the purest, most enjoyable fun of my life. Our jaunts to the fields cost very little and provided fresh air, exercise and hours of delightful fun. Analysts these days would place a big price tag on such events, thus missing the entire point of the hunt.
It never failed that our hunting gang would be tired and hungry as we strolled back to the house. Too, it never failed that Rowdy never gave up chasing bunnies. He had a knack for disappearing as we neared home. He’d make a slight detour to check out the weeds around the machinery, the piles of boards around the barn and discarded lumber or other piles of stuff that accumulated around the farm. Invariably, Rowdy rooted out a rabbit or two, which he proudly ran by all us, as if to prove that he was indeed the super dog of bunny chasers. Often, it appeared that Rowdy scowled at us for not shooting those last minute bunnies. It was a matter of practical safety that we unloaded guns once we approached farm buildings, machinery or the house. Rowdy simply didn’t buy the importance of our notions and often gave up the chase when we didn’t shoot at the fleeing rabbits. Truth be known – Rowdy looked forward to returning home from a long rabbit hunt as much as us. He enjoyed the warmth and food found there, too.
Last January found me in the Bootheel chasing ducks in the harshest cold weather we’d experienced all winter. Every hole of water had frozen to several inches thickness. Managers at Ten Mile Pond Conservation Area kept a few pumps running, which meant open water in front of them. My friends and I managed to draw in and collect a few late season mallards. Bill McKinney, a friend from Timber, Missouri had tagged along. As it turned out he had a hunting camp a few miles west of Sikeston. Too, he knew some locals with beagles. With a simple phone call he set us up for an afternoon of rabbit hunting.
McKinney’s friend turned his two beagles out of the truck and my laughter began. The beautiful pair of beagles proved to be all business. Noses hit the ground almost before their feet. Tails wagged, bodies zig-zagged and twisted as the beagles headed into the thick brush to begin rooting out rabbits.
The small patch of woods we hunted consisted of a lot of deadfalls, honeysuckle vines and small sprouts. Shooting at fleeing rabbits would be an extreme challenge.
Minutes into the hunt the first low, mournful yodel came from one of the beagles. I chuckled to myself. It is amazing how soothing the voice of a beagle tracking a rabbit can be.
The second beagle joined in and the crescendo of their combined voices created a delightful beagle choir as they jointly worked out the track. Their voices picked up cadence as the trail grew hotter. Anticipation grew and I gripped my shotgun a little tighter. The excitement of the hunt was building.
The dogs worked my direction. I strained to see through the thick underbrush. I knew the rabbit would be at least 50 yards ahead of the dogs and I would have to react quickly to get a shot. The thought had no more passed through my head when I saw a brown flash streak through the tangles. “Don’t look, Ethel”, came to mind. The streak was gone.
The dogs pushed the bunny out of the wood patch and down a long narrow fence row. We maneuvered to head it off. I had shot many rabbis over the years under just those same conditions. I itched to see a bunny streak out my side of the fencerow.
Shotgun blasts from the other side of the fencerow provided a clear indication that the bunny decided to run out the safe side of the fencerow, where Bill McKinney waited. I didn’t get a count on the number of shots fired, but McKinney must be the fastest shotgun reloader west of the Mississippi. At any rate, he rolled the first rabbit of the day.
Beagles and bunnies traded back and forth between the fencerows and the small patch of woods. I sighted four different bunnies in the thick stuff but never managed a shot. McKinney rolled another one fleeing from the fencerow.
As we headed back to the truck after calling it a day, I gouged McKinney about his hunting vest being so much lighter after firing so many rounds to get two rabbits. “Yeah, but feel the weight of those rabbits,” he responded.
“And what school did you go to?” I quizzed. Everybody knows that lead is heavier than rabbits………….”

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Fishermen have long been dazzled by the incredible beauty of the slender, silver, black and yellow bodies of snook. Their sporting qualities have been argued by the best anglers on earth, thus their inclusion in the saltwater Super Slam. Throw in the tropical paradises where snook roam and you have the ingredients for a grand saltwater fishing adventure.
Snook are ample adversaries on any type of tackle, but the ultimate snook fishing challenge comes from stalking them with a flyrod in hand.
Flyfishing for snook has been on my bucket list for a long time. I struck it off recently, but put it on the list again after the feisty fish thoroughly thrashed me on my first attempt. “Flyfishing for snook is not easy,” said Cpt. Rodman Hunter of Cancun Flyfishing. “Fishermen often come here with preconceived ideas about how they will go about flyfishing for snook. I book a lot of five day trips and require my clients to spend the first two days on the dock learning the proper methods to be successful.”
Because of time limitations I had to skip the two days of instruction on the dock. Cpt. Hunter taught as we went. It was not pretty. Accustomed to casting 40-to-50-feet at a leisurely pace, I learned quickly that preparation and practice before hand is an absolute necessity prior to tackling snook with a flyrod.
“The window of opportunity to take a shot (cast) at a snook is very narrow,” Cpt. Hunter had explained via e-mail prior to my trip. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a grand variety of outdoor adventures in my lifetime and have adapted to the techniques of countless guides. However, the levity of Cpt. Hunter’s statement didn’t soak in until my moment of truth.
Cpt. Hunter’s Maverick flats boat drifted to a halt in the backcountry waters of Isla Blanca, 30 miles north of Cancun, Mexico. Eagerly, I stepped up on the bow while Hunter manned the poling tower. My Temple Fork 9-weight flyrod felt good in my hand. Stretched out coils of fly line, at the ready and off of my feet, lay on the deck.
A daunting maze of downed mangrove trees lay like skeletal remains in the gin clear waters along the sandy shoreline. Every laydown looked like it should have a snook hiding in its cover.
“There, 80-feet at 3:00 o’clock. Two snook. See them?” Hunter snorted.
“No, I don’t see them,” I whispered. “Now I do,” I chortled as the two 20 pound fish, now 50 feet away and too close, streaked for cover.
“You spooked them!” echoed Hunter’s charge. “You shuffled your feet. Don’t move your feet. Don’t turn your body. Bill, stealth is the name of this game. I have seldom caught a snook which saw me first. You have got to see them, play out line quickly and cast to them quickly and accurately. Remember, the window of opportunity is VERY narrow. The chance for a shot is here one second and gone the next.”
A couple of minutes later Hunter found two more snook. “Point your rod tip to 2:00 o’clock, now”, he instructed. “There , right behind the double trees. Cast, cast,cast. Now.”
“Too short. Cast again. You’re losing them. Shoot now,” Hunter insisted.
By the grace of God my Deceiver fly zoomed through the tangle of mangroves and landed 8-feet in front of the two large snook. “Strip, strip, strip faster,” Hunter coached.
The pair of fish sped towards the fleeing fly like twin torpedoes. “He got it! Set the hook!” Hunter yelled.
I put all the muscle I had into the set and simultaneously felt my fingers burning as the powerful fish ripped line from my fly reel. A resounding “ping” echoed across the water as the 20-pound test tippet popped like a soap bubble.
“Incredible!” I yelled. “Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that. Those fish are powerful. That one sure beat me up.”
Ten minutes later, I repeated the process and wrestled a 25-pound snook free of the mangrove snags. Confidence welled up inside of me as I felt the powerful lunges of the fighting fish on the end of my line. I knew I would wear this one down and bring it to hand. My arrogance faded quickly as the fish as long as my leg turned on a dime and sped towards the boat. My line went limp right along with my ego.
My skills improved with each encounter. I slipped into super stealth mode, scanning the shallow waters for horizontal black lines in a world of vertical stickups. “You need better sunglasses,” Hunter pointed out. “In the future, buy only the best – Costa del Mars. They are absolutely necessary for this type of fishing.”
Snook are known to have extremely sensitive sensor cells lining their lateral line. Therefore, a quite approach is paramount to obtaining a shot at a fish. Playing the current and knowing the water temperature and water depth gives an angler several advantages. Cold water transmits sound better than warmer water. Current is like wind in the water. If the current is flowing the way you are traveling, fish will hear you easier and spook.
Light angle is another important fact to consider when approaching snook. Three important phases of light occur each day, sunrise, overhead and sunset. It is best to have the brightest light to your back. It will help you spot fish and at the same time make it difficult for fish to spot you. They will be looking into the light source. A downside to this scenario is the fact that your fly must be placed closer to the fish, because they are having difficulty seeing well. A fly must be worked slower, too, to give a fish ample opportunity to spot the offering.
Flyfishing for snook quickly converted me into an adrenaline junky. The excitement of hunting the fish, approaching it with utmost stealth, presenting a fly to the right spot and watching the lanky fish attack ranked right up there with the best of my outdoor adventures.
Two days later, Cpt. Hunter and I returned to the snook hangout and tried our luck again. Waves pounded the shoreline. “We will have to wade,” Cpt. Hunter pointed out. “Wading is actually the best way to approach snook. I only use the boat when the water is deep or the bottom is too soft to wade, or when the mangrove tangles are too thick.”
I chose to pack my camera instead of my flyrod. I knew instantly that fishing the turbid waters would be the ultimate challenge and I wanted to capture it on film. Hunter approached every stickup in a crouched position to keep a low profile. “I’ll have to put the fly right on their nose to entice a strike,” Hunter explained.
Thousands of stickups made the fishing task appear daunting. Hunter patiently and stealthily approached likely looking lairs and laid his fly near them. He successfully caught several 3-to-4-pound snook in 30 minutes. Then he set the hook with muscle. The water erupted with a spray of saltwater. “Much bigger fish,” he laughed. I struggled to keep up as the fish raced through the tangles with hunter in tow. The powerful snook finally hit a tangle of roots and wrapped the leader. Cpt. Hunter strode rapidly through the thigh deep water and thrust his free hand into the mangrove tangles and yanked out a splendid ten pound snook. We both danced with excitement.
After photographing the 10-pound snook, we headed back to the boat. I took the opportunity to qui z Cpt. Hunter about several aspects of snook fishing including rods, reels lines, flies and presentations. His response would fill a book. Needles to say, there is not room for that much information here. Following are the essentials for anyone considering getting into flyfishing for snook and other saltwater species.
Snook range from very small up to 60 pounds. Five to six weight rods will work for the smaller fish. However a wind of over 5 knots will make it difficult to utilize the lighter rods. Hunter says the best weight rods to use to always keep the windows of opportunity open are sizes 8 thru 11. The best saltwater rods on the high end are the Sage RPLX-Orvis, Orvis Helios and Loomis Crosscurrent. In the mid-price range are the Temple Fork Outfitters Tcrx-i and the Redington CPX.
Good drags and plenty of room for backing are musts for a snook fly reel. The drag helps an anlger control the fish and keep it out of the tangles. In open water, fishermen need both a good drag and lots of backing to subdue a big snook. Tibor, Able, Orvis and Ross are top brands.
“Even the best fly lines must be cleaned often to prevent friction which slows down the cast,” Hunter said. The Orvis Wonderline G3 and Cortland tropical saltwater lines are among the best in full color and floating lines, according to Hunter. Additionally, he recommends clear floating lines, which he says are the best lines ever made. He adamantly stated that he had increased his catch rate strikes by 50 percent since he began using EP+. Cortland Ghost and Rio Camo are best for fishing a variety of depths.
Flies for snook are easy to select. “Simply match the hatch,” Hunter said. But, the best snook flies will include the floating flies: snook-aroo, gurlers, poppers, gummy minnows, and shrimp and crab patterns. Sinking flies should include: deceivers, seahabit, puglisis sardine, mullets and bunkers, supreme hair shrimp and gummy minnows.
Most saltwater flies are not made with weed guards. It is worth the extra money and effort to buy flies with guards. If you can’t find them, fashion your own guards out of heavy mono and glue. It will save a lot of lost flies and ultimately result in more hooked fish.
Presentation of flies to snook in heavy cover is a subject which needs a book to thoroughly cover the possibilities. I understand overhead and sidearm casts, but when Cpt. Hunter began talking about making sidearm cast and delivering flies with an overhead- inverted delivery…well, I knew I would eventually have to spend the two days on the dock, because that delivery is the stealthiest of all deliveries. I clearly remember spooking fish when my flies splashed heavily in front of them!
Clothing is another very important item when pursuing snook with a flyrod. Colors should match the sky behind you, usually sky blue or light blue. Matching buffs and gloves are essential as well. Long sleeve shirts and long pants help to cover up shiny skin.
A quick way to evaluate your guide is to check the color and style of his fishing boat. The hull of the boat should be blue where it meets the water, so it blends into the water and sky. Brightly colored sides will be seen by fish looking upwards. THE name of the game is about stealth and the boat has to handle the task, otherwise any noise (water slapping the boat) decreases chances for a shot to the point of spooking all fish out of the area or alerting your intended targets. Too, guides should be running the best flats boats available. Anything less will not get you to the skinny water where many of the biggest snook hide.
In spite of the tips in this article, the best thing you can do to properly prepare for the ultimate snook fishing challenge is to book a trip with Cpt. Rodman Hunter. He is one of the best guides in the business. The tough education you receive will stick with you the rest of your life. Cpt. Hunter is death on detail and will prepare you for what is to come. Check him out at
The snook may have won the first round I spent with them, but I am practicing with a vengeance. The next time Cpt. Hunter takes me out, I will be able to swiftly make that 100-foot, pin-point accurate cast which he demands.