The Shotem' and Caughtem' Blog is the place to find the latest reviews and commentary on gear, destinations, conditions, events, and general knowledge to inform our readers and give our opinions to anyone listening.

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Well Shotem and Caughtem lovers one of the two best times of the year is quickly approaching.  Yes that time of year when you can feed both your Shotem and Caughtem side of the brain.  One of the best times of the year to wake from your hibernation from deer season and the bitter cold should you not get the opportunity to ice fish.  We are of course talking about the warming weather for pre spawn fishing and yes TURKEY season!  What better time to start getting the gear ready and most importantly start refreshing your calling skills and scouting your turkey hunting territories.  

Though spring turkey season offers a bit of an advantage over fall when it comes to being able to call in the Toms, you can never go wrong with knowing where your thunder chickens are sleeping and looking for food.  Here are some things you might keep in mind as you get ready for the first spring hunt.  Let us know your tricks in the comment section below and as always get your cameras ready to post to the galleries and share your stories.

The most important part of scouting this time of year is learning the lay of the land. The better you know your hunting territory, the more likely you are to make the right decisions once you hear that pre-dawn gobble.

It is a good idea to get out in the woods before dawn just before the season begins to determine which trees gobblers are using as roosting areas. Even more important is just what they do when they fly down, and where they go after they hit the ground. Keep in mind that when you are scouting late, you have to do it carefully or the birds will become even more wary.

One thing I have observed after nearly 30 years of turkey hunting is that it seems much harder to lure in a tom at dawn with today's high turkey numbers than it used to be when there were fewer birds.

It is almost a sure thing today that the toms will be roosting with hens and when the birds hit the ground the toms will follow their hens.

When you hear those predawn gobbles, try to find a lone gobbler and set up on him. Avoid the groups of gobblers because they are sure to have hens with them. Also, groups of gobblers are often comprised of jakes which tend to be more vocal and hang together more often than most mature toms.

This is also the time to work on your turkey calling skills. If you haven't picked up a turkey call since last season, you will have some work to do because playing a call well takes practice, lots of it.

Most beginners to the sport start out with a friction call such as the box call. It is probably the easiest to learn how to use and will make all the turkey sounds you need to bag that gobbler. While this is an easy call to use, you shouldn't underestimate its effectiveness. It can be deadly and for many good hunters it is the only call they use.

The slate call is probably the next step for most hunters. This requires a peg to be drawn across a slate or glass surface and it, too, can mimic all the calls of the wild turkey. It does require more practice than the box call.

There are a couple of problems with these two types of calls. One is that each requires hand movement to make them work, and the sharp eyes of a turkey are quick to pick up on any movement. The other is that moisture will render them useless. They must be kept dry to work well. Some manufacturers are producing boxes and slates that will work when wet and I've used them. They work well, also.

Most seasoned turkey hunters also learn to use the diaphragm call. This one takes a lot of practice for most people. The call itself is fairly simple, usually just a horseshoe of light metal such as aluminum with a thin rubber membrane stretched across the open part of the shoe. The call is placed in your mouth and by working your tongue and blowing air across the membrane all calls of the turkey can be reproduced.

The big advantage to this call is that no movement is involved.

It's to your advantage to learn how to use all of the above calls. A lot of successful turkey hunting depends upon getting a turkey to gobble when he hears your call. Some days they will gobble to a box call, others to a slate and others to a diaphragm. Usually there will be a call type and a call pattern which will turn them on better than others. I've seen times when they wouldn't answer anything but a purr made on a slate.

As the weather took a turn into the 60's today after about eight inches of snow just a week ago we felt it was a good time to remind people that just because it is cold doesn't mean there is still not great fishing to be done before the spring spawn.  Let us know your cold weather tips in the comment section below.

Since we like to sleep in, we really love the fact that the winter months allow anglers to get a late start.  Most often fish will be more active during the day under full sun conditions.  It’s almost a complete opposite of what we see in the summertime.  We’d say that the crappie, however, seem to bite a little better sometimes near sundown.

During the summer, we outdoor lovers preach fishing cover, shadows, darker water and getting out of the sun.  But in the winter, it seems that the gamefish will often be found in the shallower, clearer waters.  The little bit of warmth that the sun will offer is quite pleasant for the fish.  Bait fish will get into the brighter waters too, so needless to say, the gamefish follow.

Another reason for us to search for warmth is because the water is cold and fish being cold blooded will be less aggressive in colder water.  Their movement will be minimal. Although the fish will want to be in warmer shallower water, they’ll still stay close to some deeper water.  Call it the deep water sanctuary or fish’s home.  Fish like the quick access to the shallow water that can get warmed up with the sun and deeper water for safety.  Usually this is on the north side of lakes and northern shores of rivers where there are eddies and still water. That side is exposed to the sun longer.

With the cold water and cold fish, their bite will be light and hard to detect.  To catch fish like sauger or stripers from the river, light jigs and line with live bait (minnows) will be the way to go.

We at Shotem and Caughtem read this article and felt it was a great one to throw at the hunting community for their input.  We have also included who you can right to help fight this in case you to where miffed that our hunting permit money might go towards something than conserving our sport.  Give it a quick read and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

We at Shotem and Caughtem would be remiss to not think that we may have the perfect weekend for hunting in store.  Recent cold temperatures in the midwest have made the goose populations rise.  Typically goose hunting is a cold weather sport.  However, this weekend much of the midwest will see a slight uptick in weather temperatures which may make for an unusually nice goose hunting experience.  

Goose offers that last quick hunt prior to a bit of a cold spell for hunting till the arrival of spring turkey season.  Goose hunting can also be the perfect practice session should you love turkey hunting.  Many of the same experiences hold true for both animals.  They require you to be still.  Practice your calling techniques.  Lay out decoys.  And lastly, let them get in close because many of them wear kevlar.  

We are lucky since we in the midwest have had decent moisture levels and the winter wheat fields started a decent growth prior to the deep freeze we have seen.  Also the fact that the wheat around our area at least has gone dormant means farmers are usually more apt to allowing small groups in their fields to help eliminate their goose problems should they have found their fields attractive.  It gives many hunters a perfect opportunity to meet new landowners by extending a helping hand.  "Sir or Mam, I was noticing that your wheat field contains a large goose population.  Would it be possible for me and a friend to help relieve you of some of your problems?"  Many farmers hate to see crop lose to geese since much of the plant is eaten by the animal and will not grow back once temperatures rise.  Also, geese will establish a pattern by hitting the same fields over and over sometimes completely wiping out a farmers crop.  

Let us know your goose hunting secrets or tricks in the comment section below.  As always share your adventures to the galleries and tell us your story.  

We at Shotem and Caughtem missed our chance at a decent sized buck this year during hunting season.  However, this time of year offers a unique chance to still retrieve that monster rack by other means, Shed hunting.  It is a great excuse to get outdoors and still find that trophy rack from the animal seen on your trail cams.  If you know where they were roaming there is a good chance you will find that rack through other means.

Although it's not quite as thrilling as taking a buck the old-fashioned way, shed hunting is a great way to get in the woods and hone your deer-hunting skills.

It's not something most folks (at least non-hunters) put much thought into, but starting about this time every year, bucks lose their antlers. It's all part of their yearly swing in testosterone levels.

The neat thing about searching for these shed antlers is they don't fall off in the middle of a mall parking lot. They get dropped smack dab in the middle of where the deer live. It gives us another reason to get out of civilization, hone our tracking skills and uncover the winter-time habits of the state's favorite game animal.

You may think there is no rush to bundle up and head into the cold. Those sheds will be around until spring, right? That may not be the case.

Shed hunting has gotten extremely popular over the past few years. There are scores of websites devoted to the sport. And there are even national clubs devoted to the skill of finding dropped antlers. So once this pile of snow melts, lace up your boots and get searching.

One of the best things about shed hunting is there are virtually no barriers to entry. You don't need a license. You can leave the expensive rifle at home. There's no reason to wear the latest camouflage pattern. And you won't get much accomplished if you spend the day perched in an expensive tree stand.

The key to success is to think the same way we do when we take to the woods each fall. There is not much difference in the way we hunt dropped antlers vs. when they're still attached to our quarry. Look for food sources, places where the bucks bed and the trails they travel. If you know where the bucks live, you know where their antlers lie.

Post pics from your adventures to the Caughtem wall and tell us where you found your trophy rack.  As always leave your comments and knowledge in the comment section below. 

Some of us here at Shotem and Caughtem did not come from a long line of hunters or fisherman.  We did not learn how to shoot until we starting hanging out with certain crowds.  Some did not end up enjoying what they had to offer.  Others found the passion for the lifestyle and dedicated more and more time to the outdoors.  Hunting and fishing is not for everyone as is the case with anything.  So we were not surprised when it came up for conversation with part of our family when the news broke of the 350,000 Black Rhino hunt being auctioned off by a Dallas Outfitter.  What follows is only part of our justification for what our industry does for wildlife conservation.  

Namibia is just about the only place to have gotten conservation right for rhinos and a lot of other wildlife. It has methodically repopulated one area after another as its rhino population has steadily increased. As a result, it is now home to 1,750 of the roughly 5,000 black rhinos surviving in the wild. (The worldwide population of Africa’s two rhino species, black and the more numerous white, plus three species in Asia, is about 28,000.) In neighboring South Africa, government officials stood by haplessly as poachers slaughtered almost a thousand rhinos last year alone. Namibia lost just two.

Namibia has the advantage of being home to only 2.1 million people in an area twice the size of California — about seven per square mile, versus about 100 in South Africa. But Namibia’s success is also the product of a bold political decision in the 1990s to turn over ownership of the wildlife to communal conservancies — run not by white do-gooders, but by black ranchers and herders, some of whom had, until then, also been poachers.

The idea was to encourage villagers living side by side with wildlife to manage and profit from it by opening up their conservation lands to wealthy big-game hunters and tourists armed with cameras. The hunters come first, because the conservancies don’t need to make any investment to attract them. The Ministry of Environment and Tourism sets limits on all hunting, and because rhino horn is such a precious commodity, rhinos remain under strict national control.

The theory behind the conservancy idea was that tolerance for wildlife would increase and poaching would dwindle, because community ownership made the illegal killing feel like stealing from the neighbors. And it has worked. Community conservancies now control almost 20 percent of Namibia — 44 percent of the country enjoys some form of conservation protection — and wildlife numbers have soared. The mountain zebra population, for instance, has increased to 27,000 from 1,000 in 1982. Elephants, gunned down elsewhere for their ivory, have gone to 20,000, up from 15,000 in 1995. Lions, on the brink of extinction from Senegal to Kenya, are increasing in Namibia.

Under an international agreement on trade in endangered species, Namibia can sell hunting rights for as many as five black rhinos per year, though it generally stops at three. The entire trophy fee, in this case $350,000, goes into a trust fund that supports rhino conservation efforts. The fund pays, for instance, to capture rhinos and implant transmitters in their horns, as an anti-poaching measure. Trophy hunting one rhino may thus save many others from being butchered.

Many wildlife groups also support the program because Namibia manages it so carefully. It chooses which individual will be hunted, and wildlife officials go along to make sure the hunter gets the right one. (So much for the romance of the Great White Hunter.) The program targets older males past their breeding prime. They’re typically belligerent individuals that have a territorial tendency to kill females and calves.

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.  

We at Shotem and Caughtem have already touched upon the fact that big fish can be landed during the winter months.  We thought since hunting season is starting to wind down that we would check to see if anyone else had the same experiences.  Lucky for us a staff writer for the Dallas Tribune just wrote an article on just this same fact.  We thought it made a great addition to share what he found to help add to your experience in landing big fish during this time of season.  A big thanks to Roy Sasser for helping us drive the point home with some expert advice.

Every angler who picks up a fishing rod and casts a lure dreams of catching a big fish. Most never accomplish the goal and must satisfy themselves with reports of Toyota ShareLunkers, the Texas Parks and Wildlife big bass program that accepts largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more for the hatchery program.

There already have been four ShareLunkers — three from Lake Fork, one from Lake Athens. About 75 percent of ShareLunkers are caught from January through March.

To help achieve your dream, we’ve asked 10 bass fishing experts — five Lake Fork fishing guides, three tournament pros, the owner of a popular lure company and the owner of a Mexico bass fishing business, to give us a few tips. Between them, they’ve caught or guided clients to more than 2,000 largemouth bass weighing 10 pounds or more.

Much of their advice is repetitious. Some, like bass pro Keith Combs, disagrees with the norm on how to present a lure to entice a big bass. Most of the experts move their lure as slowly as possible. Not Combs. Before becoming a touring pro, he guided anglers at Falcon Lake, where his clients in some months landed 25 or more double-digit fish.

“Concentrate on fishing early and late in the day and during the week when fishing pressure is light,” said Combs. “Fish with aggressive lures. I think baits that displace a lot of water and contact the bottom or underwater cover draw the biggest bites. My top picks are three-quarters ounce to one-ounce jigs, big spinnerbaits with big blades and deep-diving crankbaits fished on a fast retrieve.”

According to Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones, where you fish is just as important as how you fish.

“The three most important things in catching a big bass are location, location and location,” said Jones, who has twice caught three 10-pounders in a single day. “Your odds of catching a big fish increase dramatically if you’re fishing at a lake known to produce big fish.”

Mark Pack, who figures he and his clients have caught more than 400 10-pound-plus bass in 28 years at Lake Fork, said big bass like the security of having deep water close to their spawning areas. The experts agree that the upcoming spawning season is the best time to catch a lunker.

“Anglers in the spring need to fish points and banks where deep-water channels swing in close,” advised Pack.

Most big fish spawn in deeper water rather than right next to the bank, said Gene Snider, another prolific guide who’s spent the last 30-plus years figuring out Lake Fork’s big bass.

“More than 90 percent of the big fish we’ve caught during the spawn have come from water 5- to 15-feet deep,” Snider said. “I usually fish with a jig and don’t expect to get a lot of bites.

“One March day that I’ll never forget, I positioned the boat so my clients could cast to the bank, and I pitched a jig out into deeper water. The first bite I got was a bass weighing nearly 13 pounds. I only got one more bite all day, but it was a bass that weighed 111/2 pounds.”

If you have confidence in a particular big bass fishing spot, don’t give up on it, advises Mark Stevenson. He caught the former state-record bass from Lake Fork in 1986. It weighed 17.67 pounds. Named Ethel, the fish was displayed for several years at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Springfield, Mo., where it became an ambassador for Texas fishing.

“Once you’ve found good structure where you have confidence in catching a big fish, don’t give up on it just because you fish there for a while and don’t catch anything,” said Stevenson. “Revisit that area at different times of the day. I’ve caught a lot of big fish on the second or third visit to the same spot.”

Along the same lines, John Barns likes to cast repeatedly to good cover. Barns is the president and majority owner of Strike King Lure Company, one of the market’s most popular brands.

“Be patient,” advises Barns. “Fish slowly and thoroughly, especially in an area that has produced big fish in the past. I believe that many times you have to aggravate a big bass into biting by making repeated casts to a particular area or by changing lures multiple times.”

James Caldemeyer, another Lake Fork guide who’s guided customers to a lot of trophy-sized fish and caught quite a few of his own, says anglers in general fish too fast.

“The majority of big fish caught from my boat bit the lure when it sinking or sitting still,” he said. “Big bass prefer a slow presentation. When you think you’re fishing slowly, slow down even more — it works.”

While fishing at the best bass lakes in Mexico, fishing outfitter Ron Speed Jr., has caught his share of big ones. He’s also helped hundreds of anglers catch a personal best largemouth and learned much from their tales of dreams realized and the big one that got away. Speed also has enjoyed tournament fishing success in Texas lakes.

“I think the biggest fish are generally the first fish to spawn,” he said. “When the water is still pretty cold, I target the warmer banks and coves — usually the north banks that have water that’s protected from the north wind and warms a little sooner.

“A couple of degrees may not seem like much to us but it can make a big difference to a fish. Don’t forget that bass make their spawning beds not just on the bottom but in the forks of trees or on top of stumps or flooded treetops. They can be 4 feet beneath the surface in 30 feet of water.”

James Niggemeyer, a Lake Fork guide when he’s not competing in Bassmaster Elite Series tournaments, likes fishing during the spawning season, but he also likes the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods.

“Water temperatures in the high 40s to high 50s is the time to catch the biggest bass of the year by fishing in or around heavy cover with a depth change or transition area nearby,” said Niggemeyer, who notes that bass are heaviest before they spawn.

“Post spawn is my favorite time to catch surface feeding bass — big bass. I like a Strike King Sexy Dawg topwater lure in either bluegill or green gizzard shad colors. Big bass eat large prey items to recover from the spawn.”

Whatever the fishing style, Snider cautions anglers to take care of their fishing line and keep it fresh. It could become, after all, the tenuous link between the angler and a prize catch.

“Retie your knot after every hook set,” Snider added. “A big bass has every advantage to start with. When you finally do hook a big fish, why lose it because your line was old or worn or because you were too lazy to retie your knot?”

Several ShareLunkers have been caught by novices. As Lake Fork fishing guide David Vance said, nothing beats spending a lot of time on the water when big bass are most vulnerable, and that means during the pre-spawn period of January and February and during the spawn in March and April.

Vance should know. Relying on the axiom that big lures tempt big bass, he’s personally caught about 150 bass that each weighed 10 pounds or more.

Let us know your tips and tricks in the comment section below and keep posting your adventures to the galleries or create your own circle from which to brag to by starting your own group in your profile.  Most of all get outdoors!

 

We at Shotem and Caughtem just got back from the 2014 Shot Show and as always it did not disappoint.  As many who have made the trip, there is only so much wonderful merchandise one person can take in and talk about.  The show offers all gun and hunting lovers an unbelievable amount of things to drool over.  We had the opportunity to shake the hands of a couple of celebrities and even more great people from a lot of great companies.  Here are just a couple of the great products we had the chance to handle and learn about and are some of our favorites from the show.  If you had the opportunity to go let us know your favorites in the comment section below.

First, the Benelli Ethos.  For the hunter looking for a ultra sweet, light weight, auto shotgun for the field the new Ethos answers a bird hunters prayers. Though we mainly paid attention to the 12g model we were shocked by its overall light weight design matched with an overall gorgeous look helped us get excited about adding to our collection.  The action flowed nicely and construction looked to be able to with stand quite the beating.  

Next is more for the hunter that likes to also make sure he or she is safe on the streets or in the home.  For the streets Glock has introduced the new Glock 42 380.  Due to the popularity in this round for a carry weapon Glock decided to pack its typical design to fit the caliber.  The best thing we found about this gun was that it kept Glock's reputation for simple yet rugged design with an easy tear down appeal we have not seen yet in a gun of this caliber.  For home defense we went over to the UTS booth to check out the impressive UTS-15 shotgun.  As the salesman said, if you can't get it done in fifteen shotgun rounds, you are officially at war in your home.  

Lastly, we took a look at some of the new night vision optics from our friends at Bering Optics.  They seem to have quite a good grasp on what we hunters are looking for in our night vision optics.  It also does not hurt that the company is from one of the best places to hunt hogs at night Texas to help give them a great in the field testing platform.  We at Shotem and Caughtem might get the opportunity to go out and test some of their optics to give a more formal review which we could not be more excited for the possibility.

As always let us know about your favorite gear in the galleries and tell us your story.  

Well it is that time of year again for the Shotem and Caughtem crew to head to Las Vegas and check out all things that go bang and the companies that help produce some really cool stuff for the hunting and shooting community.  The 2014 Shot Show is once again in full swing and we hope to bring you plenty of cool news from the convention.  For those of you that will be attending the event, we will once again be wandering around the huge convention checking out all the new products available wearing our Shotem and Caughtem swag.  We hope you will stop and let us know your thoughts on the website and what we can do better.  We might even have some cool giveaways at the show should you take the time to visit with us.  For those of you not attending it is a great time to add some comments below of what you would like to see more of on the website.  We hope to fill our suitcases with great products to review and share with you our members once we get back and have a chance to go through the huge amount of material.  

We hope you have a great Shotem and Caughtem week and will be back on the WWW once we come back from the show!