Hunting with ThermaCell

Hunting with ThermaCell

By: Mike Reynolds

It’s mid October and it’s time to start hunting deer again (finally!). The problem is it’s still warm and bugs are still active.  For me the evenings are the worst because of mosquitos.  Some nights they are horribly distracting.  What can you do? Bug juice is out because of the smell.  Some cover scents claim to repel bugs but are usually too weak to be really effective.  For me the only thing that truly works to chase mosquitos and keep them away is the ThermaCell brand of repellents.

 I first heard of ThermaCell in the mid-2000s while hunting in Mississippi.  I had won Primos Hunting Calls Pro Staffer of the year and was given a deer hunt with Will Primos on his place near Jackson, MS.  It was mid-October and still hot in the south.  While standing at the base of a tree waiting for my cameraman to get settled in his stand, I was being swarmed by thousands of little blood suckers.  They followed me up the tree and were getting ready to ruin my morning when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  My cameraman whispered, “Put this under your seat.”  He handed something to me.  I took it and slid it under my seat.  To my amazement all the mosquitos disappeared.  Now I’m not talking wandered away, they just flat out were gone in an instant!  I was stunned and quite pleased.  Now I’d like to finish this story with a great buck on the ground.  Sadly the only thing I got that day was introduced to a new product that repelled mosquitos without repelling deer.  In fact, I later learned the scent that ThermaCell emits is a man-made version of a smell that comes from chrysanthemums, a naturally occurring scent that deer seem to either not smell or ignore. 

I have used and recommended Therma Cell ever since.  The unit is easy to carry and fits in your backpack.  Once lighted, it repels mosquitos, gnats and black flies for hours Check out your local Bass Pro Shops for this great product. I carry one for at least the month of October and recommend you do too!


Preparing For the Hunt!

Preparing For the Hunt!

By: Mike Reynolds

With hunting season here and the days getting a little shorter, now would be a good time to switch gears in your life and think deer hunting.   Once archery opens, its full tilt for the rest of the season.   Time, even more than normal, will be at a premium.  Now would be a good time to go through your gear.  Its way better to find out you need to replace something while you are in your driveway rather than as a deer of a lifetime walks in you shooting lane. 

I like to go over each type of gear separately.   I have boxes for each species I hunt so all I have to do is grab a box and go.  By keeping everything separate, I know everything I need for that hunt is right where I need it to be. Plano Molding makes a great box for this.  The Sportsman’s Trunk is ideal for getting everything in a handy portable box.  The folks at Plano even put wheels on it for easy maneuvering.   I like to take everything out and spread it out either on the floor or on a table.  I almost always find something broken that I tossed in the box last season and forgot about.  By getting everything out you will be able to make sure it’s all in working order and ready to go. 

Make sure clothes are in good repair, not ripped or faded.  I have found that sometimes over the summer clothes shrink while they are sitting in the box.  I’m not sure how that happens but it does.  I like to get those shirts and pants replaced.  Now is the time to wash your deer clothes in scent-free laundry soap.  Once I get them washed I like to put them in a giant Zip-Lock bag.  The camping dept. has a great selection.   This will keep them as scent free as possible.  Once you have your clothes taken care of, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure your favorite boots are in good shape.  Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than cold wet feet. 

Last year’s boots can be fine so long as they still fit and haven’t sprung a leak.  Everyone hates breaking in new boots but there’s good news-most boots now have a very short break in period if any at all.  I love the RedHead brand of boots with Gore-Tex.  This makes them not only waterproof but also helps keep your feet as dry as possible by allowing moisture to escape.  As anyone who spends any itme in the outdoors knows dry is warm.

The last things that need your attention will be the stuff you carry in your pack.  We all carry different things so you should make sure all are in working order.   I like to take the calls apart and clean any dirt or weed seeds that may have gotten into the reeds.  A light rinse in warm water doesn’t hurt either.  I also clean out any garbage that I have put in there.  It never ceases to amaze me how much trash I accumulate, then again one of the most common items in my pack is food.   I always put the wrappers in my pack.  I usually find trash that I take out as well.

If you can find the time before season starts to do basic maintenance on your gear, you will have more time to do what we all live for come fall.  Every minute spent prepping now will give you that much more time in the stand waiting for Mr. Tender and Juicy.



What's a Planer Board?

By: Jerry Costabile

Planer boards have been a part of many anglers arsenal for a long time. Salmon and trout anglers have been using boards for many years on the Great Lakes. Planer boards do so many good things when a trolling presentation is called for. They enable an angler to get lines and baits out away from the boat, which prevents spooking the fish. Boards can be used with all types of line presentations; mono, braid, wire, copper, lead core. They all are used in today’s fishing, and boards help anglers expand their trolling spread.

 Boards also make it so much easier to get multiple lines in the water. We can experiment with different colors, running depths, and shapes. This helps us determine what the fish are looking for on that particular day. No doubt about it, planer boards will help us catch more walleyes and salmon and trout.

 But, more and more we're learning that planer boards will help us catch other species of fish, fish that we probably wouldn't have caught without the use of boards. Anglers in some areas are learning that perch are very susceptible to a lure behind a board. So are white bass and striped bass in the regions where striped bass live.

I have a friend who put in a good amount of time chasing crappies with planer boards. In many of the lakes that he fishes, the crappies suspend. Sometimes they're eight feet down over twenty feet of water, and they're relating to baitfish. They're very spread out and it would take a lot of time to find them by casting. You can cover much more water by trolling, but if you troll over the top of them when they're only a few feet down, you spook them. By using planer boards and getting the bait away from the boat, you catch them instead of spook them.

Same thing is true for white bass. In some lakes in the summer, anglers watch for the gulls to start diving at shad on the surface. The shad are on the surface because the white bass are feeding on them there. When you see the gulls, you hurry to the spot and start casting. With boards however, you don't need to wait for the gulls, you just keep trolling searching for the bass. Very, very effective way to catch them! That Hornet does a great job on white bass also.

 There are several manufactures of planer boards and they all do what they are designed for, catching fish. There are different sizes for different applications, from mini’s to magnum’s.

In fishing, much of the time tools are created for one thing and we find they work equally well, even better sometimes, for something else. Planer boards are one of those tools. If you want to catch more fish more of the time, make planer boards part of your fishing arsenal.






Your Harness is Your Best Friend

By: Mike Reynolds

Hunting season is fast approaching and with it comes a little preparation.  We all go through our gear to see what may need to be replaced.  It seems like every year I get something new whether I need it or not.   The one piece of equipment I’d like you to really think about replacing is your safety harness.  I’m sure everyone uses a safety harness when in their treestand, right?  If you don’t I sure hope you can fly!  Most of the injuries that happen deer hunting happen by falling out of a treestand.  This fact is a shame because it is easily prevented.  The use of some kind of fall restraint should always be used when hunting off the ground.  There are 2 types of fall restraints: the first is a belt type and the second is a full body harness.  Both are better than nothing but the full body is far superior.  The belt will keep you from falling all the way to the ground but it will most likely flip you upside down too.  The top of your body is heavier than the bottom so, gravity being what it is, you will end up with your head facing down.  This will make it very difficult to right yourself and get back into your stand.  Bad things happen when we hang upside down for very long so let’s look at the alternative.

The full body harness will keep you right side up and able to get to your stand easily.  It will also distribute your weight evenly and not be so traumatic on your body.  The harness I started wearing a few years back was the Hunter’s Safety System [HSS].  It is, by far, the easiest harness to put on.  I have found through asking guys who don’t wear a harness that one of the most common reasons was the harness was too complicated to get on especially in the dark.  The HSS is a vest that goes on easily even in the dark.  Its buckles are large enough to secure and hold tight.  It is comfortable to wear and doesn’t restrict the motion of drawing a bow.  This harness doesn’t cost too terribly much, usually around $160.00.  In my opinion this is a small price to pay to make sure you don’t fall. After all, how much is it worth going home to your family after a day in the treestand?

Any kind of fall restraint is better than nothing but the full body harness is the best choice unless of course you can fly. We all want to go home to share our love of the outdoors with our family and not falling is the only way to do that.  When you are checking your gear before this season, please remember to take a look at your harness.  If it looks old or worn or is more than 5 years old, please consider replacing it.  


How do you say goodbye?

By: Jerry Costabile


As an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman, we have had something that was hard to give up or say goodbye to. It could have been for personal reasons, health or maybe it is just time.

That old favorite gun that you have used to hunt everything that is available to hunt, the one that never misses. It may look old and have a few scratches and dings, the sight might be bent or missing, but in your heart there is not another gun that shoots better. Just couldn’t think of hunting with a new gun! But the day comes that you have to retire the old girl, not an easy thing to do.

That old fishing rod that has been on every fishing trip you have ever taken, and caught all of the big fish that have ever won you a bet between friends. You know the one; you just don’t fish without it! Then it happens, you close the trunk of your car or the rod box on the boat, and 6 inches of that favorite rod is still outside, laying on the ground or the floor. This very sight makes your stomach turn. The old girl is not fixable and you will never feel the same with a new fishing pole in your hands.

Maybe it’s even more sentimental, like your old faithful hunting dog that has never complained, always gave you everything no matter what was asked. That special friend can never be replaced, and saying goodbye was so very hard.

Even harder is losing a hunting friend or your fishing partner. The stories that you have shared over the years and the times you have spent together can never be equaled.

If you look at pictures or think about it with your eyes closed and a feeling of loss comes over you than you know what I am talking about.

Recently, a very close friend has had to part ways with a special friend that has been part of his life for 26 years. She has been through many changes, everything from her appearance to the very spot that she occupied for most of her time with him. She has seen so many faces come and go, all of them left with a smile and a special place for her in their hearts. She saw technology change in ways that took so much time for her to understand and respond to.

There have been hundreds of pictures taken of her and of the people who knew her. She has won awards for her service and even been at the front of a parade.

You see, she is a 35 foot Viking Convertible boat with the given name of the “Guest House II”.

This boat has been part of the Port of Kenosha, Wisconsin for all of the years she has had her name. She has run hundreds of trips out on Lake Michigan that brought pleasure and excitement to many of her passengers. She has guided fishermen to so much success; thousands of fish have been brought aboard and put on ice in her coolers.

She has had dignitaries onboard while leading a venetian parade decorated in beautiful lights, boy was she proud!

All of the years of weather, storage, and repairs, never left her looking anything but beautiful. She was always a sight to see at her dock, carefully tied up and always well taken care of. When she showed signs of needing some TLC, she got it!

On the inside, you could see what her main purpose was. She was decorated with everything that was needed to fish the open waters of Lake Michigan. Her ceiling was lined with trolling rods from one side to the other. There were boxes and boxes of lures and tackle; this was not an average fisherman’s tackle box! This was a serious fishing vessel with a lot of fun mixed in. When you look down at the end of the couch, there was an end table with many photo albums on it and under it. These were memories that this special boat had made possible that were placed for all who came aboard to see. On the walls of the galley, were framed pictures of memorable fishing trips. There were pictures of winning catches, good friends, and a special one to me, three boys who had gone thru a very trying time in their young lives. Thanks to this wonderful boat and her caring, giving owner, all three had big smiles and were holding some pretty impressive fish! I will never be able to thank that owner enough for that day.

The owner of the “Guest House” is just as special as his boat. You see, he has given as many memories and good times to many, many people who he invited aboard his boat and never wanted anything in return. I can say that it has been a favorite time in my summers fishing with him and aboard this great boat.

I will always remember how beautiful he kept his dock area. There were planted flower pots all over and it always amazed me on how well everything grew, several different types flowers were blooming and made his dock stand out from all others. I have many memories of the lakefront having grown up there, but some of my best were on that boat with that captain.

Now I want you to know, that she is not gone, she is going to live on. She has a new owner and new memories are going to be made aboard her on the many voyages ahead. When I found out she was for sale, I cringed at the thought of someone else at her helm. I just couldn’t picture someone who wouldn’t think of this boat as something more than just a boat. I would have bought this boat in a heartbeat, but I just couldn’t afford to operate her. One morning out fishing with two other very close friends, who had also spent many hours on board the “Guest House”, we had a conversation all about how the three of us wanted so much for this boat to go to the right person. With a sigh of relief, I found out that another friend of mine was going to own her. This friend has owned boats for over 30 years; I know he will take good care of her, I know she will still be where I will be able to board her and maybe get to fish from her deck again. She might get a new name but she will always be the “Guest House II” in my heart and in my many memories I have of her.

Jerry D. Guest, I know it was a hard decision for you to say goodbye, but she will live on and we will always think of you with her.

Thanks for the fun, thanks for the memories.



"More than a Fishing Tournament"

                  More Than A Fishing Tournament

By: Jerry Costabile

For three days, I was honored to be part of a fishing tournament that was a lot more than just fishing and competition, but first let me tell you about a special young man and what has become a great cause by the means of a fishing contest.

The inaugural PFC Geoffrey Morris Memorial Governors Cup Fishing Invitational was held on June, 17th & 18th at Waukegan Harbor in Waukegan, Illinois in 2005.

PFC Geoffrey Morris signed up for the US Marine Corps in 2002 during his senior year at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, IL. He joined the Marine Corps. for three reasons: to defend the freedoms of this country, to help those who are unable to help themselves, and as he told his father, “The Marines are the best of the best, and I wouldn’t want to be part of anything less.”

Geoffrey strongly believed in the values this country stands for and willingly stood in harm’s way to defend it. He was killed in action in Iraq on April 4, 2004.

This fishing tournament was established in this great young man’s honor. Geoff and his father Kirk loved to fish and spend time on Lake Michigan. Together, they fished tournaments in Racine, WI, Kenosha, WI. and Winthrop Harbor, IL. Although they rarely won anything, they enjoyed the experience and often wondered why a fishing tournament wasn’t held in Waukegan. In a letter home while stationed in Iraq, Geoff wrote about riding in the hot air over the methodic bumps in the road. “If I close my eyes, I feel like I’m on the boat riding the waves heading to the fishing grounds.” Nothing else could be more fitting to pay tribute to Geoff’s memory than a fishing tournament!

First, let’s hear how the tournament works; there are two divisions, Pro and Amateur.

The Pro Division is a two day contest that will fish on Friday and Saturday. Here’s the rundown on the points system that these very experienced captains must set their strategies to;

There is a 15 fish limit for each day per boat. Scoring is based on a points system where points are awarded for species, number of fish, and weight.

The crew gets 20 points per species, (coho, king, brown trout, lake trout, rainbow or steelhead trout. 10 points per fish, and 1 point per pound.

The Amateur Division is one day only and the points system is set up at 10 points per fish and 1 point per pound.

Every year the competition level is at its highest and the fishermen work hard to tally the points needed to be in the money. The pay outs for this contest are awesome; The Pro side pays out $10,000 for first, $6,000 for second, and $5,000 for third. 4th place thru 10th place are paid out on a percentage depending on the boat entry number.

Day one brought foggy conditions and the committee was forced to delay the start to the Pro division buy an hour. When blast off was announced, the fleet of 30 boats all headed out to the fishing grounds that hopefully hold the combination it takes to win. Everything was good and all of the boats arrived at the weigh in safe and on time! I was helping out at weigh in and I was as excited as the large crowd that had gathered at the brand new Illinois Salmon Unlimited pavilion, to see what the captains were bringing in for their day one points. Most all of the boats weighed in a 15 fish limit which made the point standings close! But the few teams that had all 5 species, sat in great shape going into day two. All of the fish that were weighed in on day one were donated to the Hillside Food Pantry in Evanston, IL. Approximately 1,200 pounds of trout and salmon were filleted and donated thanks to a ton of volunteers.

Day two started out just like day one with thick fog, delay of the starting time and 49 boats eager to get fishing! Fishing was good and some great catches came into the weigh in. Amazingly, there were 1,044 trout and salmon weighed in for the two day tournament, which equaled 5,800 pounds of fish.

Day three for me was the best day of the tournament. Day three is a day that is put aside for the veterans in the area. It brought veterans from all military branches and was a day to thank them for their service and sacrifice. You see I am a US Army veteran and my son is also an Iraq Operation Freedom veteran. This was a day I get to give a little back and say thank you to these men and women that I call my brothers and sisters. From the Jones Dairy breakfast, to the great morning of fishing, to the banquet co-hosted by the USO IL, and the Wounded Warriors Fund. It all was something that I felt was the reason that this weekend was is in existence and why so many people volunteered their time, money, boats and lives to give back to our loved veterans. The out pouring of support was emotional to say the least.

I was fortunate to climb aboard “The Memory Maker” with Captain John Anderson and take a crew of five individuals that really put on a fishing clinic. I am honored to call these following individuals brothers; Scott Phillips US Army, Noah Currier U.S.M.C, Aaron Matthews US Navy, Bob Arciola US Army, Steve Ronning U.S.M.C. You guys are and always will be my heroes, thank you for your individual sacrifices. As long as we have each other, we will never have limitations.






 By: Jerry Costabile

At some point in our lives we start to see things in a different way. When we are young and ambitious, we don’t look at our life’s adventures as important. Than we reach a time in our lives we realize that those adventures of our younger days were important. It comes to our attention in many different ways, through our children and family, maybe through a difficult time where life gives us a little more than we expected. No matter how we realize it, it becomes part of our everyday thinking. For me, it comes from the outdoors.

I think it started for me when I had an experience in my life that I wasn’t prepared for and it changed the way I thought about what was important to me.

 I went down to see my friend who is a charter captain on Lake Michigan one afternoon. It was a bad day for me emotionally, but I knew if there was any where I could lose the down and find an up, it was on the lake front. I saw my friend on his boat and stopped by to say hi and we had a conversation that led to me getting an invite to fish with him the next morning, excited was an understatement! The next morning was just like the rest that I have had, no sleep, no energy, and the excitement of fishing was gone. I still went down to the boat and as we boarded our customers, a feeling came over me and I suddenly felt something was changing. We motored out of the harbor and I was busy on the back of the boat getting line ready so I didn’t get to look to the eastern horizon, something I had done for the thousands of times I have headed out on to the great Lake Michigan.

When I finished what I was doing, I took that look to the east and saw a vision that changed me from that day forward, a sun rising over the water. I saw those thousands of sun rises that I had never really looked at and watched the red turn to orange and then the very top of the sun was showing itself. It hit me; all of the issues that I have been battling were not that bad. As I watched the sun lift into full view I reflected on the entire positive I still had in my life. I have had this experience in the fall too while sitting in my tree stand watching the daylight wake up the entire woods, wildlife making their morning calls, searching for food or just reflecting on a new day.

I learned that when I need that time to reflect on what is meaningful in life, I only have to make my way to nature and the outdoors. It was created for so many reasons, but for me it was created to reflect on why I am thankful to be alive.



Jerkbaits & Jigs Produced Over 125 Fish!

Great Days

By: Dan Hayes

A few weeks ago, I went to a lake in northern Illinois.  We had water temperatures in the upper 40’s, reaching between 52 and 54 later in the day.   It was wicked cold in the morning (a 30 degree air temperature as we went across the lake).  The first thing we did was go to main lake points with steep banks.  The water clarity was about 3 to 4 feet.  It was perfect for a jerk bait.

I was able to get one small fish at the first point.  To be honest, it took better than an hour before I could fish like I wanted because of the cold.  It just did not seem like they were there.  After some time of slow fishing, we moved to one of the largest bays in the lake.  I started in the side with the deepest water (deep being 6 to 9 feet) in a ditch.  I think these areas are great for early fishing.  Normally these fish will not be in the backs of them until later.  Sometimes, early in the year, they will get on the flat in the afternoon, but in the morning they will be ditch fish.  So as we started to fish in the ditch, we started catching fish right away using suspending jerk baits.  I was using an Extreme 6’6” medium-heavy rod.  I like it for this kind of fishing.  It’s short and to the point.  Some people may disagree with medium-heavy, but I like a rod that can snap a bait. It is common that early in the year a bass will swing or nip at this bait so they will only have the back hook in them.  So remember, rod tip down when leading these fish, and be gentle.

I was using 10 pound fluorocarbon line.  We had 3-4 foot visibility.  I am not going to tell you what brand of line to use for this technique.  Just remember that quality costs money.  I am a firm believer that top of the line equipment is worth it.  As we started to expand on the ditch pattern, things really started to happen.  None of the fish that we caught were over 3 ½ pounds except the walleyes.  We had 8 of them over 22 inches, and my 9 year-old son had one that was 30 inches long.  That fish came on a jig.  By the end of the day, we had boated over 80 large and small mouth bass, 35 big walleye, and 10 large crappie.  That’s right, I said, “Crappie.”  They were eating a jerk bait.  The funny thing is all of these fish were in 2 bays that each had a ditch where deep water extended into the bay.  One other thing that I learned about cold weather and cold water fishing is that with fluorocarbon you should use a lot of line spray, like XPS Line Conditioner.  It makes a big difference in your ability to make long casts.  As for the jerk bait, I was using a Rapala X Rap.  I like the 4 inch one because it casts better if there is wind.

The week after this outing we had a bass tournament on the same body of water.  It worked out well.  We won the tournament on the same banks, with the same bait.




What’s New in the Fly Shop at Bass Pro?!

It’s spring on the calendar,  even if I think I saw a snow flake or two on my way to work this afternoon.  Forsythia and tulips are starting to bloom, and a report of a lone nightcrawler was seen last week, frost must be leaving the ground!

Fly Tying Classes:

I’d like to invite anyone interested in fly tying to come in on Thursday nights at 6 PM  to learn to tie a fly.   We have the tables set up, materials and tools are provided so all you need to bring is some patience.  So far we’ve done The Improved Woolie Bugger, crawdads, extend body drake, and pink squirrels.  On the agenda will be pinhead poppers, clausers, damselflies, salmon patterns and tube flies.  

What to buy when you start tying?  First what fish are you going to catch?  Where are you fishing, the water conditions?  Then decide on the patterns that will be the most successful.  Learn 2 or 3 so there is a variety in the fly box and use different size hooks and colors of the same pattern.

Once you learn the basics, you can make just about anything! Over the last weeks we’ve explored the uses of copper wire from extension cords, nail polish, and plastic wrap.  

Fly Casting Classes:

Lew is back to host his popular fly casting classes again this year.  Lew is a certified casting instructor from the American Association of Fly Fishers, a standard that is recognized internationally.  We are lucky to have him teaching here.

If you want to attend, beginner or intermediate level, please call the shop 847 856 1229 and ask for Carol or Frank, if we’re not here, Tyler, Tim, or Bernie can help you out.  The dates  May 7 and 14, are already filled!!  However Lew will give more classes on May 21 and into June if we get sign ups.  We will need your full name and phone number and if you need a rod /reel.

Meet in the fly shop at 6, we set up your rod and reel (outfits)  for you; some participants like to use different weights and lengths that we have on hand.  Remember to dress for the weather, you’ll be outside, and near the nature viewing area, bug repellent is suggested.  If the weather is windy or lightening, class will be rescheduled.

Fishing Reports:

  • I've been hearing that the Root River in Racine is producing salmon,  however the fish are starting to turn dark.  Popular colors this year: black and purple.  Watch the water temperatures for when the fish will be most active. is recommended for you local conditions.
  • Blue gills are active on Delevan.  I saw a lot of guys out setting lines for catfish on the Fox River.
  • Southwest Wisconsin had a good snow melt and now with this week’s rain the streams will be in good shape.   I asked about tick season: ‘’It’ll be bad this year!”  so wear your waders and use repellent.

Trout Unlimited:

The SouthEast Wisconsin chapter hosted a river clean up near the Brewer’s Stadium this month.  Pulling out invasive wild garlic and taking trash out of the water was the objective.

Nationally they have a campaign to encourage more women to take up fly fishing.  See what they offer by visiting their web site:

Hoping to see you in the shop, tying a fly, or casting with Lew!

Carol and Frank


So Close!

By: Jerry Costabile

After a long and tough winter, I knew spring was not too far away. I had just finished teaching my two hunter education classes and the Wisconsin youth turkey hunt was a week away. I was going to be mentor a young lady, Emily, who had graduated from my class last fall, on her first ever hunt. I think I was as excited as she was for April 12 to finally arrive!

With the help of her father, she got a lot of good experience in the fall with a successful deer hunt. I received a terrific picture of Emily and her dad and the beautiful 6 point buck she harvested this past November. It was a truly memorable hunt for the both of them, I’m sure. During the safety class that she attended, she had told me that her dad didn’t hunt turkeys and she would like to hunt them. Well, by the time we finished the class, I told her dad that if he would come with, I would take her in the spring to hunt a gobbler! You see, I know what it is like to see your kid absolutely come apart when a big strutting tom turkey come to within 15 to 20 yards, and I didn’t want him to miss it! So we made plans to go this spring to hunt a favorite spot that my youngest son Kyle and a few other young hunters harvested their first birds. I have a youth 20 gauge that is set up with a good turkey choke tube that is deadly on turkeys out to 30 yards. This was going to be the chosen gun for her and we got together one evening before that Saturday opener, and let her shoot the gun. After she fired the first shot, we went down range and looked at the turkey head target, 27 pellets in the head and neck area at 25 yards. Yep, she was ready!

I met my young lady hunter and her dad at 4:00am and after a quick stop for coffee and doughnuts, we headed west to the rolling hills of Richland County, Wisconsin. There was rain in the forecast for Saturday, but Sunday was going to be clear but cold. I have been successful on rainy days, but I was glad that we only got a little rain to start the day. We set up on a field that the landowner had told me in a phone conversation I had with him on Thursday, was holding a good flock of turkeys with numerous toms that had been starting to strut their stuff for the girls. Perfect! I would set up 6 hen decoys and a lone strutting tom decoy about 20 yards in front of our hiding spot. In hunts past, the birds always came out of the hardwoods and into the field and fed from the left to the right. So I put the hen decoys about 10 yards to our right and 15 yards out with the tom even farther out to the right. This would make the gobblers have to pass our ambush to approach the decoys, with the focus on the plastic girl turkeys; they wouldn’t even know we were there!

We got set up next to the only tree in the middle of this field, a huge white oak that had lots of scrub brush growing around its base. It was the perfect cover for the three of us to get into to fool the sharp eyes of these big birds. Decoys were in place and daylight was just starting to make itself visible, when I used a crow call to try and pinpoint the roosting location of the turkeys. In years past, they always roosted on the back side of the woods in some towering pines. I got nothing in return for my calls; I really wanted my young hunter to hear a tom gobble in the early morning, there is something to be said for a returning gobble to start things out! I had confidence that we would see the birds even though there was no gobbling to be heard. We were settled in and ready, but I wanted some kind of guarantee that the birds were there. I grabbed my slate call and started with some soft clucks and yelps, with the sky getting brighter by the minute, I knew the birds had flown down from their roost and were headed out to the cut corn field for last fall. After about fifteen minutes there were a couple of hens coming out to the field, the toms had to be close behind. We watched the hens, six of them; make their way into the field and in our direction, but no toms. I was getting anxious for this to happen and kept reassuring everyone that there had to be a tom with these hens, but was not too sure. A few minutes later, I spotted movement at the tree line, it was him! I could see the colors of his head as he approached the field with caution, a habit of an experienced old tom. He took about ten steps into the cut corn and when he went into full strut, I hear “That is so cool” from my now excited lady hunter! I said “let’s just stay still and see what he does, he may leave the hens to run off our tom decoy.”

And on cue, the tom came out of strut and left the live hens to claim our hen decoys as part of “his” flock. It took him about ten minutes to make his way across the field to get within about 60 yards of us and then he stopped and went into his best strutting dance that he could do. Again I hear “Cool” from my left, I had to smile because I knew that she was getting a great show from the tom and I could feel the excitement from her words. I had all of the assurance from the bird that he would continue into shooting range and give us the opportunity that we were looking for, but that tom didn’t read the script! He stayed out of range for at least 45 minutes despite my best soft clucks and purrs. He would just strut back and forth and never take another step closer; it was killing me to say the least! On his last turn in his strutting pattern, he turned, put his feathers down and headed back to the live hens. I couldn’t believe it! We were so close to getting that bird, but I reassured that there would be another opportunity and we were by no means done for the day!

After watching the bird for another half an hour, we snuck out of the back side of the cover and headed to a backup area down the road. On our walk back to the truck, I listened at the story this young lady was telling of our near encounter. She was going on about how “dumb” that bird was, I agreed with a smile and keep the fact that the bird was anything but dumb in my thoughts. If we don’t get to try for him again this weekend, we have tags for a May season and will be back.

A quick bite to eat and we went to an area of public land that doesn’t get pressure during the turkey season and always has birds up on the hardwood ridges at mid-day. We hiked up to an area that I have hunted before and set up a couple of hen decoys on the logging road. When the toms come out of the field, they head up the ridge to continue to locate hens and use the roads to strut in.

We called a little and after about an hour we heard scratching in the leaves off to our right and spotted a hen feeding about 40 yards out. I didn’t see any other birds with her, but there could be a tom nearby. I looked at Emily and her dad and they were frozen and focused on that hen, it was a picture I wish I could have taken of them. The hen fed within 5 yards of us and gave the decoys a look as if to say “What are YOU looking at?” She fed past us and we never saw anything else in the area, so we headed to one more set up for the day. It was a pasture that always had birds around and was a good early season location late in the day.

I set up with all of the confidence that we would have the opportunity to see birds, but I was wrong. After an hour and a half we threw in the white towel and headed home. On our way home we stopped and had dinner and talked about the day and what fun it was to get so close to getting to harvest a tom turkey. I was disappointed that we didn’t tag a bird, but I was proud of Emily and her attitude towards the day that she had spent in the outdoors and the fact that she spent it with her dad made it a memory for the both of them. She wasn’t disappointed one bit!

When we got back and we said our goodbyes, I knew that there was a young lady that will be looking forward to her next hunt. Dad was ready to take on turkeys with the enthusiasm he had with deer hunting and was going shopping for decoys and calls. I shook his hand and told him that there are a lot of memories to come for him and his daughter and they will be something he will cherish.

It’s funny how even a hunt where we only got close to filling a tag, we all realized it was a successful hunt because of what we learned. For a young lady of 12 years, it was about learning about a “dumb” bird and how smart they can be. For a dad, it was about learning that his hunting experiences were about to change. And for me, well, it was learning about what I had learned a while back, that if we adults don’t give back to what we love to do, there won’t be anything for our future generations to hunt or a place to hunt. I challenge all of you to get involved in the effort to assure the future of hunting, you won’t regret it.







April Showers Mean Good Fishing!

By: Carol DeBell

Finally I saw the last of the ice disappear this week on the lake I live very close too.  The water is crystal clear and a neighbor reported to me that he had a dozen very large crappie on Tuesday.

Time to get out… and please my friendly reminder:  2014 fishing license and stamps!!  And don’t forget any other stamps, permits, and passes needed to enjoy state or federal parks.  Get your state rules and regulations and read through them too.

Lew is back teaching  fly casting!!  Lew is an accredited fly casting teacher through the American Federation of Fly Fishing.   For those of you who have enjoyed his class, anyone who wants to work the kinks out, improve their overall casting ability or have the opportunity to meet other fly fishers here’s all the details.

First it’s free, all you need to do is come to the fly shop at 6 PM and spend about 2 hours.  Dates:  May 7, 14, 28 at 6 PM.  Class size is 4 (minimum) and 8 (maximum), we have outfits set up for you to use and try out or  feel free to bring your own gear.

Sign up:  please call 847 856 1229, ask for the fly shop or leave a number where we can call you back, to RSVP your spot, we need your name and phone number and how many people.  If more sign up we can open up the weeks of May 21, June 4, and 11.

The classes are set up for the beginner,  don’t be shy!  An intermediate class could be scheduled if we have enough people to sign up.

Dress for the weather!  You’ll be outside, in case of rough weather like high winds and lightening, class will be cancelled.  The area is next to the nature viewing pond, you might consider some insect repellent too.

Fly Tying Classes

We are setting up 2 tables the last 3 weeks!  We are enjoying a lot of camaraderie  and talents learning techniques and patterns.

6 PM is when we start and usually are done by 8, every Thursday.  The students take home their flies and I want to be hearing about what they are catching. 

In case you can’t make the class  and you want to learn something specific,  I can help you out, however I need to know when and what so I can set up the materials.  

Trout Unlimited

Please check out their web site and learn about the chapter in your area.  I’ve been a member for several years and their efforts to improve fishing and go fishing are infectious.

Call the shop 847 856 1229, ask for Carol or Frank so we can help you out.


Grandpa's Buck


BY: Dominic Sabatina

     Every weekend for the first six years of my life was spent with my grandparents. On the weekends that my father’s parents would come to visit I was always excited because I knew that those weekends meant two things; Saturday Fishing at the local pond with Grandpa Max, ice cream following and Church on Sunday followed by our traditional Italian feast! When I was just seven years old my Parents moved from great state of Ohio to “the valley of the sun”, Peoria Arizona.  After moving across the country the traditional weekends went away. Well, at least the fishing and ice cream did. My Father ALWAYS worked hard and did not have the time to be an avid outdoors-man like Grandpa Max was.

     Throughout my childhood and teen aged years I was only able to visit my grandparents twice, once at age 10 and once at the age of 18. During the last trip I found out that my Grandpa Max was a World War Two Veteran of the 244th Field Artillery Battalion in Patton's Third Army. His battalion earned 5 battle participation stars for Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a walking piece of American history!

I was about to start a military career, following in his footsteps, and didn't even know it. This was also probably the last time I would see my grandmother, Elizabeth. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and unfortunately passed away during my first year in the Navy. When I retired from the Navy I knew it was my time to get back some of what I lost during my younger years. I made regular trips from my home in Illinois to Ohio to visit my grandfather who was still alive at the age of 98.

During my time in the Navy I became a fisherman and developed a true passion for bow hunting. Over the years, when I had time away from the Navy, I would trek out to the woods, climb a tree, hope for the best and I got lucky a few times. I have harvested five black tailed deer in Washington State, A mule deer and antelope in Wyoming and in my new home in Illinois, two white tailed deer. All of these deer have been harvested with arrows that I have built myself and part of the process for me is a sentimental one. Each year I place the initials of the people I care about (family and old hunting buddies) on one of the fletchings on each of the arrows in my quiver. This gives me the feeling that I am not alone, and that I have part of them with me on every hunt. While I am out there alone, braving the elements in hopes of getting the opportunity of a lifetime, I pull an arrow from my quiver and dedicate that hunt to them. Just for old times’ sake.

     The last week of September in 2013 finally came after a long off season of checking camera footage, picking spots and hanging sets. The opener (October 1st) was getting close and my level of excitement was quickly rising. On September 29th I received a phone call from one of my older sisters. Accompanying that call was the worst news I had heard all year. My Beloved Grandpa Max, WWII walking piece of American History and the last of that generation in our family had passed away due to natural causes at the age of 98. I was crushed. My father no longer had living parents and I was not able to get back near the amount of time with my Grandpa as I wanted.

     All of this still fresh in my mind, October 1st came and I was in the stand, but my mind wasn't. My mind was on an upcoming road trip with my father.  Once again, October 3rd came and I was in the stand but my mind was not there. That was my last hunt before the road trip. My Father and I were driving to Ohio to pay respects to the man that, through God, gave us life.

On October 5th 2013, my father's 65th birthday, we said our last “see ya later” and we buried Grandpa Max.

I came home from that trip and I didn't hunt for two weeks. I decided that my next hunt would be the evening of October 24th.

The evening prior, I was preparing for the next day's hunt and talking with my wife Tiffani. I was checking off all of my gear and making sure I had everything ready to go as I was headed to the farm right after work the next day.  Tiffani wished me luck as she always does and said to me, “maybe Grandpa Max will put your big buck in front of you”.

Now, I have been chasing this certain “Big Buck” since he was 4. He is now 7 and boy is he a dandy!  I kind of chuckled at the thought and then it hit me. I looked over at my quiver and noticed that not one of my arrows had initials on them. I looked at Tiffani and said “I know why I have not harvested a deer yet this year”. She asked me why and I said to her, “I forgot to initial my arrows. With everything that has happened here lately, I guess I just wasn't thinking about it”.

I grabbed a sharpie and started from the end. When I got to the number one arrow in my quiver I looked up at Tiffani. She was waiting there to see how long it was going to take me to write my grandpa's initials on an arrow.  I said to her, “My grandpa gets my number arrow this year”.  M.S. (Matthew Sabatina) got placed on the fetching of my number one arrow.

The next day was a great day all around. Everything when smooth, not one ounce of anything negative happened that day. I just didn't know why but it was probably one of the best days I had at work and when work was over I headed to the farm. I made it to the blind, set up my Boss Buck Decoy and settled down in the blind for a good evening of hunting. 

I pulled an old trusty Carbon-Tech Whitetail arrow with a G5 T3 expandable broad head from my quiver and knocked it on the string of my Strother Infinity. I pulled my Flex Tone Bone Collector Series call from my pack and started calling. I am sitting on a Red Head Blackout 360 degree swivel chair leaned back, bow laying against my chest; call in my shooting hand and my other on the bow grip.  I looked out to the sky and said “Grandpa, Please give me a sign that you are watching over me right now, please let me harvest a deer today”.

My cell phone vibrated, so I picked it up with my grip hand and answered the text from a buddy asking if I had seen anything yet.  I finished answering his question with a “no”. I pressed the send button on my phone and when I looked up there was a buck standing 20 yards away from the blind in the biggest shooting lane I had made. He was not the dandy that I was hoping to see but it was the first one of the year.  Time at this point seemed like it was moving in slow motion. The buck was standing there glaring at my Boss Buck Decoy. My phone and Flex Tone (which were still in my hands) slowly and silently found their way to the dirt. Grip hand on the bow, release connected to the D-Loop, I slowly sat up. I remember thinking,”I can't believe he is still just standing there”.

I came to full draw and anchored the string. While looking though the peep and orienting my 20 yard pin over his vitals he put his nose to the ground and started to move down wind of the decoy. Since I practice scent free odor control and invested in “Ever Calm” from Bass Pro Shops, all he was going to smell was another deer. He only took two steps with his nose to the ground and he stopped, picked his head up and glared at my decoy again. My finger was resting on the trigger and with just a little more back tension my release opened. 

The arrow left my bow traveling 288 Feet per second. When it hit the G5 opened up and the arrow made a clean pass through the deer punching a hole directly through the center of the heart. I could not have asked for a better shot. The deer traveled 10 yards and fell over dead right in front of the blind.  I exploded with excitement! I reached for another arrow and as I did I noticed that it was my grandpa's arrow that passed through the deer. My emotions overwhelmed me and all I could do at that point, with tears streaming from eyes, was look up to the sky and say,”I love you! I love you! I love you! Thank you Grandpa for watching over me and giving me a sign that you were here with me!

The first thing I did was call my Father to tell him what happened.  He simply said to me,” Your Grandpa was there with you and he guided that arrow”.

In honor of that experience I decided that I was going to complete an antler mount dedicated to my Grandpa Max. Here it is. Thank You Grandpa for all of the Wonderful memories. You'll never be forgotten.






Fly Shop Hosts Tiers

Fly Shop Hosts Tiers

By: Carol DeBell

As the weather warms up, sometime in the future, the fly shop is seeing many new friends meeting together on Thursday evenings.  A couple of months ago there would only 2 or 3 patiently making a new pattern, and last week 14 showed up!

 The beginners tied wooly buggers, a must have, go to pattern good for almost any fish that swims.  This fly taught the beginners how to start the thread, add a marabou tail with flash, palmer chenille and hackle, and then tie off.  Wooly buggers can be made weighted, have bead heads, a wire wrap, have eyes, or easily be turned into an egg sucking leech.

While the beginners worked on their buggers, the other table did egg patterns, looking simple they soon figured out a simple 1inch length of yarn can test your patience. After several starts and stops some very nice yarn eggs were being shown off.  These are specific for trout and salmon spawning time.  Drift the eggs along the bottom, and the fish will take them.


What’s on the calendar?  Remember it’s Thursday’s at 6 PM and plan on spending almost 2 hours.  Call to RSVP a chair at the table, 847 856 1229and ask for the fly shop.

April 3:  Matt’s Nymph, a wet fly that is half wooly bugger and half stonefly

April 10:  Pink Squirrel, another wet that resembles a hare’s ear, only in pink

April 17:  wooly buggers improved.  Add some extra flash, eyes, legs…

April 24:  Extend body drake.  Mayflies will be hatching soon!

May 1 :  Turbo and Flash Gordons.   Another wet fly popular for steelhead

May 8:  Pinhead Popper.  Looks like a frog!

May  15 :  Damselflies.  Perfect for around lily pads and grassy edges.

May 22:  Clauser crawdad:  small ‘dads using furry foam, nice to drift and add movement to entice bass.

May 29:  Tube flies.  A technique that can be applied to any size flies, used for trolling mostly.  This fly is now becoming more popular in general.


Going fishing?

March 31 you’ll need your 2014 license, and get your inland trout and  great lakes salmon stamps and the same time.

April 27 Wisconsin trout early catch and release ends

May 3 General fishing in Wisconsin starts

May 4 to Sept 30 Wisconsin inland trout season .

June 7 & 8 is Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin

Remember to always be familiar with any rules and regulations for the water you are fishing on.  Obtain a copy of the rule books for the state  and carry with you.  Read any signs posted and please obey the rules!  Respect the area you are fishing in.


Where to fish?

As you can guess I live in Wisconsin, however the Cook and Lake County Forest Preserves offer fishing spots all over the counties.  The parks have amenities for the family and some you can rent small boats and trolling motors.  Des Plaines and Fox Rivers have many spots to find northern, bass, and  varieties of pan fish.   

And I must put in a good word for Trout Unlimited.  Thank you guys for coming in for the Spring Fishing Classic at Bass Pro.  If you are interested please check out their website,  they have many active chapters in the area and their interest in providing good fishing through stream restoration, maintenance, and education gives their membership and guests hands on experience.


Stop in and say hello to Frank or me, we’re always interested in your fishing and tying.

Wishing you good fishing!

Carol D




Ruger 10/22 Models & Accessories

Ruger BX25

By Katie Cook

The Ruger 10/22 is a common and popular .22LR rifle. For most people, it is the first 22 rifle they shot as a kid. There are many different models to choose from like the classic wood stock and blued barrel to the Natural Gear camo stock and the stainless barrel and the new Takedown version. Every Ruger  10/22 comes with a 10 round rotary magazine. The 10 round magazine works extremely well but it involves a lot of reloading and less shooting time. After market magazines have been made for the Ruger 10/22 for years.

Ruger originally only made replacement 10 round magazines. After the Takedown was released, Ruger released the BX-25 Magazine. It is a 25 round magazine in all black with steel feed lips. The BX-25 has a unique feature from other extended magazines. It features 2 stainless steel screws for dis assembly making it able to be cleaned inside. I recently purchased the BX-25 and I am extremely happy with the results. The BX-25 retails at $34.99.

Reloading a 25 round magazine can be tiring on your fingers and take time. Butler Creek makes an accessory called the Hot Lips Loader that retails for $34.99 but is honestly PRICELESS!


A Classic Sign of Spring

A Classic Sign of spring

By: Jerry Costabile

On February 28th, the weather here in the Midwest will start to get warmer, even if it’s cold outside. From February 28th until March 16th, the Gurnee, Illinois Bass Pro Shops will be having their annual “Spring Classic”. This is the start of spring for many of us fishermen and fisherwomen. This the time to forget about the cold and snow that we have been battling all winter and get inside the store where the air is filled with fishing!

It starts with the very big sales ad, 44 pages! I can’t believe the great pricing and unbelievable deals that are going to be featured from front to back. From lures to Tracker Boats, there is something for everyone! The promotions are first class from BASSMASTER University, Daily specials on March 7th & 8th and 14th $ 15th, also, The Next Generation weekend for the kids on March 15th & 16th. Check this out, from February 28th until March 5th you will be able to trade in your old reel and get up to $100 off of the purchase of a new reel and from March 7th until March 11th, you can get the same deal with your old rods! All of the trade in rods and reels are donated to charities and youth groups and organizations. If you need a way to justify buying a new rod and reel, here you go, tell them it’s for a good cause!

There will be seminars every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the Classic. Speakers from pro fishermen talking about fishing for bass, muskies, salmon, walleyes and more! There will be fried fish sampling on March 8th, and if you are in the market for new fishing electronics, you won’t believe this, buy a qualifying unit and you will get the following: First, Triple Rewards Points, second, FREE Standard Power Pros Accessory Installation, and third, a FREE three year Gear Guard Protection Plan! This includes Lowrance, Hummingbird, Garmin, Motorguide, and Minn Kota. Plus, between March 6th and 12th, you can receive up to $100 in Bass Pro Shops Bonus Bucks!

If you are in the market for a 9.9 motor, for the Classic you can get a Mercury 9.9 FourStroke motor and receive an additional $500 after special price reduction or get a $500 Bass Pro Shops Gift Card!

If you need to forget about winter and get into spring, come out to the 2014 Spring Classic and experience the biggest fishing event ever!


Giving Back

By: Jerry Costabile

On February 8th, I was part of a “Learn to Hunt Rabbits” program that was put on by the Wisconsin DNR, at Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Kansasville, Wisconsin.

The hunt was put on by the Richard Bong Naturalist Association and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It was held on the park property, which has hundreds of acres of hunting open to the public. I know for a fact that the area we were going to hunt is loaded with rabbits, and I was just as excited as if I were going to hunt! There were five hunters and five mentors. The hunters for the day were Ben, Nathan, Hunter, Annie and Jay. Our Mentors for the day were Adam, Brandon, Michael, my son Kyle and myself.

Being a certified Hunter Education Instructor, I was asked to teach a firearm safety class and a class on hunting rabbits. Along with my classes, there would be classes on state laws and regulations that would be instructed by two state Conservation Wardens, Brandon Smith and Michael Katzenberg. There was a class on the biology of rabbits by Adam Holcomb from the Naturalist Association.

We had a special guest speaker, Mike Corbett, on hunting with beagles. Mike was to bring a really special guest, but because of the snow depth, we didn’t get to meet his dog, Nugget. He still gave a great presentation with a film of an actual rabbit hunt with Beagles.

After a lunch provided by the Naturalist Association, we were ready to hunt! After everyone was given a blaze orange vest, complements of the Naturalist Association, and blaze orange hat, complements of Bass Pro Shops, Gurnee, IL, we were off! I was concerned about the new snow on top of the old snow, and the ability to hunt in a way that we could flush the rabbits to the hunters that were positioned ahead and in safe locations. Well when we got to the first area to be hunted, the snow was deep; I was in snow up to my mid thighs! It was all that we could do to just get thru the drifts and get to the cover. The rabbits were there, lots and lots of tracks and rabbit m&m’s (droppings), but it was very difficult to get into the thickest cover where there was less snow. This is where all of the fresh sign lead to and we were not going to get there, too much snow. The effort was there, but the opportunities were not.

A group decision was made to go back to the classroom for a short break and rehydration and then to head to another location. The snow was already taking its toll on us, we only hunted for about an hour and we looked like we had been at it all day!

When we headed out for round two, I was feeling a little disappointed because with the conditions, I didn’t think our opportunities would be many if any. Upon arriving to our hunting destination, we grouped up and made the walk a few hundred yards back to a heavy brush covered area that had good rabbit sign everywhere. I could see that if we were going to see a rabbit, this was the spot! While everyone was getting into position to start, I could see a very fresh set of tracks that led into the cover we were about to get into. I put Nathan, my hunter, into a good position to see and it was open enough that if Bugs showed himself, he would get a shot. Our “dogs” Kyle and Ben, were just about to the brush that the fresh tracks led into and I told Nathan “Be ready” and sure enough, out he came, the first rabbit of the day! Nathan did a great job getting his gun up and because of the rabbit’s speed, a very ethical decision not to shoot. It just wasn’t a good shot opportunity and because of the deep snow, I knew that the rabbit wouldn’t go far and might give us another chance. As we moved to get ahead of the “dogs”, there was a shot off to our right. It might have been the same rabbit, but we weren’t sure so we kept moving ahead. Once Nathan and I got to an area that gave us a good vantage point and a safe location, we got ready only to see the guys walking up to us and no rabbit ahead of them.

Well we regrouped with the others and found out that Annie got the shot, but the rabbit got away! We made our way to the nature center took some pictures, shook hands and said good buy. I was hoping to demonstrate field dressing and share a couple of recipes, but the rabbits at Bong Recreation Area survived the first “Learn to Hunt Rabbits”.

On the way home, I had some mixed emotions, I was a little disappointed because I am usually successful at rabbit hunting and really wanted the day to be a great memory for our first time hunters. But I was also very proud of the fact that maybe, just maybe, I helped in a small way to keep a tradition alive. I reflected on the introduction to the sport to my boys and the fun we had, even when the rabbits were better than we were. I am now completely into the sportsman stage of my outdoor life, this is where the success is based on the experience, the memories, the friendships and the feelings of satisfaction of just being able to show others why I love what has been created for us all, the great outdoors.

There is something special in giving back to something that has rewarded you with so much. From teaching others, to protecting the resources, I know that for the rest of my days afield, it won’t be about what I harvest, but about what I can do to give back.



"Extreme Ice Fishing!"

Extreme Ice Fishing!

By: Jerry Costabile

I have been ice fishing the Midwest for around forty years and I have never experienced conditions like there have been this winter.

I was excited that by Christmas, we had cold enough temperatures here in SE Wisconsin to have ice to safely fish most lakes. Than by the New Year, there was fishable ice on all of the lakes I usually have to wait until later in January to get on. It was looking like a great start to the season for all! The local bait shops were getting good sales, the bigger stores had good ice fishing sales, and the interest in the Arctic Cat ATV’s and UTV’s here at TRACKER Boat Center was increasing. All this action and it was early in the season!

Then while watching the weather one night, I hear a new weather term, the polar vortex, also known as a polar cyclone, polar low, or a circumpolar whirl. I will leave it to you to look up the scientific definition for what I call just plain cold! We were getting temps in the negative teens with wind chills in the negative 30’s and 40’s, even had reports of wind chills on -50 degrees! Wow, you talk about ice making weather!

Most ice fishermen would have stayed home in the warmth and comfort of their living rooms, but I am not most ice fishermen. I had a day off and I was going fishing. Wind, cold, snow, I didn’t care, I was going. I am lucky enough to own an insulated Clam shelter and a Buddy Heater, I would be fine right?

The trip started with pre-rigging rods and tying knots in the warmth of home the night before. This was probably the smartest thing I did during this trip. I got up early the next morning with my youngest son Kyle, who always is a challenge to get going at a pace faster than a snail in the morning. The coffee was brewing while we got dressed and got all of the equipment outside. My fishing partner and his grandson were to arrive at 4:15am and it was now about 4 and I was still checking that we had everything to battle the elements and I also had the lunch that I was going to grill, fresh venison steaks with onions on a toasted Kiser bun. There is nothing better than a grilled venison steak sandwich out ice fishing!

I was confident that my Frabil Icearmor suit would keep me warm, after all I hunted the last day of the bow season last year in -25 degree wind chills and it kept me warm. Kyle had his cold weather gear together,  so I think we were ready for whatever mother nature would throw at us. Little did we know how hard she could throw!

We loaded everything into the Dodge and headed north for the 2 hour drive to Lake Winnebago to fish for big perch, whitebass, and walleye. The ride up was quite with the two teenagers both asleep in the back seat . Because of the long ride, we were going to stop at a gas station near the lake to get dressed in our cold weather cloths and head to the lake ready for the day.

When we arrived at the access point to drive onto the lake, we noticed the wind was blowing the snow pretty good. This was going to make setting up interesting! The plowed road out to the fishing area that we wanted to fish, was in good shape so ice travel wasn’t going to be a problem. There were Christmas trees marking the road so even with the blowing snow, we could navigate if my GPS I had in my hand failed. After crossing a steel bridge (these are put over pressure cracks for safe travel) we arrived at our fishing spot about a mile and a half off shore. Now at this point it still looked like a cold, windy day that we have fished in a thousand times before. But when I opened the truck door, I was hit by a blast of cold air that was being pushed by 30 to 40 mile an hour winds that got my attention, it was going to be a one set up day. If the fish didn’t bite here, there was no moving to another spot, this was it!

Setting up my Clam Voyager shelter wasn’t too bad to set up, we used the truck as a wind break  and once the support bars were in place, we were up. The other shelter that was to be occupied by my partner and his grandson, was a hub style shelter. These are very light and tall, so it took a lot to get the shelter up and tied to the truck. The wind and blowing snow had now built up to blizzard like conditions, complete white out! You couldn’t see anything, the shoreline, or the other trucks that were less than a hundred yards away. We finally got settled into our heated shelters and fishing. We fished for an hour without anything to show for our efforts and I decided to step outside. What I saw as I walked around the truck, looking in all directions I still couldn’t see anything. There was a 3 foot snow drift building on the up wind side of my truck, this was not good. I voted to break down the shelters and get off of the lake, but I was over ruled by the grilled venison steak sandwiches I promised to cook. Now, the wind is hurricane force, and the blowing snow put us in less than perfect grilling conditions, but I was expected to have lunch ready for everyone! I went into my shelter put away the fishing equipment and turned it into the camp cook tent. The portable grill was set up and in ten minutes the steaks were sizzling in butter with onions grilling next to them. It took about another ten minute and I had two hungry teenagers looking into the vented door opening saying how good it smells, I have to say that the smell of our lunch was getting to me too! After a quick but hot sandwich, we broke down our gear and headed off of the lake. It was a wise choice because we both agreed that this was the worst weather that we ever fished in and it was getting dangerous out there. Thank god nothing happened to the truck, it could have been bad.

We stopped at the same gas station and undressed out of our heavy clothes, found the hot chili and ate until we were full and warm! The ride home was interesting to say the least. There were cars being blown off of the road and it was all we could do to stay on the road when the wind would gust.

I would like to say that we were successful on our fishing trip, but we didn’t catch a fish. What we did get is a lesson learned that sometimes you just have to stay home and pick a better day.



"Show Time!"

By; Jerry L. Costabile

Here in the Midwest, we are having a very memorable winter. A steady cover of snow and cold like we have never seen, and it’s only the third week in January!

But the good news is that this is the time of the year that the boat dealers are taking their best buys and new models to boat shows all over the country. There are boat shows in every area that give potential buyers and boat lovers the opportunity to view the 2014 models with the newest and greatest features available.

I recently was with the TRACKER Marine team from the Gurnee, IL. TRACKER Boat Center, at the Chicago Boat Show. It was a great show with all of the competitors showing what they are made of!

I can honestly say that I was very happy with the response that we had with the TRACKER line of boats. There was interest in all of the boats that we showed, TRACKER Mod-V fishing boats, TRACKER Deep-V fishing boats, the NITRO performance fishing boats, the TAHOE line of runabouts and deck boats, and the MAKO off shore boats. It was a great display of the full line of TRACKER Boats.

With the thought of warm weather and open water (there is up to two feet of ice on the lakes right now!); there was excitement in the air for the boating season. The new feature for TRACKER line of aluminum boats for 2014 is the Diamond Coat™ Finish. It not only gives the boat the most durable, long lasting aluminum boat finish on the water, it just plain looks awesome!

The boat with the biggest excitement for 2014, the Pro Team 175TXW the #1 selling Mod-V in the country! TRACKER made this boat amazing for 2014; it has a list of new upgrades that includes the choice of two colors, Victory Red or TRACKER Black with the Diamond Coat Finish™. The list of new features is long for this boat and should keep it at the top of the rankings.

If the cold and snowy weather has you getting that illness we get here in the Midwest called cabin fever, look into attending one of the many boat shows in your area or stop in and say hello here at the TRACKER Boat Center inside Bass Pro Shops Gurnee, IL. store. It’s a great way to see the newest and greatest in boating and helps fight that cabin fever!


"When to Stay & When to Go"

          "When to stay and when to go"

By: Curt Samo

         I had the opportunity years ago to fish with the great angling legend Larry Nixon.  One of the things I will always remember him telling me is that the thing that separates the great fisherman from the average fisherman is the decision making process of when to stay on a spot or when to leave.  Just a few weeks ago, I was fishing a tournament on West Point Lake in central Alabama.  I was faced with this exact dilemma. 

           I had found a classic fall pattern with fish in the backs of major creeks.  The fish were in roughly 2 - 3 feet of water. The temperature in the back of the creek where I had found the fish was about 67 degrees.  That first practice day, I caught about 14 pounds of bass, which on this particular lake would normally be a winning weight.  Paying attention to the weather forecast for the week, I knew a huge cold front was scheduled to hit the area. On the second day of practice, I went back to those same areas to expand my pattern and locate more spots in the back of the creek.  I found a few more fish and felt comfortable with the quality of fish in this area.  During practice I was catching them on a Lucky Craft Redemption Spinner Bait.  I also caught a few on a Lucky Craft LVR 150 rattle bait.  After the second day of practice, the cold front really settled in.  On the third day of practice I decided to leave those areas alone and move to the main lake to locate some bonus hot spots to add to my creek pattern.  That night the temperature dropped to 31 degrees.  I felt this would affect the bite somewhat, since the fish were so shallow.  Yet I knew the fish were there, so I committed to go to the backs of those creeks.  

          When I arrived the first day, I found that the water temperature had dropped seven degrees overnight.  I thought that the bite would be slow in the morning, then pick up as the water temperature warmed during the afternoon.  I threw the spinnerbait most of the day, and though the bite was tough, I ended up with 4 fish and was sitting in 18th place after the first day.  That night, record cold temperatures came in.  I was nervous about the activity level of the fish in the back of those creeks with such a severe front.  I made the decision not to abandon this pattern based on the quality of fish in this area.  The big decision would be if I got to that location and didn't get bit at all:  should I abandon this area for warmer water, or commit to this area and find a presentation that would make the fish bite.

            I arrived to my spot on the morning of the second tournament day and was shocked to see that the water temperature had dropped to 54 degrees.  The fish would not bite a spinnerbait, so I tried several other presentations and caught 2 fish right away, to my surprise.  One was on a black/blue Chompers Tube and the other was on a white Chompers grub. Then the bite died.  I tried several more presentations and for the next 4 hours did not even have a bite.  Being a couple fish out from a check, I needed to make some decisions.  In the back of my mind, I knew that I only needed 1 or 2 more quality bites.  I decided to stay, thinking that the water temperature would rise a few degrees and increase my chance of getting a bite.  That never happened and I lived with the decision. There have been times in my tournament career when staying paid off, and times like this when it didn't.  I hope that I can learn from these decisions and put that information into my tournament archives. 

           It is worth noting that due to the major cold front, that many of the fish I did catch were barely hooked.  I feel like the rod and reel combo that I was using really helped me to land some of these light-biting fish.  Any time a reactionary bait is being used, it is important to use a rod that has a lot of give because this allows the fish to take the bait in without pulling it out of his mouth.  My favorite rod for this is the Bass Pro Shops Crankin Stix.   I was using a 7 foot, medium-action model, and I had it teamed up with a Johnny Morris Signature series reel and 17 pound XPS Flourocarbon line.  This combo definitely seemed to help me get a few more bites and land the fish that I did in the clear water that I was fishing.  Until next time, good fishin!  Bass Pro Shops Pro Staff, Curt Samo.


Hot Shot Shooters

Hot Shot Shooters

By: Katie Cook

Hot Shot Shooters is an all woman’s firearms club that meets at Bass Pro Shops in Gurnee, Illinois. One of our goals is to teach women how to become more proficient shooters and responsible firearm owners.  Our Mission is “To Get More Women Involved!”

Several of our members took an NRA Basic Pistol Class with Bill Worth and wanted to find like minded women to enjoy shooting and learning about firearms. Bill told them to start a group. One of the ladies finally organized our first meeting. Bill sent out an email asking if we were interested in a ladies shooting club. 25-30 women showed up at the first meeting. Our first meeting was basically to ask what we wanted from this group and what we wanted to experience. A few meetings later, we brainstormed over names and voted. Some were very clever and we debated over a few before we decided on Hot Shot Shooters. Our Email list is at 50 women now and constantly growing.

All ladies are welcome and encouraged to attend our meetings and join Hot Shot Shooters. Our next meeting is Tuesday January 21St at 6pm on the 3rd floor of the range at Bass Pro Shop Gurnee.

Also check us out on FaceBook!