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Rod, Gun and Game: Get ready for spring by checking out your gear, practicing techniques

READY FOR THE WATER — Sue Bookhout, an outdoor columnist from central New York, makes the trip each year for Great Lakes tributary steelhead and brown trout, that will be underway shortly, with each spring thaw. Photo by Forrest Fisher.

SPRINGVILLE — The last few days of March sunshine has spawned a yard-full of spring thinking that has sure been good for all of us, this year. My 5 feet of backyard snow should be gone about June 1.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to check out all your spring gear. For steelhead anglers, that means assuring that your fly reel backing is solid, pulling the line off and checking it out in your living room, where you have time to mend any issues. If you use a spinning rig, check the reel drag and undercover gear sets for proper lubrication and function.

For early season opening day, inland-stream trout anglers, that means getting out your light gear and checking it over, from head to foot. With lighter monofilament lines used on smaller rigs, the 6- and 8-pound test versions, these lines should all be removed and either turned around end-for-end or replaced outright. A new 100-yard spool of line will cost about $6-$10 or so; buy the best line you can afford.

Usually, the more expensive line assures uniformity and quality control for mid-line weakness checks during the manufacture, but with production control processes around the world in such close check, almost any line will generally be acceptable.

The differences in line, if you use many different lines, from many line-makers over the years, can be noted in clarity, color, softness, texture, feel and stiffness. If you fish cold water, the Berkley® XL works well, and if the waters are full of snags and debris, the Berkley XT seems best, but the XT is a stiffer line and not supple enough for most delicate, early season, inland trout presentations.

All of this same logic for the lighter gear also applies to inland walleye anglers and crappie anglers. Assure you have checked your fishing gear completely before you cast that first line, this year.

For the bigger-rig walleye anglers, the trolling reels need to be removed from the rod, gently disassembled, lubricated, restored, reassembled and the line checked for issues. Some folks leave their line on for a few years; I suppose that’s OK if you don’t fish that much, but new line will assure an honest catch, without snapping the line.

Many Lake Erie walleye fishermen use 20-pound test monofilament or 30-pound test super-braid as their main lines, and 15-20-pound test fluorocarbon leaders with ball bearing snap swivels at the end of the mainline. If you fish downriggers and diving planes, a 6-8-foot leader is typical and it’s a good idea to tie up a dozen of these, right now. For most folks, this means a trip to the outdoor shop for a few dozen snap swivels and some new line.

A close check of the rods too, is a good idea right now, as so many of us fail to see that cracked or broken line guide until we have a 10-pound monster fish alongside the boat that sheers the line just before the net slips under her. Check all the line guides closely right now; it only takes a minute or so.

Note that many lures and hooks have dulled from their exposures to boat bounce, fish jaws and the water. Some hooks rust, others bend, some have broken points, all need to be checked and replaced if needed, especially worm harness hooks, to assure a successful day on the lake. The same holds true for that collection of favorite hard-bodied lures.

For turkey hunters, the task list is not any shorter. There is your physical condition to consider, your shotgun, decoys, calls, scouting and last and possibly most important of all, shooting practice. Most hunters do not take the time to sight in their shotgun chokes and pattern their loads. How can you hunt anything and not be in total understanding of where your shot is directing your projectiles, in this case, the tungsten or copper size 4, 5 or 6 BBs in the 1-1 1/2-ounce load?

Starting at the top, get out your shotgun, assure the barrel is not fouled and is cleaned, properly lubricated, has the right choke (full or extra-full) installed at the end of the barrel and is ready to go.

Get your Quaker Boy® calls out, or stop in at their Orchard Park store and see Ernie Calendrelli, for advice on how to use those dusty calls. There are mouth calls, slate calls, box calls – which one is for you? Pick up one of the Quaker Boy videos for “call-training” and learn how to make it sound right. On to your camouflage clothing. Try it on, wash it up, especially if the clothes are new and get the brightness out of it; you want to fit into the woods as part of the woods. If you want to stay dry, get a tie-on seat for the back of your belt, so it plops down before your butt hits the ground.

If you plan to hunt on rainy days, make sure your outer layer is Gore-tex® or waterproofed in some manner. You will also need gloves, a hat, facemask, socks and boots that are camo color. Nobody said hunting was easy or inexpensive, but once you have this gear, you should be good for many years.

For decoys, many folks like to use the portable, foam-like hens that suspend on a vertical stick and rotate in the wind, like real birds looking around to check their backsides. They fold up and fit into your backpack easily, too.

Scouting? Get to the woods where you have permission to hunt or call the Department of Environmental Conservation office and ask where the bird surveys have shown a healthy turkey population. There are many folks who count birds for DEC and populations are tracked closely today, thanks to a healthy program of management from our regional and state fish and wildlife biologists. The turkey man at the DEC is Emilio Rende. He works out of the Allegheny office and can be reached at 372-0645.

Outdoor show in Springville

Jerry Stedman and his dedicated staff at S&S Taxidermy and Archery in Springville will open the doors for the 12th Annual Outdoor Show and Big Buck Scoring Day on March 29, from 9 a.m. -5 p.m., at the outdoor store, located at 455 South Cascade Drive. This is a great opportunity to score your big buck rack from last season, bring in your mount or antler sets and bring the family to roam the museum-like taxidermy loft. Kids and adults will be amazed at the Alaskan wolves in three pelt colors, giant bears and also the ordinary animals of Western New York that you may have always wondered about trying to identify, like fishers and other critters. Stedman has archery equipment technicians on hand too, as well as gunsmith folks and experts of all sorts to answer your questions about your outdoor gear. I have always been amazed at the atmosphere and expertise to be found at S&S, whenever I enter this unique shop.

Albany bus rally

Steve Aldstadt, president of the New York Shooters Committee on Political Education, announced that SCOPE is planning a SAFE Act bus rally for April 1 at the Legislative Office Building in Albany. Some 52 of New York’s 62 counties have passed resolutions opposing the SAFE ACT. Multiple counties in New York state are organizing bus departure points for early start trips, to arrive in Albany by 10 a.m. and then be delivered back to starting point, leaving Albany by 3 p.m. Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard is among the cast of speakers set for Albany square. For tickets in Erie County, visit the SCOPE website at www.scopeny.org, email Rich Davenport at rich@weloveoutdoors.com or call him at 510-7952 after 4:30 p.m.

Outdoor calendar

March 20: Southowns Walleye Association, monthly meeting, located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg, 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 649-8202.

March 20: SCOPE, Erie County Chapter, monthly meeting, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 8113, located on Leydecker Road in West Seneca, 7 p.m. For more information, call 825-4174.

March 20: Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon monthly meeting, 4H Cooperative, -located on Route 78 in Lockport, 7 p.m. For more information, call 636-0519.

March 20: Lake Erie Federation of Fly Fishers, Legion Post 735, located at 35 Legion Pkwy. in West Seneca, fly-tying 6 p.m., monthly meeting 7 p.m., The guest speaker will be Don Einhouse. For more information, call 675-4766.

March 21: Indoor Winter 3-D Archery, West Falls Conservation, located at 55 Bridge Street, Friday fun shoot, 7 p.m., $5/week, all archers may attend. For more information, call Mike Cummings at 337-0126.

March 22: WNY Safari Club International Annual Banquet, Michael’s, located on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg. For more information, call 570-8275.

March 22: Friends of the NRA, Annual Banquet, Salvatore’s Gardens, located at 6461 Transit Road in Depew. 5 p.m. start. For more information, call 866-7656.

March 23: WNY Winter 3-D League Shoot, Glencoe, located at 9869 Foote Road in Glenwood, open to the public. 7a.m.-2 p.m., For more information, call Mike Matala at 337-0126.

March 23: John Long Sr. Memorial Outdoorsmen’s Raffle and Dinner Feast, Niagara River Anglers Association, St. Vincent DePaul, located at 2748 Military Road, in the town of Niagara, 2-6 p.m. For more information, call 628-1460.

March 29: WNY Trout Unlimited, Annual Banquet and Fundraiser, Lucarelli’s, in Lackawanna, 6 p.m. start. For more information, call 826-4178.

March 29: 12th Annual Outdoor Show & NYS Big Buck Scoring Day, S&S Taxidermy, located at 455 South Cascade Dr. in Springville. For more information, call 592-2404.

April 1: SCOPE Rally to Albany bus trip, to call for the repeal of the SAFE Act. See www.scopeny.org for more information.

April 5: Niagara Musky Association, 20th Annual Anniversary Awards Banquet, Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, located at 76 Pearl St., in Buffalo, 6-11 p.m. For more information, call Scott McKee at 225-3816.

April 10: State of Lake Erie Meeting, 7-9 p.m., Southtowns Walleye clubhouse located at 5895 Southwestern Blvd. in Hamburg. For more information, call Helen Domske at 645-3610 or email her at hmd4@cornell.edu.

Send information for the outdoor column, 10 days in advance, to nugdor@yahoo.com.
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