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Waterfowl Boot Camp This Weekend


          Everything you ever wanted to know about hunting waterfowl and were afraid to ask will be answered this Saturday and Sunday as part of the waterfowl boot camp to be held at the Cardinal Center in Marengo.

          Swankonsports.com expert on the outdoors, Ken Parrott, says the boot camp was introduced in 2004 to allow for discussion and education about all aspects of hunting waterfowl.  “About eight years ago the Ohio Waterfowl Association along with some other waterfowlers in the Ohio wanted to put together a weekend to where the average joe waterfowler, the guy that likes to duck hunt, goose hunt, or is interested in learning more about duck or goose hunting, could meet with some of the elite people in the sport, guys that you see on TV on Saturday mornings or in the catalogs,” he said, “Just get a chance to sit down and talk to these individuals one on one.  Over the last eight years we have had some big name people come to the show.  The neat part is it is very low key.  It is a great learning opportunity.  I think that’s where it got its start a chance to learn from each other on how to become better hunters.”

          Of course, there are seasons for hunting duck and goose and Parrott says those start in the fall or late summer.  “It is one of the most regulated seasons because it actually set by the federal flyway people because the duck and goose are migratory birds.  They guys in Louisiana don’t want Ohio guys shooting all of the duck or vice versa.  They break the country into flyways.  We are in the Mississippi flyway.  They meet in July with representatives from Ohio and almost all the states down through Louisiana and they will discuss how long the season will be based on estimated bird population numbers and when those seasons will be,” said Parrott.  He says around North Central Ohio hunting can begin most times in September.  “Here in Ohio because the goose has become a nuisance bird we have an early season which usually starts the first of September to try to get rid of some of the local population.  Typically you are looking at a normal duck-goose season opening up at the end of October and they will run off and on through early Januay,” he said.

          A major part of hunting waterfowl is being able to be able to call the birds.  And that is something you can learn at the boot camp.  “To be successful you have to be able to call ducks.  That is one of the biggest things you can learn at this waterfowl boot camp this weekend.  On Saturday there is an open duck and goose calling contest.  The champion walks away with a 1,000 dollars and it brings in some big name duck callers from all across the country.  On Sunday is the sanctioned duck and goose calling and the youth duck and goose calling contest,” he told Swankonsports.com, “The winner of those three events gets to represent Ohio at the world’s duck and goose calling championship, which is usually held in November down in Arkansas.  So, there is a lot of money on the line and a lot of bragging rights on the line.”  Parrott says this is something that can be very challenging to learn and become proficient at doing.  “It can be very challenging for some.  My kids are still learning and we have been working with them for years.  It’s like playing a tuba or playing a saxophone or playing a trumpet you can be bad, you can be okay, you can be decent, you can be pretty darn good, it just depends on the amount of time and effort you want to put into it and really the quality of the duck caller that you have,” said Parrott.

          Another thing that is pretty much a must is to have a quality dog to help you on the hunt.  “I raise Chesapeake Bay retrievers, which is the classic waterfowl dog.  I wouldn’t go out without one, but you can do it without one, it just makes things more difficult.  Sometimes we hunt ducks in some pretty nasty stuff and they can be pretty hard to find after we drop them.  If you have a good dog it can save you a lot of lost game,” said Parrott.

          As is the norm with events held at the Cardinal Center, the youth will be a large part of the boot camp.  “Saturday is the youth boot camp day from nine to 12, all kinds of neat things for kids.  They can learn how to shoot safely.  They are going to learn how to blow duck calls.  Some years they have kids paint decoys.  You have demonstrations with retrievers and basic decoy setup,” said Parrott.

          There will be some big names coming to the boot camp to offer their expertise to those in attendance.  “One of the beauties of the weekend is it is totally free.  The lineup this year includes Jim Ronquest, if you are a duck hunter, you know who he is.  Jeff Coates, who is a famous waterfowl photographer.  He has is a hunting show on the outdoor channel.  Field Hudnall is another big name coming in.  He is going to do some seminars on snow goose hunting,” said Parrott.

          Yes, the boot camp is about waterfowl, but Parrott says there will be other things too.  “It isn’t just exclusively duck hunting.  There are a couple of white tail deer hunting sessions, there are some turkey sessions.  There will be some vendors there and it’s a chance to see some of the latest technology and tools of the trade,” said Parrott.          



Head for the Weeds


          It has been ugly hot this year in late June and early July, but if you are smart you can still catch a lot of fish.

          Ken Parrott, Swankonsports.com outdoors expert, says there are a few myths about summer fishing and he has some tips on how you can be successful.

          Parrott says that catching fish is the summer can actually be a little easier if you know what you are doing.  “It’s been a little early this year, but especially in August, a lot of times we get in our head that fishing can be tough.  We talk about the dog days of summer there are a lot of wife’s tales out there that are actually quite untrue about fishing.  A lot of times we hear people talking about in the summer time, especially in the really hot times, that the fish slow down and they don’t eat as much.  If we look at the biology of fish it’s actually the exact opposite.  They are cold blooded creatures, so their metabolism is actually at its highest right now.  They are eating more and are very active.  They are digesting food at twice the normal rate that they would.  They should be a little easier to catch,” said Parrott.

          Parrott says in the summer the fish aren’t going to migrate toward to banks as much, so you have to go out and look for them a little more.  “There are some problems and some challenges that we have in the summer time compared to other times of the year.  Spring is typically the favorite because a lot of fish can be caught up on the bank or near the bank and that really eliminates the biggest challenge of fishing and that is trying find the fish.  If we can eliminate all of the water that is behind us when we are facing the bank it helps us out quite a bit,” he said, “This time of year the fish are not going to hang around the bank quite as much for a couple of reasons.  Number one, there is quite a bit of food for them to eat at this time of year.  All of the things that they eat have hatched and there is a high population of those things, so they don’t have to venture up to the bank to catch those things.  Number two, we have to remember that warmer water holds less oxygen and depending on what types of species of fish you are talking about they do require certain amounts of oxygen.”

          Like a lot of other sports, Parrott says that fishing is a mental game and you just have to get past some things if you are going to be successful at catching fish.  “It seems like it’s a little tough to catch fish in the summer time.  If you do the right things and do them at the right time you can really help yourself out.  I really think a lot of the thought process of fishing being tough in the summer is mainly it’s a mental state of mind for human beings.  We really aren’t as comfortable out there when it’s 95 degrees and the sun is reflecting off the water.  A lot of times we are beat before we even get started.  It’s a great time of the year to fish,” he said, “The first recommendation I can make for people is to find the weeds.  The weeds are going to hold the little fish the bigger fish like to eat.  The weeds will provide more oxygen.  The weeds create a lot of shade.  Remember fish don’t have eyelids and the direct sunlight can be very difficult for them as well.”

          Parrott says if you really want to catch some fish in the summer head to the lakes for some evening fishing.  “The other tip I would like to give is go early and go late.  A lot of that has to do with the sunlight and the fish become more active.  They feed a little more aggressively early in the morning and late in the evening.  In fact, at this time of year night fishing can be very productive,” he said.  Parrott says it is going to be a little more crowed on the lake.  “You have guys that have to work and a lot of times the activity on the lake will really pick up after guys get off work and get something to eat and get to the lake.  So, the evenings tend to be the most crowed.  With the diehard fishermen you will see a lot of activity on the lake in the early mornings.  Once the sun gets up at this time year you will start to loose a lot of the boats.  There is more boat traffic at night,” said Parrott.  



Ohio Trap Shooting Championships This Week


Click here to listen to and interview with Ken Parrott


          The annual Ohio Trap Shooting Championships are this week at Cardinal Center near Marengo in southern Morrow County.

          Ken Parrott, Swankonsports.com guy on the outdoors, explains what trap shooting is for those who are unfamiliar.  “The general jest of the game is there is a trap thrower and you are standing 16 yards from the trap thrower and you don’t know which direction it’s going to go and you try to hit the thing.  It’s a little round orange disk.  It takes good reflexes and a lot of practice.  It’s a good way to keep your shooting arm and your shooting eye keen during the off season,” said Parrott.

          Youth competition was held on Monday and adults will be competing in a number of different events throughout the week.  “There will be contests all week long.  Everyday there are all kinds of adult championships, singles and doubles and handicaps.  Handicap means the shooter is farther back than the 16 yard mark.  It’s kind of like golf, they handicap you based on how good you are,” said Parrott.

          The Cardinal Center is located right off of Interstate 71 near the State Route 61 exit.  “It’s a great facility.  “ODNR” and Jack Fishburn, who owns the facility, put a lot of money and time and effort to make it top notch and one of best shooting ranges in the country.  There is a vender’s row now if you like anything about shooting,” Parrott said.

          It may not get a lot of publicity in this country, but shooting is an Olympic sport and Parrott says some individuals from this part of Ohio have qualified for the United States Olympic team.  “My kids are actually members of the Centerburg trap shooting club and believe it not they have some former members that have been on the Olympic trap shooting team.  The elite shooters get to go shoot with the Army team.  A round is 200 shots.  The kids will shoot 25 at a time in a series of four and then break for lunch and do the same thing again,” he told Swankonsports.com, “These kids that are on the Olympic team or the All-Ohio team are shooting 98s or 99s out of 100 every time they are up.  They pride themselves and call themselves athletes.  It is physically demanding to shoot that many times.  You are out in the heat.  Your arm does take a pounding.  It takes a lot of practice to be good.”

          Like a lot of sports, and more than some, shooting is a mental game.  Parrott says to be good, no matter what you age, it takes a lot of discipline.  “It a mental game.  If you miss one you have to let is go because it can multiply and manifest itself and the next thing you know you miss two, three, four and you’re in a bad run.  It takes a lot of discipline to stay focused.  A hundred shots doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is.  It can work on you mentally over time,” he said.  Parrott adds it’s a matter of repeating the same movements time and time again.  “Once you learn to do it correctly, just like shooting that foul shot.  Once you have the form down.  Once we teach you to mount the gun correctly.  Once we teach you to find the bird, we call the pigeon the bird, correctly then it just takes repetition to make sure that you do that same gun mount every time and that same focus every time.  If you do several thousand it becomes automatic,” he said.       



Safety to Priority For Deer Gun Season


          Hunters hit the woods at dawn on Monday morning with the beginning of deer-gun season in Ohio.  Many of them may be new to the sport.

          Hunting is a sport that continues to grow with increasing numbers of especially women participating in the activity.  Many schools, especially in rural areas, extend their Thanksgiving holiday to include the opening of deer-gun season.  Ken Parrott, an expert outdoorsman, says with so many people participating there are bound to be injuries.  “We are going to hear about accidents, they happen.  We are going to hear about deaths, most deaths are typically heart attacks.  When you put that many guys out in the woods during a five or six day stretch you are going to have some accidents.  When you break it down into percentages it is still a very safe activity,” he said.

          Parrott told Swankonsports.com that there are ways to avoid injury or worse by just using your head and being a good decision maker.  “The best tip I can give anybody is really a common sense tip and that is know what your target is.  Most of the injuries we hear of are accidental shootings where guys shoot at what they thought was a deer,” he said, “They shoot at movement.  They shoot at color.  You have to know what your target is for sure and error on the safe side.  You have to know what is beyond your target.  The slugs we shoot today can travel quite a distance.   If there is something beyond that target another 30 to 60 yards that could be harmed by that shot then you want to pass up that shot,” said Parrott.

          It is not just the hunters that need to take safety precautions, but also the folks that might be outdoors this week.  Parrott says it would be a very good idea to skip those kinds of activities this week just to be safe.  “If you are going to go out then wear hunter orange.  They have very cheep vests you can put on your clothing.  A lot of people like to use the wooded areas for hiking, mountain biking and running the trails.  This is probably one week I would want to skip doing that  It’s not smart to put yourself in that potential risk.  Unfortunately there are a lot of deer hunters out this week that only grab that gun one week out of the year.  Those are they guys that don’t make the best decisions.  If I don’t have to be out in the woods with these guys, I’m not going to be,” Parrott said.

          Although this is deer-gun season, there have been many people out sitting in blinds since September with a bow and arrow.  Parrott says that archery has been growing quite a bit over the last several years.  “We have noted a little bit of a shift here lately.  The last several years I think it’s safe to say that archery has become king of pursuants in terms of harvesting deer.  It’s kind of become the rage all across America.  Now, there is going to be more deer killed this week for gun season than any other week of the season.  The gun is still king, but without a doubt archery is catching up,” he said.

          It’s not that people want to become a modern day Robin Hood or anything, Parrott says it simply gives the hunter more chances to kill deer if they pick up archery.  “It creates more opportunity.  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources several years ago decided they were going to do anything they could to reduce the state’s heard.  They came out with some very liberal limits.  Guys around here can bag five deer in a season.  If I try to do that in gun season it’s hard to do that in one week.  If I pick up archery season I have September all of the way to the end of winter,” Parrott said.

          The number of deer harvested this fall was down when compared to pervious years and Parrott says that is because the weather this fall was on the side of the deer.  “The first six weeks of archery season the numbers were significantly down compared to the last several years.  I think the weather had a lot to do with that.  We have had a very, very warm fall and a very warm November.  When it’s warm like that deer do not need to move during the day.  They will move primarily at night.  We had a very wet fall so that hurt the corn harvest.  We had a lot of corn still up in the fields until a few weeks ago.  When you have that much corn deer could be moving 24 hours a day and you wouldn’t see them,” he said.

          Despite the lower numbers this fall Parrott believes the liberal limits are allowing the deer heard in Ohio to be thinned.  He says that is what he is hearing from friends in the field.  “I think the state population has dropped quite a bit.  I talked to a lot of archery hunters and they aren’t seeing the signs of deer this year like they are accustomed to.  Without a doubt the state insurance companies and the Ohio Farm Bureau are really the two big pushers of getting the numbers down.  Richland County has led the state in the number of traffic accidents caused by deer the last two years in a row.  When you’re on the interstate look at the number of deer carcasses you see lying on the road everyday,” said Parrott.



Want to Catch Spawning Fish?  Be Quiet

           I’m afraid I wouldn’t be very good at catching spawning fish because one of the keys to being successful is being quiet and that’s not something I have ever been very good at.

          This is the time of year to catch spawning bass or bluegill.  The season is a little bit later this year than in many years because of the cold and wet spring, according to the outdoors expert for Swankonsports.com Ken Parrott, “This year the spring rain really messed up the fish’s biological clock.”

          Catching bass right now is different than any other time of the year because their habits are different because they are in the spawning process.  “It can be a frustrating time of the year for the fisherman or a neat time of the year for the fisherman because this is the one time when we can actually see what we are trying to catch,” said Parrott.  There are opportunities to catch both male and female bass because like most parents they are together, at least for a little bit.  “The male’s start the process of spawning.  They will come up through the shallows and they will try and find a perfect place to build a nest.  They will nest in all kinds of unusual places, but they prefer a hard bottom,” he said.  After the male bass finds the right place for a nest, he will try to attract a female.  “She will come into the area and lay the eggs.  He will then immediately fertilize the eggs and then she is done and heads for deeper water,” added Parrott.

          Now that you know where to find the fish you have to know how to catch them and that isn’t going to be all that easy.  “The frustrating part is you need to present a bait that will attract both the male and the female, you are hoping for the female because she the bigger fish.  You are trying to imitate a predator going after their eggs,” said Parrott.  Surprisingly getting them to bite is the easiest part of the process in this case.  “If you get them to bite often times they aren’t holding onto the bait long enough to eat it.  They are just moving it away from the nest and then they spit it out,” continued Parrott.  To get the fish that you want you have to be quick once the bass finds your bait.  “The key to catching a spawning fish is you’ve got to set that hook immediately once they put it in their mouth,” said Parrott.

          Now we come to the patience part of this whole process.  The part I wouldn’t be very good at.  “During the spawn they are very cautious.  The worse thing you can do is spook them.  If you are fishing from a bank or a boat you want to be in ultra stealth mode,” Parrott stressed.  Another key is don’t cast your line to close where you see the fish or where you think it might be.  “We are not going to get too close to them when we present the bait.  When we present the bait we want to cast past the nest and bring the bait into the nest,” he said.  And you also want to scale down a little bit when it comes to the equipment you are using.  “I always have a lot of success when I down size my line.  I really like the smallest lure as possible, like a quarter size worm.”  Now here is the really tough part to master, at least in the opinion of this author.  “A lot of times it is just about having a lot of patience.  Sometimes I will keep that line in the nest for minutes at a time,” said Parrott.

          The biggest key has nothing to do with the pole, the line or the lure, but rather what you are wearing.  “Buy the best pair of polarized sun glasses that you can,” said Parrott, “They can really help see those fish that are underneath the water.”



This is the Time For Bass Fishing

           Spring is the time for baseball and the time to get your yard back in shape and it’s also the best time of the year for bass fishing, but like everything this year it’s being affected by the weather.

          Due to the fluctuating, but mostly cold temperatures we have had this spring, the best time for bass has been pushed back about a month.  “Right now is a perfect time to get started because the bass fishing is at its best,” said Swankonsports.com Outdoors expert Ken Parrott, “Right now they are putting on a big feed because they are getting ready to spawn.  They will not be feeding during when they are spawning.”

          You can go bass fishing in all 50 states, but here in this part of the country we do not have the largest bass, they are found in the southern part of the county or in California.  “Our bass here in the Midwest would be considered babies to what they grow down south.  In California they are growing some giants and they are expecting the new world record will come from California,” said Parrott.  A large bass around these parts would be five to six pounds, but in Florida, Alabama and Louisiana they have fish that are 10, 11, or 12 pounds.

          Everyone wants to be successful, no matter what they are doing and if you want to a good bass fisherman then it’s all about location.  “The biggest key about bass fishing is the location.  With lakes around here you are talking 1,000 acres of water.  Where do you start?  That’s the first step, finding the key locations,” said Parrott.  He says you need to find the warmest water you can and that’s been tough this spring.  And you have to have the right bait too or the fish are going to find someone else’s line.  “You need to provide the proper presentations and proper baits.  My favorite lure by far is what we call the jig and pig,” said Parrott, “Another popular bait is called a spinner bait and both of these are easy for beginners to get started with.”

          Parrott concludes by saying that especially those just starting to get into bass fishing need to watch their budget.  “It’s like any other sport.  There are $20 fishing reels or $400 to $500 fishing reels,” he said.  




Turkey Season Opens Monday

           The four week turkey hunting season in Ohio opens at sunrise on Monday and swankonsports.com had a conversation on Sunday with Ken Parrott, a local sportsman, as well as newspaper columnists about turkey season.

          Like a lot of guys Ken began hunting and fishing early by going out with his older brothers.  “I got my start doing some bass fishing with my brothers, we used to fish in tournaments.  In my early teens I got into water foul hunting,” Parrott said. 

          Ohio has not always had a turkey season because at one time it was rare to see a turkey in Ohio, but the Ohio Department of Natural Recourses worked with nearby states to begin to increase the population of the birds.  “They brought some turkeys in from elsewhere in the Midwest, but now, like Canadian Geese, their population has just exploded and they have become a nuisance in some areas,” commented Parrott. 

          Turkey season does open on Monday Parrott says if you want to be a successful hunter it’s easier to bag a turkey on the first day.  “You are going to be more successful on the first day because the birds haven’t heard a lot of calling yet,” said Parrott.  It was a very windy weekend for the youth season and according to Parrott wind can make hunting turkeys very difficult indeed, “I will hunt in rain, snow, heat, but the one thing I don’t like during turkey season is the wind.  It makes it so hard to communicate with the birds and that’s what you’re trying to do,” he said.

          Just like other sports to be good at turkey hunting there is a lot of preparation required of the hunters.  “The most important part of turkey hunting is scouting.  You have to know about the birds and what their pattern is.  You need to know the spots where the mating is taking place,” added Parrott.  And you have to get up early in the day and get into position while the birds are still asleep.  “They are cautious birds, but when they’re up in the trees, you can get pretty close to them,” said Parrott.



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