Best Tips for Outdoorsmen | Outdoor Life

Best Tips for Outdoorsmen

Design a Better Drive

When putting a drive together, we tend to place standers in front of and alongside the area being driven. If you have enough people in your party, position a stander in the rear where the drive originated. Deer will often wait for hunters to pass and then sneak back and run off in the opposite direction.

The Biggest female bass in a lake spawn first, generally at the first full moon after water temperatures warm into the 60s.

Fish Detectors

When you're fishing a strange body of water and don't have a clue where to start, locate some fish-eating birds. Herons and loons know exactly where to go to find baitfish - and where there is forage, there will be hungry game fish as well.

No Wonder it's so skinny

What freshwater fish found in North America makes the longest spawning migration? The winner, hands down, is the American eel. Female eels spend most of their lives in big rivers like the Mississippi. When spawning time approaches, they swim downstream to join the males at the river mouth, then they swim to the Sargasso Sea (a portion of the North Atlantic) to Spawn.

The One-Match Fire

Always try to light a fire with a single match -- even when an entire box of matches is at hand. This skill could some day mean the difference between a warm, comfortable camp and a chilly, miserable one. Place a softball size piece of tinder on a dry bark or on the ground. Good tinder ingredients include lint, cotton threads, dry wood powder, bird or mouse nests, dry shredded bark or pine needles. Around the tinder, pile a handful of dry twigs. Over this nucleus, lean a few slightly larger, seasoned branches in tepee-fashion. Over the branches, lay some bigger pieces of deadwood. With the pile sheltered form the wind and rain, ignite the tinder so the flames eat into the heart of the pile. Once the fire gets going, shape it however you want.

Catch a Frog

A Jawed spear is great for catching fish, frogs and other aquatic creatures. Split one end of a green sapling 6 to 8 inches. Carve sharp, rear angling teeth into each flat side in the split. Use cordage to bind the split's upper end so it won't split further. Open the "jaws," and separate them with a twig strong enough to keep them apart. When the spear is thrust at a fish or critter, the twig is knocked out and the jaws snap shut, holding the quarry.

Pretty in Pink

Perhaps the strangest name for a freshwater fish is the Dolly Varden, a pink-spotted char found in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. The name comes from Miss Dolly Varden, a character in Charles Dickens's Barnaby Rudge who wore a pink-spotted dress.

What a Bite

Flathead catfish have tooth pads consisting of hundreds of tiny, recurved teeth. The pad helps them hold their prey so it can't wiggle around and escape. Don't ever stick your hand into a flathead's mouth to dislodge a hook; use pliers instead. Otherwise, you might get your hand back minus some skin.

Cane Pole

When fishing with cane poles, some anglers make the mistake of tying line only to the end of the cane. If the tip breaks, the fish is gone. Instead, run line along the whole length, starting just above where you'll hold the pole. Tie the line here, then wrap a piece of electrical tape around the tie to secure it. Tape the line at several evenly spaced points along the pole, concluding with a piece of tape that secures the line at the tip of the pole. Leave a length of line beyond the tip that's equal to the length of the pole. Once the line is rigged with terminal tackle, you can adjust the length as necessary by wrapping or unwrapping it at the tip. Tie it off with an overhand knot.

Tree Well Shelter

Snow is not necessarily an enemy to a person stranded or lost in a blizzard. In fact, it is a great insulator, and if you know how to build a propper snow shelter, it'll keep you safe and warm for a short period. One quick, and effective snow shelter can be made in a tree well (the depression around a tree's trunk that is protected from snow by the canopy of branches above it). First, construct a framework of branches and bows around the lowest branches. Then, dig a side cave in the well by tunneling away form the tree. Evergreen boughs laid on the floor of this cave make a comfortable sleeping place that can be as much as 40 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.

Let other hunters drive deer to you
When hunting highly pressured areas, spend some time scouting other hunters. Try to find trail markers, tree stands and ground blinds near easy access points in your area. Then pinpoint the thickest and ugliest cover in the woods that is located directly away from the hunting pressure.

-Travis Faulkner

Clay Oven

You can make a camp oven in a clay stream bank. Hammer a sharp pole, about as thick as your forearm, straight down into the bank about three feet back from the edge. Then, a foot or so down the side of the bank, scoop out the size oven you want. The entrance should be narrower than the inside. Dig as far back as the pole, then pull the pole out to form a chimney. Give the interior a hard coating by smoothing and resmoothing it with wet hands. Kindle a small fire within to harden this lining.

Lift A Buck Alone

In a pinch, one man can hoist a deer more or less off the ground. Field-dress the animals first to reduce the weight. Next, cut a gambrel slit in each hind leg. Find a straight pole at least 15 feet long and strong enough to support the carcass. Lean one end in a tree fork with the other end on the ground. With the animal on its back, pull its hind legs up on either side of the pole and insert the gambrel stick through the hind leg slits on the top side of the pole. Then, grasping each end of the gambrel, push or pull the game up the leaning pole until it's off the ground. Tie the gambrel to the pole to secure.

A lake map will save you time finding underwater structure.

Reflector Oven

Reflector ovens are great for baking biscuits, casseroles, pies and more. You can buy one in a store, but it can be bulky to carry to a campsite. A makeshift reflector oven can be made by cutting two forked sticks and driving them in the ground near your campfire about 2 to 3 feet apart. Lay another stick between the two forks. Wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the top stick three or four times to secure it, then stretch it from the stick to the ground at an angle, securing it at the bottom with a heavy stick laid across it side to side. Now cover the sides with additional pieces of foil and you're ready to bake.

Whistle Stop

When you jump a cottontail from its cover, stop it in its tracks with a loud, shrill whistle. Some rabbits totally ignore the sound, but many will freeze where they are the moment they hear the whistle, allowing extra seconds for you to shoot before the rabbit disappears.

Cork It

Use Cork from a wine bottle to camouflage your face when hunting. Singe the end of the cork with a lighter or match, and then rub the black residue on your face.

Find North

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, use the North Star to determine which direction is North. To find it, locate the Big Dipper, then follow a line starting with the two stars that form the front end (opposite the handle) of its "cup." These point to the North Star (Polaris), which always lies directly over the north of the horizon.

Right a Canoe

If you've overturned your canoe and another craft is nearby, this method can be used to upright your canoe. Step 1: Transfer all gear from the overturned canoe to the rescue boat and maneuver the overturned craft so it sits at a 90-degree angle to the rescue craft. Step 2: The paddler or paddlers of the overturned canoe should swim to the end of the canoe farthest from the rescue boat and push down on the end of the craft to help break the suction. This allows the rescuer to lift the opposite end of the canoe up on to the gunwales of his boat. At this point, the paddlers of the overturned canoe should swim to the rescue boat and hold on. Step 3: The rescuer then slides the overturned canoe upside-down across the gunwales amidships until it is centered. The canoe is then rolled upright, slid back into the water and pushed to where the passengers can carefully re-board.

Keep your scent high
When hunting the lee slope of a ridge (a good spot to ambush traveling bucks), keep your stand high enough on the slope so it sits above ridge line. Your scent will be carried over the trees instead of being drawn downward.

-Bill Winke

Find food and thick stuff
Thick cover adjacent to hidden food or water sources is a prime location during midday. Hunt secluded orchards and acorn-rich oak stands next to dense bedding areas. Concentrate on water sources, even through rifle season.

Build a Solar Still

A solar still is one of the best methods for obtaining water in apparently dry areas. In a low, unshaded area, dig a hole 1.5 feet deep and 3 feet in diameter. Place a can or jar in the center of the hole and cover the hole with a large sheet of plastic, sealing the edges with dirt and rocks. Put a rock in the center of the plastic directly above the container. Moisture is drawn from the earth beneath the sheet. The water then runs down and drips into your container. Greenery, such as chunks of cactus, lining the hole will increase production. Depending on conditions, you might produce one pint to one quart of water daily.

Make A Tip-Up

A very simple but ingenious contrivance enables a single ice fisherman to tend fishing lines dropped in several icefishing holes. Fasten a small signal flag at the end of a light rod 1 to 2 feet long; a piece of any brightly colored material will do. The rod is bound with twine at a right angle to a second stick, with the majority of the rod, including the end to which the flag is tied, to one side, and merely a few inches of the rod to the other. To this short end, the line and baited hook are fastened. The contraption is then place across the ice hole, with the ends of the larger stick lying some inches upon the ice at either side, and the line is dropped into the hole. When a fish is hooked, it struggles raise the flag, signaling the angler.

Moo-Ving in for the Kill

A quiet day and you're trying to approach ducks by crawling through thick reeds, the noise you make will invariably spook birds before you're in range. If cattle are around, try this: say "Moo" loudly as you sneak, being as cowlike as possible. Don't laugh - it works like a charm. Ducks will tolerate cows, but not you.

Trap Fish

Fish Weirs are very useful for catching both freshwater and saltwater fish. Drive stakes into the bottom in shallow water to create a rectangular fence with three sides, the open end facing downstream. Next, create an angled wall that points to the middle of the trap, allowing fish to enter, but not exit.

Latch On

Leeches are among the best baits for walleyes. Just make you're using the right kind. Ribbon leeches, which have firm bodies, are preferred. Don't use a horseleech or medicine leech with its soft, squishy body.

Stop Scratching

The wide-ranging jewelweed plant, also known as impatients and touch-me-not, has long been used to stop the itching caused by poison ivy. Gently rub the affected area with the juice from the jewelweed's leaves or stems and let dry. Some practitioners boil cut-up leaves, stems and flowers and then swab the blisters with the resulting orange decoction, a treatment as effective as cortisone creams for itch relief.

Jiggerpole Bass

Jiggerpoling is an old-time method for catching big bass. To do it, you need a long pole -- a 14-foot cane pole is ideal. Run heavy line along the length of the pole and secure it at regular intervals with tape. Leave a foot of line beyond the tip and tie on a topwater, like a Heddon Dowagiac or Creek Chub Pikie. The idea is to make it appear as if a small fish is chasing an even smaller fish on the surface. This is done by tapping the pole tip on the water ahead of the lure as you pull the lure around. Strikes come suddenly.

Remove a Hook

Here's a relatively painless way to remove a barbed hook if you've been accidentally punctured. Use it only for minor injuries. If a fishhook is lodged anywhere near the eye or an artery do not attempt to remove it. Leave the hook in place and get to the nearest medical professional immediately. 1. Cut a 2-foot length of line or leader, preferably 12-pound-test or greater. 2. Loop the line around the inside bend of the hook and grasp securely. 3. While a buddy pushes downward on the eye of the hook, give a quick, firm jerk on the line away form the eye and parallel to the skin. 4. Note the look of amazement on your friends faces and continue fishing.

Hunting for the Birds

Incoming foxes and coyotes are often accompanied by magpies or other birds. Stay alert if you see a squawking bird approaching your calling position or motion decoy. Chances are good an unseen predator is nearby and closing in.

Look For Blood

When tracking a wounded animal, don't stay focused only on the ground. Look for blood higher up on the sides of trees, on grass heads, and on stems of brush. Sometimes we're so intent at looking for traces on the forest floor, that we completely miss clues off the ground.

Make an Emergency Seine

In small bodies of water where minnows and other aquatic animals are plentiful, a net improvised from a shirt or other piece of cloth stretched between two sticks can be used as a seine to catch something to eat. Push it before you as you work your way toward a small cove or bank. When you reach the shallowest part of the water, lift it quickly and remove the catch. At times, this method yields more food than fishing with a hook and line.

Take A Seat

Need a seat in the swamp? Build a hunting stool from two pieces of 2X4. Determine a comfortable height for your seat, and then add about 1 foot. Cut the first board to this length. Next, cut two angled pieces from the end of this board, forming a point you can push into the bottom of the marsh. Cut a smaller piece of board for the seat. Attach the two pieces of wood together with wood screws os the finished result is a T-shaped. seat. Finish the stool with camouflage-colored paint, and you can relax on your next marsh waterfowl hunt.

Trap A Mouse

Got a mouse problem at camp but no mousetrap? Improvise with a piece of writing paper and a large can or jar. Fasten the paper over the top of the can or jar with a rubber band or string. In the center of the paper cut a large X. Set the trap beside something that the rodent can climb onto. Then suspend a piece of cheese over the X. As the mouse goes for the bait, it'll fall through the slits and into the container.

Know your calls
Grunt: Best during pre-rut, when bucks are challenging each other.

Doe Bleat: Anytime to arouse curiosity. Best used during early bow season.

Distressed Fawn Bleat: Anytime. Best for attracting does -- it can bring'em running.

Buck Roar: Possibly during the pre-rut, to challenge another, larger buck.

-Andrew McKean

Don't fish every piece of cover -- concentrate only on those that fit your pattern.

Sturgeons Big and Small

Members of the sturgeon family are the largest fish inhabiting the fresh waters of North America, and some are also among the smallest. The white sturgeon (shown here), which is found in rivers along the Pacific Coast, has been known to reach a weight of almost a ton, and today's anglers of the Pacific Northwest commonly catch whites in the 200- to 300-pound range. Shovelnoses, on the other hand seldom weigh more than 10 pounds in their Midwestern home waters.

Camp Vise

Should the need for a vise arise in camp, you can make one by cutting a sapling 5 or 6 inches in diameter about 2 feet above the ground, and splitting the stump downward through the center. Pry open the jaws of the split with an ax or wedge to insert the article you wish to work on. Then remove the wedge and the object should be secure. If there's not enough pressure to hold the object, put a rope around the stump just below the object, rig a tourniquet with a stick and twist the stick to tighten.

Call a Moose

A traditional tool for calling in bull moose during the fall rut is a piece of birch bark rolled into a funnel - a megaphone of sorts - that will amplify the come-hither sound of a cow moose ready to breed. Specific calling techniques vary greatly from caller to caller, but a good way to get started is to make a throaty "moo" similar to a bovine cow, but much deeper in timbre. Call every 15 to 20 minutes.

Spit Roasting

Here's how to properly turn a hunk of spitted meat over flames. It is one of our oldest and simplest cooking methods, ideal for preparing anything from a haunch of venison to a bluegill. For the spit, choose wood like green oak or hickory that won't impart a bad taste to the food. Ideally, it'll have a fork at one end so you can use it for turning. Shave the spit to flatten it along two opposite sides (this prevents the stick from rotating inside the food). Turn the food as it broils, basting with drippings caught in a pad or curved slab of bark placed beneath it.

Rig A Snare

In a survival situation, snares are a good way to catch some food. They can be made from wire, fishing line, twine, strips of leather or cloth, rope or even shoelaces. Step One: When using wire or other stiff material, bend the tip over and twist several times to form an eye. Then run the wire's other end through the eye to form the noose. When using more pliant materials, make a loop that's closed with a slipknot. Step Two: Suspend the noose in a game trail, den hole entrance or other spot where animals are likely to pass. The noose should be large enough for the animal's head to pass through, but not its shoulders , so it will draw tight and hold the forward moving animal. Step Three: Attache each snare to a solid anchor such as a nearby tree or a stake driven into the ground.

Eat Bugs

Eating insects may seem repugnant, but these creatures provide calories, protein and vitamins in an emergency. Be sure to cook all insects before eating. A. Bees: One bee larva has the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D. B. Caterpillars/Grubs: Avoid hairy or fuzzy types. Grasshoppers/Crickets: These were roasted and ground into flour by the ancient greeks. D. Cicadas: Pluck the wings and use in a soup or stew. E. Ants: Common foods in parts of Brazil and Africa. F. Termites: Said to taste like pineapple. Just 3.5 ounces have a whopping 347 calories.

Plankton Paddles

Paddlefish get their name from their long, flattened, paddle-like snouts, which many anglers assume they use to dislodge food from the bottom. But the paddle is really not used for digging; it's equipped with super-sensitive nerve endings that enable it to "feel" for suspended plankton, the fish's main food.

To maximize your time on the water, work your lure parallel to the bank to hit as much cover as possible with each cast.

Go nuts
You can never, I repeat never, go wrong by locating a stand near mast that falls, heaping and fresh, 50 to 100 yards off a field or cutover. Most does and bucks will stop to nibble the acorns or soft mast before heading out to a main feeding area after dark. Try to find one or two trees that will rain nuts (white oaks are best).

-Michael Hanback

Photo: Cupcakes2

Walk like a deer
Mix up your foot-fall cadence as you go so you don't sound like a human invader.
-Darren Warner

Get your Bearings

One way to determine direction without the aid of a compass is to drive a straight 3-foot-long stick into the ground in a sunny location and set a stone where the tip of its shadow falls on the ground. Wait 20 minutes and then place another rock in the spot where the tip of the shadow has moved. The first marker indicates the west end of a line running between the two rocks; the second marks the east.

Directions from a Watch

You can use a watch that has hour and minute hands to get an accurate indication of north and south (depending on which hemisphere you are in). This technique is most reliable on a clear day when you can see the sun, but if it's cloudy, simply look for the brightest area of the sky. Northern Hemisphere: Point the hour hand of your watch at the sun. South will be halfway between the hour hand and the 12 o'clock mark. Southern Hemisphere: Point the 12 o'clock mark of your watch at the sun. North lies halfway between 12 and the hour hand.

Natural Finish

The pitch of western North America's Sitka spruce can be melted and used as a protective varnish-like coat on wood.

Tarsal Gland Attractant

Whitetails have external scent glands that play a significant role in their communication and behavior. One gland of this type is the tarsal gland, which appears as an erect tuft of hairs and thickened skin on the inner part of the hind legs. This gland turns almost black as bucks urinate on it during the rut. Scent from tarsal glands works as a visual and olfactory signal of a mature buck, as an ID for individual deer and to advertise sexual identity to receptive does. Use a knife to carefully remove these glands from freshly killed deer and place them in a container near your hunting site in hopes another deer will investigate. The glands' pungent odor will permeate the area and act as a deer attractant or agitator.

Slow your retrieve or wait longer to set the hook if bass are coming to the boat lip-hooked.

Don't rush your rattling
One of the biggest mistakes would-be rattlers make is being too impatient. If you're calling while still-hunting, give it some time before moving on. The best and wisest bucks are generally wary. They will invariably approach from the downwind side and come in cautiously. I rattle in three segments. First I rattle not too loudly, just incase I've gotten in close to a deer. I'll then wait four or five minutes and rattle all out and wait another five minutes or so and rattle all out again. After this I'll wait for 10 or 15 minutes and repeat the sequence. You will almost always kill your deer downwind. There will be exceptions, but the exceptions will be younger bucks.

-John Wootters

Season your washer
To avoid tainting your hunting clothes with perfumes, UV brighteners or other additives found in regular detergent, wash a couple of loads of street clothes with scent-suppressing soap before washing your hunting clothes. Or, hand-wash your hunting clothes in a tub or wash basin that is never exposed to conventional laundry soap.

-Phillip Vanderpool

Photo: [Charles and Clint](t http://www.flickr.com/photos/dad_and_clint/324482539/)

Wheelin' It Out

The best way to move an animal, other than with a horse or having it fall next to a road, is to wheel it on a cart. Don't use a two-wheeled card. They're cumbersome in the woods and require a wide trail. A one-wheeled cart will go practically anywhere.

Wild Chewing Gum

If you run out of Dentyne in the woods, you can chew on the hardened pitch or resin of a variety of trees, including the sweetgum (left) and sugar pine (right).

Build a Bivouac Shelter

Bivouacs reflect a fire's warmth, serve as a windbreak and provide overhead shelter in emergency situations. They can be erected without tools in an hour if you are in an area with downed timber or less if you find a makeshift ridgepole such as a leaning or partly fallen tree to support the boughs.

Step One: Wedge a ridgepole into the lower forks of two closely growing trees (one end can rest on the ground, if necessary) or support each end of the ridgepole with a tripod of upright poles lashed together near the top.

Step Two: Tilt branches or poles against the ridgepole to make a frame. To strengthen it, interlace boughs through the poles at right angles.

Step Three: Thatch the lean-to with slabs of bark and/or leafy or pine-needle branches. Chink with sod, moss or snow to further insulate.

Tater Alternatives

Many wild plants have starchy roots, corms or tubers that can be boiled, fried or baked as potato substitutes. A. Spring Beauty or Fairy Spud: The marble-size corms of this flower have a nut-like flavor and are excellent when boiled or used in stews. B. Yellow Pond Lily: This aquatic plant's large root was an important food for eastern American Indian tribes. C. Arrowhead: Dig tubers from the mud with your toes and collect them as they float to the surface. Cook like potatoes. D. Jerusalem Artichoke: The tubers of this plant, native to Eurasia and found in 42 U.S. states, can be eaten raw, pickled or sliced into a salad.

Be a squirrel
Periodically use a squirrel call to disguise your movement as you make your way to your stand.

-Darren Warner

Photo: Gordon E. Robertson

Dead stand--or is it?
If you've spent hours hunting from a stand but haven't seen anything, don't be too quick to move. Spend enough time to let your good stands produce. For example I once hunted a stand 12 mornings out of 14 before shooting a nice buck from it. The stand was in a good spot and the conditions favored it for many reasons. My experience told me to stick it out.

-Bill Winke

Photo: Dooneling

Scale a Fish Cleanly

To keep fish scales from flying all over when you're cleaning your catch, scale the fish underwater in a dishpan or sink.

Fly Bane

Flies are repelled by stinging nettle plants. Use bunches of freshly cut stems as a repellant in food cupboards. Replace them when they dry out..

Wild Chocolate

A good chocolate substitute can be made from a paste of the ground fruits and and flowers of the American basswood tree. The basswood tree's range includes much of Central and Eastern North America. Attempts were once made to market this product, but they failed because the paste is quick to decompose.

Natural Brillo

Horsetail plants, also known as scouring rushes, grow in moist soils throughout much of North America. The stems are very rich in silica, which makes them useful for scouring pots and polishing metal and wood. They also can be used as fine sandpaper. For best results, the stems should first be bleached by repeated wetting and drying in the sun.

Find the high ground in a marsh
An old buck will stand and even bed in water and mud for a day or two if that is what it takes to save his hide, but a deer will not set up housekeeping in a marsh that does not afford dry places to bed. Find a dry secluded spot in a marsh and you'll find deer.

-Gary Clancy

Photo: Inawe

Soap on a Poke

Many people love eating "poke sallet," the delicious cooked young shoots of pokeweed, a common plant with dark purple berries. Most folks aren't aware, however, that the root of pokeweed (A) is rich in saponins and can be used as a soap substitute. Cut the root into small pieces and simmer it in boiling water to obtain the soap.

Roots, leaves and stems of the Spanish bayonet, or yucca (B), also contain saponins and can be crushed and then soaked in water to release the suds, which make a good shampoo, body wash or laundry soap.

Natural Tea

Tea can be made by steeping the leaves or roots of many plants in hot water. Some have medicinal properties, but most are used simply because they taste good.

A. Blackberry and Dewberry: Leaves from the plants of the plants of these berries can be steeped to make a very flavorful tea.

B. Wild Strawberry: A tea made from the wild strawberry plant's leaves is exceptionally high in Vitamin C.

C. Sassafras: Tea made by steeping the aromatic roots in hot water has long been used as spring tonic.

D. Bee Balm, Or Oswego Tea: Leaves of this wild mint make a relaxing tea that is supposed to induce sleep.

E. Sweet Goldenrod: The anise-scented leaves can be used fresh or dried to make healthful tea

Stand-in Spices

Many wild plants have parts that can be prepared to make excellent substitutes for various herbs and spices. For example, the dried and powdered rhizome of the sweet flag (A) has a spicy flavor and was once used as a substitute for ginger, Purse (B) can be used as a peppery seasoning, and the fresh or dried root is a ginger substitute. The dried and powdered fruit of spicebush (C) can be used in place of allspice. Unopened buds of the familiar redbud tree (D) flavor foods in the same way as capers. And the pungent seeds of the peppergrass (E) are used, not surprisingly, as a pepper substitute.

Tater Alternatives

Many wild plants have starchy roots, corms or tubers that can be oiled, fried or baked as potato substitutes.

A. Spring Beauty or Fairy Spud: The marble-sized corms of this flower have a nut-like flavor and are excellent when boiled or used in stews.

B. Yellow Pond Lily: This aquatic plant's large root was an important food for Eastern American Indian Tribes.

C. Arrowhead: Dig tubers from the mud with your toes and collect them as they float to the surface. Cook like potatoes.

D. Jerusalem Artichoke: The tubers of this plant, native to Eurasia and found in 42 U.S. states, can be eaten raw, pickled or sliced into a salad.

Don't Sweat It

Perspiration is your greatest enemy on a cold day. Take every precaution to keep dry, even if it means stripping off layers of clothes as you walk in frigid temperatures to avoid sweating. If you sit for any length of time, working up a sweat beforehand will guarantee that you get chilled.

Motion Decoys

Before there were "robo-ducks," hunters used a simple trick to add action to their decoy spreads. Run some nylon line from your blind through the eye of a heavy anchor in the center of the spread and tie the line to the bill of a decoy floating over the anchor. When ducks begin to fly into range and notice your spread, a gentle tug on the line causes the decoy to tip up like a feeding duck -- a real magnet, especially when the water is calm.

Trap Crickets

A loaf of fresh-baked bread makes a great cricket trap that works while you sleep. Slice the loaf in half lengthwise, hollow out the middle and then secure the two halves back together with some string. Use a knife or your finger to punch a cricket-size hole from the outside to the inside on each end of the loaf and each side. Place the bread in a grassy area in the afternoon, and when you retrieve it the next morning, it should contain several crickets to use for bait.

An Ear that Can't Hear

The "ear" of a sunfish is really not an ear at all, but merely an extension of the gill cover that varies in color from species to species. The redear sunfish, for example, gets its name from the distinct red margin on its ear.

Got Ink?

An excellent black ink can be made by boiling the leaves and fruits of the staghorn sumac.

Hickory Milk

Nuts of shagbark hickories were a staple for many Indian tribes. The nuts were pounded into a mash and boiled in water, causing a white, oily liquid to separate from the broth. This liquid, called hickory milk, was said to be as sweet and rich as fresh cream and was used in cooking cornbread, hominy grits, soups and other foods.

Stake out Crossing

A beaver dam across a creek flowing into or out of a long lake often will be used by deer as a water crossing. Look for sign such as tracks and trails, and if they are present, take a stand nearby where you have an unobstructed view. These crossing may be used any time of day.

We dug through the OL archives to bring you 75 tips, hints, facts and secrets to make you a better fisherman, hunter and outdoorsman. Let the learning begin.