Windham: Do trailcams help in your hunting excursions?

Trailcams can be an advantage when you are hunting. I set up a trailcam inside my blind to see what was in the area, and as you can see there were some turkeys in the area. This bachelor group showed up every day. The trailcam showed me the time of each photo so I knew when to be there when the season started.

It must be the time of year to think about trail cameras. I had two questions related to trailcams come my way this week. One reader was looking for a recommendation on which trailcam to purchase, the other reader wanted advice on whether trailcams were worth it for deer hunting. With respect to the query on trailcams and deer hunting, in order to really do your trailcam scouting “right” you need several cameras. So it is no small investment.

If everything works well, yes, these cameras can make a big difference. I think their primary advantage is that they can tell you if you are hunting in the right spot. If you put your cameras out and don’t see what you are looking for, it is time to move to a new spot. Trail cameras can shave weeks off the initial scouting process if you are hunting a new area.

If you find a spot which has what you want — for example, deer — then you also get to see when the deer is active in that location. Most trail cameras have the ability to time and date stamp each photo taken. Newer models not only time stamp the photo but they can send the photo directly to your phone. You can see everything that moves by your trailcam.

The first time I tried a trailcam, I was hunting for a nice gobbler in the spring season. I was hunting private ground but it was new to me. It was up in Custer County, so I couldn’t get there and scout every day. That’s why I decided to see if a trailcam could help me.

I set up my blind and staked it down. I set the trailcam on a tripod and secured that to the ground. I had the trailcam pointed out one of the shooting ports to a spot where the landowner had regularly seen turkeys.

I came back a few days later and sure enough, there were pictures of turkeys — lots of turkeys. The photos showed several small bachelor groups of toms. This was the right spot! Yep, trailcams can help you with your hunting.

Sauger

The topic of sauger fishing has come up recently. Many anglers in this part of the country aren’t familiar with this fish. They are a freshwater fish related to walleye. They look so much like a walleye that it is sometimes difficult to tell what you’ve caught. They may be distinguished from walleyes by the distinctly spotted dorsal fin and the lack of a white patch on the lower tail.

Sauger don’t grow as large as walleye. They generally average 1 to 3 pounds, but they do get bigger. Nebraska’s state record sauger was caught back in 1961 in the Missouri River by Betty Tepner of Plainview. The fish weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces.

One of the larger sauger I’ve ever seen was caught by local angler Bob Landberg. Landberg was fishing Sebelius Lake near Norton, Kansas. He caught what was then the new state record for Kansas.

Like most species of fish, springtime is spawning time. Sauger move upstream to spawn typically in 2 to 8 feet of water. A female can lay between 15,000 to 40,000 eggs for each pound of her body weight. Sauger fry hatch after 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the water temperature.

In this part of the country, some good spots to look for sauger are below checks or dams, and where feeder creeks or small streams flow into a bigger river. Sauger do well in cloudy, moving water often found in Nebraska. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has matched these traits to the region and stocked them in the Tri-County Canal system.

“A few years back we wondered if some stretches of the Tri-County canal system might support some sauger fisheries. There are lots of fish that move through that canal system including walleyes, but we thought that maybe sauger would be more likely to stay put in sections of the canal instead of moving downstream all the time, and perhaps they even might be able to reproduce in sections of that canal more so than walleyes can,” said Daryl Bauer, fisheries biologist with the NGPC.

“We began some sauger stockings in the canal starting in 1998. We have stocked sauger into locations like Plum Creek Canyon, Phillips Canyon, Gallagher Canyon and Midway Canyon,” Bauer said. “Those stockings have amounted to several thousand fish since 1998.”

Bauer also told me that he found a record of stocking sauger in Lake McConaughy back in 1959. It is possible that some of those fish could have come down through the Nebraska Public Power District canal system and the North Platte River and established small, isolated populations along the way.

I’ve fished for sauger many times over the years. My best success catching sauger has been in the Missouri River. The best baits for me have been minnows. It is tough to beat live bait. My next favorite bait is a brightly colored lead-head bucktail jigs or twister tails. The murkier the water, the brighter color the lure so the sauger can see it.

Sauger can provide excellent angling opportunities, and excellent table fare. Light duty gear and fishing very slowly is the order of the day. It won’t be too long before its time to look for sauger below the checks in the Tri-County Canal. You might see me out there. Good luck.

Maxwell Outdoor Expo

Make a note on your calendar. The Maxwell Outdoor Expo and Wild Game Feed is Saturday. The event begins with five-stand shooting at Camp Maranatha, Trap Shooting at the Maxwell Gun Club and a 3-D archery shoot at Tobey’s Place. Just go south of town to Fort McPherson, and you’ll see the signs.

The Expo at the First Baptist Church will begin at 4 p.m. There will be youth archery and airsoft ranges for the kids, fishing forecast seminars and presentation on wildlife photography and how to deal with injuries in the field. The Wild Game Feed will start at 6 p.m. Call Russ Tobey at 308-530-2229 for more information. See you there!

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