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8

The mola mola, aka sunfish, is a fairly common sight for us Southern California anglers. I’ve seen them as far north as Santa Monica Bay, and then south to deep below the Mexican border off the Baja coast. Typically, you’ll see a big shadow in the water and wonder, Whoa! What’s that? And then you see it’s a mola and you’re disappointed. I don’t know anyone who’s eaten one and never seen one bite a hook. They eat jellyfish, so how are you going to bait up for them?

I’ve never known much about them until recently coming across the following blog post from The Nature Conservancy.

mola_eggWhen it hatches, a Mola mola is the size of a pinhead but will grow to be the heaviest bony fish in the ocean—and the weirdest.

The weirdness begins with the eggs. A female Mola mola or ocean sunfish produces more eggs than any other vertebrate on earth.

One modest-sized female had an estimate 300 million eggs inside her.

At birth, the baby fish are protected by a star-shaped transparent covering that looks like someone put an alien head inside of a Christmas ornament—albeit a very small only a tenth of an inch across.

Even as a baby, the Mola mola has its parents’ surprised look with the wide eye and open mouth.

Photos: The Nature Conservancy

17

If you walk down the aisle of a tackle store, navigating the soft plastics section can be daunting to even the most experienced angler. It is a dizzying array of shapes, sizes, colors, and scents. How do you make sense of it all? Once you settle in on some packages of plastic lures, then you have to figure out how you’re going to rig them as you stroll down the hook aisle. You ask for help and you wonder whether or not the salesman really knows what they’re talking about.

It’s enough to make you abandon your shopping cart and run screaming out of the store. This article from Wired2Fish breaks down the mystery of fishing with soft plastics.

soft-plastic-baits-for-bass-fishingThe best way to develop your feel for bites is by bassfishing with soft plastics. It requires patience to fish with these lures generally speaking because you have to feel the fish pick up or bite the lure, often when it’s not moving. There won’t be a big splash like a topwater or a hard tug like a crankbait. And knowing which plastic to use for different situations for bass fishing will eliminate a lot of wasted time on the water.

This category could take ages to explain so we’ll try to keep it as simple as possible. Soft plastics are essentially combinations of salt, plastic, sand, glitter, and coloring shaped and formed into anything that can be perceived to be alive by a bass. There is an amazing array of colors, shapes and sizes when it comes to soft plastics and there are hundreds of different types plastics available.

Photos: Wired2Fish

22

Trying to film a bull elk up close during the rut is a bad idea; the tourists in this video learned that the hard way.

The annual Autumn elk rut is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Yellowstone National Park.

Each year, thousands of tourists observe and photograph elk herds from their cars along the park’s roads.

But the rut can be a highly volatile time of year to observe elk, especially the bulls.

During the rut, bull elk become irritable, aggressive and fiercely protective of their females.

In this video, some elk watchers try to get too close to an aggressive bull elk in one of Yellowstone’s more pedestrian parks.

To defend his females, the bull elk lets out his mighty bugle and rams his huge rack into the tourists’ cars. Some of the yahoos in this video were lucky the didn’t get hurt.

The bull elk bugle is one of the most incredible sounds in nature. It can be heard for miles in open territory, and Yellowstone National Park has plenty of that.

During the summer, the park’s wide swath of land plays host to 10,000-20,000 elk across 6-7 different herds.

Have you observed elk during the rut in Yellowstone National Park? Share your experience in the comments section below.

23

SD Turkey 2014 2 075Years ago, I worked within 100 yards of a flock of turkeys feeding in a lightly rolling pasture. To get closer, I slid a Thunder Chicken decoy in front of me to cover the approach. I had gotten barely 20 yards when the gobblers were at point-blank range, my first experience of toms attacking a decoy. Since that day, having a half gobbler decoy with natural feathers has been a staple and almost always works.

The Thunder Chicken is compact, light, and allows for easy natural fan attachment. The red, white, and blue colors of the gobbler front are realistic and toms often run right up to the decoy.

This year, I tried the Mojo Scoot-N-Shoot, a semi-gobbler decoy with a few additions. First, it has skirts on each side which cover more movement as you scoot along behind the decoy. Additionally, it has a single post in the middle which acts as a handle so that you can crawl (or scoot) and hold the decoy erect. For example, I spotted a flock of Rios along a river bank and had to circle a mile to cross the stream and then relocate the birds. Moving slowly, I glassed the thick river bottom cover, realizing that I had to see them before they saw me. Luckily, the flock crossed an opeing where I spotted them at 150 yards. I closed half that distance by moving from tree to tree and the presented the decoy as the gobbler strutted behind a patch of choke cherry saplings. With all the birds out of sight, I slipped within 25 yards of the cover, SD Turkey 2014 250when turkeys began to puck the alarm. Ordinarily, I’d have been busted, but I popped up the Shoot-N-Scoot and the flock immediately settled down. Holding the decoy in my left hand and the shotgun in my right, I slowly approached. Suddenly, the strutting tom emerged from behind the choke cherries at 25 yards. It saw the decoy, strutted, but then became suspicious as my Mossberg 20-gauge raised. Too late! The gun discharged and the tom went down. It was the first time I’ve tried a Rooster Cogburn shot.

The Thunder Chicken and the Mojo decoys work very well, but always keep safety in mind. Never use them on public land or where a hunter could mistake you for the real thing. Follow the precautions from the manufacturer to the letter. For more information about these products, check mojooutdoors.com for the Scoot-N-Shoot and flextonegamecalls.com for the Thunder Chicken.

21

SD Turkey 2014 294Tall rubber boots have been a staple of deer hunters for years. Irish Setter’s ExoFlex boots fit so well and travel so comfortably, I wore a pair hunting elk in Wyoming last year. Thing is… they make great turkey boots as well.

Thanks to Federal Express, I was able to nab a pair one day before a recent turkey trip, so I wore them with no break-in time. Ordinarily, this is a real no-no for any boot, yet the ExoFlex fits so snugly and comfortably there was no rubbing or abrasion. Pick up a pair of these in a sporting goods store and your first impression is how light they are.

I hunted one morning by sitting in two inches of snow and my feet stayed warm with a single pair of socks. At 17 inches tall, they allow you to ford most streams or slosh around in swamps without getting your feet wet. They go on easily and come off the same way. Check out ExoFlex boots at irishsetterboots.com.

20

SD Turkey 2014 2 118Jacob was the son-in-law of one of the camp members and my hunting partner for the afternoon. I was told that he’d never hunted turkeys before, so I ran through a list of firearm safety rules that I’d work into a conversation later on. Jacob was about 30 years old, tall, and in good shape. I had high hopes after our brief meeting. We were in the field only a few minutes when we had to cross a creek by walking a narrow tree trunk that made a tenuous bridge. Before crossing, he broke the action of his single shot shotgun and asked when he should load up for the hunt. Obviously, he had been trained in firearm safety and I asked about his background. He was using a custom Rossi 12-gauge single shot with a TRUGLO choke tube and front sight.

“I joined the Marine Corps in 2006 and deployed in Iraq with the Second Marine Battalion, Fifth Marines in ’07, did two tours with the Navy, and then in 2010 deployed to Afghanistan with the Second Battalion First Marines,” he replied.

I was instantly humbled and my mind swirled at the mere thought of the ordeals this man had endured for my freedom.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yeah. I was lucky and came back in great shape.”

“How about PTSD?” I asked, not wanting that terrible affliction to slide by without attempting to address it.

“No,” he responded. “I’m okay there too.”

SD Turkey 2014 2 137With a lump in my throat, we crossed the slender bridge, Jacob loaded the Rossi, and we headed toward a distant pasture where I’d seen three gobblers strutting just after dawn. As I paused to glass, Jacob leaned over and picked up a shed antler still in great shape. A perfect souvenir of the hunt, I slid it in his pack  next to the fan from a big Rio gobbler I’d taken earlier that morning, and we were off again.

What once was a casual hunting event between two individuals was now for me a matter of national honor. What a privilege to accompany this young man. In a similar way, the turkeys must have thought so too, as we traveled less than a quarter mile before  spotting black forms feeding in a shallow ravine. This would be the classic “fanning” technique, as three gobblers were henned up, well out of range, and not likely to approach any type of call.

I’d shown Jacob how the fanning process worked and we immediately began to crawl toward the crest of the ravine, trying to avoid prickly pear cactus hidden in the grass. Once there, Jacob slide up beside me and we estimated shooting distances. If the birds passed a patch of choke cherry in front of us, they would be in range.

I opened the turkey fan and simulated a strutting gobbler while calling on a diaphragm to catch their attention. Immediately the three toms began to strut and gobbled twice. Soon the lead bird closed from strut and headed our way, as I silently prayed, Please let this work.

Slowly the birds approached, strutting and gobbling at 75 yards. They had to pass through a thick patch of choke cherry, an SD Turkey 2014 2 141obstruction that could easily hang them up. When the birds disappeared in the cover, I whispered for Jacob to cock the shotgun and reassured the firing line. For long seconds we waited with no sign of the toms. I cut on the diaphragm and the gobblers thundered and then stepped into the clear, determined to take down this interloper. I’ve never seen gobbler heads so red, as every aggressive instinct in their body sent blood to their mating display.

“Shoot any time,” I whispered to Jacob and in seconds, the lead tom collapsed under the impact of the Rossi. “Reload, reload,” I whispered as the two other birds flew briefly up the hill, then considered flogging their buddy. Boom! Jacob filled his second tag in short order and then the celebration began. Wow! The hunt was less than an hour old and we had two big birds on the ground.

Jacob was absolutely jubilant about the success as we spent the next few minutes reliving the excitement. We finally came down to earth and took a few pictures. I remember saying, “Jacob, I’m as excited as you are…” I stopped, then added, “Okay, I’m not, but it’s close. “