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By Lee McClellan
Ky. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources
It's the time of year for resolutions that make us feel good for a few days after making them, but lie in the junk heap of our actions by Valentine's Day.
For those who love to hunt and fish, a few resolutions for next year that should be kept will make each hunting or fishing trip much better in 2013.
Bring a good lunch: It is amazing how much planning goes into hunting or fishing trips. Buying the correct shotshells, replacing shot-through duck decoys, searching every tackle store within 100 miles for a card of the jigs that fooled the 6-pounder last year; these are the things hunters and anglers routinely do before a trip.
After all of that trouble to get everything in line for the special day, many hunters and anglers pick up their lunch at the convenience store on their way to the woods, field or lake. Buying lunch at such an establishment empowers our worst desires, so the meal consists of a can of Vienna sausages, candy bars, a pack or two of cheese crackers and soda to wash it down.
Save money and improve nutritional value by making a good lunch at home before leaving on your trip. A peanut butter, banana and sunflower seed sandwich on a firm, whole grain bread lasts all day without a cooler. Bring along a mixture of nuts in a sandwich bag along with some beef jerky for a protein boosting snack and some fresh fruit. This lunch, instead of highly processed mystery meats with sugary junk food as a side, will give the energy needed in late afternoon when the 7-pounder strikes or the 10-pointer appears from a thicket near your stand.
Respect those who mentor or offer their equipment: When someone mentors a hunter or angler or loans them equipment, they give a gift to the future of these arts. Show appreciation for the gift by offering to buy lunch for the mentor or give a small gift to those who lent you a shotgun or quality fishing rod. If someone offers you a spot on the back of their boat, give them gas money or make lunch for both of you. With the price of gas at or near all time highs, a day at the lake quickly turns expensive for the boat owner.
A vehicle towing a boat gets horrid gas mileage, often 12 miles per gallon or less. This expense in combination with the cost of boat gas makes a day at the lake easily a three-figure expense for the boat owner. By helping offset this cost, you remove some of the financial stress on the boat owner and move into prime position for a return invite.
Use the winter downtime for extensive equipment maintenance and repair: The stretch of winter from the first of January until early March usually brings a strong bout of cabin fever for the hunter or angler. Dreary winter days are great for the time-consuming major maintenance on your rifles, shotguns and fishing reels. Completely break down and clean your shotguns and rifles. The trigger assembly often gets overlooked during the routine cleaning of hunting season. Take this time to disassemble, inspect, clean and lubricate the trigger assembly.
Remove the handle and spool on your spinning reels. Use high quality reel oil and grease; those that form a molecular bond to the metal work extremely well. Clean and oil the main shaft that holds the spool. Apply a drop or two of oil to the roller bearing on your bail and to the handle shaft. Remove the side plate and apply one of the new reel cleaning solutions to dissolve old grease and remove debris. Pour out the gunk and let the inside of the reel dry.
Remember to lightly grease the worm gear at the bottom of the reel and drive gear toward the spool. Oil the bearing assemblies. On baitcasting reels, remove the spool assembly, usually via a turnkey on the reel's side plate. Clean any debris from the exterior of the reel with a toothbrush soaked in rubbing alcohol. Clean the inside of the pinion gear on the side opposite the turnkey and clean the spool assembly. Oil the spool bearing or bushing if so equipped. Never grease the spool shaft or you'll adversely affect the freespool performance of the reel. It will also make a funny noise when casting if you grease the spool shaft.
Upgrade fishing equipment with winter clearance sales: This is the best time of year to buy a quality spinning, baitcast or fly reel. Manufacturers introducing new models often unload the older models at fire sale prices in January and February. The clearance reels are just fine, considered the newest and latest model last summer. Check the clearance pages on websites of large catalog outfitters and you'll be surprised at the deals you'll find on high end reels and rods. The performance difference between a reel at the low end of the market and one from the high end is night and day. You'll enjoy the high end equipment much more. You get what you pay for in fishing equipment more than any other recreational gear.
The much longer service life of the quality reel saves money in the long run. As anglers gain experience, they want the performance features of the higher quality equipment. A common mistake is starting out buying the cheapest stuff on the market, then buying a marginally more expensive reel as experience demands before stepping up to a quality reel. If you save and buy a normally expensive reel at half-price on clearance, you'll avoid the cost of buying the cheaper reels and enjoy your fishing days much more.
This same progression often occurs with fishing rods as well. The light weight, sensitivity and casting performance of a fishing rod from a quality manufacturer blows away the cheap rod off the department store rack. Look for great deals on rods right now as well as on breathable waders, wade boots and rain gear.
Really good fishing sunglasses make a huge difference in seeing under the surface of the water and protecting eyes from UV rays emitted by the sun. The lenses on the better fishing sunglasses offer much greater clarity and they also retain their comfort all day long. Look for excellent deals on fishing sunglasses right now.
Instead of discarding your New Year's resolutions before spring, use these to make your hunting and fishing trips much more productive and enjoyable in 2013.