Loxahatchee Boat Ramp During the Coronavirus Pandemic

People are seen fishing at the Loxahatchee Boat Ramp in Coral Springs, Florida on Wednesday. Even while practicing social distancing, people can still enjoy the outdoors.

I’ve been home less than a week during the COVID-19 shutdown, and I’ll be honest I’m getting a little cabin fever. Of course rain and cold weather have not allowed much time to get outdoors, which is a great way to get away from other people and avoid getting exposed to the virus!

Here are some things that you might consider doing, if you are like me and need help getting through this time at home.

Clean your firearms — You probably cleaned your rifle and shotguns after the hunting seasons, but here is a time to go through the safe and give everything a good cleaning and coat of oil. Here are some tips from the experts at Beretta Firearms for cleaning your guns:

• Today’s firearms are rather easy to disassemble, but if you’ve got any questions make sure and read the manual. The last thing you want to do is bend a part because you’re forcing something when the gun should come apart easily. Keep the manual in the case where you store your gun for quick reference, or get on the Internet and search for the manual if you’ve lost yours.

• If your ammo is stored in the same workspace where you are going to clean your gun, then you need to find a new gun cleaning location. Not a month goes by where I don’t read a newspaper article about someone cleaning their firearm and accidentally shooting themself, even though they were sure the gun was unloaded.

• Don’t just grab whatever cleaning solution is under your sink. Use proper gun cleaning formulas. Hoppe’s is one of the most popular and has been around forever.

• In addition to the gun cleaner, there are a few other items you need to properly clean your gun. These include Q-tips (or pipe cleaners) for the hard to reach places, a towel or rag to wipe the gun off when you’re done with it, the rod and brushes to clean the barrel, and patches to run down the barrel. You can visit most sporting goods stores to buy an inexpensive cleaning kit that contains all of these items.

• Don’t forget about the magazines. When you clean your gun, you should also clean all of the magazines you’ve used in the last 500 rounds. Most pistol magazines quickly disassemble for easy cleaning.

• Always wear eye protection. A spring may pop out of a gun or a chemical could splash into your eye. Before you even start taking your gun apart for cleaning, put on your safety glasses first.

• Don’t forget to function test your gun. After you’ve cleaned your gun and put it back together, you need to make sure it works. With a safe and empty gun, and a safe backstop, pull the trigger to see if it properly “fires.” Also, make sure the trigger resets properly when you rack the slide.

The experts say it should take about 30 minutes to clean each rifle, shotgun or pistol. Like anything practice makes this process easier, so break out the gun cleaning kit and get to it.

Get those fishing rods and reels ready — getting ready for fishing season is much like getting ready for hunting seasons, but we tend not to think of it that way until we are at the lake or pond and make that first cast. Take a little time now to get things ready and you will have much less frustration when the actual lake time comes.

There is a little more to getting rods and reels ready than just changing the line, although that is a big part. Here are some tips to help you clean, organize and prepare your fishing gear for the season.

• Removing old line is a first step for any rod and reel. Line deteriorates as it sits on the reel. Even if it is still in good shape, it may have developed memory that will cause it to not flow smoothly off the reel during the cast. So, you may want to remove any old line and start over.

• Monofilament has the shortest lifespan of all lines and, at a minimum, should be replaced each season. Superline can last several years. Fluorocarbon can be used for a couple seasons, depending on usage and product quality. Dispose of old line at a line recycling collection bin.

• Reels need routine cleaning and lubrication to perform their best. Review product literature for basic and annual maintenance directions.

• Clean fishing rod handles with mild soap and warm water. Inspect rods for damage, paying attention to line guides. A Q-tip run through the guide will help detect any snags or cracks.

• Organize tackle boxes and bags and throw out that year old sandwich that got stuck in the side pocket of your bag.

• Clean tackle boxes, trays and bags with a damp cloth. Let dry before returning tackle.

• Go through each tackle tray, making sure the right lures and terminal tackle are where they’re supposed to be based on the organization system you’re using.

• Inspect baits. Cut off leftover knot tags and sharpen hooks. Replace damaged hooks and rusty components on lures.

• Sort through soft-bait packages and fill tackle tray compartments or binder storage bags to stock-up supplies.

• Ensure fishing tools are in good shape. Clean and lubricate pliers, scissors and other tools. Replace worn or lost items.

• Restock fish attractant, sunscreen, insect repellent and other commonly used supplies.

• If you use a boat — Complete regular maintenance and have necessary servicing done in advance. Inspect trailer and tires. Restock and organize safety, boating and fishing supplies.

• Since safety on the water is so important, check life jackets and rain gear for any holes, rips or tears. It is especially important to check your inflatable life jackets to make sure they are properly charged and in working order.

• Don’t forget to renew boat registration and fishing licenses.

Youth Spring turkey season set to open

Youth hunters waiting for April to arrive so they can go turkey hunting will get a head start this year in the form of a hunting season designed just for them, in fact, this year they can start April 4.

Slated for April 4-5 statewide (except for the Southeast part of the state), the youth spring turkey season will be open to hunters under 18 years old.

“This is a great opportunity for a turkey season just for young people,” said Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “Taking advantage of a youth-only hunting season is one of the best ways for kids and their families and friends to spend some time outdoors together.”

For youth ages 16 and 17, getting certified in the hunter education course offered by the Department is the first step to participating in the youth season. Several courses are still available. Log on to wildlifedepartment.com for course dates and locations as well as other hunter education information, including the online course.

Youth ages 16 and 17 must also possess a hunting license unless exempt. For exemptions, consult the current “Oklahoma Hunting Guide.”

Youth under 16 years old are exempt from the purchase of a hunting license and they and are not required to take the hunter education course. All youth turkey hunters must possess a turkey license unless exempt.

Consult pages 22-23 of the Oklahoma Hunting Guide for complete regulations.

“If a youth participates in the season but doesn’t harvest a turkey, they can use their unfilled license to hunt turkeys during the regular spring season,” Meek said.

The youth season limit is one tom turkey, which is included in the county and regular spring season limits.

All youth participants must be accompanied by an adult age 18 or older while hunting during the youth spring season. Adults who are supervising youth hunters during the season may not hunt or carry any firearms or archery equipment, except under provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act and Oklahoma Firearms Act.

Non-resident youth 14-17 years old, must possess a nonresident annual hunting license and a turkey license. Non-resident youth under 14 are exempt from the annual hunting license but must have a turkey license.

“Turkey season involves a lot of action, which is good for young hunters,” Meek said. “This youth turkey season is going to be exciting for a lot of youngsters and the adults who take them hunting.”

Meek reminds youth hunters of a few safety tips to remember while participating in the youth season:

• Conceal harvested birds and decoys while walking through the woods.

• Sit with your back against a tree that is large enough to hide your whole body.

• Set up decoys to the side of you rather than directly in front of you.

• Avoid wearing colors such as red, white or blue while turkey hunting since these are common turkey colors.

• If you see another hunter approaching, speak to them clearly rather than whistling or calling to them with a turkey call.

Southwest Fishing Report

Altus-Lugert: Elevation below normal, water 51 and clear. For current elevation conditions go to the US Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/ALTU.lakepage.html. White bass good on grubs and jigs along the river channel. Channel catfish good on grubs, jigs and minnows below the dam. Report submitted by Brandon Lehrman, game warden stationed in Greer County.

Ellsworth: Elevation below normal, water murky. For current elevation conditions go to the US Geological Survey website at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?07308990. Crappie fair on minnows and jigs around brush structure, docks and fish house at Ralph’s Resort. Blue and channel catfish good on cut bait, punch bait and shad in the main lake and around points. Report submitted by Mike Carroll, game warden stationed in Comanche County.

Lawtonka: Elevation below normal, water clear. For current elevation conditions go to the US Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/webdata/gagedata/LTKO2.current.html. Blue and channel catfish fair on dough bait and punch bait in the main lake and around points. Crappie slow on minnows and jigs around brush structure, docks and rocks. Report submitted by Mike Carroll, game warden stationed in Comanche County.

Tom Steed: Elevation normal, water 54. For current elevation conditions go to the US Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/TOMS.lakepage.html. Crappie fair on jigs along creek channels. White bass fair on minnows and jigs along creek channels and around points. Report submitted by David Smith, game warden stationed in Kiowa County.

Waurika: Elevation normal, water mid-50s and murky. For current elevation conditions go to the US Army Corps of Engineers website at https://www.swt-wc.usace.army.mil/WAUR.lakepage.html. Crappie fair on minnows and tube jigs around brush structure, docks and rocks. Striped bass hybrids and white bass fair on sassy shad and shad along channels, dam and shorelines. Blue and channel catfish good on cut bait and shad along channels and main lake.

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