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Archive for March, 2012


Making The Sale

 
Combine Tactics To Bring Whitetails Close
 
By Todd Amenrud
 
(reprinted from NBS Outdoor)
 
The big Minnesota buck stood at the edge of a picked corn field about 250 yards away, and even from that distance I could see he was a definite shooter.
 
Rather than skirting the field and coming by my stand just off of the corner, he cut straight across the middle. What to do? I picked up my rattle-bag and cracked it as hard as I could. He stopped and turned his head toward me. I hit the rattle bag a second time and he came on a steady trot in my direction. Once he reached 100 yards he slowed to a fast walk and started to swing downwind.
 
Long story short … he stood 80 yards downwind of me hardly moving a muscle for almost 5 minutes. The only movements were his ears searching for the two bucks he had just heard and his nose waving in the breeze scanning for other supporting evidence. He turned and disappeared slowly over the ridge.
 
What makes a situation seem real to you?
 
Sight, sound, scent, feel — the more senses we appease the more realistic a scenario seems to us. And that’s also true for whitetails. A hunter can use a combination of techniques to appeal to multiple whitetail senses at once. On that day, I sure wish I would have set up some scent or placed a decoy to draw his attention and coax him in the final 80 yards.
 
Does, fawns, and young bucks often will ramble straight into a well-placed decoy, a scent that’s been placed out properly, or a vocalization that sounds authentic. Mature bucks, though, almost always needs confirmation from more than one source before they plow forth into the unknown.
 
The nose knows.
 
If you can fool a whitetail’s sense of smell, you’ve almost got it made. Just like sight is our most believable sense, (“seeing is believing”) a whitetail’s most trusted guide is his nose. That doesn’t only mean that hunters must use scent to draw them in, it also means that hunters must practice a strict scent-elimination regimen. Actually, when it comes to fooling the whitetail nose, the most important step is probably to keep foreign smells completely out of the picture — by using Scent Killer, for example. If a mature buck smells the sweet smell of estrus, intermingled with an unfamiliar “danger” smell, his instinct for survival will win out and your work will go for naught.
 
The eyes have it.
 
Scent (or thereof) can con a whitetail’s sense of smell. But you can help seal the deal by addressing more than one of their senses at a time. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with the art of using decoys to fool the whitetail’s sense of sight.
 
The first step is to start with the correct decoy. Pay special attention to the decoys’ posture and movement. Decoys that are in an alert posture typically will bring in deer in an alert, edgy temperament. They may come to within 40 to 60 yards, snorting and stomping the ground at your decoy, or at whatever has caused your decoy to be so alert. A decoy with an alert, intimidating posture is useful at times, but for most deer throughout most of the season you’ll be better off with a decoy displaying a more serene pose.
 
Movement is important too. When is it natural for a standing deer to be totally motionless? The answer is, when it’s alert, when something is wrong or out of place, or just before it’s about to bolt. None of those scenarios evoke the emotions you want your whitetails to feel.
 
There are all kinds of ways to add motion to decoys — from tying a string to a chicken feather or white hanky, taping the string to the hind end or ear of the decoy and letting the wind move it; to tacking a real whitetail-tail to the hind end of the decoy and operating it with monofilament line. Granted, in a 15-mph wind, the chicken feather flutters so fast it looks like the decoy is about to take flight. But I believe extreme motion is better than no motion at all. You can also purchase a decoy kit that’s designed to convert standard decoys into motion decoys, or purchase a decoy that has moving parts.
 
One of the three biggest whitetails I’ve ever seen in my life showed up to a small central Iowa alfalfa field one December day. I had a doe decoy in front of my ground blind about 30 yards and I had just rattled, imitating my best “two bucks fighting over a hot doe” possible. When this guy made the scene, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. He was a perfect 6×6 with 14-inch tines, mass throughout, and an inside spread exceeding 20 inches. This buck easily would have scored over 200 inches. He was a sight to see, even though I didn’t get a shot.
 
He hopped the fence in a shelterbelt about 120 yards away, and once he reached the alfalfa he stood staring at my motionless decoy. Although he stood in one spot, his ears were scanning and his tail swung occasionally — motion that my decoy lacked. The big guy suspected something and wouldn’t come any closer. Another 135-inch 5×5 showed up in the opposite corner of the small 20-acre field. He wouldn’t come closer either, because he knew where he ranked in this social standoff. In the span of about an hour, I brought the mammoth buck as close as 60 yards three different times by rattling and smacking the antlers on the ground as hard as I could. But, each time he stopped short to stare at my motionless decoy. In this case, multiple stimuli worked great to bring the animals in, but the lack of movement on my decoy prevented me from closing the deal. (I did manage to kill the smaller 5×5 the next morning at a mock scrape set-up.)
 
Sometimes an alert posture will work. Sometimes I prefer an alert, aggressive posture. If I’m after a mature buck, playing the “competition card” by using aggressive tactics has worked great for me. I wish I would have had that scenario ready to go for that Iowa buck! When you’re targeting any deer, the most important detail is to give that particular deer a reason to interact with your set-up.
 
What time of year is it? Are you after a specific buck or doe, or will any deer do? What age-class buck are you after? Think about what that deer would want at that time of year, and give it a reason to close the distance. For any deer, any time of year, a decoy in a feeding, greeting, or bedded posture works best.
 
To combine scent and decoying, first you must eliminate foreign odors. First clean your decoy with Scent Killer soap, then touch it only while wearing gloves, and always store it someplace where foreign odors will not transfer onto it. If you need to transport your decoy, first place it in a garbage bag or something that will seal out odors.
 
When choosing lures and scents, again, think about what the deer you’re after wants at that specific time of the season. Early season, you might use plain buck or doe urine … just something to add realism to the scenario. Closer to the rut, you might scent your buck decoy with a combination of Active Scrape and Mega Tarsal Plus: the first provides a full-spectrum scrape aroma and the other is a territorial-intrusion scent. This helps create the illusion that your fake buck is moving into his breeding territory. Consider how and why a buck might interact with your set-up, and give them a reason to close the distance.
 
When dispersing scent, I prefer to place it on a Pro-Wick or a Key-Wick near the decoy rather than applying it directly to the decoy. The simple reason is that a week later, your decoy won’t smell like last week’s pee and you won’t have to constantly scrub it down.
 
Calling all bucks.
 
Calling can be a lethal weapon in your arsenal. What works will vary depending on the situation: add soft, social grunts during early season while using a buck decoy; add an estrus bleat combined estrus lure during the rut … it all depends. One of my favorite tactics just before and after the peak of the rut is to place a small buck decoy over a bedded doe decoy, then try to create the illusion that two bucks are fighting over the fake doe in estrus. Between rattling sequences, I might imitate an estrus bleat. Special Golden Estrus helps pull off the ruse.
 
Taking the decoy out of the picture and using scent and calling/rattling together happens much more often than adding a decoy to the list of tools. But even minus the decoy, the combination of calling or rattling and scent works great. They hear “deer sounds,” then circle downwind and smell “deer smells,” which gives them the confidence to close the distance. Where a decoy requires some forethought, calling and scent, whose tools are easily carried in your pack, can be spontaneous.
 
When I specifically venture forth in an attempt to rattle in a buck, I almost always use real antlers. Their true-to-life resonance and the extra subtle sounds you can create with them, like scraping a tree or smacking the ground, can’t be achieved with a rattle-bag or plastic gadget. Still, I’ve called in the most bucks with my rattle-bag simply because it’s with me all the time.
 
Decoys are fun to use, but it’s really that “one-two punch” of calls and scent that produce the most consistent results. Last season, calls and scent helped me harvest a wide 4×4. It was November 7, the first day of a hunt on my Ontario property and I had just laid a scent trail of Special Golden Estrus right down the logging road that leads past one of my blinds. After parking the ATV downwind I got into the blind, looked over my shoulder, and saw a doe rounding the corner on the logging road. There was no chance to ready my equipment because there was more movement on the other side. When I looked back, a buck we had named Patches (because of the white piebald spots on his shoulder) was already 60 yards away coming down the trail with his nose to the ground following the scent. He caught me getting my equipment ready and we did the “Mexican standoff.” I lost. He turned around and bounded out of view. I grabbed my rattle bag and popped it, gave a loud vocalization with my voice, but I figured I had just goofed that one.
 
Thirty seconds later a doe and a fawn rounded the corner and 5 seconds later another doe was being pushed around the corner. I realized Patches was doing the pushing, and I was thankful for the second chance. The buck must have thought one of those does was the source of the enticing Special Golden Estrus; he wasn’t going to leave even though he had just seen me moments before. Because I’m always very careful about scent elimination and scent transfer, he never cold confirm that I was dangerous. Special Golden Estrus plus the great timing of a couple of does saved me on this hunt.
 
Some hunters think that trying to appeal to more senses leaves you prone to making more mistakes. Details are important whenever you hunt whitetails, but if you use common sense, keep human scent out of the picture, and present the most natural set-up possible, results will follow.
 
Remember: Why would a specific deer want to interact with your set-up? How he might interact with the scenario you’ve presented — to socialize or to compete? The more realistic you can make it seem, the better your results will be.
 
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Hook, Line, and Simple

Finding the right fishing gear has never been easier.
 
by Tony Wilson
 
When the ice melts and the leaves return to the trees, it’s time to get back out on the lake and land that trophy lunker. For beginning anglers and veterans alike, though, it takes a combination of having the right equipment and knowing the lake and its inhabitants to be successful.
 
Should you fall in the beginner category, have no fear. There is plenty of gear at Dunham’s Sports to get even the most inexperienced fisherman the tools needed for fishing season. Companies like Rapala, Shakespeare, Abu Garcia, and Eagle Claw ensure that all fishermen are geared up from the season’s start to its finish.
 
“The Rapala brand is a great way to start,” said Matt Jensen of Rapala. “Rapala has all the essential lures, tools, and knives to help new anglers gear up for the season. For an angler who is new to fishing, the best thing they can do is to work with a sporting goods manager to ensure that they start out purchasing products that are simple and easy to use.”
 
John Vander Sloot of Eagle Claw, echoes similar advice, though he advises beginners to start small. There’s no need to get the top-of-the-line gear unless you have top-of-the-line experience.
 
“My best advice for someone who is going to purchase gear for the first time is to start on the low end of the pricing scale,” Vander Sloot explained. “Dunham’s does a great job of carrying entry level combos (rod and reel purchased together) that can get a person into the sport at a reasonable cost.”
 
Scott Ingram of Pradco, which produces products like Yum soft baits and hard lures like Hula Poppers, Jitterbugs, and Pop R’s, advises shoppers not to be intimidated by a large selection, similar to one you’d find at a Dunham’s.
 
“When you walk into a Sporting Goods store, such as a Dunham’s, the fishing department can be overwhelming,” Ingram explains. “This is a great place to start the learning experience. Never be afraid to ask questions. You will be rewarded when you hit the water.”
 
When selecting fishing equipment, the options may seem overwhelming. There is a variety of different types of rods, reels, lines, lures, and tackle boxes, and each is meant for varying levels of fishing experience.
 
“In today’s environment, selecting the proper equipment to start fishing has never been easier,” said Jim Burrows of Pure Fishing. “Dunham’s Sports carries a large selection of combos, covering every need from Ultralite combos for pan fishing to 6’ or 6 1/2’ light, medium, or medium-heavy combos for walleye, bass, and northern fishing.”
 
When selecting a rod, anglers will see that some are plastic, some are graphite, and some are fiberglass. But what’s the difference, and what makes one better than the other? According to Vander Sloot, the differences in material will increase with the price of the rod.
 
“When an angler steps up in cost they will start seeing rods made out of graphite,” Vander Sloot explains. “While fiberglass is tougher and more durable, graphite is lighter and more sensitive to the action that is going on with the line.”
 
As far as how to select a quality line, there are a few different choices. According to Jim Burrows, a monofilament line is the most popular. Monofilament lines, like Berkeley’s Trilene XL, is a solid choice for open water and Berkley’s Trilene XT for dirty water with obstructions like dock poles, weeds, large rocks, and the like. A fluorocarbon line is better for clearer water. It reacts with light, making it virtually invisible to fish.
 
Finally, braided lines, like Spider Wire, are known for their near indestructibility. So you have the rod, reel, and tackle — but how exactly do you catch fish? There are plenty of different techniques, all reliant on water depth, outside temperature, and weather, to name a few. But one key, according to Burrows, is to just tag along with someone who has that experience.
 
“For a person who has never fished or may not have fished since a child but would like to, there are several ways to approach it,” said Burrows. “First I would recommend trying to find a friend or family member who fishes and ask to go with them. This approach will allow you to talk with them and to use their knowledge to assist you in picking out the proper equipment to meet your needs.”
 
“My best advice is to simply be on the water,” Jensen added. “An angler cannot catch a fish from the cabin, but time on the water will help anglers learn more about where they are fishing.”
 
It doesn’t just take the best rod and reel — it takes the most patience, experience, and ability to learn about the sport. But by asking questions with the insightful staff at your local Dunham’s, you’ll need to make room on your mantle.
 
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Trolling for Trout

Here’s How To Catch Trout In Open Water During The Late Season
 
By Al Raychard
 
(reprinted from NBS Outdoor)
 
Okay, here’s a question for you. True or false, trolling lakes and ponds for trout is strictly a springtime tactic? True, you say? Well you’re wrong. Just like I was until I learned otherwise about 10 years ago.
 
A decade or so ago, I got a phone call from a charter boat captain and friend of mine who operates on trout- and salmon-rich Lake Ontario in upstate New York, a few hours drive from my home. “Are you free a couple days this week?” he asked.
 
“I can be,” I answered, “but what for? It’s deer season. I thought you’d be out chasing whitetails.”
 
The captain told he normally would be, but he tagged out during archery season. Although his chartering duties were officially over until spring, late season was his personal favorite time to troll for trout.
 
I accepted his fishing invitation. When I arrived boat-side a couple of days later, the morning sky was overcast and the temperatures had yet to push the mercury above the 40-degree mark. A steady breeze wind was blowing creating a chop on the lake outside the bay that made it feel even colder. It looked like it could snow at any minute. It was my first time trolling for trout this late in the year, and as I stepped aboard I asked, “Are you sure about this?”
 
“Of course I’m sure. It’s a perfect day. Simply a perfect day.”
 
By the time we arrived back at the dock later that morning, I was a convert. The captain knew what he was taking about —the oft-overlooked late season is a prime time to troll for trout. During our excursion we boated several lake trout measured in pounds rather than inches and several football-shaped brown trout. We repeated the success the next day as well. Since that trip I’ve been a diehard fall trout fisherman, giving up several days of my beloved deer hunting each year to get on the water and troll a line or two. I’ve used trolling tactics to catch not only late-season lake and brown trout, but rainbows, brook trout, and various hybrids as well.
 
Looking back now, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Fishing for trout by various means, including trolling big lakes, ponds, and reservoirs has been a passion most of my life and I like to think I know as much about the various species and how to get them on the line as the next guy. Perhaps I didn’t. Perhaps I just didn’t take time to think about it, but whatever the case, trolling for trout during the late season makes perfect sense.
 
And why not?
 
Late-season fishing conditions in many ways are the same as early spring fishing conditions, the period when trolling tactics are most popular and productive. As they do in the spring, most lakes and many large ponds containing trout populations stratify in late fall. Fishermen refer to this as “fall turnover.” Without getting into the technical jargon, this basically means that water temperatures and oxygen levels are pretty much the same throughout the lake until the surface freezes for the winter, and trout are free to go just about anywhere they want to find food. Very often this often means close to shore and in places they might not be available at other times of year.
 
The important thing to remember is that the turnover has a major effect on a given body of water, stirring up sediment on the bottom often giving the water a dirty or off-color look and increases turbidity. As a result oxygen levels actually decrease during the process and fish turn off from feeding. This period of poor fishing conditions, when the turnover is taking place, lasts from 1 to 2 weeks, depending upon such factors as wind and air temperature. Once the fall turnover is complete, though, water clarity improves and oxygen levels rise quickly; fish go on a late-season feeding frenzy in preparation for winter.
 
Clearly, timing is critical when fishing the late season. Trolling generally is a waste of time during the actual turnover period because fish are not aggressively feeding due to poor water conditions. Once the turnover is complete, however, up until the first freeze — that’s when you want to be out there wetting a line. That’s when the trout aggressively are back on the feedbag. Because the turnover occurs in different geographic regions at different times, unless a fisherman knows a particular lake extremely well, keeping in touch with local fishery biologists, bait and tackle shops, lodge owners, and fishing guides is the best way to learn when the turnover is expected to begin, is underway, or is complete.
 
The fall turnover isn’t the only reason why late season can be such a productive time to get out there and troll a line or two. Several trout species, including brook, brown, and lake trout spawn in the late fall and early winter. This means they’ll be found in relatively shallow water, from just below the surface down to 20 to 30 feet or so, in areas where they are not normally found during the summer.
 
Another reason is food. At the same time that the fall turnover is ending, and trout’s instinct and urge to feed is increasing, dramatically, baitfish including smelt, dace, and various shiners and other minnows have moved from deep water to feed on plankton, zooplankton, and small aquatic invertebrates found closer to shore or the surface. Most also travel or congregate in large schools for protection, all of which make them more readily available to hungry trout.
 
Where to find the late-season action.
 
Despite conditions that allow trout to go practically anywhere within a given body of water, certain areas offer the best opportunities for success during the late season. The mouth of tributary rivers, streams, and creeks are good bets. These runs not only draw trout species that spawn in the fall or early winter, but the consistent flushing of nutrients into the lake in these areas attract and hold schools of baitfish and provide a safe haven at the same time. Edges where fast currents meet the lake, foam lines, edges of sand or gravel bars, and drop-offs where the shallow tributary drops into the lake can be especially productive.
 
Some lakes, ponds, and reservoirs lack tributaries that are large or deep enough to serve as spawning areas for trout. In these cases, trout will use gravelly shorelines, even sandy beaches to complete their spawning ritual. A fly, lure, or bait trolled through these areas can be extremely productive.
 
All fish relate to structure. Boulder-strewn shorelines, rocky points, underwater ledges, ledges that drop into the water, drop-offs along the shoreline, submerged river or creek beds, the areas and channels between islands, even the edge of mid-lake shoals and sandbars all are potential hotspots for late-season trout action. This is especially true along windward shores and areas where wind is breaking the surface. Wind action not only forces baitfish and feed to these locations, but the rippled surface provides additional cover and a sense of protection to schools of baitfish and trout alike.
 
Especially if you’re unfamiliar with a particular body of water, consulting lake-contour and -depth maps can make or break your outing. Besides illustrating the lake’s general shape, including points, coves, and public boat launches, these maps also show tributary inlets, islands, shoals, and depth contours. Lake maps are available for download from most fish and wildlife department websites. They’re also available at local tackle shops. (Note: not all of these maps are intended for navigational purposes.)
 
Trolling tactics.
 
One advantage of trolling is that it allows fishermen to cover a large area without wasting time fishing empty or unproductive water. Unless you’re catching fish or getting a lot of strikes, it makes little sense to spend much time in one area. In most cases during the late season, trolling off a particular river or creek mouth or along a rocky shoreline once or twice should produce some action if fish are present. If nothing happens, move on.
 
To increase your odds of success, troll when the conditions are ideal. Because trout stay relatively shallow this time of year, overcast days, moderately windswept days, and early and late in the day when the sun is at a low angle are the best times to be on the water. Action is still possible on clear days, when the surface is calm, and even when the sun is high, but you’ll probably want to troll deeper water in these conditions.
 
Trolling speed is another consideration. Water is much colder in the late season, in the 40s or just above freezing in many locations. Consequently, trout are more lethargic and less willing to chase food over long distances. “Slower” is the operative word. Without the benefit of a boat-mounted speed indicator or electronics that indicate how fast a boat is moving, judging trolling speed is tricky. Many trolling enthusiasts use rod-tip action as an indicator. Generally speaking, the faster the trolling speed, the faster the tip will vibrate, bounce, or “work” in a back and forth motion. Others watch the shoreline for clues about how fast they’re moving. As a rule of thumb, late-season trolling speed should be comparable to a brisk walk — just fast enough to move the offering through the water. When in doubt, select a speed that feels or looks right depending upon rod action or the shoreline, and maintain it. Most anglers tend to troll too fast. If no strikes occur, slow down a tad. Experiment until you get it right.
 
Also important to keep in mind is that baitfish typically stay close to shore, usually within 50 to 60 feet or so, often much closer. This is where you should troll, because this is where the trout will be. One of the largest brown trout I ever caught, a football-shaped beauty tipping the scales at more than 6 pounds, was taken so close to shore I could have tossed a stone into the trees, and my throwing arm has never been great. On another occasion, I trolled along ledges that dropped into a favorite lake and hooked several rainbow trout measuring in pounds rather than inches. I was using a 9-foot fly rod and trolling flies, but the main point is that we were so close my rod tip was just a few feet from the ledge. There are exceptions, but typically during this time of year, the closer to shore and structure you work a fly, lure, or bait the greater your chances of success.
 
Besides staying close to shore, baitfish seldom travel or school in deep water during the late season. Typically they school in less than 20 feet of water. Whenever possible, troll parallel to the shoreline and navigate around points, and into coves and other likely locations. Navigate in a slow “S” pattern to swing and vary the speed of the offering and give it a more lifelike action and appearance.
 
Unless planner boards are used, stagger your lines when trolling. In some jurisdictions, fishing with more than one line is illegal. If that’s the case in your location, troll directly off the stern with 30 to 40 feet of line. But if you are allowed to fish more than one line or when you’ve got several anglers trolling together, work one line on the shore side of the boat 50 feet back, a second line on the outside at 60 or 70 feet, and a third off the stern at 25 to 35 feet in the boat’s wake. This setup greatly reduces the chances of tangling, especially when navigating around points and in other tight situations. Staggering lines in this way also leaves plenty of room to play fish once they’re hooked.
 
Finally, unless you are a purist fishing strictly flies, lures, or bait, start the day off fishing different types of offerings at the same time — for example, try a fly on one line, a flashy wobbling spoon on another, and perhaps bait or a deep riding lure on a third. This will put offerings at different levels increasing your chances of locating fish and identifying the right level to troll. One type of offering may also produce more action than the others and clearly indicate which type you should use.
 
Gear.
 
One reason trolling is so enjoyable this time of year is that much of the action is close to the surface, or at least in relatively shallow water as compared to the summer and early-fall angling periods. This means downriggers, lead-core lines, and other gear used to get to deepwater bastions aren’t required to achieve late-season success.
 
For spinning equipment, any medium-action rod will do nicely when trolling lures or bait. Reels should be loaded with 6- to 10-pound test line with a snap swivel on the end to allow natural movement through the water. For trolling flies, fly rods from 8 1/2 to 9 feet designed for 6, 7, or 8-weight lines are good choices. Fly reels should be loaded with plenty of backing, with sink-tip or full-sinking lines and extra-long (20- to 25-feet) leaders made of 6- to 8-pound test monofilament. Leaders of this length provide a greater break between the fly line and fly and help the fly ride better through the water. In all cases, reels should have a smooth, reliable drag and set; they ensure that line won’t release when trolling, but are light enough to allow a fish to run during a strike.
 
For flies, any pattern that resembles the predominant baitfish in a given lake should produce action on late-season trout; if you’re not sure, check with local bait and tackle shops. Often, these establishments will have local patterns tied to specifically imitate local baitfish. If not, you can depend on the standards (such as the Grey Ghost, Black Ghost, Nine-Three, Supervisor and Mickey Finn) tied on extra-long hooks or in tandem to produce results.
 
The list of productive late-season trout lures is long, but perennial favorites include the Acme Flash King, Kastmaster, Phoebe and Little Cleo in 1/6- and ¼-ounce sizes; Williams and Mooselook Wobblers; the classic Vibrax and Pixee spoon from Blue Fox; any shallow-running offering from Rapala and Yo-Zuri; and spinners from Mepps and Panther Martin.
 
Much of the appeal of late-season trolling is the ability to experiment with different lures in multiple size and color combinations. Don’t hesitate to give your favorites a ride through the chilly water! Get out there and troll a line or two before winter finally takes hold and you lose that opportunity for awhile.
 
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Hoop It Up

Basketball’s popularity is exploding!
 
An estimated 30 million American kids 7 years of age and older play. Over one million boys and girls participate at the high school level. The NBA All Star game and annual NCAA Basketball Tournament continue to attract a record number of television viewers. More families are investing in portable or permanent home basketball systems to add to their quality time together — perhaps during stay-at-home vacations. Drive down any street in America and you’ll see entire families hooping it up.
 
If you and your family are investing in a home basketball system, the type you choose should depend on where you plan to install it, how frequently you plan to use it, and if you’ll use it for light practicing or for serious games.
 
Both permanent and portable basketball systems require ample room to enjoy the game. If you have plenty of room and level pavement at the end of a driveway, a permanent system might be the smart choice for you. It will require more effort to set up and install, but offer more stability than most portable systems. If you’re pressed for room, currently renting or leasing a home, or if you’re only an occasional player, a portable unit might be a smart choice. The entire system can be quickly wheeled away until you want to use it again and easily moved to your next home.
 
How frequently you play can help determine the stability, strength and durability of the system you need. When properly installed, permanent systems anchored to the ground offer the best stability. The base of most portable systems can be filled with water or sand for stability while you play. One or two-piece poles offer the greatest strength. Square poles are more rigid and stronger than round poles. Most permanent and portable systems are also height adjustable. Look for a system that offers infinite high adjustments rather than only two or three different fixed height settings. Also look for poles, brackets and quality hardware designed to resist rust and corrosion.
 
Whether you use your system for light practice or for serious games can help determine what size backboard, what backboard construction and what type of rim to choose. NBA backboards measure 72 inches wide and 42 inches high. Permanent and portable systems with 60-inch and 54-inch glass or acrylic backboards offer great playability. High-strength composite backboards are also available in a variety of sizes and styles. Tempered glass boards offer a pro-style look and feel with truer rebounds. Acrylic boards are more affordable but less durable in extreme weather conditions. Spring-loaded breakaway rims really don’t breakaway. They bend or flex to help prevent the rim from breaking when a player dunks the ball or hangs off the rim. Some flex only at the front. Others flex at the front and side. Look for a rim that matches your personal playing style.
 
Rolled onto the driveway or anchored into the ground; for light practice or a serious game; with a glass, acrylic or composite board. Whichever permanent or portable basketball systems you choose, be sure to hoop it up with your family and friends whenever you can.
 
-Hot Shot
 
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A Bicycle Built for You

With today’s emphasis on inexpensive transportation and physical fitness, two-wheeled people-powered vehicles have become extremely popular. But choosing a bike isn’t just a matter of picking out a stylish ride. To get the most out of your bike choose a model that fits both your needs and your physique. Mismatched bikes end up gathering dust in the garage, but the right bike can serve you well for years to come.
 
Form Follows Function
 
The first step in choosing a bike is deciding what kind of riding you’ll be doing. While there are numerous categories of bicycles, the most common are mountain bikes, racing or road bikes, and comfort bikes.
 
Mountain bikes are for off-road use. They have knobby tires that can grip in dirt. Mountain bikes are built with sturdy frames and wheels. Some have suspension systems. The gearing is wide, with emphasis on low ratios that can flatten out steep hills.
 
Racing and road bicycles are built on lightweight frames. They’re designed for speed and the gears range from mid to high ratios. The handlebars are dropped and the rider assumes a low and aerodynamic position.
 
Today’s most popular bikes are called comfort or hybrid bikes. Comfort bikes have low rolling resistance tires and are built with sturdy frames, comfortable saddles, and upright handlebars. Some have suspension or a shock-absorbing seat post for an ultra-comfortable ride. Because comfort bikes are built to travel moderate distances without overtaxing the rider, they’re ideal for commuting or general cruising.
 
Fit to be Ridden
 
Bikes are classified by wheel size, with bikes having 26-inch or larger wheels being appropriate for adults. Itty-bitty kids might start on a 17-inch bike, then graduate to a 20-inch. Bridging the gap between kid bikes and full-size rides are 24-inch bikes. Adults of less than 5’5” might be happier on a 24-inch bike.
 
Once you’ve chosen a bike, it should be adjusted for fit. Pedal crank length can be changed on some bikes. Finding a length that’s best for you makes pedaling easier. One guide suggests that the optimum crank length is equal to 18.5% of the distance from the bottom of your foot to the top of your femur.
 
Saddle tilt is adjustable on most bikes. The best position is a comfortable position. If the saddle is tilted down at the nose, you’ll slide forward, if the nose is high, it will be uncomfortable. Level is usually best.
 
Saddle height can be adjusted on all bikes. The goal here is to find a height that will allow a slight bend in your leg when the pedal is at the bottom of its travel. To adjust height, center yourself on the saddle. With the pedal at the bottom of its travel, your heel should rest on the pedal when your leg is fully straight. This will result in a slightly bent leg when riding.
 
Many saddles have a fore and aft adjustment. How far back the saddle is located relative to the pedals determines how balanced your body will be. All riders bend forward some amount, but when bending forward you don’t want to have to support your weight with your arms. If the saddle is positioned correctly, most of your weight will be on the saddle.
 
Handlebar position is related to saddle position. With your seat positioned correctly, you should be able to reach the bars without upsetting your balance.
 
Safe in the Saddle
 
No one, child or adult, should ride a bicycle without a helmet, and many cities and states require their use. Choose a helmet from a reputable manufacturer that fits properly. A cheap, ill-fitting helmet is not much better than no helmet.
 
If you’re going to ride at night, equip your bike with front and rear lights. The front light generally mounts on the handlebars, while the rear light is mounted on the seat post. Bicycle lights are inexpensive, but the extra security that a light provides is invaluable.
 
-Two Wheeler
 
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