QUESTION: On occasion I hook a bass (as well as other species) in the gills, causing excessive bleeding. I cull (and release) a lot of my fish, keeping only enough to eat. If I release a fish that is bleeding from the gills, what are the chances of survival?
ANSWER: I applaud your practice of catch-and-release, but in the scenario you mention, survival chances are slim to none. To release this fish is often a waste. There is also another factor. When injured fish are released, especially if they are bleeding, certain warning chemicals are released into the water and the other fish pick up on it very quickly. If the fish are schooled and the injured fish swims back into the school, feeding is over for several hours and you might as well move and look for another bunch.
Most fish, if not injured, will survive after being released. The exception is the striper. This fish literally fights its heart out, and most released stripers will die. If you begin to release stripers just to save fish for the future, it wont work. Its best to catch as many stripers as you need and then quit, or switch to tactics better suited for another species.
QUESTION: For years I had been using a normal field model shotgun for hunting the wild turkey. Earlier in the year, I purchased a turkey-specific shotgun fitted with a red dot sight and camouflaged. Only after the fact did I notice that the shotgun barrel was only 24 inches long. Will I lose a lot of muzzle velocity with this shorter-than-normal barrel? If so, should I switch from 3-inch to 3½-inch shells to add velocity?
ANSWER: Drown your concerns. Twenty years ago, this might have been a problem. Todays faster burning propellant (powder) burns up completely in 18-to-20 inches of barrel, utilizing all possible energy. If there is any reduction in muzzle velocity, you wont notice it. The shorter barrel handles better in brush and close quarters. Normally the shorter sighting plane might contribute to loss of accuracy, but the red dot sight also eliminates that problem. The red dot sight does not rely on sighting plane for accuracy. Most quality red dots also have little or no parallax, which can cause shooter error.
Switching from 3-inch to 3½-inch shells only adds pain to your shoulder through added felt-recoil. Most of the 3½-inch shells contain more pellets than the 3-inch, so the velocity is not increased. The number of pellets in the shorter shells is more than adequate without adding punishing recoil.
Just be sure that you pattern the gun, add a good sling, switch from lead shot to bismuth (example, Hevi-shot), sight it in with the red dot sight and use a choke that will produce a tight pattern with no holes. Having done that, you will be glad you bought a turkey-specific shotgun -- which also makes the perfect predator shotgun.
Emory Josey is a freelance writer who has a weekly column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or e-mail him at email@example.com