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What Every Hunter Should Know About Deer Gestation Period

If you see a newborn fawn now, count backward 200 days, and you'll learn something about the timing of the rut in your neck of the woods



I received a first-hand tutorial in whitetail deer gestation period just the other day. While hunting for morel mushrooms, I stumbled on a tiny fawn curled up in the downed top of an oak tree. I’ve found several fawns over the years as I roam the May woods on the hunt for turkeys or mushrooms, and each one strikes me as miraculous.

This fawn, likely only a day or two old, was perfectly still—I had to wait patiently to see its chest heave a small breath– as I took a few quick photos. Like a child thinking they couldn’t be seen if their eyes remained shut, the fawn never blinked. Perhaps even more amazing, my retriever Cooper, a 3-year old golden that doesn’t miss much and has a tremendous nose, was trolling through the area and never had a clue the fawn was there, despite being within 20 yards at least twice. Though the early life of a fawn is certainly precarious, this one had clearly gotten off to a good start.

I walked off after a minute or two, committing the date of my find to memory. By back-dating from this encounter, I could tell almost to the day when this little deer was conceived. Which explains why knowing a little about deer gestation period is so important to hunters and managers.

Deer Gestation Period and the Rut

Whitetails have a gestation period of about 200 days, or approximately seven months. Using this information, I could back-date the fawn to get an idea of when its mother was bred. I found the fawn on May 20th, and I believed it was only a day or two old, which means the fawn’s mama was successfully bred around November 1, 2022. This was a minor surprise to me; while well within the understood peak breeding dates in Minnesota (which run from late October through late November) the doe was bred quite early in the cycle. This is great information as I prepare for this fall’s hunting season; while I always focus plenty of effort on the last week of October, I’ll know that, on this farm at least, the action then might lean more toward peak breeding, rather than late pre-rut.

More generally speaking, knowing the gestation period for deer helps dispel myths about annual rut timing. By studying the development of the fetuses of does killed in late winter or in spring and back-dating based on deer gestation period, biologist have long since confirmed that in the northern part of the country, the whitetail rut happens at roughly the same time year after year—from early to mid-November—based on photoperiod. Warm weather does not delay the rut any more than a certain moon phase kicks it into gear. And this is not a guess. It’s a fact backed up by measured fetus development and the known gestation period for deer.

Deer Gestation and Fawn Survival

It’s all built around survival of a the species. In the north, where harsh winter weather poses a mortal threat, the timing of the fawn drop is critical, and evolution has seen to it that in a healthy deer herd, fawns will drop when their chances of survival are highest, year after year. This also explains why the fawn drop, and therefore the rut, is much more spread out in the South, where the absence of harsh winters allows much more leeway for survival.

Finding the fawn when I did was also a good omen. In the upper Midwest and across the northern reaches of whitetail range, fawns born in May and June are simply better equipped to survive the weather and temps of their first few days of life and the coming late fall and winter. Fawns dropped too early can succumb to cold, wet spring weather, and fawns dropped too late (though rare, I have seen spotted fawns as late as September) are just not as physically developed and, while certainly not doomed, they are going to face some true challenges if the winter is a hard one. Remember, mature does and bucks will drive a fawn off a winter food source to insure their own survival, so if food is not abundant, any late-born fawns are in serious trouble.

Overall Deer Herd Health

Finally, the timing of the fawn drop is also a good indicator of buck-to-doe ratios and overall herd health. Late-born fawns typically mean that doe populations could be out of control; if there aren’t enough bucks to service does as they come into estrous, the does will continue to cycle every 28 days, often until they are bred. This prolonged rutting activity is not good for a deer herd; not only does it result in late-born fawns, but it stresses bucks as they chase and breed does for months instead of weeks. Having a relatively brief, perfectly-timed rut is the best for deer.

Sadly, I didn’t find any morels that May afternoon, but I found something even more important; a healthy, new-born fawn that not only provided me with some moments of beauty, but gave me a glimpse into the health of the deer herd.


11 Tips That Will Add 20 Feet to Your Fly Cast

Most fish you catch on the fly will be in close range, but sometimes you need to go the extra distance



It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing for headwaters trout or bluewater sailfish, there are times when launching a cast at maximum distance is the only way to put a fly on the dinner plate of your target fish. And since learning how to bomb out long casts requires tight loops and line speed, it’s a skill that helps when casting at shorter distances with a challenging wind.

The good news for novice to intermediate casters is that every step listed below will help improve your fishing skills on its own. But put together four or five of these tips, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly your fly heads for the next county.

1. Move the Fly, Cut the Slack

It’s the bane of both beginner and experienced casters alike: You must have zero slack in the line before picking the line off the water and making the first backcast. Zero. The best way to make it happen is to point the rod directly at the water, pull out the slack until the fly moves just a smidge, then start the backcast. A little bit of slack can be fixed on a shorter cast. But on a longer cast, just a slight bit of droop will magnify into larger and larger loops. Point the rod, move the fly, start the cast.

2. Forget About 10-2 Casting

The standard issue 10-o’clock-to-2-o’clock casting stroke won’t get the cake baked when you’re trying to reach distant fish. For long-haul casting, you’ll need to move the rod tip over a longer plane to develop line speed. Just be aware that the fly line follows the rod tip. To prevent the loops and tails that come when casting lots of line in an arc, engage the shoulder on both the forward and back casts to keep the rod tip moving in a straight line.

3. Let the Fly Rod Do Its Job

The best rods are capable of greater feats than I can wring out of them, which leads me to a line I tell folks all the time: You’re holding hundreds of dollars—maybe a thousand dollars—worth of technology and materials in your hand, so let the rod work. It’s amazing how much farther you can cast when you slow down, concentrate on feeling the rod load, and apply smooth power to the cast. Watch and feel and listen to the rod, and you’ll get your money’s worth with long-distance casting.

4. Watch Your Backcast…Literally

The backcast should be a near mirror image of the forward cast. If you spot widening loops or waves and wiggles in the line, restart the cast. Cast sidearm, and watch how the line responds to your movements as it straightens out behind you. You might pick up on issues such as dropping your rod tip by seeing how the fly line is shaped on the backcast.

5. Dial in on the Double Haul

If you don’t know how to double haul, learn. You simply won’t reach out and touch distant targets without a solid, smooth pull on the line on both the forward and backcasts.

6. Don’t Rotate Your Wrist

I recently signed up for a one-on-one video fly casting lesson with fly-rod ace Pete Kuntzer at the Orvis Virtual Casting Instruction Program, and it took Kuntzer about three seconds to pick up on a casting goof I would never have uncovered. On the backcast, I was rotating my wrist outward ever so slightly, which was putting a funky behind-the-head twist in the line where I might never have seen it. It was robbing my line of its straight-line force and speed, and cutting into the delivery distance. Kuntzer counseled me to watch my rod hand as it moved past my eyes, and focus on the ridgeline of my middle knuckles to keep my wrist from rotating.

7. Accelerate Everything

One of the secrets to tight loops and maximum line speed is a concentration on acceleration. At the beginning of both the forward and backcasts, don’t suddenly pour on the power, but smoothly accelerate the power stroke. And the same with a haul or double haul. One key to maximizing distance is to iron out all the wiggles and bobbles in the line, and smooth acceleration will get you there.

8. Minimize Your False Casts

It’s tempting to false cast four or five times to watch your line distance increase, but too much false casting causes you to “carry” too much line, meaning you have to keep, and manage, all that line moving through the air. That increases the chance for mistakes, such as dropping your rod tip slightly or drifting on the back cast. With a ton of line in the air, every mistake is magnified, and once the running line of the fly line is in the air, it’s very difficult to change your aim. You’ll carry less line by trying to limit false casting to three casts. By then you should have the entire line head out of the rod tip—and a little more—setting you up for a shooting the final distance.

9. Cut the “Creep”

Creep is what happens you start the forward cast before the line straightens out behind you. It’s easy to slip into the practice: You shoot an awesomely tight forward loop, power back for the backcast, but you just can’t wait to see the line again so you bring the rod forward too quickly. Bear in mind that you have to stop the rod on the backcast for just as long as you do on the forward cast. And perhaps a bit longer if you shoot line with a haul.

10. Catch the Drift

To maximize the length of the power stroke, learn to drift the rod tip on the back cast. You still have to come to a complete stop at the end of the cast, but once you do that, all the fundamental mechanics of bringing the line back in a tight straight loop are in play. Now you gently drift your hand back a bit—keeping the rod tip in the same plane—to give you a little extra runway and oomph on the forward cast.

11. Aim High

At 20 feet, you can aim the fly like a rifle shot, straight at the target. At 40 feet, you might aim at basketball-rim-height to allow the fly to settle where you want it. At 50 feet, 60 feet, and beyond, you’d better throw a little elevation into the ballistics. You have to give the fly line time and space to unroll, so shift the trajectory of the forward cast high—like treetop level high.


5 Walleye Recipes That Don’t Involve Frying


Put down the crackers and the frying oil. These recipes will take your walleye cooking to the next level


I live in Minnesota, and around here and across much of the upper Midwest, the walleye is king. Many people believe it’s the all-around greatest fish that has ever been. And while I enjoy it, I’m not sure it’s the best we have to offer.

My biggest criticism of walleye is as table fare. Many people claim they are the best-tasting fish ever. I personally feel as though there are better fish out there. On its own, walleye is a very mild flaky white fish with no real distinct flavor. Those words might get me in a lot of trouble in some circles—as will some of the ways I like to prepare walleye.

There are some purists who believe that frying is the only way to cook walleye and the only argument to have is whether you use Ritz crackers or Saltines as your breading. I have eaten my fair share of walleye breaded with both, but I like to try new things, too. With walleye being a fairly neutral-flavored fish it is a great vessel for other flavors to ride on. If you are willing to break free from the crowd and are interested in trying something different, here are five ways to cook walleye that don’t involve frying.

1. Pan-Seared Walleye With a Sorrel Cream Sauce


A cream sauce is a perfect complement to a white and flakey walleye fillet. Jamie Carlson

  • 1 lb. walleye fillets

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

  • 1 small shallot, finely diced

  • 1 cup sorrel leaves, chopped

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • ¼ cup sweet vermouth

Season the walleye fillets with salt and pepper and let stand for about 15 minutes before cooking. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a nonstick pan with one tablespoon of oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, gently lay the fish in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes per side depending on how big the fillets are. When the fish is done cooking, remove from the pan and set aside on a warm plate.

For the cream sauce

Add the other tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt it over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir for one minute. Add in the sorrel leaves and cook until all the sorrel has wilted. Pour in the vermouth and continue cooking until most of the vermouth has evaporated. Pour in the heavy cream and bring to a boil stirring constantly. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

To serve, pour the sauce onto a plate and lay a walleye fillet on top.

2. Butter Basted Walleye with Kale and Black-eyed Pea Salad


While this recipe may look complicated it’s just as easy as breading and frying a walleye fillet. Jamie Carlson

  • 2 walleye fillets

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme

  • All-purpose flour for dusting

  • Salt

  • Pepper

This recipe is very simple. Just melt some butter and a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and toss in the garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Then, season your walleye fillets with salt and pepper and give them a dusting with flour before laying them in the pan. While the fillets are cooking, tilt the pan to one side so the oil and butter pool on the edge, and spoon the hot butter over the fillet. Cook it like this on one side for 4-5 minutes, basting the fillet with butter. This is a really great method for cooking a thinner fillet because you don’t have to flip it over and risk it falling apart. It also allows it to get a nice crust on one side without overcooking.

For the salad

  • 4 cups of kale torn into bite-sized pieces with stems and veins removed

  • 1 can Black-eyed peas

  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, add the shallots, vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup. Whisk the ingredients together and continue whisking as you pour in the olive oil. Taste the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. In another large bowl, toss the kale and peas together with the maple-mustard vinaigrette.

3. Sous Vide Walleye with a Parmesan Crust


Sous vide is a method of cooking where you vacuum-seal the ingredients and then cook them in a water bath set to a specific temperature. Jamie Carlson

  • 2 walleye fillets

  • 2 tablespoons of butter

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 slices of lemon

  • Salt and pepper

  • ¼ cup grated parmesan

  • ¼ cup unseasoned bread crumbs

Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Arrange one bay leaf, one slice of lemon, and one tablespoon of butter on each fillet. Place the fillets inside a vacuum bag and seal according to the instructions. Preheat your sous vide to 125 degrees and place the bag in the water bath. Cook for 30 minutes and then remove the fillets from the bath.


Walleye fillets in a vacuum bag, ready to sous vide. Jamie Carlson

Preheat the broiler on your oven to high. Cut the vacuum bag open and pour the liquid into a container. You will use 2 tablespoons of the melted butter from the bag to make the parmesan crust. Slide the fillets out of the bag onto a baking sheet. Combine the bread crumbs and parmesan with the melted butter and pour over and completely cover the walleye fillets. Place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes watching carefully so you don’t burn the crust. Remove from the oven and serve.

4. Jalapeno and Lime Walleye Cakes


Jalapeno and lime walleye cakes with tartar sauce. Jamie Carlson

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the walleye fillets with salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the fillets and allow them to cool. Using your hands, break apart the fillets into small pieces and place in a bowl. In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat melt one tablespoon of butter and add the green onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Cook for two minutes until the green onions are soft. Add the mixture to the bowl with the fillets and mix in the remaining ingredients.

Form the mixture into patties and cook in a pan until golden on both sides—about 3 minutes per side over medium heat. Serve with your favorite tartar sauce.

5. Grilled Tequila Lime Walleye Tacos


Walleye takes the marinade in this recipe very well. Jamie Carlson

  • 1 lbs. walleye fillets

For the Marinade

Combine the ingredients for the marinade, place the walleye fillets in the marinade, and refrigerate for one hour. Prepare your grill and cook the walleye fillets for about 3 minutes per side over high heat or about 10 minutes on a pellet grill set to 400 degrees. Remove the fillets and chop into bite-sized pieces. Serve with corn tortillas and whatever taco fixings you like. I prefer Pico del Gallo, avocado, lime wedges and plenty of cilantro.


4 Turkey Hunting Tactics That Work When Nothing Else Will

Sometimes turkey hunting is like magic, and responsive gobblers come in on a string. These tactics are for all the other times.



The classic spring-morning turkey setup is classic for a reason: It works, at least some of the time. The birds are gathered in one spot—their roost tree—and they are usually vocal and callable. But every veteran turkey hunter knows that even a sure-thing flydown strut-buster can sputter and fail. Here are four ways to salvage what remains of your day.

Tactic #1

Kill a Canyon Gobbler

The toughest toms to tag can be those that hang out in vertical landscapes—the steep slopes of Western canyons or the corduroy country of Appalachia and the Northeast. Sometimes the terrain is so vertical, you can call a gobbler to 15 yards and still not see it. When you finally do, just his red head pops up, and the rest of the bird remains hidden by the hill. Canyon crossers are another challenge. A tom might roost on one side, fly down to the other, and climb the opposite rim to strut. In those cases, you may need to ford a creek and climb 500 feet to reach him.

The best way to circumvent turkey troubles in vertical country is to look for terrain features that can help you get the drop on incoming gobblers.

1. Glass a Rim Strutter

Gobblers will strut and preen in the woods and glades of canyon slopes, but often they hike up to the canyon rim and strut there, especially if it borders a pasture or crop field. You can watch for this from an elevated lookout. Use a good binocular and back it up with a spotting scope. In the West, we sometimes glass rim-edge turkeys from 2 or 3 miles away, usually from the opposite side of the canyon. Move in when you’ve identified a popular edge, either using the steep ridge to hide your approach from below or finding little creases and rivulets that can hide you if you need to drop in from above.

2. Locate Roosts

Like turkeys everywhere, canyon toms have preferred roost sites—for a few nights in a row at least. Listen for gobbles in the evening or before dawn to pinpoint these places, then set up on the rim nearest the bird, uphill of the roost, and try calling him to you.

3. Deke the Bench

Toms will walk and strut on steep ground, but they’re easier to see and shoot when they’re on flat ground. Most canyon walls will have a few meadows on benches or gentler south-facing slopes. Some are cut with old logging roads, which offer flat but narrow strutting zones. Set up a decoy on a sunny bench and call to the gobblers. —R.S.

Tactic #2

Treat’em Like Whitetails

It happens sooner or later everywhere, every spring: Gobblers go haywire, altogether ignoring or even outright running from your calls—even if you’re a maestro. Hunting pressure, stage of breeding season, and an abundance of hens can all contribute to the problem.

So quit calling. Cold turkey. Period. Then stand strong. That’s the first part of your solution. Raiding your whitetail-hunting playbook is the rest of it.

1. Scout with Purpose

You wouldn’t hunt deer without trying to figure out their movement patterns. Use the same scouting skills and tools to unlock turkey habits in the area you hunt. Google Maps, on-the-ground reconnaissance, and discreet glasswork from a good vantage point will all help tell you what the birds are doing.

2. Hunt Travel Routes

Staking out a random spot doesn’t work in deer hunting. Success comes from watching trails, travel corridors, funnels, and pinch points. Same with turkey hunting. Now that you know where the birds are going, be there yourself. A killer spot: the route birds follow between their roost and morning food.

3. Hit the Feed
Does feed hard, and bucks follow. Hens feed hard, and gobblers follow. Just as you would hunt fields and food plots for whitetails, hunt where the turkeys are chowing down.

4. Bust a Strut Zone

You hunt bucks around scrapes and zones where they like to rut. Silent toms still breed. Wait for gobblers where they like to hang out and show off for hens—their strut zone. Look for wing drag marks through leaves, in trails, and on field or meadow edges to reveal these hotspots.

5. Play the Weather

Use bad weather to your advantage. Wind? Head to lee hillsides, calm coulees, quiet valleys, and secluded draws where wind-­hating turkeys congregate. Rain? Get out of the woods and watch a field or meadow where birds will be preening in the hours following a shower. Cold? Hit a sunny field edge where hens—with toms following—come to absorb rays and warm up. —T.C.

Tactic #3

Hunt The Evening

This spring, 36 of the 49 states that have spring turkey seasons will allow hunters to shoot until sunset. A decade ago, that count was 21. Clearly, we’re getting over old-­fashioned hang-ups about evening hunting harming turkey populations.

But morning gobblers and evening gobblers require two very different approaches. And the wrong kind of evening hunting pressure can push turkeys away from preferred roost sites and out of your hunting territory. Put the following considerations to work and shoot a gobbler as the sun heads toward the horizon.

1. Start Early

You wouldn’t get to your morning spot late. Give your afternoon hunt a similar effort and be sure you are in place well before the birds show up. A spring day is long. Hungry birds come out to feed early. Spring gobblers get hungry, and they feed hard in the afternoon and evening. Set up three to four hours before sunset.

2. Give them Room

Don’t hunt directly under roost trees. Instead, hang back along travel routes or at feeding areas, where birds are going to be while shooting light remains. Turkeys returning to the roost will often just reverse the same route they took out in the morning. Set up in a spot slightly above travel routes, where you have good visibility and a wide shooting lane.

3. Build a Hide

Get set for a long wait. Build a blind from natural materials, use camouflage fabric, or erect a pop-up tent. Evening birds are jittery, suspicious, and ultra-alert. A good hide provides some forgiveness if you stretch or make an errant movement.

4. Pipe Down

Hens and gobblers alike often aren’t much interested in breeding—or talking about it—late in the day. No calling at all may be best. If you do call, use only the softest clucks and whispery yelps. Sound carries far in the evening.

5. Run an Interception

Okay, so this one isn’t low-impact. But in the prairie states and open areas of the West, use the late afternoon and evening to glass from vantage points. Once you’ve spotted a moving flock, drop into a parallel drainage to sneak ahead, come over the top, and intercept them. —T.C.

Tactic #4

Charge a Flock

Remember that scene from Top Gun when Maverick tells Goose he’s going to let the enemy fighter jet get closer? To Goose, the tactic seemed counterintuitive, if not crazy. That’s exactly how I felt when my turkey guide, Jimmy Warner, told me he was going to run off the jakes in front of us.

“You’re gonna do what?” I mouthed through my face mask. We’d taken an hour to slip into position undetected. Generally speaking, a group of turkeys has a calming effect on other turkeys, so I couldn’t believe that Warner was about to blow it all by running them off. But that’s exactly what he did when he leapt to his feet, waved his hat, and sent the mob flying. Thirty minutes later, a gobbler crept in, now uninhibited by the band of randy jakes, and I nailed him. As it turned out, Maverick—and Jimmy—knew what they were doing.

Here are a few other times when it makes sense—however wrong-headed it might seem—to charge ahead instead of melting into the background.

1. Bust the Flock

In areas that produce large annual hatches, jakes can band together like a high-school clique and harass solitary gobblers into conceding some turf rather than fighting it out. Jakes can be especially aggressive with decoys. If you are hounded by groups of jakes and not seeing mature gobblers, then employ the same tactic that Warner used. Get up and run off the adolescents, then sit back and call softly. Often wary gobblers will sneak in without a sound.

2. Run with the Bulls

Thanks to some scouting, Warner and I knew turkeys liked to loaf in a large feedlot on a working ranch in Oklahoma. But the lot was almost completely open, with no way to approach the birds undetected. So Warner did what any turkey guide in ranch country would do: He opened a gate and quietly shooed cattle toward the feedlot, then we slid in behind the yearlings until we found cover in a corner of the lot. The cows dispersed, and we called in the turkeys.

3. Try a High-Speed Fan Charge

Using a turkey tail fan to approach gobblers is nothing new, especially for Westerners, who are long on vistas but short on cover. Most hunters use this fanning tactic—which has recently been given the grim name of “reaping”—to pique the dominance instinct of a tom and lure him into range, or to shield a hunter’s movements in order to get into better position. But in the right circumstances—a last-gasp effort to kill an open-field tom in an area where you have exclusive hunting access—you can modify the technique and actually charge the turkey. Hold a large tail fan to shield as much of you as possible, then run toward the gobbler until you get within gun range. This high-stakes tactic works only occasionally—maybe once every five or six times—and when it doesn’t work, it will spook the bird into the next township and stymie any follow-up approach. But when it’s your final opportunity, and you are sure no other hunters are working the area, then it can save a hunt where more conventional tactics failed. —J.J.


How to Catch Nightcrawlers for Bait

Never run out of bait again with these three easy nightcrawler collection methods


It’s hard to make the argument that catching nightcrawlers for bait is going to save you tons of cash, unless, of course, you’re a walleye charter captain who buys them by the pound for a season’s worth of trolling worm harness rigs. But gathering your own bait is a lot of fun. Catching crayfish, as an example, is often as good a time as catching smallmouth with them, especially because I can get my kids splashing around in the creek to help fill my bait bucket faster. 

Similar to fooling a fish on a fly you tied, catching a fish on bait you harvested is also just a little more gratifying. There’s no easier bait to harvest than earthworms. Here are three methods of how to catch nightcrawlers. Each method is fun for the whole family, and even if your youngsters aren’t that into fishing, I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love a worm hunt. 

How to Catch Nightcrawlers at Night

My kids love two things: anything that’s like a “treasure hunt” and getting filthy dirty. If I give them shovels and a couple empty containers, they’ll dig all the way to China in pursuit of worms. During the process, they’ll also make dirt castles and mud soup, and I’ll likely have to hose them down outside before permitting reentry into the home. But maybe that’s not your kid. Maybe your kid prefers to keep it clean. No worries. You can still have a blast gathering worms without them complaining about dirt under their fingernails.  All you need is a flashlight and perhaps a tiny extension on bedtime.  

Have you ever noticed worms in the gutter or all over your driveway after it rains? That happens because the worms’ burrows fill with water. It becomes more difficult for them to breathe because oxygen diffuses much slower in water than it does in the air. If the worms don’t come to the surface, they’ll drown. Of course, if your timing is good, there’s no easier way to secure a couple dozen crawlers than picking them off the concrete in broad daylight, but let’s assume there wasn’t a big rainstorm.

During the spring and summer, the air cools after dark. This rapid change in temperature creates condensation, which is why your lawn is often glistening with dew on spring and summer mornings. This overnight influx of moisture can be enough to have the same effect as rain, and nightcrawlers will often shoot up out of the ground a few hours after dark so they can absorb oxygen more efficiently. All you have to do is stroll your property with a flashlight, spot them, and fill your worm jar. 

Hot tip: While worms are easier to spot on a freshly cut lawn, longer grass creates and holds more moisture, making for better worm hunting. 

Make a Worm Farm

This method is all about how to catch nightcrawlers the easy way. Worms aren’t always underground. Take a walk through the woods and start flipping over rotten logs and you’ll likely find plenty of crawlers at surface level. If the soil under rocks and logs is cool and moist enough, worms don’t need to burrow. You can take advantage of this and create your own backyard worm paradise with a simple piece of cardboard. 

It’s important to note that to make this personal worm hotel, you’re going to kill off a patch of grass the same size as the cardboard piece you use, so make sure you have a spot on your property where you can do this without issue. Once you’ve figured out the placement, the rest couldn’t be simpler. Put the cardboard on the ground, weigh it down with a couple rocks or bricks, and give it a spray with the hose. Don’t saturate the cardboard and turn it into pulp, just give it a misting. Now you wait. 

During the next few days, if the cardboard gets dried out, mist it again. You want to make sure the ground under it is staying moist, however, natural moisture and condensation are often sufficient to hydrate the board. In about a week, you should be able to find your targets nestled happily under the cardboard. You can keep this worm hotel operational as long as you’d like by replacing the board and being diligent about its moisture level. 

Rig a Worm Zapper

Warning: The following worm gathering method requires adult supervision. I’m not saying this is the safest way to get bait, but it works. How do I know? Because my frugal and MacGyver-like Italian grandfather used to do it all the time. He was an electrician by trade and could hot wire just about anything, including garden worms. Was I supervised during this process? I guess so if him saying, “don’t touch anything” once and paying me no mind after counts as supervision. This was the 80s, of course. We still had lawn darts. Those might be long gone, but you can still buy a car battery and turn it into a worm zapper.

My pop would solder wires to two foot-long metal rods, and then solder battery clips to the other ends. He’d jam the rods deep into the soft, moist dirt of his garden about two feet apart from each other, clip the wires to the terminals of an ancient car battery, and let the juice flow. Like every other living thing, worms aren’t fond of electrical current. It irritates them, and when they get buzzed, their instinct is to shoot to the surface. When it happens, it happens fast, too. It only took about 10 seconds of current to make every worm between those rods pop. Just make sure you disconnect the battery before picking them up. Eight-year-old me got yelled at plenty of times for going in for the grab before the circuit was broken. 

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