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April 2014

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Dan Busch | Bushy Tales


Fish tails: Squirrel lures a key to many catches

Weather permitting, Saturday, Sept. 15 should be a busy day statewide for Wisconsin hunters, regardless of how and what they wish to target.

In addition to being the last day of the Early Canada Goose season, the third Saturday of the month marks the opening of the bow and arrow deer hunt, the start of the fall turkey season plus the Gray and Fox squirrel season.

If you're a squirrel hunter who also likes to fish, your squirrel season will run without interruption through Jan. 31 - more than enough time to collect some quality tails for the Mepps recycling program.

According to Mepps spokesman Jim Martinsen, the folks at Sheldons, Inc. of Antigo don't want your aluminum cans or plastic bottles. They do, however, want your squirrel tails. They need them to create hand-tied dressed hooks that do a great job of catching fish.

Mepps is only interested in recycling tails taken from squirrels harvested for table fare. They do not advocate taking squirrels only for their tails.

Mepps has tried hundreds of other materials, both natural and synthetic, and nothing else works as well. Todd Sheldon discovered this in the early 1960s. While fishing the Wolf River with Mepps spinners, he caught his limit of trout and was heading back to his car when he met a boy who also had maxed out fishing with Mepps. But, all of the boy's trout were larger than Todd's. This is not something easily accepted by any angler.

Todd noticed the Mepps spinner attached to the boy's line had a tuft of squirrel tail tied to the hook, so he began experimenting with dressed hooks. Bear hair was tried as well as fox, coyote, badger, skunk, deer, even Angus cow. But the only two tails that provided the pulsating action Todd was looking for were squirrel tails and buck tails.

Squirrel tail quickly became the dressing of choice for Mepps trout spinners. Big spinners for trophy musky, pike and bass were dressed with bucktail. It wasn't long before Mepps Bucktails had caught more trophy musky and northern pike than any other lure in the world. Mepps has been recycling squirrel and deer tails ever since.

While Mepps buys squirrel tails from individual hunters, most of their deer tails come from fur buyers or meat processors.

Processing both squirrel and deer tails is a lot of work. Every deer tail must be trimmed to remove any body hair. Squirrel tails seldom need trimming, but they do need to be sorted and graded. All of the tails, however, need to be washed not once, but several times. After drying, some are left natural, while others are dyed brilliant hues. When needed, they are placed in the hands of a skilled fly tyer, where they become a Mepps dressed hook.

You can double the value of your tails by exchanging them for Mepps lures. Other details on the Mepps squirrel tail recycling program, including care and handling instructions, can be found at mepps.com/squirrels. Interested hunters can also call (800) 713-3474.

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