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Early Hunting Season Grouse & Prairie Chicken By Gary Howey

  The early upland game bird hunting seasons are just around the corner and the bird surveys that have been completed on the sharptail grouse and the prairie chicken seem to indicate good numbers of both species.

  In South Dakota, the lek count indicates that the sharptail grouse numbers are up slightly, while the count for prairies chicken is down slightly, which pencils out to having about the same number of birds that were in the state last season.

  Counting the male birds on leks, which are often called dancing or booming grounds gives the Game & Parks an ideas as to the number of birds.

   The life span of these birds is short with about a 50% survival rate. Young of year birds usually outnumber adult birds in the fall.

  This is reason these counts are taken in the spring, when the males gather on the lek, these counts are a good indicator of the adult bird and how things will look in the future.

  Distinguishing the difference between the two isn’t difficult as the sharptails have a shorter tail with their two middle feathers longer and darker than the outside tail feathers; their sharp tail is the reason for their name. A sharptails feathers are marked with spots or blotches of a different color or shade.

   The prairie chickens tail is short, dark, and rounded with the greater part of their feet feathered.

  Hunting grouse on the prairie means that you have to cover a lot of distance, as the birds are generally in large flocks and found in the western grassland of the state.

  In the morning in the spring both the grouse and prairie chickens dance or display or dance on the lek with the male prairie chicken raising the feathers on its head and inflating the orange sacs on their neck, trying their best to impress the females.

  The females arrive at the lek each morning to check out the males as they strut, display and stutter step as they move around in a circle.

  Once the female has mated, like other upland game birds she will tend the eggs and raise then young on her own.

  One thing you can do to locate birds before hitting the field is something I learned from a friend when I first started hunting grouse.  He uses his binoculars to glass the larger pastures and grassland, as the grouse and chickens always seem to have a lookout with its head up watching for danger. He looked for their lookout and said they resembled a bowling pin sticking out of the grass. I’ve tried it several times and have located birds, but without glassing the field first, I would have had to walk the entire field before finding the birds.

  When I was younger, I had a Brittney Spaniel, who led the way, nose to the ground through the fields as he worked to pick up the birds scent. We’d walk until we busted a covey, shot what we could and watched the direction the birds glided to and then walked again, covering several miles in pursuit of the birds. [Read more…]

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Getting The Most Out Of Your Clover Food Plots

Most companies will claim a lifespan of three to five years on their perennials. However, if you care for them properly a perennial stand can last for many years. Perennials like red and white clovers, alfalfa, trefoils and chicory provide dependable nutrition and attraction and are especially important for antler growth, fawn rearing and early hunting season attraction. If you decide to plant a perennial like Non-Typical Clover just follow these words of advice to get the most out of your food plot.

Test Your Soil

It is always beneficial to get a soil test done before you begin. The soil that you begin with will be significant in how long your perennials will last. The pH of your soil needs to be fairly neutral (6.2 to 7.5) if you want longevity from your stand. If you have acidic soil (or a low pH) it doesn’t mean that you can’t grow perennials, it just means that you need to incorporate some lime into the soil to raise the pH and reduce the acidity. With an initially neutral pH a perennial stand can grow-on for eight to ten years or more.

Mowing Clover Food Plots

Perennials should be mowed periodically during the growing season (at least three times). Mowing not only helps to keep broadleaf weeds and grasses at bay, but it also promotes new, more attractive, palatable growth on your perennials. Many people want to plant perennials, because they believe they will be less work since you only plant them once and they last for years but perennials actually need more “tractor time” than annuals. Perennials are less expensive for the production that you receive, but with the maintenance required they will take a bit more work than annuals if you wish to do it right.

Using Herbicide On Clover

In most regions of the country you may also find the need to treat your stand with a clover safe herbicide. Mowing will usually take care of broadleaf weeds, but in severe cases there may also be selective herbicides that will deal with the broadleaf problem, depending upon what type of plants are in your perennial stand. There are numerous brands of grass herbicides that will work over perennial blends like Clover Plus or Non-Typical. If you have questions, contact a habitat consultant at http://www.plantbiologic.com.

Fertilizer Your Clover

It is also important, if you want longevity from your perennials, to feed them from time to time. It’s best to fertilize with what your soil test results recommend. Most often the best fertilizer for clover will recommend around 300 lbs of 0-20-20 per acre annually. Many choose to fertilize at planting time and then during the spring annually thereafter. Some also believe that a boost of potassium during the late summer in the North, or early fall in the South, can increase cold hardiness of the stand. About 200-250 lbs of 0-0-60 per acre should suffice.

For more tips and tricks on caring for your food plots check out “7 Tips To Keep Weeds Under Control”. We know the most common problems in food plots, especially perennials, is weed competition. Weeds rob your plot of essential nutrients, water, and root space. Learn how to keep weeds under control.

 
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Small & Largemouth The Bass Gary Howey

  Bass, both the smallmouth and largemouth bass are one of the top predators in any body of water as they’re some of the most aggressive fish in the body of water.

Largemouth

  The largemouth inhabits most bodies of water from small farm ponds, gravel/sand pits, to the Missouri River Reservoirs of South Dakota and Nebraska. Where’s there’s water, you’ll find the largemouth, including in the numerous lakes found throughout Minnesota and the “Glacial Lakes” of northeastern South Dakota.

  As mentioned earlier, largemouth can be very aggressive and will attack almost anything they might think they can get into their mouth. Among several of the things that bass are known to eat include snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders, ducklings, crayfish as well as other fish.

  Bass are aggressive feeders, in the spring before the “Dog” days of summer; you’ll find them shallow in preparation for the spawn.

  The male will create a nest with their tail in one to three feet generally less than ten feet from shoreline where the fertilized eggs are deposited. The male will guard the fingerlings until they’re capable of fending for themselves.

  Because the male has been busy keeping predators away from the nest, he hasn’t had an opportunity to eat and one of the final things he’ll do before leaving the nest is chase the fingerlings from the nest by gobbling down as many of the young as possible. This not only allows the male to feed, but it may also show the young fish that they can’t trust anything, not even their father.

  After the spawn, the female moves into the deep water to rest and recuperate from the spawning ritual.  During the cool time of the day and after the sunsets, the females will move from the deeper water up shallow looking for a quick meal.

  In the summer, all largemouth will look for more comfortable water temperatures, this may be deep, adjacent or in the weeds or in the shade of a dead fall or stump lying in the water.

  As summer moves into fall, bass like all fish will start to feed heavily, as they need to bulk up before winter sets in, feeding heavily until water temperature decline when these cold blooded creatures metabolism slows and they ride out the winter.

  Some of the preferred baits for taking largemouth include; jigs and pig, spinnerbaits, buzz baits, Texas rigs with Berkley Gulp, PowerBaits and Carolina Rigs,  dropshot rigs, crankbaits like those manufactured by  Bagley and in some cases live bait rigs.

    The largemouth records for the states mentioned above vary with the South Dakota record for largemouth being 9 lbs. 3 Oz. with the Minnesota record fish coming in at 8 Lbs. 15 Oz. while the Nebraska record tipping the scales at 10 Lbs. 11 Oz

Smallmouth

The smallmouth bass can be even more aggressive than their cousin the largemouth bass are. Called the Bronze-back, a name given to smallmouth because of their aggressive nature and the way they fight once hooked, pretty much describes the fight an angler has on his hands once the fish is hooked. They run hard, test your equipment and come from deep water in a flash, dancing along the surface trying to dislodge the hook in their jaw.

  They inhabit numerous lakes throughout Nebraska, with excellent populations in the Missouri River reservoirs as well as on Merritt Reservoir and other smaller lakes.

  The South Dakota Reservoirs, Lewis & Clark, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe all have huge smallmouth populations as do the “Glacial Lakes” in the northeastern portion of the state that include Horseshoe, Roy Lake, Reetz Lake and Enemy Swim.

   In Minnesota, you’ll find numerous lakes where these “Bull Dogs of the Deep” will test your equipment and your fish fighting skill. [Read more…]

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Dove Hunting Can be Humbling By Calvin James

 The summer has flown by so fast that it seems like summer is quickly slipping away with the early fall hunting season right around the corner.

  This is when I start to think about the upcoming hunting seasons with the dove season one of the first to open.

  Most of the states in the upper Midwest now allow dove hunting with the opener around September 1.  In the upper Midwest, we have two species of doves that we can hunt the Morning Dove and their larger cousin, the Eurasian Collared Dove.

  When it comes to hunting doves, the weather is a huge factor, as it doesn’t take much of a weather change to get the birds to pack up and migrate south.

  If a cold front or damp weather arrives neat the opener, and stays around for several days, many of the doves will begin to move out.

  The good news is that unless the “fowl” weather stays for a long period, the doves from up north will move down, stopping over, giving us another chance to hunt those birds moving through our area.

  If the numbers of birds that I’ve seen in the upper Midwest are any indicator of what the hunting seasons are going to be like, it should be an excellent one.  With the dry weather we’ve had, the birds are concentrated around water holes, ponds and stock tanks. I’ve seen large numbers of doves in these areas, especially those having the dove’s favorite foods growing nearby.

  Doves concentrate in areas of harvested wheat and those with ragweed or hemp, as doves will fly long distances to feast on the seeds of these plants.

  It might be that the hemp or marijuana is one of the reasons that the dove’s flight path is so erratic.  As about the time you take a shot at them, the birds will fold their wings losing altitude and wing off in a different direction.

  It always seems that doves will change their altitude and direction at will.  Unfortunately, for many hunters, just about the time they shoot, the bird drops a few feet, causing the shooter to shoot where they were before they made such a quick dive.

  The dove season generally opens up on September 1 and it looks as if there will be plenty of these dodging and weaving game birds to shoot at.

  I said shoot at and not shoot or bag, as doves can be some of the toughest of all game birds to bring down.  This is especially true after you’ve fired your first shot and missed!

  Once a dove has heard the first shell go off, they go into an aerial flying act that would make any of the pilots from the Blue Angels envious. [Read more…]