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A Hunter and His Dog When it’s Time to say Goodbye By Gary Howey

  Each time, when I pull into my driveway, I would glance over towards the dog kennel in my backyard, as there has always been one of my hunting dogs waiting for me.

  I cannot describe how I felt last week, coming home, looking  towards the kennel and the kennel was empty after I lost my dog, it was a tough deal and I felt lost.

  Ever since I came to Nebraska from Watertown, S.D., I have always had a hunting dog and loved hunting behind them.

  My first dog an A.K.C. registered Brittney spaniel, a pup I received in payment for working at a part-time job.  When it came to pay day, the owner informed me he did not have the money to pay me and told me to take one of his dog’s pup and an old 53 GMC pickup setting out in his trees as payment.

   It seemed to me that a dog and an old ugly pickup were better than nothing was, so I returned the following afternoon after work to see if I could pick up a pup and get the pickup to start.

  My wife was not too keen on the idea when I came home with a puppy, an old pickup and no cash, as the extra money was something we had counted on.

  We named the pup “Calico” who was a little high-spirited, and there were days when I wondered if he knew what a bird was, while at other times, he amazed me with his ability to locate and retrieve whatever I knocked down.

  Back then, habitat was sparse and about the only habitat in the county where I lived were the unpicked corn and the terrace rows.  Back then, the cornrows were wide with grass and weeds growing between the rows and because of the hilly ground many of the fields were terraced. We hunted together for over ten years and my first experience hunting with a dog and the only way I wanted to hunt after that.

  I had a couple of dogs in between, when we had our kids and these dogs were more of a pet for the kids than full-fledged hunting dogs.

  A friend of mine gave me my last dog and just a year old when he came to live with. This friend of mine had several dogs, including this partially trained A.K.C. registered black Lab named “Bay’s Doolin Moe Joe” that he was looking to give to someone who would give it a good home. [Read more…]

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Warmest memories created in the cold By Larry Myhre

There’s nothing quite like that hour before dawn on the ice. Throughout my long ice fishing career, I harbor many cherished memories. It’s not the big fish or the number of fish I’ve caught on an outing that occupies the high points of my memory of many hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of hours and days on the ice.

No, it is those predawn hours spent on the ice of West Lake Okoboji through the late 1960s and early 1970s that come to mind most often. I was in my early 20s and just happy to be able to join the seasoned outdoors veterans who allowed me to fish with them virtually every weekend all winter.

They were a group of ice fishing addicts. They always ate a big breakfast at whichever lakeside cottage we were staying at. Then they were on the ice a full hour before daylight. And they stayed out there until a limit of perch was reached or dark, whichever came first. Lunch? Forget it. They might have a thermos of coffee and perhaps a snack in their bucket, but most likely not.

My idea of breakfast was a Coke and a cigarette. But I choked down the fried eggs, bacon or sausage and pancakes because I knew we wouldn’t eat again until about 7 p.m.

I was not an early riser. I would hear them banging around and yelling for me to get up. But I was often reluctant to leave the pleasant warmth of my sleeping bag. One morning, one of the group, a big, linebacker-type of man, picked up my sleeping bag with me in it and dumped me out on the cold floor. Another time he dumped me into a baby’s crib. He said that’s where I belonged. Do you know how hard it is to get out of a baby’s crib?

There we’d be. Sitting on a white, five-gallon bucket. If it were windy, a big rock would reside in the bucket so it wouldn’t blow away. Our short ice fishing rods were rigged with a Mitchell 308 spooled with four-pound-test line at the end of which danced a quarter-ounce Swedish Pimple spoon, its single hook sporting several tiny grubs.

So there I’d sit, back to the wind, wondering why in the hell did we have to start so early because perch don’t bite in the dark. Walleyes? Oh yes. They love that hour before dawn. But we were never on a walleye spot. These guys wanted perch. And they usually got them.

Those hours in the pre-dawn darkness reminded me a lot of listening to the marsh wake up when you are duck hunting. It’s eerily quiet at first and then you begin to hear sounds. It might be the wingbeats of ducks flying over, then later the quiet is shattered by the loud quacks of a hen mallard saying nothing in particular. Then the redwing blackbirds begin to sing.

On the ice it is the sounds of vehicles driving out, the snow squeaking under their tires. Loud voices. Laughter. The scream of ice augers punching through 30 inches of ice. All the while a pink tinge to the eastern sky begins to signal that there is, indeed, a sun. As that pink blush splashes into a hot red-orange glow all across the horizon you make out trees, their branches back lit by the morning light.

It’s another half hour before the sun finally crests the hills and splashes its light across the ice.

That’s about when you notice your first bite of the day. A faint pull on the rod tip and you raise it quickly, feeling the resistance of another Okoboji yellow-ringed perch at the other end. Even though the sun is now fully upon the ice, the day seems a little brighter.

And so it is with memories. Time makes them seem a little brighter. [Read more…]

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Late Season Pheasant Hunt Watertown, S.D. Gary Howey

  Anyone who has had the opportunity to hunt late season pheasants in South Dakota can relate to what this column is all about.

  Late season, after the weather turns cold means is when pheasant’s bunch up, sometimes into “huge” flocks.

  It is also that time when every step you take on the frozen ground or in the snow that every critter within hearing distance is going to go on the alert.  This is the time of the season when the first bird takes wing that every critter in the slough will now know something’s is not right!

  As our group of walkers started into the snow covered slough, the first of hundreds of pheasants erupted from the small group of cedars about 250 yards ahead of our wingmen while other birds hunkered down in the heavy slough, hoping our walkers would not find them.

  Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Larry Myhre and I were in the Watertown area taking part in a late season pheasant hunt with Chuck Stone, a friend that graduated with me from Watertown high School. Several other of our WHS classmates were also on the hunt; they included Dennis Murphy and Joe Jipp from Watertown and Tom Sokoll from Omaha.

  Larry and I had been part of this event in years past and were never disappointed.  Over the years, the Stone’s, have developed several areas for pheasant hunting. Each of these has everything wildlife needed to make it through the tough South Dakota winters. The area has plenty of winter cover, several food plots as well as shelterbelts, all of which gave pheasants, deer and other wildlife a place to winter.

  On this trip, I would enter the slough not equipped with my 12-gauge shotgun but handling the filming with a Sony Hi-Def camera with Larry serving as one of the blockers at the end of the first slough.

  It did not take me long to realize how many pheasants were using the covered with cattail covered slough as there were fresh pheasant tracks in the snow going in every direction.

  The Stones knew the area well, setting up the hunt giving the hunters the best opportunity to get a shot at a pheasant.  Many of the hunters in the group had good hunting dogs that worked in between the walkers, with wingmen working on either side out in front of our walkers and blockers strategically placed on the end where we hoped to push the birds.

  Before us was a heavy cattail slough, a ridge off to our right with a cluster of Cedar trees at its northern end, off to our right was an open ridge leading into an unpicked cornfield (food plot) with all three converging into a short grass field where there were several round hay bales were out blockers would be posting.

  As we entered the slough, it looked as if we could walk on top of the hard heavy snow bank, and then drop down working our way in and around the cattails, but a few steps in the snow turned soft with the walkers and me breaking through into snow up to our knees.

  We were all having the same problem, except for the dogs as they could stay on top of the snow, following the numerous deer trails, which ran through the slough and working through the cattails trying to root out the birds that were holding tight. [Read more…]

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3 Tips To Prepare For Spring And Summer

By this time of the year, most everyone’s hunting season is over or starting to wind down and not many guys are thinking about growing plots or feeding their deer. With some cold and nasty weather still possible for the next few weeks, it’s a great time to sit down and start planning for the upcoming growing season. There may be some things you thought of while sitting in your deer stand this fall that you would like to accomplish on the property you manage.

1)  Soil Preparation

One of the first things I like to do in February and March is pull soil samples on my plots and get them sent in to see if I need to add any lime and see what fertilizer will be needed for my warm season annuals that will be planted in late April/early May. If you had soil samples taken this fall you will already have an idea of where your plots are in needing lime or nutrients. Have an up to date sample of the areas you plant to plant this spring and if the ph is low, have lime spread in the late winter/early spring. This will give the ag lime time to start working on the soil for your spring/summer plots and also those fields that are left fallow through the summer and are typically only planted in the fall. Depending on the size of the screen that the lime is run through at the quarry, the granular consistency of ag lime can take several months to break down and begin to neutralize the acidity in your soil.

2)  Manage Your Perennial Food Plots

Many of us spend a good deal of time throughout the spring/summer managing and manicuring our perennial clover and chicory plots. If you planted perennials this past fall be sure and take the time to mow, fertilize, and spray them through the warm season so they will stay weed free and thriving. With good maintenance and favorable weather, you can get several years of production from a good perennial. Weed competition is the number one problem in managing perennial food plots. The first month after spring green up is when you will see the flush of weeds including grasses and broadleaves start to invade your fields. Catching these weeds early in the growth cycle and spraying them while they are young and actively growing will yield much better results than waiting to spray the weeds when they are more mature. In the south you may lose your clover to the hot weather and dry conditions in July and August, but if these fields are maintained properly through the spring and early summer, they will jump back out from dormancy in late summer/early fall much more quickly and back to that lush field it was in the spring. BioLogic will have two new herbicides called Weed Reaper available this spring for controlling both grasses and broadleaf weeds in legumes like clover.

3)  Equipment Maintenance

Another great time saver for this time of year is equipment maintenance. Your spray rigs, bush-hogs, tractors and trailers have been sitting most of the fall and winter and it’s a great idea to go ahead and do some routine maintenance. Getting your bush-hog blades sharpened and spray rigs calibrated and working properly can be a big time saver when done ahead of time instead of fighting leaking hoses, wore out bearings, and wore out pumps the day you need to be spraying or mowing. In February I like to get all the fluids changed out on my tractor and make sure everything is operating properly. You can also hook up your spray rig to check clamps, hoses, and valves for any possible cracks or leaks. Run clean water through the lines and make sure all nozzles and filters are clean and flowing properly. Late winter is also a good opportunity to go ahead and reserve rented equipment such as lime/fertilizer buggies, spray rigs, etc so you have it available on the dates you need.