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Figuring Out Spring Fishing By Gary Howey

  To me, it seems like this has been one long winter and unfortunately, there’s a lot of it left! It hasn’t been overly cold, but the wind has been blowing a lot. I like winter to a point, for ice fishing and predator calling, but each year, it seems like I like winter less.

  When the weather has been decent, anglers have been on the water below the Missouri River dams hard.

  Like any other area we fish, the more boats you have out, the better your chances are that someone will locate a concentration of fish. Once people hear that fish are being caught, there are going to be numerous boats on the water during the nice days.

  The majority of the walleyes, sauger and bass caught during the early spring are probably going to be those smaller aggressive males.

  Catching small fish isn’t all-bad because those smaller fish are a good sign for the fishing in the future, indicating that previous spawns were successful and at least there’s something jerking on the line.

  It won’t be long before these smaller fish will be legal size and the fishing down the road should be good.

  The walleyes that they’re catching below the dams now are fish, which started their movement upstream last fall and wintered over below the dam in preparation for this spring’s spawn.

  The larger females will be the last to come up and they’ll set up in the deeper water, waiting for water temperatures to warm up enough for the spawning to begin.

  The walleye & sauger begin spawning when water temperatures hit around 48 degrees, which, during most years is around the first part of May.

  However, who knows, with the temperatures changing the way they do, it could happen earlier than that!

  You’ll find that the smaller males will bite throughout the spawning period, as they are traveling around looking for receptive females and will exert more energy than the females that are in a holding pattern.

  Fishing for the females can be slow up to, through the spawn, and as much as two weeks after the spawn, as the spawn is harder on the females and they will require more time to recuperate.

  After recuperating, the females will go on a feeding binge, as the spawning ritual has taken a lot out of them. This feeding binge, where they’ll feed heavily could last as long as a month.

  After the spawn, with water temperatures warming, all fish will become more active and begin to feed heavily.

  As the water warms, you’ll find the walleyes prowling the shallower water looking for their next meal, generally cruising in 15 foot of water or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on the bite, doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there grabbing everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is directly related to the water temperature, so they’ll still be in their slow mode until summer temperatures arrive.  [Read more…]

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Tackle Tips, Getting into the sport of Fishing By Gary Howey

 At the seminars and on my web page, there are many questions on what type of tackle is needed to get  into the sport of fishing.

  The information in this column will give you information on the basic tackle needed if you are thinking about going fishing.

  This is a good time to start checking out the fishing department of a sporting goods store, as this is when they start to restock their shelves.

  As I mentioned in previous columns, when it comes to fishing you need to keep it as simple as possible.  There are thousands of lures, hooks and baits out there; the only problem is that many of these baits have caught more anglers than fish.

  It’s best to start with the basics, the hook, line and sinker, your basic live bait rig.

Hooks

  When it comes to hook size, you’ll want to match your hook to the species of fish that you’ll be going after.  I’d recommend that you purchased snelled hooks, those that are

pre-tied, having the monofilament line tied to the hook as snelled hooks are easier to attach to a swivel or rig.

  A good rule of thumb is if your fishing for small fish such as trout or panfish is to use a size 4, 6 or 8 hooks.  Use a long shank hook when ever possible as this makes it easier to remove the hook from a smaller fish’s mouth. 

  For bass or larger fish, you can use a size 1, 2, 1/0 or 2/0 hook.  Walleye anglers prefer a shorter more compact hook in a size 6 or 8.  The main thing to remember is to match the size of your hook with the size of the mouth of the fish that you hope to catch.

Line

As far as line is concerned, depending on what type of fish you’re after and where you’ll be fishing for them, I’d suggest you use the lightest light possible.  Generally, if you’re fishing water that’s not full of snags a 6 or 8-pound test for walleyes works well. If you’re fishing for bass or catfish in or near weeds, brush, submerged timber or areas where there are a lot of rocks and snags it’s a good idea to go with 12-pound test or heavier

  The colder the water temperature, the less active the fish are and the more finesse you’re going to need to catch the fish, so as water temps drop, so does my line diameter as smaller baits perform better on lighter line.

  The larger the line diameter, the less action you’re going to get out of your bait. This is especially true when using diving bait as heavier line has more resistance and won’t allow your bait to go as deep (crankbait) or sink as fast (jigs).

  In addition, heavier line has more memory, it won‘t lay out as nice as lighter line, and not allowing your lure to work properly.

  One thing that you really need to pay attention to is the knot you use to attach your hook or lure to the line.

  Avoid the old overhand knot as it won’t hold, will slip, come loose or break, use a good knot such as the Palomar or TRILENE Knot. Illustrations of these and other useful knots are found at www.animatedknots.com/indexfishing.php

  Before you pull your knot tight, be sure to wet the line, if you don’t, the friction created by the line rubbing together will melt the line.

“Sinkers”

The amount of weight or sinker that you’ll attach to the line depends on what type of water you’ll be fishing.  When fishing in a river, dealing with current, it may require a heavier sinker.  If you’re fishing from a boat, you probably won’t need as much weight because you’re fishing vertically.

  I carry an assortment of split shot, a few 1/4 oz. and 3/8 oz. sinkers.  With these, I can fish just about any body of water in the Midwest.  If you need a little more weight, it’s easy to add more weight or attach a small split shot above your weight.

  The basic rule on what weight to use is to use the smallest weight possible.

I know what some of you are saying, “What about fishing in the heavy current in the river?”

To be real honest with you very few fish will be in that heavy current as it takes a lot more energy for them to fight the current than it does to sit behind a point, sandbar or submerged rock pile where there is little or a reduced amount of current.

  Sure, you’ll find some fish in the fast water, but the majority of them will be behind something that breaks the current (current breaks) like those that I mentioned earlier.

If you use too much weight, and a fish tries to inhale it, as most fish do, and the bait doesn’t move, many fish will move on.

  Crappie Rigs are another item that you might want to try.  A Crappie rig is a pre-tied two-hook rig with a swivel on the top that you tie to your line and then attach your sinker to the snap at the bottom.

  Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s talk about some other lures that you might want to try. [Read more…]

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Cold Weather It’sTime To Be on the Ice Gary Howey

  As the wind howls through the Black Hills Spruce in my front yard, I busy myself re-arranging gear that I’ll need to load in my Dodge Ram.  I call this the “In Between Time”, when I and other outdoor people are coming out of one outdoor activity and getting into another.

  Since we just returned from a late season pheasant hunt in the Watertown, S.D. area,  I still have my shotguns, shells, chaps, hunters orange and cold weather clothing loaded and once the wind dies down a bit, I will transfer it to my office loading dock.

  Once it is unloaded, I will get ready for my next outdoor adventures, “Ice Fishing” starting to load my Vexilar locator-underwater camera, five-gallon buckets, ice sled, rod & reels, tackle and auger.

  I love ice fishing, and with the gear and clothing we have today, it takes a lot to drive me off the ice. I really do not enjoy being out in ten below weather when a strong northwesterly wind is blowing my ice fishing sled and me all over the ice.  However, when the wind lies down and the sun comes out, I am game for any kind of ice fishing.

  In Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota there are numerous bodies of water that I love to spend time on ice fishing.

  In Nebraska, several lakes in the Valentine area hold excellent numbers of fish taken through the ice. Merritt Reservoir is one of these, as I like to fish it for walleye, crappie and bluegill. [Read more…]

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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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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.  

   

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True Conservationists “Hunters” By Gary Howey

 For years, we’ve all heard anti-hunters yell and scream about animals having rights and that hunters don’t care about wildlife.

  I’m sure there are some of you reading this, may think what these anti-hunting groups are saying could be factual.

  When in fact, it was hunters supported the 1937 Pitman Robertson Act, which imposed a 10% excise tax on their purchases of guns, ammunition and outdoor equipment. Through this excise tax, hunters have contributed over $4-billion dollars used to purchase millions of acres of public land that benefits all species of wildlife.

   Another fact you may not heard is that hunters since 1923 asked for and have paid for their state’s hunting licenses.

  This amounts to over $6.5-billion dollars received from these licensing fees, that’s paid for by hunters, the dollars raised from these fees are a major portion of the Nebraska’s and South Dakota’s Game & Parks and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources budgets.

  Since 1934, our waterfowl hunters purchased their Federal Duck Stamps, bringing in close to 800-million dollars, with a percentage of these dollars going directly towards the purchase or lease wetlands and wildlife habitat.

  Add to this the dollars donated by hunters to wildlife groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Whitetails Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, they contribute an additional $300-million each year to wildlife conservation activities. 

  Other items that enter into these figures according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is that hunting contributes over $30-billion to the economy every year and supports over 1-million jobs

 There are many ways hunters not only support wildlife but also contribute to other worthwhile programs, including numerous fundraisers such as celebrity hunts and benefit trap shoots. These hunters and celebrities at these events help to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. These events do not just support hunting related projects, but projects such as Habitat for Humanity and other events, proving hunters not only care about the outdoors and wildlife; they also care about their fellow man. [Read more…]

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Looking Back at Another Year By Gary Howey

  It’s the time of the year, when temperatures are dropping and the northwest wind is making a visit to our part of the country.

  I’m in the office working with my computer, hating to think that I’ll have to head outside again, when I think about all the last year, 2016, which will be ending soon.

  Overall, it was a very good year, where Team members and I spent some time on the water and in the field with old friends as well as making some new ones along the way.

  We started out our year in Howard, S.D. on a late season hunt where Team member Josh Anderson and I filmed a pheasant hunt, on this trip; it was easy to see why South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World”.  This trip brought back memories, reminding me of how the pheasant hunting was when I was a boy growing up in Watertown, S.D.  

  Back then, they had a government program, the Soil Bank program with a potion of the farm left idle. This and the method they farmed back then, created thousands of acres of habitat, which help to create excellent pheasant numbers.

  Current pheasant numbers in our area are down, but I’m optimistic and looking forward to bird numbers improving. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will create thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, which gives birds a place to nest, roost, raise their chicks and help to protect the birds from predators.

  Following that trip, Team member Simon Fuller and I headed to the Aberdeen-Webster area to do some ice fishing. On the trip there were some big walleyes caught and returned into the icy depths of the Glacial Lake we were fishing. On that trip, I set a record for the most fish caught; unfortunately, they were minuscule, about the length of my hand and released, allowing them to grow up. It was a great trip as it gave us the opportunity to spend time on the ice with folks cut from the same cloth we were, spending time with others who loved to spend time in the outdoors, on the ice on a cold winter day. [Read more…]

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That Time of the Year Being Thankful By Gary Howey

  The holiday season and especially Christmas is a time to reflect back and truly appreciate all we have, our families, friends, the many opportunities available to us because we live where we do, and for those that have given up so much for us as they serve in our military.

  We should be thankful for so many things, especially our families, our husbands and wives, children, and grandchildren and for those who have been around longer than I have your great-grand kids. Our families, who may have sometimes wondered about us, have been there and who have supported us throughout life, through thick and thin.

  We should be especially thankful for their support over the year and for me, especially the support of a wife, “who has kept the home fires burning” while I was away.

  On my journey, I’ve traveled many miles, yes I was fishing and hunting, but as my good friend Tony Dean once said, “It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.” 

  For those friends, old, new, some we have lost and those friends we may not yet have meet, those we think of from time-to-time.

Those, whom we may have spent time with in the blinds, peering in the air for the waterfowl flights that may not appear, in the fields walking those many miles in search of pheasants, quail and prairie chicken, on the water waiting for that next bite, those who helped us to create our own outdoor adventures.

  We should be thankful for time spent with friends and family who have passed, remembering those good times we had with them.

  I’m also thankful for the wildlife we have on earth, those animals, birds and fish that have fed and clothed early Americans and for those in the wild today.  These wildlife species aren’t there just for hunters to enjoy, but also hikers, bird watchers, wildlife photographers and nature lovers. Many of these species increase in numbers because of the efforts of hunters and the dollars aid by them in excise taxes on their equipment and their permits.

  Then there’s our Team Outdoorsmen Adventures members who keep us advised on the outdoors in their areas and furnish their time and equipment to put us on the fish and game when things get hot.

  To those who have spent long hours with us, supervising our journey, helping us to get to where we are today, we all should be thankful for.  

  For me, it would be the newspaper editors who’ve had to work with me, the videographers, editors and radio co-hosts who made sense of what I did, wrote and say.

  Then there are the opportunities given in life, the direction our lives have went, where we live and the decisions we’ve made in life.

  We should be thankful for the opportunities we’ve received, in putting our lives together, our occupations, our families,  the people we’ve met and where we’ve ended up in life. [Read more…]