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Bottom Bouncing Slow Death Rigs On Francis Case By Gary Howey

 As we pulled into the parking lot on Tuesday, the second day of our fishing trip on Lake Francis Case, there were sixteen rigs inline waiting to launch their boats, my first thoughts were, Wow doesn’t anyone work anymore!”

  When the bite is on, news travels fast and the bite was definitely on with boats launching out of Platte Creek in the Dock 44 area.

  As I mentioned in the beginning of this column, it was our second day on the water, where we’d be filming with professional angler and Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, Ted Takasaki, Sioux Falls, S.D.
  Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA., camera operator Bill, Miller, Elgin, NE.  and I had driven up on Monday in heavy wind and intermittent rain showers, and it looked like the bite would surely be off because of the front coming through and we’d have to pound the water late into the first day to find some fish.

  Ted, who arrived mid afternoon had waited out the storms, which took roofs off several buildings in Armour, S.D. and dropped hail east of Sioux Falls. He’s been busy as he just returned from fishing the National Walleye Tour on Lake Sakakawea where he finished in 5th Place.

  We launched Ted’s Lund 219 Pro V mid afternoon, heading out of the bay, expecting to having to fight the wind, when it  calmed down, making for a perfect walleye chop and a nice smooth ride to where we would be fishing.

  This was the first day of our two-day trip and with all the fronts that had gone through, I didn’t know what to expect as cold fronts generally shut the fish off.

  When we arrived at the first spot we’d planned to fish, we were greeted by several boats working the point, with the majority of them pulling plugs.

  Because we were filming, which seems to attract a crowd, Ted maneuvered the boat to an area that was less crowded?

  On this trip, we’d be using bottom bouncers and spinners. Ted uses the Smile spinner blade Slow Death rigs, which proved to be deadly on walleye. The Slow Death hook is off set causing the bait to spin with a corkscrew action with the blade’s extra wiggle gives off more vibration. If you’re using the rig with crawlers, you want to insert the barb of the hook as close to the top of the crawlers head and thread it up past the hooks eye, the pinch off all bur 5 or 6″ of the worm. The vibration from the blade and the action of the hook along with the scent being dispersed from the crawler seemed to draw fish to the bait. [Read more…]

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Protect yourself from Tick Borne diseases By Gary Howey

  Most seasons, deer, turkey pheasant can be found listed on the Game, Fish and Parks calendars and web sites, one you won’t find there is the tick season, but don’t let that stop you from being prepared for this season in the same way you’d be prepared for the others.

  Ticks are small disease carrying insects found in grassy and wooded areas and if allowed to get on the skins look for a warm moist area to embed themselves. They come out in the spring, about the time outdoorsmen and women head into the woods looking for morel mushrooms, wild asparagus or hunting turkeys. Spring isn’t the only time you’ll see ticks as these pests hang around all summer on into the fall.

  There are two groups of ticks, the hard and hard or soft ticks. In our area, it’s the hard ticks found in wooded, grassy, and densely vegetated areas.

  Soft ticks tend to live in bird nests, on rodents, and on bats but either can find their way onto us, luckily, no species of ticks solely depend on us for survival. Some ticks are only found on a certain host; luckily, we aren’t one of them.

  A female tick can lay a bunch of eggs, anywhere from 3,000 to 11,000 eggs, so we need to be aware of them and prevent them from catching a ride on us.

  There’s only one way to avoid the possibility of avoiding a tick borne disease and that’s to avoid areas they inhabit, DUH, like that’s going to happen, if you’re an outdoorsmen or women who spends every spare moment out in the field or woods.

  Since we know we are going to be in the same areas that ticks inhabit, below are a few simple precautions that can reduce the chances of a tick encounter.

Tip #1: Ticks crawl upward onto a host, that’s why it’s a good idea to cut off any route they might have in an attempt to get on your skin and why it’s an excellent idea to tuck your pants legs into your boots and your shirts into your pants. For extra protection, tape them shut with duct tape, then twist the tape so the sticky side is out and make one more wrap. [Read more…]

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Spring Walleye Fishing By Gary Howey

     Well it’s finally starting to look and feel like spring and to be honest with you, I’m ready for the warmer weather!

  Each day gets a little longer, the sun is warmer and everything is starting to green up.

  It’s what we outdoorsmen and women have been waiting for, as they’re anxious to hit the water and see what’s biting this time of the year.

  With the water temperatures, starting to raise the walleyes below the dams on the river and in the lakes will start feeding more heavily.

  Spawning in some areas is ending as the water temperatures have or will soon reach 50, which in the upper Midwest is generally in the month of May.

  If you’ve fished the post spawn, you know that the smaller more aggressive males make up the majority of the fish taken during this time of the year.

  After the spawning and recuperation period, walleyes will go on a feeding binge because eating during the spawn wasn’t real high on their “To Do.”

  This feeding binge can last throughout the month and at times may even run into early June.

  On sunny days the best fishing, will be in the morning or towards evening, because in the middle of the day the sun is beating down on the shallows which forces walleye and sauger to move deeper as they’re not big fans of a lot of light.

  If you’re fishing on cloudy day or times when the sunlight is subdued, chances are the walleye and sauger may spend the better part of the day cruising in and out of the shallows looking for a meal.

  It’s during those low-light periods when walleyes are on the prowl in the shallower water, usually 10 foot or less.

  Remember just because the walleyes are on a feeding binge it doesn’t mean they’ll be dashing and darting here and there attacking everything in sight.

  Walleyes like all fish are cold blooded and their metabolism is in direct relation to the water temperature, so they won’t be in high gear, as the water temperature isn’t warm enough.  [Read more…]

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STRUCTURE Makes the difference By Gary Howey

  You won’t have to look very far in most fishing publications or on a fishing show where you won’t hear the words structure mentioned several times.

  One thing is for sure, when you locate the structure on a farm pond, Lake Oahe or Lake Kampeska, you’re going to find the fish.

  Structure, exactly what is it?  A good definition of structure would be any difference or change on the bottom configuration.  At times, it might be large and at others, not large at all.

  No matter what size or type of structure you find on any body of water, it’s a good bet that there will be some aquatic life in that area.

 Now that we know the fish you are hoping to catch might be relating to some sort of structure in the lake, all you need to do is to locate the right piece of structure. This change in the bottom contour can attract numerous species of aquatic creatures, which creates a food chain.

  To make our body of water the underwater structure easier to understand let’s put it into above water terms. Let’s imagine a large pasture is your body of water with a large tree in the middle and a small clump of plum brush in the corner.

  Fish are like any other animal such as a deer or coyote and when they enter the pasture, the first thing they’re going to see is these two changes or features in the field and they’re drawn to them as these may be a good place to look for food.  If they’re underwater, these changes would be called structure.

  As I mentioned earlier, the change doesn’t need to be huge, as it can be a slight depression on the bottom or areas where the bottom content changes from soft mud to hard gravel.

   I’ve caught fish around some structure so small, unless I’d seen it when the water was low, I’d have never known it was there. 

  It could be a few weeds along the shoreline, a change from mud to gravel, a depth change in the old river channel, submerged trees, humps or points in the Missouri River reservoirs lakes. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change; it just needs to be something different.

WHY FISH RELATE TO STRUCTURE

  Studies have shown us how fish relate to structure and how much is needed in order for the fish to be attracted to one particular area.

  In studies, fish were put into a large stock tank and when the bottom configuration is all the same, the fish roamed around the tank. However, when rocks were placed on the bottom, the fish moved onto those rocks.  This example didn’t give the fish all they needed as most real structure does, but it gives you an idea as to how fish react to it.

  What draws these fish to these areas is simple; structure in a lake, reservoir or pond gives the fish everything they need; a food source, security and in some cases comfortable water temperatures. [Read more…]

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Spring Turkey Hunting When They Won’t Come In Gary Howey

  One of the things that I hear a lot when it comes to spring turkey hunting is the Toms will gobble every time the hunter calls,  but will not come in that last 35 yards or so into range.

  This is definitely a problem for turkey hunters and numerous reasons why a bird will not come in or hang up just out of range.

  In the real wild world, the hen hears the Tom gobble and comes to him.  Hunters need to reverse the roles in order to pull a Tom into range. 

 Can you imagine how hard this is on a big old Tom’s ego?  He is the big boy, the dominant Tom and he has proved it, kicking the daylights out of any other Tom that gets getting in his way. Here the gobbler is, strutting  his stuff, all fanned out and the hen just does not get it, she is suppose to come to him and will not play the game right.

  Well, if he is going to get the opportunity to get close to this hen, he will have to forget about his ego and work his way towards her, hoping that once she sees him she, in all his glory will come to her senses and come to him. Some Toms take a little longer to swallow their pride and may not move or saunter your way, which could take a long time.

  The most common reason a Tom will hang up is that he has hens with him.  It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out if an old Tom has several hens in his harem already; he is not going to leave two or three hens for a chance at a single hen.

  When a bird will not move and are henned up, do not give up. There are several things you might try to convince him to come your way.

  The first is to become vocal, call as if there are several different hens talking to him, by using a couple of different calls and changing the pitch.

  Many times, this will make the bird curious and draw the Tom towards you.  Do not give up or get upset if he takes his time coming your way, because he will have to bring his hens with him or take the chance of leaving them and having some subordinate Tom walk off with his harem.

  There are always subordinate Toms following in the shadows or with the flock.  The ones with the flock are generally the younger birds or birds that have not acted aggressively towards the dominate Tom.  Those hanging around the fringes of the flock are usually the older birds that the dominate birds has stomped the tar out of.  These are the birds that know better than to get to close, but are hanging around just in case something happens to the dominate bird or a hen strays from the fold.

  If the dominate bird hangs up and doesn’t come in, many times the loud boisterous calling will pull one of the subordinate Toms in and you’ll be able to tip one of them over and fill your tag.

  Another method that I have used to call a gobbler that has hens into range is to call to his girl friends.  There is usually a dominate hen with the group and if you talk sweet enough, long enough and loud enough, she might just come over and see who or what is trying to take her man away.

  I used this method numerous time; one that really emphasizes what I am talking about was a hunt years ago on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help Larry Myhre from The Sioux City Journal to fill his tag. 

  Most of the larger Toms had collected their harems and were not about to leave their flock to check out a lone hen.

  This Tom was over the hill, so I set up down the hill from Larry, putting my decoy in between us.

   I started calling with a slate call and immediately heard several responses from different gobblers.  I worked the birds for about 10 minutes and could not get them to come any closer, so I started to call louder and more frequently to the hen.  She got louder and started coming our way.  This went on for another 10 minutes, but the hen was getting closer, I knew if the hen left the Tom, he would have to follow her over the hill giving my partner the opportunity for a shot.

   As my slate got squeaky, I switched to my diaphragm call while I roughed up the surface of the slate call.  When my mouth got dry, I switched back to the slate and kept going back and fourth or used them together to make the Tom think there were several hens on this side of the hill.

  I kept it loud, because the Tom was not moving, he was hung up and I needed to bring the hen over in order to get the gobbler within range. 

  Fifteen minutes after I started calling, the hen appeared at the top of the hill and headed directly towards my decoy clucking, spitting and putting all the way.  She was “MAD”!

  Fortunately, for my decoy, another Tom had been responding to my calls and after twenty minutes of calling, she lost interest in my decoy and the Tom over the hill and headed off to looking for the other bird.

  When she shut up, I backed off on the calls and waited for the Tom and the rest of his harem to come looking for his hen that had wondered off.  It did not take long after the hen moved off when a blue and white head popped up over the rise.  A few more clucks and purrs and the gobbler stepped over the hill and into Larry’s sights and it was all over. [Read more…]

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Patterning Turkeys With the help of game cameras By Gary Howey

  The key to a successful turkey hunt is to know where the birds are going to be at a given point in the day, there’s no better way to do this than with your game cameras.

  I have certain places where I place my game cameras to pattern deer and these areas; food plots, fence lines, gates, corn and bean fields are areas where I find turkeys in the spring.

  In the fall after deer season, I pull my game cameras as the winter months are hard on cameras and times covered up by snow.

  When I’m out doing my pre-season scouting for turkeys, I’ll put a few of the camera’s out and when I’m scouting or when hunting sheds pull the cards to see if the birds are coming through the area. If they’re using the area, the photo will tell me what time of the day they may be there.

  Using game cameras in the spring cuts down on my scouting time as if the turkeys show up on my game camera numerous times and at about the same time, I now have a place and a time where I can set up and decoy a bird.

  In the early spring, my best bet is to use the game camera photos to get an idea as to where certain flocks of birds are heading in the early morning. One of the first thing turkeys do when they hit the ground, is to go out to feed, but if the area you’re hunting contains dozens of crop fields, a game camera will help you narrow your search.

  Good spots to have your game cameras located include, areas where the birds can move from one field to another, gates and down fence lines, if you have a mineral feeder out, it’s another good location for your camera as turkeys will come to investigate it.  If a farmer has livestock that he feeds, you can bet that the turkeys will visit that location.

  You can’t hunt too close to where they’re feeding as that could be considered baiting, but you can hunt where they come and go into the area. Game camera placed along these routes will give you a good idea as to when they come through.

 When I’m out searching for sheds, and I have an idea as to where the birds may be located, I use my locator calls i.e. crow calls, owl calls, and coyote howler to narrow my search area.

  These work especially well late in the day just about the time the birds are thinking about going to roost. Just prior to flying up into the trees, turkeys will mill around the trees they will roost in, pecking around, getting a bedtime snack before retiring up in the trees and will respond to those calls I mentioned. Once you get a response, you’ve a good idea as to where they will be located the following morning.

  Armed with the information you’ve obtained from your game cameras and your locator calls, the following morning, you can come back before the sun gets up to set up your decoys and blind.

  A couple of mistakes that new hunters make are to get into the field late, as the sun begins to rise and get spotted by the birds. Turkeys have excellent eyesight during the day but once it gets dark their eyesight is poor.  However, once it starts to lighten up, even though it’s still dark, if you’re out moving around, putting up your decoys, the turkeys will know something is up. [Read more…]

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The Song of the Sandhill Cranes By Gary Howey

  As we made our way along the half-mile trail in the dark to the photography blind at the Rowe Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska, the distinctive calls of the Sandhill Cranes echoed across the Platte River valley.  

  Once you have heard their calls, which can carry over a mile, it is something you will remember, as it seems they are always chattering, no matter what time of the day or night!

  Unfamiliar with the miles needed to travel to Rowe Sanctuary, we arouse at 4:30 am, arriving at the sanctuary well before our 6:00 am scheduled trip to the photo blind.

  The photo blind positioned on the shore just far enough away from the cranes to allow photos and videos to be taken, yet not to close to frighten the birds. These photographic opportunities at Rowe Sanctuary are available several times a day including one 6:00 am and again at 6:00 pm.

  We were not sure what to expect for bird numbers as the weather for this time of the year was warmer than usual and there was some concern that many of the birds may have gone through.

  Our concerns were answered the day before as we drew close to Kearney on I-80, in the fields on both sides of the interstate were large flocks of feeding cranes.

  As we approached the bind, the noise coming from the river at times was deafening and as the sun light worked its way up river, the song of the Sandhill Cranes became louder as thousands of Cranes appeared before us, a sight that is hard to describe. 

  Thousands of these tall gray birds appeared before us, some resting on the sand bars, wadding and feeding in the shallow water, while several of the males performed before us, trying to impress the females around them.

As the Cranes come through the Kearney area, on their way to their matting grounds, it is not unusual to see the males doing their dance, displaying, hoping to impress one of the females.

  Each spring over eighty percent of the Sandhill Crane population, estimated to be at 650,000 migrates through the Kearney area, “The Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.” Thousands of visitors from throughout the world travel here to observe these birds and on the morning we visited the sanctuary, I observed vehicles from Wisconsin, Iowa, California, South Dakota, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri and Manitoba Canada in the parking lot. www.rowe.audubon.org        

  Throughout the day, no matter which direction you would look, there were always flocks of birds in the air or feeding in the fields, seeming not to be concerned with the vehicles, photographers and others observing them as the cranes went through their daily routine.

  Kearney, known for the Sandhill Cranes, also has numerous other attractions and if you are into the outdoors, history or classic cars, these are but a few of the things in and around Kearney, making it a great vacation destination.

  History has always been my thing and we history buffs will not be disappointed as there is plenty of history in the area.

  You cannot miss the Archway that spans I-80 as you come into Kearney; this majestic building is a history lesson in itself. The exhibits inside include the Oregon Trail which ran through this part of Nebraska, the Pony Express, gold panning, early railroads, the driving of the “Golden Spike”, the Lincoln Highway and much, much more. archway.org/

   Nebraska’s State Historical Park Fort Kearny was the first fort to protect travelers on the Oregon Trail. It was also a home station for the Pony express riders and the Pawnee scouts serving with the U.S. Army.  On the site, you will find a walking trail, State Historical sign, and reconstructed buildings: a blacksmith shop, stockade, powder magazine, carpenter-blacksmith shop and the Ft. Kearny State Park Bridge on the Platte River. outdoornebraska.gov/fortkearny

  Kearney is where the “Worlds’ Foremost Outfitter” Cabela’s placed their second store, located on Highway 30 on the northeast edge of the city, it has expanded several times and has everything someone like me who loves the outdoors would ever need or want. www.cabelas.com

  If you are into cars, you do not want to miss the Classic Cars that is located adjacent to the Cabela’s store. There, you will see over 200 cars, historic automobiles from the early 1900’s to the modern era,

with displays from the cars era. From limited edition, Royal Royce, to automobiles that many of us may have never heard of such as the Rover are featured at Classic Cars.

  You will find the cars of your youth, those you and I cruised the main drag of the town we grew up in as well as some high performance muscle cars we dreamed of owning when we were younger.

  Beautifully displayed, at the drive in theater and the malt shop, there you will find Fords Mustang, limited edition Fairlane, Chevy Corvettes, Camaro, Chevelles, Nomads, Pontiac GTO, Firebird, Plymouth Road Runner Barracuda, Dodge, Charger and Super Bee that can be driven either on the street or down a quarter mile drag strip.

    If you are into cars, it may take you awhile to get through the display and if you were not into cars when you went in, you could possibly be before you leave. www.ccckearney.com

  The number of Sandhill Cranes and other waterfowl migrating through the Kearney area is amazing and if you have not had, an opportunity to see this, it is something I would highly recommend. 

  The trip to view the Sandhill Crane migration and other sights the Kearney area is one you should take and if you can’t make it this year should be added to your buckets list as there is much to see and do in and around Kearney, NE.. https://visitkearney.org

 

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Tips for Tagging Gobblers By Gary Howey

  The gobble rang out across the creek bottom, up onto the road where I was using my shock calls to get a Tom to give away his location. As my call faded, a resounding gobble came from the tree-lined hillside adjacent to the creek

  From the direction the gobble came from, it appeared that the birds were in the same general area where I had located them last spring. It looked as if my plan for opening day this year would be much the same as it was last season.

  Before I head out opening morning,  I’m going to make sure I have everything ready, starting with checking my camo, making sure it’s in good shape and going from there to my calls, backpacks and shotgun.

  Because I use my Winchester 12 gauge for several different hunts, I need to change my choke to either a full or extra full depending on what shells pattern the best with a particular choke.

  I’ll test fire my shotgun at several turkey targets and decide which choke works best with which shells allowing me to put the most BB’s in the neck and head region of the target.

  My opening day location was an area that could be hard to get into without spooking the birds, as it would require a good quarter mile walk over some open ground so the approach needed to be early, well before daylight and had to be done quietly. 

  Turkeys have an excellent hearing and if you don’t come in quietly, they’ll know something’s up and pitch out of the trees in the opposite direction.

  What the birds can’t pickup with their hearing; they’ll spot you with their excellent vision. Their night vision isn’t good but once there’s enough light to see, they can detect movement and danger.

  Now that you’re close, you need to set up, depending on how you have things laid out. In several of my locations I hunt on, I have deadfalls that I can climb behind and be hid, some are trees which have fell and trimmed so I can shoot over the top while others are dead timber I’ve drug over and piled up where I want to call the birds to. In other locations I hunt, I won’t have the luxury of dragging trees around and will have to rely on my poke in the ground blind, that’s lightweight and adjustable to any height so you can shoot over the top of it.

  There are times when put out a decoy and other times when i avoid them completely, the main factor as to when I should use decoys is how the gobblers have acted to them in past seasons. If the decoys seemed to spook the birds, I go without, but if they don’t bothered them, I’ll probably put them out [Read more…]

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Getting ready for Spring Turkey By Gary Howey

  For those of you, who like me, live for spring shotgun turkey hunting, our wait is almost over; it will not be long before we will be in the field.

  Archers have been in the field since March 25 in Nebraska and April 1 in South Dakota while the hunters armed with shotguns will have to wait until South Dakota until April 8 and Nebraska April 15.

  With the increase in turkey numbers throughout the upper Midwest, we hunters have the opportunity to obtain several permits.

  There have been years, when my hunting partners and I have had permits in several states, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Missouri.

  The first thing I do once I know I’ll have my permit, is to get out and check with the farmers and ranchers where I’ve hunted in the past, obtaining permission, as things might have changed since the last time I hunted there. In some cases, part of or all of the land may have been sold or been leased to another or woodlands converted to crop ground, which changes our whole game plan. 

  After obtaining permission, I do a drive by; looking the area over for any changes that might have occurred since I was there last and armed with this information will locate a map of the area so I know exactly how the land lies and where the property lines are. It is not a bad idea to contact adjourning landowners to inform them you will be hunting the area so there will not be any surprises when they see you or your vehicle parked near their land. 

  I do not know how many times I have stopped by an adjourning landowner to let them know I would be hunting nearby, when they thanked me or even gave me permission to hunt on their land.

  After getting my permission and obtaining everything I could find about where I plan on hunting,  I’ll spend some spend time in the field, scouting, with my first scouting opportunity while hunting deer sheds as this gives me an early opportunity to check things out.

  During this time of the year, there may be snow on the ground, with the birds still in their large winter flocks, if so, locating them, an easy task.

  With snow on the ground, figuring out where the birds are congregating, feeding and roosting is easier. Turkeys are scratchers, so look for areas where the snow or leaves are pulled back, leaving open areas, where the turkeys have scratched down through the ground debris and snow to find food. [Read more…]