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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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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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Hunting Early Season Pheasants By Gary Howey

For those of us that have been waiting all year for pheasant season, well, it’s here!

Reports indicate that the pheasant outlook is good with those states that have a lot of habitat really crowing about their pheasant numbers.

Over the years, I’ve hunted with hundreds of hunter and was surprised how some of them hunted and amazed by others at how well they would look over the situation, hash things over, approaching each field differently.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned that have helped me to become a more consistent early season pheasant hunter.

  • Once you arrive at the field that you plan on hunting, keep the noise down to a minimum as all wild game has a very acute sense of hearing.  This means, don’t slam your car door; keep the noise to a minimum.
  • If you use a whistle to control your dog, don’t keep blowing the whistle, as this will surely put the birds on alert, the last of a loud whistle is a foreign sound. If you use a whistle, try using a hawk call as this is a familiar sound and many times when the birds hear it will cause them hunker down, allowing you to get closer before the bust from the cover.
  •  Let your dog do the hunting and follow him wherever he leads you, as his sense of smell is the key to locating the birds.
  • In the early season, you’ll run into many young birds, which hold tight, allowing you to get close, so a heavy load generally isn’t needed, as it would be during the late season. Six shot is a good load to use at this time of the year and as the season progresses you can go with heavier loads.
  • Even though it’s early season, take your time hunting, as there’s no need to rush.
  • Work your way from side to side when hunting a field or slough as pheasants will run off to the side of a hunter and sit tight until the hunter passes. By working back and forth, you and the other hunters with you will eventually force those running birds into the air.
  • Stop occasionally so your dog can work the area, if you aren’t hunting with a dog, it’s still a good idea to stop as this makes those birds that have hunkered down nervous, thinking that they’ve been spotted forcing them into the air.
  • Use wingmen and blockers, as even early season birds will run ahead of the hunters.  Wingmen should be 15 to 20 yards ahead of the walkers and blockers will need to spread out at the end of the field that you’re hunting.

[Read more…]

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Dog Gone It! You & you’re Dog By Gary Howey

  This is the time of the year, just prior to the opening of the first hunting season when hunters in  our area should take steps to make sure that their hunting dog’s are in good shape and ready when they hit the field on opening day.

  Prior to the season, both you and your dog will need to do some walking and spend some time running and working with your dog, insuring your best friend is in shape and ready for that first long day in the field.

  As anyone knows whose hunted behind a dog in good shape and well trained will realize, it’s not only an exciting experience, it’s more effective than simply wondering across a field hoping to stumble onto a bird.

  Throughout the years, I’ve hunted over all types of dogs and really had some great hunts as well as some very frustrating ones, when a dog we hunted behind was not under control.

  I’ve also hunted with all types of hunters, from the very new to the seasoned pro and found out some of these hunters could learn a lot about the sport by simply paying attention to their dog.

  Take for instance one hunt in a huge CRP field where we were hunting with several hunters and their yellow Lab.

  It’s a known fact that all dogs don’t work the same, they all work differently, some are in high gear, bounding through the tall grass while others will methodically work their way through the grass, their nose just inches off the ground trying to pick up the birds scent.

  My dog had his nose to the ground, his tail whirling in a tight circle as he worked through the field, back and forth out in front of all the hunters.

  Unfortunately, the owner of the other dog was always yelling at the top of his lungs, trying to get the dog to work in front of him and nowhere else. Which not only confused the dog, but it also let every bird within the quarter section know we were there.

  The dog knew where the birds were and it wasn’t always in front of the owner. The owner thought he was a lot smarter than his dog and wanted it to hunt where he was hunting.

  When the owner headed for the dog, he had one thing on his mind and that wasn’t to flush a bunch of birds but to reprimand the dog.

  When he ran over to drag the dog back he stumbled into the birds the dog was working, totally screwing up our entire hunt and flushing the birds all around him, now well out of range of the rest of our group.

  There are times when all dogs get out a bit too far and yelling at them isn’t what you want to do. I’ve trained my dog to respond to a whistle, not your regular whistle, I use a hawk call, the sound a hawk makes as he’s flying over. Not only does my dog respond to it, it also forces the birds to hunker down, as they don’t want to go airborne when predators like a hawk is flying over.

Dan Schiebout-Antler Ridge Pheasants

Dan Schiebout, Orange City, IA. and his Lab Magnum after one of our successful pheasant hunts in South Dakota.

  There are times; we humans forget that even though we have a larger brain and can work out some of complex problems, other critters in the animal kingdom are better suited for some jobs than we are.

  Over the years, after making many blunders myself, one of which was very similar to the hunter I mentioned above, I’ve learned to follow the dog, no matter what direction he’s heading.

  A dog’s nose is a hunter’s best friend and by following the dog instead of forcing him to follow you, your hunt will be more successful.

  There’s nothing that says we have to hunt our dogs straight across a field. In fact, it’s better, especially in the late season to zig zag across the field.  This makes the birds nervous and forces them to go airborne instead of running ahead of us.

  As long as you have your dog under control, meaning he isn’t getting out too far ahead or flushing birds out of range, you can hunt a field anyway the dog wants.

I once hunted with a friend of mine whose black Lab would hit the field on a dead run with his owner right behind him.  This meant that both the dog and the hunter were way out ahead of the other hunters, which is not only a pain for the other hunters; it’s also down right dangerous!

  On that hunt, the last I did with him, I had several suggestions as to what my friend could do to control the dog.  One was to use a training collar on the dog, which he thought was a pretty dumb idea. 

  My other suggestion was to sell me the dog and I’d shoot it putting it out of its misery. He wasn’t keen on that idea either!

  As any good hunter should know, we need to start the dog with the wind in his face, and once you head him into the wind, it’s the dogs show. 

  Then, all the hunter needs to do is to get in behind the dog, keep him under control, shoot well and praise the dog even when he goof up..

  Make sure your dog is in shape prior to the season, listen to what your dog is telling you when you’re out hunting and not only will you come out of the experience a more intelligent  hunter you’ll have a much more successful hunt!

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A Dog Can teach a Hunter A Lot By Gary Howey

I hope that prior to the opening of the season; you and your dog have gotten out doing some walking to get in shape.

As anyone who has hunted behind a dog, a dog, one that is in good shape and well-trained, makes for a great hunt and much more effective than simply wondering around in the field hoping to stumble onto a bird.

Over the years, I have hunted over all types of dogs, had some great hunts as well as frustrating ones when a dog we were hunting behind, was out of control.

I have also hunted with all types of hunters, from the very new to the seasoned pro and found out some of these hunters could learn a lot by simply paying attention to their dog.

Take for instance one hunt in a huge CRP field where we were hunting with a yellow Lab.

It’s a fact, all dogs don’t work the same, all hunting differently, some in high gear, bounding through the tall grass while others will methodically work their way through it, nose just inches above the ground trying to pick up the birds scent.

My dog’s nose was close to the ground, his tail whirling in a tight circle as he worked through the field, going back and forth in front of the hunters. [Read more…]

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Early Pheasant Hunting Tactics Gary Howey

For those of us that have been waiting all year for pheasant season, well, it is here!

Reports indicate that Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota pheasant numbers are up, these states are really crowing about their pheasant numbers increases.

The mild winter and decent spring, as well as some improvements in habitat have helped to bring pheasant numbers back up.

I have hunted pheasants in the upper Midwest most of my life and especially in South Dakota, as that was where I grew up. If you are looking at pheasant hunting in South Dakota, you will not need to worry, as the number of birds in the state is unbelievable and there are more birds there than anywhere I have ever hunted.

Over the years, I have hunted with hundreds of hunters and was surprised how some went charging into the field after pheasants. Then there were those, which amazed me, these hunters looked each field over, hashed things over and then made a plan, approaching each field differently.

Here are a few tips that I have learned over the years that have helped me to become a more consistent pheasant hunter.

• Once you arrive at the field you plan on hunting, keep the noise down to a minimum as all wild game has a very acute sense of hearing. This means, do not slam your car door and you will need to keep your dog under control. [Read more…]

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Heat Dog on hard on your hunting dog By Gary Howey

It is that time of the year when mornings can be cool and by noon unseasonably warm. If we dress for the cooler mornings temperatures you are over dressed and by mid afternoon, when the sun started to warm things up.

As temperatures warm up, the heat is going to take its toll on our hunting dogs.

Can you imagine what it is like for a hunting dog, having been in a kennel the biggest part of the year and as the season opens, trying to cover large fields on these warm days? They are covering at least twice the ground we are, nose to the ground, head in the dust and dirt, running back and forth across the field of heavy cover, unable to sweat or release heat from their body except by panting and they do it all while wearing a fur coat.

This could be a death sentence to a dog if they are overweight and out of shape, as a hunting dog will keep going until they can go no further and drop.

One of the things you can do prior to the season would be to get yourself and your dog in shape.

Imagine what type of shape you would be in if you spent most of the year inside a kennel, let out to run only for short periods each evening , then taken out into the field during hunting season and be expected to run hard for hours on end without becoming tired? Dogs should be worked on a regular basis in order to stay in shape, which can be tough when their owner holds down a full time job. Some kennels are large enough allowing the dog to get a little exercise, but not enough to get them in top shape. Dogs are like humans when it comes to getting exercise, we need someone like an owner or a wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend to get us to do it. Like humans, if not given the opportunity to run or forced to exercise, most dogs will simply lie around, becoming over weight and out of shape. The alternative to running your dog regularly is to take him on brisk walks, which takes very little time and the exercise it gives you will do you good.

Another thing that hunters forget to take into consideration when they hunt early season is the heat when their hunting dogs really take a beating. [Read more…]

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Fall, the time of the year When you Better be Ready!

Fall; when things get hectic, there is so much going on and so little time.
Some of our Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Members are still fishing, but all, are starting to think hunting.
Our Waterfowl Pit & Blinds are ready with our Decoys ready to go on the water and in the field, Calls have been tested and adjusted, the Shotguns cleaned and our Ammo purchased.
Food Plots are in, the Game Cameras in place, our Deer Stands set up, our Rifles zeroed, and Bows sighted in

Our Hunting Dogs has been out and are ready to go, the time of the year when Outdoorsmen and Women like our crew have their pickups and 4-wheelers loaded for all seasons. [Read more…]