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Early Season Pheasant Hunting Tactics Gary Howey

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

  Reports indicate that the pheasant outlook is not as good as in previous years with those states that have a lot of habitat crowing about their pheasant numbers.

  Over the years, I have 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 have 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, do not slam your car door; keep the noise to a minimum. [Read more…]

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Memorial Pheasant Hunt, Tribute Gary Howey

 

  Veterans and those serving veterans have always been dear to me as the military tradition runs deep in my family, with my father, brother, uncles and cousins all serving in the military.

  My father, brother, uncles, cousin and I all served, some during World War Two and others during Viet Nam. I served in the Army with over-sea tours in Germany and Viet Nam and then in the Iowa and Nebraska National Guard.

  This is why, when the colors pass in review or our National Anthem played, I like others who served, remove our caps and place them our hands over my heart.

  Because I served and my pride in my country, any opportunity I have to thank or highlight veterans, I will be there.

  When asked to take part in the “Doug Brown” Memorial North Central chapter Paralyzed Veterans of America Pheasant Hunt it took me but a split second to say “Yes.”

   Doug served as the Veteran’s Representative at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Veterans Administration serving veteran’s for many years.

   This annual event, held in his memory allows disabled veterans and individuals the opportunity to take part in a real South Dakota pheasant hunt.

  Friends and family of Brown, the North Central Paralyzed Veterans of America staff, volunteers from throughout the area and the folks at Top Gun Hunting Ranch near Howard, South Dakota all contribute to the success of this great annual event.

  The event starts out with a great breakfast, safety briefing and with the assistance of a special built trailer, that allowed wheel chair bound veterans and others to  load  into the back of the pickups that transferred them to the field and served as their shooting platforms.

   On our first field, the pickups carrying these hunters made their way to the end of each field where they would block while the walkers and I pushed through the crop fields, CRP and grasses.

  The excitement of the hunt started quickly when one of the numerous dogs working in front of the walkers went on point with those walkers stationed on that side moving up on the dog. [Read more…]

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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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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…]

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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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Learning from the Outdoors By Gary Howey

  I’ve been serious outdoorsmen for over 40 years, each time I go out, I learn a lot from my trips to the field as well as those on the water.

  When I first got into the outdoors, I did it because I thought it would be a great way to get away from it all, those little problems, molehills that I’d blown way out of proportion, making them seem like huge mountains.

  I’m sure that some people just think that hunters and anglers do what they do because they enjoy eating what they harvest.

  To a certain extent that’s true, but too many, like myself, it’s more than that!

  It’s the experience as a whole, an opportunity to spend time in the outdoors.  Where we can enjoy all that Mother Nature has put together and have an opportunity to spend time with individuals who have the same interest that you have.

  I’ve learned from spending time in the outdoors is that there are some people I truly enjoy hunting and fishing with.

  While others, I’d never want to spend time with because of some of the things they do and their complete disrespect for the game & fish they’re after.

  It seems that some people don’t understand why we have limits, while others are down right dangerous when you put a gun in their hand or put them behind the steering wheel in a boat.

  One question that continually comes up at my seminars and personal appearances is why we release so many fish on our television show.  I’m sure that some people believe it’s because we’re fishing all the time and our freezers are probably full of fish.

  Nothing could be further from the truth; we release them because we’ve learned in order to have fish to catch on the next trip, we need to release some of them today.

  If we release some of the fish, especially the larger ones, it will allow those fish, the breeders to reproduce another year and there will be more down the road for us to catch.

  Perhaps that fish we release today will be an even bigger trophy the next time we catch it. [Read more…]