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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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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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I’m a “Fan” of Turkey Hunting By Gary Howey

  It was twelve or so years ago, when I suggested to my  hunting partner Larry Myhre that we should come up with some type of turkey fan that would help us sneak up on Gobblers. He thought it was a good idea, but said it sounded like work and he was looking for less.

   That next spring, I took one of my turkey fans that I had spread out and dried into the field with me, didn’t have much luck with it and abandoned the idea.

   Since then, I’ve used then every spring and have fooled more long beards with them than I had every thought possible.

   Several years ago, my Outdoor Adventures radio co-host Simon Fuller was operating the camera as I called in a group of young birds using a combination of my calls and the fan. They five of them came into my decoys feeling brave with all of the birds fanned out as they approached my jake and hen decoys.

 As they surrounded my jake decoy, I made the raspy call of an old gobbler, raised the fan and all five of the birds about dirtied themselves as they did their best to get away from my fan.

  On the same hunt, using my fan and calling, I called a hen a long ways and when she came within sight of my decoys lost interest and started to move away. However, when I brought my fan back up, she came within arm’s reach of me and refused to leave, I think she fell in love with my turkey fan. I finally had to chase her away as she was messing up my turkey hunting.

  Later that day as we were heading back towards town with my Honda Pioneer, we spooked a big Tom that took off running across a pasture. Down the road a ways, we spotted two gobblers and a hen bout a 1/2 mile away, in order for the birds to hear and see the fan, we crawled through the pasture, with my fan out in front of us, up to the fence line and started calling. I watched the birds with my binoculars and each time I called, they would gobble but not leave the hen.

  Simon had the camera zeroed in on them as I brought the fan up high and worked it from side to side, hoping to get the birds attention, but to no avail. Suddenly I saw the gobbler, the bird we had spooked as we came in, on the other side of the gobblers and hen and each time I raised the fan, he would head in our direction.

  He ran right past the other birds and came in our direction and each time the fan came up would strut and gobble, coming closer all the time.

  When I said “the birds coming in”, Simon who was still locked on the two gobblers and hen disagreed with me and wasn’t sure what I was talking about. By this time the bird was out a 100 yards or so when I told Simon “can you hold this fan up as I can’t shoot and run it at the same time” that he looked my way and spotted the gobbler out in front of me. [Read more…]

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Howey and Myhre Inducted into Hall of Fame

           Two area Outdoor communicators will be inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Sioux Falls 50th Annual Sportsmen’s Show.

          Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and Larry Myhre, Sioux City, Iowa, will be inducted at 3:30 p.m., March 11 on the Seminar Stage at the Sioux Falls Arena. Professional walleye angler and Fishing Hall of Famer Ted Takasaki will conduct the ceremony.

          Howey, originally from Watertown, S.D., and a Viet Nam veteran, has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 when he began production of The Northeast Nebraska Outdoorsmen newspaper. He sold the Outdoorsmen magazine in 1995 when he created the Outdoorsmen Adventures television series, which airs throughout the year in seven upper Midwestern states.

          He has written a syndicated Of the Outdoors column since 1980 for newspapers and magazines.

          In 1990, he developed Outdoorsmen Productions, an outdoor-related promotional company.      

          In 2009, he produced the first of his Outdoor Adventures radio shows which he co-hosts. The show airs six days a week in southeast South Dakota, northeast Nebraska and northwest Iowa.

          A former hunting and fishing guide, Howey has given fishing seminars in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa.

          Over the years, Howey has won several local, states and national awards for his print, radio and television work. [Read more…]

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Larry Myhre’s outdoor columns will be missed By Gary Howey

In Larry’s column this week, he said goodbye as he wrote his final column for the Sioux City Journal after 44 years. Myhre has been my fishing/hunting partner, my mentor and my best friend for many of those years.

  When folks read Larry’s columns, he didn’t just write about the fishing and hunting, his columns were so well written, so descriptive that his readers felt as if they were right there with him.

  On many of our excursions, our columns were written about the same trip, but after I read his, I wondered if perhaps, we weren’t writing about the same trip. Sure, the fishing and hunting we both wrote about was the same, but the way Larry describe our location, with every little detail, the sunlight on the trees, the sound of the water coming down the creek and other little things made his column jump out at people and they just couldn’t put it down and had to keep reading. [Read more…]

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Myhre signs off after 44 years of columns By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

After 44 years of writing this column every week, I can tell you this. Some are a lot harder to write than others.

This is one of the hard ones.

You see, I’m saying goodbye.

It’s time to hit the “Shut Down” button on the old computer. But before I do that, allow me to look back over the past 44 years.

I started working at the Journal in 1965 as a summer intern. One of my first stories was a feature on the now-long-gone Sioux City Gun Club. The camera I used was a 4X5 Speed Graphic, a bulky thing, complete with bellows. I came to work full time as a reporter in February 1966.

In those days, the Journal was at the corner of Fifth and Douglas streets. A parking ramp stands there today. The editor who hired me was Erwin Sias. If you’ve followed this column very long you know I have written about him many times. He was among a small handful of men whom I count as among the best fishermen ever.

He and another Journal employee, Marc Cox, the farm editor, wrote outdoors in each Sunday’s Sports section. I marveled at the quality of their writing and the exotic fishing trips they each took and wrote about.

Meanwhile, I was doing some outdoor writing myself. I was writing and selling stories to outdoor magazines. I never cracked the Big Three (Sports Afield, Outdoor Life and Field & Stream) at that time, but I was regularly published in Fur-Fish-Game, farm magazines and some others.

In the spring of 1973, Marc Cox was killed in a private plane crash on his way home from the Minnesota’s Governor’s Fishing Opener, an event he had attended for many years. Being the only reporter on the Journal staff with a farm background, I was selected for his job, which consisted mostly of writing for and editing the Farm Weekly tabloid.

Shorty after, Sias asked me to co-write the outdoor column with him. Of course, I quickly accepted that assignment. I abandoned magazine freelancing and concentrated on my column work.

I still remember my first column. I had discovered the Little Sioux Watershed and its hundreds of fish-filled farm ponds. It was like a man dying of thirst in the desert finally finding a canteen of water. And I drank deeply, the charms of farm pond fishing.

I also had small children and they loved to fish. Farm pond bluegills are perfect for kids. Non-stop action. Kids and farm ponds. That was the column.

I don’t remember what the next column was about, but in those days I had joined Sias and his friends each fall fishing perch at West Okoboji and wrote columns on each trip. There were a lot of them. One winter we fished every weekend from Labor Day to Memorial Day. When West Lake finally froze over usually in mid-December, East Lake had sufficiently thick ice for ice fishing. The Okoboji’s are where I met and fished with C.J. “Cap” Kennedy of Rock-a-Roo jig fame, and Jim Stone, who knew the subtle patterns of West Okoboji better than anybody.

We also headed to the Alexandria, Minnesota, area each spring to open the bass season. There we were joined by Lacey Gee, Si’s friend who owned the Wapsi Fly Company in Independence, Iowa, Bob Brown, sports editor of the Fort Dodge Messenger and their outdoor columnist, and others. We usually spent five days up there fishing crappies, bluegills, and walleyes before the bass opener. [Read more…]

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Ice-out is time for trophy northern pike By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

If your goal is to catch a trophy northern pike, the best time to do it is coming soon.

The big, old females, those 20-pound-plus leviathans, move into shallow bays to spawn even before the ice goes out. By the time the ice leaves the bays, the spawn is usually over, but those hogs stay around, basking in the warmer water those bright, sunny spring days often bring.

And the good news is, they can be caught.

Much of what these big females are foraging on is winter-killed fish that are lying on the bottom. If your lake has shad, the bottom might be littered with dead fish. And big catfish will join northerns in this feeding frenzy. If there are no shad, rest assured there will be other fish offering meals to the cruising northerns.

South Dakota’s massive Oahe Reservoir is a definite destination for early northern pike fishermen. Just about any of the lake’s many shallow bays will offer good fishing.

For years I would make an annual trip to fish with my friend Steve Nelson who lives in Pierre and is definitely one of the best shore fishermen up there.

While you can definitely catch these big fish from a boat, most of the early anglers fish from shore.

As anyone who has spent much time around water knows, the ice leaves the shallow bays first while the main lake remains in an icy grip. So shore fishermen might get as much as two weeks head start on the northerns before the boats can even get there.

Here’s how we would go about it.

Our rods were long and rather heavy. I used the same rods I used for downrigging at the time, eight-and-one-half feet long, medium heavy action. We would attach big spinning reels spooled with 12-pound-test monofilament.

Our terminal tackle consisted of a 12-inch steel leader with a swivel on one end and a snap on the other. Our hook was a size 1 treble. Our bait was frozen smelt which we obtained at local grocery stores or tackle shops.

We preferred to cast our smelt out onto a flat coming off the shoreline.

Here’s the method. Take one of the smelt and insert the shank of the treble hook into it at mid body. Push the shank through and attach the eye of the hook to the snap.

Using a kind of lob cast, throw the rig as far out as you can, making sure the smelt doesn’t fly off. Then let the whole rig sink slowly to the bottom. [Read more…]

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Ice Fishing at 50 degrees By Gary Howey

  There’s something to be said about ice fishing when it’s fifty degrees, it’s not the type of weather you usually associate with ice fishing.  For one thing, your hands and the rest of your body isn’t as cold as those minus thirty-three wind chill days you had been on the ice. That day when we traveled five hours north with a film crew and had to film as we had been invited up by one of our sponsors and the day before wasn’t as bad with the weatherman indicating that the following day wouldn’t be all that bad!

  On fifty-degree days, you can fish without heavy gloves, making it easier to untangle your lines and easier and quicker to tie on or bait ice fishing micro baits when you don’t have to wear gloves.

  The best thing about it is you don’t have to bribe your friends to go ice fishing with you.

  When the forecast for Friday February 10 was for fifty-degree weather and little wind in the morning, it sounded like a good time to hit the ice.

  Some of my fishing partners were worried about the ice and not having enough ice but after I assured them that there was eight inches a few days before, they were all in.

  Dani Thoene and I hit the ice first, with Dani punching holes and me following up behind him to clean up the ice mound around the hole and scoop them clean.

  Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. pulled in shortly after we arrived and set up on one of the holes to the east of where I was fishing.

  Ten minutes later Anthony Thoene arrived and began fishing not too far from where Larry had set up, with Melvin Kruse rounding out our crew.

  We’d be fishing on a privately stocked pond in northeast Nebraska, one that I’d fished in open water and knew there were some big fish patrolling the depths as on one occasion, I was fishing with heavy line and was broken off when a big fish hit my lure and broke me off in open water.

  We all had Vexilar locators, showing letting us know when fish moving in on our baits, but as many fish do in the winter, they weren’t overly aggressive.

  I rigged up a live bait bobber rig with a minnow and jigged with another rigged tipped with a wax worm hoping to entice a crappie. Larry, Dani and I were doing a number on the smaller bluegill and bass, with two or more of us pulling fish up at the same time.

 A thick red line, indicating a fish moved up under my bait, I raised my bait just a bit, as I waited for the fish to move up to the bait, I watched the sensitive spring bobber at the end of my rod as it will indicate a bite long before you feel it.  [Read more…]

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Coyote calling can be an unexpected adventure By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

Things don’t always go as planned when you are calling coyotes. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.

If you are calling in coyote-rich country such as western Nebraska, there’s little doubt you can call in several in a day. Other places, not so much.

If I can call in one coyote for six different sets, that’s about average. So, you will spend a lot of time looking over the landscape with nothing to show for it.

But sometimes you get the surprise of your life.

It was early morning on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota a few years ago. Three of us were set up alongside a deep, tree-lined ravine. We were each leaning back against a tree trunk and looking out over the prairie. The sun was beginning to peek over the horizon spreading its light slowly. It reminded me of raising a shade in a dark room.

Suddenly, out of the ravine burst a big, mangy-looking dog, snarling and looking left and right for that dying rabbit. I was holding the camera, not a gun and the beast was now right in front of me, staring into my eyes. I had tangled with wild dogs before and knew if they see a gun they will run. I had no gun. Yet, in a heartbeat he turned and ran back into the ravine.

Good riddance.

We called in a bobcat on that set, but the season was closed. The cat crossed right in front of us through a 100-yard long clearing and into the same ravine the dog had come from.

The cat ended up sitting in a plum patch not more than 12 feet away from one of us. After its curiosity was satisfied it turned back into the ravine and vanished.

Sometimes a little humor can be included.

Fran and I were with my cousin Denny Myhre and his wife, Audrey, driving down a road, I think in Grand Teton National Park, when two young coyotes crossed in front of us. I grabbed my camera with the 300mm lens.

“I’ll see if I can call them in,” I said.

Just as I left the car another filled with Japanese students pulled alongside asking what we had seen.

“Coyotes,” Denny answered.

“Mistake,” I thought.

I ran over the rise that was hiding the vehicles and ran about 200 yards to a lodgepole pine, which I got behind and began trying to catch my breath. Then I saw the two coyotes about 200 yards off and heading away. I did my dying rabbit sound with my mouth and as soon as they heard that they began running in. Hiding behind the tree trunk, I began making pictures of them.

At about one hundred yards out they stopped. I did the mouth squeak several times but they would not respond. Then they turned and ran.

“That was strange,” I thought. “They were about five-month-old pups and should have run right in.”

[Read more…]