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PANFISH ON THE ROCKS ON BIG STONE By Gary Howey

Ortonville, MN. It was not long ago, when I made the remark, “bobber fishing is not one of my favorite ways to catch fish”, but that all changed last week. On that day, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member, Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. and I would meet Tanner Arndt, a guide from Artie’s Bait Shop, Ortonville, Minnesota to do some bobber fishing.
We were on Big Stone Lake; a twenty-six mile body of water located in northeastern South Dakota along the border with Minnesota is an excellent lake for walleye fishing and for its perch bite.
On this trip, it would not be the walleye or the perch we were after, as we were looking for panfish, crappies and bluegill.
The first afternoon, we launched from the public access near the rearing ponds where many of the bluegill we were after had started out as fingerlings.
With the wind picking up, we made our way across the lake, heading for some of the more protected bays behind the many islands on Big Stone.
As we approached one of the calmer bays, a pair of Canada geese greeted us, let us know we were trespassing on their territory, while several white pelicans perching on the rocks, paid little or no attention to our boat.
Both anchors were deployed as we begin to probe the shallow waters of the bay. We were anchored off one of the numerous islands in the lake, where the panfish, the crappies and bluegill had recently moved into in preparation of the spawn. As I was taking it all in, all that was around me, I gazed across the bay at the islands, its rock-strewn shoreline and the clear water. Glancing back at my bobber, it darted off to the right disappearing into the wave; taking up the slack line, I reared back on the rod, expecting to see a small panfish come flying out of the shallow water. [Read more…]

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Into the Blue Carroll Lake Fly-In By Gary Howey

As the Otter floatplane, lifted off the water, banking to east, a sea of blue appeared on the horizon. We were flying into Sunset Country Ontario, Canada to fish Carroll Lake. What appeared on the horizon proved what I had heard about the province to be true, that there are more than 250,000 lakes in Ontario with about one-fifth of the world’s fresh water.
Our destination was The Lodge at Carroll Lake, a lake twenty-two miles long that lies one hundred sixty five miles northeast of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the Woodland Caribou Park on the Ontario and Manitoba border.
Approached the lake, the Otter, came around, with the Lodge and cabins coming into view, looking much like a photo you would see in National Geographic.
The lodge and cabins, nestled amongst the pine and birch trees, lay along the shoreline of the calm waters of the bay.
The Otter slipped into the dock where passengers Tami Brinkman, Mitchell, S.D., Randy Smith, Yankton, S.D., Chad Tramp, Ankeny, IA., Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. and I were greeted by Steve Brinkman and his crew.
The main lodge, a huge building with a large stone fireplace would be where we would eat our meals prepared by the Lodge Chef.
We would be at the camp for two days and were anxious to test the waters for some of the excellent fishing available in these Ontario waters.
It would not be long before Steve, Larry and I launched in one of the Lodge boats with Randy and Chad following in another, we were about to experience a trip of a lifetime.
The weather prior to our arrival did not seem to be in our favor, as it rained hard for several days. We were not sure what to expect as cold fronts had been moving into the area on a regular basis, which always indicates a tough bite. We were pleasantly surprised when shortly after we arrived in the narrows. Steve, who was rigged for the occasion, pitched his jig towards the shoreline. On his second cast, he felt the extra weight indicating a pickup. He set the hook as an angry walleye shook his head violently, attempting to dislodge the jig. The fish was a healthy seventeen-inch fish and the first of a hundred or so we would boat before our trip was through. [Read more…]

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“Fan”tastic Turkey Hunting By Gary Howey

As Ben Loecker and I watched, we could see three Toms fanned out and proudly displaying for their harems. The birds were displaying about a half mile south of us in a harvested bean field, it wasn’t the half-mile walk that I was thinking about; it was how to get Ben close enough for a shot without being spotted. The terrain we had to cross included a lot of open ground, offering us, very little to hide our movement. Our only hope was that the low fence line along the east side of the field, that had a few trees and weeds along it, would give us some cover as we made the stalk.
I had met Ben, Hartington, NE. a seventh grader at Cedar Catholic when I was one of the guides on a youth turkey hunt sponsored by the Nebraska Game & Parks at Ponca State Park. On that hunt, we were unable to tag a bird, and when the 2015 season opened, it was my chance to redeem myself.
The birds we were watching began to move to the southeast, into land that was close to a rural home, so we needed to do something and do it fast before our opportunity to work these birds walked away.
In past columns, I had mentioned using tail feathers, the “fan” from a Tom turkey used to attract a bird and since I had one in the truck, I grabbed it, a hen decoy and my turkey-hunting vest as Ben fed Winchester turkey loads into his twelve gauge.
We would need to make our way through the terraces before entering the fence line leading to the field the birds were using. As we made our way towards the birds, we paused occasionally, glassing the field, allowing us to check on the birds and know which direction they were heading. [Read more…]

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Early Season Bass By Gary Howey

This is the time of the year when many anglers develop tunnel vision, thinking only of walleyes and fishing on the bigger water!
When you do this, it means that you are missing some of the finest early season fishing.
Many of these anglers will be running great distances when some of the best fishing available may be right in their own backyard for bass.
In the upper Midwest, there are excellent populations of both Small and Largemouth bass and right now is an excellent time to take good numbers of both species.
Both are found throughout the upper Midwest, in Missouri River in Lewis & Clark Lake up stream into Lake Oahe. In South Dakota, you will find excellent bass fishing in most lakes including on Reetz Lake, Roy Lake, Big Stone and Enemy Swim.
Most dams, ponds, farm & stock dams, lakes and reservoirs also contain cacheable populations of Largemouth bass.
During this time of the year, bass will have moved off into deeper water to rest up from the rigors of the spawn. As the water temperatures begin to warm, they will become more active.
As water temperature moves into the low 70’s, the bass will start to feed aggressively.
Look for bass this time of the year spending much of the day in the deeper water and then moving into the shallows early in the day and later in the afternoon looking for an easy meal.
In the river and areas with current, you will find bass throughout the day tucked in behind some sort of cover.
Anything that cuts or slows down the current, which are known as slack water pockets, is likely to be a good hiding spots for the bass.
Points, rock piles pockets in the weeds and down timber, all cut the current and make excellent locations to look for bass in the river.
Both species of bass can be taken on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worm rigs and jigs. [Read more…]

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Wild about Wild Edibles By Gary Howey

I love springtime, weather is warming up, fish are starting to bite and it is the time of the year when thousands of folks and I head out to start looking for those wild edibles mushrooms and asparagus.

My first experience at hunting wild asparagus happened by accident, I was on the road delivering parts throughout northern Nebraska. One of my customers mentioned asparagus hunting and I was all ears as if it is a green vegetable, I like it.

After gathering all of the information I could, I kept my eyes out for the old plants as I drove along the roads and one day, near Stuart, Nebraska, I spotted a clump of them in the ditch. I decided to check it out; I pulled over and was down in the ditch walking along the fence line looking for new shoots.

About that time, a pickup came by and a gruff old rancher asked what the heck I was doing on his land, I thought I was screwed and would soon be meeting the local Sheriff.

[Read more…]

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Mushroom Hunting A Spring Outdoor Obsession By Gary Howey

It won’t be long before outdoorsmen and women will be infected with a disease, which will spread quickly throughout in the upper Midwest. It’s been known to infect men, women and children, infecting young and old alike.

The cause of this infectious disease is a fungus that goes by the name of morel mushroom and once they start to poke their heads out of the ground, men and women will leave their home, jobs and families, heading for the river bottoms, island and hills on mushroom hunting excursions.

Morels, which found throughout our area, are easy to recognize, delicious to eat, which makes them the most popular wild mushroom in the upper Midwest.

They are elongated with an off-white stem, a crown covered with white ridges with dark brown pits. They can vary from off-white to gray in color. The easiest way to explain what a morel looks like is to look for a mushroom growing on the ground that resembles a cone shaped brain.  [Read more…]

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Late Spring Fishing By Gary Howey

Late spring is the time of year when fish become active and aggressive, since they’re cold-blooded, warmer water means more activity and more activity requires more food.

The walleye will be on the move, cruising, looking for a meal, so you’ll need to make some changes from the way you fished during the cold-water period.

This is the time of year when you’ll be able to speed up your presentation. You’ll still use many of the same lures, but you’ll fish them a little faster.

If you’re using a jig, you’ll want to speed up your retrieve, jig a little more aggressively, drift the boat a little quicker or use your trolling motor to move the bait a bit quicker.

When using a live bait rig, this is a good time to switch from your minnow rig to a crawler rig. [Read more…]

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Turkey Hunting The “Run and Gun” Method By Gary Howey

No matter what type of outdoor activity you are into, windy, cold, damp days can put an end to most activities before they start!
This especially true when it comes to a spring turkey hunt, making a hunter thinking more about the nice warm bed he’s in than chasing turkeys in the rain!
Calling spring turkey when it is cold and damp is a tough job, but do not think all turkeys hole up during these types of weather conditions. There are always a few toms out there looking around for a receptive hen!
This is when we revert to what we refer to as aggressive turkey hunting tactics. This is something not talked about a lot as it involves more work than other turkey hunting tactics.
You’ve more than likely seen TV shows or videos where the hunter makes a few calls, sets down in one spot for a couple of minutes and then the bird magically appears!
These hunters on these programs do not need to look around a whole lot to locate the birds because they are in an area that they have been in before or he is hunting next to a feeder in his own backyard.
If you spend a lot of time in an area and spend a lot of that time looking for the birds, you are going to know exactly where they are!
Because we are filming in different locations, in areas we may have never seen before, we arrive the day before the hunt, scouting as time allows, but there are times when our schedule puts us into an area after dark and scouting just does not happen.
This is where we revert to my aggressive turkey calling.
On opening morning, we are in the field well before daybreak, not a half hour, I mean when it is pitch dark as turkeys may not have the best night vision, they still can detect movement in low light conditions.
If the area looks like it would hold turkeys, we like to use a locator call to get a response from the Toms.
We start our hunt by jumping from one ridge line to another calling with our owl, crow or predator calls trying to get an old gobbler to shock gobble
Don’t travel along the top of the ridges: as a turkey’s keen eyes will pick you out against the skyline and your hunt will be over before it begins.
Travel just below the ridge line, high enough to be able to see and hear what is going on below you, but not high enough to be silhouetted against the skyline.
If there is no answer, we will break out our binoculars and glance along the ridges, trying to spot the birds as they come down from the roost.

[Read more…]

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Turkey Decoys By Gary Howey

When I started, hunting turkeys back in the 70’s it was a new sport in this part of the country and we learned as we went along.

Hunting turkeys with decoys was the furthest thing from our minds.

A friend of mine from Crofton, NE. heard about hunters down south using decoys to draw gobblers into shotgun range and since none was available in our area, he made one. Using an old Styrofoam Canada goose decoy, he whittled on it and then painted it to resemble a turkey, well, kind-o- sort of! It looked like a deformed, mostly black Canada goose that had gotten in a fight and LOST. It was bulky, made a lot of nose when going through the woods, but it worked.

If I was going to be serious about turkey hunting, I had to have one and when the first plastic expandable hen decoys came out, I got me one. They folded flat, and could be spread out, bulking them up by using the T-handle stake, making them appear larger. I could easily carry the folded up decoy in the game pouch of my turkey-hunting vest. Since they were hard plastic, they too made a lot of noise when walking through the trees.

These first decoys were upright, because of the stake they were on, stuck up in the air quite a ways with the decoys head in the alert position, the way turkeys hold their head when they are alerted, looking around.

To keep my decoy from being positioned too high in the air and to get it out of the alert position, I shortened up the stake, lowering it closer to the ground, tilting it forward into more of a feeding position.

Then there were the foam decoys, allowing me to carry several of these decoys in my game pouch. This is when Ii started experimenting with putting the hen decoy in the breeding position. I’d place my hen decoy flat on the ground with the Tom positioned a short distance away looking in her direction. This worked well until the wind came up when the foam decoys would jump around, working its way out of the ground, and flying off across the field with me in hot pursuit.

Since then, I have used any number of decoys, some in groups of two, on up to a whole flock, experimenting with silhouette, full bodies, stuffed birds and inflatable decoys.

Today, turkey hunters have a wide variety of turkey decoys they can use. If you are just getting into turkey hunting, it can be confusing as there are so many decoy postures. There’s the

feeding, breeding, submissive, alert, strutting and so on and so forth.

There are several things I look for when I choose a decoy or decoys that I plan to use in the spring. The time of the season and how the Toms are putting together their harems re a few of the things you want to consider before heading out into the woods.

When putting out turkey decoys, you want to use a decoy or decoys that aren’t going to alert the birds, a position like the feeding hen, as it is the most natural position in nature.

Almost all turkey flocks have some feeding hens, which are followed closely by strutting Toms, and it doesn’t get more realistic or relaxed than that. The other position that works in a flock situation is the breeding (hen on the ground) position. Since the breeding position puts the hen on the ground, they are hard for the Tom to see so you need an upright decoy to get the gobbler’s attention.

I use a basic, realistic decoy set up, which is a feeding hen, strutting gobbler and an alert (lookout) hen. The number of decoys, how they will be set up depends on the terrain I’m hunting in. [Read more…]