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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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Pheasant Hunting 2017 Gary Howey

  It will not be long before the upland Game Bird season opens up. Several of the states are reporting that their pheasant numbers are down.

  I have talked with several wildlife biologists about this and they have given several reasons for the decrease in pheasant numbers.

  First is the fact that in some areas, they had dry year and moisture, the dew that the young chicks needed was hard to come by.  Secondly was the fact that last season’s numbers were also down.  Lastly, but probably the most important reason is the fact that much of our CRP had disappeared. When commodity prices were high and the dollars the government gave per acre for taking the fields out of production, into CRP were low and much of the CRP plowed under.

  Without the habitat, we just are not going to see the bird numbers others and I saw while growing up in Watertown, South Dakota during the “Good Old Days.”

  The reason that South Dakota has birds is simple; they realize the thousands of dollars their State bird, the Ringneck Pheasant brings into the state’s economy.

  South Dakota definitely have more habitat than Nebraska, the state I reside in and In Much of South Dakota; they farm for pheasants taking care of what habitat they do have.  They do a number of things to enhance the habitat, making it more attractive to wildlife.

  In South Dakota, you will see sloughs; some hold water while others are no more than muddy swamps.  When they plant trees, many of them are specifically suited for wildlife. Many farmers will leave a few rows of corn or sorghum in the field each year, helping wildlife to survive during the harsh South Dakota winters.  This habitat helps to assure that the birds have cover to protect them from predators flying overhead and the food and cover needed to make it through the long winter months.

  This, along with the fact that game preserves stock birds heavily helps to ensure good bird numbers during the season.

  Some folks have the misconception that pheasants can live in the row crops, the corn and bean fields.  Maybe, in years past, but not today as the row crops no longer have pigeon grass and weeds between the rows, they are clean.  Sure, pheasants will move into them to feed before harvest and on what little waste grain there is after harvest, but row crops do not cut it for wildlife habitat.

  In areas where there was dry weather, successful hunters this season may have to hunt areas adjacent to water.  It really does not have to be much, as a small slough, creek, or pond will work.

  Another tip that is worth listening to is to hunt the smallest tracts of land, patches of weeds etc. The larger CRP fields or state hunting grounds are hunted hard.  As soon as one group comes out one end, another group is heading in the opposite end of the field.

  Most hunters tend to pass up these small weed patches or small clumps of trees.  These places can really hold good numbers of birds, those pushed from the larger fields, find safety, and shelter in these small tracts of land.

  It does not take a Rhodes Scholar to figure it out, many of the larger tracts of land are hunted hard and the birds are looking for a place to rest and get away from all the noise and shooting. [Read more…]

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Looking for Wildlife Hunt the Edges By Gary Howey

  Hunting was not a real big deal in my family, sure, we hunted as kids with our BB-guns and my Dad “Cal” and Grandparents, the Menkveld hunted pheasants but generally, it was on the opener or on the second weekend of the season.

  There were a few times my Dad might hunt waterfowl with a family friend, where they hunted out of a ditch northwest of Watertown hunting geese, but that was about it. 

  Each hunting trip my brother A.J. and I made with Dad was an adventure even if we were there just to help push and retrieve birds, because we cherished every trip with him and the memories they created!

  Our first hunting trips were when we were older, around ten, when we had the opportunity to be with Dad, on a pheasant hunt west of our hometown, Watertown, South Dakota.

  This was back during the soil bank days when the pheasant population in northeastern South Dakota was unbelievable as they were everywhere. 

  These trips for us were more of a long hike than a hunt, but it was really something we enjoyed, as we had gotten big enough to hang out with Dad and the guys, to be part of something we had always wanted.

 Before we could carry a gun and hunt, Dad wanted to make sure we knew how to handle a firearm safely and would need to go through the Hunters Safety Course. Back then, the course was taught through the school and once we graduated, we hoped to get a 22 rifle to hunt gophers. 

  As far as pheasant hunting was concerned, we would have to wait until we were older and had our own shotguns, as in our family there was only one shotgun, an old Winchester Model 97 twelve-gauge and for safety reasons Dad would not allow us to use it.

  Dad introduced us to hunting on these trips and we were always looking forward to these excursions. 

  It was not that we were only excited about the annual hunting trip, but before we would meet up with the other hunters; we would always stop at Tinker Town west on HWY. 212 for an early lunch.   

  This was something special to us, as it was where we got our first “store bought” hamburger and a pop and had an opportunity to see the huge pheasant and burro statues they had there.

  Sure, on these trips, we were not really hunting, just sharing the experience, as my brother and I were Dad’s bird dogs, flushing, running down and retrieving birds.

  Even though I never had the opportunity to shoot a bird, I could not wait until opening day to spend some quality time with Dad in the outdoors.

  After a few years on these trips, I realized that certain areas held more birds and because I wanted to be where the action was, I needed to be with the group of hunters walking those areas.

   At times, there was not much difference between one location and another; maybe just a subtle change that held the birds.

  As I grew older and started to hunt more, I would always look for these, hunting those subtle changes, as there was something, which drew both the birds and I to these spots.

  These areas were not always the best habitat in the field, where the most cover existed and sometimes they would even be some of the poorest cover in the field, but they held birds.

  I could not help but notice the same thing when I did some depredation trapping; some areas just had more sign with the critters using these areas more than others did, even the furbearers were relating to them just as the pheasants had.  [Read more…]

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Keeping your Body warm in Sub Zero Temperatures, Cabela’s X-Bionic Base Layer By Gary Howey

  As an outdoorsman, I spend countless hours outside when it’s cold. In the winter, we’re on the ice, while in the summer, our crew is on the water and as fall arrives, you’ll find us in the field, and in deer stands.  I’ve always had problems keeping warm, especially in the late fall when hunting waterfowl, ice fishing and .

   If I wear the heavy bulky clothing I used to wear in these conditions, I have trouble bringing my shotgun up and just moving around in bulky clothing.   

  When we have to walk great distances as we do when calling predators or getting to our deer house or stands, if I layer up, by the time I reach where I want to set up or get to the deer stand, I am sweated wet and will be cold from that point on.

  During the late pheasant-hunting season, in early winter when you are one of the walkers, if you dress too lightly, you’re cold and if you dress too heavy by the time, you reach the end of your first field you’re overheated and are cold. 

  I’ve tried everything, layers, long johns, polypropylene long underwear and almost everything available, but some are not enough while others are too much.

  Later last fall, I’d heard many good things about Cabela’s X-Bionic Base layer First-On-Skin-Energizer that was developed by Swiss scientists, the system they scientifically proven and patented.

  The advertisements indicates that the 3D-Bionic Sphere System maintains your body core at an optimum 98.6 F no matter what the temperature.

  I’d tried everything else, so why not try the X- Bionic base layer. When I opened the package from Cabela’s, it was obvious these were like no other base layer I’d seen as they are constructed much differently. The advertising on the X-Bionic indicated that it was designed to turn perspiration into therm-regulating power and I was looking forward to see if what they said about it was true.

  Woven into the chest and back area is there 3D-Bionic Sphere System that starts working as soon as you start to sweat, to cool you when you’re hot and warms you when you’re cold but without over-cooling.

  Built into the material, there Air-Conditioning Channels, a ventilation system that continuously carries moisture away, keeps you warm,  allowing the air to flow to parts of your body not normally accessible when wearing other base layers. [Read more…]

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Late Season Pheasant Hunt Watertown, S.D. Gary Howey

  Anyone who has had the opportunity to hunt late season pheasants in South Dakota can relate to what this column is all about.

  Late season, after the weather turns cold means is when pheasant’s bunch up, sometimes into “huge” flocks.

  It is also that time when every step you take on the frozen ground or in the snow that every critter within hearing distance is going to go on the alert.  This is the time of the season when the first bird takes wing that every critter in the slough will now know something’s is not right!

  As our group of walkers started into the snow covered slough, the first of hundreds of pheasants erupted from the small group of cedars about 250 yards ahead of our wingmen while other birds hunkered down in the heavy slough, hoping our walkers would not find them.

  Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Larry Myhre and I were in the Watertown area taking part in a late season pheasant hunt with Chuck Stone, a friend that graduated with me from Watertown high School. Several other of our WHS classmates were also on the hunt; they included Dennis Murphy and Joe Jipp from Watertown and Tom Sokoll from Omaha.

  Larry and I had been part of this event in years past and were never disappointed.  Over the years, the Stone’s, have developed several areas for pheasant hunting. Each of these has everything wildlife needed to make it through the tough South Dakota winters. The area has plenty of winter cover, several food plots as well as shelterbelts, all of which gave pheasants, deer and other wildlife a place to winter.

  On this trip, I would enter the slough not equipped with my 12-gauge shotgun but handling the filming with a Sony Hi-Def camera with Larry serving as one of the blockers at the end of the first slough.

  It did not take me long to realize how many pheasants were using the covered with cattail covered slough as there were fresh pheasant tracks in the snow going in every direction.

  The Stones knew the area well, setting up the hunt giving the hunters the best opportunity to get a shot at a pheasant.  Many of the hunters in the group had good hunting dogs that worked in between the walkers, with wingmen working on either side out in front of our walkers and blockers strategically placed on the end where we hoped to push the birds.

  Before us was a heavy cattail slough, a ridge off to our right with a cluster of Cedar trees at its northern end, off to our right was an open ridge leading into an unpicked cornfield (food plot) with all three converging into a short grass field where there were several round hay bales were out blockers would be posting.

  As we entered the slough, it looked as if we could walk on top of the hard heavy snow bank, and then drop down working our way in and around the cattails, but a few steps in the snow turned soft with the walkers and me breaking through into snow up to our knees.

  We were all having the same problem, except for the dogs as they could stay on top of the snow, following the numerous deer trails, which ran through the slough and working through the cattails trying to root out the birds that were holding tight. [Read more…]

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Looking Back at Another Year By Gary Howey

  It’s the time of the year, when temperatures are dropping and the northwest wind is making a visit to our part of the country.

  I’m in the office working with my computer, hating to think that I’ll have to head outside again, when I think about all the last year, 2016, which will be ending soon.

  Overall, it was a very good year, where Team members and I spent some time on the water and in the field with old friends as well as making some new ones along the way.

  We started out our year in Howard, S.D. on a late season hunt where Team member Josh Anderson and I filmed a pheasant hunt, on this trip; it was easy to see why South Dakota is the “Pheasant Capital of the World”.  This trip brought back memories, reminding me of how the pheasant hunting was when I was a boy growing up in Watertown, S.D.  

  Back then, they had a government program, the Soil Bank program with a potion of the farm left idle. This and the method they farmed back then, created thousands of acres of habitat, which help to create excellent pheasant numbers.

  Current pheasant numbers in our area are down, but I’m optimistic and looking forward to bird numbers improving. The new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will create thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, which gives birds a place to nest, roost, raise their chicks and help to protect the birds from predators.

  Following that trip, Team member Simon Fuller and I headed to the Aberdeen-Webster area to do some ice fishing. On the trip there were some big walleyes caught and returned into the icy depths of the Glacial Lake we were fishing. On that trip, I set a record for the most fish caught; unfortunately, they were minuscule, about the length of my hand and released, allowing them to grow up. It was a great trip as it gave us the opportunity to spend time on the ice with folks cut from the same cloth we were, spending time with others who loved to spend time in the outdoors, on the ice on a cold winter day. [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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Doug Brown Memorial P.V.A. Pheasant Hunt-Veterans in the Field By Gary Howey

  South Dakota is the pheasant hunting capital of the nation and as I worked my way north I was looking forward to this, my first pheasant hunt of the year.

  As a youngster growing up in South Dakota, I was amazed at the number of birds in the Watertown area.  We lived just one block from the edge of town, where the Sioux River snaked through bottom and there were always birds in the sloughs and wet areas along the river.

  Another thing, which amazed me, was the fact that the bird that drew so many people to the state to hunt was the state’s bird, the Chinese Ring neck pheasant!

  It’s a great upland game bird and one that brings hunters from throughout the United States to take part in opening day.

  In South Dakota, hunters can bag three roosters per day and take home a possession limit of fifteen.

  On this hunt, I’d join members of the North Central Paralyzed Veterans of America to take part in the Doug Brown Memorial Pheasant hunt at Top Gun Hunting Ranch near Howard, S.D. 

  Doug Brown had served veterans for years as the Veteran’s Representative at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota  VA, with this annual event being held in his memory giving disabled veterans and individuals an opportunity to take part in a real South Dakota Pheasant hunt.

  Family members and friends of Brown as well as the North Central Paralyzed Veterans of America staff, volunteers from the area and the folks at Top Gun Hunting Ranch all help to make this 2016 event a great success.

  The event kicks off with a breakfast at Top Gun where generous proportions of eggs, biscuits and gravy, juice and coffee are served. [Read more…]

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Pheasant hunters expect a good season By Larry myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

Pheasant hunting prospects look bright for the three-state area. Roadside counts are in and there have been no really significant problems for pheasant numbers.

Although South Dakota numbers show a 20 percent decline, you have to remember that this is South Dakota. It is likely hunters will experience about the same success as last year.

Iowa numbers look about the same as last year, and last year was the best in five years, so expectations look good for another successful season. As a side note, quail numbers are at a 27-year high.

Nebraska pheasant hunters are looking at another good year. Pheasant numbers match the five-year average in most parts of the state. Most areas can expect hunting much like last year’s or, perhaps, a little poorer. Two exceptions are the Sandhill and Central regions, where pheasant numbers jumped 62 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

In Iowa, population patterns tracked the weather. Parts of northwest Iowa had declines due to heavy snowfall, which likely reduced pheasant survival. Parts of southwest Iowa had declines due to heavy spring rains, likely reducing nesting success. Other regions had more favorable weather and saw similar or slightly higher numbers.

“To put it in perspective, our population is similar to 2007 when we harvested 630,000 roosters,” said Todd Bogenschutz, upland wildlife biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Last year we harvested 270,000 roosters. The difference is, we had twice the hunters in 07. If we had 100,000 hunters last year we would have doubled the harvest. The birds are here; we need hunters to return.”

Iowa’s quail population index has been increasing recently and is now at its highest since 1989 after experiencing increases again across south central and southwest Iowa this year. [Read more…]