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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…]

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Pre-Season Scouting A little thing that really Pays Off By Gary Howey

  Have you ever noticed how some hunters can be a whole lot more successful that all other hunters that hunt in the same area?

  If you ask a dozen of these hunters why this one individual or Top Gun is so successful, you’ll probably get a dozen different answers.

  Some may say that it’s because he has better habitat and then there’s those that might suggest that no one can be that successful year after year and hunt legally.

  The majority of the hunters may not have a clue, figuring that someone got lucky and continued hunting as they always have and continue to have limited success.

  Once a few of these hunters do their homework, they’ll figure out what they need to do to become as successful as the Top Gun is.

  The homework I’m referring to is “Pre-Season Scouting” or getting out into the field prior to season so you know what’s out there, their favorite location throughout the day and their travel routes.

  Some of you might think that scouting is only for deer hunters, not really as a hunter who gets out into the woods or field before season is way ahead of the game when it comes to opening day.

  Let’s break it down by species and see how scouting will give you one up on the hunter that simply goes out on the first day of the season.

Doves

Dove hunting is a great sport, but without doing some sort of pre-season scouting, and once the season opens, you’re going to do a lot of running around looking for places to hunt which means you’ll have a lot less time for hunting doves.

  Before the season starts, my hunting partners and I are looking for large concentrations of birds. We look for them sitting on high lines, around dams or a food source.

  There is several things doves need, but the main things they require are nesting areas, feed and water.

  Generally in the area where doves roost or nest you’ll find power lines, and there’s nothing doves like better than to rest on an elevated area, allowing them to look things over. Therefore, if you spot a group of doves close to a tree line, it’s a safe bet that that’s where the birds roost.

  Searching out areas where the dove feed is another place you need to check out. Doves love wheat, hemp and ragweed seed, but will make use of any seed they can get their beak around. If there is a harvested wheat field or a weedy draw that contains hemp or ragweed, you can bet that sometime during the day, doves will be in the area will be there filling their crops in these areas.

  Water is what every creature needs and doves after feeding when they are on their way to their roost will have to stop by some dam or stock pond to get a drink before calling it a day. You’ll want to look for a pond that has a bare shoreline as doves need to walk down to the edge of the water to get a drink and will avoid ponds with weeds growing right to the water’s edge.

  If you find a pond with a bare shoreline near what the birds are feeding on as they make their way back to their roost, you best be set up late afternoon just before the sun sets as the birds will be coming to you.

Pheasants [Read more…]

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Platte P.V.A. Veterans Pheasant Hunt Those that asked little and gave a lot By Gary Howey

As a Veteran, I feel privileged to spend time with other veterans and this season, I’ve had several opportunities to spend time in the field with many of them.

On this trip, Platte, S.D. is our destination, where we join the North Central Paralyzed Veterans of America on the Platte American Legion 2015 P.V.A. Hunt. Platte, is a small community with a big heart, as the community, Platte American Legion, Platte Pheasants Forever and the East River Sportsmen worked together to make this event a success.

The event started with a meet and greet, get together at the American Legion Hall along with an evening meal prepared by the ladies of the Platte American Legion Auxiliary.

Each morning, before heading out to hunt, the Platte Pheasants Forever and the East River Sportsman put together a great breakfast for all those attending at the Platte Community Center.

Pic # 2-Platte PVA PhotoThe large group, made up with P.V.A. members and volunteers, required us to divide into two groups where we would be hunting with some of the local ranchers. After the meal, it was time to hit the field, one group going north while the other would head west.

I would be filming with the north group while Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Scott Ulrich would be out with the west group.

Our group would hunt grassland, trees along with some cropland and were able to bag a few birds, as our birds were extremely wild, running ahead of the walkers, coming up well out of range of the walkers, between our walkers and the blockers.

Scott’s group, which would be in the field with hunting dogs, were able to find large number of birds, allowing their group to bag close to their limits.

The following day after breakfast, our two groups combined, hunting together, where we would hunt unpicked corn, sorghum and some grassland.

With the help of volunteers who walked the corn and the dogs, both pointers and flushers, the group would have an excellent hunt.

Some P.V.A. members would be hunting out of pickups, wheel chairs and in a specially developed 4-wheeler attachment invented by Todd Wesseling of Platte.

The attachment allowed a P.V.A. member to ride out in front of the 4-wheeler as Todd maneuvered it along the outside edge of field. This attachment was mounted to the front of the 4-wheeler and guided by Todd driving the 4-wheeler steering it electrically.

Early on, during this hunt, I would be filming with the walkers and later filming out of another 4-wheeler side-by-side, while Scott would try to catch the action at the end of the field.

The non-hunting volunteers and hunting dogs would slowly push their way through the fields. As they moved through the field, the plan was to push the birds in the direction of the blockers stationed along the edge and along the end of the field, allowing those in wheel chairs, on the ground and in pickup boxes to get an opportunity for a shot.

As we approached the end of the field, the hunters along the outside edge moved forward to set up with the blockers while the walkers paused, allowing the dogs’ to work the last 25 yards, forcing the birds in the air out in front of the P.V.A. members blocking.

The first bird erupted from the cover, then another and another, with birds exploding out in front and on either side, before long the sky filled with flushing pheasants as the hunters at the end of the field did their best to catch up with these high flying birds.

On each push through each field, the P.V.A. members had the opportunity, to spend time with friends, to shoot some birds and be a part of this great outdoor tradition, pheasant hunting in South Dakota.

Events like this, allow these veterans the opportunity to get out, join others and to enjoy the outdoors.

Without the support of people like those in Platte as well as the North Central Paralyzed Veterans of America, these veterans wouldn’t have the opportunity to be part of these events.

Our thanks to the people of Platte, South Dakota, the Platte American Legion and Auxiliary, Platte Pheasants Forever and the East River Sportsman for allowing our crew to take part in this event.

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Hunters should find more pheasants this year By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

The pheasant hunting outlook in our three-state region looks very bright.

Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota all report increased number of birds. Favorable weather during the winter and through the pheasant breeding season contributed most to increasing numbers. Habitat loss was reported by wildlife managers in both Iowa and Nebraska.

When Iowa’s pheasant hunters take to the field on the Oct. 31 opener, they will find more birds again this year. Roadside counts showed the second straight year of increasing pheasant numbers. The statewide index of 24 birds per route represented a 37 percent increase over last year and a 260 percent increase over the all-time low set in 2013. The highest concentration of birds occurred in the northwest. [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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Land conservation focus of Governor’s Hunt by Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal
MANKATO, Minn. | It was a perfect day for pheasant hunting. The bright Minnesota sun swept over the native grasses that made up this piece of CRP field. A swath of corn stood at the eastern edge of the field, its stalks dying as the corn ripened.
A cool wind made the morning chilly. Later it would freshen to a strong gale which would make the canvas tent under which we ate the noon lunch, flap wildly.
I watched the hunters advance, a thin line of fluorescent orange from this distance. I clutched my 20-gauge semi-auto and waited. This was the opening walk for our team participating in the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener.
We had heard Gov. Mark Dayton at the banquet the night before and at the breakfast at the City Center Hotel in Mankato. He wasn’t able to hunt because of complications with his hip.
For Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and me, the event had started with the social hour and banquet at the Verizon Wireless Center in downtown Mankato. For those who were able to arrive early, an afternoon of activities awaited them. [Read more…]