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True Conservationists “Hunters” By Gary Howey

 For years, we’ve all heard anti-hunters yell and scream about animals having rights and that hunters don’t care about wildlife.

  I’m sure there are some of you reading this, may think what these anti-hunting groups are saying could be factual.

  When in fact, it was hunters supported the 1937 Pitman Robertson Act, which imposed a 10% excise tax on their purchases of guns, ammunition and outdoor equipment. Through this excise tax, hunters have contributed over $4-billion dollars used to purchase millions of acres of public land that benefits all species of wildlife.

   Another fact you may not heard is that hunters since 1923 asked for and have paid for their state’s hunting licenses.

  This amounts to over $6.5-billion dollars received from these licensing fees, that’s paid for by hunters, the dollars raised from these fees are a major portion of the Nebraska’s and South Dakota’s Game & Parks and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources budgets.

  Since 1934, our waterfowl hunters purchased their Federal Duck Stamps, bringing in close to 800-million dollars, with a percentage of these dollars going directly towards the purchase or lease wetlands and wildlife habitat.

  Add to this the dollars donated by hunters to wildlife groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Whitetails Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, they contribute an additional $300-million each year to wildlife conservation activities. 

  Other items that enter into these figures according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, is that hunting contributes over $30-billion to the economy every year and supports over 1-million jobs

 There are many ways hunters not only support wildlife but also contribute to other worthwhile programs, including numerous fundraisers such as celebrity hunts and benefit trap shoots. These hunters and celebrities at these events help to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. These events do not just support hunting related projects, but projects such as Habitat for Humanity and other events, proving hunters not only care about the outdoors and wildlife; they also care about their fellow man. [Read more…]

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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 fall turkeys can be an experience By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

Sometimes, when you are turkey hunting, you get caught with your pants down.

Well, not really.

But when three birds burst out of cover in formation, 100 yards away, and you are standing in a harvested alfalfa field with only three-inch high vegetation to conceal you, it certainly feels that way.

 I was somewhere in southeast Nebraska. I no longer remember exactly where. Gary Howey, Hartington, Nebraska, and I were hunting the fall turkey season.

We were walking along the edge of an alfalfa field abutting a barbed wire fence along which the summer’s weed growth had grown high. Gary was close to cover, but I had wandered out into the field a ways, like a prima donna on parade.

We hiked along. Me clutching my 12 gauge and sending out plaintive yelps with my diaphragm call from time to time. Gary, carrying the camera, walking behind.

I had just finished a series, when the three birds stepped into the field. I dropped like I had been hit by a rock, and I presumed Howey had done the same.

Funny thing, though. The turkeys didn’t seem to notice us. They kept walking in, and I kept calling. Chalk it up to good camo, I guess.

At 20 yards I decided I was not going to shoot. These were young birds, not that it made any difference to me in a fall season, but I wanted to see just how close I could entice them. And, we had only been out a couple of hours. I hate to end a hunt too early, although that has come back to bite me from time to time.

They came in so close I could have almost grabbed one, although that would have been a very bad idea. They were looking me over like I was some kind of laboratory specimen, their long necks reaching forward and their black, beady eyes piercing like tiny lasers. Before long they became suspicious and began “putting” before running off.

I rolled over laughing, and Gary did the same. [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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Down to the Last Wire – In the final Hour Nebraska Turkey Hunt By Gary Howey

  The Tom gobbled once as he made his way west out of the field and I knew it was going to be a tough hunt as it was the last day of the Nebraska Spring turkey season and his harem of hens were with him.

 In Nebraska, the turkeys began mating before the April 26 Nebraska opener and it was on May 31, the last day of the season.  This wasn’t our first trip as Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member Josh Anderson, Hartington and I had been out several times, only to return home empty handed.

  It had been a good season for both of us as Josh had three tags, filling all three. On two of them, I had the opportunity to be along, filming his first archery turkey hunt as well as his  shotgun hunt, while he had gone out and called in his third bird.

  It was a tough spring to hunt, as when it wasn’t raining, it was windy, so calling birds was tough. Not that it’s impossible, but when you’re hunting and have a camera along, moisture and winds don’t go well when bringing along camera equipment.

  My first bird came when I was scouting for the next day’s filming,  when I stumbled into a flock of turkeys, with several big Gobblers. I couldn’t help myself and called one in, allowed him to strut around my decoy a bit and then knocked him down.

  Josh and I had planned several different trips, but we’re beaten back by rain and the horrendous winds we’ve had this spring. When we did make it out, our calls must have not sounded sweet enough for the Gobblers, as they refused to leave their hens and come our way.

  When it’s the last few hours of the last day of the season, things change and we decided in order to film the show and fill the tag we may have to change our tactics. This late in the season, if they wouldn’t come to us we were going to have to go to them.

  Our first set up on the final day required a good quarter mile hike toting our decoys, shotgun, camera and turkey fan, as we made our way to a thick shelterbelt.  Once there, we would need to get through it quietly to where we had first spotted the birds. As we came to the north side of the trees, we hunkered down and glassed the area, seeing no birds; I gave a soft hen yelp. A resounding gobble came from behind us on the side we had just come through and while making our way through the chest high grass, we must have bypassed the bird.

  Not wanting to give up on the bird, I’d call, and if there were no response, pause a minute or two before Josh would give it a go. One gobble was all we could get from the bird and he seemed happy to stay right where he was.

  On the outside of the trees was some more tall grass, so seeing very far out in front of us was impossible. I motioned to Josh that I was going to move up to the fence line along the edge of the alfalfa field and that he should follow.

  We managed to move a short distance to the fence line without making too much racket and once we were settled in, glassed the field. Off to our right we could see one good bird and several hens, but they were heading away from us. I called to the gobbler, getting his attention, with his red head and neck extending out as far as possible, hoping to see the bird that was calling to him.

  He continued to move away from us, went under the fence as he walked away and with nothing but open ground between us, we had to wait for the gobbler and hens to disappear in a low spot in the alfalfa field.

  It looked like this would be another one of those days, where we would see gobblers, but couldn’t get to them. [Read more…]

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Archery Gobblers Nebraska Style By Gary Howey

It looked as if it would be a tough season for Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Josh Anderson, Hartington, NE. and I as we tried to film Josh’s first archery turkey hunt.

  Our first set up (Plan A) was in the field the birds had been using last year, but this year, they decided to do their thing in a field below.

  Our second set up (Plan B) was in the bottom where the gobblers were strutting this year: where we relocated a ground blind in amongst the trees along the creek. When the sun rose, the birds pitched out into the field east of our blind, refusing to come to the west.

  Then the birds changed their pattern, moving west of the blind and not coming east, so we relocated the blind to the west field (Plan B).   

  (Plan C)  Happened a few days later, where they moved back to their old haunt, so we grabbed my blind and stuck it in the ground just west of where they were roosting, I called in a nice gobbler, but the bird spotted Josh bringing his bow up and high tailed it back to the east.

  (Plan D) On our last scouting trip, the birds weren’t in the field we had hunted, so we changed tactics, moving to a new area, as we worked our way in along the edge of the tree line several Toms gobbled north of an open field.  We quickly set up the blind, tucking it in amongst the plum bushes, doing our best to brush in the front of the blind, slid out of the area and came back that evening. With our decoys out in front of the blind, we patiently waited for those Toms that had gobbled at us earlier to respond to our calls. Nothing no gobbles and no sign of the birds, it looked like we would have to come up with a better plan. We tried using Plan A & B and had blown right through Plans C, D, so it was time to get serious and go to Plan E.

  (Plan E)  We would be to quietly sneak into the trees around midday, pull the blind and relocate it to the north side of the grove where, in the past we observed several Gobblers and hens feeding the open secluded open ground.

It was late afternoon, as we snuck into the blind, putting out our decoys and started calling. We would be using the Big Three, calls that always seemed to get a response from a gobbler, my box, slate and diaphragm calls. Since we weren’t sure how close the birds might be, I begun calling with my slate, calling quietly, throwing in a few purrs, the sound a hen makes when she’s contented and when she’s mating. We waited, waiting for the gobbles to ring out across the valley; we waited and waited and waited. 

  Getting no answer, I raised the volume of the call, putting more pressure on the striker and picking up the pace, still no response. 

  Perhaps, because of the gusting winds, I wasn’t getting enough volume and my call wasn’t reaching the birds upwind from the blind.

  I picked up my box call, applied pressure to the paddle and quickly slid it across the edges of the box call, increasing the pressure on the paddle and volume as I waited for the thundering response from an old Gobbler. As before, nothing, we knew the birds were using the area, perhaps our moving of the blind had spooked them, but there still was a lot of time before sundown.

  I tried all three calls, with no response, which really didn’t surprise me as in the past Gobblers had them come on in stealth mode, silently, strutting, tail feathers spread, their chest puffed out with their wings dragging on the ground. [Read more…]

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Close encounters of the turkey kind By Larry MYHRE

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

There’s nothing quite like sitting in the dark with your back against a tree in the turkey woods. The whippoorwills are in full throat, their lashing cries piercing the darkness with a cadence only that bird can make.

A barred owl sounds off in the distance and the turkeys answer with exciting gobbles. My heart begins beating a little faster, and I can’t help but send out a tree yelp on the slate call. It is answered by more thunderous gobbles.

There’s a hint of rose along the eastern skyline, but here, deep in the timber, it is as dark as Hades on a bad day.

On the walk in, a coyote had suddenly appeared on the trail ahead, he looked over his shoulder, tongue lolling. Then he trotted off, unconcerned. Was it real or just a figment of my imagination? No, the encounter was ghostlike, but it was real.

Later, I startled a pair of deer, does I think, on the trail. I heard a snort and caught the flash of white from their rumps as they bounced away.

In that hour before dawn, the woods are alive.

I’ve encountered all kinds of wildlife in that darkness. It is springtime and wildlife species are on the move. For most of them it is a time of travel. It might be migration time or movement from winter to springtime habitats. The urge to reproduce is strong, and many lose their secretive manners to wander boldly about.

Every outdoorsman thrives on that hour before daylight experience, whether it is a deer hunter on stand or a waterfowler listening to the marsh wake up or a predator hunter waiting for shooting light before sending out a series of injured-rabbit cries. I’ve been there for all of that and, believe me, nothing matches pre-dawn wildlife encounters like turkey hunting.

Take, for instance, a morning I had in Missouri a few years ago. We have barred owls in our area, but nothing like Missouri. Missouri is barred owl country. There must have been a dozen of them sounding off in this valley.

It was a wild and raucous wailing of male owls trying to attract a mate. I listened to them and couldn’t help but join in. If you think all there is to a barred owl vocalization is the “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all,” that we are taught to shock gobble roosting toms, guess again. They have a kind of laughter pierced by shrieks and cries and choreographed vocalizations far beyond “who cooks for you.” And the springtime mating season is when you will hear that expanded vocabulary.

If you have a good barred owl call, as I do, you can join in on their conversation and often bring them to you. [Read more…]

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Turkey Hunting When things don’t work Gary Howey

  No matter what type of outdoor activity you are into, windy, cold, damp days can put an end to most activities, sometimes before they start!

  This especially true when it comes to a spring turkey hunt, when you are thinking more about the nice warm bed you’re in and not o chasing turkeys in the rain!

  Calling spring turkey when it is cold and damp can be a tough job, but don’t think all turkeys hunker down during these less than perfect weather conditions.

There are always a few toms out there cruising around looking for a receptive hen!  In “fowl” weather, this is when we revert to what we refer to as aggressive turkey hunting tactics.  It’s not something you hear a lot about as it involves more work than other turkey hunting tactics.

  You’ve probably seen a 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 they have been in before are  hunting next to a feeder in his own backyard.

  If you spend a lot of time looking for the birds in areas you’ve hunted before, then you know exactly where the birds hang out!

  Because of our Outdoorsmen Adventures television show, we’re in different locations, areas we may have never seen before. Arrive the day before the hunt, scouting as time allows, there are times when our schedule puts us into an area after dark and scouting just does not happen.

  any day we are out after turkeys, we ‘re  in the field well before daybreak, not a half hour, 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 use a locator call to get a shock gobble from the Toms. [Read more…]

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I think its Spring, What we have been waiting for By Gary Howey

  As I look out my office window, I realize, that perhaps, the time of the year outdoorsmen and women have been waiting for has finally arrived, Anyway, it’s suppose to be here, but after this last week, I’m not sure.

 I thought spring was when things changed from winter to spring, the turkeys would break up from their winter flicks, putting together their harems and really start to gobble, the fish should start to bite and getting things done in the outdoors were the norm.

 Well, last week where I’d planned to head for the woods and do some turkey hunting, the wind had really picked up; I thought to myself, thank God, it’s not snowing. I spoke too soon as in came the snow and a late season blizzard and a few days later another, ending my day dreaming about a spring turkey hunt as we had to move wet snow that was piled up over my head,

  Yes, turkeys can be hunted in the snow as I’ve tagged several where the Tom had to push snow with their chest to get to my decoys, but as I “matured”, I find it a lot more enjoyable to hunt on nice sunny days rather than those with wind, cold and snow drifts.

  No matter what Mother Nature throws at us, spring is the time of the year when things really start happening in the outdoors. We can hunt turkeys, hunt sheds, do some open water fishing, as well as getting ready to hunt morels and asparagus.

  It’s a great time of the year, when we discard the long johns and heavy coats, and break out our warm weather clothing.

  As I mentioned, spring turkey hunting is on my mind right now, as we have three tags in Nebraska, two in South Dakota and my partner has one in Iowa, so we are going to be spending some time in the woods before the season ends.

  In some areas, during last season, we had a big bunch of Toms, but things have changed this year, I was having a problem locating them in their old haunts, they’d changed their pattern and moved to another roosting area.

  I generally scout the area a couple of weeks in advance, using my binoculars to check out the hills and valleys where I’d seen them in years past.  This year, not seeing much, no large flocks or even a small harem, so I switched tactics, getting out before sun up and sundown, using my locator calls to get a Tom to shock gobble. [Read more…]

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Successful turkey hunters must learn from mistakes By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

It  was mid-morning on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation. I was hunting turkeys and failing badly. Birds on the morning roost had walked away, and I hadn’t seen a tom since then.

This was many years ago. I had resorted to “running and gunning” to find a hot bird. That means you cover a lot of ground calling and hoping to fire up a tom.

I was at the bottom of a side canyon filled with Ponderosa pines and brush. I yelped loudly on the diaphragm call, and the answering gobble almost blew my hat off. I was right on top of that tom. I looked around for a place to sit and found there was no tree within 100 feet.

I did the only thing I could do. Drop to the ground and hold the prone position. The muzzle of my shotgun was pointed toward where the bird had gobbled. I’d no more than hit the ground when three hens came running in. I thought they were going to go right over me but at the last minute they swerved and ran to my right. Behind them were two jakes. My heart fell. Was it the jake that had gobbled?

No, the big tom was strutting right behind them, walking a few steps and then puffing up before walking a few more.

At 30 yards I let loose, and the copper-clad sixes put him down. Hard.

Lesson learned. Never call unless you have positioned yourself next to a hide. Preferably a tree wider than your shoulders. [Read more…]