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Don’t Be Afraid to Try New things My First Deer Hunt By Gary Howey

  Deer hunting has always been something that enthralled me; one of those adventures I had heard and read about, but never had the pleasure of getting out and doing.

  The main reason I did not know much about deer hunting was that my Dad did not have a rifle and so there was, no way we could hunt deer.

  When I returned from Viet Nam and moved to Nebraska, I loved the outdoors, but not into it like I am know and I did not know many people who hunted deer so it took me a few years to get into it.

  When my opportunity to hunt deer came about, I was on the road selling parts for the Ford dealership in Norfolk, NE. and editing and producing my newspaper The Outdoorsmen. Being on the road and calling on repair and body shops gave me the opportunity to meet some great people with similar interests as me.

  One of those was Gary Fredericks who ran the Verdigre Body Shop. Over the years, we became good friends and we often talked about the outdoors and deer hunting.

  Then, one year, he asked if I would like to deer hunt the following year with him as he and some of his friends hunted deer between Verdigre and Lynch, NE.

  The sentence was verily out of his mouth when I answered “You Bet” I would love to, but, there was one problem, I did not have a rifle and with a family, really did not have the funds to go out and purchase one.
  No big deal, I would figure it out as I had almost a year before the hunt. I started checking into the cost of a rifle and the person to talk with, as he was one of the big deer hunters in Hartington, Steve Samelson who owned a body shop as well as a small gun shop.

  I kept stopping by; talking with him about what caliber to use and what loads would be the best. Steve knew his stuff when it came to rifles, ammunition and deer hunting as he had hunted deer a long time.

  After several visits I started asking about cost, what rifle would work best as I planned to hunt other game including antelope as well as predators.

  He suggested I go with a .243, as there were both light and heavier loads available for the rifle, which made it versatile. Then we got down to the nitty-gritty, what I could afford to spend on a rifle.

  I had a plan as to how I would pay for the rifle, which was to take on an extra job on weekends and after work at the pheasant preserve outside of town.

  Steve said that I could put a little down and make monthly payment until I had the rifle paid for and if all went according to my plan should be no problem.

  I ended up purchasing a Winchester BDL .243 set up with a Redfield Wide Angle 3 X 9 scope equipped with see through sight scope mounts.

  I paid a little each month and as the deer season approached, it appeared as if I would not have it paid off before the season.

  Fortunately, for me, Steve understood, allowing me take the rifle before I had it paid for and I had two weeks before the season to zero in the rifle and be ready for opening morning.

  Opening day could not come soon enough for me and as the opener got closer, I counted the hours, minutes and seconds until the rifle deer season opened.

  The evening before the season, the Fredericks allowed me to spend the night at their house in Verdigre, a night where I got very little sleep, as I was not about to miss my first deer hunt.

  Opening morning, we headed out to Gary’s hunting partners place and sat down to a breakfast fit for a king and his court. The meal included; three kinds of meat, eggs, breakfast potatoes, toast, rolls, juice, milk and coffee. I thought, if a breakfast is served like this before every deer hunt, “I was in.”

  After breakfast, everyone prepared to head out to the locations where they had taken deer in prior years, which meant, that I the “new guy” hunted by myself in an area I had never seen before.

  Besides having to head out into the field, in pitch-black darkness in a part of the state I had never set foot on before, I had not been out of the Army very long and was still a little jumpy, especially in the dark coming into a new area. 

  The landowners’ wife was nice enough to drive me out to the ridge I was to hunt, where she told me to cross the fence and head west towards the creek. As I worked my way along the ridge through a huge expanse of buck brush, I thought to myself, how I am going to find the creek in the dark, and hopefully it would not be by not falling into it.

  I was about a third of the way when I made a detour around a huge plum brush and as I neared the end, all hell broke loose, as a covey of quail came up all around me sounding like fifty birds taking flight in every direction. I about jumped out of my skin as I went in the air, turned a compete circle, landing in a mess of cactus nearby.

  After settling down and pulling what cactus quills I could from my legs, I figured it was not going to do me much good to walk in the dark all the way across the ridge.  I did not want to spook any more wildlife and would not be able to see any deer in the dark, so I sat down waiting sunup. [Read more…]

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Dove Opener 2017 By Gary Howey

  I like many other hunters throughout America were patiently waiting for the opener of the most popular game bird early hunting season, the dove opener, which would be September 1.

  Scouting is an important part of any hunting and I had scouted for doves on every trip I made to the field.  Several of my game cameras were on covering my minerals licks in an adjacent field and each time I came into the field the fence lines between the two CRP fields were covered up with doves.

  As the end of August started to draw near our temperatures surely did not feel like August, as the days were comfortable and the nights cool. Which is not good if you are looking forward to the dove opener as cooler weather, northerly winds and the threat of rain make the doves’ bunch up and if the weather persists, the birds may move out, migrating south to beat the cold weather?

  When opening day finally arrived, and  as I waited throughout the day to get out and do a late afternoon hunt. All my dove hunting gear was loaded into my Dodge Ram pickup, but as the day drew on, the clouds started to build and a steady drizzle appeared, getting worse as the day drew on.

  I’m not one to give up easily, so I stopped by the office to grab my rain gear and headed west out of town, hoping to see does piled up on the fence and power lines.

  As I approached the field entrance, it did not look good as there were but a few birds to be seen and many of those that I saw were tweedy birds, not the doves I had hoped to see.

  Topping the rise, I could see the refection of the farm pond off in the distance, but the fence line leading to it was barren, not even a single tweedy bird. “Oh Well” I came this far, might as well open the gate, go through the pasture and see what needed to be done to make the area I’d be hunting more appealing to the doves.

  There had been cattle in the pasture, so the weeds along one side of the dam were tramped down or absent, perfect for the short-legged doves, as it allowed them easy access to the water.

  All along the face of the dam, the doves favorite food had taken root with an over abundance of Hemp (Marijuana) and ragweed growing there, as doves love nothing better than to stuff themselves with these tiny seeds.  Because the water was close by, it should have been the perfect place for the birds to be prior to heading to their nighttime roosts.

  When hunting I am a believer in decoys, but especially when going after doves as a hunter does a lot of moving when hunting these small acrobatic birds. If they come in low, they are almost impossible to see, so you are always cranking your head around, squinting you eyes, moving,  hoping to see them above the horizon as they come in. [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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2 Tips For Successful Food Plots: Mowing and Broadcasting

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2 Tips For Successful Food Plots: Mowing and Broadcasting

1. Mowing Perennial Food Plots: Leave Some For the Deer

Mowing your perennials is essential if you wish to have attractive, palatable clover plots. However, you never want to mow all of your perennials at once! Always leave them something to eat. Your deer have been showing up every day for a reliable meal. If you “wipe the table clean” you run the risk of them hopping the fence to find a different source and you might not get them back. Rotate the areas you leave each time you mow so there is always a dependable meal there for your herd.

2. Broadcasting Food Plot Seed: Too Much Can Hurt

A common mistake when broadcasting seed onto a seedbed is putting it on much too thick. To ensure proper coverage, measure your area, measure the correct amount of seed and set your broadcaster lean so the seeds just start to come out. Then cover the area. Your goal should be to cover the entire area and still have seed left in the hopper. Then, go back over the same area (maybe in a different pattern) until all the seed is used up. This is the best way to ensure proper coverage with broadcasters that are not calibrated to speed or driven by the wheels turning.

For more tips on planting a successful food plot read: When Should You Plant Your Food Plot? When to plant can be just as important as what to plant. For example, a hunter in northern Minnesota who wants an all brassica blend should try to plant toward the end of July. On the other hand, a hunter in the deep South wouldn’t plant the same blend until late September.

 
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Early Hunting Season Grouse & Prairie Chicken By Gary Howey

  The early upland game bird hunting seasons are just around the corner and the bird surveys that have been completed on the sharptail grouse and the prairie chicken seem to indicate good numbers of both species.

  In South Dakota, the lek count indicates that the sharptail grouse numbers are up slightly, while the count for prairies chicken is down slightly, which pencils out to having about the same number of birds that were in the state last season.

  Counting the male birds on leks, which are often called dancing or booming grounds gives the Game & Parks an ideas as to the number of birds.

   The life span of these birds is short with about a 50% survival rate. Young of year birds usually outnumber adult birds in the fall.

  This is reason these counts are taken in the spring, when the males gather on the lek, these counts are a good indicator of the adult bird and how things will look in the future.

  Distinguishing the difference between the two isn’t difficult as the sharptails have a shorter tail with their two middle feathers longer and darker than the outside tail feathers; their sharp tail is the reason for their name. A sharptails feathers are marked with spots or blotches of a different color or shade.

   The prairie chickens tail is short, dark, and rounded with the greater part of their feet feathered.

  Hunting grouse on the prairie means that you have to cover a lot of distance, as the birds are generally in large flocks and found in the western grassland of the state.

  In the morning in the spring both the grouse and prairie chickens dance or display or dance on the lek with the male prairie chicken raising the feathers on its head and inflating the orange sacs on their neck, trying their best to impress the females.

  The females arrive at the lek each morning to check out the males as they strut, display and stutter step as they move around in a circle.

  Once the female has mated, like other upland game birds she will tend the eggs and raise then young on her own.

  One thing you can do to locate birds before hitting the field is something I learned from a friend when I first started hunting grouse.  He uses his binoculars to glass the larger pastures and grassland, as the grouse and chickens always seem to have a lookout with its head up watching for danger. He looked for their lookout and said they resembled a bowling pin sticking out of the grass. I’ve tried it several times and have located birds, but without glassing the field first, I would have had to walk the entire field before finding the birds.

  When I was younger, I had a Brittney Spaniel, who led the way, nose to the ground through the fields as he worked to pick up the birds scent. We’d walk until we busted a covey, shot what we could and watched the direction the birds glided to and then walked again, covering several miles in pursuit of the birds. [Read more…]

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Getting The Most Out Of Your Clover Food Plots

Most companies will claim a lifespan of three to five years on their perennials. However, if you care for them properly a perennial stand can last for many years. Perennials like red and white clovers, alfalfa, trefoils and chicory provide dependable nutrition and attraction and are especially important for antler growth, fawn rearing and early hunting season attraction. If you decide to plant a perennial like Non-Typical Clover just follow these words of advice to get the most out of your food plot.

Test Your Soil

It is always beneficial to get a soil test done before you begin. The soil that you begin with will be significant in how long your perennials will last. The pH of your soil needs to be fairly neutral (6.2 to 7.5) if you want longevity from your stand. If you have acidic soil (or a low pH) it doesn’t mean that you can’t grow perennials, it just means that you need to incorporate some lime into the soil to raise the pH and reduce the acidity. With an initially neutral pH a perennial stand can grow-on for eight to ten years or more.

Mowing Clover Food Plots

Perennials should be mowed periodically during the growing season (at least three times). Mowing not only helps to keep broadleaf weeds and grasses at bay, but it also promotes new, more attractive, palatable growth on your perennials. Many people want to plant perennials, because they believe they will be less work since you only plant them once and they last for years but perennials actually need more “tractor time” than annuals. Perennials are less expensive for the production that you receive, but with the maintenance required they will take a bit more work than annuals if you wish to do it right.

Using Herbicide On Clover

In most regions of the country you may also find the need to treat your stand with a clover safe herbicide. Mowing will usually take care of broadleaf weeds, but in severe cases there may also be selective herbicides that will deal with the broadleaf problem, depending upon what type of plants are in your perennial stand. There are numerous brands of grass herbicides that will work over perennial blends like Clover Plus or Non-Typical. If you have questions, contact a habitat consultant at http://www.plantbiologic.com.

Fertilizer Your Clover

It is also important, if you want longevity from your perennials, to feed them from time to time. It’s best to fertilize with what your soil test results recommend. Most often the best fertilizer for clover will recommend around 300 lbs of 0-20-20 per acre annually. Many choose to fertilize at planting time and then during the spring annually thereafter. Some also believe that a boost of potassium during the late summer in the North, or early fall in the South, can increase cold hardiness of the stand. About 200-250 lbs of 0-0-60 per acre should suffice.

For more tips and tricks on caring for your food plots check out “7 Tips To Keep Weeds Under Control”. We know the most common problems in food plots, especially perennials, is weed competition. Weeds rob your plot of essential nutrients, water, and root space. Learn how to keep weeds under control.

 
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Small & Largemouth The Bass Gary Howey

  Bass, both the smallmouth and largemouth bass are one of the top predators in any body of water as they’re some of the most aggressive fish in the body of water.

Largemouth

  The largemouth inhabits most bodies of water from small farm ponds, gravel/sand pits, to the Missouri River Reservoirs of South Dakota and Nebraska. Where’s there’s water, you’ll find the largemouth, including in the numerous lakes found throughout Minnesota and the “Glacial Lakes” of northeastern South Dakota.

  As mentioned earlier, largemouth can be very aggressive and will attack almost anything they might think they can get into their mouth. Among several of the things that bass are known to eat include snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders, ducklings, crayfish as well as other fish.

  Bass are aggressive feeders, in the spring before the “Dog” days of summer; you’ll find them shallow in preparation for the spawn.

  The male will create a nest with their tail in one to three feet generally less than ten feet from shoreline where the fertilized eggs are deposited. The male will guard the fingerlings until they’re capable of fending for themselves.

  Because the male has been busy keeping predators away from the nest, he hasn’t had an opportunity to eat and one of the final things he’ll do before leaving the nest is chase the fingerlings from the nest by gobbling down as many of the young as possible. This not only allows the male to feed, but it may also show the young fish that they can’t trust anything, not even their father.

  After the spawn, the female moves into the deep water to rest and recuperate from the spawning ritual.  During the cool time of the day and after the sunsets, the females will move from the deeper water up shallow looking for a quick meal.

  In the summer, all largemouth will look for more comfortable water temperatures, this may be deep, adjacent or in the weeds or in the shade of a dead fall or stump lying in the water.

  As summer moves into fall, bass like all fish will start to feed heavily, as they need to bulk up before winter sets in, feeding heavily until water temperature decline when these cold blooded creatures metabolism slows and they ride out the winter.

  Some of the preferred baits for taking largemouth include; jigs and pig, spinnerbaits, buzz baits, Texas rigs with Berkley Gulp, PowerBaits and Carolina Rigs,  dropshot rigs, crankbaits like those manufactured by  Bagley and in some cases live bait rigs.

    The largemouth records for the states mentioned above vary with the South Dakota record for largemouth being 9 lbs. 3 Oz. with the Minnesota record fish coming in at 8 Lbs. 15 Oz. while the Nebraska record tipping the scales at 10 Lbs. 11 Oz

Smallmouth

The smallmouth bass can be even more aggressive than their cousin the largemouth bass are. Called the Bronze-back, a name given to smallmouth because of their aggressive nature and the way they fight once hooked, pretty much describes the fight an angler has on his hands once the fish is hooked. They run hard, test your equipment and come from deep water in a flash, dancing along the surface trying to dislodge the hook in their jaw.

  They inhabit numerous lakes throughout Nebraska, with excellent populations in the Missouri River reservoirs as well as on Merritt Reservoir and other smaller lakes.

  The South Dakota Reservoirs, Lewis & Clark, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe all have huge smallmouth populations as do the “Glacial Lakes” in the northeastern portion of the state that include Horseshoe, Roy Lake, Reetz Lake and Enemy Swim.

   In Minnesota, you’ll find numerous lakes where these “Bull Dogs of the Deep” will test your equipment and your fish fighting skill. [Read more…]

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Dove Hunting Can be Humbling By Calvin James

 The summer has flown by so fast that it seems like summer is quickly slipping away with the early fall hunting season right around the corner.

  This is when I start to think about the upcoming hunting seasons with the dove season one of the first to open.

  Most of the states in the upper Midwest now allow dove hunting with the opener around September 1.  In the upper Midwest, we have two species of doves that we can hunt the Morning Dove and their larger cousin, the Eurasian Collared Dove.

  When it comes to hunting doves, the weather is a huge factor, as it doesn’t take much of a weather change to get the birds to pack up and migrate south.

  If a cold front or damp weather arrives neat the opener, and stays around for several days, many of the doves will begin to move out.

  The good news is that unless the “fowl” weather stays for a long period, the doves from up north will move down, stopping over, giving us another chance to hunt those birds moving through our area.

  If the numbers of birds that I’ve seen in the upper Midwest are any indicator of what the hunting seasons are going to be like, it should be an excellent one.  With the dry weather we’ve had, the birds are concentrated around water holes, ponds and stock tanks. I’ve seen large numbers of doves in these areas, especially those having the dove’s favorite foods growing nearby.

  Doves concentrate in areas of harvested wheat and those with ragweed or hemp, as doves will fly long distances to feast on the seeds of these plants.

  It might be that the hemp or marijuana is one of the reasons that the dove’s flight path is so erratic.  As about the time you take a shot at them, the birds will fold their wings losing altitude and wing off in a different direction.

  It always seems that doves will change their altitude and direction at will.  Unfortunately, for many hunters, just about the time they shoot, the bird drops a few feet, causing the shooter to shoot where they were before they made such a quick dive.

  The dove season generally opens up on September 1 and it looks as if there will be plenty of these dodging and weaving game birds to shoot at.

  I said shoot at and not shoot or bag, as doves can be some of the toughest of all game birds to bring down.  This is especially true after you’ve fired your first shot and missed!

  Once a dove has heard the first shell go off, they go into an aerial flying act that would make any of the pilots from the Blue Angels envious. [Read more…]

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Food Plot Preparation: Plan Ahead for Success

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Late July and August can be a very busy month for wildlife management chores. Dove season is right around the corner as well as archery season for deer. Formulating a plan this time of year on what, when, and where you are going to plant cool season plots can save time and frustration. Waiting until the very last minute and scrambling to find seed, equipment or fertilizer can be a major headache.

Check Your Equipment Now

A great task for this time of year is to go ahead and do a food plot equipment check and see if any repairs are in order before planting season. Pull your tractor under a shade tree and make sure all fluids, belts, hoses, and tires are up to snuff and ready for use. Bush-hog blades can be checked for sharpness, and the gear box for the proper amount of fluid. Discs may have bearings or blades that need to be replaced, this is also a good time to grease all bearing fittings. Fertilizer and seed spreaders are always in need of some repair it seems. Give your spreader a good run through and see if there are any parts that need repair or replacement. These all seem like common sense farm chores, but doing them before planting season rolls around can help fall planting go much more smoothly by avoiding break downs in the field that cost you valuable time.

Killing Weeds Early Can Pay Off

It’s not too early to start thinking about getting fields ready for fall food plots. Fields that weren’t planted in a spring/summer annual are likely grown up in weeds and need some attention before putting a disc in the ground. Overgrown or fallow fields will work up much better if the existing vegetation is killed off. Tall weeds and grasses can be bush-hogged down and followed up by a non-selective herbicide application such as glyphosate. Killing the existing weeds and letting them get good and crispy makes discing or tilling much easier. This results in saving fuel from making less passes with equipment as well as conserving important soil moisture. Making more passes with a disc, plow, or tiller than is necessary can negatively affect your fields by increasing soil compaction and reducing important bacteria and microbes. If you have noticed that some of your round-up (glyphosate) applications are less effective, it is probably not resistant weeds but rather inefficient herbicide transfer to the target weeds. Most of us use well water on the farm to fill up our spray tanks, and this well water is notoriously hard water. This hard water can negatively affect your spray solutions by not allowing certain minerals to bond together. Adding ammonium sulfate (AMS) to your spray tank can greatly increase herbicide efficiency and give you much better kill on weeds. AMS is available in a liquid or water soluble granular form. The granular form is usually added at a rate of 10-17 lbs per 100 gallons of water and 1-3 quarts of the liquid AMS per 100 gallons.

To learn more about creating the best wildlife habitat possible check out: Want Better Wildlife Habitat? Planning Starts Now. Fall is just around the corner and this can be a great time to look at how your season is going and make a checklist of things you would like to improve in the coming year. Call it a new year’s resolution for wildlife management purposes.

 
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