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My First Wabbit Hunt By Gary Howey

  As a kid growing up in N.E. South Dakota, my friends and I would pursue what we thought was big game that inhabited the thickets and woodlot along the Sioux River, the Wily Wabbit.

  With my Daisy BB guns in hand, off we would go, heading down the River out towards Lake Pelican.

  It did not matter much what type of rabbit it was, we were just after rabbits, it could have been a black-tailed or white-tailed jackrabbit or a cottontail, and we just wanted to say that we had bagged a rabbit.

  We knew there were many rabbits around as we had seen their tracks in the snow, so it was only a matter of time before we came across one.

  Well, after numerous trips we had yet to see anything but tracks, pure frustration brought our Great Rabbit Hunt Expedition to an abrupt halt.

  Like many things that one tries that do not always work out, rabbit hunting became something that I was willing to forget about, to bury deep in my subconscious hoping to forget all of my failures as a rabbit hunter

  Several years later Shorty, a friend of my Dad, Cal who worked with him at Sanders/Sharpe Chevrolet asked if my brother A.J. and I would like to go along and do some rabbit hunting.

  My first thoughts were, “Nope, Been there, Tried that, Did not need it” until he mentioned that we would be hunting them with Beagles.

  Once I heard that, I was all ears, sounded like a good deal to me; I could not wait, when it got close to going, my bags were packed, I was ready!

  That Sunday, after church, my brother and I waited not so patiently for Shorty to pick us up, man, we were ready!

  When he arrived, he looked at our BB gun and asked what we were going to do with them, I thought, Duh, were going to shoot rabbits.

  He shook his head, loaded us into the car with a couple of tiny little dogs, dogs that were not much bigger than some of the rabbits we had heard about, since we had never really seen a real live rabbit only their tracks in the snow.

  Well away, we went out into the country into an area that was covered up with plum thickets, brush piles and all sorts’ nasty vines with sharp thorns.

  Since I was the oldest, Shorty gave me the option of taking turns with my brother shooting our BB gun or using his 22.

  Once again, I had to think this over, well any way for at least one mila-second and then there I was, the big brother with the 22, man, I had made it, I was into the big time. [Read more…]

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Making a Difference For Wildlife By Gary Howey

  On a recent trip, I stopped at a cafe and sat down with a group of locals having coffee. Not long after I sat down, the main topic of our conversation turned to hunting and how it changed over the years.

  Several of the individuals were expressing their pessimistic views about where hunting has gone and why they no longer participate in the sport.

  They felt that the sport had literally gone to H—, placing the blame on everyone but themselves.

  Well, being the quiet reserved shy type person that I am, I jumped right in with both-feet, feeling them out and trying to figure out why they felt this way.

  One was a well to do businessman and another landowner, both of which could do a lot to help promote or improve hunting. Unfortunately, it looked to me as neither of them did anything to promote or help to improve the hunting in the area.

  My first question that I directed to them, asking if they were involved in any of the conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, The Wild Turkey Federation, Whitetails Unlimited or the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  I guess I knew their answer, but I wanted to make I had one before I went on.

  Their reply was no, they did not belong to any of them because all they did was to take our money; my reply to him was, really?

  They like many others really were uninformed and did not have a clue as to all that these organizations do for wildlife and to the sport of hunting.

  Then I proceeded to explain at length the numerous things these organizations have or can do for wildlife and the hunting in the upper Midwest.

  All of the above-mentioned groups have either purchased land that is open to hunting as well as contributing funds to enhance and develop wetlands or other wildlife habitat.

  These groups also have mentor hunts, taking kids out into the field, highlighting safe hunting practices and conservation while giving many of these kids their first opportunity to go hunting.

  Again, their reply was, really, we did not know that!

  Then proceeded to explain how these groups work closely with the Game, Fish & Parks and DNR to help purchase land or develop wildlife habitat on the public land.

  Then, that dumb look came over their faces as they realized that instead of complaining all these years about how bad hunting was and that hunting was becoming a rich man’s sport that perhaps there was something they could have been doing to improve both the habitat and hunting.

  Next, I asked the landowner what he raised on his land and what type of conservation practices he used and his comment was that he had a corn/bean rotation depending on what was bringing the highest prices.

  Well as anyone knows, wildlife cannot live in corn and beans, sure, mature corn makes a great place for wildlife to hide, but there is no value there when it comes to nesting or roosting areas for birds or bedding areas for deer when first planted.

  He went on to explain that he irrigated much of his ground, doing his best to plant on the contour to keep erosion at a minimum.

  As our conversation continued, I asked him what he planted on the pivot corners, his answer was native grass, which he indicated wasn’t much good for anything so bailed it and used for bedding. [Read more…]

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Mid-Season Pheasants South Dakota Style By Gary Howey

   Lady, Gary Kubicek’s lab worked out in front of us as did some of Joel Vasek’s dogs and by the way, they were acting, we had better be ready as they were on a bird.

  The habitat we were hunting was perfect, with everything wildlife needed to survive throughout the year. Before us, stretched large tracts of native grasses, milo food plots, rows of Cedars, Maple, Plum and  other bushes, sloughs and shelterbelts, perfect upland game bird habitat.

  Gary Kubicek, Country Vet Dog Food had joined my cameraman and I on a late November pheasant hunt with good friend and Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Joel Vasek, Missouri River Lodge and Missouri River Guide Service.

    The lodge, where we had headquartered out of years ago was beautiful, and since has gone through a major expansion. It’s an astonishing piece of property located in the small community of Geddes, South Dakota. A five star Lodge, which now sleeps forty-four people and with is second story that is in the process of being completed will only become more magnificent.

  Joel, “The Walleye Tamer” known as one of the finest fishing guides on Lake Francis Case and other bodies of water is not just an angler as his guide service also offers pheasant, grouse, prairie chicken, turkey and deer hunting.

  As we prepared to depart from the lodge, at 9:20 am, our group of five hunters, Matt and my cameraman climbed into one of the Lodges well equipped buses where Vasek gave a safety talk letting everyone know what type of habitat we would be hunting, how we would walk them and rules for a safe hunt.

  Then we headed from the Lodge for the short drive to where we would begin our hunt at the ten o’clock opener.

   In the bus were gun racks, comfortable seating, coolers with drinks and snacks as well as an on board DVD player. There was a carrier mounted on the front for the birds we would shoot and the dog’s water jugs and  mounted in the back are seven  large aluminum dog kennels,

  Because our group consisted of five hunters, Joel Vasek, Gary Kubicek, Maverick Hill, Dave Kotob and me, we were working several of the smaller fields with Switch Grass, Big Bluestem and Milo.

  Vasek has well trained dogs with his kennel housing both pointers and flushers including German Shorthairs, Hungarian Vizsla, German Wirehaired, Labs and Raptors. There are also additional kennels there for hunters who bring along their own dogs.

  Shortly after we arrived and started walking, one of Joel’s dogs went on point, the hunters off to our left, Maverick and David moved up behind the dog and as the bird flushed, they yelled “Hen”, as the first of numerous hens we would see on this hunt took flight.

  Maverick, David, Joel and Matt McGinty one of the people who helped Joel on the hunts were pushing the middle and the outside edge of the grass, with several dogs working out in front, when it became obvious that one of the labs as its tail shook in wide circles indicating it was working a bird.

  The other dogs closed in on the lab as the call of “Rooster” rang out across the field with Vasek’s gun coming up as he made a long shot, dropping the bird in an adjacent strip of grass.

  On this field, one dog, then another would get birdy or go on point as we flushed numerous hens, a good sign for the future of the wild birds in this area.  On this walk, all but the one rooster evaded us, with others going out the end of the grass into a wet slough we would not be able to walk.

  Gary would rotate his dogs, running his lab Lady in one field and then run Hannah, his German Shorthair in another, giving both dogs the opportunity to hunt.

  Lady, which was in front of us looking birdy and had a bird cornered as Gary and I moved up, the bird exploded from the cover, another hen with Gary calling “No Bird” as Lady worked her way back to search out another bird.

  In each field, the dogs worked well, pointing and flushing both hens and roosters, with very few roosters escaping, as all hunters in our group were excellent shots that spent many an hour in the field hunting pheasants.

  My cameraman would walk the fields with us, doing his best to capture the dogs working in front of us, the birds as they burst from the cover, the hunters taking aim and the birds being hit and coming down.   Filming wild birds is much different than filming other birds, as wild birds are runners, hard flyers that put as much distance between them and the hunter and dogs. When cornered and forced into the air, they erupt with authority, cackling, their wings grabbing air as they go high, heading in the opposite direction of the hunters.

  In the second field, Gary and I were on the right flank as Hannah locked onto the bird, Gary and I moved up on the bird as it came up, our shotguns firing in unison with the bird dropping, with one of the dogs quickly retrieving the bird.

  Shortly thereafter, another rooster made a fatal mistake coming up in front of David, Maverick and Joel and as it swung left, giving all three hunters the opportunity for a shot; it was hit hard, made one bounce in the grass with Vasek’s Lab catching it before it could bounce again.

  With each walk, we picked up a few birds, seeing good numbers of birds, as we worked our way closer to our fifteen-bird limit.

  After shooting my three birds, the plan was to walk a long field, where I decided to grab my other camera and try to get some footage of the birds that always seem to come out the end of the field. [Read more…]