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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…]

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Creating Funnels

Whitetails are lazy animals and will almost always take the path of least resistance. An example would be a creek crossing. Both bucks and does would much rather cross the creek in a spot where the bank is gently sloping rather than at a spot that is almost vertical. The problem with existing natural funnels is that they are not always in an area suitable for hunting. This is an easy fix. Get out and make your own funnels in an area that suits your hunting needs.

I learned how much deer like to take the easy route several years ago — by accident. Wanting to make a shortcut to get my four-wheeler from my house to an abandoned railroad track, I cut a lane with my chainsaw through a narrow strip of timber for a distance of about 50 yards. It did not take long for the deer to find this “road” and begin to use it religiously to get from their bedding area to a harvested agricultural field and back to bed. I did not cut the trail with the intention of funneling deer movement, but the deer took to it. After noticing all the deer sign, I hung a stand along the man-made funnel. A few days later I killed a nice 8-pointer. Fifteen years later I am still able to kill a deer on this trail.

Here are three surefire man-made funnels that will get the deer moving where you want them to.

Creating Trails

Whitetails are creatures of habit, especially when traveling from food sources to bedding areas. They do not like to deviate much from their routine, but they like to travel along the path of least resistance. The problem with their routine is that it does not always take them by a suitable location for a stand. Hunters can either create trails that deer will eventually use, or they can make existing travel corridors less desirable.

One of the best ways to create a trail is by taking weed whips or a machete to create a path through the underbrush near your stand. Another good choice is mowing or using a weed whip to knock down trails along the edge of overgrown CRP fields. This is best accomplished during the summer months to allow deer time to find the man-made travel corridors and get comfortable using them.

Hunters can up the odds of deer using their preferred trail by making other trails less inviting. Once I have a stand placed within range of the trail I made, I begin to place obstacles on other trails. Logs, branches, limbs and any other obstruction that makes the trail less appealing than the one you made will work. Over time, deer will start to leave the original trail alone and use yours exclusively.

Sometimes all that needs to be done is to bring the deer 10 yards closer for an archery shot. An example of why this might be necessary is if the only good tree for a stand is to the north of the trail in an area with predominant north winds. Rather than risk hunting out of a stand when the wind is not right, block off the main trail. Create a new trail that loops around and brings the deer closer to your stand before the new trail meets back up with the existing trail.

After you have created trails and blocked other trails off, stay out of the area. Resist the temptation to go in and check if your creation, as well as your manipulation of other trails, has taken hold. A few weeks before season begins, go into the area once to check things out and to hang stands or set up ground blinds.

If you find yourself needing to close a trail or open another between hunts, use caution. Always wear knee-high rubber boots and rubber gloves to reduce human scent. Pick a time of day when deer won’t be using the area, and try to keep all noise to a minimum, which means using a handsaw instead of a chainsaw. Do the work as quickly and quietly as possible, and cause as little disturbance as possible. Leave everything looking as natural as possible, and you will have deer walking down the trails you want in no time.

Fences And Gates

Fences can make great man-made funnels. One of my favorite stand sites on my family farm is near a fence funnel. Over the years we have gotten away from raising cattle, but many of the fences are still standing. One fence line in particular on my property separates a bedding area and nearby agriculture field that has either soybeans or corn. In order for deer to get from one spot to the other, they have to cross a small portion of the abandoned cattle pasture and cross the old fence. The deer have one of two options: They can either jump the 5-foot fence, or they can walk about 50 yards and cross through a low spot in the fence that is wide-open. They almost always choose to travel a few extra yards and enter the field through the low spot in the fence without any obstacles.

If the fence on your property is woven, you could cut a 3-foot section out to give the deer an opening to cross through.

Even if the fence is in good shape throughout the property you’re hunting, it’s still possible to make a funnel. If the fence is no longer serving a purpose, as is the case on my farm, it probably will not hurt a thing to doctor it up a bit. If you are not the property owner, make sure you have permission before doing anything drastic. If the fence is made up of several single barbed strands, it takes nothing more than tying the top two or three strands together to make a low spot in the fence. If it is a woven fence, cutting out a 3-foot section should do the trick. Again, always get permission.

Another option hunters have with using fences as funnels is to build a fence. If deer seem to be swinging around the area you are hunting, build a fence to help the deer go where you would like. Keep in mind it does not take a lot of fence to accomplish this. Usually less than 75 yards of a 4- to 5-foot fence will do the trick.

How about a fence row that does not usually have a fence? You know what I am talking about: the boundary lines of two fields that have become overgrown with thick brush, small saplings and thorny bushes. Go in with a machete or a handsaw and make a clearing about 3 feet wide. Now deer will have easy access from one field to the next. These are best made in the corners of fields. If there are no trees in the area that can accommodate a stand, place a natural or commercial ground blind downwind of the funnel.

Open gates also have the potential of being a good funnel. An almost certainty with fences is that they will have a gate somewhere. Here, where I do most of my hunting in the Midwest, fences are usually not too long before they are interrupted with a gate. Gates are needed to allow landowners access to their fields, as well as livestock. If a fence row does not provide an opening for deer to cross through, you can bet they know where a gate has been left open. This a great place for hunters to set an ambush.

If there are gates on the property that you hunt that are always closed, seek permission to open them up. As long as livestock are not living on the property and unwanted people (trespassers) are not an issue, you will probably be granted the go-ahead to open a gate. In order to funnel deer through the gate of your choice and past your ambush, you might need to close other gates on the property.

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Food Plots

Food plots are planted for a couple of different reasons. One reason is to offer nutritional food that is off-limits to hunting — a sort of sanctuary. This type of food plot cannot be used as a funnel. Other food plots are used to draw deer in for a shot, along with providing a food source. Food plots planted for this purpose can be used as a funnel. When hunters or landowners plant food plots that are meant to be hunted over, they should take into consideration where the plot is planted and the size of the plot.

When I plant plots that I will hunt near, I try to make them as close to cover as I can. Deer seem to visit my food plots under the cover of darkness. For that reason, I hang my stands on the trails leading to the food, rather than right on the edge. Hopefully I am able to ambush a buck as he is heading to or from the plot. This might not sound like a funnel, but you are dictating their movement with the food plot. Therefore, a food plot is a man-made funnel.

Another way food plots can be used as effective funnels is by planting a road with food that deer love. A few years ago I logged off several trees out of a tract of timber on the farm. After the logging crews made roads for their equipment through the timber, deer quickly began to use them as their own trails. Thinking I could coax even more deer to use the “trails,” I planted white clover on the road. Before I knew it, deer were not only walking down the road, but also spending a lot of time eating the lush plants that now grew in the road. Since the food plot was surrounded by vegetation, deer would come out earlier and stay later to eat.

The awesome thing about hunting such a plot is that deer are never out of archery range. Set up your stand 10 to 15 yards downwind of the trail so you are not so close that the deer will bust you. Even if you are 15 yards off the trail, the furthest shot will only be about 25 yards.

If you have not had a logging company on your property recently, all you need is a chainsaw, a brush hog, and permission to build your own road — not to mention one heck of a funnel.

Funnels are easy to make where you want them. Take a close look at what you can do to make a path that offers little resistance to deer in the area you’re hunting. It might be as quick as tying a barbed-wire fence together, or as much as planting a food plot on an old logging road. Whatever you do, once you begin to see the results, you will know it was time well spent.

 

 

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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 them.

  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 sure 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.

  That is when I asked him if he had ever thought about enrolling the pivot corners in CRP or a program that may be offered through the Game & Parks, NRCS or NRD’s where he received a payment for planting then to grasses and flowers, creating wildlife habitat on his land? [Read more…]

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Mountain Lion sightings

  Mountain Lion sightings are become a common thin in the Midwest as they are being caught on Game Cameras in southern South Dakota, northern Nebraska and northern Iowa and in numerous other Midwestern states.

  This can be quite concerning when you call predators like my Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Members and I do!

  What do you do if a mountain lion comes stalking in? First of all REMAIN CALM!

  We’d make sure that one of our shooters sees it, just in case it decides to pounce and then film it. [Read more…]

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Now you see it Now you don’t By Gary Howey

As legal shooting time begun to fade, the Mule deer buck came out about three hundred yards down in the draw.

My camera operator who zoomed in on the deer earlier indicated it was a good buck, pulling my 25:06 up to my shoulder; I put the cross-hairs near the top of the buck and fired. The buck did not flinch; I jacked another round into the chamber adjusted my scope, fired and when the round hit, the deer hunched up, but refused to go down.

I slid another round into the chamber, adjusted my aim a bit and fired. The buck jumped up into the air, crashed on his right side, kicked a few times, and was down for the count.

We celebrated for just a moment as I headed to the truck to grab my knife, and cleaning gear parked among a group of cedars not far away from the blind.   Before I could get what I needed my videographer hollered, “The deer is gone”. What, it just couldn’t be as I was sure I had hit him twice and put him down for good.

I arrived in Lynch Thursday around noon where I met with my videographer at Ponca Creek Outfitters. It was the end of the week of our Nebraska rifle deer season and there were only three and a half days before the 2017 season closed.

My videographer had been in the area for four or five days rifle hunting and took a nice older whitetail 4 X 4 and after tagging, his buck was scouting the area while looking to fill his archery tag. He had seen numerous deer, both Whitetail and Mule deer bucks, but did not want to shoot a young deer, so he passed on them as his archery tag was good through the end of the year.

While he was hunting, he scouted the area thoroughly, so he knew where the blinds where and had a good idea as to where the deer where bedded.

The first afternoon found us perched on a hill in a blind overlooking an area where several Cedar and Buck brush lined draws came together.

As the sun started to slip away under the horizon, several does with fawns came out and started grazing in the Buck brush.  We were still in the first Rut and I thought because all the does we were seeing, that a buck would be hanging around close by, but as the last half hour after sunset came to a close, nothing appeared; we headed back to the cabin.

The following morning are plan was to set up on a ridge overlooking the Ponca Creek, hoping to catch a buck running around looking for a receptive doe. My videographer had sat there one morning and spotted several deer including a nice buck. He circled the area, getting downwind from the deer trying to get close enough for a shot with his bow. Unfortunately, one of the does the buck was pursuing may have spotted him and they spooked.

We had a great vantage point as we had a large open area below us, with the creek meandering down through the bottom with a huge expanse of open pasture behind it.

On this set, we were unable to see any deer, which was not a good sign as this was during the Rut and if the bucks were not out chasing, it could mean that the first Rut was winding down, which would make hunting tougher.

Later that afternoon, we worked from pasture to pasture using our binoculars to try to locate a buck in an area where we might have the opportunity to do a spot and stalk. We saw but one buck, a good one, but he spotted us coming up the hill and charged out of the pasture up over several hills, never to be seen again.

On my final day, the heavy winds returned, and if it would be, anything like our last windy day would keep deer movement to a minimum. That morning, we went to the north side of the property, setting up in a blind on wide plateau where several deer trails converged up from the draws, all crossing well within rifle range of our blind. Once again, there was no deer movement and for our evening hunt, we would have to find a location where the deer would have the ability to get out of the wind.

Once again, we would be in the hilltop blind above the heavily wooded Cedar draw where we had seen a good number of does the day before. [Read more…]

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Signs, Signs Everywhere is Signs By Gary Howey

  It was opening day of the Nebraska rifle deer season that found me setting on a terrace in a pasture, armed, not with my rifle, even though I had permit, but with my camera.

  I was hoping to get some footage of deer moving through the pasture after being pushed by hunters from an adjacent CRP field and the creek.

   In the three hours I was there, I did not hear a shot and did not see any deer moving. I did have time to read the Yankton P &D, eat several Little Debbie snacks and down a large bottle of Coke, so all was not lost.

  I decided to take a different route home and to see if the tenant who leasing the pasture I had came from and as I made my way in that direction was surprised by all the No Trespassing and NO Hunting signs that started to appear. In fact, a two-mile strip had these signs on every three or four poles and fences.

  As I headed south, the signs continued to appear in fields of picked corn and beans and several over grazed pastures.

  There must have been one heck of a sale on signs somewhere as I counted over fifty NO Hunting and No Trespassing signs in my short drive to town.

  I hope the reason so much ground was posted because of the standing corn still in many of the fields, areas that would have combines and crews working in the fields during the rifle deer season.

  There were two Management Access Program (MAP) fields in the quarter I was hunting, areas where landowners enrolled their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) into the Nebraska Game & Parks Management Access Program. Landowners enrolled in this program were paid additional dollars for allowing hunters to hunt in these fields.

   The small MAP field where my deer house was located had several others and me hunting there.

  One of the fields was where the tenant had given me permission to hunt and I had built my deer house on the property long before it was enrolled into the MAP. 

  However, after finding several hunters using my deer house hunting over the food plots I had planted, I decided this season, it was time to relocate the deer house to a less crowded area as I wasn’t comfortable having several rifle hunters hunting in around me in such a small area.

  Land to hunt on has became very scarce as when the commodity prices of corn and beans rose there  were thousands of acres of grass; pasture and CRP plowed and planted to row crops, eliminating thousands of acres of habitat.

  Now that the corn and bean prices are low and CRP rental prices higher, we are seeing more acres of CRP and habitat going in, not enough yet to make a big difference in the habitat, but acres that will give wildlife a fighting chance.

  Those limited acres in the CRP and MAP program are going to receive a lot of hunting pressure, but every acre will help.

  A friend of mine has a beautiful tract of CRP along a creek with several wooded areas, this year; the adjourning fields were in beans, so there would be no reason for the deer to be there. However, surrounding his CRP are several deer houses placed right along his fence line.

  He planted food plots, trees and grasses so his boys and a daughter in law would have a place to hunt and on the adorning landowners land there are  deer houses along the fence line facing into the land his sons are  hunting, which would certainly cause me some concern if I were hunting there.

  Areas where there is good habitat may be surrounded by  hunters and even though road hunting is illegal in states such as Nebraska, if there is some habitat where deer might be, it is not uncommon to see vehicles continually driving around these areas.

  When the first CRP went in years ago, we had several thousand acres of CRP with twenty-five miles of town, now I would be surprised if we have three to four hundred acres. [Read more…]

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2017 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener By Gary Howey

  Jack, the DeBruyckere’s English Setter methodically worked his way through the thick CRP cover, as he picked up the running birds scent he would pause and then move forward slowly as he worked his way towards the running bird and the end of the field.

   Jamie DeBruyckere indicated “He’s getting birdy” as she moved up behind the dog, as Jack, had the bird holding tight.

  We were attending the 2017 Minnesota Governor’s Hunt held this year in Marshall, Minnesota.  On this hunt, KWAT Outdoors radio host Don Fjerstad, Watertown, S.D. and I team up with Arlyn and Jamie Bruyckere on their CRP field about 5 miles outside of Marshall.

  This was seventh annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant hunting opener, Minnesota Governor Mark Drayton created the Governor’s hunt in 2011, his first year in office and in 2015 he convened the Minnesota Pheasant Summit introducing a ten-part action plan to expand pheasant habitat and increase the number of pheasants in the state.

  The pheasant opener would kick off Saturday October 14 and there were other events held on October 13.

  On “Friday the 13”, Don and I headed to the Sporting Clays range at Shooters Sporting Clays to try our luck on their Sporting Clay range  Going on at the same time, on the opposite side of the property the SMSU High School Trap Shoot Challenge was going on.  In this event, the top ten participants from five Minnesota High School Clay Target leagues would face off in a 250-target showdown for the bragging rights of this inaugural event.

  If you are not familiar with Sporting Clays, there are several throwers strategically placed out in front of the shooter where several clays come out from the throwers in several directions, which include one on the ground, the Bouncing Bunny, simulating the shots you might face in the field.

   It had been some time since I had been on a Sporting Clays course and it did not take me long to remember why I had not pursued this sport, as it was not pretty, but it was enjoyable.

  Also on Friday, we had an opportunity to attend the dedication of the James Meger Memorial Wildlife Area just down the road from Marshall. Pheasants Forever and more than a dozen other conservation groups and large donors made this Memorial Wildlife Management Area (WMA) possible.

  The memorial honors the late James Meger, from the Marshall area who was a renowned wildlife artist. His artwork raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for wildlife habitat as well as conservation groups.

   This WMA lies along a creek with a 155 acres of public access land located just a few miles northwest of his hometown, where the land will bear his name and have one of his works of art at its entrance.

   Marshall, in Lyon County as well as this area of southwestern Minnesota actively promotes hunting and outdoor recreation. One will find numerous public hunting acres within 25 miles of Marshall, as there are 37 Walk-In Access areas totaling just less than 3,000 acres, 20 Waterfowl Production Areas with approximately 3,779 acres and 132 Wildlife Management Areas with another 24,407 acres of public access hunting land. In Lyon County alone, you will find 47 Wildlife Management Areas totaling 11,184 acres. All are open to public hunting.

  As the 10:00 am start of the 2017 Minnesota pheasant season approached, we made our way out to one of the fields that we would hunt.  Approaching the drainage ditch and field, I talked with Arlyn about the land we would soon be hunting.  Arlyn indicated, “we have several areas with good habitat; this one has 10.8 acres of thick CRP, a shelterbelt and a drainage ditch running along the edge of one side of the property for a total of about 35 acres.” [Read more…]

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Return to Zippel Bay Gary Howey

  With the onset of fall, the colors on Lake of the Woods and Zippel Bay begin to    change to take on their beautiful fall colors. (Gary Howey Photo)

   As I walked from the log cabin, the calm waters of Zippel Bay mirrored the colors of the Northwood’s trees lining the far shore line.

   In the distance, the beckoning call of Canada geese resonated throughout the bay as the flock made their way out to feed.

  We had traveled north on I-29 through northeastern South Dakota and Watertown, my old stomping grounds on our way to the annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference on Lake of the Woods and had headquartered out of good friend s Nick and Deanna Painovich Zippel Bay Resort.

  While we were there, Nick had invited us to do some walleye fishing with him him and Jase Lamberson one of the charter boat captains for the resort.

  That afternoon as we made our way through the bay out into Lake of the Woods, and we could hear the gulls chattering on Lighthouse Point as Lake of the Woods opened up before us.

   Moving out onto Lake of the Woods, it was obvious that this was “big water” the sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States, which created the border between Minnesota, the United States, Manitoba and Ontario Canada.

  The Lake is enormous, 68 miles long, 59 miles wide covering 1,679 miles with 65,000 miles of shoreline with more than 14,552 islands found throughout the lake.

  We passed several groups of anglers as we worked our out to where Nick and his other charter boat captains had been fishing. Just outside of the bay, we could see all modes of fishing craft, charter boats, big fishing boats as well as a few kayakers working the rock piles in search of walleyes.

  Moving from our old lacation into an area not too far from several other Zippel Bay Charters who were busy landing fish out of the 29-foot depths.

  We rigged up, using one quarter-ounce jigs tipped with frozen shiners starting to work our jigs in and among the rocks for walleye.

  It was not long before Jase indicated that he had a bite, he set the hook on our first fish of the trip, one of those nice walleyes that would make for some good eating.

  Then it was my turn as I connected with another fish, a close cousin to the walleye, one of the hundreds of thousands sauger that call Lake of the Woods home.

  As my fish came into the boat, Nick set the hook on another nice walleye, one in the 17-inch range

  The bite continued as we boated some good fish, with the larger ones we released back into the lake to fight another day.

  Jase had the hot rod and continued to pull walleye and sauger up from the depth, but Nick and I were not far behind.

  When the bite slowed, Nick heard from other charters on the lake that there was a good bite not too far from where we were, we pulled the anchor and moved in that direction.

  Once we arrived we could see several boats and charters anchored in the thirty-foot water over the rock piles that were scattered across the bottom.

  As before, we would be jigging among the rock piles our jigs tipped with frozen shiners and no sooner than our jigs hit the bottom, Nick set the hook on the first big walleye, a healthy 18-incher with Jase and I each landing good size walleyes in between sauger.

  On this day, all of the boats and charters around us were into the fish, with nets coming out of the boats continually bringing fish into the boat.

   It did not take our crew long to put the fish we were looking for in the boat, with several healthy 15 to 17-inch walleyes as well as our limit of sauger.

   With the onset of fall, the colors of Zippel Bay will become brighter and more beautiful with the fall walleye and sauger bite going strong. [Read more…]