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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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Scent Trail Techniques: Fooling Mature Bucks

When leaving a scent trail in a straight line you’ve only got a fifty-fifty chance the buck will follow the trail in your direction. Half of the time they follow it in the wrong direction, even with a real doe’s trail. They’re searching for the “goodies” at the end of the trail so even if they do follow it in the wrong direction, when they get to where you started the trail and don’t find what they’re looking for, sometimes they’ll follow it back in your direction. It might not happen immediately; a buck may come back several hours later and follow the trail back the opposite way. In fact, some bucks will go back and forth several times on a scent trail, so if a buck crosses your trail and heads the wrong way, don’t give up hope

Figure 8 Scent Trail

A cure-all for this problem is a figure-8 scent trail. Create your scent trail in a large figure 8 and place yourself downwind of the intersection of the 8. This way regardless of where the buck cuts the trail or which way he follows it, eventually he’ll wind up in front of you. You have to use your judgment; this may or may not be the best way for you to leave a trail.  Maybe you’ll make too much of a commotion or contaminate the area too much with human scent to make this tactic work properly, but this method has fooled mature bucks time and time again. [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…]

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More Gun laws What about those we have? By Gary Howey

  Whenever a gun is involved in a tragedy, some individuals and groups cry out and push for the banning of all guns more gun laws.

  There are numerous movies coming out of Hollywood that are about psychotic killers. The actors who argue for more gun laws in order to stop the violence are the same people that are responsible for all of the violence seen on television and in theaters. 

  Then there is the so-called video games available on-line, they are not the Pac Man games that we had when we were younger. Many of these video games are violent games where the players shoot and kill as many people as they can, and definitely not normal human behavior.

  Let’s be honest, do “real” people really want or even think that more gun laws or banning them all together will solve the social problems that we have?

  The deranged individual that shot up the Las Vegas concert and  massacred concertgoers did not worry about laws, he broke about every state and federal law there is and I doubt that a few more laws would not and cannot be enforced would deter this sick individual!

  More laws are not the answer, because law enforcement cannot enforce the laws that are on the books now and numerous times, when they try there are so many loopholes in our justice system that allows criminals to go free.

  I have never claimed to be a psychologist or a therapist, but that big part of the problem as I see it and many others do, goes back to the way the individual was raised and the parenting or lack of it. 

  When I was growing up, my folks did their best to teach me the difference between right and wrong.  If I did something wrong, I paid for it.  My folks looked out for me but if I goofed up and deserved being punished, spanked I got it and believe me; I deserved every one of them. 

  Was it cruel and unusual punishment?  I do not think so as I deserved it!  I knew if I did something wrong, I was in deep and serious trouble and was going to pay for it in the end.

  The laws we have and new gun laws will not deter someone who has mental problems, they can only be helped if someone, whether it be a family member or friend forewarn someone who can help or stop them before they harm others.

  Those wanting more gun laws seem to think that by creating another law makes our country safer, making the U.S. a better country.  Laws such as those taking away or limiting our second amendment rights are not going to stop violent crime.

  In the school shootings that happened several years ago, the individual that committed the shooting had propane canisters, shrapnel and other things used to make bombs in their rooms. 

  I can honestly say that these things are not what normal kids would have in their bedrooms. Wouldn’t the “average” parent after seeing these things in their child’s room, be alerted that something was wrong, I would hope so, but not in this instance. 

  Does anyone truly believe that more laws would have stopped any of these shootings from occurring? 

  I don’t think so!  Those that do, have no idea how the judicial system is suppose to work.  They figure that if a law is made, all of our problems will be solved.  I cannot believe that anyone believes that more laws would have stopped the Las Vega’s violence or any of the tragedy’s deranged people have brought onto society!

  We have plenty of gun laws, the laws that we have need to be enforced and the judges we elect, need to quit giving these criminals causing these problems, robberies, assaults and murder a “free” ride where the criminal has more rights than those they harmed or murdered. They need to be punished, not given a “Time Out” as some parents do to a misbehaving child; they need to be put “AWAY”. 

  What good will more laws do when criminals know that no matter what crime they commit they have a good chance of serving little or no time.  Some might be sent away a year,  be given a slap on the wrist, a small fine or allowed to plea bargain down to time served, released on parole only to get out and repeat many of the things they were sent to prison for in the first place?

  We need to have judges that do their job not just to sit on their rumps and to slap the criminal’s hand when they should be punished.  They need to hit the criminals where it hurts the most.  Take away their freedom.

  I and other people are tired of hearing about the rights of criminals and terrorists.  What about the rights of the victims and their families, those that have been robbed, raped and murdered, don’t they have any rights?  Unfortunately, at times it does not seem that they do!

  Criminals and those deranged individuals who want to kill and hurt others will commit the crimes, robbing, rapping and killing people even if they cannot acquire a gun, doing it with anything they can get their hands on.

  Some people do not consider baseball bats, knives, screwdriver, hammers and even cars as weapons. All of these items can and do kill people and in the hands of someone that is out to rob, harm or kill you they are deadly!  So do we ban all of the above-mentioned items?  [Read more…]

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TOP 4 TIPS FOR TREE STAND PLACEMENT

Many hunters have questions about tree stand placement. Every situation is different and there aren’t any rules where there aren’t exceptions. However, there are some general practices that will help in most situations when placing a tree stand.

  1. Play The Wind And Thermal

Once you have your general area selected, pay heed to the wind and thermal current in the area. You want to remain downwind or cross-wind of where you think the deer will be. This is the most important of the four.

  1. Use The Available cover

This kind of goes hand in hand with tree stand height – in a bald tree you’re more likely to go higher than in a tree with good cover. Look for trees that lose their foliage late, clusters of trees, or trees with a “Y” in the trunk for concealment.

  1. Pick a Tree That Is Easy To Climb

If you have a great spot, but you alert every deer within 400 yards by making a commotion while climbing your stand, your great spot will go for naught. Use enough tree steps or climbing sticks so you can scale the tree easily, safely and quietly.

  1. Prepare The Site To Make The shot

So you have a good spot, and you have a stand in the perfect ambush tree. What happens if a deer walks through and there’s no way you can take a bow shot? Take the time to trim some shooting lanes or “windows” so you can sneak an arrow through when the “moment of truth” arrives. [Read more…]