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Creating Wild Turkey hangouts

Gamekeepers need to study the birds and understand the value of effective scouting. Ideally, anticipating the wild turkeys every move means success in the field. Understanding what turkeys want and then what your farm offers (or lacks) will help you discover ways to enhance your turkey habitat. Since turkeys prefer to travel in large numbers during much of the year, creating “social” areas for them to congregate makes sense if such areas don’t already exist.

Dusting Areas

Amidst a turkey’s daily routines is the event of “dusting.” Turkeys love to find areas where the soil is exceptionally loose where they can lie down kick up dust. These areas are hotspots for congregating flocks. Areas along log roads or beneath pine stands are great locations to find a dusting area. You can however create a dusting area with a tractor or ATV.

Simply plowing or disking small strips along natural travel corridors will provide loose soil where the turkeys can then do their dusting. Placing your hunting blinds within shooting range of a dusting site can greatly increase your odds of scoring a tom. Even in times when the toms are locked up with the hens they’ll many times be drawn to the area as they court their dusting dolls.

Turkey Grit

If you’ve ever harvested a wild turkey and examined its crop and gizzard, you likely discovered that they consume gravel and grit to help digest grains and other hard foods. Much like dusting areas, turkeys will typically spend some time each day in an area where they can consume grit.

You can create your own grit or sand area for the turkeys by simply dumping small loads of the material near frequented areas. Obviously, commercial turkey grit used in poultry farming is an easy way to remedy the lack of grit. Otherwise, if you have a river or creek, oftentimes grit can be found along the bank. Grit is an essential need of all turkeys (and other birds). [Read more…]

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Gov. Ricketts proclaims Nebraska top turkey hunting destination

LINCOLN, Neb. – Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a proclamation on April 2 declaring Nebraska the Best Turkey Hunting Destination in the United States.

The governor signed the proclamation in a ceremony at the Nebraska Capitol and presented it to Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Deputy Director Tim McCoy, who was joined by Jared McJunkin and Micaela Rahe of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

“Hunting brings family and friends together in a way that encourages appreciation for our natural world,” Ricketts said. “Nebraska welcomes hunters from across the nation to our beautiful state, creating an $848 million annual economic impact in Nebraska, fueling the economy of towns large and small and supporting nearly 9,000 jobs.”

In the most recent survey of Nebraska turkey hunters, 90 percent of respondents reported having a good experience. Several factors contribute to hunters’ fondness of turkey hunting in the Cornhusker State: [Read more…]

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Pre-Season Scouting The Key to All Hunting Success By Gary Howey

  If you are in the process of planning a hunting trip, the first question you may ask yourself is where do I start my hunt?

  Even if you have hunted in the same area for years, things will change from one year to the next. The cropping system may have changed, high water may have altered the terrain, the ownership of the land changed or disease could have eliminated a better part of the wildlife.

  So, each year, prior to the season, I like to put myself one up on the game, no matter what I am after, I need to do some sort of scouting, to spend a little time in the field before the season..

  You do not have to be a rocket scientist to scout an area and figure out what the game is doing.

  One excellent way to see where the deer, turkey and other game are located is to use your eyes; scouting with your binoculars as it allows the hunter to check out the area without spooking any game.

  This can be accomplished no matter what species you are after, as all wildlife needs to feed and if you can locate their food source, you can be there before they leave their bedding area or roost.

  If it is waterfowl you are after, you will need to look for them in the field just before it gets dark as chances are unless they have cleaned out the field or been pressured hard by hunters, they will be back around sunup.

  All waterfowl have a tendency to feed in the early morning and later in the afternoon unless the weather is extremely warm.

  When it is warm, geese do not need much feed as they do when it is cold, so they may feed only once during the day.

  Scouting for spring turkey is done in much the same fashion except the terrain the turkeys live in is a lot rougher.

  In the spring, I try to make the most use of my time in the field, trying to accomplish several things with each trip.

  I am not just looking for turkey sign, but I am also on the lookout for last year’s deer sheds.

  Late winter, just before spring arrives is a perfect time to scout for turkeys as they bunched up, as all wildlife will bunch up into large flocks or herds when it is cold, close to their food source.

  A flock of turkeys leaves lot of sign, so locating areas that turkeys are using in late winter and early spring is simple!

   Turkeys are scratchers, so they turn over leaves, manure and sticks always looking for a tender shoot, small insect or waste corn to eat. By looking over their scratching, you should be able to tell in which direction they moved. [Read more…]

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Maple Syrup-Tap Sap & Boil, By Gary Howey

    Where we call home, Nebraska & South Dakota, where patriotism is important to us with agriculture leading the way, it is not uncommon to see John Deere and Case IH farming equipment working the fields and traveling down our roads.

  While the northeast, in the New England states, it is their beautiful fall foliage and of course Maple syrup.

  The main ingredient in Maple syrup is the sap of all varieties of Maple trees, trees I and other kids climbed on and made forts in, as I did in Watertown, S.D., The sugar, black, red, the silver maple and the box elder, which is a Maple tree. 

  In order to extract the sap, the trees need to be tapped and the sap needs to be boiled down, removing the water, which  can be a time consuming process, but the end-results are worth it, yielding one of Mother Nature’s sweetest gifts, Maple syrup.

  The origin of making Maple syrup goes back in history a long ways with the American Indians the first to make the syrup; they eventually passed their knowledge onto the European immigrants who sailed to America, with Maple syrup made each spring since that time.

  Several years ago, I was asked if I though filming one of our Outdoorsmen Adventures television shows on making Maple syrup might be of interest to our viewers. The individual had been making syrup for several years, is one of the few tree tappers in my area.

  Unfortunately, last year before we had an opportunity to get together, we had both gotten busy and he had finished with the process.

  Then, just last week, good friend and Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Bill Christensen, Hartington, Nebraska  mentioned he was going out to check the Maple trees he tapped this year, as the season was coming to an end  with the sap flow decreasing.

   Earlier in February, he tapped sixteen Maples, putting out collection buckets and since then had collected a large quantity of the sap from the trees.

  They say that any Maple will work when gathering sap to make Maple Syrup, including Silver, Sugar, Red as well as the Box Elder Maple. [Read more…]

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Late Winter-Early Spring Walleye Tactics By Gary Howey

  It may have not arrived as quick as we had hoped it would, but there is no doubt that winter is winding down.

  This year, we had one of those winters like the ones I used to see where I grew up back home, in Watertown, South Dakota when the snowdrifts were up to my waist. 

  When the cold winter weather did finally arrived, and the ice finally became thick enough to walk on, the winter fishing was good on some bodies of water, but now the ice is departing quickly in our area.

  With warm weather that we have know, many anglers are beginning to get on the water below the Missouri River dams and chasing walleyes where the ice has receded in open water of the river.

  The fishing has not been what you call fast and furious, but for those anglers who have patience, have taken some good fish.

  This time of year, when water temperatures are cold, you have to understand the way a fish operates in cold water and change your fishing methods accordingly.

  When water temperatures start to cool, the metabolism of the fish slows down; they will not move much, so they do not need to eat as much. 

  Everything in their world has slowed down to a crawl, winter, and early spring walleye anglers will have to do the same with their fishing presentations.

  Slow is good when it comes to cold-water angling!  At times, just letting your bait drag along the bottom will take cold weather walleyes.

  Since the walleye and sauger move less, they use less energy and eat less and this is one of the reasons that you will want to downsize your baits this time of year.

  You will want to go with lighter line, from four to six and at times even two-pound test depending on the area that you are fishing and the bite. 

  When using lighter line, make sure your  drag is set properly, you want it set tight enough so your drag doesn’t release when you set the hook, yet tight enough that you do not break the light line when hook setting.

  No matter when you are fishing, you want to let the rod, “its action” put the most pressure on the fish and with your drag correctly set; your rod can do the fighting for you. [Read more…]

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Tips For Patterning Your Turkey Gun

Have you ever patterned your shotgun? I mean really put it through the paces with several different manufacturers’ loads and shot sizes to determine what shoots the best through your gun? I can tell you that each gun is a bit different and something is going to perform best. Don’t just shoot what your local sporting goods store has on sale. Take an hour, some butcher paper or targets, cardboard boxes, maybe a realty sign, a sharpie and go somewhere safe to shoot. 

Shooting Distance

Check out how your gun performs at 25, 35 and 45 yards. I know you’ll want to try 55 to 60 yards, but please think twice before ever shooting at a turkey at this distance. These new loads and chokes have hunters thinking they can regularly do this now, but please use caution. You don’t want to cripple an old bird. They deserve more than that.

Choke Tubes and Shells

I’ve been pleased with the Browning Full Strut Turkey choke that came with my Browning A5, but it took several different tests to decide that it liked the Winchester Extended Range #5’s the best. I have an old single shot 20 gauge that loves a “Jebs” choke. There are a number of aftermarket choke tube companies that you can experiment with to find what works for you, along with plenty of shell manufacturers and loads. Don’t leave this to chance and don’t assume your gun shoots just like your friend’s. They all are a bit different.

By knowing what your gun shoots best, you can have confidence when the moment of truth comes and you squeeze the trigger. [Read more…]

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Shallow water Perch Bite On Big Stone Gary Howey

The red line below my tungsten jig on my Vexilar locator rose up from the bottom slowly indicating a fish was moving up to my bait. Peering down into the clear water, I could see the perch moving up to the same level as my jig.

I twitched my bait ever so slightly as the perch moved in on it and inhaled my micro jig and wax worm. As I brought my rod up, I felt the added weight and set the hook bringing the first of the numerous perch we would take on this trip.

Team Member Larry Myhre, Sioux City, Iowa and I were ice fishing on Big Stone with Tanner Arndt, a guide from Artie’s Bait & Tackle of Ortonville, Minnesota.  Tanner knew the lake as Larry and I had spent time on the water with him on a spring fishing trip, one where we caught good numbers of crappie, bluegill and bass. [Read more…]

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Conservation Organizations Supporters of Wildlife By Gary Howey

What do local Whitetails Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Quail Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have in common?

They are all conservation organizations that support wildlife, habitat as well as numerous other programs, working hard to promote hunting and conservation.

With the greater population of the United States becoming urbanized, with less people living in our rural areas, people are becoming disconnected with the land and the outdoors.

Hunting has always been an American tradition, helping to put food on the table, an opportunity for friends and families to spend time together and to celebrate the great outdoors. [Read more…]

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Horse Honks, High Pitched Quacks, the Call of the Snow Goose By Gary Howey

  It started; the other day, when the racket above was not hard to miss, as the skies filled with birds and their high-pitched quacks and the horse honks of Snow goose heading north into the Dakotas.

  Snow geese, which migrate in huge flocks are very vocal, when they are close, the racket they make can be deafening, as it seems that every goose in the flock, thousands of them are all carrying on at the same time.

  With the warmer weather, causing the snow line to reseed, the older mature birds are making their way north to get the best nesting grounds on the Canadian and Northern Alaskan tundra.

  Last week, one of our Team members traveled to Omaha as flock after flock of Snow geese migrated north, with open water along the way holding huge numbers of the geese.

  Light or Snow geese; come in two color phases, the white and blue, as the name implies the white phase are pure white with black wing tips while the blues are bluish gray with white heads.

  The Snows and Blues are the largest of the species, weighing in at around six pounds while the smaller pure white Ross goose, weighs only about three to four pounds.

  Light geese, are migratory waterfowl that spends over half of the year migrating, with some birds migrating over three thousand miles to and from their wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico.

  In a report released in 1997 by Ducks Unlimited, indicated because of the Snow geese over population, the tundra habitat along seven hundred miles of coastline from the southern James Bay to the west coast of Hudson Bay in Canada destroyed. More than 130,000 of the acres destroyed and similar-sized acres critically damaged that not only affects the Snows, it affects other waterfowl and species.

  The Snow goose population is skyrocketing by over five percent each year and a breeding population of the lesser snow geese exceeding over five million birds that is an increase of more than 300% since the mid-1970.

  Because of this over-population, the Light Goose Conservation Order special spring season was established to help control them.

  Because of this special season, some of the hunting laws for this season changed, those hunting still need to have a legal hunting license in the state they are hunting, with hunters in South Dakota will needing a 2018 Migratory Bird Certification while in Nebraska they will need the  State’s Waterfowl stamp.

  The laws that have changed during the spring season include allowing hunters to use electronic calls, have unplugged shotguns, with no daily or possession limit and no Federal Waterfowl Stamp is required.

  With the “No” limit, hunters need to be reminded that all game is used and not wasted. If you abandoning, dump or waste game birds you may be subject to fines and restitution.

  Because Snows are so leery, they can grow to a ripe old age with banded birds taken that were up to 20 years old. They migrate in huge flocks and are some of the toughest waterfowl in the world to decoy, and call in.

  In these flocks, numbering thousands of thousands birds they are always eyeing the ground looking for anything that does not seem right, something that is out of place.

  If alerted, older birds will come between birds that are starting to decoy, pushing them away from the hunters and their spread.

  Early migrators can be toughest of all Snows to call as their flocks are comprised of the older birds, but after a long flight will be tired and may be looking for a place to rest.

  When it comes to Light goose hunting, it is being there at the right time and of course location, location, location!

 If you are in the right place, have a decent spread and a good call going, chances are that you will have the opportunity to pull a few birds out of the flock. [Read more…]