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Spring Turkey Hunting By Gary Howey

I can’t wait until old man winter releases his grip on the upper Midwest and spring arrives when I can hit the woods to begin another season to pursue spring turkey.

This will be my forty-first season where I hope to add my 104th bird to my turkey log. This year, I’ll have three Nebraska tags and help my Son-in-Law Matt and grandson Teddy to tag their first birds in South Dakota.

It’s a good time to get out, spend some time in the woods doing a combination turkey scouting and shed hunting trip. Deer general; shed their headgear in mid-February, but not all deer shed at the same time. It’s possible you will find sheds shortly after the rut. While I’m out looking for sheds, I have my eye out for turkey sign as I hunt sheds in the same areas where I hunt turkeys.

When my camera crew and I are seriously thinking about turkey hunting, the first thing we need to do is to put together some sort of a plan.

If you are hunting locally, putting a plan together doesn’t take much time, but if you’re looking at hunting in a different area or even a different state, making a plan will be very important.

If I’m going to be hunting in a different state, I start by checking the web sites of the state’s Game and Parks or DNR I’m looking at getting a permit. If they have a lot of information and columns devoted to turkey hunting, it’s a good bet there a good numbers of the birds in the state.

After looking at the South Dakota Game & Parks site where I had hoped to have the opportunity to do some turkey hunting with my son in law and grandson, I was disappointed to find out the county they would be hunting in, didn’t issue any nonresident permits, I had to re-plan the hunt.

We would have to start checking around at the states where we would have a chance at obtaining a permit; I’ll grab the phone and contact the game department of the state. This is where I obtain as much information as I can from their experts. I’ll talk with the people that spend a lot of time in the field and have their finger on what’s happening as far as turkey numbers. This information helps me to zero in on an area with good numbers of birds and if I’m lucky, I may even be able to obtain some names of folks in the area that may allow hunting.

I choose a zone or area where I have a good chance of getting a permit. Then it’s that anxious time, waiting to find out if you were successful on the draw. Once I know I have a permit or tag I look for any public land in the area, if that area happens to be one the game department was high on, I get an aerial map of it and see what’s there, checking out any heavily wooded areas for possible roosts and areas where the birds could feed.

I’ve hunted turkeys in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Mississippi and got my best information from those states Game & Parks-DNR’s. Some of them have turkey density and harvest information that helps us to choose what area to hunt. [Read more…]

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Hardwater Fishing- Watertown, SD Gary Howey

My hometown is Watertown, S.D. a place I return to as often as I can. A couple of weeks ago, we headed back north to ice fish on a few of the dozens of lakes and sloughs scattered throughout the Watertown area.

Anyone who has spent time on the ice where the northerns live, know what they can do once they latch onto your bait. A pike is a fighting fool when hooked, even when it’s prowling around under 8 inches of solid ice.

It happened just before we arrived on a frozen lake near Watertown where Outdoorsmen Adventures Team Member Larry Myhre and I were to join good friends and present or past Watertown residents Chuck Krause, Don Fjerstad and Junior Burns.

Like many ice anglers, Don fishes with two rods, one with a live bait rig and the other with some sort of attractor rig. His live bait rig was propped up in the snow while he jigged with the other, then it happened, a jarring strike, one, which could only have come from the hard-hitting northern, a fish with a voracious appetite. Rearing back hard, he set the hook, with the fish taking off, peeling line off his reel. Out the corner of his eye, he noticed his other rod coming out of the snow, rapidly sliding along the ice into the other hole. He had his hands full fighting the fish and his rod disappeared into the depths of the lake, gone forever!

After a hard fought battle, where, luckily, the northerns mouth full of sharp teeth and sharp gill plates didn’t cut the line, Don flipped the fish on the ice. Figuring he had won the battle with the northern but lost the battle with his second rod, he proceeded to remove his jig from the pike and strangely enough, noticed another line wrapped in the fish’s gill plate.

The pike had hit his lure and on the first run wrapped the line from his second rod, pulling it down the hole. Not only had he landed the fish, he also landed his rod which a few minutes before was lying on the bottom.

Earlier, before we arrived, Chuck, Don and Junior were on the south end of the lake, doing what fishermen need to do this time of year in order to catch fish, the old run and gun. Anglers this time of the year need to punch a lot of holes, looking for fish. Chuck and Don had migrated to the south end of the lake and were set up just off to the side of each other while Jr. kept on the move, punching holes trying to locate a concentration of fish. [Read more…]

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Farm Pond produces Nice Bluegills By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

With a week’s worth of warm weather in the forecast, Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and I decided it was “now or never” time to fish a farm pond we’d had our eyes on for quite some time.

Gary had fished it years ago and had great success on largemouth bass. Rumor had it the pond could produce good numbers of bluegills and perch as well.

So, we had to try.

This was actually our second attempt. A few weeks ago we had tried to drive to the pond, but warm weather and greasy mud over the frozen field changed our minds. It was forecast to be even warmer that day, and since we had to drive a long ways through a hilly corn field we felt we might not be able to get out if it warmed up any more.

But this time was different. It was 8 below in Hartington that morning so we weren’t worried about the mud.

Yet, when we pulled up alongside the pond, Gary pointed and said, “Is that open water over there?”

“It sure is,” I answered. “Must be a heck of a big spring.”

Right along the dam the southwest wind was pushing small waves against the ice. The open water field was about 100 feet long and 50 feet wide.

“Keep drilling test holes as you go out,” I told Gary who was firing up his Jiffy propane auger. “That might not be the only spring out there.”

But the test holes revealed a good 10 inches of solid ice. I followed with the depth finder and when we registered nine feet of water we decided to start fishing.

We both were marking fish under us but there were a lot more “lookers” than “biters.”

Finally Gary set the hook and brought up and 8-inch bass. I soon followed with another. We caught several of these little fish before we got a decent-sized bluegill.

We were using tear drop jigs tipped with wax worms. Gary also had a bobber with a minnow on the hook but aside from one bite, which he missed, the minnow provided no action.

We decided to drill more holes.

We found a little deeper water and decided to try there.

[Read more…]

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Potential New South Dakota State record Perch

Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Don Fjerstad, Watertown, South Dakota, the Host of KWAT Outdoors sent us this photo of a potential new South Dakota state record Perch. The fish weighed in at 2.86-pounds and was caught on Bitter in N.E. South Dakota by Chase Jensen, Aurora, S.D.

[Read more…]

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Shed Hunting! One of Mother Nature’s Most Beautiful Art Forms By Gary Howey

I think we’re all ready for spring, something we have been waiting on for a long time, with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the warmer weather.

As it gets closer to spring, this is when I head to the woods, to do my pre-season turkey scouting.

While I’m out there sneaking through the woods looking for turkey sign, I’m also keeping an eye out for deer sheds, Shed Hunting.

For those of you that haven’t hunted sheds, it’s a great thing to do this time of the year. Sheds are the buck’s antlers from the previous year shed or dropped after the rut.

Bucks shed their headgear/rack/antlers annually and if you can beat the rodents and other critters out there that chew on them to obtain a source of calcium, you’ll have the opportunity to find a shed or two.

A buck’s antler/rack is a lot different from cattle horns, which are hollow, as a deer’s rack consists of honey combed solid bone.

Pedicles, are a knobby nub protruding from the buck’s skull, this is where the new antler/rack grows and what supports the buck’s rack.

When bucks start to grow their new racks/antlers, they’re no more than bony growths covered with skin and hair known as velvet.  They grow incredibly fast in 3 to 4 months, making them the fastest growing living tissue there is.

These pedicles are a permanent part of the buck’s forehead, the point where the antler comes off when shed.

Shed hunting in the spring is also an excellent way to determine if the big buck you hunted last season made it through the winter

If you find his sheds, he’s still around, unless the winter did him in and once you’ve found his shed, you can start putting together your hunting plan for next season.

Once the rut is over, bucks no longer need their racks. They needed their rack during the used to attract and impress the does and most importantly to fight off other bucks trying to draw the females away from his harem.

It’s a known fact that not all of the bucks will drop their racks at the same time. Some will begin to lose them following the rut, when their hormone levels begin to drop.

Generally, deer in the upper Midwest will shed their antlers in February and March.

The amount of daylight in a day, the fluctuations in the deer’s hormones, their diet and stress will have a lot to do as to when a buck will shed.

There are several reasons deer shed their antlers, one allowing the buck regeneration, or re-grow a new set of antlers.

Others believe they shed, making it easier for them to make it through the winter, as winter, with its harsh conditions and less food make it tough for a deer coming out of the rut to survive.

When the buck sheds its antlers: it helps them to conserve energy while eliminating excess weight.

The entire shedding process will take two to three weeks to complete, while the re-growth will take the entire summer.

The first to drop their antlers are more likely to be those bucks, which chased hard during the rut, those that have become fatigued from fighting and breeding during the rut.

If you don’t have an area where you’ve found sheds in prior years, a good place to start looking for sheds would be to drive through the country, looking for those well-used deer trails crossing the roads.

I’ve found heavily traveled trails; those leading from heavily wooded areas, crossing a road heading into the deer are feeding areas to be a good starting point.

A good trail to start looking for sheds would be those resembling a hard packed cattle trail. [Read more…]

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More Anglers should embrace ‘Do It Yourself’ By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

I got an outdoors catalog in the mail the other day. Right at the top of the front cover in bold letters were the words, “DO IT YOURSELF.”

That kind of took me aback for a little bit. You see, I don’t think many outdoorsmen make much of anything anymore. They much prefer to buy it.

When I looked a little closer, I saw the words “Rod Building 101.” Now I understood. It was from Mud Hole, a company which caters to amateur and professional fishing rod makers. I do a fair amount of business with them in my own rod making.

But here’s the thing. I know a heck of a lot of fishermen throughout the upper Midwest, and very few of them have ever made a fishing rod.

Even fewer have ever poured lead heads, and tied their own bass, walleye or panfish jigs. It seems nobody makes their own spinnerbaits anymore. A few walleye fishermen will build their own spinners to pull behind bottom bouncers, but hardly anybody makes their own bottom bouncers.

Flash back about 50 years. Every sporting goods store with a fishing department carried all the supplies you would need for building a rod, tying flies or jigs or making just about any kind of tackle. Today, its mostly mail order because there are not enough anglers making their own stuff.

I feel sorry for them. Why? Because catching a fish on tackle you have made yourself is something special. Because learning how make this stuff builds your fishing education. Because it makes you a better fisherman. Because it is a great way to spend those winter weekends. Because it is fun.

I suppose I started making my own stuff to save money. Early on, there wasn’t much of that around our house.

Notice, however, that I did not include saving money as one of the benefits of making your own stuff.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I have invested in just fly-tying materials. No, if you really get into this stuff, you won’t be saving any money.

I began tying flies about 1966. It’s a hobby that I continue today. I’ve tied more flies and classic jigs than I could ever fish with, even if I fished every day of the week. I’ve tied exhibition streamers and classic salmon flies just for fun. I’ll never be noted as a great fly tyer because I’m just not that good, and I have too many other interests. But, I love to do it. [Read more…]

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Late ice fishing action can be hit or miss By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

WATERTOWN, S.D. | It was beginning to look bad for the home team. We had been on the ice for about three hours and had only one walleye to show for it.

And that one had been caught by our friend Chuck Krause, Gettysburg, S.D., who was fishing with Don Fjerstad, Watertown, S.D., just before Gary Howey and I arrived.

We were on a lake called Dry Lake, a glorified slough southwest of Watertown which, like many former sloughs in northeast South Dakota, have begun to swell as lakes over the past 15 years or so.

One thing they all have in common is high populations of perch and walleyes.

But you sure couldn’t tell that by looking into our ice buckets.

It was well past 3 p.m., and we didn’t have much time to redeem ourselves. Then Chuck’s cell phone rang. It was his nephew Junior Burns, Watertown, who was fishing at the north end of the lake.

“I just put three walleyes on the ice,” he reported.

It didn’t take us long to pack up and head north. Aren’t cell phones wonderful?

Gary, of Hartington, Neb., was hoping to catch enough action to produce a segment for his Outdoorsmen Adventures television show. Things were going to have to improve quickly because the next day’s forecast was for a monster cold front with northwest winds of 25 to 30 miles an hour. Once that front hit, I was confident the catching would turn from worse to terrible. As they say, this wasn’t my first rodeo.

As our caravan of three vehicles headed to the north end of the lake it was clear that fish had been caught here. There were a number of ice houses and a whole bunch of portable shacks as well as guys just fishing out in the open.

We quickly punched a bunch of holes and settled in.

It didn’t take long.

Fjerstad set the hook and announced he had a fish on.

It was putting a pretty good bend in his rod and Gary pulled the depth finder’s transducer from the hole so the fish wouldn’t tangle up in it. [Read more…]

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Mountain lions are on the comeback trail By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

The sun was beginning to paint a pink tinge on the eastern horizon. I sat near the top of the ridge, hunkered down into a small cedar tree. In front of me, about a block away the ridge line dropped away, and a stand of oaks provided an ideal roosting spot for tom turkeys.

I did a quiet tree call, and the response was thunderous gobbles.

It was like this every year. The turkeys were always there, and while most of the time they simply flew down and walked away into the next valley, occasionally one would come over the top, duck under the barbed wire fence that marked the property line and strut into my decoy.

A car door slammed in the far eastern distance. Another hunter, no doubt. The door slam marked him as a beginner. He was too far away to bother my birds. They’d be on the ground before he could cover the distance.

I did another tree call. Got the same response and settled back to await the fly down.

Minutes passed.

Suddenly the turkeys broke into alarm calls like I had never heard before. Loud and shrill.

A large cat ran over the crest of the ridge on a line that was uncomfortably close to where I was sitting.

“Is that a mountain lion?” my mind asked.

“It sure is,” I muttered.

It was spooked. The cat covered the distance in long bounds, waving a long tail. He was angling slightly away from me, and I began breathing a little easier. He came to the fence, ducked under the bottom wire in a fluid movement and ran across the open ground and disappeared into the ravine behind me.

I later paced off the distance from where I was sitting to where the cat went into the ravine. About 75 feet. [Read more…]

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Simplicity is the key to outdoor success By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that whether you are fishing, hunting, photographing wildlife, camping or otherwise enjoying the outdoors, you should keep it simple.

We’re pretty lucky today. The marketplace provides just about everything and anything anyone could want and then some. The problem is, just how much do we need to be successful whether fishing or hunting or just enjoying the outdoors?

The answer lies, in my opinion, in the KISS principle. Keep it Simple Stupid.

[Read more…]