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The Outdoors A place to Get it Together By Gary Howey

 

I have always been somewhat of a sports enthusiast. Competing in about every sport a person can imagine.

In grade school, it was track, baseball, and football, in high school track and football and once I moved to Nebraska it was softball. 

I no longer compete in any of these sports, not because I do not enjoy them, it is just that I have slowed down a bit and I do not move quite as fast as I used to or heal up as fast.  I still think I can do these things, but my body tells me different.

I still spend thousands of hours each year watching or listening to sports on the radio and TV, so I have not lost my love for these sports.

As a youngster, growing up in Watertown, South Dakota, an outdoor paradise where my father, grandfather and our neighbor introduced me to hunting and fishing, which was the start of my lifelong love of being in the outdoors.

Many of my fondest memories as a youngster were those that I spent learning about it from Glen Matteson our neighbor and excursions into the outdoors with my dad Cal and my grandfather Butch Menkveld. 

I have always enjoyed the outdoors and since my early years have really gotten into outdoor activities.

I love fishing, I am hooked, and enjoy fishing with a rod & reel, it does not matter what species of fish I am after.  I have been very fortunate to have an occupation where I can fish for walleye and catfish in several provinces of Canada and walleye as well as fishing for smallmouth bass on several of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. On one trip to Mississippi, I caught crappies while keeping an eye out for alligators and had time to spend hundreds of hundreds hours pursuing walleyes, northerns and bass in the many Glacial Lakes of South Dakota and on the Missouri River and its reservoirs.

Therefore, it just makes sense that I also bow fish for paddlefish and rough fish on the Missouri River after the invasive species, the Grass, Big Head and Silver carp trying to put a dent, it may be a small one, but every one out of the river is one less we need to worry about. 

  Invasive species, devastating are waters, devouring much of the plankton available as they have a voracious appetite, feeding continuously. These fast growing plankton feeders compete and to the baitfish, young gamefish, and our paddlefish.

To some the outdoors is not successful unless you get your limit. To others it is the time spent with friends, in that special place as Mother Nature awakens the World. (Outdoorsmen Productions Photo)

When it comes to hunting, another of my favorite pastimes, I hunt with a rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader and bow, pursuing pheasant, quail, waterfowl, turkey, deer, antelope, wild boar, bear, predators and elk. 
  My family has probably eaten as much wild game as any family.  It is lean, low in cholesterol and when taken care of in the field and prepared properly makes for some excellent eating.

However, it is not the fish or wild game that I bring home that keeps bringing me back, it is the outdoors. I know some people will find that hard to believe, but it is a fact.

I head outdoors to get away, to get back to reality.  I have learned many of lives lessons in the outdoors as I watched and listened to the world waking up when a squirrel is chattering at the birds that are  bothering him  and as I watched a doe and her fawn making their way from where they were feeding to their bedding area.

  You might say the outdoors is my therapy.   Many people go to a therapist to get things figured out, to get their life in order.  I guess I am from the old school and feel that a little peace and quiet along with fresh air will solve many problems.

When I am outdoors, I have a lot of time to think and reflect on what I have done right and wrong with my life.

There is nothing like hearing a tom turkey gobble or a pheasant cackle as the sun is coming up.  The sound of a bull elk bugling in the distance will awaken senses that you never knew you had.

When I first got into the outdoors, it was great to be outside, but I was of that age where I had to be successful, to bring something home, hoping to get my limit, to prove to my folks and myself that I had accomplished something.

  Now days, I do not need to fill my tags or my limit in order to get something out of a day in the woods or on the water, in the outdoors.  The time spent with friends and family camping, fishing or hunting allows me to forget about the deadlines that I have given myself.

 I do not worry about things when I am in the outdoors.  I know that those things will still be there when I return to my office, but the time I am outdoors is relaxing and invigorating to me, it helps me to recharge my internal batteries.

I get just as much of a thrill out of introducing someone to the great things the outdoors has to offer as I do from bagging a big buck or catching a nice walleye.

That is the reason I have been a Nebraska certified fishing instructor and a certified hunting instructor for twenty-five years.

Learning about the outdoors is not hard as those who love the outdoors and there are thousands of them, individuals who have spent time in every aspect of the outdoors, more than willing to help you to discover the outdoors.

 Conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, The National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and other conservation groups all have youth programs.

 Most states have hunter’s safety instructors, bow hunter education instructors and aquatic education instructors that hold classes throughout the state, every year. 

The outdoors is not just a male thing as there are programs set up just for the women.   The “Becoming an Outdoorswomen” is a very popular program that is given several times each year in Nebraska as well as in other states.

  In our hunter’s safety classes, we always have at least six girls and women taking the course as women are the fastest growing segment of the outdoors.

Getting into the outdoors is not very hard to learn about and has something for everyone. The next time you feel like you need to catch your breath and get yourself together, look into the outdoors, go fishing, boating, kayaking, bird watching or just hiking as the sunshine, fresh air and tranquility of the outdoors can help you to get back on track.

  Good advice, after this hectic week, trying to get everything taken care of before heading north to our writer’s conference, I need a break, think I need to spend some quality time in the outdoors, so I am going to head out to the pond I hunt to see if any new doves have migrated south!

 

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More Habitat = More Wildlife Gary Howey

  The latest pheasant outlook for South Dakota just came out and I do not want to say it is a Doom and Gloom report, but they are indicating that the states pheasant numbers are down significantly.

  To some, especially those who do not live in the upper Midwest, those that travel a long ways to hunt the state bird may think twice about making the trip.

  Well, let me tell you, if I were those individuals, I would not let the report alter your plans as even if the numbers are down, which they could be, there are still more pheasants in South Dakota than in any two or three other states in the U.S.

   In South Dakota and other upper Midwestern states, there has been a huge acreage allocation of Conservation Reserve Plantings (CRP)  land and because of this new habitat, wildlife will not only survive, but also should eventually increase in numbers.

  In my neck of the woods, we are seeing a few more birds and the reason for that is because of the low commodity crop prices and the new CRP bill, which allows good quality land to be pulled out of production and planted to native grasses.  These fields that once produced row crops are now in the CRP program where trees and bushes are planted as well as native plants and grasses. These native grasses; Switchgrass, Indian Grass, Sedgegrass, Little Bluestem or Side Oats Grama which grow best in the heat of the summer will take longer to establish. The first year CRP plantings may look as if there are few grasses and wild flowers with a lot of weeds, but once these grasses start to grow, they will eliminate many of the weeds found in the field the first year. These grasses provide excellent wildlife habitat, giving not only pheasants, but also all wildlife a place to live.

  Some plantings are not huge, maybe just the irrigation pivot corners, while others could be a hundred acres or so, no matter what the size, every little bit helps. [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…]