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Dove Hunting They Zig when you Zag By Gary Howey

  As the sun rises on Saturday, September 1, in South Dakota, Nebraska and throughout the upper Midwest, look for hunters set up on their favorite pond, around sunflower, millet, wheat or CRP fields and near shelterbelts to take a shot at dove hunting. 

Take a shot, may not be the correct words as it may take many shots to down these small birds when the dove hunting seasons opens.

  Believe it or not, doves are the number one game bird in America, forty-two states having dove seasons with over 20 million birds harvested each year. Even, with this large of number of doves taken, their population is growing and the range expanding.

Dove hunting is a challenging sport, as doves are the aerial acrobats of the bird kingdom. They seldom fly straight, darting and dodging from side to side, changing altitude in the blink of an eye as they zig-zag their way across the sky.

It does not take much of a load to bring down a dove, just as long as you can catch up with and get a bead on the little buggers. 

It takes a while to get onto hunting doves, so do not lose your faith and feel bad if you miss several birds, as studies indicate that the average dove hunter will shoot as many as ten shells for each bird that he drops.

I am sure ammunition manufacturers lick their chops because they know that ammunition sales are going to skyrocket just prior to the dove opener.

You can hunt doves with any gauge shotgun, with those hunters I hunt with use every gauge imaginable, hunting with twelve, twenty, twenty-eight and even four-ten gauge shotguns.

When it comes to what what shells to use, we pretty much agree on Winchester AA, eight or nine loads.

Our plan on opening day is to set up around a farm pond or stock pond, with our most productive hunting occurring in the  late afternoon until sun down, as doves make their way to these areas for water just prior to going to roost.

The ponds you want to set up on should have open ground around the edge, those with dead or dying trees nearby really attract the birds as they give doves a place to light, rest and observe the pond before flying down. 

Doves are not in a hurry to do anything until you take a shot at them, as they will set in the trees, on power lines or  hill above a pond for long periods before coming in.

The reason open ground around a pond is important because that is where the birds land before they will saunter down to the water.

Those ponds with heavy vegetation along the edge do not attract doves because the heavy cover makes it impossible for the birds to get to the water to drink.

When hunting around ponds, a good hunting dog is necessity, as much of your shooting will be over water and a dog can retrieve those doves that come down in the pond.   

Doves love weed seed, preferring hemp-marijuana and ragweed. If the pond you are hunting has a weed patch nearby, chances are there will be plenty of dove activity in the area.

When hunting ponds, your best hunting is if there are several groups of hunters on the surrounding ponds, as it keeps the birds moving, jumping from pond to pond.

On larger ponds, it is a good Idea to have several hunters stationed around the water.  Doves are such erratic flyers; you never know from what direction they are coming. By having hunters stationed around the pond or on several different ponds in the area, you have an extra set of eyes letting you know what direction the birds are approaching as well as more shooting opportunities, which helps to keep the birds in the air and on the move.

Hunters will find good numbers of doves in areas adjacent to shelterbelts or heavily wooded areas where the birds roost and near hemp or other weed patches where the birds feed.

During the early season, it does not take much to draw doves into a pond, but as the season progresses, doves become more wary and can be tough to attract.  In the late season, dove decoys will help to bring them in.

  If you use stationary dove decoys, place them as high as possible on the trees as this gives the doves an opportunity to locate and zero in on them at greater distances [Read more…]

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GameKeeper Quick Tip: Managing Your Bass Pond

For a recreational bass fishing pond to reach its full potential and maintain that peak, it must be managed throughout the year. One major component of managing a fish pond is controlling the fish population. If a pond gets overpopulated, there becomes a lack of food and there will be a corresponding decrease in fish size and health.

Controlling the fish population in a pond requires it to be fished enough to take out the right number of fish per year as well as keeping the right size. This process also needs to be organized and kept up with, instead of just “ball-parking” how many fish are taken out of the pond. One great way GameKeepers can keep a detailed track record of their ponds is to have a mailbox by every one of the main docks. In each mailbox is a notebook that everyone fills out when they are finished fishing for the day. This keeps a record of the date, exactly how many fish were caught, the size of each fish and how many were taken out.

For fertilized ponds, try to keep about 20 to 35 pounds of bass per acre per year depending on how bad the overpopulation problem is. If the population in one of your lakes or ponds is balanced, you need to keep about 10 to 20 pounds per acre per year. The sizes of the bass that are generally kept are 14 inches and smaller.

Letting family members and close friends fish these ponds on a regular basis is a great way for all to enjoy and have a part in managing its success. It would not be possible to keep an accurate record of the amount of fish taken out of our ponds without these mailboxes that we put at every dock. Since we have started keeping up with the number and size of the fish caught as well as culling the proper size, there has been a very noticeable increase in the size of the fish in our ponds.

For more info on pond management, read “Habitat Structure for Producing and Holding More Fish”. Some fish species relate to bait more than structure. But even when that’s the case, the bait they’re after usually relates to structure of some kind. So giving your fish something to relate to in the form of structure is a huge step forward to producing and holding more fish.

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Farm ponds offer bass, bluegill action By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal
HARTINGTON, Neb. | One thing I like about farm pond fishing is that ponds are generally loaded with fish.
And the one Gary Howey and I were fishing just southwest of town was proving that it was no exception.
When it comes to bluegill fishing in ponds, there is no more effective method than using a fly rod. And I was proving that fact today. Seven-inch bluegills were taken on practically every cast.
The tiny black ant that I designed for bluegill fishing more than 40 years ago had not lost its charm. While the ‘gills weren’t monsters, they were giving a good account of themselves on my light tackle.

Howey, meanwhile, was casting a spinnerbait for bass. He had caught and released three before I decided to tie on a bass fly. I chose a black wooly bugger in size 6. The black marabou tail behind the black chenille body made the fly nearly 2 inches long.

Wouldn’t you know it: The first cast produced a nearly 2-pound largemouth. After several airborne leaps I brought the bass to hand and then released it.
We weren’t keeping any fish, but if we were, we still would have released the bass. Bluegills, on the other hand, would have been fair game. They are very prolific, and if there are not enough bass in the pond to keep their numbers down, they will overpopulate and become stunted.

If that happens, any largemouth still in the pond will find it difficult to bring off a spawn. The tiny ‘gills will attack the nest in an effort to eat the eggs, and the male guarding the nest doesn’t stand a chance against hundreds of hungry mouths.

In fact, the old rule of removing 10 pounds of bluegills for every pound of bass from a farm pond is still pretty good advice.
I’m not sure how many farm ponds there are in Nebraska, but the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says there are about 110,000 in Iowa providing about 1.6 million fishing trips annually. The local economic impact is estimated at $7.5 million.

That’s pretty good considering farm ponds are on private property and the angler must get permission to fish from the landowner.

Farm ponds also produce big fish. [Read more…]

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West River stock dams yield big bluegills By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

PIERRE, S.D. | The prairie swept away to the west like an endless sea of waving grass. It was shortly after dawn and antelope and deer scampered away from our vehicles as Gary Howey and Steve Nelson guided their trucks down the gravel roadway.

We were on our way to fish one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of stock dams which dot these grasslands. The ponds are built to provide water for cattle, an industry which anchors the incomes of most who live in this region.

Steve Nelson, Pierre, S.D., has been a friend of mine since we attended the University of South Dakota a generation ago. After graduation, our paths went separate ways until we made contact about 10 years later. Pierre, Steve told me, was an outdoorsman’s paradise. I needed to come visit. Of course I knew that, but my tunnel vision was fishing. It was hard to drive farther than Lake Frances Case, a Missouri River reservoir a lot closer than Lake Oahe. Oahe had bigger fish, but Case had the numbers. Decisions, decisions.

But, I needed to see an old friend.

And ever since then, Pierre has drawn me like a moth to a flame.

No one has a better handle on stock-dam fishing than my friend, Steve. He’s guided me on many memorable trips to these dams for bass, bluegills and perch. And I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill fish. I’m talking about pound-plus ‘gills, perch and bass of nearly state record proportions.

So when Steve called and said we should come out and seek big bluegills, we went.

The pond we were intending to fish is on private land. And that’s the case of many West River stock dams. You must have permission of the landowner to fish them, but that’s not difficult to obtain.

But, there are also a lot of ponds and small reservoirs on public land. More about that later. [Read more…]