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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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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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4 Reasons To Start Planting Trees

Tree planting has played an important role in improving wildlife habitat for ages. As GameKeepers, we know how effective “tree plots” and reforestation can be for attracting wildlife to a property, but let’s take a look at some of the other great reasons to go out and plant some trees!

Reliable Food Source

Everyone loves fresh fruit! Planting fruit bearing trees for wildlife can become a “hot spot” for game traffic when the trees are producing. These same trees can also offer up a tasty snack while in the field or at the home.

Improve The Environment

Trees improve the environment by preventing and controlling erosion and help to clean the air and water. Trees in urban areas provide shade and block cold winds, which in turn keeps heating and cooling costs down. The benefits of trees far outweigh the costs, making them a wise investment for the future.

Create Lasting  Habitats

All trees are beneficial to wildlife in some form or fashion. Food, cover and water are the pillars of necessity for all walks of wildlife, and trees can provide both food and cover. Acorns from oaks and leaves and fruits of mulberries are favorite foods by many, and a long row of mixed trees in a barren landscape of the Midwest can provide enough cover to provide safe travels to feeding areas. Advanced tree planting techniques and superior stock means nuts and fruits can mature in a hurry. [Read more…]

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Understanding The American Persimmon

Many of us know how attractive the American Persimmon can be to wildlife, especially whitetail deer. But how many of us have spent numerous hours in the field scouting for these fruit-bearing trees only to find a large persimmon tree with no fruit on it at all?

Understanding Persimmon Production

What many people are unaware of is that the American Persimmon tree can be either a male or a female; females produce fruit, and males produce pollen. Determining a persimmon tree’s sex until it actually begins flowering and producing is impossible. So it’s important to do some scouting during the right time of year to figure out which trees are male and which are female.

When To Scout For Persimmons

Late summer/early fall is a great time to let persimmons tell you whether they’re male or female. Pre-season scouting will allow you to flag the fruit-bearing persimmons so you can come back to the “flagged” trees during hunting season. You can also look for calyxes on the ground. The calyx is the woody portion that’s attached to the mature fruits. [Read more…]

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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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Don’t Be Afraid to Try New things My First Deer Hunt By Gary Howey

  Deer hunting has always been something that enthralled me; one of those adventures I had heard and read about, but never had the pleasure of getting out and doing.

  The main reason I did not know much about deer hunting was that my Dad did not have a rifle and so there was, no way we could hunt deer.

  When I returned from Viet Nam and moved to Nebraska, I loved the outdoors, but not into it like I am know and I did not know many people who hunted deer so it took me a few years to get into it.

  When my opportunity to hunt deer came about, I was on the road selling parts for the Ford dealership in Norfolk, NE. and editing and producing my newspaper The Outdoorsmen. Being on the road and calling on repair and body shops gave me the opportunity to meet some great people with similar interests as me.

  One of those was Gary Fredericks who ran the Verdigre Body Shop. Over the years, we became good friends and we often talked about the outdoors and deer hunting.

  Then, one year, he asked if I would like to deer hunt the following year with him as he and some of his friends hunted deer between Verdigre and Lynch, NE.

  The sentence was verily out of his mouth when I answered “You Bet” I would love to, but, there was one problem, I did not have a rifle and with a family, really did not have the funds to go out and purchase one.
  No big deal, I would figure it out as I had almost a year before the hunt. I started checking into the cost of a rifle and the person to talk with, as he was one of the big deer hunters in Hartington, Steve Samelson who owned a body shop as well as a small gun shop.

  I kept stopping by; talking with him about what caliber to use and what loads would be the best. Steve knew his stuff when it came to rifles, ammunition and deer hunting as he had hunted deer a long time.

  After several visits I started asking about cost, what rifle would work best as I planned to hunt other game including antelope as well as predators.

  He suggested I go with a .243, as there were both light and heavier loads available for the rifle, which made it versatile. Then we got down to the nitty-gritty, what I could afford to spend on a rifle.

  I had a plan as to how I would pay for the rifle, which was to take on an extra job on weekends and after work at the pheasant preserve outside of town.

  Steve said that I could put a little down and make monthly payment until I had the rifle paid for and if all went according to my plan should be no problem.

  I ended up purchasing a Winchester BDL .243 set up with a Redfield Wide Angle 3 X 9 scope equipped with see through sight scope mounts.

  I paid a little each month and as the deer season approached, it appeared as if I would not have it paid off before the season.

  Fortunately, for me, Steve understood, allowing me take the rifle before I had it paid for and I had two weeks before the season to zero in the rifle and be ready for opening morning.

  Opening day could not come soon enough for me and as the opener got closer, I counted the hours, minutes and seconds until the rifle deer season opened.

  The evening before the season, the Fredericks allowed me to spend the night at their house in Verdigre, a night where I got very little sleep, as I was not about to miss my first deer hunt.

  Opening morning, we headed out to Gary’s hunting partners place and sat down to a breakfast fit for a king and his court. The meal included; three kinds of meat, eggs, breakfast potatoes, toast, rolls, juice, milk and coffee. I thought, if a breakfast is served like this before every deer hunt, “I was in.”

  After breakfast, everyone prepared to head out to the locations where they had taken deer in prior years, which meant, that I the “new guy” hunted by myself in an area I had never seen before.

  Besides having to head out into the field, in pitch-black darkness in a part of the state I had never set foot on before, I had not been out of the Army very long and was still a little jumpy, especially in the dark coming into a new area. 

  The landowners’ wife was nice enough to drive me out to the ridge I was to hunt, where she told me to cross the fence and head west towards the creek. As I worked my way along the ridge through a huge expanse of buck brush, I thought to myself, how I am going to find the creek in the dark, and hopefully it would not be by not falling into it.

  I was about a third of the way when I made a detour around a huge plum brush and as I neared the end, all hell broke loose, as a covey of quail came up all around me sounding like fifty birds taking flight in every direction. I about jumped out of my skin as I went in the air, turned a compete circle, landing in a mess of cactus nearby.

  After settling down and pulling what cactus quills I could from my legs, I figured it was not going to do me much good to walk in the dark all the way across the ridge.  I did not want to spook any more wildlife and would not be able to see any deer in the dark, so I sat down waiting sunup. [Read more…]

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Food Plot Preparation: Plan Ahead for Success

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Late July and August can be a very busy month for wildlife management chores. Dove season is right around the corner as well as archery season for deer. Formulating a plan this time of year on what, when, and where you are going to plant cool season plots can save time and frustration. Waiting until the very last minute and scrambling to find seed, equipment or fertilizer can be a major headache.

Check Your Equipment Now

A great task for this time of year is to go ahead and do a food plot equipment check and see if any repairs are in order before planting season. Pull your tractor under a shade tree and make sure all fluids, belts, hoses, and tires are up to snuff and ready for use. Bush-hog blades can be checked for sharpness, and the gear box for the proper amount of fluid. Discs may have bearings or blades that need to be replaced, this is also a good time to grease all bearing fittings. Fertilizer and seed spreaders are always in need of some repair it seems. Give your spreader a good run through and see if there are any parts that need repair or replacement. These all seem like common sense farm chores, but doing them before planting season rolls around can help fall planting go much more smoothly by avoiding break downs in the field that cost you valuable time.

Killing Weeds Early Can Pay Off

It’s not too early to start thinking about getting fields ready for fall food plots. Fields that weren’t planted in a spring/summer annual are likely grown up in weeds and need some attention before putting a disc in the ground. Overgrown or fallow fields will work up much better if the existing vegetation is killed off. Tall weeds and grasses can be bush-hogged down and followed up by a non-selective herbicide application such as glyphosate. Killing the existing weeds and letting them get good and crispy makes discing or tilling much easier. This results in saving fuel from making less passes with equipment as well as conserving important soil moisture. Making more passes with a disc, plow, or tiller than is necessary can negatively affect your fields by increasing soil compaction and reducing important bacteria and microbes. If you have noticed that some of your round-up (glyphosate) applications are less effective, it is probably not resistant weeds but rather inefficient herbicide transfer to the target weeds. Most of us use well water on the farm to fill up our spray tanks, and this well water is notoriously hard water. This hard water can negatively affect your spray solutions by not allowing certain minerals to bond together. Adding ammonium sulfate (AMS) to your spray tank can greatly increase herbicide efficiency and give you much better kill on weeds. AMS is available in a liquid or water soluble granular form. The granular form is usually added at a rate of 10-17 lbs per 100 gallons of water and 1-3 quarts of the liquid AMS per 100 gallons.

To learn more about creating the best wildlife habitat possible check out: Want Better Wildlife Habitat? Planning Starts Now. Fall is just around the corner and this can be a great time to look at how your season is going and make a checklist of things you would like to improve in the coming year. Call it a new year’s resolution for wildlife management purposes.

 
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Deer Food Plot Tips : Creating Visual Barriers

Have you ever had a really nice food plot that the deer just didn’t seem to use that much, especially during the daylight? One really easy way to encourage whitetails to use a food source is making them feel safe by planting a food plot screen like BioLogic Blind Spot. The older age class of both bucks and does can be really shy of big, open fields or food plots that are void of close cover. Here are a few suggestions you can try to make your food plots as effective as possible.

  1. Creating Screens For Increased Daylight Activity

Create a screen around the perimeter of the plot or areas that allow the plot to be seen by a road or neighbors. We have seen great results from using tall growing blends like Blind Spot to create a transition zone from woods and thickets where the deer are coming from and the food plot. Planting a screen around the field can really help the deer have a b3 Beetter feeling of security and encourage daytime use. If you have plots that are easily seen by a neighboring property or public road, plant a screen to shield the view. You’ll be amazed how the deer know when they can’t be seen.

  1. Hide Your Stand Approach With Tall Varieties

Use blends like Blind Spot or Whistle Back to create a hidden path to your stand. We have all had one of those stands that was in a great spot for an afternoon hunt, but almost impossible to get to without being spotted. The 8-12 ft tall variety of sorghum in Blind Spot can make a great covered path to get you to your stand un-noticed. Just a tractor width wide planting is all it takes. [Read more…]

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PF Announces 2014 South Dakota Habitat Accomplishments & Awards

Dedicated chapters, opening of regional headquarters highlight 2014 endeavors

Brookings, S.D. – March 17, 2015 – Pheasants Forever improved habitat for pheasants and other upland wildlife on more than 43,000 acres in South Dakota in 2014. This includes 1,319 wildlife habitat projects completed by the state’s 34 chapters that improved 20,156 acres for wildlife, as well as 23,314 acres impacted by Pheasants Forever’s Farm Bill biologist program.

“The success and longevity of Pheasants Forever in South Dakota can be attributed to the incredible work of our South Dakota volunteer chapters and their mission to conserve wildlife habitat,” stated Mike Stephenson, Pheasants Forever’s regional representative for South Dakota. “With the opening of our new regional headquarters, the dedicated chapters throughout the state and the addition of Farm Bill biologists, Pheasants Forever in South Dakota is set to do great things in 2015.”

Complementing the efforts of South Dakota chapters and volunteers, 2014 marked a historic moment for “The Habitat Organization” with the opening of Pheasants Forever’s first regional headquarters in Brookings. Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s long-time Vice President of Government Affairs, permanently moved to South Dakota and was appointed as director for the new office. The move came amidst organizational efforts to address substantial habitat losses and land use changes in South Dakota, which have resulted in a dramatic decline in pheasant numbers.

Pheasants Forever in South Dakota 2014 Chapter Habitat Accomplishments

Type of Project
2014 Projects:
2014 Acres
Historical Project Totals
Total Acres Benefited
Food Plots
1,180
16,512
21,730
263,834

Land Acquisitions
2*
207*
62*
12,040*

Nesting Cover
73
2,784
2,113
77,172

[Read more…]