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Early Open Water on Lake Francis Case By Gary Howey

  For those anglers in northeastern South Dakota and other parts of the state who have been anxiously waiting for the waters of the Missouri River reservoirs; Lake Oahe, Lake Sharpe, Lake Francis Case and Lewis & Clark to open up, it will not be long.

  As we recently found out on a trip to one of the Missouri River impoundments as the parts of the lakes, the bays and some of the shoreline waters are now fishable.

  As I looked out across the open water onto the ice covering the biggest part of Lake Francis Case, I wondered if perhaps we might have jumped the gun on this our first open water fishing trip on the lake.

  Last year about this time, early April, it had been short sleeve shirt weather, with unbelievable early open water fishing. 

  Not this year as the temperatures were in the mid thirties, with everyone in the boat layered in cold weather gear as the warm part of the day would be in the low forties with wind.

  Team Member Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. Gary Kubicek, Firth, NE., representing our sponsor, Country Vet Dog Food, new co-host and camera operator Josh Anderson, Hartington, NE. and I headed north to meet up with Team Member and Missouri Valley Guide Serve owner, Joel Vasek, Geddes, S.D., as we would go after walleyes in the first open water available on the lake.

  Arriving the afternoon before at the Missouri Valley Lodge, we went over the game plan, which included; weather, wind, fishing method, depth of the fish, breakfast meal, departure time and what location we would be launching from.

  There were bays on the lake that were open with some open water running out into the lake along the shoreline. Several of the areas we would be fishing still had a light covering of ice extending out into the main lake. In the spring, as the wind picks up, the light ice will break away from the main ice pack, drifting into the shoreline, covering the water where Joel had located active fish earlier.

  This was no problem as the wakes from the boats three-hundred fifty horse Yamaha motor broke it up, allowing Joel to work through the ice as he searched for active fish.

  The following morning, Joel was on the water before daybreak checking to see if any of the ice had closed off our launching site and to check out the areas that were holding fish.

  We were to head out after one of the Lodge’s filling breakfasts and wait for his call letting us know what boat dock he would be ar.

  Shortly after he was the water while searching for active fish, he landed four good fish from several open water spots holding a good numbers of fish.

   Once we boarded, the plan was to work these areas, with jigs and larger minnows, hoping to temp the walleyes to take our baits.

  All of the four huge GPS/Locators all showed fish with Joel using his bow mount trolling motor worked from the shallower twenty four foot of water on out to fifty foot of water, looking for active fish. [Read more…]

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Mid-Season Pheasants South Dakota Style By Gary Howey

   Lady, Gary Kubicek’s lab worked out in front of us as did some of Joel Vasek’s dogs and by the way, they were acting, we had better be ready as they were on a bird.

  The habitat we were hunting was perfect, with everything wildlife needed to survive throughout the year. Before us, stretched large tracts of native grasses, milo food plots, rows of Cedars, Maple, Plum and  other bushes, sloughs and shelterbelts, perfect upland game bird habitat.

  Gary Kubicek, Country Vet Dog Food had joined my cameraman and I on a late November pheasant hunt with good friend and Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Joel Vasek, Missouri River Lodge and Missouri River Guide Service.

    The lodge, where we had headquartered out of years ago was beautiful, and since has gone through a major expansion. It’s an astonishing piece of property located in the small community of Geddes, South Dakota. A five star Lodge, which now sleeps forty-four people and with is second story that is in the process of being completed will only become more magnificent.

  Joel, “The Walleye Tamer” known as one of the finest fishing guides on Lake Francis Case and other bodies of water is not just an angler as his guide service also offers pheasant, grouse, prairie chicken, turkey and deer hunting.

  As we prepared to depart from the lodge, at 9:20 am, our group of five hunters, Matt and my cameraman climbed into one of the Lodges well equipped buses where Vasek gave a safety talk letting everyone know what type of habitat we would be hunting, how we would walk them and rules for a safe hunt.

  Then we headed from the Lodge for the short drive to where we would begin our hunt at the ten o’clock opener.

   In the bus were gun racks, comfortable seating, coolers with drinks and snacks as well as an on board DVD player. There was a carrier mounted on the front for the birds we would shoot and the dog’s water jugs and  mounted in the back are seven  large aluminum dog kennels,

  Because our group consisted of five hunters, Joel Vasek, Gary Kubicek, Maverick Hill, Dave Kotob and me, we were working several of the smaller fields with Switch Grass, Big Bluestem and Milo.

  Vasek has well trained dogs with his kennel housing both pointers and flushers including German Shorthairs, Hungarian Vizsla, German Wirehaired, Labs and Raptors. There are also additional kennels there for hunters who bring along their own dogs.

  Shortly after we arrived and started walking, one of Joel’s dogs went on point, the hunters off to our left, Maverick and David moved up behind the dog and as the bird flushed, they yelled “Hen”, as the first of numerous hens we would see on this hunt took flight.

  Maverick, David, Joel and Matt McGinty one of the people who helped Joel on the hunts were pushing the middle and the outside edge of the grass, with several dogs working out in front, when it became obvious that one of the labs as its tail shook in wide circles indicating it was working a bird.

  The other dogs closed in on the lab as the call of “Rooster” rang out across the field with Vasek’s gun coming up as he made a long shot, dropping the bird in an adjacent strip of grass.

  On this field, one dog, then another would get birdy or go on point as we flushed numerous hens, a good sign for the future of the wild birds in this area.  On this walk, all but the one rooster evaded us, with others going out the end of the grass into a wet slough we would not be able to walk.

  Gary would rotate his dogs, running his lab Lady in one field and then run Hannah, his German Shorthair in another, giving both dogs the opportunity to hunt.

  Lady, which was in front of us looking birdy and had a bird cornered as Gary and I moved up, the bird exploded from the cover, another hen with Gary calling “No Bird” as Lady worked her way back to search out another bird.

  In each field, the dogs worked well, pointing and flushing both hens and roosters, with very few roosters escaping, as all hunters in our group were excellent shots that spent many an hour in the field hunting pheasants.

  My cameraman would walk the fields with us, doing his best to capture the dogs working in front of us, the birds as they burst from the cover, the hunters taking aim and the birds being hit and coming down.   Filming wild birds is much different than filming other birds, as wild birds are runners, hard flyers that put as much distance between them and the hunter and dogs. When cornered and forced into the air, they erupt with authority, cackling, their wings grabbing air as they go high, heading in the opposite direction of the hunters.

  In the second field, Gary and I were on the right flank as Hannah locked onto the bird, Gary and I moved up on the bird as it came up, our shotguns firing in unison with the bird dropping, with one of the dogs quickly retrieving the bird.

  Shortly thereafter, another rooster made a fatal mistake coming up in front of David, Maverick and Joel and as it swung left, giving all three hunters the opportunity for a shot; it was hit hard, made one bounce in the grass with Vasek’s Lab catching it before it could bounce again.

  With each walk, we picked up a few birds, seeing good numbers of birds, as we worked our way closer to our fifteen-bird limit.

  After shooting my three birds, the plan was to walk a long field, where I decided to grab my other camera and try to get some footage of the birds that always seem to come out the end of the field. [Read more…]