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Mountain Lion sightings

  Mountain Lion sightings are become a common thin in the Midwest as they are being caught on Game Cameras in southern South Dakota, northern Nebraska and northern Iowa and in numerous other Midwestern states.

  This can be quite concerning when you call predators like my Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Members and I do!

  What do you do if a mountain lion comes stalking in? First of all REMAIN CALM!

  We’d make sure that one of our shooters sees it, just in case it decides to pounce and then film it. [Read more…]

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Now you see it Now you don’t By Gary Howey

As legal shooting time begun to fade, the Mule deer buck came out about three hundred yards down in the draw.

My camera operator who zoomed in on the deer earlier indicated it was a good buck, pulling my 25:06 up to my shoulder; I put the cross-hairs near the top of the buck and fired. The buck did not flinch; I jacked another round into the chamber adjusted my scope, fired and when the round hit, the deer hunched up, but refused to go down.

I slid another round into the chamber, adjusted my aim a bit and fired. The buck jumped up into the air, crashed on his right side, kicked a few times, and was down for the count.

We celebrated for just a moment as I headed to the truck to grab my knife, and cleaning gear parked among a group of cedars not far away from the blind.   Before I could get what I needed my videographer hollered, “The deer is gone”. What, it just couldn’t be as I was sure I had hit him twice and put him down for good.

I arrived in Lynch Thursday around noon where I met with my videographer at Ponca Creek Outfitters. It was the end of the week of our Nebraska rifle deer season and there were only three and a half days before the 2017 season closed.

My videographer had been in the area for four or five days rifle hunting and took a nice older whitetail 4 X 4 and after tagging, his buck was scouting the area while looking to fill his archery tag. He had seen numerous deer, both Whitetail and Mule deer bucks, but did not want to shoot a young deer, so he passed on them as his archery tag was good through the end of the year.

While he was hunting, he scouted the area thoroughly, so he knew where the blinds where and had a good idea as to where the deer where bedded.

The first afternoon found us perched on a hill in a blind overlooking an area where several Cedar and Buck brush lined draws came together.

As the sun started to slip away under the horizon, several does with fawns came out and started grazing in the Buck brush.  We were still in the first Rut and I thought because all the does we were seeing, that a buck would be hanging around close by, but as the last half hour after sunset came to a close, nothing appeared; we headed back to the cabin.

The following morning are plan was to set up on a ridge overlooking the Ponca Creek, hoping to catch a buck running around looking for a receptive doe. My videographer had sat there one morning and spotted several deer including a nice buck. He circled the area, getting downwind from the deer trying to get close enough for a shot with his bow. Unfortunately, one of the does the buck was pursuing may have spotted him and they spooked.

We had a great vantage point as we had a large open area below us, with the creek meandering down through the bottom with a huge expanse of open pasture behind it.

On this set, we were unable to see any deer, which was not a good sign as this was during the Rut and if the bucks were not out chasing, it could mean that the first Rut was winding down, which would make hunting tougher.

Later that afternoon, we worked from pasture to pasture using our binoculars to try to locate a buck in an area where we might have the opportunity to do a spot and stalk. We saw but one buck, a good one, but he spotted us coming up the hill and charged out of the pasture up over several hills, never to be seen again.

On my final day, the heavy winds returned, and if it would be, anything like our last windy day would keep deer movement to a minimum. That morning, we went to the north side of the property, setting up in a blind on wide plateau where several deer trails converged up from the draws, all crossing well within rifle range of our blind. Once again, there was no deer movement and for our evening hunt, we would have to find a location where the deer would have the ability to get out of the wind.

Once again, we would be in the hilltop blind above the heavily wooded Cedar draw where we had seen a good number of does the day before. [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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Pheasant Hunting 2017 Gary Howey

  It will not be long before the upland Game Bird season opens up. Several of the states are reporting that their pheasant numbers are down.

  I have talked with several wildlife biologists about this and they have given several reasons for the decrease in pheasant numbers.

  First is the fact that in some areas, they had dry year and moisture, the dew that the young chicks needed was hard to come by.  Secondly was the fact that last season’s numbers were also down.  Lastly, but probably the most important reason is the fact that much of our CRP had disappeared. When commodity prices were high and the dollars the government gave per acre for taking the fields out of production, into CRP were low and much of the CRP plowed under.

  Without the habitat, we just are not going to see the bird numbers others and I saw while growing up in Watertown, South Dakota during the “Good Old Days.”

  The reason that South Dakota has birds is simple; they realize the thousands of dollars their State bird, the Ringneck Pheasant brings into the state’s economy.

  South Dakota definitely have more habitat than Nebraska, the state I reside in and In Much of South Dakota; they farm for pheasants taking care of what habitat they do have.  They do a number of things to enhance the habitat, making it more attractive to wildlife.

  In South Dakota, you will see sloughs; some hold water while others are no more than muddy swamps.  When they plant trees, many of them are specifically suited for wildlife. Many farmers will leave a few rows of corn or sorghum in the field each year, helping wildlife to survive during the harsh South Dakota winters.  This habitat helps to assure that the birds have cover to protect them from predators flying overhead and the food and cover needed to make it through the long winter months.

  This, along with the fact that game preserves stock birds heavily helps to ensure good bird numbers during the season.

  Some folks have the misconception that pheasants can live in the row crops, the corn and bean fields.  Maybe, in years past, but not today as the row crops no longer have pigeon grass and weeds between the rows, they are clean.  Sure, pheasants will move into them to feed before harvest and on what little waste grain there is after harvest, but row crops do not cut it for wildlife habitat.

  In areas where there was dry weather, successful hunters this season may have to hunt areas adjacent to water.  It really does not have to be much, as a small slough, creek, or pond will work.

  Another tip that is worth listening to is to hunt the smallest tracts of land, patches of weeds etc. The larger CRP fields or state hunting grounds are hunted hard.  As soon as one group comes out one end, another group is heading in the opposite end of the field.

  Most hunters tend to pass up these small weed patches or small clumps of trees.  These places can really hold good numbers of birds, those pushed from the larger fields, find safety, and shelter in these small tracts of land.

  It does not take a Rhodes Scholar to figure it out, many of the larger tracts of land are hunted hard and the birds are looking for a place to rest and get away from all the noise and shooting. [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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Early Hunting Season Grouse & Prairie Chicken By Gary Howey

  The early upland game bird hunting seasons are just around the corner and the bird surveys that have been completed on the sharptail grouse and the prairie chicken seem to indicate good numbers of both species.

  In South Dakota, the lek count indicates that the sharptail grouse numbers are up slightly, while the count for prairies chicken is down slightly, which pencils out to having about the same number of birds that were in the state last season.

  Counting the male birds on leks, which are often called dancing or booming grounds gives the Game & Parks an ideas as to the number of birds.

   The life span of these birds is short with about a 50% survival rate. Young of year birds usually outnumber adult birds in the fall.

  This is reason these counts are taken in the spring, when the males gather on the lek, these counts are a good indicator of the adult bird and how things will look in the future.

  Distinguishing the difference between the two isn’t difficult as the sharptails have a shorter tail with their two middle feathers longer and darker than the outside tail feathers; their sharp tail is the reason for their name. A sharptails feathers are marked with spots or blotches of a different color or shade.

   The prairie chickens tail is short, dark, and rounded with the greater part of their feet feathered.

  Hunting grouse on the prairie means that you have to cover a lot of distance, as the birds are generally in large flocks and found in the western grassland of the state.

  In the morning in the spring both the grouse and prairie chickens dance or display or dance on the lek with the male prairie chicken raising the feathers on its head and inflating the orange sacs on their neck, trying their best to impress the females.

  The females arrive at the lek each morning to check out the males as they strut, display and stutter step as they move around in a circle.

  Once the female has mated, like other upland game birds she will tend the eggs and raise then young on her own.

  One thing you can do to locate birds before hitting the field is something I learned from a friend when I first started hunting grouse.  He uses his binoculars to glass the larger pastures and grassland, as the grouse and chickens always seem to have a lookout with its head up watching for danger. He looked for their lookout and said they resembled a bowling pin sticking out of the grass. I’ve tried it several times and have located birds, but without glassing the field first, I would have had to walk the entire field before finding the birds.

  When I was younger, I had a Brittney Spaniel, who led the way, nose to the ground through the fields as he worked to pick up the birds scent. We’d walk until we busted a covey, shot what we could and watched the direction the birds glided to and then walked again, covering several miles in pursuit of the birds. [Read more…]

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The 15th Annual Paralyzed Veteran’s of America &Fireman’s Fishing event By Gary Howey

  What does it take to have the ability to take dozens of paralyzed veterans and other individuals fishing on the Missouri River? It’s a monumental task, which is pulled off each year in the Missouri River waters adjacent to Chamberlain/Oacoma, S.D.

  Our destination, Arrowwood, Cedar Shore Resort, which located on the west bank of the Missouri River near Oacoma and as  we pulled into the parking lot, there were vehicles from several states including; Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.

   The resort was the headquarters for the 2017 Firefighters Paralyzed Veterans of America North Central Chapter Joel Niemeyer Memorial Walleye Fishing event that was held May 25 and May 26.

  This event, the 15th annual would give disabled veterans and other individuals the opportunity to get out in a boat to do some fishing, for some; this would be their only opportunity of the year.

  Sponsored by numerous Fire fighters organizations, the North Central Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, local sponsors, several veterans groups, numerous volunteers, that included up to thirty boat commanders and first mates,  who’d volunteer their time, boats and equipment to take these folks out onto the river to fish. [Read more…]

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Small Ponds, Lakes & Weeds By Gary Howey

  If you fish some of the clearer lakes and ponds such as the Glacial Lakes in the Watertown, SD area and others found in in Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa or smaller lakes and ponds in late spring and on into summer you’re going to have to deal with weeds.

  As temperatures rise and the sun’s power increases, these bodies of water will weed up in the first eight to ten foot from the shoreline a weedy mess.

  This makes for some tough fishing especially for the bank angler.  Using a simple rig such as the hook, line, sinker and a bobber doesn’t work if the shoreline is weed covered.
  The moss and emergent weed growth can make it impossible to fish from shore, but it’s a blessing for the newly hatched fingerlings as it gives the small fish a place to hide from predator fish such as bass, pike and walleye. 

  It doesn’t take much shoreline cover to give fingerlings a hiding place to keep from being eaten by the many larger species looking for their next meal. 

  Because the predator fish are cruising along and in between the weed lines, why shouldn’t we be fishing in or near them, but that’s easier said than done as nothing eats tackle like heavy weeds.

    There are ways, shore or bank anglers can fish these solid beds of vegetation and take Bluegill and bass. In all weed beds, there are some open areas where the weeds haven’t grown or they don’t come to the surface.  These open pockets may have a rock or sandy bottom where weeds haven’t been able to establish themselves.  These areas form an edge or a bottom change, as all fish and wildlife, like the edge.

  This gives the fish a place to retreat out of sight, a place to hide from any predators and a place for predators to ambush any smaller fish.

  By fishing these pockets, you’re able to pull the fish out of the weedy areas.  Surface lures imitating a frog or insects work well to entice the fish in these areas as do spinners and buzz baits when run over the top of the weeds and through the openings in the weeds.

   When using spinner baits you’ll want to cast your lure into the water past the pocket, hold your rod high and crank quickly in order to keep your bait from sinking into the weeds. Once you come to an open pocket, pause, allowing your bait to helicopter into the pocket and then crank hard to bring the bait back on top and over the top of the weeds.   Your strike should come as the bait helicopters into the pocket or when you start bringing it up out of the pocket.

   The worst thing you can do when fishing weeds is to work your bait too quickly.  All species of fish use their five senses to locate their prey, sight, sound, vibration, taste and hearing. You’ll have to remember when it comes to fishing in the weeds; the fish aren’t able to use all of their senses in heavy weed growth. Its vision and sense of vibration become impaired because of the thick weeds and it will take them longer to locate your bait, so work it as slow as possible. [Read more…]

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“Fan”tastic Turkey Hunting By Gary Howey

As Ben Loecker and I watched, we could see three Toms fanned out and proudly displaying for their harems. The birds were displaying about a half mile south of us in a harvested bean field, it wasn’t the half-mile walk that I was thinking about; it was how to get Ben close enough for a shot without being spotted. The terrain we had to cross included a lot of open ground, offering us, very little to hide our movement. Our only hope was that the low fence line along the east side of the field, that had a few trees and weeds along it, would give us some cover as we made the stalk.
I had met Ben, Hartington, NE. a seventh grader at Cedar Catholic when I was one of the guides on a youth turkey hunt sponsored by the Nebraska Game & Parks at Ponca State Park. On that hunt, we were unable to tag a bird, and when the 2015 season opened, it was my chance to redeem myself.
The birds we were watching began to move to the southeast, into land that was close to a rural home, so we needed to do something and do it fast before our opportunity to work these birds walked away.
In past columns, I had mentioned using tail feathers, the “fan” from a Tom turkey used to attract a bird and since I had one in the truck, I grabbed it, a hen decoy and my turkey-hunting vest as Ben fed Winchester turkey loads into his twelve gauge.
We would need to make our way through the terraces before entering the fence line leading to the field the birds were using. As we made our way towards the birds, we paused occasionally, glassing the field, allowing us to check on the birds and know which direction they were heading. [Read more…]

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Turkey Hunting The “Run and Gun” Method By Gary Howey

No matter what type of outdoor activity you are into, windy, cold, damp days can put an end to most activities before they start!
This especially true when it comes to a spring turkey hunt, making a hunter thinking more about the nice warm bed he’s in than chasing turkeys in the rain!
Calling spring turkey when it is cold and damp is a tough job, but do not think all turkeys hole up during these types of weather conditions. There are always a few toms out there looking around for a receptive hen!
This is when we revert to what we refer to as aggressive turkey hunting tactics. This is something not talked about a lot as it involves more work than other turkey hunting tactics.
You’ve more than likely seen TV shows or videos where the hunter makes a few calls, sets down in one spot for a couple of minutes and then the bird magically appears!
These hunters on these programs do not need to look around a whole lot to locate the birds because they are in an area that they have been in before or he is hunting next to a feeder in his own backyard.
If you spend a lot of time in an area and spend a lot of that time looking for the birds, you are going to know exactly where they are!
Because we are filming in different locations, in areas we may have never seen before, we arrive the day before the hunt, scouting as time allows, but there are times when our schedule puts us into an area after dark and scouting just does not happen.
This is where we revert to my aggressive turkey calling.
On opening morning, we are in the field well before daybreak, not a half hour, I mean when it is pitch dark as turkeys may not have the best night vision, they still can detect movement in low light conditions.
If the area looks like it would hold turkeys, we like to use a locator call to get a response from the Toms.
We start our hunt by jumping from one ridge line to another calling with our owl, crow or predator calls trying to get an old gobbler to shock gobble
Don’t travel along the top of the ridges: as a turkey’s keen eyes will pick you out against the skyline and your hunt will be over before it begins.
Travel just below the ridge line, high enough to be able to see and hear what is going on below you, but not high enough to be silhouetted against the skyline.
If there is no answer, we will break out our binoculars and glance along the ridges, trying to spot the birds as they come down from the roost.

[Read more…]