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My First Wabbit Hunt By Gary Howey

  As a kid growing up in N.E. South Dakota, my friends and I would pursue what we thought was big game that inhabited the thickets and woodlot along the Sioux River, the Wily Wabbit.

  With my Daisy BB guns in hand, off we would go, heading down the River out towards Lake Pelican.

  It did not matter much what type of rabbit it was, we were just after rabbits, it could have been a black-tailed or white-tailed jackrabbit or a cottontail, and we just wanted to say that we had bagged a rabbit.

  We knew there were many rabbits around as we had seen their tracks in the snow, so it was only a matter of time before we came across one.

  Well, after numerous trips we had yet to see anything but tracks, pure frustration brought our Great Rabbit Hunt Expedition to an abrupt halt.

  Like many things that one tries that do not always work out, rabbit hunting became something that I was willing to forget about, to bury deep in my subconscious hoping to forget all of my failures as a rabbit hunter

  Several years later Shorty, a friend of my Dad, Cal who worked with him at Sanders/Sharpe Chevrolet asked if my brother A.J. and I would like to go along and do some rabbit hunting.

  My first thoughts were, “Nope, Been there, Tried that, Did not need it” until he mentioned that we would be hunting them with Beagles.

  Once I heard that, I was all ears, sounded like a good deal to me; I could not wait, when it got close to going, my bags were packed, I was ready!

  That Sunday, after church, my brother and I waited not so patiently for Shorty to pick us up, man, we were ready!

  When he arrived, he looked at our BB gun and asked what we were going to do with them, I thought, Duh, were going to shoot rabbits.

  He shook his head, loaded us into the car with a couple of tiny little dogs, dogs that were not much bigger than some of the rabbits we had heard about, since we had never really seen a real live rabbit only their tracks in the snow.

  Well away, we went out into the country into an area that was covered up with plum thickets, brush piles and all sorts’ nasty vines with sharp thorns.

  Since I was the oldest, Shorty gave me the option of taking turns with my brother shooting our BB gun or using his 22.

  Once again, I had to think this over, well any way for at least one mila-second and then there I was, the big brother with the 22, man, I had made it, I was into the big time. [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…]

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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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Memorial Pheasant Hunt, Tribute Gary Howey

 

  Veterans and those serving veterans have always been dear to me as the military tradition runs deep in my family, with my father, brother, uncles and cousins all serving in the military.

  My father, brother, uncles, cousin and I all served, some during World War Two and others during Viet Nam. I served in the Army with over-sea tours in Germany and Viet Nam and then in the Iowa and Nebraska National Guard.

  This is why, when the colors pass in review or our National Anthem played, I like others who served, remove our caps and place them our hands over my heart.

  Because I served and my pride in my country, any opportunity I have to thank or highlight veterans, I will be there.

  When asked to take part in the “Doug Brown” Memorial North Central chapter Paralyzed Veterans of America Pheasant Hunt it took me but a split second to say “Yes.”

   Doug served as the Veteran’s Representative at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Veterans Administration serving veteran’s for many years.

   This annual event, held in his memory allows disabled veterans and individuals the opportunity to take part in a real South Dakota pheasant hunt.

  Friends and family of Brown, the North Central Paralyzed Veterans of America staff, volunteers from throughout the area and the folks at Top Gun Hunting Ranch near Howard, South Dakota all contribute to the success of this great annual event.

  The event starts out with a great breakfast, safety briefing and with the assistance of a special built trailer, that allowed wheel chair bound veterans and others to  load  into the back of the pickups that transferred them to the field and served as their shooting platforms.

   On our first field, the pickups carrying these hunters made their way to the end of each field where they would block while the walkers and I pushed through the crop fields, CRP and grasses.

  The excitement of the hunt started quickly when one of the numerous dogs working in front of the walkers went on point with those walkers stationed on that side moving up on the dog. [Read more…]

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Looking for Wildlife Hunt the Edges By Gary Howey

  Hunting was not a real big deal in my family, sure, we hunted as kids with our BB-guns and my Dad “Cal” and Grandparents, the Menkveld hunted pheasants but generally, it was on the opener or on the second weekend of the season.

  There were a few times my Dad might hunt waterfowl with a family friend, where they hunted out of a ditch northwest of Watertown hunting geese, but that was about it. 

  Each hunting trip my brother A.J. and I made with Dad was an adventure even if we were there just to help push and retrieve birds, because we cherished every trip with him and the memories they created!

  Our first hunting trips were when we were older, around ten, when we had the opportunity to be with Dad, on a pheasant hunt west of our hometown, Watertown, South Dakota.

  This was back during the soil bank days when the pheasant population in northeastern South Dakota was unbelievable as they were everywhere. 

  These trips for us were more of a long hike than a hunt, but it was really something we enjoyed, as we had gotten big enough to hang out with Dad and the guys, to be part of something we had always wanted.

 Before we could carry a gun and hunt, Dad wanted to make sure we knew how to handle a firearm safely and would need to go through the Hunters Safety Course. Back then, the course was taught through the school and once we graduated, we hoped to get a 22 rifle to hunt gophers. 

  As far as pheasant hunting was concerned, we would have to wait until we were older and had our own shotguns, as in our family there was only one shotgun, an old Winchester Model 97 twelve-gauge and for safety reasons Dad would not allow us to use it.

  Dad introduced us to hunting on these trips and we were always looking forward to these excursions. 

  It was not that we were only excited about the annual hunting trip, but before we would meet up with the other hunters; we would always stop at Tinker Town west on HWY. 212 for an early lunch.   

  This was something special to us, as it was where we got our first “store bought” hamburger and a pop and had an opportunity to see the huge pheasant and burro statues they had there.

  Sure, on these trips, we were not really hunting, just sharing the experience, as my brother and I were Dad’s bird dogs, flushing, running down and retrieving birds.

  Even though I never had the opportunity to shoot a bird, I could not wait until opening day to spend some quality time with Dad in the outdoors.

  After a few years on these trips, I realized that certain areas held more birds and because I wanted to be where the action was, I needed to be with the group of hunters walking those areas.

   At times, there was not much difference between one location and another; maybe just a subtle change that held the birds.

  As I grew older and started to hunt more, I would always look for these, hunting those subtle changes, as there was something, which drew both the birds and I to these spots.

  These areas were not always the best habitat in the field, where the most cover existed and sometimes they would even be some of the poorest cover in the field, but they held birds.

  I could not help but notice the same thing when I did some depredation trapping; some areas just had more sign with the critters using these areas more than others did, even the furbearers were relating to them just as the pheasants had.  [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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Small & Largemouth The Bass Gary Howey

  Bass, both the smallmouth and largemouth bass are one of the top predators in any body of water as they’re some of the most aggressive fish in the body of water.

Largemouth

  The largemouth inhabits most bodies of water from small farm ponds, gravel/sand pits, to the Missouri River Reservoirs of South Dakota and Nebraska. Where’s there’s water, you’ll find the largemouth, including in the numerous lakes found throughout Minnesota and the “Glacial Lakes” of northeastern South Dakota.

  As mentioned earlier, largemouth can be very aggressive and will attack almost anything they might think they can get into their mouth. Among several of the things that bass are known to eat include snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders, ducklings, crayfish as well as other fish.

  Bass are aggressive feeders, in the spring before the “Dog” days of summer; you’ll find them shallow in preparation for the spawn.

  The male will create a nest with their tail in one to three feet generally less than ten feet from shoreline where the fertilized eggs are deposited. The male will guard the fingerlings until they’re capable of fending for themselves.

  Because the male has been busy keeping predators away from the nest, he hasn’t had an opportunity to eat and one of the final things he’ll do before leaving the nest is chase the fingerlings from the nest by gobbling down as many of the young as possible. This not only allows the male to feed, but it may also show the young fish that they can’t trust anything, not even their father.

  After the spawn, the female moves into the deep water to rest and recuperate from the spawning ritual.  During the cool time of the day and after the sunsets, the females will move from the deeper water up shallow looking for a quick meal.

  In the summer, all largemouth will look for more comfortable water temperatures, this may be deep, adjacent or in the weeds or in the shade of a dead fall or stump lying in the water.

  As summer moves into fall, bass like all fish will start to feed heavily, as they need to bulk up before winter sets in, feeding heavily until water temperature decline when these cold blooded creatures metabolism slows and they ride out the winter.

  Some of the preferred baits for taking largemouth include; jigs and pig, spinnerbaits, buzz baits, Texas rigs with Berkley Gulp, PowerBaits and Carolina Rigs,  dropshot rigs, crankbaits like those manufactured by  Bagley and in some cases live bait rigs.

    The largemouth records for the states mentioned above vary with the South Dakota record for largemouth being 9 lbs. 3 Oz. with the Minnesota record fish coming in at 8 Lbs. 15 Oz. while the Nebraska record tipping the scales at 10 Lbs. 11 Oz

Smallmouth

The smallmouth bass can be even more aggressive than their cousin the largemouth bass are. Called the Bronze-back, a name given to smallmouth because of their aggressive nature and the way they fight once hooked, pretty much describes the fight an angler has on his hands once the fish is hooked. They run hard, test your equipment and come from deep water in a flash, dancing along the surface trying to dislodge the hook in their jaw.

  They inhabit numerous lakes throughout Nebraska, with excellent populations in the Missouri River reservoirs as well as on Merritt Reservoir and other smaller lakes.

  The South Dakota Reservoirs, Lewis & Clark, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe all have huge smallmouth populations as do the “Glacial Lakes” in the northeastern portion of the state that include Horseshoe, Roy Lake, Reetz Lake and Enemy Swim.

   In Minnesota, you’ll find numerous lakes where these “Bull Dogs of the Deep” will test your equipment and your fish fighting skill. [Read more…]

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What’s Hot when it “HOT on the Mo. River Reservoirs Gary Howey

   These are the “Dog Days of Summer” when no matter where you’re fishing the fishing can be tough.

  I remember those days, where you could set out there most of the day, using several different presentations and all we had to show for it was a bad sunburn and a tackle bag with less tackle than we started with.

  We knew where the fish were deep as we located them with our locators, but we had a tough time getting our baits to them. They suspended in the deep water, hanging out at different depths in and amongst the trees left when the reservoir filled.

  We tried bottom bouncers and spinners, loosing many of them before switching to another method, which performed about the same as the bottom bouncers.

  Years later, we were filming with Guide and Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member Joel Vasek of Missouri Valley Guide Service on Lake Francis Case when he introduced us to pulling crankbaits on lead core, which helped us to fill our limits while other anglers were coming up short.

  Hot weather fishing is different from the rest of the year, requiring different presentations: different baits, different rigs, presented at different speeds.   

 I’ve fished many of the hot weather deep-water methods, but by no means am I an expert. 

  Some of the most successful guides and tournament anglers, those individuals that spend hundreds of hours on the water use need to put fish in the boat, no matter what the season or water temperature may be, have methods they use during the Dog Days of Summer.

  To get the best information on this, I contacted some the most successful guides and anglers I know, and quizzed them about deep-water fishing during the “Hot” weather.

  Below you’ll find their suggestions on the lakes they fish and the methods they’d recommend to catch walleyes when it’s “Hot”.

Lewis & Clark Lake:

 Anglers in a recent tournament held on Lewis and Clark had to deal with water temperatures of 75-77 degrees used lead core line to troll the deeper water of the old river channel were awarded 1st place in the event.

   Lead core line and Off Shore snap weights are used to get your bait down deep, along with Off Shore Plainer boards that will spread those lines out seems to be a good bet when water temperatures warm up on Lewis & Clark.

Joel Vasek, Geddes, S.D. Missouri Valley Guide Service, www.walleyetamer.com:

Joel guides on Lake Francis Case on up to Chamberlain. S.D. and feels that deep-water walleyes are easy to pattern as they seem to suspend in 30′ to 50′ of water and as long as the baitfish are there won’t they won’t move much.

  To get deep, where the walleyes are located he uses lead core, snap weights and downriggers. He also uses Off Shore Planer Boards with lead core as when you make a turn with the boats the boards stop and this is when the walleyes seem to like to hit.

  Vasek feels that the best deep-water fishing happens when there is the right sun with a little chop on the water and feels that cloudy day’s hurt deep-water fishing. As the depth increases, visibility becomes poorer, with the sunlight penetration helping the walleyes to locate your bait.

  Walleyes will follow the Gizzard Shad and when they move, some of the walleyes will stay put as larger fish during the heat of the summer don’t seem to like chasing bait and this is when the odds are in your favor, when crankbaits work well as there’s less baitfish for the fish to feed on.

  Vasek and his guides have excellent luck trolling crankbaits over the trees or along 45′ to 55′ break lines. [Read more…]

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Jumping Fish and Anchored Mussels…Who Knew?

We have been sending emails to you all summer, trying to keep you informed of the laws and what South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks is doing to try and slow the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) in our great state.

We thought with the dog days of summer upon us, we would lighten the mood a little with a few interesting facts about AIS.

1. Asian carp were brought to the U.S. in the mid-1970’s to help clean commercial catfish rearing ponds, but did you know that in terms of aquaculture (producing fish for food),these carp are the fourth most produced fish in the world? They are a valued fish for eating and are extinct due to overfishing in much of their home range. Here is a video showing how to clean and prepare silver carp.

2. Asian carp are vocacious eaters of plankton and can eat 20%- 40% of their body weight in the micro-organism every day!

3. Although they prefer lakes, they require large rivers for spawning.  The eggs are semi-buoyant and it is believed they must remain suspended in the water column to survive. [Read more…]

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When the fish won’t bite! Do a Change-Up! By Gary Howey

   What I’m writing about happened to me numerous times over the years and I’m sure it will happen again.

   We were fishing on one of the numerous lakes in the Glacial Lakes and Prairie Region of Northeastern South Dakota, near Watertown and not having much luck. I knew there was a tremendous fisheries here as I was born and raised in this area but was beginning to think there wasn’t a walleye in the lake and as I was about to call it a day, I finally located some fish with my locator.

   My eyes were glued to my locator, as they had most of the day, hoping to find these fish.

  As I was working my way back and forth over this one particular spot, there they were fish just off the bottom in 12 foot of water, as well as several on the bottom. They were showing up as those big lazy arcs indicating the presence of fish and by the size of the marks on the locator, they appeared to be big!

  Since they were located right on or just a couple of feet or so off the bottom, I guessed they were active walleyes and immediately marked the spot.

  Grabbing a couple rods one rigged with a live bait rig while on the other I used a jig. I put the one rod with the live bait rig in a rod holder letting it drag along the edge the drop off, while I used a jig, working it up from the deeper water onto the flat where my locator indicated the fish were holding.

  Even though the fish appeared to be active as they were off the bottom, it didn’t take me long to realize that these fish were in a negative mood or weren’t interested in what I was offering.

  I started digging through my tackle bag, switching from one walleye bait to another, going with my old standards, a bottom bouncer with a spinner baited with a minnow. I tried a livebait rig with a crawler, a jig with a Gulp leech, bottom bouncer and spinner and finally going to a crawler on a plain hook with just a small split shot for weight, all to no avail.

  These fish weren’t in the mood, no matter what I was putting in front of them; they just ignored my offerings or lay tight on the bottom refusing to move.

  Once again, I started rummaging through my tackle bag, looking for something different that the walleyes may not have seen before, something to get them to bite. I needed something, that might get the fish’s attention, and to pull them out of their negative mood. [Read more…]