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Protect yourself from Tick Borne diseases By Gary Howey

  Most seasons, deer, turkey pheasant can be found listed on the Game, Fish and Parks calendars and web sites, one you won’t find there is the tick season, but don’t let that stop you from being prepared for this season in the same way you’d be prepared for the others.

  Ticks are small disease carrying insects found in grassy and wooded areas and if allowed to get on the skins look for a warm moist area to embed themselves. They come out in the spring, about the time outdoorsmen and women head into the woods looking for morel mushrooms, wild asparagus or hunting turkeys. Spring isn’t the only time you’ll see ticks as these pests hang around all summer on into the fall.

  There are two groups of ticks, the hard and hard or soft ticks. In our area, it’s the hard ticks found in wooded, grassy, and densely vegetated areas.

  Soft ticks tend to live in bird nests, on rodents, and on bats but either can find their way onto us, luckily, no species of ticks solely depend on us for survival. Some ticks are only found on a certain host; luckily, we aren’t one of them.

  A female tick can lay a bunch of eggs, anywhere from 3,000 to 11,000 eggs, so we need to be aware of them and prevent them from catching a ride on us.

  There’s only one way to avoid the possibility of avoiding a tick borne disease and that’s to avoid areas they inhabit, DUH, like that’s going to happen, if you’re an outdoorsmen or women who spends every spare moment out in the field or woods.

  Since we know we are going to be in the same areas that ticks inhabit, below are a few simple precautions that can reduce the chances of a tick encounter.

Tip #1: Ticks crawl upward onto a host, that’s why it’s a good idea to cut off any route they might have in an attempt to get on your skin and why it’s an excellent idea to tuck your pants legs into your boots and your shirts into your pants. For extra protection, tape them shut with duct tape, then twist the tape so the sticky side is out and make one more wrap. [Read more…]

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Spring Turkey Hunting When They Won’t Come In Gary Howey

  One of the things that I hear a lot when it comes to spring turkey hunting is the Toms will gobble every time the hunter calls,  but will not come in that last 35 yards or so into range.

  This is definitely a problem for turkey hunters and numerous reasons why a bird will not come in or hang up just out of range.

  In the real wild world, the hen hears the Tom gobble and comes to him.  Hunters need to reverse the roles in order to pull a Tom into range. 

 Can you imagine how hard this is on a big old Tom’s ego?  He is the big boy, the dominant Tom and he has proved it, kicking the daylights out of any other Tom that gets getting in his way. Here the gobbler is, strutting  his stuff, all fanned out and the hen just does not get it, she is suppose to come to him and will not play the game right.

  Well, if he is going to get the opportunity to get close to this hen, he will have to forget about his ego and work his way towards her, hoping that once she sees him she, in all his glory will come to her senses and come to him. Some Toms take a little longer to swallow their pride and may not move or saunter your way, which could take a long time.

  The most common reason a Tom will hang up is that he has hens with him.  It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out if an old Tom has several hens in his harem already; he is not going to leave two or three hens for a chance at a single hen.

  When a bird will not move and are henned up, do not give up. There are several things you might try to convince him to come your way.

  The first is to become vocal, call as if there are several different hens talking to him, by using a couple of different calls and changing the pitch.

  Many times, this will make the bird curious and draw the Tom towards you.  Do not give up or get upset if he takes his time coming your way, because he will have to bring his hens with him or take the chance of leaving them and having some subordinate Tom walk off with his harem.

  There are always subordinate Toms following in the shadows or with the flock.  The ones with the flock are generally the younger birds or birds that have not acted aggressively towards the dominate Tom.  Those hanging around the fringes of the flock are usually the older birds that the dominate birds has stomped the tar out of.  These are the birds that know better than to get to close, but are hanging around just in case something happens to the dominate bird or a hen strays from the fold.

  If the dominate bird hangs up and doesn’t come in, many times the loud boisterous calling will pull one of the subordinate Toms in and you’ll be able to tip one of them over and fill your tag.

  Another method that I have used to call a gobbler that has hens into range is to call to his girl friends.  There is usually a dominate hen with the group and if you talk sweet enough, long enough and loud enough, she might just come over and see who or what is trying to take her man away.

  I used this method numerous time; one that really emphasizes what I am talking about was a hunt years ago on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help Larry Myhre from The Sioux City Journal to fill his tag. 

  Most of the larger Toms had collected their harems and were not about to leave their flock to check out a lone hen.

  This Tom was over the hill, so I set up down the hill from Larry, putting my decoy in between us.

   I started calling with a slate call and immediately heard several responses from different gobblers.  I worked the birds for about 10 minutes and could not get them to come any closer, so I started to call louder and more frequently to the hen.  She got louder and started coming our way.  This went on for another 10 minutes, but the hen was getting closer, I knew if the hen left the Tom, he would have to follow her over the hill giving my partner the opportunity for a shot.

   As my slate got squeaky, I switched to my diaphragm call while I roughed up the surface of the slate call.  When my mouth got dry, I switched back to the slate and kept going back and fourth or used them together to make the Tom think there were several hens on this side of the hill.

  I kept it loud, because the Tom was not moving, he was hung up and I needed to bring the hen over in order to get the gobbler within range. 

  Fifteen minutes after I started calling, the hen appeared at the top of the hill and headed directly towards my decoy clucking, spitting and putting all the way.  She was “MAD”!

  Fortunately, for my decoy, another Tom had been responding to my calls and after twenty minutes of calling, she lost interest in my decoy and the Tom over the hill and headed off to looking for the other bird.

  When she shut up, I backed off on the calls and waited for the Tom and the rest of his harem to come looking for his hen that had wondered off.  It did not take long after the hen moved off when a blue and white head popped up over the rise.  A few more clucks and purrs and the gobbler stepped over the hill and into Larry’s sights and it was all over. [Read more…]

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Patterning Turkeys With the help of game cameras By Gary Howey

  The key to a successful turkey hunt is to know where the birds are going to be at a given point in the day, there’s no better way to do this than with your game cameras.

  I have certain places where I place my game cameras to pattern deer and these areas; food plots, fence lines, gates, corn and bean fields are areas where I find turkeys in the spring.

  In the fall after deer season, I pull my game cameras as the winter months are hard on cameras and times covered up by snow.

  When I’m out doing my pre-season scouting for turkeys, I’ll put a few of the camera’s out and when I’m scouting or when hunting sheds pull the cards to see if the birds are coming through the area. If they’re using the area, the photo will tell me what time of the day they may be there.

  Using game cameras in the spring cuts down on my scouting time as if the turkeys show up on my game camera numerous times and at about the same time, I now have a place and a time where I can set up and decoy a bird.

  In the early spring, my best bet is to use the game camera photos to get an idea as to where certain flocks of birds are heading in the early morning. One of the first thing turkeys do when they hit the ground, is to go out to feed, but if the area you’re hunting contains dozens of crop fields, a game camera will help you narrow your search.

  Good spots to have your game cameras located include, areas where the birds can move from one field to another, gates and down fence lines, if you have a mineral feeder out, it’s another good location for your camera as turkeys will come to investigate it.  If a farmer has livestock that he feeds, you can bet that the turkeys will visit that location.

  You can’t hunt too close to where they’re feeding as that could be considered baiting, but you can hunt where they come and go into the area. Game camera placed along these routes will give you a good idea as to when they come through.

 When I’m out searching for sheds, and I have an idea as to where the birds may be located, I use my locator calls i.e. crow calls, owl calls, and coyote howler to narrow my search area.

  These work especially well late in the day just about the time the birds are thinking about going to roost. Just prior to flying up into the trees, turkeys will mill around the trees they will roost in, pecking around, getting a bedtime snack before retiring up in the trees and will respond to those calls I mentioned. Once you get a response, you’ve a good idea as to where they will be located the following morning.

  Armed with the information you’ve obtained from your game cameras and your locator calls, the following morning, you can come back before the sun gets up to set up your decoys and blind.

  A couple of mistakes that new hunters make are to get into the field late, as the sun begins to rise and get spotted by the birds. Turkeys have excellent eyesight during the day but once it gets dark their eyesight is poor.  However, once it starts to lighten up, even though it’s still dark, if you’re out moving around, putting up your decoys, the turkeys will know something is up. [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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Looking back at this spring’s turkey season By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

It’s moments like this that make me love turkey hunting.

The response to my yelps on the diaphragm call was loud and raucous. It was the guttural cough of a wild turkey’s gobble. Then another followed immediately after.

I crouched down behind a tree, caught a little off guard.

Up to now it had simply been a walk through the woods, yelping occasionally with nothing answering other than the occasional caw of a crow.

But that’s how it is sometimes.

I had carefully been making my way between the trees across a small gully to a cleared pastureland dotted with a few trees. I had hunted through this spot many, many times in past years but never encountered a tom turkey here. I thought it odd because this looked like a perfect spot.

Then, I thought I caught a glimpse of a fan. It was just the tips of the feathers of a fanned-out tom. So I yelped and got an immediate response.

It caught me way off guard. My camo mask dangled around my neck and my fancy, folding turkey hunting chair was slung over my back. I shucked the chair, pulled up my mask and yelped again. Gobble, Gobble.

It was two toms, and they were very close now.

I saw them strut into view, their big beards dragging the grass. I couldn’t help but to yelp again, just to watch them gobble.

I was rewarded with a double gobble from each bird.

The largest was on the left, and I focused on him as I gave a loud “Putt” with the call. He raised his head in alarm, and I put the bead of the shotgun sight at the base of his neck and pulled the trigger. [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…]

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Tips to Tip the Impossible Tom

Natural turkey biology can make turkey hunting seem difficult. Then throw in the mistakes we make and the sour hands Mother Nature can deal every so often and harvesting a springtime tom can seem near impossible. Persistence, patience, and hunter’s savvy are valuable qualities when it comes to hunting turkeys, and save heart, there are ways to combat our errors, Mother Nature and even a stuck-up tom.

It’s good to be the king
It’s dark when you sneak into your morning set up and you’re waiting for the horizon to brighten. You commence calling with a few soft tree-yelps and he hammers your offering. Then you hear live hens beginning to sound off around you. I don’t care if you were born with a diaphragm call in your mouth – it’s difficult to compete against live hens. If you’ve done your scouting, the birds may have a pattern from day to day. Try to set up in the direction you believe they’ll travel once they fly down.

If all you have is a good guess there are several tactics you might try. One, is to sound like the “hottest,” sexiest hen in the woods. Give him your best stuff. When turkeys want to get together with other turkeys they make noise. You’ve heard the story about the “squeaky wheel.” Often I’ll use two calls at once, a diaphragm and either a slate or box call. Try to fire-up the gobbler until he HAS TO come to you.

If the gobblers are already with the hens and you cannot change locations your best tactic will probably be to pick out the most vocal hen in the flock and imitate whatever she does. Mimic her every sound and call over the top of her vocalizations if you can. Make her curious or make her mad. This can work to call the entire flock your way, or irritate the dominate hen so she’s compelled to investigate. I may suggest using two calls at once or several hunters all calling.

If either of these tactics fails there are two additional things you can attempt. You can try to wait him out. Hopefully he’ll finish with the hens and be back to check on you. It’s amazing the way they can pinpoint and remember exactly where sounds were coming from. But if you’re impatient, as I often am, you’ll have to go after him. DON’T go directly to him. Always back off a bit, and try to circle to head him off. If you have no luck doing this you can go back to your original setup. More often than I care to admit I’ve returned to the original spot and right where I had my decoys is a fanned-out “strutter.”

We’ve been disconnected
If a gobbler stops answering your calls, several things may have happened. Staying right where you are is probably the best advice. He may be silently on his way to you or he may have found real hens (referred to as “henned-up”). Once they finish with the hens, they often remember where your yelps were coming from earlier. If you think you’re in a good spot you can stick it out for an hour or more. Aside from the tom you originally set-up on, you’re giving other gobblers a chance to get to you.

Much of the decision should depend upon the size of the property. On a small property I’d almost certainly stay put so as not to bump the birds across a fence where I don’t have permission. However, on a large property I may choose to find a more responsive bird. [Read more…]

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Turkey Decoys By Gary Howey

When I started, hunting turkeys back in the 70’s it was a new sport in this part of the country and we learned as we went along.

Hunting turkeys with decoys was the furthest thing from our minds.

A friend of mine from Crofton, NE. heard about hunters down south using decoys to draw gobblers into shotgun range and since none was available in our area, he made one. Using an old Styrofoam Canada goose decoy, he whittled on it and then painted it to resemble a turkey, well, kind-o- sort of! It looked like a deformed, mostly black Canada goose that had gotten in a fight and LOST. It was bulky, made a lot of nose when going through the woods, but it worked.

If I was going to be serious about turkey hunting, I had to have one and when the first plastic expandable hen decoys came out, I got me one. They folded flat, and could be spread out, bulking them up by using the T-handle stake, making them appear larger. I could easily carry the folded up decoy in the game pouch of my turkey-hunting vest. Since they were hard plastic, they too made a lot of noise when walking through the trees.

These first decoys were upright, because of the stake they were on, stuck up in the air quite a ways with the decoys head in the alert position, the way turkeys hold their head when they are alerted, looking around.

To keep my decoy from being positioned too high in the air and to get it out of the alert position, I shortened up the stake, lowering it closer to the ground, tilting it forward into more of a feeding position.

Then there were the foam decoys, allowing me to carry several of these decoys in my game pouch. This is when Ii started experimenting with putting the hen decoy in the breeding position. I’d place my hen decoy flat on the ground with the Tom positioned a short distance away looking in her direction. This worked well until the wind came up when the foam decoys would jump around, working its way out of the ground, and flying off across the field with me in hot pursuit.

Since then, I have used any number of decoys, some in groups of two, on up to a whole flock, experimenting with silhouette, full bodies, stuffed birds and inflatable decoys.

Today, turkey hunters have a wide variety of turkey decoys they can use. If you are just getting into turkey hunting, it can be confusing as there are so many decoy postures. There’s the

feeding, breeding, submissive, alert, strutting and so on and so forth.

There are several things I look for when I choose a decoy or decoys that I plan to use in the spring. The time of the season and how the Toms are putting together their harems re a few of the things you want to consider before heading out into the woods.

When putting out turkey decoys, you want to use a decoy or decoys that aren’t going to alert the birds, a position like the feeding hen, as it is the most natural position in nature.

Almost all turkey flocks have some feeding hens, which are followed closely by strutting Toms, and it doesn’t get more realistic or relaxed than that. The other position that works in a flock situation is the breeding (hen on the ground) position. Since the breeding position puts the hen on the ground, they are hard for the Tom to see so you need an upright decoy to get the gobbler’s attention.

I use a basic, realistic decoy set up, which is a feeding hen, strutting gobbler and an alert (lookout) hen. The number of decoys, how they will be set up depends on the terrain I’m hunting in. [Read more…]

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Prepare now for turkey hunting season by Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

A little preparation right now can put the odds on your side come turkey hunting season.

And when it comes to hunting these wise, old birds, you need all the help you can get. After all, only one in five hunters fill their tag in Iowa.

It’s been interesting to see how turkey hunting has changed over the years. This will be my 30th straight year in the turkey woods. I’ve shot toms in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.

When I first began hunting turkeys, everyone was in the woods before the crack of dawn. They’d find roosting toms and then set up as close to them as they dared and begin making quiet hen tones.

By 10 a.m., most of the hunters were on their way home for lunch and maybe watch a game on TV if it were a weekend.

Somewhere along the line, hunters began forgoing the dawn hunt and venturing into the woods at 10 a.m., or later. They learned that their success was greater later in the day when the hens had left the toms and gone to nest.

With the high turkey numbers we have today, there is no shortage of hens. Now hens are roosting with the toms and at fly down, the toms follow the hens, and are reluctant to leave them.

Even though tactics have changed somewhat, it is still important to do that preseason scouting.

There are two things you want to learn. One is where the turkeys are roosting. Two is where they go after fly down. If you are an early morning hunter, you must set up along the path the turkeys take. If you hunt later in the day, you must know where the birds end up at late morning. Once the hens leave them, the toms will remain in that general area for most of the rest of the day.

Turkeys gobble a lot before fly down in the morning and you can locate them that way, or go out just after dark and blow an owl call. They will respond if within ear shot.

The main thing is to do your scouting from afar. You don’t want to spook them because they may change their routine. The more you can learn about them before the hunt the better.

The next important thing before the hunt is to pattern your gun with the loads you have been using. Get some turkey targets and take a shot at 20 yards, 30 yards and 40 yards. Six to ten hits in the spinal cord and head will insure the bird goes down. If you are getting a good target at 40 yards, move out to 50.

The choke in your shotgun is important. At minimum it should be a full choke, but most turkey hunters, myself included, use an extra full turkey choke.

Since the beginning I have used number six buffered and copper plated shot. Other hunters like four or five shot. [Read more…]

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TURKEY TALK: THREE TIPS FOR TAKING A TOM

1) THE IMPORTANCE OF RECONNAISSANCE
Scouting is possibly the most important element of hunting anything, but especially turkeys. Learning roost locations, strutting zones, grit sources, bugging habitat and the lay of the land can mean everything. Now and again you may call a gobbler through a fence or blow-down, or over a creek or road, but don’t count on it happening often. You want to position yourself within an area they have utilized before that’s easy for them to access, and scouting will teach you your best options.
Learning where that bird is going to be at certain times of the day is important. Keep a journal if necessary. If you “take their temperature” while scouting, it can make it easy when it’s time to hunt.
If you scout in advance of the hunt, remember the birds may have different daily routines and possibly inhabit different areas when the season arrives. The most reliable information will be gathered within a week before you actually hunt.

2) THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST NATURAL TURKEY BIOLOGY
Knowing what to do if a tom “hangs up,” stops gobbling to your calls or is traveling with live hens (as examples) is important if you wish to have consistent success. Natural turkey biology can sometimes make turkey hunting seem difficult. You can read about what to do or watch DVDs on how to handle different situations, but experience is the best teacher. Three attributes that will serve you well regardless; are persistence, patience, and hunter’s savvy.
Not every set-up is going to result in gobblers running into meet you. Persistence is important – trying again and again is how we learn. If you don’t give up, it will happen. Persistence is more important than being a good caller.
A little hunter’s savvy can go a long way. Even if you’re new to turkey hunting, but are a longtime woodsman (or woman), knowing the woods, how other animals act and how to play what Mother Nature deals you can be “a feather in your cap” (pun intended).

[Read more…]