Here Comes the Big Boy

I arrived just as it was getting light and parked down in a valley.  The landowner had told me of a big tom hanging around the house and being a big loud mouth just after day light.  He acted like he was the only one in the woods and valleys.  I knew right away what he needed was a good shooting.
 
At the recommendation of a close friend I had picked up the Funky Chicken Decoy from Bass Pro and put it out.  My friend had personal experience with this decoy and told me to get one as when the toms spot it, they become enraged.  This I felt I had to see. 

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
Click on the link or the picture and buy from Bass Pro. 

 
I climbed up a hill and put out the Funky chicken and a couple of breeding hens decoys.  The instructions that came with the decoy had mentioned to get a couple of feeding hens as they believed it would calm the toms a little and let them focus on the Funky Chicken.  This made sense to me, but at this time I did not have the time to pick up a couple of feeders.  Breeders was what they were going to see.
 

A good place was found to hide and the sun would be slightly behind me and off to my left.  Pushing back into the timber, the concealment was good on the left and right, but I was wide open to the front. This was not good, but I was at least in the shadows and with the leaf suit on.  Turkey success was accomplished with this manner before, but it had also fowled up some good shots. Because of their excellent vision, they had found something wrong and had split.

I am sitting on the top of the hill pushed back into the opening just to the right of the center of the picture. 
 
It did not take long and off to my right two specks were spotted coming out of the timber on a direct line to my hiding place.  As they they came for me they did what turkeys always do.  They scratched and picked up seeds.  Closer and closer they came and then they started up the hill.  At this time I could see one was a really big tom while his partner was a really big jake.  All of a sudden the big tom stopped dead in his tracks.  The jake kept moving slowly up the hill scratching and pecking at the ground picking up seeds.  
 
Thinking to myself I said, “Whatever you do and regardless of how uncomfortable this might become, do not make one move.”  As he stood there my gluteus maximus was getting sore and to pull up my legs would have given me a lot of relief.  I did not make one single move other than breathing.  
 
Now this was really interesting.  This giant, as he stared toward the top of the hill, knew something wasn’t quite right.  Also, he had a good view of the Funky Chicken decoy, and it was obvious he was fascinated.  I do not believe the breeding hen decoys made a bit of difference. This guy had not gotten big by being careless.  Slowly he took a couple of steps forward and spread out his beautiful big fan.  As the sun hit him with the fan spread out, I could see the beauty of the big guy with all the colors.  To re-position myself would have been a great relief.  I did not move and began to hurt. 
 
At this point, he was probably 50 yards down the hill.  I still did not think I was seen as I was surrounded by the shadow of the trees around me.  He began to walk back and forth with his fan all spread out and his head tucked back showing off his prowess.  If you can visualize what was going on, he was initially 30 degrees to my right and walked all fanned out, of course, till he was straight to my front.  He was close, but I wanted a closer shot.  It was decided that when the shot was made, he would be a whole lot closer so as not to cripple this big beautiful bird.  I wanted him in the freezer. 
 
He kept this movement up for at least 15 minutes slowly getting closer.  The jake stayed right with him and at times the jake was between the tom and me.  That was when I re-positioned myself, got the gun upon my knee, and made sure I could get a good shot.  This was most important.  On the first shot I wanted to see the bird tumble and flop around like they always do.  If he turned right his backside was facing me for just a couple of seconds and I could get re-positioned.  When he turned left he was staring straight at me.  What I wanted to do was take a picture, but that would have been too much movement, and that would spook him for sure. 
 

The Funky Chicken decoy was out about 15 yards, and a marker had been placed at the 20 yard spot.  I shoot 3.5 inch shells with a full choke and Winchester shells shown below.  At the 20 yard spot he would be history.  Closer and closer he came and my patience was wearing really thin, but it was maintained.  He strutted and strutted but would not come any closer, and slowly he unfolded his fan and began walking down the hill with the jake.

 
An expletive (deleted) was uttered as he sauntered off.  Should I have shot?  This will be an unknown that will keep me awake at night.  How many chances does a person get in a life time at a really giant bird.  
 
Then I heard a hen right behind me and as I turned to look at her, she split off in a hurry making a lot of noise.  The sun had moved to a point where I was illuminated from behind me and this may have spooked off my quarry.  What has really left me feeling low about this loss was the fact that the landowner’s brother came out one afternoon and shot the biggest tom he had ever seen.  It happens. 
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 Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. 

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Insider’s Japan Part One

 

How do I get to hunt and fish whenever I want and spend money on hunting trips all over North America?  It is really quite simple.  My wife likes to travel to faraway and exotic places in the world and this year I planned a trip to Japan through our favorite tour company, Odesseys Unlimited.  What an exciting experience as we traveled by tour bus, trains and rode the bullet train several times.  We liked that.

The trip lasted 14 days and we visited a total of nine cities and towns, some located in the mountains.  The seacoast surrounding the island is where the majority of the population lives and it was in some of these cities that the bombing during WWII took place. In these cities the buildings all look new and have earth quake protection on the outside of the sky scrapers  When we traveled into the towns in the mountains, they were untouched by the war and we saw and felt the Japan of decades ago.

I have never seen so many beautiful and well maintained buildings. Notice the support structure up the side of the building.

The first thing we noticed was how clean the cities were.  This was absolutely amazing and we never saw a scrap of paper anywhere or a cigarette butt(s) all over the sidewalks and streets.  Greenery was along the streets and sidewalks all trimmed and maintained as if we were in a garden.  Civility was very prevalent by the population and this is something we are not used to in our country.   The cleanliness and civility of the population is the result, I was told, of the Shinto religion observed by 80% of the Japanese population.  Besides being very civil, the population was well dressed and groomed unlike much of our population we have in our cities.  The police seemed to be non existent as we did not see any and took note of this fact. 

 Tokyo is a vast metropolis compromising 23 wards and 26 cities with a population of over 13 million residents, and 844 square miles.  It is also the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, which has a population of more than 35 million, the most populous metropolitan area in the world.

We started out our excursion in Ancient Tokyo at the famed Meiji Shrine, a peaceful enclave of temples and gardens dedicated to the late 19th century Emperor Meiji and his wife.  Built in traditional Shinto style with low wooden buildings surrounded by square courtyards, the shrine is one of Tokyo’s most popular attractions.

 Entrance into the Shrine and courtyards
 
Rice wine barrels 
 
Gardens were everywhere with beautiful flowers, Chrysanthemums
 
Shinto wedding.  Notice the bride in the background.

 

This was a cleansing station.

Shinto Priest

 

The next stop was the Asakusa Kannon Temple, which contains a golden image of the Buddhist Kannon, goddess of mercy.  According to legend, two fishermen dragged the statue from the sea in 628… but visitors cannot see it since it is hidden from the public.  However, you can make your way to the front of the temple to bathe yourself in smoke from the incense cauldron.  It is said that the smoke brings good health.  Since my wife and I are both in our 70’s, we breathed all the smoke we dared without passing out.  We need all the help for good health we can get at this stage of our life.

Notice the smoke in the background in from of the temple. The shopping arcade is located along and  parallel to the buildings. 
 
 
Buddhist temple
 
It was hard to get up to the smoke to make ourselves more healthy.
 

Outside the temple there was time on our own to explore the Nakamise Shopping arcade. It was filled with stalls selling local dishes, Buddhist trinkets, and popular souvenirs.  A close friend of ours is Buddhist so this was a good opportunity to buy him something special from the country.  Food stalls were everywhere and since lunch was on our own, we checked them all out.  They did not take American dollars but our guide told us to plan on one dollar to equal 100 yen.  When we bought anything we just held out a handful of Japanese yen and let them take what they wanted.

 Young ladies dressed in traditional Japanese attire.  Notice the phones. 
The ladies were everywhere.

After almost a full day of touring we headed back to the hotel.  We were still feeling the affects of the plane trip over and needed a nap before dinner.  There was more exploration to do.  Our entire group commented on the people and how courteous they were.  Everyone has respect for the other person and no one was rude, crude, ill mannered or ill tempered like it is in our country.  This was a refreshing experience.

We visited a park in downtown Tokyo and observed  the beginning of a wedding ceremony.
 
This building was where our hotel was located starting on the 26th floor.  Wherever we went we always kept track of that shape so we could find our way back.
 

At breakfast the next day, the hotel served a European style breakfast along with traditional Japanese food.  We ate the western style in the morning.  In the afternoon and at dinner it was Japanese food.  Lunches were easy, but the evening was really different.  Fortunately I ordered hot sake with the evening meal, so my inhibitors were not working and I was ready to try anything.  We found some food had a bland taste, but after watching the locals in restaurants, we saw that they would stir  wasabi into the soy sauce and then dip the food into the mixture.  It added a lot of flavor and by day three we were eating raw fish right along with the natives. I have no idea what it was, but it all began to develop a unique flavor with each course. Comments were made in our group that as long as it did not move, eat it.  When we added some hot sake or plum wine to the meal, we were ready to conquer anything.

We visited the Imperial Palace District. Surrounded by moats and ramparts the palace is home of the Imperial Family.  Called Kokyo, the huge complex dates to the 15th century, when territorial disputes required massive fortifications and complex societal norms demanded elaborate palaces to reflect the high positions of the feudal lords.  When completed, the Imperial Palace was the largest district in the world.  From the lovely East and Outer gardens we saw the ruins of massive moat and walls that remain.

Moat surrounding the palace grounds.  The constant rains on that day spoiled picture opportunities.
 
Gardens on the palace grounds.  
 
Neatly trimmed trees and gardens were everywhere.  The Japanese are master gardeners.
 

Next we traveled to the gallery of one of Japan’s preeminent calligraphers, Koshun Masunaga.  Here we learned about this ancient art and browsed the collection. A demonstration of the art form was given and we were rewarded with drawings that depicted each of our personalities. This whole presentation was truly magnificent as this lady is recognized throughout the world for her talent.

This lady is recognized all over the world for her talent.

 

 
The artist’s assistant in front of some of the artist’s works
 

Lunch again was on our own and it is interesting that the menus are outside the establishment on large billboards with pictures and the price.  We studied the pictures, priced the meal in yen, but we could not read the description.  Going inside, we looked around at what the locals were eating then made our selection.  I saw the waitress deliver a noodle shrimp dish to a gentleman at the next table.  When she came to our table, I just pointed to the gentleman next to me and she brought the same thing after laughing.

That afternoon was free time and the ladies wanted to go shopping.  This was an experience out of the 1950’s.  There were very well dressed clerks there to help us with anything we wanted at each department of the store. This was a first class department store.   Plus all of these young ladies were very pretty and well dressed.  The ladies on our tour had a great time in the store and the guys just wandered around in amazement.  This was shopping like I used to see in the big department stores in our home cities when I was a little boy. The employees were there to help you whether you could speak the language or not.

Back near the hotel was a tram that circled Tokyo bay.  All information and signs were totally in Japanese and the train or tram was totally automatic.  You bought a ticket to where you wanted to go and then slid it into a machine that collected the ticket.  That let you on, then when you got off at the stop you had purchased, you slid the ticket back into another machine, and it ate it. In other words you were done.

My wife and I were standing there trying to figure things out.  I wanted to go, but my wife said we would get ourselves lost.  Actually, this was not a problem because we carried a card with the name and address of the hotel on us, so if that happened, we could show a cab driver and he would take us to the hotel. We did not worry about getting robbed or rolled.  This is Japan, and you could go out on the streets after dark.

The assistant guide for the group happened along and helped us purchase the ticket and told us at which station to get off.  We went out along the harbor of Tokyo bay and circled back to our starting point.
Tokyo Bay from the Tram. 
More of Tokyo Bay.

 

Looking forward out the front window of the Tram.  There are no operators and it is all completely automatic.  You have to know what you are doing to ride it.  Fortunately for us, our assistant guide came along who could speak fluent English and helped us along the way.
 

After dinner, we crashed.

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.   Hank 
 
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Hunting the Wild Turkey

 
The eastern wild turkey offers one of the most challenging hunting experiences available and appeals only to the most dedicated outdoors-men. Wild turkeys have extremely keen senses of sight and hearing and are normally able to avoid human contact so successfully that hunters often do not detect their presence. The instincts for survival are most highly developed among adult gobblers, making them among the most sought after trophies in North America today.

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
This decoy came to me highly recommended by a long time friend.  Last year he hunted with it and it was all that he used.  It made the Toms really mad and they came to beat up on it in droves. He plunked the one he wanted and then sat and watched the Toms get really hacked off at the decoy.  This is all I am using this year and will post about what is happening. Click on the link or the decoy to buy from Bass Pro.

Turkeys are hunted during two seasons – spring and fall – which are differentiated by styles of hunting and the primary quarry. Spring gobbler hunting is most widespread because shooting males has no impact on the future growth or dispersal of turkey populations, even at the new release sites. Turkeys are promiscuous, with only the largest, most dominant males obtaining harems of a dozen or more hens. Non-breeding males are thus available to hunters at no cost to the population. Even heavily hunted areas seldom sustain hunting losses of as many as 50% of the adult males.

RedHead Reality Series Aluminum Friction Turkey Call
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 The principal spring hunting method is to locate toms gobbling from the roost at daylight and attempt to call them to the hunter by imitating the yelps, clucks, cackles and whines of a hen ready to mate. Hunters wear camouflage clothing and sit completely motionless for as long as several hours to escape detection by keen-eyes gobblers. Success rates for resident spring hunters is 20% (non-resident hunters 40%) due to the good turkey densities found in Iowa. Because 10% of the hens also have beards (the hair-like appendage hanging from a tom’s breast), any bearded turkey is legal game in the spring.

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Fall turkey hunts usually are allowed only in states with well established turkey populations. In Iowa, turkey populations and a decrease in fall hunting demand, has allowed a 2 bird bag limit, until the quota is filled. More young poults are produced than survive the rigors of winter and escape from predators to reach the breeding season, thus allowing limited fall hunting before much of this natural mortality takes place. The most common fall hunting technique is to locate a flock of turkeys, scatter them as widely as possible, and call back broods by imitating the assembly yelps and clucks of the adult hen or kee-kee of lost poults. Gobblers are not particularly interested in finding hens in the fall, making them extremely difficult to call and shoot. Inexperienced young turkeys return readily to the hen and commonly make up 60% or more of fall harvests. Fall hunters also use complete camouflage.

 
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

 

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Wild Turkey Habitat

How to Hunt Book

Wild turkeys are primarily birds of the forest. The eastern subspecies found in Iowa and most of the United States east of the Missouri River thrives in mature oak-hickory forests native to this region. Turkeys primarily eat nuts, seeds and berries (collectively called mast) produced in greatest abundance in middle-aged to mature stands of oak trees. Turkeys are large, strong-walking birds capable of covering a range of 1-2 square miles in a day, searching for suitable food items by scratching in leaf litter. These “scratchings” – piles of leaves adjacent to a small plot of bare earth – are characteristic in good turkey habitat and indicate that turkeys have been feeding in the immediate area.

flextone Funky Chicken Turkey Decoy
A friend of mine bought this decoy and it was all he used.  The toms would come and see the thing and it made them really mad and they just beat the dickens out of it.  He shot a really nice big boy that came to pick on his decoy.  I just bought one for this season in Nebraska and Iowa.

In winter, turkeys rely primarily on mast for food, although in Iowa and other agricultural states they are capable of substituting waste grain in harvested corn and soybean fields, where it is available adjacent to timber. When snow covers their native foods, or mast crops fail, corn fields supply an important supplemental food capable of carrying turkeys through winter stress periods in excellent condition. Turkeys are often seen in crop fields during the winter taking advantage of the waste grain in the fields in Iowa. Large flocks of turkeys observed in crop fields have raised concerns of crop depredation by agricultural producers. Wild turkeys are actually beneficial to crop fields, since they primarily consume insects out of fields during the spring and summer. To address these concerns, a crop depredation pamphlet was developed by the DNR. For more information on crops and wild turkeys, download the crop depredation pamphlet or stop in your local DNR wildlife office.
In spring and summer, a turkey’s diet switches to a wide variety of seeds, insects and green leafy material. Protein derived from insects is especially important to rapidly growing poults during their first weeks after hatching and to adults replacing feathers after their annual summer molt. Hayfields, restored native grasses, and moderately grazed pastures are excellent producers of insects and are heavily utilized by turkey broods where they are interspersed with suitable forest stands. These grassy areas also provide suitable nesting sites. 
Turkeys roost at night in trees year around, except for hens sitting on a nest. Any tree larger than 4 inches in diameter at breast height may serve as a roost tree, but larger, mature trees are most often used. Eastern turkeys shift their roost sites almost daily, seldom using the same tree two nights in succession. Certain areas of their home range (area a turkey occupies throughout a season) may be used more heavily than other locations (e.g. a ridge of large trees near a feeding area or a stand of large evergreen trees during very cold weather).

In Iowa, the abundance of food and nesting areas in non-forested habitats (corn fields, pastures, hayfields, restored native grasses) has allowed turkeys to survive in areas where forests are limited. In traditional turkey range, minimum timber requirements of 10,000 continuous acres of mature forests are commonly thought to be necessary for wild turkeys. Research indicates that areas with a 50:50 ratio of forest with properly managed non-forested habitats is ideal turkey range, and a minimum of 1,000 acres of timber is ideal to allow a turkey population to thrive. Since the restoration of wild turkeys to Iowa, turkeys have been found in small 2-3 acre woodlots, much to surprise of wildlife managers.

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Source ( http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey-Hunting)

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank.

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A Brief History of the Wild Turkey

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Wild turkeys numbered in the millions nationwide when the first settlers landed at Plymouth Rock and provided a readily available source of food for the table and the market. Like much of our native wildlife, turkey populations were unable to withstand unregulated hunting pressures during European settlement. A combination of year around indiscriminate hunting of all ages and sexes, and clearing of forested habitats to create agricultural lands all led to the extirpation of wild turkey flocks from their historical range north of the Ohio River and from most areas in the South and East. By 1920, approximately 250,000 eastern wild turkeys remained in the United States, occupying just 12% of their former range. Only 8 states still had a turkey hunting season, most in the mountainous terrain of the southeastern United States. Turkeys were virtually extirpated from Iowa by 1900; the last verified sighting was made in Lucas County in 1910.

In the early 20th century, trends which lead to the demise of turkey flocks began to be reversed. Most states formed conservation agencies (counterparts to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources) and gave protection to vanishing wildlife. At the same time, unproductive farmlands were abandoned as industrial jobs in growing cities became more attractive. Purchase of state and national forests, reduction in cattle grazing on public forest lands, and wildlife management were factors which led to the development of new turkey habitats in regions where no turkeys existed to populate them.
Most states began turkey restoration programs in the 1920’s, first using pen-raised turkeys to produce large numbers of young birds which were released in the wild. These efforts were universally unsuccessful because pen-raised birds had lost their wary instincts which allowed truly wild turkeys to survive in their natural environment. In spite of expenditures of millions of dollars over several decades, no free-ranging turkey populations were produced. Pen-raised turkeys also carry domestic poultry diseases which can be transmitted to a variety of wild birds.

With the development of the rocket net trap in the 1950’s, the history of the wild turkey underwent a dramatic reversal. For the first time, large numbers of wild turkeys became available for transplanting to unoccupied habitats and turkey populations began the long road back from near extinction. By the early 1980’s, wild turkey numbers increased to 1.8 million birds in 47 states. Today, there are an estimated 7 million wild turkeys in all the states except Alaska, with over 3 million turkey hunters in the United States.

In Iowa, an aggressive restoration program using wild trapped turkeys from Missouri and Shimek State Forest (Lee County) and Stephens State Forest (Lucas County), resulted in transplanting 3,523 Eastern wild turkeys to 86 different counties at 260 sites between 1965 and 2001. Turkeys from southern Iowa were originally introduced from Missouri in the mid 1960’s. This restoration program was paid for by the Iowa sportsman through revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and an excise tax on the sale of arms and ammunition. The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) also aided Iowa in the restoration efforts.

Eastern turkeys adapted so well to habitat conditions in Iowa that by 1980 the DNR decided to start trading turkeys for other extirpated wildlife. From 1980-2001, 7,501 Iowa turkeys have been traded for 356 prairie chickens, 596 ruffed grouse, over 180 river otters, over 80 sharp-tailed grouse, and over 3.2 million dollars to purchase Iowa habitat with 11 states and 1 Canadian province.


 

Source ( http://www.iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Turkey-Hunting)
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Squaw Creek Snow Geese

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One of the local papers had an article about Squaw National Wildlife Refuge south of Mound City, Missouri close to the Missouri River.   The article discussed the migration patterns of  Snow Geese through our area.  It is only a 1.5 hour drive south for my wife and I.

Every year they go through, and now they are stopping at DeSoto Bend Wildlife Refuge just east of Blair, Nebraska. That is a 45 minute drive for us.  As they make their way up the Missouri river to their nesting grounds above the arctic circle, it is a sight to see.  The snow geese have become so plentiful that there are now no limits as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife want to thin the numbers before Mother Nature does.
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 Mother Nature is not very kind when it comes to thinning the numbers.  Hunting them in the fall at our blinds has not been very successful as they fly over in enormous flocks, flying very high, and going from refuge to refuge.
When stepping out of the vehicle at Squaw Creek, the first sound you hear is a high pitched yelping, that when multiplied by many thousands, will leave an indelible print on your memory.  When massed together they look like an enormous island of geese. Then all at once they begin to yelp, rise up off the water, swirl around and land back again.  We stood for an hour and watched this spectacle several times. 
I truly believe snow geese are smarter than other waterfowl.  If there is one important lesson that snow geese have learned and learned well, it is that there is safety in numbers.  When my friends and I began hunting the birds during the mid 1960s, snow geese migrated across Iowa in small flocks that usually consisted of anywhere from a dozen on up to 20 or so birds.  The migration was well distributed statewide, and the geese stopped wherever there were suitable marshes. 
How times have changed.  Today, most of the snow geese are hunted in open fields with big spreads of decoys and with the use of electronic calls.  They do not decoy as in the past.  If you do get them to start coming in, a 20 yard shot is about all you can get.  I really believe the snow goose is the hardest bird to deceive and that includes the wild turkey.
Squaw Creek is not only a stopping off place for snow geese, but for waterfowl of all types.  There was also a migration of Trumpeter Swans which we were able to photograph.  They stayed at a considerable distance.  In addition, there were bald eagles everywhere in the trees. 
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Good Hunting, Good Fishing and Good Luck.  Hank

How to Hunt Like a Gentleman

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Price decrease. Get yours today; click on the picture. 

We see bison meat in some grocery stores priced at about nine dollars per pound or more.  Is it cheaper to hunt one or just buy the meat in the store?  From a personal experience if all you want is the meat, go and buy it in the store.  It tastes just as good, and it is a whole lot safer than a hunt on the plains where they roam.  But it is not nearly as exciting.
 I have hunted buffalo and if you buy my book, it tells you all about it and how to do it.  I have done all the research for you the reader.  
I have hunted with Northern Plains Outfitters in north central South Dakota in January on a 12,000 acre ranch.  This is the land of the Sioux with rolling planes and is almost totally treeless.  The sky is the bluest of the blues.  The cold is severe but without high humidity.  All you need to do is protect your self from the cold and the wind.
The first thing your guide does is locate the bison on this sprawling ranch.  We drove the prairie in an SUV to keep warm till we could spot one.  Then comes the work and the potential danger.  You have to stalk him. Over the rolling plains, you are walking in knee deep snow and at other times no snow at all as the wind has moved it around. This is hard work and you must keep track of where you are in relation to the bull. You must position yourself downwind from the big boy otherwise he may come over and pay you a visit.  That could consist of having the daylights stomped out of you and possibly being gored to death.  These are not your usual house pets. We started at over a 1000 yards, positioning ourselves within three hundred yards for the shot.  Buy the book and it will tell you all about it.
After sitting in the duck blind one day when it was really slow, the conversation turned to how to prepare our harvests.  Of course, duck is always at the top of the list then comes deer.  Most of our club members hunt deer or accept some cuts as a gift.  The conversation can go on forever about how to prepare deer from aging to marinating. The list is endless.

Conversation ranged from deer to elk to moose and one day it was caribou.  The entire blind knew someone that had hunted caribou and found this to be the meat of meats when it came to wild game.  Only one person in the club had ever hunted them before.

When I got home the decision was made that the next fall there would be two.  That is when I started the research.  If you buy the book “How to Hunt like a Gentleman,” It tells you all about it.  It was a lot of fun just going through the research and planning on how to get this done on a budget and as close to home as possible.

You can hunt caribou all the way from New Foundland to Alaska in the northern latitudes of Canada.  I ended up in the northern most reaches of Manitoba in Canada.  The lodge was on Commonwealth Lake north west of Hudson Bay. We had excellent facilities considering we were on the tundra reached only by float plane.  This was a hunt of a lifetime and you can read about  it by buying the book and clicking on the picture at the top of the page.

On an elk trip into the Teton Mountains a few years ago, we hunted elk in the morning and black bear in the evening until dark.  Bob Barlow, owner of Barlow Outfitting, gave me a lot for my money.  The area we were in was noted for a healthy population of black bear.  Bob is a native of Jackson and really knows the mountains in the area.  Plus, he knows the great spots for bear.  We would get on site around 3 p.m. and wait until the scope could no longer gather light.  Hunting close to berry patches showed that bear had been in the area.  This experience got me hooked.

The decision was made for the following year to head back to Wyoming and hunt with Bob again, but this time the hunt was dedicated to a trophy black bear.

A quick drive out to Tetonia, Idaho was where the lodge was located and they have excellent facilities.  We would travel east into the mountains crossing the Idaho border into Wyoming where the bear hunt would take place.  In the fall they are stoking up for the winter and are foraging heavily.  Bob had spotted bear in the summer locations where many had been hanging out feasting on the berries and other morsels in the area.

If you have ever wanted to go on a bear hunt, buy the book and read about the excitement of what it takes to harvest a really nice bear.  Click on the picture at the top of the blog and it will take you to Lulu and you can make a really great purchase for yourself or as a gift.

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Good Hunting and Good Luck,  Hank

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Gone are the Days

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We are well into the season and it is now right after Thanksgiving.  When I was a mere boy and hunted with my Dad, when Thanksgiving came, it was over.  Everything was frozen and the birds had mostly left the area.  
I can remember the two of us going down to a state hunting preserve southeast of Council Bluffs called Riverton.  It was along the Nishnabotna river near the small town of Riverton. We put sacks of decoys on sleds and walked in on the ice.  We found a spot where we could put up a blind and placed the decoys right out on the ice.  
I tell this to some of my friends today and they can hardly believe it, but it happened.  There seemed to be a few ducks that hung out at the reserve and probably got their water from the river.  They came into the decoys and we had excellent shooting.  We would be the only people hunting on the preserve.  Those days are long gone.  Also we shot with lead and it was so much better than the shot today.  We also shot with two and three quarter inch shells.  Now today, I shoot a gun that fires three and half inch shells with a mixture of hevi-shot and steel.  Gone are the days.
It was nothing to have a limit of mallards by noon.  Compare it to today when a group of people will sit in the blinds waiting for a shot almost all day.  There was not the competition from other hunters like there is today.  Where I hunt there are six blinds within a mile and that brings competition.  The birds will go where they are less likely to be bothered.  We have an advantage of 40 acres of water with a bubbler that is right in the middle.  We always have open water.  Still, gone are the days.

There was only a handful of hunters when I arrived at the Big Chicken restaurant in Tekamah before heading to the blinds.  Everyone was optimistic as there was an excellent weather shift all the way to the Dakotas.  Freezing temperatures with heavy snows was covering the ground north of us.  This should be it, and everyone was in agreement.  Good northerly flow the past few days should drive the birds out and send them our way.

Beautiful sunrise over the lake in the morning.
Two days ago there was a north wind and the hunters that went witnessed huge flocks of migrating snow geese.  What we had seen in the past was when the snows came the mallards came too, so everyone was hopeful.  My wife and I have not had the pleasure of mallard duck breast for over six months.  It was now or never. 
As I approached the blind, there was just a light breeze and a small ripple on the water.  It was out of the north so that was fine, as long as it was out of the north.  There were no birds on the lake when we came in.  Not a good sign.  We settled in and waited for shooting time.  None of the other blinds in the area were shooting when the time to start came.  We waited.

Some pairs and small groups came to the decoys as the morning wore on.  Each time they locked and came into the decoys there was opportunity.  I was in the northern most blind and the better shots were at the blind to the south.  Finally, we had an opportunity and I got off a shot.  Three other guys shot too so I have no idea if I scored, but at least for this season, I fired off one shot.  
The rest of the morning it went dead calm and finished off the day for me.  It was time to hang it up.  I grabbed a couple of birds as I left as I had not taken any all season.

My good friend and I leave with our birds for the season.

There is always another year.  Gone are the days.

It really was not that bad.  It was bad for me because I did not go early and the club basically harvested a good quantity of small ducks.  There was good shooting early on Teal, Gadwall, and Widgeon,


Good hunting, good fishing and good luck. Hank

 
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Disaster Strikes

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My wife and I arrived back from our vacation to Japan mid November.  It took me just 24 hours to get my clock turned around and I was ready to hit the blinds and pound the ducks.  I found what was going on hard to believe.  The corn was out and the weather all the way up to North Dakota was mild with predominantly southerly flow.  What a disappointment.

Anyway, after keeping in close contact with my friends in the club, we learned that a day of northerly winds was forecast with cooler temperatures.  This would only last a couple of days then switch to the west, and back to the south.  A hunter has to do what he has to do.  What was interesting was generally in the early part of the season a north wind would fill all three blinds.  This time, there was a lot of discouragement and only a blind and a half showed up.
Temperatures were still above freezing, but the north wind was strong and gusty and the birds would be hanging over the decoys as they would turn into the wind.  This would be excellent shooting.  
Shooting time came and went and there was no migration to speak of.  This was a major disappointment.  It seems I am using this word over and over again.

Just for a little history about this outstanding duck hole.  I joined the club 16 years ago, and usually this time of the year when I walked to the blinds, there would be 40 acres of quacking ducks.  They would all jump at once.  We would all get into the blinds and wait for their return.  Some came back, and at shooting time there was a really nice harvest.  Others went out to feed.  The ones coming back from feeding would have corn stalks and mud hanging off their feet.  Well fed birds are thirsty birds and here they came for a drink.  This was a duck hunters dream.

Part of this, some believe, was the fact that the farmers in the Dakotas were now growing corn and a friend of mine who farms in our area called the seed they planted 90 day corn.  They have a shorter growing season up north than we do in our area and the hybrid developed was for the northern states.  When corn had worked it’s way to $7.00 per bushel the farmers went into the corn business.  Unless there was an early snow covering the ground after harvest, the birds hung around.

Second, some believe that the reserve at De Soto bend had changed the type of game it attracted.  Many years ago the managers would cater to waterfowl at the museum and there was a viewing area built where visitors could come and watch the birds.  Besides snow geese, the reserve would hold a couple of hundred thousand mallards.  What would the birds do but feed in the surrounding fields and our pits are only 20 miles straight north as the crow flies.  The farmers that farmed the fields on the reserve owned by the government were required to leave one third of the harvest on the ground. This would keep a lot of birds around.   Corn is cocaine to a mallard duck.

The new manager several years ago began managing the reserve for deer.  Waterfowl was not a primary goal and the birds kept going without the banquet on the ground waiting for them.  Recently, that has changed again and in checking reports at De Soto it was holding at one time up to fifty thousand mallards.  However, with the nice weather up to the Dakotas, nothing came down.  I called several times and asked the people at the reserve where the mallards were.  They said they were in the Dakotas.  I told them we were waiting for the migration, and they said they were too.

Anyway, one can always hope. 


 

Good Hunting Good Fishing and Good Luck,  Hank.

Bad Reports From the Boys in the Blinds

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My wife and I left for Japan on October 29th for a fifteen day tour of the country with our favorite tour company Odesseys Unlimited.  You can look on line and see what the trip was all about at their website to see the fantastic experience we had with Odesseys.

This should have been right at the start of the migration and I would probably be missing some of the best duck shooting that takes place.  My good friend John kept me well posted as to what was taking place and as it turned out Japan was a good place to be during the first two weeks of November.  My cell phone carrier has a free service world wide if you enroll in it and it is texting.  You can text and receive text messages anywhere in the world providing you are enrolled.
With a 14 hour time difference from Tekamah, Nebraska needless to say, I got messages sometimes at 2 AM in the morning Japan time.  What are friends for, and the word was for John to text me anytime, and he did frequently. My wife and I both enjoyed his messages, because it was more than what was going on at the blinds, but what was taking place in the Omaha area and especially with the weather. We were never out of touch with home.

My son was more aware of the time time difference and kept the text messages to when we both were awake.  
What was starting to develop in southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska was a lot of high pressure areas with warm temperatures and southerly flow.  These weather patterns extended north.  With all the nice weather farmers were able to get into the fields and get their work done.  That means harvesting and there would be plenty of leftover corn in the fields for the birds to feed on.  Plus open water and plenty of sand here and there for them. What more can a duck ask for. 
The reports coming to me in Japan showed little activity and no migration.  There was good movement on small ducks, pintail, gadwall, teal, and widgeon.  Very little mallard activity was taking place.  The smaller ducks eat just as well, but when it comes to dinning on wild ducks, we like the big northern mallards.   Still one has to keep an important point in mind; ” a bad day hunting is better than a great day at work.”  In a weeks time when you add up all the small ducks that were shot, the numbers did not look too bad.

November 14th was still a long way off and there was plenty of time for me to get into some excellent mallard shooting as the weather turned up north and would begin driving the birds out of the Dakotas.  I have always had my best mallard shooting late in the season and the later the better.  It would be good providing there was not a total freeze over of our lake which was hard to do.  When the weather stays above freezing, we just turn on the bubbler and keep the water moving to maintain an open hole.  We always have some open water.
That freezing cold weather is the reason we invest in all that thermal gear for the outdoors.  Sitting down in a heated blind swathed in thermal underwear and drinking hot coffee is what Gentleman Hunting is all about.   
Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

 


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