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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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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An Elk is in the Freezer

Gander Mountain

We have meat for the winter along with plenty of people who enjoy wild game.  Just recently a friend asked when I was going hunting as he and his wife want to dine on some fine fresh elk.

The original plan was to hunt Axis deer at High Adventure Ranch.  After lengthy research, it was discovered that this was not the animal for my family and friends.  It was really nice of the ranch to accommodate me with a different date.  They were totally booked in October and November was not any better.  Thank to the ranch manager Monty Pitts, he told me to come down the end of September and he personally would guide me on a hunt.  I really appreciated him doing this for me, but this is the service provided by a company that goes out of it’s way so that the hunter is taken care of.

My lodging at the Ranch

A days drive down to St. James, where I spent the night and the next morning I was down at the ranch.  Meeting with Monty he asked,  what do you want to kill, elk or deer?”  I told him last year they had put me on a spike that had lost one of his antlers in a fight and it was outstanding meat.  The ranch wanted him removed as he could not spear another elk if they go into a disagreement especially during the rut.  I told him I wanted another meaty spike or a maximum of a 5 x 5, that looked good and meaty.

Up on a ridge top this is what you will see.  It is close, and it was warm.

This is typical of what you will see.  Notice how dense the timber gets.

The rut was just starting and the bulls were gathering around the cows.  Also, the bulls were developing a really bad attitude, and so we wanted to be careful as we prowled the timber looking for the right animal for me.  We spent the morning checking heavy timber on the ranch as we looked for an elk with a good set of horns and nice and meaty.  I saw some really big elk in the timber and tried to get as many pictures as I could.  Anytime you saw some cows, there were some really nice looking elk and big ones with a rack that would complement anyone’s game room.

There is a nice looking bull that would have been an easy shot, but there are better.

We spent the morning prowling and stalking and still did not find the one I wanted.  I had never been at the ranch this time of the year and there was limited ground cover as the ground was very rough with gravel and grass.  The timber formed a canopy over the ground floor and as usual you had to look through the standing timber to locate an animal.

After lunch we headed to another spot on the ranch and we found the one I wanted.  A 5 x 5 with a herd of cows, but he was way out of their class as there was some really big bulls nearby and those bulls were not going to let him get close to the ladies.  Monty glassed the area and he was moving slowly down off the ridge between the timbers.  I moved in a straight line toward him keeping a tree between his head and my body.  It was dead calm and so he did not wind us, and he just slowly moved in among the standing timber.  When I got to the big tree he was still visible and his right front should was between standing trees not more than 30 yards away in a straight line. I could not see his head or his rump.  Putting the cross hairs on the sweet spot the round was sent on its way.  Monty was standing off to my right and behind me and said good shot.  The elk turned around and fell.  The 300 win mag again did its job.

A nice young bull with a respectable rack plus he is meaty.
We got him transported down to the location of the barn and coolers.  I like to have my harvests gutted of course, skinned and allowed to hang overnight in a cooler to allow rigor to set in. This time there was not room, so he was skinned and deboned and the meat placed on the trays in one of the big walk in coolers.  Also, my two coolers were place in the cooler to chill them down and help hold the meat cold.  The next morning we would pack the coolers and cover the meat in ice and I would check on it once when I gassed the truck somewhere in Missouri.  
The meat made it all the way home and I checked on it once, added more ice at home, and took it all the the processor the next day.  I have my burger mixed with 15% pork and this time I did a dumb thing.  I kept the tenderloins whole instead of cutting them into one inch steaks.  The plan is to have people over and I will bake a tenderloin as I have done before.  It is outstanding. 
There he is, already for skinning.  Look how nice and meaty this boy is.
The skinning is done.  Now it is time for the de bonning.
There he is all that is left after the skinning and deboning.
Late that afternoon, I was sitting down at the lounge area and Monty stuck his head in the door, and said come on quick, we have found something that is really unusual.  It was a calico deer.  He moved all around the timber and we drove over some maintenance roads to get a good picture of him.  Very unusual color pattern, but the proof is in the picture.
There he is.  Look at the rack first then the hide and the coloring on him.  He was discovered while I was there. 

That evening after an outstanding dinner, Monty told me that the big bulls would come down out of the wooded hills in the evening and hang around in the pastures.  There they would bugle and fight.  It was a sight to see.  I did not get any pictures of anyone warring, but when I went to bed that night they still were bugling and grunting.

I drove over to the pastures and did not get out of my truck, but these are some outstanding pictures of some really big bulls.  I was advised not to get to close as the bulls were getting nasty and the ranch has had a truck attacked. 

A couple of nice big boys
Check out his rack.  I think he gets the cow of his choice.
A bull with his harem.
Next morning I headed back to Iowa after a great trip and experience at High Adventure Ranch.  Contact Monty Pitts at 1-573-743-6606 for more information.


 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

The Teal Season is in Full Gear

September 3rd was the opening of the teal season in Nebraska.  The blinds were all ready and the lake was pumped full of water.  Now all it needed was hunters and the birds.  I did not make the opening day.  This information is from my good friend John and he gave me this report.

There was a total of 18 hunters.  I know of three that did not go, so that makes 21 and there must have been some guests.  The group met at the Big Chicken in Tekamah at 5:30 a.m. and were settled in the blinds by 6:30 a.m..  The temps were cool on Saturday morning so that  made it pleasant.  John did not indicate any mosquitoes were making a nuisance of themselves. There were no birds seen the first two hours.  On the third hour a group of 10 teal made an attempt to land in the decoys and five were sent to the freezer.  After that little flurry there was nothing and everyone went home.  I am going to wait a couple of days and get a good report on the birds in the area before going up to the blinds.

Day two of the teal season was cool, overcast and a beautiful morning.  I did not go to the blinds.  Checking this afternoon with my good friend John, only two people showed up at the blind this a.m., and John was not one of them.  Total bag for the day was 2 birds.  With that happening, I will probably wait until next week to go.  The forecast is for hot weather next week.  That is not good.

Week two of the teal season:  The weather has cooled off but we still have southerly flow.  I have had only one report of people going to the blind, and the only things they killed were mosquitoes.  They appear to be in abundance and with light breezes, they hang around a lot.  On the one day that I got a report, there were no birds harvested.  I am going to continue to wait.

The hunting club’s owner gave a reception at the Bryant House in Tekamah, and all of the hunters showed up.  It was good to see everyone not in the camo, and meet everyone’s wife.  After pleasantries were passed around, the guys got down to the current season and needless to say, the results have not been good.  A close friend and I planned on going regardless of the temperature on the coming Friday, and when Friday came it was terrible.  Thursday night the Tekamah area had 6 inches of rain, and I was not going to go up there and battle the mud. The old Missouri River mud is tough on vehicles and clothing.  I want no part of it.  Four hunters were brave enough to give it a try and 4 birds were harvested.  They killed more than their limit of mosquitoes.

This is day 15 after the Teal season started and there still has not been a good harvest.  Secondly very few birds have been seen.  The lake was partially drained after a 6 inch rain at Tekamah to get it down to a decent level and two hunters went  to give it a try.  The weather has been in the high 50’s at night and the low 80’s during the day with light southerly breezes.  The two hunters had the good fortune to witness two teal streak by the blind five feet off the water.  One hunter said they went by so fast that he thought they would break the sound barrier.  The other hunter said they went by faster than Grant took Richmond.  No one said if they got their shooting irons to their shoulders, but one can only assume that they watched the fly by.  That was the action for the day.

The season has now ended on September 18th.  Needless to say, this was the most dismal shooting season I have ever heard about at the blinds.  Warm weather and rain plus a lack of bird migration just plain made it a failed season.  At times no one even bothered to hunt the lake and there was not regular reporting of any action.  When people did go, few shots were fired and there was not much noise from neighboring blinds.  Anyway, it is called hunting, not shooting. As one of the club members said, “the mosquitoes will suck the blood right out of you.”  I am glad I did not go.


 


 Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck, Hank

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Meat, Meat, and More Meat

For my family and friends the ultimate goal is the meat.  This is what the thought pattern always is in the back of my mind while stomping around in the mountains, woods, or valleys somewhere in north America.  The hunt, of course, is how this goal is accomplished and is always extremely enjoyable whether I harvest something or not.

This year my plan was to hunt Elk with Bob Barlow owner of Barlow Outfitters in Wyoming.  The plan fell through when I did not receive a tag on the drawing that takes place every year.  I just did not have enough points to make the area I wanted to hunt.  There is another type of license that is more expensive, and with the point system I will have to purchase the general tag.  I always have a back up plan should this happen.

In the meantime, some research was done on different types of deer to hunt in North America either on a free chase basis or a hunting preserve.  Two of this type of animal came to the fore front of the research and they are Fallow Deer and Axis Deer.  How do they taste is the question?  Before investing money on one of these hunts, I need to know as I have mouths to feed, and people will be waiting for their ration of game.  Plus, my wife and I need to fill the larder for the winter with fresh healthy low cholesterol high protein game.

I was once told by a guide that Fallow Deer was one of the finest meats he had ever eaten. With that in mind it was time to check this statement out with a study on the Internet.

There are a lot of really good and entertaining articles on hunting and dining on both species.  On Fallow deer the general consensus is to hunt them when they are in the velvet and before the rut.  After the rut has started they will get a little gamey.  Overall the animal is very well recommended.  I did not find any states that had a Fallow Deer season.  Several people rated the meat in line with the Axis deer.  That tells me Axis is maybe a better tasting animal.

The fallow deer  is a mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. This common species is native to western Eurasia.  It was introduced into Britain and Ireland by the Normans in the 11th century for hunting in the royal forests.  This exotic has now been introduced into 93 Texas counties, primarily in the Edwards Plateau region. In addition there are private game ranches throughout the country that have available exotics for hunting and a person has a lot of choices for this type of hunt.

The male fallow deer is known as a buck, the female is a doe, and the young a fawn. Adult bucks are 140–160 cm (55–63 in) long with a 85–95 cm (33–37 in) shoulder height, and typically 60–100 kg (130–220 lb) in weight; does are 130–150 cm (51–59 in) long with a 75–85 cm (30–33 in) shoulder height, and 30–50 kg (66–110 lb) in weight. The largest bucks may measure 190 cm (75 in) long and weigh 150 kg (330 lb). Fawns are born in spring at about 30 cm (12 in) and weigh around 4.5 kg (9.9 lb). The life span is around 12–16 years.

Only bucks have antlers which are broad and shovel-shaped (palmate) from three years. In the first two years the antler is a single spike. They are grazing animals; their preferred habitat is mixed woodland and open grassland. During the rut bucks will spread out and females move between them, at this time of year fallow deer are relatively ungrouped compared to the rest of the year when they try to stay together in groups of up to 150.

Agile and fast in case of danger, fallow deer can run up to a maximum speed of 30 mph (48 km/h) over short distances (being naturally less muscular than other cervids such as roe deer, they are not as fast). Fallow deer can also make jumps up to 1.75 metres high and up to 5 metres in length.

Axis Deer are prevalent in Texas and the best way to hunt them is on an Exotic Game Farm.  Again the consensus is to hunt them in the velvet.  Females come into estrous several times each year, usually only lasting about 3 weeks per cycle.  Gestation lasts from 210-238 days and females usually have 1 young at a time.  Approximately 80% of Texas fawns are born from January to mid-April.  Females can be reproductive from age 2 to 15. I also read an article that recommended to hunt them in late August and early September to get the best tasting meat.

Introduced in 1932, axis are by far the most numerous exotic in Texas, with a population estimated at around 40,000, of which some 6,000 are free-ranging.  Axis venison is widely considered one of the most tasty of all wild game venison.  It is extremely lean and lacks much of the irony,”gamey” taste that is often associated with most venison.  The mild meat contains less than 1% fat on average.

The axis deer also goes by the name chital.  It is a moderately sized deer. Males reach nearly 90 centimetres (35 in) and females 70 centimetres (28 in) at the shoulder; the head-and-body length is around 1.7 metres (5.6 ft). While males weigh 30–75 kilograms (66–165 lb), the lighter females weigh 25–45 kilograms (55–99 lb). Exceptionally large males can weigh up to 98 to 110 kg (216 to 243 lb). The tail, 20 centimetres (7.9 in) long, is marked by a dark stripe that stretches along its length. The species has distinct color differences between males and females.  The males are larger than females, and antlers are present only on males.

 Grazers as well as browsers, the chital mainly feed on grasses throughout the year. They prefer young shoots, in the absence of  tall and coarse grasses which can be nibbled off at the tips. Browse forms a major portion of the diet only in the winter months-October to January-when the grasses, tall or dried up, are not palatable.

Recipes are abundant for each of these deer and are too numerous to list here.  This is a matter of taste and if you want to hunt these animals. As for me, I am going back to High Adventure Ranch and harvest a young elk.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck. Hank

 

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Scouting a New Opportunity

Gander Mountain

For the last twenty years I have fished the Glacial Lakes around Webster, South Dakota.  When I first went up to the region it was very common to catch a really nice mess of walleye, a few nice size northern, and a perch or two.  Depending on the time of the year we would land a few really big crappie.  I primarily fished one lake and that was Waubay, although some of the other lakes in the area were also worked with good to outstanding success.

Fishing in the area is just not the same as it once was.  Sizes are way down, and it is seldom that a northern is picked up.  There are northern in some of the other lakes in the region, but we don’t catch them anymore on Waubay.  There may be other fishermen that are still hammering them, bit we do not.

I am not going to quit going up there.  Just the opposite will take place.  I will stay longer when I go north to fish and work more lakes, but I won’t be going up as often.  Instead, I am going to start hitting some of the lakes in Nebraska.  Nebraska is populated with some really nice lakes and reservoirs,  and they are not fished heavily.  One such lake is Johnson Lake just south of Lexington, Nebr.  It is really easy to get to and all a fisherman has to do is travel along I-80 to Lexington, and go south out of the town towards Elwood.  Motels are in abundance in Lexington along with restaurants, so there is not an issue on where to stay or eat.  Camp grounds are also available at the lake and they belong to the state so they are very well maintained.

Sunset at Johnson Lake

Campers will find electrical hookups, non pad sites, showers, modern restrooms, dump station, water, picnic tables, grills, shelters, vault toilets, boat ramp, fish cleaning stations, swimming beach and accessible fishing piers. Johnson Lake campground offers 2 campgrounds. The main campground on the south east side of the lake has 82 camper pads with electrical hook-ups and an additional 30 non-designated campsites. Campground is shady and located close to shower facilities. It has a sandy beach area and plenty of picnic areas. The Inlet campground located on the west side of the lake has 31 camper pads with electrical hook-ups and 10 non-designated campsites. It has a boat ramp and excellent bank fishing as well as a handicap pier. For those golfers there is an 18-hole golf course close by.

Early on a cool Saturday morning, my wife and I headed out to check it out and look at the facilities available.  A highway travels completely around the lake and along the shoreline are year around homes and what appeared to be summer homes.  At the entrance to the highway surrounding the lake is PortSide Express. (308-785-8040)  They can supply your fuel needs along with camping supplies and groceries plus they have bait.  Seven miles farther south in Elwood is the Red Barn, and they also have bait.  Along the east side is the Captain’s Quarters boat docks and ramps.  This looked like a good spot to put in and there was plenty of parking for your vehicle and trailer.  We did not stop to see if there is a fee to put in and use their facilities.

The second spot was at the north end of the lake at the LakeShore Marina.  There is a good boat ramp there and they have a limited supply of bait. There is no fee to launch your boat. At the same location is Waterford House.  A good restaurant is located at this location.

Moving south we found a public use area operated by the State of Nebraska Game and Parks.  What is really nice is the cleaning station at this location.  A good boat ramp at this location with plenty of parking for your vehicle and trailer.  This is owned and operated by the state and you will have to pay a use for for the day of  $5.00.  You can buy a season pass at one of the local stores for $25.00.  Portside Express licenses and permits.

I could not find a topo map of the area and will continue to look as it is our intent to fish the lake in the early spring.  The lake is best known for the white bass and walleye fishing, yielding hundreds of Master Angler fish over the years.  The best time of the year to catch white bass is during spawning from late April to mid May.  After spawning is over, white bass are most frequently found along the shore line and near the outlet canal on the northeast side of the lake.  From mid-summer to late September, the white bass move into deeper water in pursuit of shad and other small fish.

Walleye fishing is at its best in the spring when they spawn near the rocks on the dam’s face.  In late May and June, walleye can be found on the flats and areas where the lake’s bottom drops off into deeper water.  This lake has it all the game fish like flowing water through it, gravel, rock and sand shoreline.

We intend to fish the lake come next April.  For more information on the Johnson Lake area contact the Johnson Lake Area Chamber of Commerce at johnsonlake.com or e-mail: chamber@johnsonlake.com.

Gander Mountain


 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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