Three Days of Walleye, Day 2

We woke early the next morning to a major disappointment.  The wind was not blowing, it was close to howling.  The direction was right where the forecast said, but it was way stronger.  Our plan was to go to Bitter Lake south of Waubay, but with this wind and my lack of knowledge of the lake, we were uncomfortable.  Still we had driven 300 miles to get up here and the plan was to fish Bitter on day two of the trip.

We drove down to Bitter to take a look and the lake was really rocking and rolling.  There must have been fifty boats in the two parking lots, and they were all in one area hoping to catch a fish.  With the wind from the southeast a 100 yards from the dock, things really got rough.  This was not for us, especially with the lake so low.

We headed back to Webster and went to visit the folks at Sportsman Cove. We told them about checking out Bitter and were now going to try to get on Waubay.  Kanago access was not recommended as the wind would be driving the waves into the dock.  Access to the lake would be really tough and it would be harder getting off.

North of Kanago access is West Bay Ranch.  There is a dock and boat ramp used by the campers.  You pay $5.00 for using the dock for the day.  It was still windy there, but somewhat protected by the banks.  The area is a small bay that leads into Breski Bay and the main part of Waubay Lake.  We paid the $5.00 and put in.  My wife Pam said that we might have trouble getting the boat on the trailer if the wind got any worse, and it did.

We headed out and positioned the boat on the north side of one of the islands but still within some wind to pick up a good drift.  Using spinners and crawlers we drifted with the wind with the spinner just turning at a good speed.  We were using chartreuse for the color as that was what we caught fish on the previous day.

Pelicans followed us all around duck island as we fished.  At times we turned and they were within 10 feet of the boat.  I think they are looking for a handout after we catch something and throw it back.

This drift produced solid hits and a couple of keeper fish.  It was a fine way to start the morning.  The wind continued to pick up and we moved up to the next series of islands and positioned the boat on the downwind side.  The area we moved into is called duck island and we started out in 10 feet drifting into 15 feet.  The temperature was cool and so was the surface water temperature.  The feeling was to start out in the shallow water and drift out to the deeper.  The game fish would feed on the bait fish that would be hanging close to shore.  We got nothing.

Why keep doing the same thing when you do not catch anything?  We moved the boat and started the drift in the 15 foot range and let the wind take us out to the 20 foot level.  The lake at this location is not much deeper than 20 feet.  Bang, bang, bang, we started hitting fish.  That was the good news, but the bad news was they were all white bass.  I have nothing against white bass, but we wanted walleye.  We will take all the white bass we can catch.  Experience has shown that after you skim off the red meat on the fillet, they taste really good.  We caught a lot of small ones and they were thrown back and now and then a really nice keeper. After we had boated a half a dozen, we moved the boat away from an island we had kept as a guide post.  My wife Pam caught the majority of the white bass.  It just seemed like every time she dropped her lure in the water she had a hit.

Pam did some damage to the white bass population.  Most of the fish caught were smaller that these, but we had some really nice bass.  They eat good.

Moving the boat over made a big difference.  In a range of about 20 yards of drift, we consistently caught some really nice walleye in the 15 to 16 inch range.  These were keepers and they went right into the live well with the white bass.  We stayed in this general area about two hours and until we were totally sunburned. It slowed for us here and we still had two more walleye to fill out our limit for the day.  Again, Pam caught the majority of the walleye.  I truly believe when it comes to fishing with live bait women have better hands and can feel the soft strikes and when they swallow the bait.

This is the typical size we kept.  Filleted out they make a great meal for two people, not unless you are so hungry you eat two.

Moving along the chain of islands and staying out of the wind, we tried some new locations that we had never fished.  There was a really good reason we had never fished here.  There were no fish.  Still we tried it out.

What was taking place was the wind had started to pick up considerably.  While fishing behind the islands we were totally unaware of what had been taking place.  Now to get to the dock.  Once inside the bay where we had put in, all would be well, but we had to cross a windy part of the lake.  Moving out from behind the islands, the swells were running two and one half feet high with a three footer now and then.  We motored slowly and got the boat into the bay. The bow of the boat would really dip down and the stern and motor at time I thought would come out of the water.  We moved very slowly.  If water had come over the bow, I would have move to the back of the boat and run the kicker to the bay.  That would keep the nose up and prevent water from coming over the bow. We made it.  Fortunately, at the dock was a person who was fishing and he helped us hold the boat while I backed in the trailer.  The forecast was for the winds to pick up even more later in the day.  It was a good thing we got off the lake.

The reason I like to bring all this up is that I have fished this lake for almost 20 years and it really pays to keep track of your conditions.  It just seems like you never know when it is going to change regardless of the forecast.  Having said all that it is still a good place to go.

We drove up to the Grenville access to see what it was like.  It was worse than the Kanago Access as the wind was driving the water right into the dock and boat ramp.  It would have been close to impossible to get your boat off the water without banging the motor on the concrete ramp or damaging the boat on the trailer or dock.

All in all, we had a good day and caught a lot of fish, and that is what it is all about.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Gander Mountain

 

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Three days of Walleye, Day 1

For the last two weeks, I studied weather patterns in eastern South Dakota waiting for the right time to head north to Webster, SD and pound the lakes there for walleye and whatever else was swimming by our lures.  The windy conditions just kept prevailing and would follow with storms and torrential rains.  None of this is good for fishing.  There is one thing a person fishing the glacial lakes can depend on; the wind will always be blowing.  The velocity and the direction are the next two variables.

My wife, Pam, and I found a three day window where it looked really good.  Forecast winds were not in access of 15 mph and the skies were generally clear or partly cloudy.  High pressure was in the forecast.   With all this in mind, we called up to the motels and to my amazement two of the three were full.  The Circle Pines in Waubay was available and it is a good place to stay.  We just have to do some extra driving which is a minor inconvenience.  The good news is it is walking distance to the Purple Cow Ice Cream Parlor.

As we drove up, we had northwesterly flow and our fuel consumption was not the best pulling a boat.  In South Dakota the speed limit goes up to 80 mph on the interstate.  I drive 70 mph for fuel economy as the faster I go with the truck and boat, my fuel consumption goes way down.  The natives paid no attention to the 80 mph as they flew by me.

Eastern SD has had a lot of rain.  The corn was way up with a dark green color.  Even from the interstate as we sped along, we could tell the plants were really healthy.  Barring any unforeseen weather that would spoil it, this area should have bumper crops.  Now if the price was only decent.

 Arriving in the little town of Waubay by noon, we checked in at the Circle Pine Motel and headed to Webster 11 miles away.  After a quick bite at the local A&W, we headed over to Sportsman’s Cove to pick up some bait and get the latest news on where to go.  The first recommendation was Bitter Lake south of the town of Waubay, but there were a lot of boats fishing the lake and the water level was way down.  I do not know the lake well and with low water that made me nervous about smacking a submerged rock or reef.  The state of South Dakota on these lakes do not mark the shallow spots with buoys and every time I go up there I plan to write to the DNR and complain.  The out of state people spend a lot of money there.

Anyway, our plan was to fish Lake Waubay.  We put in at Kanago access.  Wind was out of the northwest so we launched there.  Putting the boat back on the trailer will be no problem with wind.  There is a good parking lot with good ramps and dock.  Plus there is a modern no flush toilet compliments by the state of South Dakota for your convenience.

We boated around the reefs toward Breski Bay and stopped on the northerly side of one of the islands.  At this location we drifted with the wind pulling spinners.  Pam had a minnow, and I put on a crawler.  We had a multitude of light hits and picked up some 13-14 inch walleye.  We threw them back even though you can now keep a 14 inch fish on Waubay.  It was just too small so we kept 15 inch or bigger which is still small, but we could get a decent fillet out of it. Fifteen inches two years ago was the minimum length you could take and now the state has lowered it. What does that tell you about the glacial lakes?

Working the bay produced nothing.  The fish had definitely gone deep.  We never got one hit in the 10 to 15 foot range even with all the cool air the area had enjoyed.  Moving out to the 15 to 20 foot range was where we picked up the hits.  The breeze produced just the right amount of drift to turn the spinner blade.  I changed to leeches just to see if I would pick up some hits.  After graphing fish, Pam would pick up a hit or a small walleye on a minnow or crawler.  I would get nothing, so after an hour of this lack of action, I went back to the crawler.

We were finally able to pick up one limit of fish, but not two, and this was a big disappointment.  The sky had gone totally void of clouds, and with the nice breeze we wanted to try out another location.  Straight south of the boat access was a series of points along the south shore.  In past years, fishing had at times been fast and furious.  We moved to this location and started working the points out to 20 feet of water.

We got the same action.  The hits were light and it was not a good indication of feeding fish.  Still we continued to work the areas, but it was not productive.  I have always been amazed how one day you can be on a hot spot and the next day it is like there were never any fish there to begin with.  It is called fishing, not catching.

Still, we had a really successful day and caught a lot of small fish with one limit of fish with a 15 inch minimum.  The people at Sportsman Cove said we would have to do a lot of culling.  The water on the lake was the clearest I have ever seen it and with the high sun, may have driven the fish to a deeper part of the lake.  That is probably the reason we were in 20 feet of water to catch fish.  It was a good day.


 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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Beautiful Icaria

Icaria is an island in the Agean Sea 10 miles southwest of Samos.  It is also a lake four miles north of Corning, Iowa and about sixty miles from my home in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

We had tried the lake a couple of years ago, and now it was time to hit it again.  One of my friends in the hunting club I belong to told me he was given some hot tips on how to fish the lake for walleye.  Fish attractors had been placed in the lake at multiple locations and were marked on a map up by the Iowa DNR.  The state does a great job on helping sportsmen harvest game with plenty of stocking and providing good fishing locations.  The recommendation was to get on top of the fish attractors and jig up and down.

We were concerned that it might be a little late. It was the middle of June and water temps in the surrounding lakes and ponds were getting warm.  The plan was to follow the hot tip and put the boat on top of the fish attractors and jig with a chartreuse jig.  Also we would work around the attractors jigging the lake in five to fifteen feet of water.  

We had been there probably twenty years ago.  It was a deep clear lake but it was packed with people fishing.  Several years ago it was drawn down to clean out the rough fish and re-stocked with crappie, bass, catfish, and walleye. I have caught a lot of fish up at Webster, SD, but a location close to home was welcomed. 

We started out early with a big breakfast at the Council Bluffs Fish and Game Club, grabbed some crawlers, and headed over to Corning, Iowa.  Four miles north of Corning lies Lake Icaria.   We were really impressed with the campgrounds and parks the state of Iowa had completed in the area.  Several boat ramps were available, and if you own a motor home or 5th wheel camper, there are some really nice options.

A road bed extends across the lake at this location and we worked both sides.  The graph just hummed with targets and we had some hits, but they were really soft and nothing was boated.  To each side of the roadway, water depth was about fifteen to sixteen feet. 
The water was clear and the bank plunged down to fifteen to twenty foot depths.  Our only drawback was the surface temperature was 72 degrees.  We put on spinners and dropped them to the bottom, reeled them up a foot or two and back trolled against the wind and then drifted with the wind depending on where we were on the lake. The wind was starting to pick up in the 20 to 25 mph area, but in a small lake surrounded by hills, it was not a problem.   Near a submerged roadbed called Kale Road, we picked up some hits.  We could feel the light bite, but we were not getting good hook sets.
Spillway area at the dam, and looking southwesterly.  Close to the dam the water was only fifteen feet, but out 20 yards it dropped right down to 20 to 25 feet.  To the left of the picture the bank is really steep and the water depth is in the thirty foot range.
We got on top of the fish attractors and jigged up and down letting the boat drift  out to fifteen feet of water and then moved back over the top of them again.  Good drift produced a lot of hits and we would pick up a fish or two, but they were all small.  I would almost classify them as bait size.  Still catching fish is what it is all about and we were doing it.  I changed rods to ultra light for both Pam and myself and that helped feel the nibble.  Still we the fish we caught were not in the keeping range. 

Map of the lake.  The fish attractors are marked on the map and we worked all of them plus along the face of the dam. 

We had also purchased a book called “Sportsman’s Connection” for the state of Iowa and it provided an excellent drawing of the topography of the lake.  I am going to check this book out for other states that I fish, mainly South Dakota and Kansas.  You can review what they have to offer for your state at their website www.scmaps.com. 
Both graphs were humming and we showed a lot of fish with the majority below ten feet.  With the heat that had taken place, it was not surprising that the walleye had probably moved into deeper water.

Northern shoreline close to the dam. 
The wind had picked up considerably but with a smaller lake to fish on, it was not a problem.  We moved to the face of the dam.  At this location and out about 75 yards, we graphed a lot of fish suspended just off the bottom.  Toward the southwest shore the water got deeper down to thirty feet.  Out from the face of the dam at least ten yards, the water was twenty to twenty-five feet deep.  The bottom third of the graph was packed with fish.  

Southern shoreline showing a road that disappeared under the lake.
We changed from jigs to spinners and back to jigs and moved to the north shore letting the boat drift with the wind and kept the jig almost on the bottom.  Sometimes we would let it fall to the bottom and jig it up and down, but there was no action at all.   The weather turned warm and it was definitely time to go home before the sun beat us to death.

This is a beautiful lake and in July, we are going back down and fish for bass with some top water lures in the early morning. 


 

Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck.  Hank

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Hitting Manawa Hard

The early spring when the temperatures were chilly, it was rainy or windy and on many days or a little of both.  Dredging operations were scheduled on Lake Manawa to start and we did not know what the effect would be on water quality or the different method of dredging that would be used.  So, I missed a month and did not get on the water.

The dredge is to the top of the picture.  Notice the pipe coming off the back end of the unit.  This is one of the signs that is posted in the lake for the boaters.  The buoys are not visible supporting the pipeline, but you motor right over the top at a low spot between the boys.  I lifted the motor to the max and still keep the prop in the water.

Putting in at the Fish & Game Club on a beautiful June morning we made our way slowly close to the dredging operation to put the boat on the southwest side of the lake.  This is hydraulic dredging. 

The dredge floats on the water and pumps the material through a temporary pipeline to an off site location, several thousand feet away. The dredge acts like a floating vacuum removing sediment very precisely.
Hydraulic dredges use a discharge line, and a return line, which are the only disturbances to the surrounding environment. These lines can easily be run under roads or sidewalks. Other than this, the dredge, which is not much larger than a small boat, is the only machine to be seen. It is an unobtrusive method that does not require disturbing the shoreline and requires one trip in to put the dredge in the water and one trip out when the project is complete.

The pipeline comes over to this unit, and I assume this must be some form of pumping station because the next stop is the area where the sediment is collected and piled higher than the trees.  I understand this material will be used by the highway department.

 Hydraulic dredging uses the energy of pumping water at a high velocity through a pipeline to carry sediment away from the lake bottom to a distant location. Because moving water is utilized as the mode of transportation for the sediment, the water and sediment must be separated once the sediment has reached its final destination.

This is an aerial map of Lake Manawa. At the top of the map where the finger sticks out is where the dredge was located.  The finger sticking out of the water at the lower left is Boy Scout Island, and where we worked around and off the tip of the peninsula.  A lot of fisherman fish this area from the bank.
The sediment is separated from the water in a temporary settling basin. Since the slurry velocity greatly decreases once it is discharged into a settling basin, there is no longer energy to carry the solids. Therefore, the solids fall to the bottom and clear water flows over a weir to return to the lake. When the dredging is complete and ample time is given for this material to dry. The material can also be loaded out and beneficially deposited at other various sites to fill in low areas, utilized for topsoil, etc.
Driving to the south side of Lake Manawa, there are two pipelines coming out of the lake, around a picnic area and under the roadway.  Beyond the levee that surrounds the area, was a huge pile of sediment that had been taken from the lake.  We tried to find a way into the area to get a picture, but were not able to do so.  
Another warning sign.

The dredging company had put colored marker buoys over the top of the floating pipeline and warning signs were posted on where not to go.  It was slow going for about 50 yards in the general area of the barge, and the prop was just barely in the water as we crossed over the pipeline.  

Now to the fishing.  It stunk.  The water temperature was 72 degrees at the surface and I would have preferred to have it much cooler, but it was our fault we did not get over sooner.  We steered the boat to the west bank and moved out to about 5 feet of water.  The breeze was perfect for using a jig and floating it above the bottom of the lake and working it up and down.  A crawler was the bait of choice per the recommendation of the bait shop.  Also with the greenish water color, we selected chartreuse as our color.

The chute to the center of the picture leads to the south end of a housing area on the west shore of the lake.  Fish about 20 yards out and south to the next picture.  I have had luck there in really cool weather.
For the first hour, nothing happened.  As we approached the south shore, we started getting some hits.  These were small fish and probably could not get the bait in their mouths.  Covering the bait with Berkley’s Powerbait increased the hits, but nothing was taking a hold.  A couple of times I felt resistance, eased up on the pressure then set the hook on nothing.  The assumption was if it was a walleye, they were mouthing it.  One needs to be patient, and then give the rod a strong hook setting action.  That strategy was a failure.  

Start at the chute from the above picture and fish south to the dead tree.  I have had luck doing that, but today was not the day. It beats working.

 We worked around the peninsula on the south end of the lake, but had no luck.  With the sun high and pounding on us, it was lunch time and my wife and I were both hungry.  Tomorrow is another day. 


 

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.   Hank

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A Beautiful Bird Comes Again

They
have appeared again and we do not know where they came from.  A
neighbor who is really into birds told my wife to put out some grape
jelly and we would see a beautiful bird come and feed on the grape
jelly.  It is the Baltimore Oriole.  The oriole is a singer with a rich
whistling song that echoes from tree tops and parks.  Now the birds
are in our neighborhood.  We always thought this bird lived in the
eastern states, but here it is in Iowa.  The male has brilliant orange
plumage while the female appearance is much more subdued. 

 
Click on the logo to visit the website for great buys.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

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Exciting Turkey Hunting

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In the past week we had a total of ten inches of rain and things were really soaked.  When I previously scouted the new farm the pasture grass was only ankle deep.  You could set up anywhere you wanted and the turkeys were plentiful with plenty of sign.  How things have changed in a week.  The rain had made part of the farm not passable due to the mud across an earthen dam in the valley.  Plus, the pasture grass was now knee high.

The experience I have had with tall grass is the turkeys do not like it.  An old turkey hunter that is a friend of mine also told me the same thing.  The farm was covered in tall grass in a majority of the valleys except around the wooded areas of standing timber.  This made hunting really tough.  However, the land owner had plunked one on opening day.  I have always liked hunting Iowa’s last season because the hens are generally bred out and the toms just seem to be more receptive.  The boys are out looking for love and most of the girls have been spoken for.

HEVI-Shot Magnum Blend Turkey Load Shotshells
Get great result with this shell.  This is what I shoot for turkeys.

Another old turkey hunter told me that most big toms are harvested after 8 a.m. which is well after they have come off the roost.  I have only shot one turkey that had just come off the roost and that was on another farm and in cool weather.  He came out of the tree behind me and commenced to let his presence be known to the girls.  I gave him a couple of yelps and some clucks and purrs.  He stepped out of the woods only to be made into roast turkey.  He tasted good.

Anyway, I got to the farm around 8 a.m. and halfway through the gate two big toms walked across the road and into the woods.  There was not time to grab my gun out of the case, load up, and lay out some metal.  They were gone, but they were in no hurry.  That was a good sign as I planned to head back to the tree line and set up.  I wanted to see if they could be sweet talked into coming back to the road’s edge.

I parked the truck a couple of hundred yards from where I saw the birds.  I loaded the equipment on my back and  headed to the location to hunt.  Off to my right was a steep hill with short grass on it and trees at the top.  Then I heard a loud gobble.  It was obvious there was a love hungry tom in the woods or beyond.

I started up the hill looking for a decent place to hide and one was found up against a tree.  It was a little exposed to the front, but my leaf suit and the knee high grass would help for cover.  I would be visible from the stomach up while sitting in my chair, but I was well in the shadows.

This is where the action took place.  I am in the shadows and the tree line is 60 yards out. 

He gobbled constantly so I gave him the old “Come and see me, big boy” call and some clucks and purrs.  He never shut up but did not come to the call.  The strategy was shifted to the “Hey, big boy, are you looking for love?” call.  Still he did not come.  It was strange that he moved from the top of the hill to the lower levels.  I picked out his location just by the location of the sounds.

My question was,”What should the strategy be?”  I was not happy with my location as it was a long shot to the edge of the timber, even though Hevi-Shot was loaded into the shooting stick. It was obvious he was not coming to the call but would eventually stay close to the edge of the timber.  The overwhelming urge now was to crawl through the tall grass till I was closer to the top of the hill.  That would put me in a better position and a shorter shot.  Sometimes my distance judging skills are not very good.  My guess was the edge of the timber was 40 yards from my location.  I was getting really edgy waiting for him to appear.

The decision was made to quit calling.  He had enough invitations to come and make music with a beautiful young hen.  He kept it up.  Up and down the hill he went and then all went silent.  Just below the top of the hill in front of me a red head appeared.  It looked around, then went down.  The shooting stick was then positioned against my shoulder.  My left arm rested on my leg and the harvesting machine was in my left hand.  All I had to do was lift it up and make a short swing.

He did not make a sound.  The next thing I saw was his red head sticking up above the ridge line again.  He was just on the edge of the timber above me and he kept looking around.  I’ll bet he felt like he was just stood up by a hen or two. Haven’t we all been there.  Bathed in sunlight  he looked absolutely gorgeous.  When lit up in sunlight the birds look so colorful.  There was no way I could take a picture.  Movement had to be minimal and now was the time to harvest him.

With the butt of the gun in my shoulder, the shooting iron was moved off my knee quickly to bring him into sight.  He saw the movement and was startled.  Just as I cut loose, he was on the move and  kept moving.  I did not even roll him and his head did not droop at all.  With a lot of noise he was off into the woods.

I climbed up to the hill where the shot was taken and there was no sign of blood or feathers.  I stepped it off  back to my location and the distance was not 40 yards but 60 yards.  The most damage done to him was probably a sore butt for a couple of days.

Looking down from the top of the hill.

I climbed back to the top of the hill hoping another bird might appear, but after an hour it was lunch time and I headed home.


 

Gander Mountain

Good fishing, good hunting, Hank

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Scouting a New Farm for Turkeys

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Great news happened this week.  I got an invitation to check out a farm just north of Council Bluffs located in the Loess Hills that is overrun per the landowner with turkeys.  The farm consists of 60 acres of timber and pasture and a few acres of crop ground.  The Loess soil is not very good for farming, plus if the ground is disturbed it will wash and gully easily.  The landowner lives out of state and so does not hunt the ground and neither does anyone else.  The land is mine and I feel as if I have just struck the mother lode.

Tom Teasers Custom Calls Dominant Hen Box Turkey Call

The Loess Hills are a formation of wind-deposited loess soil deposited from the last glacier in the westernmost part of Iowa and Missouri along the Missouri River. The dominant features of this landscape are “peak and saddle” topography, “razor ridges” (narrow ridges, often less than 10 feet (3 m) wide, which fall off at near ninety-degree angles on either side for 60 feet (18 m) or more), and “cat-step” terraces (caused by the constant slumping and vertical sheering of the loess soil). The soil has a characteristic yellow hue and is generally broken down into several units based on the period of deposition.  Loess is known locally as “sugar clay” because it can be extremely hard when dry, but when wet, loses all cohesion. The Loess Hills of Iowa are remarkable for the depth of the drift layer, often more than 90 feet (27 m) deep.

HEVI-Shot Magnum Blend Turkey Load Shotshells

I grabbed a gun and drove up one morning to meet the landowner’s father to check out the ground and pick out some good places to hunt.  The road down into the farm is long with loose gravel.  I could feel the vehicle slip as we drove down to the bottom of the valley.  A gated entry is located there and a key was handed over to me for future use.

As we drove into a parking spot, I noticed the grass on either side of the road was almost knee high.  Hens ran ahead of the vehicle and finally took off and flew to some of the standing timber. The tall grass is not good for turkeys as they do not like that type of environment.   It blocks their vision, which is one of their most effective means of survival.

We climbed up a hill and set up a few decoys to give it a try.  After sitting for about an hour we did not hear or see any birds and there was no response to any calls.  My host said they had continually seen birds in large flocks moving through the ground.

We moved off this location and walked into the valley and crossed a small dam holding back rain water.  It had formed a nice pond and ducks and geese were nesting there.  This farm holds it all with plenty of water, cover, and food.

We moved to another location on the side of a hill and set up for another hour.  Again, we did not hear or see anything.  The plain fact is that they were not on the farm or nearby during the time we were there.

We walked to some other locations but had no luck, although we did hear a love sick tom off in the distance making his presence known with plenty of gobbling.   With no luck and the main purpose accomplished, we left.  My plan is to be back and on site at daybreak when the birds come off the roost.  We did see plenty of signs with plenty of droppings and lots of tracks both old and fresh.  Feathers were everywhere, so we knew the birds were working through the area.

Gander Mountain


 

Good fishing, good hunting, Hank.

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Squaw Creek Snow Geese

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.

 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

The Snow Goose Migration Invades Iowa

Gander Mountain

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The following article on the spring snow goose migation is reprinted from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website, (http://www.iowadnr.gov/).  The author is Lowell Washburn.

The spring snow goose migration has arrived in southern Iowa. If you’ve not yet seen the spectacle for yourself, it’s a trip worth taking. Simply stated, it is a bird show without equal.

The numbers defy description. On the best days, wavy lines of migrators form a lacework pattern that fill the skies and stretch from horizon to horizon. Once they descend, feeding flocks are measured by the acre rather than by hundreds or thousands.

But it is the sound of the geese that will impress you most. A distinctive high pitched yelping that, when multiplied by many thousands, will leave an indelible print on your memory as well as on your ear drums. Spend an entire day with the geese, and the unmistakable sound will continue to echo within your head well into the night.

Although some migration will occur statewide, the vast majority of snow geese will fly across southwestern Iowa. Located just below the Iowa border near Mound City, Mo., the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge offers a final staging area as geese push toward remote arctic nesting grounds. As the birds forsake Gulf Coast wintering areas and head north, Squaw Creek goose buildups can be rapid and dramatic. A world class example occurred last week as the snow goose count jumped from an already incredible 300,000 to a record busting 1.4 million. From there it didn’t take long until flocks began invading southern Iowa, especially along traditional flight paths of the Missouri River.

During recent decades, snow geese have exhibited a number of amazing changes. Most significant is that populations have more than tripled during the past 30 years, resulting in severe damage to fragile arctic nesting areas. Current numbers have increased to a point where snow geese not only threaten their own survival, say scientists, but are also having a negative impact on dozens of arctic nesting bird species.

The over abundance has called for extreme measures. Every year since 1999, hunters have been allowed to shoot snow geese during spring migration. The original goal of the emergency provision was to reduce snow goose populations by 50 percent. Although a decade of spring seasons have dramatically increased snow goose harvest, the measure is failing to achieve its goal. The good news is that increased hunting pressure has effectively reduced the survival of adult females nesting in colonies along the southern Arctic’s Hudson Bay lowlands. Unfortunately, survival of females in the northern arctic — which is where more than 80 percent of snow geese nest — appears to be essentially unchanged as breeding colonies continue to expand.

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 first 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 geese stopped wherever there were suitable marshes. Goose behavior was much different then, and most hunters regarded snow geese as being just plain stupid. Tame and trusting, the flocks came eagerly to decoys — which in most cases meant a dozen or less floating counterfeits. Goose hunters who employed more than one or two dozen floaters were considered hard core professionals.

How times change! Today, most snow geese are hunted in harvested grain fields and spreads employing anything less than a thousand or more decoys is considered lacking. Instead of traveling in small groups, migrating flocks now arrive in waves containing thousands, if not tens of thousands, of birds. Instead of setting their wings at the first squeak of the call, modern-day snows warily scrutinize decoy spreads while hanging suspended at several hundred feet. Whenever a group of inexperienced juveniles attempts to break ranks and parachute earthward, adults do their best to call them back into the flock. The tactic usually works. But youngsters who fail to heed the warning pay the price.

These days, snow geese never come easy. In spite of unprecedented hunter mobility, superior equipment, increasingly realistic decoys, and even electronic caller playing taped recordings of live birds, snow geese continue to become increasingly difficult to bag. To lure a flock within 20 yards or less of decoys currently represents the ultimate waterfowling challenge. No bird anywhere is harder for human hunters to deceive — and I‘m including wild turkeys in that statement.

The eminent challenges of preserving fragile arctic breeding grounds while literally protecting the snow goose from itself are tasks that have left scientists, wildlife managers, and hunters scratching their heads. Only one fact remains certain. When it comes to snow geese, no one is calling them stupid anymore.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank

Gander Mountain

 

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Getting Ready for the Turkeys

Gander Mountain

Hunting turkeys is one of the most challenging of hunts I’ve experienced and it is fun.  With a turkey’s brain being the size of a quarter, there cannot be a thought pattern there, but they sure act like it.  It is all in their sight and hearing that makes them such a challenge.  They can see at really long distances but when you are up close, they seem to be confused and become really easy targets.  Getting them up close is the first challenge once you have found where they are running.  It is amazing how they will be right along the shoulder of the highways pecking and scratching, totally ignoring the passing traffic.   Being out in the field and seeing them at 100 yards or more changes things entirely.  When they spot you, they will run like the wind. When hunting, the first rule is to be extremely well- concealed with no movement. I wish I had vision like a turkey.

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This season, another call will be added to the one that is currently used.  Reading all the magazines, the professional turkey hunters have an array of calls at their disposal.  The second item to add is to expand the decoy spread with additional hens.  I currently use the Pretty Boy-Pretty Girl combination and add a couple of hen decoys to the mix along with a jake.  I will definitely add more hens.  My friend John has a decoy with a tom mounting a hen.  He needs to throw that one away.  The attacking toms have beaten and scratched the thing to death.  He claims that when he first put it out, the toms just poured out of the woods and jumped all over the decoy.  It really made them mad and they wanted to fight the decoy.  I have had a tom circle my Pretty Boy decoy.  Trying to get my camera out to take a picture did not work, so he was promptly harvested.  I am in the eating business not the picture business, but it was neat to watch.

RedHead Reality Series Remote Crazy Jake and Mating Hen Turkey Decoy Combo
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Turkey season opens Saturday April 16th through May 31st in Nebraska.  Iowa has several seasons, but I hunt the 4th season that runs May 4th to May 22.  I like to hunt later in the season because the toms should have all the hens bred out and will be more receptive to decoys and calls. I have access to four farms, but will probably only hunt two of them since these hold the most birds.  Hunting private ground is totally unlike hunting public lands.

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You have competition in hunting the public lands and it come from other hunters.  First, there is a whole lot of calling going on and it pays not to call too much.  If you have scouted the ground and have determined where the birds are running, on opening day be at that location and harvest a turkey as soon as possible.  It may not be the grand daddy of the flock, but you will have one and can be out of the woods.  Otherwise, I would wait until later after all the hunters have given up and the hens are all
bred out.


Winchester Long Beard XR Turkey Shotshells

Winchester Long Beard XR Turkey Shotshells
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If you are hunting private land and will be only one of a couple of hunters on the ground, you have a distinct advantage over the public lands. There is no pressure and the birds have not heard a lot of calling.  Also there is limited human access in the area. You will need to determine where they are running and position yourself in the general area.


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Hot Shot Deluxe Ghillie Suit
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Before the season, I visit each farm and spend time in the early morning just to watch and listen to see where the birds are hanging out.  It has worked for me in the past and continues to each season.  Next is a visit with the farmer.  They see the birds constantly and can head you in the right direction.   The farmer will know where they are roosting.  Being in the general area where they roost, will provide an excellent opportunity for success.

Butterball Oil-Free Electric Turkey Fryer
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Good Hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank