Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.
ST. HELENA, Neb. | If that golden sun just edging over the eastern horizon was any clue, today was going to be a beautiful day.
As I stepped out of the truck and looked across the slumbering giant we call the Missouri River, I could hear the calls of Canada geese ringing out in the crisp morning air washed in the golden rays of the sun.
Nothing lights up the yellowing cottonwood leaves along the river like sunlight, and I wondered why it seemed autumn cottonwoods along the Missouri River always looked more brilliant than anywhere else.
There were two trucks with empty boat trailers parked at the St. Helena Boat Ramp. Early risers, no doubt. Paddlefish snaggers or walleye fishermen? Could be either.
Paddlefish snagging season on the Missouri River opened Oct. 1, and it will run through Oct. 31 for anglers possessing either or both South Dakota and Nebraska tags.
I was about a half hour early at the ramp. But only a few minutes later, I heard a vehicle coming down the gravel road that leads to the landing. It was a white Dodge pickup. That would be Gary Howey, Hartington, Neb., and his daughter Mieke Slaba, a paddlefish snagging machine from Wagner, S.D. As they pulled up a little guy popped out of the truck. That was Teddy, Mieke’s 10-year-old son. Just having a young guy along seemed to make a bright day even brighter.
We were waiting for Marlyn Wiebelhaus, Wynot, Neb., our friend and full-time guide on the Missouri for archery fishing, snagging and deer and turkey hunting. He had said to meet him there at 8:30 and at 8:25 he pulled up with his boat.
After the usual greetings, I watched Marlyn rig his rods.
He prefers 12-foot, fiberglass rods rigged with large casting reels spooled with braided line. Braid offers a much smaller diameter than either Dacron or monofilament and that means much less water resistance, which results in greater depth per ounce of weight of sinker.
A 4-ounce bank sinker is tied to the end of the line. Above the sinker about three feet, he looped the line and ran it through the eye of single treble hook with a gap of half an inch. A loop knot on the eye and a couple of half hitches on the shank down near the bend holds the hook in alignment with the braid and you are ready to go snagging.
And off we went.
I didn’t have a paddlefish tag. My role was to act as cameraman for Gary’s Outdoorsmen Adventures television show.
Paddlefish like to congregate in the slack water below sand bars, just like most other fish. The bar Marlyn chose was pretty good sized and just off a sand bank which, thanks to the 2011 flood, sat 4 feet above the water line. The depth was about 7 feet below the bar, but there was a channel down to 14 feet on the bank side.
Mieke had one snagging tag. Gary had two, one for Nebraska and the other a nonresident South Dakota tag. You have to apply for a tag from either state. Only 1,600 tags are issued for either state.
With the hooks in the water, Marlyn began trolling while the snaggers swept back on the rods, let it drop back and then began another sweep. It’s hard work and you will soon find out how good of shape you are in.
Gary offered $1 for the first fish and when Mieke said,”Make it $10,” I just smiled. This wasn’t the first time I’d been snagging with Mieke. My money was on her.
Moments later she connected.
The big rod bent down hard and she was cranking like there was no tomorrow. [Read more...]
Worthington, MN. The pheasant opener, a day we hunters have been preparing for the entire year and in Minnesota, one that kicks off with the Minnesota Governors Pheasant Hunt.
I have spent many hours probing the depths for walleyes on the lakes of Minnesota, but have not had many opportunities to hunt.
When Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Larry Myhre and I received invitations to attend the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener, we jumped at the chance. We were anxious to see what this part of the state had to offer! The Minnesota DNR’s August roadside counts showed the southwestern part of the state held the highest pheasant numbers, with southwestern Minnesota showing a 22% increase over last year’s count.
Last week, our opportunity to hunt in the state became reality as we were among the 425 who attended the banquet held at the Comfort Suites, those who hunted during the fourth annual Minnesota’s Governor’s Hunting Opener held in Worthington, Minnesota.
We joined Nobles County Pheasants Forever members Doug Tate and Nathan Holt, his labs Nitro and Greta and Ken Varland, Southern Minnesota Regional Wildlife Manager, for the 2014 pheasant season northwest of Worthington.
Nobles County Pheasants Forever was one of the entities, hosting the Governor’s Hunt. It was the 14th Pheasants Forever chapter established in the nation in 1982 and in 1986 had the distinction of producing the first land acquisition in the history of the organization. Since their inception, the chapter has contributed $3.1 million to land acquisition purchases on 31 different properties that total more than 2,000 acres.
Pheasants Forever is the Habitat Organization. Habitat is the natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism, and in many areas what used to be natural habitat is now cropland.
Find the habitat and you are going to find pheasants. In the Worthington, Minnesota area, you will find both, as there are 43 public access Wildlife Management Areas scattered throughout the area with premier habitat.
It was early October with much of the crops still standing in the field. We would be hunting a 148-acre tract of well-established grasses, mostly Big Bluestem with willows towering along the edges and wetlands running through the middle. It was habitat ideal for pheasant.
At 9:00 as the season opened, with Nitro and Greta working out front, we made our way into the damp grass, which created excellent scenting conditions for the dogs. We had waited for this, the pheasant opener for a year, anticipation was high, and we would not be disappointed as it would not be long before the dogs put several birds into the air.
The first two came up silent into the sun, making not a sound, not cackling as roosters often do, making it difficult for us to identify the birds as roosters.
The third bird came up, swung left, towards the outside of our group, Ken spotted color on the young bird, shouldering his shotgun, dropping our first birds of the day.
As more birds went skyward, it appeared as if these birds were from a late hatch, as many of the birds were young of the year, showing very little color. [Read more...]
Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.
MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. | The White River slid by quietly in the morning sun in front of Fulton’s Lodge. Releases seemed to be low and the current diminished. A great blue heron stood knee deep at the opposite bank, poised and ready to plunge his beak into any unsuspecting trout.
A drift boat slowly made its way upriver, powered by a 9.5 horsepower motor. As it drew near, the big heron stood high on its long legs and spread his wings to fly. Above a pair of turkey vultures danced on the air currents looking, always looking.
In front of Fulton’s, nearly 100 people milled about. Two big rod racks were filling up with bamboo fly rods, rigged and ready to cast. Two large open-sided tents were tucked under nearby trees, one of them a hazel nut tree which had littered the ground with its fruits.
A bell, hung from one of the trees, began ringing, someone pounding it with a small hammer. The group gathered around to catch the morning announcements.
This was the 17th Annual Southern Rodmakers Gathering. There were 83 attendees representing 26 states. Some came from as far away as Main, Oregon and California. It has never ceased to amaze me at how far rod makers will come to take part in these gatherings, and most attend every year. They were here for two-and-a-half days of renewing friendships made last year, meeting new friends with similar interests and learning more about the art of building bamboo fly rods.
I had placed four rods on the racks, three of which were new and built this year. The other was a 7-foot, 6-inch rod built and exhibited last year for a Taper Quest project in which rod makers made 25 rods of all different tapers so those in attendance could cast them, identify favorites and perhaps build one for themselves. This year Taper Quest continued with more detailed studies of the tapers and what the numbers entailed.
Once again the rod building seminars conducted by attendees with expertise in the subject were well attended.
Tony Spezio, Flippin, Ark., has helped many rod makers learn many of the techniques of working with bamboo. Many of these techniques he has developed in his own rod making and has willingly shared them through these seminars, his writings and online bamboo forums. His Rod Making 101 took attendees through the complete rod building process. [Read more...]
The buck stood at the edge of a picked cornfield about 250 yards away. Even at that distance I could see he was a definite “shooter.” Rather than skirting the field and coming by my stand just off of the corner, he cut straight across the middle. What to do? I picked up my rattle-bag and cracked it as hard as I could. He stopped and turned his head in my direction. I hit the rattle-bag a second time and he came on a steady trot in my direction. Once he reached 100 yards he slowed to a fast walk and started to swing downwind. Long story short – he stood 80 yards downwind of me, hardly moving a muscle for almost five minutes. His only movements were his ears searching for “the two bucks he had just heard” and his nose waving in the breeze scanning for other supporting evidence. He turned and slowly disappeared over the ridge.
What makes a state of affairs seem real to you? If you can see it, hear it, smell it, touch it – the more senses we satisfy, the more that scenario seems real. This is also true for whitetails? By using different techniques a hunter can appeal to a variety of the whitetails’ senses at once. On that day I sure wish I would have had some scent set-up or a decoy placed out to draw his attention and coax him in the final 80 yards. [Read more...]