John Stears caught this nice white bass while fishing for largemouth bass on the Mississippi River near Wabasha Minnesota. White bass can provide lots of action when other species of fish won’t.
John Stears caught this nice white bass while fishing for largemouth bass on the Mississippi River near Wabasha Minnesota. White bass can provide lots of action when other species of fish won’t.

It’s mid-summer and that means that fishing can be good. Somedays are better than others, just like at any other time of year. There are a number of things we can do to increase our catching success at this time of year, but perhaps the most important thing we can do is to be flexible in our goals for the species of fish that we catch. We need to have a target specie, a species of fish that we’re going to pursue on our day on the water, but there are times when we need to change our goals. Here’s what I mean.

Several years ago my fishing friend Bob Riege and I were chasing walleyes on the lower end of Lake Pepin. Pepin is a wide spot in the Mississippi River near Lake City Minnesota. We were trolling for walleyes. We were using good baits in good walleye water, but the walleyes weren’t as interested in getting caught as we had hoped. I was watching our rods in their rod holders as we trolled. Suddenly Bob said, with some degree of urgency, “Reel the lines in”. I didn’t asked why, I just reeled. Then Bob pointed out a flock of gulls about a half mile away that were swooping down on the river’s surface. I knew immediately that there was a school of white bass herding shad to the surface. The birds and the bass were eating the shad. We moved quickly in their direction, then put the electric motor down and quietly snuck within casting distance of the schooling bass. We started casting and catching. It didn’t matter what we threw as long as it was about three inches long, about the same size as the shad. We caught lots of white bass, but then they dropped down and moved. Action stopped, and we started trolling for walleyes again, but kept a close eye on the birds the rest of the day. Several more times we spotted birds swooping, and several more times we got in on some very fast white bass action.

White bass saved the day for us on a lake in the northeast corner of South Dakota once also. Les Rowland and I were fishing northern pike, and we were catching a few. As we moved along we came upon a culvert that ran under the highway and connected two lakes. There was some decent current coming through the culvert. As we cast our large bucktails for pike, we kept feeling something swipe at them, but miss. We wanted to figure out what they were: Maybe they were small pike, but maybe they were walleyes. We switched to lighter action rods and smaller baits. They were neither pike nor walleyes: They were giant white bass, the big ones with blue tails. They were huge and on medium action spinning rods they were great fun to catch.

It’s good to have a plan when you go fishing, but across the Midwest and probably most other places, if you just tie on a jig and tip it with a plastic worm, something like an Impulse Ringworm, and just start casting it along the deep weedline and anywhere else that looks fishy, you’re probably going to get bit. Might be a bass, maybe a walleye or northern pike or crappie or perch, or maybe even a white bass. The thing is, you’re increasing your odds for catching a fish, and that means you’re increasing your chance of having a good time, and that’s why we go fishing.

To see all the most recent episodes of the Fishing the Midwest television series, new fishing related tips, and fishing articles from the past, go to If you do Facebook, check us out for a variety of fishing-related things.

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Anglers are reminded that bait and fish may not be transported in water taken from a lake, river or stream.

Bait can only be transported away from a water body in domestic water (tap water, well water, bottled water, ice). Most domestic water must be treated to remove chlorine prior to putting fish in it.

Boat anglers can wait until they reach an immediately adjacent fish cleaning station to put their bait in domestic water. They can dump out the lake water and fill their bait bucket up with water from the cleaning station or water they brought with them.

A shore angler can do the same if they are able to access the domestic water source at a fish cleaning station that is immediately adjacent or if they bring domestic water with them.

Minnows may be used in multiple lakes as long as they are transported between lakes in domestic water. Lake water must be drained before leaving each lake.

Unused minnows should be poured into the fish grinder at a cleaning station or drained and disposed of in the trash containers at the boat launch or cleaning areas. It is a violation of state statute to dump unused minnows into a water body.

For more information, visit

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing!

After a long cold winter, Sunny days are what we are waiting for, but getting too much sun isn’t such a great idea.

In the summer, who doesn’t want to be tanned, there’s a thin line between a tan and skin cancer.

Everyone needs to worry about getting too much sun, as it can be a life-changing event.

It’s very simple, too much sun can and will lead to skin cancer! I know you’re saying; skin cancer is something others get but not me, it can happen to anyone at any age.

When you first hear the word cancer, it will scare you to death, literally. That’s the first thing came to mind when I heard it. It is a day you won’t forget; it was my annual physical and thought I was home free when a dermatologist stopped in to talk with my doctor.

He had seen our television series and as all outdoorsmen do, we talked about hunting, fishing and the show. He asked how things were going and I told him things were going well and during that conversation, he indicated if there was anything, he could do for me to let him know.

I brought up a spot on my lip that had been there for a while, not a big spot, not one that caused me any pain, just a spot that would break open from time to time.

He looked at it, talked with my doctor and when said, “it looks like you have skin Cancer,” I about fell off the examination table

What, I must have not heard him right, as my hearing isn’t the best, so I asked him to repeat it, the next words out of his mouth were “Cancer” and we’d better get a biopsy done.

This couldn’t be, as, it’s been there for a long time, since the early 1970’s when I was in Viet Nam when I had shrapnel in my face and hands, pulled a small hot piece of shrapnel out of my lip. It had never hurt after that and as far as I knew, really hadn’t gotten any larger.

Must be some kind of a mistake, it didn’t make sense, but when he ordered me back in a couple of days for a biopsy, that’s when I started worrying.

I was forty-five, and thought I’d lead a pretty clean life, never really did anything too bad, treated people the way I wanted to be treated, this just couldn’t be happening to me.

A few days later, they performed the biopsy and I spent the next week worrying about what the results might be.

Every time the phone rang, I’d panic, and didn’t want to answer it, I was afraid of what they were going to tell me. When they did call, the doctor informed me they thought to be skin cancer and now, I was worried, big time as Melanoma spreads out.

He didn’t think it had spread “much”, but I would have to have surgery to see just how far it had gone.

I had several appointments with a plastic surgeon, just in case the surgery would be more extensive than first thought.

When the day arrived for the surgery, the plastic surgeon came in to help with the operation, as they didn’t know how much of my lower lip was affected until they started cutting.

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, they took a big chunk of my lower lip as well as a sizeable piece on the inside, which needed to be removed, and then my lower lip was stretched to fill in the gap. Fortunately, for me, it didn’t appear it had spread any farther.

Results came back indicating it was Squeamish cell and not Melanoma and they thought they had gotten it all, but I’d had to come back for regular checkups to run tests to make sure it hadn’t returned, and after several years of checkups, I’m now cancer free and a whole lot wiser.

I’ve always been an outdoorsmen, hunting, fishing trapping, outside all the time and I knew the sun could give me problems, but I never really took enough time to protect myself.

When I was guiding and fishing tournaments, I didn’t use much, if any sunscreen as I worried about getting scent on my hands, which would affect my ability to catch fish.

Which is really “”STUPID, so what if I catch a few less fish each trip, if I get skin cancer, I’m going to have a lot less trip if I die at an early age from not protecting myself from the sun.

These days, I worry about skin cancer, as we all should, especially if you’re spending much time outdoors.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and easy to prevent. There are three types of skin cancer with two most common types being basal cell and squamous cell cancer.

Basil cell is the one that most people are familiar with, it’s the type a doctor removes by freezing or burning off. It’s usually found on the head, face, neck, ears, hands and arms. It too can be dangerous and if not taken care of in its early stage can spread.

Squamous cell cancer, as I had is more serious as it may spread quickly if not taken care of and surgically removed. Melanoma is more dangerous as it can spread all over the body quickly, but it is less common.

It’s a cold hard fact, anyone can get skin cancer, but it is most common in people who

Don't think you can't be sunburned on cloudy days as you can and wearing long sleeve clothing and applying sunscreen to unprotected area will help prevent skin cancer.
Don’t think you can’t be sunburned on cloudy days as you can and wearing long sleeve clothing and applying sunscreen to unprotected area will help prevent skin cancer.
  1. Spend a lot of time in the sun or have been sunburned
  2. Have light-colored skin, hair and eyes
  3. Have a family member with skin cancer
  4. Are over age 50


Each year, there are over a million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed in the U.S. and the incidences are rising.

What’s unbelievable, is, many of these cases could be prevented by simply avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, protecting your skin with clothing and by using a good sunscreen.


It’s hard to believe that all it takes to protect yourself from skin cancer is to apply sunscreen.

Make sure you know what you’re buying when it comes to purchasing sunscreen, as there’s a huge difference between sunscreens! Purchase one with a Sun Protection Factor SPF of at least 15 and one offering both UA and UAB protection, waterproof and sweat proof.

Apply the sunscreen liberally thirty minutes before going out into the sun and it’s a good idea to reapply it every 15 to 30 minutes after that.

Reapplication is the big thing when it comes to applying sunscreen, your nose, ears and lips really need to be protected because they’re hanging out there and will receive the largest amount of sun.

There’re numerous lip ointments with an SPF of 15 such as Dermatone lip balm, that not only keeps your lips moisturized when you’re in the sun; they’re also going to protect them from the harmful effects of the sun.

Like other sunscreen products, you’ll want to use lip treatments offering at least a 15 SPF.

If you’re an angler like me, and worried about getting the smell on your hands, There are several companies such as Dermatone that make Ultimate Sunscreen for Fishermen that’s fragrance free and one that won’t degrade your fishing line.

I was lucky, but I wouldn’t want to rely on luck when it comes to getting skin cancer.

Don’t let cancer stop you from enjoying life and the great outdoors!

Cover up, apply sunscreen, avoid excess exposure to the sun, and your outdoors experiences will be a long one and be a lot more enjoyable.

Protect yourself from Tick Borne diseases

By Gary Howey

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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


Tip #2: You’ll want to wear light-colored clothing whenever possible. That way, ticks are easier to see before they find their way to your skin.


Tip #3: Look for a repellent that contains 0.5 percent or more of Permethrin. This works as a great tick repellent and is used on clothing. In fact, some products containing Permethrin can remain bonded with clothing fibers even through laundering.


Tip #4: When you return from the outdoors, inspect all your clothing before going inside. Once inside, do a thorough whole-body inspection and wash your clothing as soon as possible.


Tip #5: Don’t forget to protect man’s best friend. Commercially available dog dips containing Amitrax or Permethrin can provide canines with tick protection for two to three weeks per treatment. For the very best tick prevention for canines, contact your local veterinarian and inquire about prescribed treatment options, most of which can now last for a month or more.


If you find a tick attached to your body, it is recommended that the tick be removed as soon as possible and the affected area is disinfected immediately following the removal.


Research trials have shown that the best method to remove a tick is to grasp the tick close to the skin with fine-tipped tweezers, placing the tweezers close to and parallel to the skin so that you grasp the base of the tick’s mouthparts rather than its body. Pull gently but firmly, straight away from the skin until the tick comes free. Keep in mind that it’s best to grasp the tick from its back to its belly, instead of from side to side – this helps to prevent the tick’s mouthparts from remaining imbedded in the skin. The sooner you remove a tick, the less chance it will transmit a disease to its host.


One of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had 11 confirmed cases and six probable cases of Lyme disease within Kansas. To put things in perspective, Pennsylvania had 4,739 confirmed cases the same year.


Other notable tick-born diseases found in Kansas include Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Tularemia.


After a tick bite, Lyme disease may progress several weeks without signs of illness, making diagnosis difficult. Years of pain and physical and mental impairment can result if untreated. The other three diseases often show signs within two to five days of a tick bite. They may progress so rapidly that a day or two of delay in diagnosis and treatment may result in death.


If signs of severe or persistent headaches, fever, soreness or stiffness in muscles and joints, appetite loss, fatigue, or a skin rash occur within three weeks after a tick bite, immediately contact your doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment is critical.


The key to preventing tick borne disease is to cover up and use a repellent containing Permethrin.


Gary Howey, originally from Watertown, S.D. who now resides in Hartington, Neb. is a former tournament angler, fishing and hunting guide. He is the Producer/Host of the award winning Outdoorsmen Adventures television series, seen on the MIDCO Sports Network Thursday at 5:30 pm and Sunday at 10:00 am. The show also airs in nine states throughout the upper Midwest and on He and Simon Fuller are the hosts of the Outdoor Adventures radio program on Classic Hits 106.3, ESPN Sports Radio 1570 in Southeastern South Dakota, Northeast Nebraska and on KCHE 92.1 FM. in Northwest Iowa. Looking for more outdoor information, check out and like Gary Howey’s Outdoorsmen Adventures on Facebook.

Unfinished Business: Finished

The road goes on forever and the party never ends” – From the song, “The Road Goes on Forever,” -Robert Earl Keen, Jr.


Maybe with growing older comes the realization that Robert Earl’s words might not relate to the life we live in this world and that here, the road does not go on forever. Some things come up during a walk through this life that just need to be done. This idea, I guess, was the inspiration for the very popular movie, “The Bucket List,” starting Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. This months article is about just one simple thing on My Bucket List.


After World War II, there were a lot of military surplus and captured weapons placed on the market by the US Military available at modest prices to the general public (oh, how times have changed). Dad bought up a pretty good pile of these rifles through the NRA and sporterized them over the many years that were to follow.


He re-barreled an 1898 Large Ring Mauser to 30-06 and whittled out a very nicely figured American walnut plank into a very serviceable rifle for my older brother, Harold. Dad checkered it on the grip and forearm in a traditional pattern and Harold went on to shoot a number of whitetails with it around the Black Hills after he got out of the US Navy and Korea, and before he moved his family to Las Vegas NV to work at Nellis AFB until he retired. I do not know if the ’06 ever saw any action out west, but I think not as pressures of family and a whole new world diminished or stopped Harold’s hunting. Nevertheless, the rifle served its purpose and put venison on the table.

For my next older brother, Jim, of whom I have written from time to time, Dad worked up a 1917 Enfield 30-06 with some nice relief carvings of deer on the walnut stock. Jim, too, put down several whitetails including one old grizzly buck that was the talk of the Hills the fall of his Jr. year at Rapid City High. Until their house burned down in 1988, that picture of Jim in his “R” Letter Jacket holding the 191

7 and that buck had a place of honor in the living room.


Dad fashioned for himself an 8 mm with a full length Mannlicher Stock, also carved in relief with whitetail deer running on the butt stock. The rifle was fitted out with a full buckhorn sight that Dad used as a peep, as the rifle bolt handle came through the receiver rear ring and would not permit either a scope or a traditional peep sight to be mounted. Dad was not a horn hunter so while he did shoot some bucks, he also would shoot the first doe that moseyed past the stump where he might be sitting. W

e never went hungry for venison if the old 8mm spoke.


For me, he took a 1903 Springfield and put a beautiful cherry wood stock on it. The cherry plank, according to Dad, came out of the South Dakota State House when it was replaced during a remodeling project that Dad was involved in as a carpenter / cabinet maker. On the Springfield stock, he departed from the deer motif and carved a mountain lion on the butt stock, a bobcat on each side of the fore end and then embellished the underside of the stock from the grip to the tip of the fore end with a vine and leaf pat

tern. Then he took a common nail punch and stippled the entire background with little circles from the end of the punch. He fitted it out with a high quality Williams peep sight and gave it to me when I was about 5 years old.




















The rifle served to really increase my already high desire to get old enough to join the hunt. In South Dakota in those days, a 9 year old

who had passed hunters safety and was in full presence – and by that I mean, no more than arms length away- could hunt with a parent or legal guardian. Dad reasoned correctly that a 9 year old and the recoil from a 30-06 might not be a good combination so he re-barreled the rifle with another Springfield barrel that he had cut down and chambered to the then-popular 300 Savage. He also took up reloading cartridges about that same time and began making light recoil loads with home-cast bullets with gas checks.


Dad and I spent several winter evenings in the basement pouring and sizing bullets, lubricating them and putting on gas checks. Then we loaded up I don’t know how many shells with some 1800 fps recipe.


I turned 9 in April and by the time the weather had warmed up, Dad had me out shooting the Springfield in our back yard out in the Hills. The stock was a little long for me and it was kind of heavy for me, but we got through that after the first two or three hundred rounds. I got where I could shoot it quite well and Dad apparently decided that I was ready. I took a Hunters’ Safety Class in September and in October, Dad and a friend of his named, Earl, began to take me along when they went “scouting” in October.


Dad had suffered a debilitating heart attack a few years prior and while he could do a lot of stuff, he had to take it easy. This suited him fine for deer hunting as he had concluded long ago that Stump Sitting was the best way to get a whitetail anyway. Dad, Earl and I confirmed fresh deer activity in the area of the Hills the older men liked to hunt. It was not very steep or gnarly so the old timers could handle it without any particular threat to their health.


That first year, and for the four to follow, we hunted more or less in the same area. I think Dad and Earl got deer every year. I did not. I was, and still am, a very bad fidget-er and drove Dad nuts. Even though the law said “arms length” Dad elected to put me on my own stump several yards away, with enough cove r between him and the trail he was watching so as my fidgeting would not screw things up.


I had a hankering for a rifle with a scope on it so Dad altered a 1903-A3 from the same purchase period as the other rifles mentioned above. He gave it to me pretty much as issued except for having turned down the bolt handle and altered the safety so it was Safe in the Up position and on Fire in the Down Right position (instead of the Down Left as issued). I polished up all the metal and Dad blued it. He then gave me a $9.95 semi-inletted Fajen stock ordered out of Herter’s catalog.


The resulting 30-06, which I have named Meat in the Pot, has gone on to serve me well, taking countless whitetails and mule deer, a dozen pronghorns or more, a black bear and an Ontario moose. You do not want me shooting at you with Meat in the Pot unless your life insurance is paid up, believe you me.


The fall I finished Meat in the Pot, I put the 1903 Springfield 300 Savage on my gun rack. (Remember when we used to be able to put our guns out proudly on display instead of having to keep them locked up in a gun-safe in the basement?) Dad decided that my passion for deer hunting as a Stump Sitter might be waning so he hooked me up with some of his younger co-workers and Dad and I never hunted deer together again. He got to where he didn’t go at all anymore, about that time. He was never in the woods with me for the harvest of a deer. I will mention, however, that Dad and I did share two great pronghorn hunts and several successful pheasant hunts so all was not lost. Just never did get deer together.


The idea that I had never used the Springfield 300 Savage to take a deer began to eat at me a few years ago. It became one of those things that just seemed like it needed to be done. Each time I dug into my gun vault to get out something for whatever hunt I was about to go on, I would think about the 300 and the fact that it had never fulfilled its purposed.


I thought about breaking it out a few times but my right eye, my shooting eye, is not able to be fully corrected anymore no matter how much glass the optometrist uses. And, I am left-eye dominant. Using a scope helps me be effective with both of those shortcomings. The peep sight on the Springfield 300 Savage and I are no longer made for each other.


In anticipation of this fall’s deer season, I made the decision that the next deer I would shoot would be with the 300 Savage. Period. I dug out the old girl and scrubbed the bore – which did not need to be done as I had cleaned it thoroughly before I put it on the wall, and later into the gun vault, and periodically wiped a rag through it over the years. Always putting it back into the dry dark place without shooting it.


I rooted out my stash of cartridges for it, took it out and sighted it in – it had moved over the past 50 years, but not a whole lot. I figured out that if I were to have a chance at all, I would have to shoot left-handed or more particularly, left eyed. So I did a lot of practicing bringing it up and achieving a left eyed sight picture for the last two months,


Last Saturday, the gun deer season opened in Wisconsin and the 300 and I were out there. I missed a doe. I was happy to get a shot with the rifle but must confess I was pretty disheartened that I did not get the deer. An hour after shooting light on Sunday morning, however, a small buck made the mistake of trying to sneak through a thicket of heavy cover about 75 yards in front of me. With my left eye and the peep sight, I was able to see his head clearly so I drew a bead and touched her off at what I thought would be its shoulder. The deer did not move. I put in another shell and did it again. This time the deer started walking but showed no sign of a hit. Once again it stopped and lowered its head as if he were following a doe. This time when the 300 spoke, the buck did an acrobatic jump then disappeared.


Pretty soon, my pal, Slip Bobber, happened along so I directed him to the spot I last saw the deer when he saw the blood trail and called to me, I got down out of the tree stand and walked toward the Bobber. He soon hollered out that the deer was down,


Sure enough. What has been Unfinished Business for about 50 years is now Finished. I looked at that rifle and thought about how Dad’s handiwork, if not he, himself personally, was there for my First Buck with the Springfield 300 Savage rifle he whittled out of a cherry wood plank all those years ago.


The big smile came easy that day. I think I may plan to take another deer or two with it now that I know I can get the job done left-eyed.

One of Those Days

Saturday, October 27 in Ziebach County, South Dakota was one of those days that a hunter remembers forever. Two Dogs, The Outdoorsmen’s resident storyteller, and I took three English setters and a Labrador retriever afield and experienced an unforgettable pheasant and sharp tailed grouse hunt. As we were West River, the day started at 9 AM MT. It was cloudy, right at the freezing point with fog rolling through intermittently. There was no wind remarkably; the cold 25 mph winds of the three previous days’ hunt were gone. These high winds had made for tough hunting with precious few shooting opportunities and poor shooting. Our 12 gauge Benilli M1s with 2.75 #5 shot had deserved better results. The bird dogs had hunted well, had worn themselves physically especially the pads of their feet. They wanted to see birds fall from the sky and bring them to hand. Things were about to change for Daisy, Dolly the lab, Lizzy and Floss. Their dreams would come true.

The hunt began on a meandering wooded draw separating two section-sized wheat stubble fields with loose grain everywhere. The previous day on the same draw had seen lots of wild flushes and no realistic shots. We had hunted from the gravel road to the neighbor’s fence line where the birds had disappeared unscathed. This day we took Daisy my six-year old experienced setter and Dolly Tom’s one-year old Lab with little wild bird experience. We swung out into the stubble about a quarter mile from the draw and walked toward the neighbor’s fence to drive the draw toward the gravel road. Halfway there we discovered a prairie pond holding water, about the only one we had seen in four days of hunting. 14 sharp tailed grouse came up from grass about the water and flew to the neighbor’s just like the day before. Rather than chasing after the grouse, the dogs wanted to follow a grassy run towards our draw, but we pushed on to the fence line and then swung over to the draw.

Daisy and Floss worked the dry, rugged draw methodically. They lazily busted an owl and a blue heron as they had been trained. All four of us hunted slowly and silently, Tom and me on either side of the draw about 40 yards apart with the dogs working back and forth between us. About the draw midpoint the dogs’ energy levels rose—tails pumping, noses up then down, small circles looking for scent vectors in the light wind. They disappeared into a large brush pile formed about a tree downed across the draw. I moved toward the dogs, got a fix on Tom’s position, moved the Benilli to the ready position, and extended both arms to gather some clothing slack about my arms, and then waited. A rooster pheasant burst from the brush pile trying to escape down the draw toward the neighbor’s fence. I let it clear Tom, pushed the gun toward my trigger finger and squeezed off a shot as the bead cleared the pheasant. Tom shot simultaneously and the rooster crumpled to the ground. Two more roosters burst out 180 degrees to my right. As I swung back they separated. I followed the roster flying left to right with my natural leftie swing and fired a second shot about the time it had gained about some altitude. It was instantly dead and hit the ground with a great “whump.”

As I walked toward the dead pheasant, Daisy came out of the brush pile for a retrieve. She was on it instantly. I pushed two more shells into the magazine and scanned the draw ahead for more flushes. A sharp tailed grouse came up about 75 yards ahead on Tom’s side of the draw and chose an escape route directly down the draw towards us and the neighbor’s fence line. I dropped to knee-level in the grass. The sharpie saw Tom and veered toward me with a full head of steam about 30 yards high. I took it incoming firing over its head–nothing happened. The sharpie veered right a bit. I led it two bird lengths, fired and again nothing. With my third shot and four bird lengths, the grouse cartwheeled from the sky, falling near Daisy and her captured rooster.

SAM_0010After collecting the three birds and moving no more than a hundred yards, Daisy and Dolly got cranked up again and began moving out into the wheat field toward the small water hole discovered earlier. We turned them around with the tone beepers on their electronic collars. Daisy crossed in front of me, obviously on a scent trail. Within a few steps of the bottom, she locked herself into motionless point. Dolly plowed past and jumped into the bottom, and three roosters flushed flying for their lives toward the water hole. I dropped the first one instantly and the second one about 20 yards farther out with another great “whump.”. Tom killed the third on his side. Three more roosters, with three shots.

After gathering the birds and getting pictures with Daisy and Dolly, we proceeded a few miles south to a half-section of unpicked sunflowers in search of one more pheasant and some sharptail. Ripe sunflowers are a magnet for every grouse within miles of the field. After the combine flattens the sunflowers the sharptails return to their traditional cover. In the wind we had flushed about 150 birds from this field the first day of the hunt. The flushes were wild without much result from dog or gunner.

Two Dogs and I took Floss an experienced 2.5 year old and Lizzy a 1.5 year-old also with a lot of wild bird experience. This brace is a couple of speed merchants; Floss and Lizzie can cover a half section in three or four minutes if left to their own devices. Their training with electronic collars allows a single beep (tone) to turn them 180 degrees on a dime. Tom and I took sunflower rows about 60 yards apart, beeped the dogs when they got more than 30 yards forward, and then beeped them to cast side-to-side about half a gun range past each of us. Within 200 yards of the start Floss and Lizzy had the script down. All four of us moved through the sunflowers quickly without any noise. Shotguns were held in the ready position as sunflower shooting is quick, without dog points, and just at the limit of our shotgun shell lethality. Luckily sharptail tend to get up sequentially allowing a second shot frequently. On the first rise each of us bagged a bird. Tom shot a pheasant rooster a short while later, then a singleton sharptail. Finally about a 3/4 mile from the starting point, there was a second covey rise from which we each again dropped a grouse. No misses in the sunflowers. The dogs found all six birds. We had two limits of grouse and two limits of pheasant and a day to remember forever.


I don’t like admitting when someone is better than me at something. I know pride is a sin, but it’s one I’m pretty good at harboring. So, when I’m with someone who has worked harder, practiced more, studied more, or just has an innate ability, my competitive nature kicks in. It goes for work, sports, and alas, hunting.


Most of us have a chosen few with whom we’ve spent time in the field, enjoying the days and hoping for success. My dad has had a number of men he’s traversed North America with, two of whom are named Jerry. I literally have eight friends named “Scott” programmed in my phone, and I value friendships with them all. But one of my friends named Scott stands out the most.


Scott Holder, who my dad refers to as “Gator,” grew up in Marshall, Texas on the eastern side of the state, just across the border from Shreveport, Louisiana. He was born into a family who valued time outside more than anything else. His childhood was spent chasing everything with fins, fur, and feathers on the family lease, and running the swamps, bayous, and backwaters in their boats. Life among the cypress trees instilled in him a sense of fearlessness that I think most kids could use today.


According to one story he told, he and his dad were cruising along in one of the flat bottom boats when they spotted an alligator. Scott’s dad eased the boat closer while Scott leaned out over the bow and caught the alligator bare-handed! Of course, when Scott told me this story I immediately called B.S., but he was adamant it was true. In a private conversation with his dad, he also confirmed that the event occurred.


Scott has always seemed to have more luck in the field than me. I’m not sure why, and it gets my competitive juices going. In nearly 15 years of friendship, we’ve managed to cover a lot of territory, from East Texas to Canada to Colorado and had a great time. However, it seems like he always comes back a little more success than me.

When we first started hanging out together, we’d run trot-lines in the summer. I remember carefully lifting the hook-laden twine hoping to see an eating sized catfish emerge as Scott had just done moments before. Instead, when I lifted the hook, I was surprised by a decent sized alligator gar fish. That’s my luck. Scott got a keeper catfish and I got a gar.


Scott's-WhitetailA few years later, we hunted deer on his family’s place. I spent the day in the blind reading and enjoying the solitude, and just before sundown, a nice buck and two doe came out of the woods. I shot the buck and he remains one of my prized trophies. Of course, two weeks later at Thanksgiving I woke up and checked my email and saw a pic of Scott with a much bigger deer that he’d killed. His deer would have eaten my deer for breakfast.


The next fall, we went dove hunting with some friends. As we traipsed across a small field of tall grass and the occasional cedar tree, we scanned the skies for dove. Suddenly, a lone a dove came in low, straight at us. My mind had barely registered that it was a dove, when Scott shouldered his shotgun, swiveled his body, and killed the bird. As he said, there was no thought to the series of events. He’d just been hunting that long that it had become instinctual.


Finally, a friend of ours with some land had been seeing feral hogs everywhere. We got the invitation to come out after work and sit in a ground blind where the pigs had been coming into a field at sunset. Because I was there, nothing came in and my primary memory was how underdressed I was when the temperature dropped at sundown. But the next day after work, Scott had sent me a picture of the pigs they’d killed that very next afternoon. And that’s how it goes. I’m there and don’t see anything. The next day I’m not there, and Scott kills 3 hogs.


Scott's-NilgaiPerhaps because Scott has spent a lifetime outside chasing things that he’s much more practiced and attuned to what’s going on than I am, and thus that makes him a better hunter, fisherman, and sportsman than I am. Maybe he just has better luck. While that may be true, I’ll never admit it. I will also never admit that I’m jealous of the pictures he sent last week of a huge 300 lb. nilgai (a type of Asian antelope) that he killed. Instead of being mad, from now on I’ll just make sure I’m invited to his house to enjoy a dinner of whatever he’s killed recently and savor all of his hard work.

2014 West River Upland Bird Hunt

Seven hunters, seventeen bird dogs, and three pickups from Minnesota and Wisconsin attended the South Dakota nonresident pheasant opener and stayed for the next three hunting days, West River in Dewey, Ziebach, and Meade Counties. The hunters were the usual suspects including Tom Hayes The Outdoorsmen Magazine’s resident storyteller and Jason Gooding proprietor of Good Go Ing Kennels the source of all accompanying dogs. The quarry was ringneck pheasant, sharp tailed grouse and gray partridge. All pickups were Ford F-150s. We spent our nights and ate our meals in Faith at the Prairie Vista Motel and the Branding Iron Café respectively. The hosts at both establishments welcomed us with hospitality and offered a sense of belonging. The South Dakota Game and Fish and Parks department and contracted land owners provided equally good treatment through the hunter Walk-In Area program: the bird dogs, English setters/English Pointers/Labrador retrievers, flushed afield about 175 pheasants, 70 grouse, and 90 partridge. 2014 was a good year with almost complete rebounds in pheasant and partridge populations after the catastrophic 2013 October blizzard and with marked improvement in the grouse population.

sunflowersThe sunflowers were near ripe and held almost all of the flushed sharptails and partridge. It is possible that another 10 days ripening would have produced even more sharptails. Typically, we have flushed several hundred grouse around the second weekend of pheasant hunting—all in completely ripe sunflowers. The pheasants were in thick cover–sloughs and prairie grasses near sunflowers. All three species were scarce away from sunflowers either in hay, small grain, prairie or even standing corn. Corn harvest had not begun during our hunt. The roads, prairie, and croplands were dry making for easy hunting; however everything was green with abundant water in the sloughs. There had been regular rainfall through the spring and summer. Usually, scarcer water near crops concentrates the birds. In 2014 it was sunflowers near sloughs, not water.

The author’s best hunt was the fourth day with my five-year old English setter bitch Floss and her mother eight-year old Daisy. Both have been the feature of several hunting articles over the past few years. Accompanying us were Tom Hayes and Lady Jane. The latter is a three year-old daughter of Floss. The previous three days’ hunting had caused most of the pheasant and partridge to flee from the best hunting spots. We chose a section of sunflowers with a damp slough on the west boundary encompassing about 80 acres. A shallow lake about a quarter mile long in a stand of prairie grass was directly across the gravel road which formed the east boundary of our sunflowers. This field had produced a handful of grouse flushes the second day but there had been no shooting; the slough and lake areas had not been hunted.

tomoutstandingTom and I arrived at the field just after 8AM prepared to hunt grouse only until pheasant hunting opened three hours later. We hunted into the wind from the north side of the field. The weather was sunny, about 45F, with a slight wind out of the south. Sharptails live in the prairie grass and move to feed on ripe sunflowers beginning not long after daybreak. They are in modest flocks and tend to feed near the tops of small rises facing east to experience good sunlight. The mile of sunflowers before us held two such hills, and we hunted across the east-facing slopes about 200 hundred yards apart. The sunflowers were in rows spaced 40 inches and were about chest high—perfect for walking and for shooting over the tops. Going south, Tom and I were walking perpendicular to the sunflower rows. We moved slowly giving Floss and Lady Jane plenty of time to traverse the rows ahead of us. Each dog stayed in gunshot range going 50 yards west then 50 yards east, never getting more than 30 rows ahead of us. Tom and my spacing was such that the bird dogs had little interaction with each other. The field was very high with prairie stretching down and far to the horizon in all directions. The sky blue dome above was enormous and held us in place in the lofty sunflower perch. It took almost two hours to cross the field and return to our truck.

faithIn the first hour Tom and Lady Jane flushed 8 pheasants to the east toward the small lake. Later atop the first precipice they flushed 3 grouse which flew to the second precipice after a failed two-shot salute from Tom. Lady Jane had become excited (birdy) when she got in the vicinity of both the pheasants and grouse. She slowed, pointing nostrils side-to-side and moving left and right trying to concentrate the scent vector, and pumped a white tail faster than all 4 legs could ever move. Her inexperience had not allowed a closing on the birds to render them motionless for Tom’s approach and subsequent shots. When Tom and Lady Jane got within a couple minutes’ walk of the second precipice, she got the scent again, but the already-spooked sharptails flushed well out of range. There were no birds sighted on the return trip across the sunflowers. At 11AM the same four crossed the road east to hunt high grass about the small pond. Floss and Lady Jane were birdy throughout the half-hour hunt. Some empty points were made by both. However, the erstwhile pheasants did not flush for any of the entreaties by mother and daughter English setters.

Tom and I had bananas, breakfast bars, and water in the truck. The temperature was up ten degrees to 55F or more, the wind to almost 20 mph. Left to hunt was the 80 acre slough on the back side of the sunflowers. Daisy, the grandmother, was up to the task. Our plan was to hunt the heavy cover along the west fence line into the wind, then the jagged east edge of the slough abutting the sunflowers back to the truck. Daisy was immediately birdy on the fence line making several solid points moving forward from each to the next upon my release command. There were no flushes; pheasants must have been running ahead. About 2/3 way across, on her last fenceline point, a large coyote bolted from the cover immediately ahead and ran for the sunflowers. Farther, at the corner near the end of the fence line where the slough reared up to the sunflowers, Daisy made another solid point next to a stand of cane, a rooster cackled skyward, and my Winchester Model 23 rose to shoulder, fired once, and the pheasant fell with a thump. Farther out a second rooster and two hens flushed. Daisy fixed on the thump, made a fine retrieve. Tom, Daisy, and I made the return with wind on our backs. We hunted silently, our movement was muffled by the wind on the grass and sunflower stalks, our scent diluted by the high wind. Daisy got birdy but the pheasant flushed out ahead before she could pin it to the ground. She slowed a bit, became more methodical, and then locked up for the day’s final point. I moved in front of Daisy, a roster rose for an escape with the wind, and at the bird’s apex the Model 23 fired a second time. Another thump, another Daisy retrieve. Finally, late in the day twenty miles to the west on a 1500 acre alfalfa field, Lady Jane pointed a sharptail for Tom. Her nose was too good, it flushed out of range.

Bag totals for our 26 man-days of hunting were 36 roosters, 6 sharp tailed grouse including a prairie chicken, and 10 gray partridge. 2014 was a very good bird hunt by any measure for both dogs and humans.

Attached photos were taken by Jerry McAllister.

What is a “WWII Theatre Knife”?

If I mention the words “Theater Knife” at gun show or in a casual conversation many experienced knife collectors or Military guys know instantly what I mean but just as many people look at me and say “What is that”. Well, for all the novices, I’ll try to describe the knives and explain the name used for these knives.

First of all the word “Theater” doesn’t mean a stage production it refers to a region or area used by the military in a war such as Pacific theater or European theater so named in WWII. That is the war most of this style knives were created in and are the most collectible of all hand made and or altered knives. I have seen about any theater knife you can imagine, some are of the highest quality and others were made very crude. They can be huge or medium down to very small, each maker had his own idea. Some were made with a single edge that simply resemble a normal hunting knife. Many were made with a dagger style blade with double edge or single edge and a lot of them were more simple designed like a butcher knife.

voth-dec-14-1     My own personal favorites are the larger pieces designed to resemble a Bowie style knife. I have even collected quite a few of this style over my many years learning about and collecting knives. Handle materials varied greatly. Stag, wood, micarta, aluminum, steel, die cast metal, different styles of bone and one the favorites used was Plexiglas such as air craft windshield material and all kinds of colored Plexiglas. A lot of this material was found on downed air craft and ships along with whatever material was available where the soldier was stationed. Some had acces to bakelite found in old electric boxes. Many had liners or spacers in the handles. They used about anything, copper, brass, aluminum, silver, thin slices of bone and wood and leather of course. It is just amazing the imagination and creativity these men had. The blades were often made of stock available on ships, or again downed air craft, files were used and many were made from existing knives they remodeled to suit the soldiers own likes and needs. One of the favorite blade making materials were captured and broken swords and bayonets. Not only did these soldier make or have someone do it for them. Many many people at home in the USA also devoted much of their time to the war effort in many ways and one was making knives for their family and friends in the military.

Voth-dec-14-2)  Among the highly collectibles are knuckle knives. This is a knife made with a handle the hand would fit through for hand to hand combat, such as a brass knuckles. Some of the more famous independent makers were Randall, Scagel, Eck, Murphy, Richtig, Morseth, Nichols, Murphy, Moore, Warther and Anderson. These are only a few that come to mind. Of course, all the good knife companies turned all their production to making knives for the military.

I knew one old fellow who worked for the Western company. Not only did they make war knives all week but he and his coworkers would go down to the plant on the weekend and build many knives sent to soldiers with no Western stamp on them. Usually using reject or second parts. These were mailed over seas to their friends, family and acquaintances. Therefore, many of the theater knives were professionally made in a factory with no name stamped on it and possibly a completely different style than the ones produced in the factory. Many were made in the machine shops on ships on those long voyages by expert naval machinists. These are a rare collectible find. Everyone with any knife making talent was put to work building and sending knives overseas. Not only are the knives amazing in the quality but many of these had wonderful leather sheaths. Some of those leather sheaths didn’t hold up very well in salt water and jungle conditions etc. A number of the knives ended up in factory made green plastic or fiberglass scabbards. In a real pinch some had wood ,metal and aluminum scabbards. Many were carried as boot knives but most were belt knives.

Always a great find is to get hold of one where the soldier carved, embosed or wrote on the sheath his name where he had been etc. These are great to collect because you rarely see two the same. Many of the factory knives that were supplied by the U.S. government were modified, both the blades and or handle, reground and shaped blades along with many redone handles. These knives are also very interesting. One of the most interesting I have is a captured Japanese bayonet that was cut shorter or broken off than ground into a different blade style. The most interesting part of this one is the handle which was told by the owner to be made from a Japanese soldiers leg bone. This was not the only one of these I have seen or heard of. After all it was war. Even though most of these knives are now in collections but they still surface occasionly now 70 years later. I have added a couple photos showing Bowie style Theaters and Knuckle knife designs also. Good collecting to all!   Paul