New Product Spotlight: Dakota Decoy X-Treme Pintails

Ever since the very first duck hunters set to the marsh with their paper mache decoys, waterfowlers have always been searching for the next great thing.  Well look no further, as the latest and greatest decoy on the market seems to be the Dakota Decoy X-Treme Pintail Floater.  Dakota Decoy Company started as a small, upstart company in Vermillion, South Dakota that found waterfowler's were in need of a more durable, realistic goose that hunters could still afford.  Dakota's motto is: "Premium Gunning Decoys for Demanding Hunters".  Their first decoy, the Dakota X-Treme Honker is still one of the highest benchmarks of a quality, realistic and affordable decoy.  Dakota didn't stop there, eventually adding a full line of floaters, shells, snows, specks and mallards.

This year, Dakota may have outdone themselves.  Early this year, Dakota announced that they would be offering an X-Treme Pintail Floater for their 2013 lineup.  As to be expected, the anticipation for these decoys was enormous.  Like the X-Treme Mallards, the Pintails would be slightly oversized, with a weighted keel and flocked heads (and sprigs) on the drakes.  As is standard for Dakota, the ultra-realistic paint job is a real head turner, and should be a game-changer for the wariest of late-season birds.  Currently offered in 12 packs (7 Drakes, 5 Hens) with a suggested retail of $179, these stack up very nicely against other pintail offerings on the market (competitor starting prices around $49 per 6).  These highly sought after decoys offer the right amount of versatility to the serious waterfowler's spread for an affordable price and unmatched quality.  Dakota Decoys - The Migration Stops Here...


Save Money, Meat Processing at Home

One of the easiest ways to save money on your grocery bill is to process your own meat at home. Bass Pro Shops has everything you need to get this done.

The first thing you'll need to get started is your choice of meat, whether it is bulk beef from the grocery store or that trophy deer you took this season, whatever you prefer. Once you've selected you choice meat the next step is preparing it for processing.

No matter if you want something as simple as ground meat for burgers, or if you're making meat snacks. The first you'll want to do is "trim" the meat. What this means is taking the excess fat and connective tissue or (gristle) off of the cut of meat.(note: if you are working wild game like deer, removal of as much fat and gristle as possible is recommended, for this is where a lot of the "gamey" flavor comes from.) The Mundial 4 Piece Hunter's Knife Set from Bass Pro Shops is a great tool for helping with this process.;s-Knife-Set/product/36729/.

If you want to grind your choice of meat, the next step will be cutting your trimmed meat into cubes or strips so they easily fit into the grinder. Once the meat is cubed you're ready to start grinding. The tool you'll need for this is a meat grinder, if you are on a smaller budget you can find some very economical hand turned grinders.hand grinder


But if you don't want to wake up with a sore shoulder the next morning I highly recommend an electric grinder. I like the electric grinders by LEM that Bass Pro carries.


The next step is feeding the pieces of meat into the grinder as it is running; you'll want to make sure this is done at a controlled rate. As the meat is pulled down into the auger (the cork screw looking mechanism inside the grinder) you'll want to add in the next piece of meat and so on. (note: NEVER push the meat down into the grinder with your fingers, use a stomper) If you are having problems with the grinder gumming up or clogging a helpful hint is to put the cut up pieces of meat in the freezer for a while until they are firm but not frozen solid. This will keep the auger and blade from becoming wrapped up with any remaining connective tissue.

Once all of the meat has been ground up you are ready to either vaccum seal it and freeze it, or you can continue to process it into other edible forms like breakfast sausage, jerky, snack sticks, or summer sausage. Bass Pro Shops has all the seasonings for whatever process you want to do next.

If you want to stop with ground meat only, I highly recommend sealing your ground meat before freezing it with a vaccum sealer. By doing so you remove all of the air from the meat helping prevent freezer burn and spoiling. There are a wide variety of vaccum sealers on the market, one I have personally used and works very well is the Food Saver Game Saver Deluxe.

Game Saver Deluxe

This is just one of many very good vaccum sealers on the market. You can find a wide variety to choose from at

As I mentioned earlier there are other edible processes you can use your freshly ground meat for, and one of the most popular is turning it into jerky. There are many different ways to process meat into jerky, one easy method is to use ground meat and mix it with pre-packaged jerky cure and seasoning mix. There are many to choose from at, Simply pick out your favorite flavor and follow the directions on the package for the best results.

The next step after the meat is properly seasoned is to make it into jerky form and ready it for drying. If you plan on making a lot of jerky or other forms of meat snacks, such as snack sticks or sausages, an electric grinder really speeds things up. There is a wide variety of attachments available for the LEM grinders that make this next step fast and easy.

For the next step one tool I use is the jerky attachment for the LEM grinder.jerky attachment

After the jerky mixture is formed, the next step is drying it. There are a few different ways to do this, you can dry it in the oven on a very low tempurature setting (around 200 degrees for 4 hours), you can use a smoker (at the same time and temp), or you can use a food dehydrator. The dehydrator is probably one of the most popular and simplest methods. With some of the dehydrators like the RedHead six tray dehydrator for $69.99 at You can set the required run time and temperature and let it do the rest.




Once the jerky is dried it is ready to enjoy.

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Poison Ivy: Identification, Prevention & Treatment

Camping trips can become quite unpleasurable, or even come to an abrupt halt, due to one little plant.

Toxicodendron Radicans. The dreaded Poison Ivy plant, is a member of the Sumac family and not a member of the Ivy family. The generic name derives from the Greek word Toxikos meaning poison,and Dendron meaning tree.

This plant and other members of the Sumac family produce a skin irritant called Urushiol pronounced (yoo-roo-she-all) and can cause  a severe allergic reaction.

Knowing and identifying this plant is the best defense against it, so when you see it, you can avoid it!

I'm focusing on mainly poison ivy here, and not poison oak or sumac because this plant is what is more prevalent in the midwest. Although poison oak and sumac will grow here, its not as widespread.

Poison ivy can grow as a shrub or a vine or as a single creeping plant. The pointed leaves grow in pairs of three on a stem (same as poison oak). We;ve all heard the rhyme "Leaves of three, Let it be!" Two opposite from each other and one on top. The leaves can have smooth edges or can have one to three lobes on each side. Smooth on the top of the leaf. Sometimes shiny (and ooooh watch out for these!) This usually means the plant was bent, broken or harmed in some way to excrete its urushiol. And thats what you don't want to get on your skin.

Poison ivy is light green with a little red around the edges in the spring, darker green in the summer, and red with orange in the fall.


poiso ivy poison ivy autumn


Urushiol can get on clothes or even animal fur, so when you get a chance, wash your clothes and your pet. It would be safe to use gloves while doing this.

If you get poison ivy on you, You might not know it right away. It could take hours for your skin to react. Then it will itch, and burn. Sever cases can enclude blistering, and swelling, and fever.

To treat this, wash the infected area immediatly. Do not scratch! Urushiol can get under your fingernails and can further spread the infection. Apply a cream, such as Tecnu  which contains Propylene Glycol, and deodorized mineral spirits. Tecnu spray containing Glycerine, and Calomine loation can help extract the oil from your skin. You can apply a cold compress to help with the burning.  Sometimes a antihistamine will work. but take only as directed as this could may matters worse.

If it becomes severe, then see a doctor!

While in the woods, try to wear long pants and long thick socks. A long sleeved shirt too! If venturing off the trails, then gloves would be a good idea! Dont touch any plants unless you know what they are.

85% of adults get an allergec reaction to Urushiol. 15% are less likly to  have an allergec reaction. Although repeated exposures can make you more sensitive to it.

If you happen to stumble upon poison ivy, or poison oak,  while camping. Remember "Leaves of three. Let it be!"   Do not harvest it and burn it. Urushiol can be carried through the smoke and land on your skin, or get in your eyes, or you may even inhale the nasty stuff! 

So best to to leave it alone and avoid it altogether!

And as if these were'nt enough! Theres another obnoxcious plant that can wreak havok on campers.

Poisin Nettles can have the same itching and burning effect on the skin. The difference is that this plant has microscopic needles, that punchure the skin, injecting Serotonin, Acetylcholine, and Histamine. When you encounter this, you will know right away!  Ouch!

The genus Urticaceae has about thirtyfive different spieces. They grow 2 to 4 feet tall throughout the United States. The leaves are somewhat oval and come to a point. The edges of the leafs are serrated with the needles growing about the stem, and can be under the leafs.

Theres good news! (sort of). If you get "stung" the pain won't last as long as with poison ivy, oak,or sumac. The treatment, and releaf is usually much faster. If you can see the fine hairs of the nettles protruding from your skin, you can use tape to help pull them out. Then apply hydrogen peroxide. Mix baking soda and water to make a paste and apply to the infected area. This should give you a little comfort. You may also use a cream with antihistamine or hydrocortizone. Also you can use calomine loation. If you can find Jewelweed you can crush the stem and rub onto the infected area.Usually the relief is instant!

Jewelweed usually grows around the same area as poison nettles. It grows up to five feet tall. The leaves are entire and shiny, and most plants will have flowers that hang from them.This plant can give relief to poison ivy, and poison oak, and sumac as well. 



Remember to check out the area for these plants before setting up camp. You may save yourself from a lot of agony. And be prepared with an assortment of medications, just in case you encounter these dreaded poisonous plants!





A Simple Guide to Float Tubes


Float tubes are a great inexpensive way to fish and they can be very effective!  Popular with warmwater flyfishermen, yet easy enough for anyone to use, they give you the opportunity to propel and maneuver hands free. Easy to inflate and lightweight, float tubes are easy to carry to and from the water.

Float tubes consist of one, two, or three air cells, that that are held in by nylon covers. So when they are inflated, they give you the support to stay afloat comfortably. Air is pumped into the valve stems using an air pump. You move through the water by wearing fins, similar to the ones suba divers wear. By kicking your legs, they will move you in a backwards motion and you steer by the way you move either leg. They usually have storage compartments on the sides to pack whatever you might need on the water.The seats are made of nylon. Some are inflatable and some are foam, and some have only a nylon fabric. 

There are some things to concider though, before making your final decision on which float tube is best for you. Things to consider such as weight capacity, ease of use, storage compartments, Set up, ect. will help us in the long run to make float tubing more enjoyable!

Bass Pro Shops has some great selections when to comes to purchacing a float tube. The White River Lost Lake float tube, is a great tube for anyone on a budget. Its weight Capacity is 325 pounds. However since it is totally enclosed, its a bit tricky to get in and out of. While some folks say they feel more secure with the air cell in front of them.

The White River Lost Lake  Open Front float tube also has a weight capacity of 325 pounds It has a large back support so you can lean back and rest  if you need to. This is one of the most comfortable float to use!

The Fish Cat by Outcast has two large air cells made from pvc which can support a weight of 250 pounds.The back is slightly raised like the bow of a boat to help propel you through the water. Outcast also offers a very lightweight tube (The Trinity) that is perfect for backpackers weighing in at only 7 pounds! And the Prowler which is a heavy duty version of the fishcat. It also has a hydration bladder!

Remember!  Air cells can burst if inflated improperly. So inflate just enough to push in about 1 inch of give on the top of the tube. Try to keep them deflated inside your car or truck because higher temprature and higher elevation can effect the air inside the cells causing them to burst or rip at the seams. If they do burst , Its probably best to just replace the air cells. Order a couple of extra air cell just in case.

When it comes to fins, The bigger the better! Trust me! Longer means more propultion. Check out the Classic Accessories Turbo thrusters  There nice and long and fit great around your heels! Omega Amphibian flip fins are great because they flip up so you can walk around with ease. When you get into twhe water you just flip them down, and off you go! However these can be pretty pricey but well worth it! Also get a pair of kicker keepers. Fins will sink if one happens to slip off your foot!

NOTE: Fins are NOT to be worn with wader boots! You will break the strap! Use neoprene socks or bootys anything that keep the straps from over stretching.

 Wind can be an issue! and thers a couple of ways you can deal with it. You can use an anchor and attach it to one of the D rings that come attached to the float tube. Or you can use two vehicles. 

Your time in a float tube will be enjoyable and relaxing.  Although be careful, it can be addictive!  






Introducing Gunfire

Introducing your dog to gunfire is a very controversial topic. Opinions vary as to when and how to accomplish this. New dog owners who have never tried this tend to be very apprehensive when it comes to actually going forward and putting their dog under a gun. There are several ways to properly introduce a pup to gunfire, with that there are many more ways not to. Doing this wrong could potentially ruin a hunting dog; because once they become gun shy it is very hard to break them of it.

I usually wait until after 6 months of age, letting the ears develop and mature is wise as not to damage a growing and developing ear. Also waiting until at least 6 months gives the dog a solid foundation of obedience. This allows the trainer to work the dog while incorporating gunfire.

There are 2 keys to successfully getting a dog under a gun, pleasure and gradual increase. It is crucial for the dog to associate a fun or pleasurable activity with the sound of gunfire so the dog does not become spooked. Gradual increase in volume and proximity is also important so the dog can get used to the sound.

You can attain both of these key points by using the following training session:

  1. Stand with your dog at heel, position a shooter about 100yds behind you
  2. When you toss the bumper have the shooter shoot safely into the air.
  3. Send the dog on the retrieve.
  4. The shooter will now move closer (10-15yds)
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until the shooter is standing next to you.
  • If the dog at anytime shows that the noise is bothersome, move back one station until the dog becomes comfortable.

              Those steps should get you on the right track to having a dog that is ready and eager to retrieve after gun shots.Dog


Off Season Conservation Projects


         Safe breeding grounds and nesting spots are vital to the good hatch of waterfowl every year. While a lot depends on Mother Nature we as waterfowlers and conservationist can do a lot to help better the odds. Projects that include hen houses and wood duck boxes can drastically improve an area’s waterfowl production rate by giving them a safe haven to nest. Other conservation projects include banding; this helps track migration patterns and life cycles of waterfowl.     

        Sometimes called “Mallard Factories”, these easy to build and install structures give mallard hens a safe place to lay their eggs in the spring, away from increasing numbers of prairie predators such as raccoons and skunks. Research has shown that on average, a hen mallard will have a successful nest about 80% of the time in a Hen House, whereas nests on the ground may have only a 0-20% chance of surviving.Hen House

        Wood Duck boxes are another version of a nesting habitat project to help boost brood survival rate. Several important factors must be considered when selecting sites to place wood duck boxes. Suitable brood habitat must be available within a couple of hundred yards in order for ducklings to survive once they exit the box. In addition, shallow, fertile wetlands with thick cover and an abundance of invertebrates typically provide the best habitat for broods. Ideally, boxes should be erected on either wooden posts or metal conduits outfitted with predator guards.

           BandWhile nesting projects are a good winter and early spring project, banding projects can be done throughout the summer. Banding is an excellent way to track migration patterns and life cycles of waterfowl. By doing this biologists can better plan conservation projects and hunting zones and regulations.Wood Duck Box


XPS Generation 4 iT On-Board Marine Battery Charger

Many people in the boating community share a common concern when it comes to the care and life of their Marine Batteries.  Will my batteries last more than one season?  Do I really need to pull my batteries out of the boat and store them in my basement over the winter?  How do I know that my battery is charged all the way?  Did I hook my battery charger up the correct way?  These are just a few of the questions we hear when discussing our batteries and chargers during the course of a day.  The most common question that is asked is this, "Which charger would you put on your battery?" 

Time and time again my answer is the same.   First I will always determine which unit they need based off the total number of batteries in the customer's boat.  Each battery needs it's own seperate bank.  It doesn't matter if you have a 12, 24, or 36 volt system or even how you have the batteries wired together.  This is something you will have to keep in mind when selecting any on-board charging system.  Then I respond with, "I would go with one of the XPS iT on-board chargers."  With iT's many features and light weight design, the iT charger takes care of your batteries better than anything else we have on our shelves.

The XPS Generation 4 Intelligent Technology (also known as iT) makes it easy to maintain your battery and extends the life of the battery.  The Digital Pulse Charging Technology contains precision software that controls the unit for multi-stage charging.  Real time "check battery bank" LED service indicators identify errors in installation wiring or failing batteries.  The "Go Fish" indicator lights up when it's time to hit the water with a fully charged battery.

While plugged in the intelligent battery bank monitoring and inicator lighting will only illuminate if a battery on-board is lower than 2 volts or is mis-wired during instillation.  It also has Transfer-On-Demand Technology which automatically maintains your engine battery while distributing the remaining amps (different models have different amp ratings)  to your trolling motor batteries when needed.  For instance, if you have the 15 amp-3 bank charger (for boats containing 2 trolling motor batteries and 1 starting battery), iT will charge your starting battery with 5 amps and each of your trolling motor batteries with 5 amps each.  Once your first battery is fully charged iT will transfer that 5 amps to the other banks distributing the total 15 amps to the other 2 batteries.  Then when the next is charged, it will send all 15 to the last battery, all the while, making sure that your other batteries are fully charged.  During this charging, iT will digitally control the multi-stage charging process to maximize the life of your battery. 

One of our customer's favorite features is the fact that this multi-stage charging process contains an innovative 21 day pulse reconditioning mode that will condition the battery by sending small pulses of energy to the plates of the battery, which causes them to shake and knock the sulfation off of the plates.  Then the unit makes sure that the battery is still charged and, if not, proceeds to the charging process again making sure that the battery is maintained.  This will extend the life of your batteries to give you "more for your money" and you don't have to pull your batteries out of your boat during the off season anymore!  Just plug it in when you get back from your boating or fishing excursions and walk away, letting the charger take care of the batteries.

In short, the XPS iT On-Board Charger is your complete package when it comes to on-board chargers.  No more hasseling with portable battery chargers going from one battery to the next repeating this every time you use your boat!  Just Plug and Play!


NiB-X Get it on your gun!

The Nickel Boron coating has been in the firearms market for several years now and is fairly well known. However new to the firearms industry in the last 2 years is WMD Guns out of Stuart, FL. Dealing in several different firearms coatings, WMD is quickly rising to the top as the best and one of the only companies offering thallium stabilized NiB process aptly dubbed NiB-X or Nickel Boron to the Extreme

                WMD is offering not only new parts coated in NiB-X but also, firearm upgrades as well as selling their own AR-15 platform, The Beast. Also available from WMD are refurbished Glocks. In addition to NiB-X WMD offers Nitromet a high performance Salt Bath Nitrocarbonization surface treatment, among others.

                The NiB-X coating offers corrosion resistance, scratch resistance, and lubrication. With hardness close to that of diamonds, not much other than Nickel Boron can wear down a coating. The coating itself is self lubricious with small nodules acting as ball bearings allowing components to function dry. Adding a wet lube (gun oil, CLP) to coated components may actually slow down the action. It is recommended that if any lube is to be used at all to use a dry Teflon or graphite style.

                One major benefit of running your weapon dry is that there is nothing for dirt, sand and grit to stick to causing malfunctions allowing the operator to run flawlessly in the harshest of environments. These harsh environments include saltwater, with its high corrosion resistance NiB-X is an excellent application to weapons that are based on the coast.

                The Nickel Boron comes out as a matte nickel/stainless looking finish which can be polished to a chrome look. Topcoats in almost any color can be added over the NiB-X to totally customize the look of your weapon. Pretty much any component can be coated on your weapon allowing for a near indestructible firearm.  A price sheet and order form is available on WMD Guns website.The Beast


Protecting Your Investment

Consider the purchase of a firearm as an investment. Something that can accrue value over time if properly managed. Granted not all firearms are going to become collectors items and allow you to double your money, but the better shape they are in the more they will hold their value. Taking care of your firearm is more than just being careful when handling them. Proper cleaning, maintenance and storage are also vital aspects of retaining your firearms value.

I was always taught to properly clean my firearm after every use if possible. I bring that lesson with me to the present, especially during waterfowl seasMTM Shooting Range Boxon. During a days hunt in a field my shotgun may become impregnated with dirt, feathers, corn stalks, and other crop matter. So after each hunt I strip my shotgun down clear out any debris and run a bore snake through the barrel to insure that when I pull the trigger on a banded pintail my browning goes boom and not click. Some guys are lucky enough to go an entire season without a cleaning and still have a functioning gun, not my recommendation. Stripping your firearm down after a hunt also allows you to inspect for any defects or abnormalities in the structure.

If there are such defects and abnormalities in the the weapon proper maintenance is your next step. If it is something simple like a loose screw or worn out butt pad that you can fix yourself you can save a little money doing so. However if it is an issue that is of a more complicated nature you may want to seek the advice and service of a licensed gunsmith. Performing maintenance on your firearm will not only prolong the life of it but also protect the value.

Storage and safe keeping is the final piece of the puzzle to protecting your firearm. Keeping your gun in a safe with a good dehydrator is optimal. If you don't have a safe a gun cabinet with some sort of dehydration is your next best option. Within the safe I also like to to keep my firearms inside a gun sock which is usually impregnated with silicone to inhibit rust and corrosion. A safe is really your best option as it protects the firearm from damage, theft, corrosion and from the possibility of the curiouRed Head Safes hands of children.

If you maintain your firearms and store them in a safe and secure environment then you should have something to pass down to future generations, or to possibly sell for a profit. Firearm care is a simple and easy way to protect your investment.


Spring Training '13

         The weather is getting warmer and hunting season is getting ever closer. The time to get your favorite hunting buddy back in shape both mentally and physically. Over the offseason laying on the couch has taken its toll on both. Easing into a workout routine is vital to making sure you retriever can perform this fall when it comes time to work.

          It is important to involve a mixture of both water and field excercises to ready your dog for any situation. Water retreives are an excellent aerobic workout as well as being easy on your dogs joints. Be sure to work on commands and obedience. Field retrieves offer great practice as well in basic marking and blind retrieves. Working on dry land also provides a little more flexibility when it comes to running training drills. 

         With tempratures rising it is important that you keep your dog well hydrated. If possible alternate water and field drills to keep your dog cool. Basic single and double marks are a good way to start off your dog this spring. You can eventually move your way up to a wagon wheel style excercise really testing your dogs marking and obedience abilities. Be sure to incorporate "aiming" you pooch when sending him on marked birds. This will assist you later in sending your dog on blind retrieves.

           When it comes time to start working blind retrieves start by throwing a single in short grass or water, once you send your dog throw the second bumber to your 3-5 o'clock position. This ensures that the dog will not see where the bird landed. When the dog returns with the first bird heel him, and aim him at the blind bird and let him go. Hopefully he will run a straight line in the direction you were pointing. In short grass it should be fairly easy to pick up the outline of the bird.

           Once your dog has mastered the blind retrieve in short grass move up to taller grass and brush. It helps now to use a bumper covered in scent. This allows your dog to be able to use his nose to find that bird in tall grass such as he would in a real situation. Let him hunt and use his nose, it is his best tool especially for a cripple that has buried its self in the grass.

Start off slow and work into the tougher excercises. By the end of summer you both will be ready for season. Your dog will have the mental sharpness he did at the end of last season and his body will be ready to handle long days in the field retrieving.



What color are crawfish?

The short answer is, "It varies."  The long, drawn-out answer is that it varies, and I'll show you a few of them.

Let me start by saying this: The Rusty Crayfish is an invasive species and is one that has been horrendously detrimental to many of the fisheries in which it's been introduced.  It's been confirmed in Iowa and Nebraska, and it's very, very easy to determine if it is, in fact, a Rusty crayfish by the spots on the side.  If you see these guys, notify your local DNR office or Game and Parks representative.

Rusty Crayfish

In this example of a Rusty that was found in Omaha, NE in 2010. It's easy to see the green pumpkin, the brown, and the orange that is commonly associated with crayfish patterns. 


Crayfish, generally, turn various shades of blue when they're molting.  In many cases, they're a rather brilliant blue, however the colors tend to be rather subdued.  Blue crayfish patterns are a relative staple for us in the Midwest, particularly in the spring of the year.  (Crayfish patterns in general are exceptional in spring because of their availability.)

Yep, it's blue alright.

You can still see the spots on the side of this Rusty, if you look close.  It's just that instead of being rust colored, it's now blue.

One of the best colors to use when crawfish are in this stage is the Blue Craw, or Sapphire Blue from Rage Tail.  Both colors are very good in IA and NE.  At times, the Blue Craw is far superior because it has enough of the green In it that it shows a craw that is just beginning to molt- that's also when they happen to be the most vulnerable.

Blue This is a Calico, or Paper Shell, that is also very common through the Midwest.  Same blue colors that are apparent in most species of craws when molting.

Orange In this picture, you can see where the highlights of orange and a primary dark green pumpkin are very prevalent.  There are times, when fishing in clear water, you need to very closely match the colors of the craws.  The way I do this is start with a base color like Green Pumpkin, and I dye the tips of the craw.  I use a couple different methods to do this, but most of the time on the water, I carry a Spike It Marker with me that has Orange and Chartreuse, and red/Blue.  There are times, as well, that I will dye the tips of my craws before going out, then I place them back in the package, and use them as needed.  When I'm going to dye a few at a time, I use a product called JJ's Magic for most colors, or I use Spike it in Colors that JJ's isn't available in.

Falcon lake Craw

I'm not ashamed to admit that I stole this picture from Steve Parks.  He's the guy that invented the Rage Tail baits. and the guy that invented the Falcon lake Craw color.  It also happens to be my most productive trailer, throughout the Midwest, and Texas.  The pictures aren't superb, as to the color of Falcon Lake Craw, but when you see it up close, you understand why it's so versatile. 

Falcon Lake Craw is essentially a Green Pumpkin base laminated to a rust-red.  There's also some gold black and blue flake in it that really make a difference in the appearance of the bait in the water.  you can fish it with a Green pumpkin jig to get more of the green to come out, or you can dye the tips more orange or chartreuse.  You can add blue highlights to it as needed, as well.  It's a standby in my trailer assortment, for absolute certain.

You can see from just these few pictures that the crayfish in our area come in a variety of colors. Far and away the best way to make sure that you've got your bases covered is to start with three or four primary colors- Green Pumpkin being #1, Falcon Lake Craw being #2, and a Blue Craw or Sapphire blue rounding it out.

Almost as important as color, is size.  Having two or three different sizes of trailer is key in many situations.  That alone can make the difference between catching fish, and just fishing.











The Tungsten Advantge

Tungsten weightsaren't necessarily new, but more and more people are finding out about them, as well as beginning to understand their benefits.  One of the primary benefits of tungsten is that the increased density and tensile strength leads to greater sensitivity.  This is to say that, when compared to lead weights, you feel more with tungsten because of the fact that the impact is not softened by the material itself.  Another benefit is that it is far less likely to cause lasting damage if it ingested by waterfowl, or if fish that have ingested tungsten are eaten by eagles, the eagle is almost certain to have no effects.  (There has been no record of acute tungsten poisoning from ingestion of infect prey species by eagle, unlike lead or tin.)  Lastly, tungsten doesn't oxidize like lead, or lead alloys like tin.  The oxidization is one of the primary damaging materials associated with lead poisoning.

In terms of sensitivity, tungsten is outstanding.  Whether as a worm weight, Carolina rig weight, or as a jig head the increased transmission and feel is second to none.  It allows you to feel the compostion or type of bottom you're fishing over much easier.  In turn, it allows you to eliminate water much more rapidly, making smarter, better use of your time on the water.  You can, much easier, discern the size of rock you may be fishing in, or to determine a transition from a hard sand bottom to pea gravel.  It's quite astounding as to the differences you can sometimes feel.  This is also transmitted directly through the tungsten itself.  Very often, a fish will clamp down on the weight, and not just the lure.  In doing so, often you are unable to feel the bite because lead deforms and spreads prior to transmitting the bite.  With tungsten, that bite is transmitted directly to the fishing line, and then on to your rod.

One of the secondary advantages of tungsten is that it is generally much smaller than its lead counterpart.  In some cases, the size difference can be as much as half.  This allows a much smaller profile in your weights.  A smaller weight profile thereby makes the bait look more natural.  More natural presentations catch more fish.  That smaller profile also allows your bait to make it in and out of tight spots much easier.  As well, with the smaller profile, you're much more likely to get a good hook set on fish.  Very often, if a fish has the weight in its mouth on a Texas rig, what will happen is that you can force the fish's mouth open as the weight comes out the jaw.  In doing so, you oepn the jaw which changes the angle the hook needs to penetrate.  If you reduce the profile of the weight, you lessen the change in angle that the hook needs to penetrate.

There are a couple drawbacks to tungsten, however.  The single largest drawback is the price.  At close to double the price of lead, they're not cheap.  The second drawback is that many tungsten sinkers have inserts in them.  When this insert wears, it allows a very sharp edge to contact the line.  In doing so, you've introduced fray.  That's a bumer not only because you're tearing up your line, but because the weight is then worthless, too.  Higher quality tungsten like is ultimately what you want to be looking for.  There are several manufactureres of tungsten weights currently on the market that offer weights that are insert free and have excellent finishes.  The two best, in my opinion, are those from Bass Pro Shops and those from Strike King.  One of the primary advantages of the Strike King weights is that the bottom side of the weights are large enough to "cup" the nose of most soft plastics very well.  You get a much cleaner look, and when punching with heavier weights, there is a lot less chance of that union coming loose and hanging in vegetation. 

Give tungsten a shot, it can absolutely be the difference maker on how effective you are with your soft plastics.


Springtime Shrooming

There is an abundance of things to do outside during the spring; shed hunting, turkey hunting, and fishing. One of my personal favorites is Shrooming. Mushroom hunting is a very challenging and rewarding activity. Searching for morels is advantageous to the hunter in that it gets him/her out in the woods to do some unintentional scouting.

Morels can be very easy to find if you know where to look. First you need the right weather conditions; several warm days in April with lots of sunshine are a good indicator to start looking. Morels can pop up overnight so a string of 60-70 degree days could pay off in some good finds. The next thing you want to find is water, mushrooms need moisture to grow. I have found most of my honey holes next to small ponds, creeks and rivers.

There are several indicator trees that point out good areas to find morels. Stands of Ash, Elm and Poplar trees are great areas to start looking for shrooms. Check near downed decaying logs. Likewise there are areas that you want to avoid; Morels do not grow well near Oak. The oak leaves that have fallen make the ground to acidic for mushrooms to grow.

In the early spring hunt Southern facing slopes. These areas will get more direct sunlight and warm the ground temperature much faster. Morels will tend to show themselves first in areas that will get more sunlight early on in the season.

Later on in the season, hunt Northern facing slopes. These areas get less direct sunlight and will tend to hold the moisture a bit longer. When the weather becomes more on the hot side morels will dry up and stop producing in areas with direct sunlight most of the day. By hunting northern facing slopes, you can actually extend your morel season a bit longer.

Take a mesh bag or onion sack with you to place your morels in. It is believed by many that as you walk around the woods the spores from the morels in your bag will fall though the bag and produce more morels in the upcoming years. There have been many debates about this subject and I will be adding a page to this web site about morel spores and mesh bags. If anything else the mesh bag will keep your morels fresh and let air circulate around them while you are still in the woods. Plastic bags will build up heat and cause your morels to mildew.

Always try to remember the spots that you find morels. Morels tend to fruit in the same spots from year to year but not in all cases. I always mark a spot with my GPS that has a good flush. I have found that some of my spots that hold a good flush usually produce a flush in the following year if this is one of those spots that continues year after year.


Size Matters

      When it comes to spring and summer concealed carry, size does matter. With the onset of warmer weather comes the ability to wear shorts and t-shirts. The more comfortable clothing leaves something to be desired when it comes to concealing a firearm. There are some things to consider when you want to start carrying under less clothing. Size of your weapon, size and style of holster are important aspects of conceal carry during warmer months.

       Before you select the firearm you would like to carry you need to decide on how you want to carry it. Inside the waist band (IWB), outside the waist band (OWB) or in a concealed shirt. IWB and a concealed shirt tend to be the most popular options when it comes to summer carry. 5.11 Tactical makes a conceal shirt that has holsters built into the shirt at about the rib cage allowing for one to carry a mid size auto with extra mags. Several companies make a tuckable holster, which allows you to carry IWB and still tuck your shirt in. Crossbreed, Galco, and Desantis are all companies that make a quality tuckable holster. Something to keep in mind when carrying is to use a quality belt that will not stretch under the added weight of your firearm.

      Now that you have decided how you want to carry you need to pick out what you are going to carry. Compact and subcompact autos, along with snub nose revolvers and pocket .380's are the most popular. The Glock 19/23 26/27 along with S&W MP Compact and shield are some of the most sought after compact and sub-compact handguns. All afford a quality firearm for around $500. Pocket carry requires a much smaller pistol or revolver. The Ruger series of LC pistols and revolvers offer a a solid option to pocket carry. The LCR in .38 or .357 Mag, the LCP in .380 Auto or LC9 in 9mm are all good options for pocket carry.

        Whatever style and size  you choose, be sure that you can carry it comfortably as well as fully concealed. Get out and practice with your firearm as well, it will do you no good if you are not proficient at shooting it. Practice your draw with your unloaded carry gun, you need to be able to draw and aim efficiently  should a situation ever arise where drawing your firearm is necessary.


Beating the Off Season Blues

      Chances are unless you are hunting snow geese in the spring, both you and your hunting buddy have been held up on the couch for a while. With the end of waterfowl season and the onset of cold snowy weather waterfowlers and their dogs tend to lack motivation for training and exercise. With six months till the start of any waterfowling activity now is the time to get back in shape both mentally and physically. Not to mention the weather is getting warmer, but it is still cool enough where a vigorous workout won't leave your dog overheated.

      At the end of season your dog was more than likely running like a well oiled machine, but after several long months of laying on the couch he has probably packed on a few pounds and lost some mental sharpness. With milder weather setting in, it is a good idea to get both of you out and back in shape. Start simple with basic obedience and retrieving drills. Also don't overdue it, you are in no shape to go run a marathon, neither is your dog.

      Always begin your sessions with fun throws or "hup hups". Just throw a toy or a bumper not used for regular training to get your dog excited and focused on the task at hand. This is also a good way to get those first throw excitement jitters out, so that when it is time to work your dog is focused. Allow him to run and burn off some steam, remember to keep the training fun or your dog will lose interest.

        Get your lead and training collar out it is time to get back to basics. Heel and sit, while seem easy enough to remember may have worn off some in the off season. Your dog will still remember the command but his response to it may be delayed or resistant. Walk your dog up and down your yard, correcting any deviance in heel with the training collar. Occasionally stop, and pull up on the lead causing your dog to sit, this will reinforce that when you stop he sits. When turning, alternate the direction in which you turn, always correcting any issues with heeling.

        Now it is time to work on those retrieving skills and commands. With a quick release lead attached to the collar bring your dog to heel. Toss the dummy out ensuring that your dog stays at heel while you throw. About mid flight, give him the ok with his name or whatever your go word is and let him go. Gradually lengthen the time you wait before releasing the dog. This will reinforce the idea of holding tight until being told to go. Gradually reintroduce multiple throws and blinds once your dog is back up to speed. Their is nothing worse for a dog's confidence than failure and trainer frustration.

Don't overdue it gradually get your dog back into shape 15 minutes at a time. Plenty of water during the session is also a good idea. End your session the same way it started, with fun throws, giving the dog a reward for doing a good job, make sure you leave him wanting more. Before you know it season will be just around the corner and you both will be ready perform at your best.


Spring Snow Storms

      When it comes to snow goose hunting, it is a numbers game. Everything is multiplied, from the number of decoys you use, the number of shells in your gun, the amount of geese in the air to your bag limit. Everything you do is going to require more effort and be more expensive, but it is all worth it in the end to watch 25,000 geese cyclone down into the spread you just spent 3 hours setting.

        Concealment is a major issue when snow goose hunting. When you have 25,000 pairs of eyes scanning for anything wrong you better be hid well and stay still. A common way to easily hide in a snow goose spread is to wear a white tyvek or painters suit. This helps you blend in with the spread and stay hidden.

      To truly be effective in pulling in thousands of birds, you need thousands of decoys. Silo socks are a fairly inexpensive decoy and fold up to fit in your trailer. This allows you to build a massive spread and be able to haul it to the X.  The minimum number of decoys I like to put out is 1200, this is large enough to at least peak the interest of a large flock. Be sure to use the wind and the decoys to funnel the birds into the kill zone.


Wary Late Season Toms

       Late season turkeys can be very call/decoy shy. One way I have found to combat this is a spot and stalk method. This is a less tradtional method but can be very effective when the toms turn and run at the sound of your call. This technique is best utilized in more open country where you can see the birds from a long way off and make an effort to put yourself infront of them.

      Your first objective is to locate the birds. You will tend to find them early to mid morning out in the open strutting and feeding. Once you have located them stay out of sight, if they catch a glimpse of you, your stalk is over. Try to determine direction of travel if any, it's best if you have a general idea where they are headed. If the flock is moving get ahead of them and set up where you think they are moving to. If they are holding up in a field strutting, sneaking up on them is the tough part. You have to get within 40 yds of a very wary bird.

Stay low and use terrain to your advantage. Valleys, ditches and low lying areas work well to move quickly through. Tread lightly, turkeys have a great sense of hearing one wrong step on a twig will send them heading for the hills. Move quickly and deliberately to an area that will present a shot, somewhere with some sort of cover, a downed log or bush works well. When that big tom presents a shot, take it!




Get Your Head in the Game: Positive Mental Imagery and it's Bowhunting Benefits

Nestled in the corner of a small picked bean field in Southern Iowa, I waited eagerly from my treestand to see what might appear from the surrounding timber that evening. It was mid-November and the rut was in full swing. A warm front had recently moved in and despite my wishes, the rise in temperatures did very little to improve daylight activity in this particular spot. Nonetheless, I did my best to remain optimistic.

Darkness drew closer by the minute, and I had yet to lay eyes on a single deer that evening.  Just as I was starting to accept the thought that tonight may not be the night to connect with a rut-crazed bruiser, a flash of movement caught my attention approximately two-hundred yards from my stand. A doe jogged through a small opening in the trees and a nice buck was hot on her trail!

Rattling antlers in hand, I let-out a short, but aggressive rattling sequence. While I stood there waiting to see if this buck or any other would respond to my calling, I began to mentally prepare myself for the situation that could potentially unfold.  A few minutes had passed with no sign of activity from the other end of the field, when all of a sudden he appeared! A dark-racked 160-class 10-pointer emerged just 60 yards from where I was carefully positioned in my stand.  Locked-on to my decoy, he shortened the distance to a mere 10 yards, but nearly facing me straight on, I would have stay calm and confident as I waited for him to present the right shot opportunity.

Now nose-to-nose with my decoy, the buck stood momentarily at 19 yards, quartering away from me. The time was now.  Pulling the bow to full draw, I placed the arrow on the mark and watched it pass through the buck's lungs. Prior to the deer's arrival I had mentally rehearsed such an event, so I would be confident and prepared if an opportunity presented itself. Studies have shown that practicing an exercise with mental imagery is nearly as effective as doing it physically.

Mental training is a valuable tool for archers, as well as athletes in any sport. In archery it plays a very significant role because precise muscle movement and calm concentration regulate performance. The use of mental imagery can enhance both of these attributes.

Mental training prepares the body both mentally and physically. An archer practices it so the shot can be repeated exactly the same. Even though we think of this process as conditioning the mind, it also trains the muscles and nerves used to execute the shot. We are actually blueprinting the perfect shot in our mind and muscles. When the arrow is set and released in mental training, the same muscles needed to perform the actual shot are affected. The mind sends impulses to those muscles, which in turn programs them for the shot execution. You need to develop trust in your ability to duplicate the shot and not in your ability to shoot the deer. Harvesting the animal is the result of using good form. Repeated mental practice makes the shot become more routine, natural and fluid. The confidence that results allows the archer to perform with ease when faced with the unexpected conditions of an actual hunt.

There are different levels of mental practice, with visualization serving as one part of the process. In visualization, you will see yourself shooting the arrow, just as if you were making the actual shot. You will view the situation while looking outward, rather than from the point of another observer.

Mental imagery is a higher level of mental training and takes longer to master. You are still visualizing the shot, but now you must become actively involved in the experience with your other senses. You are actually creating the complete shot scenario in your mind. You feel the backpressure, the explosion of the shot and the reaction of your bow arm. By seeing and feeling the perfect shot, you can program both the muscles and the mind so the execution can be duplicated in a pressure situation.

Mental imagery is very effective because with practice our muscles actually contract and respond in the same manner as if the bow were in our hands. The only difference is that one will experience very little physical movement. It is essential that you picture the perfect shot with the same rhythm as you normally use, because the result will be the shot you are programming into your mind and muscles. This level of mental practice raises your power of concentration and focus.

Imagery will also help an archer control anxiety, nervousness and muscle tension. The mind can create the tense atmosphere of a Boone and Crockett buck ambling into your shooting lane. Think of yourself remaining calm and performing a perfect shot. View the trophy buck in your sights and then picture yourself remaining relaxed as you release the arrow.

Mental imagery will affirm your ability to shoot effectively.  A good friend once told, “Perceived confidence is achieved confidence.  Picture yourself in a positive manner and you will have the confidence to perform in a positive manner”.


Spring Turkey Techniques

Turkey season is right around the corner, and for those of you who are gearing up for the upcoming season, read on.  Turkey hunters are a passionate and dedicated group. Those that chase turkeys with archery equipment take the challenge of harvesting a nice tom or jake this spring to the next level. Getting a bead on a tom with a shotgun can be hard enough but when you decide to do it with your bow, that difficulty becomes significantly higher.

What is the best type of broadheads for bowhunting turkeys? This can be a tough one. Just like when choosing the best broadhead for other types of hunting seasons, much of this decision is based primarily of personal preference.  With this being stated, my preference is mechanical broadheads. They fly like field tips and due to the “mechanical” expansion, they normally will stay within the turkey opposed to getting a complete pass-through.  When shooting turkeys with broadheads, if they run/fly after the shot, they usually do not leave the best blood trails. The ideal shot is to accurately place an arrow that penetrates at least one wing, if not both, while hitting the vitals. This will ensure a quick kill and a bird that is unable to fly.

When hunting for turkeys with a bow, your setup is critical. I often get the question regarding which is better, hunting from a blind or from the ground? In my opinion, both are effective options, the real question is what type of “turkey chaser” are you, and what is the situation. If you are bow hunting turkeys for the first time, the first thing you will learn is truly how impressive the wild turkey is at picking up movement. It was not until I started toting a bow in the turkey woods that I really began to appreciate the eyesight of a turkey. It takes practice getting your setup right on a turkey with a bow. With a bow, I want them within 20-30 yards to increase my odds on such a small target. Therefore, your setup is everything. For me, if I know where a gobbler likes to hang out and strut and have the ability to setup a blind without him seeing me, than this is a great option. What is interesting about turkeys and blinds is in my opinion turkeys are not as “forgiving” as whitetail deer. A turkey will notice just about anything out of place and are easily spooked. It is important to get your blind tucked into brush so that it blends in with the terrain around you.

Every person is different, and for me, I enjoy walking the woods and trying to strike a “hot” bird. Therefore, I prefer the ground setup mainly because of my style of turkey hunting. Again though, if I have a bird roosted, and I know where he likes to strut, I would jump at the opportunity to be sitting in a blind at daylight in hope he would come to my calling and decoys 15 yards in front of my blind.

Hunting from the ground, as I have already mentioned, is very difficult for many reasons. You need the bird to get within that 20-30 yard range, and you really cannot draw your bow until they do. This requires attention to detail on your camouflage, your setup, and your decision on when to actually draw. What I have found works best for me, is to setup on my knees with my left shoulder facing towards the direction I think the bird is going to come. I try to find a bush or tree that will allow me to have good visibility in front of me, but be completely blocked on my sides and back. If coming to full draw on a tom is not hard enough, add a few hens or a subordinate or two, and the challenge has just increased dramatically. Finding the right time to draw, as it is with hunting any animal with a bow, will be the toughest challenge when hunting without a blind. If you love bowhunting, there is a very good chance you will enjoy bowhunting for turkeys as well.


2013 Iowa Spring Turkey Season Dates

  • Archery Only (Resident)
  • April 15 - May 19, 2013
  • Combination Shotgun/Archery
    • April 6-14             (Youth Season – Resident)
    • April 15-18           (Season 1)
    • April 19-23           (Season 2)
    • April  24-30          (Season 3)
    • May 1-19             (Season 4)

2013 Nebraska Turkey Season Dates

  • Archery
    • March 25-May 31, 2013
  • Youth Archery
    • March 25-May 31, 2013
  • Shotgun
    • April 13-May 31, 2013
  • Youth Shotgun
    • April 6-May 31, 2013

A Simple Guide to Late Season Predator Hunting

Late season predator hunting is the perfect opportunity to get out in the field when all the other seasons are closed. If you like the outdoors, predator hunting is a good way to get out and try a new, exciting way of hunting while trying to call a coyote into shooting range.  This is also a great time to witness wildlife and to be out in the woods doing what you enjoy.

This sport does not take much for preparation. Most of your standard deer/turkey camo will work and possibly even one of your existing guns.  The gun I like to use is a Remington 700 in .223.  It is a big enough caliber to take down a coyote and the ammo is not expensive. There are other calibers you can use that will work just fine.  If you are hunting heavy cover or terrain that will make your encounters up close and personal, you might also consider a shotgun loaded with buckshot, or perhaps a coyote specific load such as Dead Coyote.

You will need some predator calls to get them to come into range.  Mouth calls would be the least expensive way to go.  The mouth calls I usually carry on me are a howler, rabbit in distress, and a mouse squeaker.  You can also purchase any of the several electronic calls on the market, which come pre-loaded with an assortment of sounds available at the touch of your finger.  Perhaps the best known name in the market is FoxPro, which is my personal preference, but there are countless others from Primos, Johnny Stewart, etc.  Not unlike any sport, you need to practice your calls before you hit the field, there are some great DVD’s to give you a head start on calling tips.

The next thing to consider is when to go.  There are certain times that are best to call these predators in.  Coyotes are most active during the early morning and towards the end of the day right around sun down until dark.  You can also hunt coyotes after dark, especially if there is snow on the ground and good moonlight present.  I prefer hunting during the daytime. 

        Now you are ready to go to the field.  I prefer hunting on colder days.  After a storm or a cold spell, the coyotes will be hungry, as they have to eat to stay warm. The places I like to hunt are usually the same places I deer hunt. You still have to play the wind, just like you would deer hunting.  When you enter a field, if possible, enter up wind. Try to find an elevated area so you can see some distance, and keep the wind to your advantage.  Coyotes will almost always circle downwind of a call before approaching, so keep the wind where they will have to circle in front of you to do so.  It is better to not to go too far in to start, as you could spook them before you even get set up. You can always move farther in. I like to give myself at least 20-30 minutes to each stand. Do not be afraid to move farther in, sometimes you have to get closer for them to come in.

       When calling make sure you start out with a lower volume the first round of calling, just in case you may have happened to set up right on top of one.  If you don’t receive any response, you can increase the volume in the following rounds. I like to call for about 2-3 minutes, and then rest for 2-3 minutes, and then start over.  Be ready as soon as you start calling, as it isn’t uncommon to have them come running immediately.  You will not call them in every time, but do not get discouraged, if you call them, they WILL come!