Iowa Turkey Hunters Take to the Field

The 2014 Iowa Spring Turkey Season is underway.  As Iowans, we are lucky to have healthy Turkey populations throughout much of our State.  The higher consentrations of birds a in the Southern and Northeastern parts of the State.  While the people hunting these areas have it a little easier, it is not impossible to fill your tag in other regions.  Here are a few tips to help you find success in the field.

1: Understand some Turkey breeding basics.  Turkeys go through 3 basic breeding phases in the Spring.  Seeking, breeding, and nesting.  You will find your best success in pursuit of an Ol’ Tom during the seeking and nesting phases.  During the seaking phase, Toms are actively looking for hens to breed, and are vulnerable to decoys and calls.  During the breeding phase, Toms are generally with a hen(s) and are unlikely to be tempted by another until the hen they are with is done breeding and starts nesting.  Finally, the nesting phase.  Once a bred hen builds its nest, Toms will go out in search of more hens to breed.

2: Scout.  In parts of the State, scouting is less important than others.  If you want to increase your odds of success, regardless of where you hunt, you will become familiar with Turkey habits.  Know where they roost, know where they travel, know where the feed, and know where they strut.  A strutting Turkey wants to be seen, but its tougher to set up on a bird that is already out and strutting than it is to catch him off the roost or while he is traveling.

3:  Be mobile.  If you are a bow hunter, this advise is a bit tougher for you.  Sometimes Turkey don’t do exactly what you expect them to do.  If a Tom you are hunting heads out a different direction, don’t be afraid to circle around him and hunt a fresh set.  Just be stealthy when you do it.

4: Be patient.  When you engage a gobble, sometimes they come right to you.  Other times, for whatever reason, they hang up.  If you are confident that the last gobble you heard was closer than the first one, then that bird has closed the distance.  Be still and give him time to make a mistake.

Turkey hunting combines all of the elements that most passionate outdoorsmen and women  find appealing.  From start to finish, Turkey hunting is one of the great hunting experiences in the great Iowa Outdoors.

Let It Snow

As the snow line recedes to the North, a different type of snow storm hits the upcoming Spring.

The Spring migration is one of natures most intreging phenomenons.  One of the most spectatular specticals is the Snow goose migration.  They fly over Iowa in groups of 10′s of thousands at a time.  It really doesn’t matter if you are laying in a field or standing in town.  If you look up at this time of the year, you are likely to see a passing flock.snows

Many of Iowa’s die hard waterfowlers take to the chase.  Some travel South to cut the birds off before they get to Iowa.  Some head to the Northwest to catch them before they get to their breeding grounds.  Others, stay right here at home and find Snow goose success in Iowa.

Zach Harryman displays a banded Snow goose he harvested while hunting a field in Iowa.

Zach Harryman displays a banded Snow goose he harvested while hunting a field in Iowa.

The keys to hunting Snows in Iowa sound simple.  You need a very large spread of decoys (800-1000), a top notch electric game calling system, and time.  While millions of birds fly over our state, a small percentage of them stop, and even fewer hang around more than a day. Those dedicated few will always find a way.  Whether you are one of them, or a bird watcher, the Spring migration is a welcome sight.

Iowa’s Winter Trout Stocking Schedule Released.

ice troutThe Iowa DNR has released their winter Trout stocking program schedule for 2014.  These fish are stocked in waters where they will not survive through the summer.  Trout require cold waters throughout the year.  Stocking these fish in the winter provides more suitable water temperatures.  These trout are stocking strictly for anglers to catch.  There is zero expectations for creating a reproducing population.

State law requires that you have a valid fishing license and Trout stamp to fish for and posess trout. 

For more information on Trout fishing in the state of Iowa, click here.

Trout Stocking Schedule:

Jan. 18, Blue Pit, Mason City, 11 a.m., 2,000 trout
Jan. 18, Bacon Creek, Sioux City, 1 p.m., 1,500 trout
Jan. 25, Petoka, Altoona, Noon, 1,500 trout
Jan. 25, Scharnberg Pond, Spencer, 1 p.m., 1,500 trout
Feb. 8, Ada Hayden Pond, Ames, Noon, 2,200 trout

Open Water In January = Goose Hunting Success

The last couple weeks of goose season in Iowa come with the toughest conditions.  Low tempuratures and blistering cold wind chills can make goose hunting a challenge.  However,  if you can find them, the hot action will help you forget how cold it is.

Regular goose hunters know that there are 3 areas to find geese.  The roost water, the loaf water, and the fields.  You don’t want to hunt the roost because that will drive the birds away from your area.  The loaf and the fields are where its at.  The problem with the field hunting late season is geese generally feed one time per day during this time of year.  Field hunts can still be very productive, but some times, on clear and sunny days, the geese don’t really start heading out to the fields until after shooting hours have expired.  With the exception of snowy or overcast days, you may only have a matter of minutes to hunt geese in a field on a sunny winter afternoon.  Many successful goose hunters head to loaf waters for great late season action.

water gooseEven though they are not going out to feed, you may see geese in the air at any time of the day during the late season.  These geese are generally jumping from water to water.  Geese will roost in one area and then fly to loaf in another.  They will also jump from loaf area to loaf area.  I don’t know if their feet get cold or if they just want to stretch their wings, but either way, they will hop from water to water throughout the day.  This is a huge advantage for the hunter because there is limited open water in Iowa this time of year. 

Areas with current will generally hold open water late into the winter.  Some areas never freeze.  However, when hunting these areas use caution.  Ice over running water is very unstable, and you can find yourself in a life threatening situation in a hurry.

Another option is to make you own open water.  If you have access to a ice eaterprivate pond that you are familiar with, an Ice Eater can be worth its weight in gold.  It can be kind of a chore at first, but once your are set up, the rewards are worth it.  After opening up a pond in an area with a high goose population, it only take a matter of a day or two. 

 The most important thing to think about when hunting water late in the season is, Safety First.  Don’t turn a good time into a tragedy.


New Years Brings Cold Weather

frozen river edited2013 has come and gone.  The most fidgid of Iowa’s days are upon us.  While many of Iowa’s outdoorsmen and women have hung up their gear in anticipation of warmer days, many of us will brave the cold to continue to pursure our passion.

Over the years, I have learned through trial and error, the best ways to enjoy hunting and fishing through Iowa’s cold winters.  The most obvious was actually advise I got from my Mother, ” Dont’ go outside without your hat and mittens”.  The others I have picked up along the way.

One technique I started utilizing many years ago when duck hunting on single degree days.  Several thin layers are better than a couple thick layers.base layer

A good base layer is tough to beat.  I have found that Drake Waterfowl offers some of they best layering systems on the market.  Along with providing more warmth on colder days, I feel like I have more mobility in the field. 

toe_warmers_by_hot_handshot hands

After I feel I have enough thin layers to match the conditions I am facing, I rely on hand and foot warmers.  In my opinion, every late season outdoor enthusiest should keep a stock of these on hand.  They are inexpensive and really work.  On really cold days, I like to wear cargo pants over my base layers and under my outter layer.  I will drop hot hands in the cargo pockets and stay tostie warm for hours.  Additonally, the adhesive foot warmers placed on the bottom of my socks keep my toes warm even when I am sitting still.  I have also found that, when the foot warmers are not avaliable, the hand warmers can be dropped in the toes of my boots and do just as good if not a better job.  If you take your time and do it right, they do not make for uncomfortable walking.

The key to enjoying the Great Iowa Outdoors in winter months is being able to stay comfortable.  So layer up, grab some hot hands, and get outside.  There is still pleanty fun to be had before the thaw.