Are Pheasants Back? What to expect next year in Iowa

I saw more pheasants this year than I have in a very long time. I can remember healthy populations when my brother could limit on birds just by walking ditches and terraces, but that was ten years ago. In recent years it has been much more difficult. However, this year I consistently found birds, and many of the hunters I spoke with had good seasons as well. I decided to find out more about the current pheasant population and future projections. I reached out to a few local DNR officers for much of the information. All of the figures and tables were provided by the Iowa DNR. Here are the factors to look out for, and what to expect in years to come. Continue reading “Are Pheasants Back? What to expect next year in Iowa”

Motivating the Unmotivated Hunting Dog

Dogs lack motivation for a variety of reasons: genetics, age, time of year, time of day etc. If you have a hard charging dog that wants nothing more than to retrieve and worship your every move, this blog isn’t for you. If instead your dog seems to have ups and downs with certain weeks being better than others, here are a few tips to have a more responsive training partner.

Continue reading “Motivating the Unmotivated Hunting Dog”

Tips for Hunting Pheasant in South Dakota

During the past week I hunted South Dakota for both deer and pheasant. The trip went well. I shot several pheasants over Nali, and she flushed many more. Deer hunting was a struggle, but I learned a lot that will be useful for next season. I understood that South Dakota was a world-famous pheasant hunting location, but how to find public lands and hunt effectively took time to figure out. Here are a few tips to help you save time and get on birds. Continue reading “Tips for Hunting Pheasant in South Dakota”

Getting Permission for Private Land Pt. 1

Picture this: you are driving down a gravel road on the way to a public hunting spot. A ten-point buck runs out of the ditch, across the road, and onto private land. Do you just toodle on down the road and hope you’ll find something on similar on public land? Or, do you find a way to hunt the deer? Hunting private land is great because you don’t have to worry about competition from other hunters. Here are a few steps to take to improve your chances of getting permission.

Continue reading “Getting Permission for Private Land Pt. 1”

A New Approach

By Stuart Hoegh

Nali and I were sitting in the truck scouting a field for deer from about five hundred yards away. We weren’t seeing anything and both of us were entering stages of boredom only comparable to the Christmas eve service I would attend that night. Out in the distance a flock of about 100 geese appeared. Slowly the geese circled and began swooping towards the hill. Eventually around 100 geese were standing up on the hill in the field I was watching. I was happy to give up scouting.

The truck skidded a bit on the gravel as I rushed home. I sprinted from my back door out over the terrace at the edge of the yard and down through the field. I made it to the creek a couple hundred yards away before pausing to catch my breath and realize I had probably pulled my quad in the process. I could see the geese feeding toward the south as I crossed the creek and weaved my way through the grass next to the fence. I crouched and ran hunch-backed up toward the first terrace on the hill. I began crawling along the ground. The midafternoon sun had turned the surface into a greasy combination of cornstalks and mud. My hands and knees were slimy. I began to question my decision to crawl as I probably could have continued my hunched shuffle and been fine. Anyway, I’m crawling across this field and the sound of the geese over the top of the next terrace is getting louder and louder. I army-crawl to the top and peer over the grass. I had expected the geese to launch off in a flurry. Instead, the geese just kept feeding as I took aim. I couldn’t help but question my decision to run/crawl my way up the hill (it was almost surely unnecessary). With the first shot one goose dropped and the rest launched into the air in a honking mass that was somewhat disorienting. I proceeded to use my next two shots as warning shots if they were to ever come back. It is easier to carry one goose home than three anyways, so I trotted home with my goose and a sense of accomplishment.

Most blogs I write describe a well thought out hunt that accounts for various factors. But, sometimes it is more fun to run across a field with a shotgun toward a flock of geese and shoot one off the ground. There is a lot of judgement passed by outdoorsmen about strategies used. Bow hunters complain about shotgun, fly fisherman diminish the accomplishments of spin fisherman and duck hunters have their own issues to sort out. While I do abide by some self-enforced codes while hunting, and ethics are always important, it is important to step back and understand that outdoorsmen are almost always out to enjoy the adventure and possibly spend time with family and friends. We are all bound together by this broader appeal, and separating ourselves into different groups that won’t “stoop” to the level of another group creates divides that aren’t necessary. We all treasure the outdoors and wish to protect our passions. As long as you are out there for the right reasons, you have my support. As Red Green would say “Remember, I’m pulling for you, we are all in this together.” Good Luck. Stu.

Duck Hunting on a Budget

By Harrison Hoegh

Getting started duck hunting can seem like an major task. Duck hunting has a huge marketing campaign behind it to paint your face and load up on expensive gear. I haven’t invested a great deal of money in duck hunting, and I still enjoy calling in and shooting ducks each season. If you want to give duck hunting a go, but don’t know what to buy, and what to let sit on the shelf, here is a list of what I have found to be worthwhile.

What you’ll need

Waders 90 bucks: Herter’s® Men’s 3mm Hunting Waders If you have plans of standing in flooded timber in the northern part of the country buying nice waders might be worth your money. But for most of us who only need them for picking up decoys or are hunting in warmer climates a ninety dollar pair of chest waders is fine.

Call 25 bucks: Primos Wench  I used a 30 dollar call for the first few years I duck hunted. I was still able to pull ducks away from the high dollar ten mojo spreads. I will say that if you have the money a nice call makes sounding like a duck a lot easier. But it’s not a necessity if you keep your calling limited and have motion in your decoys you can expect ducks.

12 Decoys 40 buck: RedHead Big Spread mallard decoys buying expensive goose decoys may be worth your money, but duck decoys quality does not improve much as the price increases. Plus stirring up the water with a jerk cord is more important for realism than buying one hundred and sixty dollar decoys. If you are hunting smaller water or you are near hunters who use big spreads with ten mojo decoys, a spread of twelve decoys may be what ducks feel more comfortable approaching.

What you Don’t Need From the Hunting Store

Mojo decoys: The effectiveness of the mojo decoy is debated each year. Some hunters swear by them and others say they only work in the early season. What I do know is that you can call in ducks without them. People were hunting ducks effectively long before the remote-controlled decoy came along.

Anchors: Grabbing some fishing sinkers and string from walmart can serve just as well anchors

Duck dog: If you have a friend who is gung-ho to go duck hunting he will not mind wading out to pick up a duck. Try to hunt shallow water, but most days you can use a pole or stick to reach out to ducks that have fallen too far out.

Duck camo: Duck camo is one of the most expensive parts of duck hunting. Most locations I duck hunt don’t have a uniform bank. This enables me to find cover and a backdrop that I will blend in with rather than hunting reeds each time.

Anything that looks like you could make it: If you see gear in the duck hunting section and think you could make it, you’re probably right. Also if it looks like something that is sold at a hardware store and painted camouflage and had a sticker placed on it, it’s a good idea to check the local hardware store before buying it. You can always paint your gear camouflage later.

Next week I will dig into more complex hunting approaches for ducks for now I am still focusing on deer hunting as I get ready for duck, goose, and coyote prime time. Thanks for reading, and good luck this week. If you have any thoughts such as things you have made for duck hunting comment below.

Get Started Duck Hunting

By Harrison Hoegh

You don’t have to be an absolute guru to have fun and success while duck hunting. Duck hunting can be something you do once deer hunting is over, or to get away during thanksgiving weekend. The best way to learn is to go with other duck hunters. If you don’t know anyone who duck hunts learning to hunt on your own can be much more frustrating but also gratifying when you succeed. Here are a few basic things I think will ease the transition into becoming a duck hunter.

Doing research

Talking with other hunters and DNR officers as well as following the duck migration online can clue you in as to when will be a good time to hunt ducks. Many of the public land options around Iowa have offices that you can call and get an idea for what’s in the area that week. Also scouting for the 9am landing zone of fields and ponds near the public land you are hunting can pay off. If the water you are hunting is crowded with public land hunters chances are many of them didn’t scout the neighboring fields to find where the ducks go after skirting their spreads. Take a morning to follow the ducks and ask the farmer for permission to hunt his pond for a day. Many hunters don’t ask because they believe land that close to public land has to get a lot of requests. But just last week Stuart received permission to deer hunt land bordering public land near Grinnell.


Watching youtube videos and practicing outside listening to ducks will get you good enough to bring a few ducks to your spread. Try not to do too much, mastering a basic quack is enough to get a few birds within range. The great thing about duck hunting is that motion is more important than calling. Attaching some paracord to your decoys and getting motion on the water will get ducks interested. The hardest part of calling is knowing when to call and when to shut up. The hunter with a great sound is worthless if he calls constantly and the hunter who can barely call can be pretty effective if he only calls when he has to. As you get better at calling you will recognize when ducks are committing and when you don’t need to call. This enables you to call less and makes you a better duck hunter.

The set-up

Approach duck hunting like walking into a new location to hunt deer. Only the deer are coming from above and their moving forty miles per hour. Just find a good spot to hide from above and hold still. If there is no place to hide you can bring a layout blind for the bank, or back off the shore a bit downwind of your landing zone. What is nice about hiding behind anything along the bank is that most likely you won’t have to buy new camo. One of my favorite set-ups is to sit under a pine tree along the bank of a pond I hunt. Throw out a dozen decoys and move them around according to how each group of ducks tries to land.

Next week I’ll write about some more advanced approaches to hunting ducks. Let me know if you have read any other blogs on duck hunting, or have some ideas you would like to share on the subject. Good luck this week.

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