Rio Shot Shells

It is time to clean up after a long and enjoyable hunting season. I start with my late season vest. As I was going through the pockets, I found the normal stuff: shells, dog leads, first aid kit, extra e-collar, etc. When I got to my game pouch I had to smile. There were a lot of yellow hulls, all empty. The pile of bright hulls brought back many good memories. The dogs the birds and the awesome sights and sounds of the north woods came flooding back to me. As I was thinking about  all the good times, a thought came to me, one of the reasons we can have a good time is that we pick quality equipment.

As I was staring down at the pile of Rio shot shells it occurred to me that shells are one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment we use. And I do consider them one of the most important. We need to match the loads to the game we are hunting. We need to know where we are hunting. Does it require non toxic shot or can you use lead? Also we need to match the loads to the people using it. Too big a load and you could cause flinching problems.

For me, I like Rio shot shells. Rio gives me the versatility to hunt any game with any gun that I chose to use. I can count on the Rios to perform the way I want, they are very consistent. Here is a added bonus to using Rio shells. Rios are the cleanest shells I have ever used! Less cleaning time makes this hunter very happy! I have hunted many kinds of birds with Rios, from woodcock to geese, Rios have never let me down. Check Rios out, I think you will be happy. I know I am!
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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Evinrude

As I was cruising around the Boat Show, I came across the must unique looking boat motor on the market today in my opinion. The motor is the Evinrude E-TEC G2; it is a modern marvel! As I was staring at one of the demos on the floor a nice guy from Evinrude came over to ask if I had any questions, boy did I. Kevin Kerkvliet is the man’s name and he is a wealth of information. Kevin told me when they started designing the motor they broke everything down and decided to start from ground zero and make a complete new engine.

I will hit the highlights that caught my interest. The E-TEC has more horse power then any other outboard of same of same rating. The G2 has a ton of torque while expelling low emissions. With an engine so powerful you would think fuel economy would stink, not the case with the G2. It gets top marks for fuel economy. Being a guy that is not very handy with mechanical things of any kind, I was extremely excited about the G2, it is a motor that needs the least amount of maintenance of any outboard motor on the market today. It is fun to have the power and big torque, and lets be honest with ourselves, we like to look good on the water as well. Thus, the unique looks and quick adaptability of the cowl are awesome! You can match any color of boat made without custom paint jobs. When you have rough water you need a boat that handles with ease. So what does Evinrude do? They came out with power steering for outboards. If you think this is all talk, you are wrong. Evinrude will back up their motors with the 5 year or 500 hour warranty. On top of that warranty now until March 31st you can negotiate on the warranty or financing or free rigging, they are trying to give you options. Check their website or with your dealer for more info. I would like to thank Kevin Kerkvliet for all the interesting information. It really is a new era in outboards.

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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Minneapolis Boat Show

I had the opportunity to spend a cold winters day attending the Boat Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is a great way to dream about the upcoming spring. This is one of the biggest boat shows in the country. There is a reason for this, they have a great deal of variety at the show.

As I walked around I came across an awesome display of antique boats. It was very interesting to see the craftsmanship in these old wooden boats, artwork really. There were also a wide choice of pontoons; which in the last 10 years have become more popular then I would have imagined in my wildest dreams. Also there were boats that you could use for hunting ducks and catching fish. You could find any kind of boat you wanted and any kind of accessories you may need to enjoy your boat. There were docks that looked more like home decks. What better way to enjoy a summer day then sitting on your dock enjoying a cold one! So if you have a boat show in your state, go and enjoy. It will help you have fun thoughts of the upcoming summer.

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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Boat Show

I recently attended the Minneapolis Boat Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is one of the biggest shows in the country. If you love summer and being on the water this show is for you. I was focused on the fishing end of things. That is my passion and also my job for Focus Outdoors TV.

As I was going through the rows of toys and boats, I came across a Warrior Boat. I have a fondness for these boats and the people that build them. My feelings are from the time I have spent in these boats and with the folks that build them. Warrior Boats are made in my home state of Minnesota, which means a lot to me! As I was looking at the rig they had at the show Kent Anderson showed up. Kent is one of the key players at Warrior. It gave me a great opportunity to ask Kent what was new for 2016.

Kent was very excited about the V208 boat. This boat sounds awesome; it will have a 99 inch beam and will be 20’4” long, a real big water tamer. The interior sounds super comfortable as well. It will have set back consoles, jump seats, etc. If you are familiar with Warrior you know that they are one of the most fishable boats on the market. A couple other items that Kent brought up was also are very interesting. Warrior will factory rig your boat to your specs. They work with all the brand names.

I have fished with Kent and his dad Dave Anderson and found them to be down to earth and good people. But even more important for the potential buyer is that they are hard core fisherman. They have skills that are good enough to participate in the tournament fishing world. Who better to build your dream fishing boat than people who spend thousands of hours in them? Interested in becoming part of the Warrior Boat family? Contact Kent or Dave Anderson at WarriorBoatsinc.com.
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Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

SportDOG Brand

I have been training dogs for over thirty years. In that time I have used just about every major collar brand out there but one. This year I vowed to try SportDOG. Mark Fouts from the Ruffed Grouse Society was a good reference for SportDOG, he had been using them for a long time and thought highly of the company. Mark thought I should start with the SportHunter 1225 for the kennel and the SportHunter1875 for the grouse woods.

We shipped those models in and here is my assessment of these two models. We train just about everyday at the kennel, so the collars were put through the mill. The 1225 was used on many different dogs in the uplands and for water work. The SportHunter 1225 was durable and very concise with the stimulation level in and out of the water. Also the 1225 has a lot of super adaptability with it’s stimulation levels. The 1225 and 1875 both have a base level of stimulation: Low, Medium, and High. On the transmitter you have dial control 1 through 8 levels of stimulation, you can fine tune the stimulation level for each dog.The ability to adapt is huge, every dog is different.

On both transmitters I liked the fact that they were put together the same. If you train as much as we do, you get to know a piece of equipment. After awhile you do not even have to look to find the buttons on the transmitter, you know by touch. This gives you the advantage of quick clean corrections, training is all about timing. The collars have been put together with the trainer and hunter in mind.

As we headed through the training season into fall I started to play with the SportHunter 1875 more. Love the beeper on the 1875, it is super adaptable. One feature I fell in love with is the locate button. Lets say you’re hunting late season pheasants in thick cover. You do not want to put the collar’s beeper on run mode, but you need to locate the dog quickly, hit the button and one beep, there is the dog. It is awesome! Those are the kind of features that make these collars a treat to train and hunt with. These two collars caused us zero problems. The SportHunter 1225 and 1875 have all the features and adaptability you need to work with just about any kind of dog. We are glad we tried them you will be two!

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1225 System
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Rosie wearing 1875 Beeper

 

Thomas K. Poorker
Focus Outdoors TV Founder
Owner Midwest Gundog Kennels

Chapter 2 – Montana Grouse (2nd State – 3rd, 4th & 5th Species)

It was mid-morning on September 15th by the time my wife, Susie, and I had our 3 dogs, my hunting gear, her “hubby stuff”, and all the other things we would need for a 4 week trip loaded.  The journey would eventually cover over 6,500 miles.  In addition to my two Llewellin Setters, Rikki Lynn & Dixie Belle, we had her little Maltese, J.R.  Now J.R. had just turned 12 a few weeks earlier and had lost about 90% of his sight a year prior so this trip was going to be a challenge for him and us.  I’ll say right now we shouldn’t have been concerned, he came through in flying colors and provided us with a few smiles along the way.

Four days later we pulled into our cabin in the far northwestern corner of Montana. (West of Glacier National Park)  As Susie stepped out of our truck and took a deep breath she commented, “I like this trip already, it smells like Christmas trees.”  This location/hunt was not selected at random.  In October 2013 I successfully hunted Blue Grouse in Wyoming.  A big male was the 5th grouse in my quest for the 7 major species of grouse in North America.  The target (pun intended) in Montana was the Spruce Grouse.  Before some of you think that a Spruce Grouse is easy to kill and not a worthy challenge consider this.  I would be hunting for 3 days with a 3 grouse limit per day and I was looking for a mature (2 year old) male.  Montana lumps all the forest or mountain grouse together for an aggregate limit of 3 per day.  I had 9 chances for 1 bird and since Ruffed and Spruce Grouse share much of the same habitat I couldn’t have many mistakes and still meet my objective.

Day one began with success about half an hour after Rikki hit the ground.  We were in open regrowth fir when my guide shouted “over here, we have a point”.  Like usual, I managed to make enough noise getting to the location that I missed the point and flush but not my target.  The juvenile female was my first spruce grouse.  Over the next hour I had a limit but, alas, no mature males.  We obviously got into a family covey that hadn’t dispersed yet since they were scattered our over about a half-mile of hillside.  Luckily, one was the mature hen so she was saved as a back-up to go to the taxidermist if needed.  Day one was short on the hunting but long on enjoyment,

After lunch Susie and I spent the afternoon exploring and taking fall foliage photos for our Scrap-book.  An activity as enjoyable as the actual hunt.  For this leg of the trip the only meals provided were lunches, we were on our own for breakfast and dinner.  The cabin where we stayed had a fully equipped kitchen for our convenience.  Breakfast was easy with warm cereals and fruit (typical home breakfast).  But dinners would be a challenge, enter “Chicken Helpers”.  We filleted and diced the “kill of the day” and then sautéed it in butter and placed it in one pot with the “helper”.  Delicious and the clean-up amounted to 2 pots and our eating utensils.

If you read closely you noticed that Dixie didn’t get any ground time on the 1st day but she provided one of the highlights of the trip early on day 2.  We decided to have a go at Blue Grouse on an old clear-cut ridge about 10 miles from our cabin.  As we rounded a bend in the logging road there was a male Spruce Grouse getting grit in a truck pull-out.  (We knew it was a male by the black color)   We proceed on as if we hadn’t seen him and as we rounded the next bend he went out of sight.  A couple hundred yards down the road we stopped so I could fumble around with vest, shotgun, and shells.  The plan was for me to hug the edge of the road and trees on the right as I snuck back so that when he finally came into view and flushed he should be in range.  The plan worked to perfection, almost.  The grouse flushed, took a steep angle toward the top of the conifer forest but as my load of 7 1/2s connected he began tumbling through the limbs to the ground.  That is when I discovered that I had a problem.  Those were the tops of mature fir trees he was approaching and now he was somewhere at their dark bases a good 80 to 100 feet below me.  I wasn’t sure how I would get down there and getting back up wasn’t even a consideration.  Send me Dixie I hollered back to my waiting guide.

Dixie was still in her crate in the truck and hadn’t seen or smelled anything.  All she knew was that I had shot.  When she arrived I motioned her off the road and down the slope with the commanded “hunt ‘um up”.  This would be a true “blind retrieve” to make Lab owners jealous.  She pulled it off.  About 3 minutes later she clawed her way back up to the road with my grouse, a male bird but another juvenile.  The quest was still on.

The morning and early afternoon had Rikki on a ridge looking for Blue Grouse with no success unless you consider “dusting bowls” and feathers success.  They had been there, we just couldn’t locate them.  Reluctantly we trudged back to the truck arriving about 1:30.  The sandwich and bottle of water and a soft truck seat sure were welcome.

Since the day was warming we decided the birds would be in the coolest, dampest, and heaviest cover around so we went from the ridge to the creek bottoms.  Dixie had been on the ground for about half an hour when she got birdy off to my right.  I found a clearing (I use that term loosely) and waited for her point or wild flush.  The flush came from about 5 yards in front of me by a red-phase Ruffed Grouse, the first one I had ever seen!  Of course it continued from right to left and as I raised my shotgun for what would have been a relatively easy shot, it turned between myself and my guide, NO shot.   That bird eventually eluded us never to be seen again.  About 10 minutes later the scene was repeating itself with Dixie becoming birdy so our thinking was that we had another Ruffed grouse from a family group.  But to my joy when the flush came it was a mature 2-year old male Spruce Grouse.  Mission accomplished, I had Grouse # 6.  At that point 2 birds were fine with me so I called it a day and we headed back to the cabin.

Day 3 was just going to be a “fun” day of taking whatever the “Grouse Gods” handed us and we were ultimately blessed.  We started on an old military microwave installation site that has been completely dismantled and removed.  However, that ridge had been clear-cut and is now in the regrowth stage.   It would be a brief hunt no longer than about 45 minutes.  Rikki got the nod and just before we reached the end of the ridge we had a Blue Grouse flush and she was off at the shot to complete the retrieve.  I had been successful in taking 2 species of grouse in northwestern Montana.

I then suggested the impossible!  I wanted to return to the covert from yesterday to see if we could find the proverbial needle in the haystack.  That red phase grouse along the creek bottom would be our illusive target.  All you dedicated grouse hunters know how this one would turn out.  With Dixie on the ground we started “mission impossible.”  Close to an hour in I heard a flush to my right but saw nothing.  As Dixie continuing working a Spruce Grouse flushed in front of her and headed for the tree tops.  My shot stopped it short and when Dixie completed her retrieve I had two grouse in my vest and they were each a different species.  Following a 10 minute break she became restless and wanted to continue hunting.  Within 5 to 10 minutes she got very birdy.  She went through a nearly impenetrable thicket of regrowth fir trees while I skirted it on the right and took up a position at the end next to the edge of what would be an alder slough in a wet year.  Dixie continued her animated search for the strongest scent when a Ruffed Grouse flushed about 25 yards in front of me.  At the shot Dixie was off for her retrieve but as she proceeded, grouse started erupting from the slough as if they were popcorn.   Ultimately, there were six grouse in that family group.  I’ll never have such an easy opportunity for a Ruffed Grouse double but that first one completed my limit for the day.   As I admired that mature female bird it began to sink in what I had just accomplished.  A mountain grouse trifecta – in one day!

The first leg of our adventure came to an end with more success than I had even imagined.  Now the only remaining grouse in my quest was the Sage Grouse.  Wyoming here we come!

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Phil R. Hechler, NSCA Certified Level II Instructor
Winter 2014

Chapter 1 – Texas Doves (1st State, 1st & 2nd Species)

2014 —– A Season of Memories
2 Bird-dogs
4 Months
6 States
21 Hunting Days
10 Species of Upland Gamebirds

I have long dreamed of a multi-state, multi-species upland bird hunting adventure. The works of some of our contemporary outdoorsmen fueled those dreams and several factors came together to almost mandate that 2014 needed to be the year to “just do it.”  Figuring prominently in the decision to go now was my wife’s retirement and the persistent rumors that the Sage Grouse would likely be placed on the Endangered Species List.  This series of Blogs will chronicles my 2014 Fall.

September 1st started like almost every other year since I went afield with my first shotgun, a used Remington Wingmaster 20 Ga, purchased from a neighbor when I was a sophomore in high school.  That season began a love affair I’ve had with doves that lasts to this very day.  They are my favorite “feathered target”.  For the record my total bag for that inaugural season was 3 doves but I can assure everyone that I got in my fair share of shooting.  No, not actually shooting, it was more like making the gun go bang and there happened to be 3 unfortunate doves who just flew in the direction I was shooting.  Also, for the record there were 4 limits in my vest to start this adventure.

Dove “hunting” is more a shooting activity than it is a hunting activity.  In much of the country, and most of the world, doves are associated with agricultural production and are one of the few species who benefit greatly from man’s farming and development practices.  Because of their concentration around farming and ranching activity hunting them almost always takes place on private land.  Access can be gained by asking for permission, paying a daily usage fee or increasingly by using commercial operators who have leased property over a large geographic region.  I opt for the later since the outfitter I have used for the past several years has fields in an area approximately 70 miles long and 40 miles wide.  He always has fields that hold birds.

For those who are new to dove shooting or who are considering giving it a try come September 1st, what follows are a few suggestions learned over the past 40 plus years.

  • Gun and shot selection is not critical. Any gauge from 12 to 28 will work, any shot size from # 8s to # 6s will do the job with loads ranging from ¾ ounce to 1 ¼ ounce.  And whatever action you have is good, it need not be expensive.
  • Camo can be useful but not essential. Just wear clothes that won’t contrast with the surroundings.  Note: Desert Camo is too light for most locations.
  • MoJo motorized decoys (if legal in your state) are very effective on Mourning Doves but are almost detrimental to success on Whitewing Doves.
  • With decoys, think like a “duck hunter” and he who has the most usually wins! All things being equal, a single dove will be more attracted to a group of 10 to 15 decoys than 1 or 2.
  • Over the years I have acquired 6 MoJo motorized decoys, 2 wind activated decoys and 18 full-bodies clip on decoys. (Santa Claus has been good to me.)  Like duck decoys, deployment is important so here are my secrets to differentiate my spread from the other groups of hunters in the same field.  Those hunters are your competition.  (1) Make a do it yourself “tree” constructed of PVC pipe so you can get at least one dove about 12 feet into the air.  Adding a couple of T connectors near the top will allow you to add “limbs” to your tree and this is a big help.  (2) Again, from your local home improvement store you can purchase lengths of 1 inch square tubing that can be screwed and/or glued to the top of the stakes provided with the MoJos.  By staggering the length of those extensions you can give your spread diversity.  (3)  Your clothes-pen clip on decoys can be raised above the ground for better visibility with another trip to the home improvement store.  3/8 inch round aluminum rod can be cut into 2 feet lengths and then easily bent into a “L” shape with one leg 6 inches long and the other 18 inches.  By inserting the long end into the ground you can use the short end as a limb for the decoys.
  • One of the more difficult challenges for the dove shooter is judging distance. If you place your tallest decoy at a paced off 40 yards you will know any dove between the decoy and yourself is in range.
  • As mentioned earlier Mourning Doves are more susceptible to moving decoys than are Whitewing Doves. On the third day I was hunting in a special Whitewing Zone.  Thankfully, the Wildlife Dept. allows us to make 4 “mistakes” with Mourning Doves and still be legal.  About an hour into the hunt I had made 2 “mistakes” on doves that came over from my back and headed directly for the decoy.   I simply turned off the MoJos and that greatly reduced the “wrong doves” from being lured to my location.  The following day in the same field I used only the full bodied decoys near the ground.  Problem solved!
  • A British shooting stick makes standing much easier than does the traditional bucket or shooting stool.  By reducing movement as I stand to shoot, doves are less likely to spook.
  • Weather in September will usually be warm so think about your dogs. Shade and water will keep them cool and prevent overheating. I use both of my Llewellin Setters and by keeping them on leads they can take turns with the retrieving chore.  This was an important warm-up for the remainder of our adventure.  By taking 4 limits of doves (60 birds) over a short 7 day period each dog was given 30 retrieves on real birds.  They loved it!

Finally, dove shooting is a social activity and is a wonderful way to introduce youngsters, spouses, or even non-hunting friends to the outdoors.  The weather is usually pleasant (compared to late season pheasants or ducks), there is a lot of action and it doesn’t matter if you miss because another target will be by very soon.  Give it a try, I believe you will find it enjoyable but a word of caution ………. it can be addictive.

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Phil R. Hechler, NSCA Certified Level II Instructor
Winter 2014

Hawke Optics

I just received my second rifle scope from Hawke Sport Optics. Let’s start with the customer service: I ordered my scope on Monday and received it two days later. This was during a very busy time since it was the week of Shot Show in Las Vegas. The person I talked to was very helpful  and when I received the scope and rings, everything fit and worked as promised.

The quality of the optics is really nice. The clarity is exactly what I expect out of a high quality rifle scope. When I went to site it in, it was one of the easiest scopes to site in I have ever owned. When I adjusted the dials it did what it was supposed to do. I am very impressed and I will not use anything but Hawke Sport Optics ever again. Thanks for the great quality and the excellent customer service. In this day and age it is very hard find both!

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Jeremy Lawson
Focus Outdoors Pro-Staff Member

Down Time

As an active bird hunter,there is a period of down time built into my recreational schedule. I am referring to that stretch of time from the close of small game hunting until the spring thaw. To fill that time I decided to take up coyote hunting,and purchased an AR-15 rifle and a Hawke Optics scope with bullet-drop-compensator. Three things about this scope and Hawke Optics stood out to me.
1. The mounting of the scope, (on Hawke Optics rings),went really well. It sighted in nicely.
2. The accuracy of the scope and the bullet-drop-compensator is spot on.
3.The technical staff and sales staff were very helpful in selecting the right scope and rings for my gun and anticipated use.

I am happy with this setup and am planning a trip to shoot some prairie dogs with it. Thank you Hawke Optics.
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Mark Haslup
Focus Outdoors Pro-Staff Member

Dakotas

Things are finally beginning get to the point where I can catch my breath and pass along a quick rundown of how the pheasant season has gone to date.

We saw a good hatch throughout all of the locations in both North and South Dakota and headed into the season with optimism. Unfortunately as is often the case, we started out quite warm with the vast majority of the corn crop still unharvested. This made hunting more difficult than it should have been for a couple of very unavoidable reasons. With the warm temps the birds were averse to congregating in any type of traditional cover and all of the standing corn gave them the perfect place to feed and loaf all day- as well as easily avoid our efforts to bag them.

As in typical fashion here in the Dakotas the weather finally did change in a dramatic fashion. We went from sweating in shirtsleeves to walking in several inches of snow and below zero temps in a mere matter of days. And quite frankly, it was a blessing. Literally overnight the pheasants began bunching up in cover and we ended up walking far less in order to get our limits. This lasted for a couple of weeks at best and we now are swinging back to much warmer temps and the snow has receded. Meaning, the birds are once again roaming freely. There is sufficient feed anywhere you look and little need for them to seek any kind of heavy cover. Back to more of a hunting rather than shooting situation. Temps will bounce back down soon enough and the small heavy cattail sloughs and tree claims will make for impressive flushes and quick and easy limits to finish out the season.

I am happy to report that with sufficient effort, wise hunting practices, and good dogs that limits have been and are still being attained in all locales. I have received glowing reports from the self-guided hunters in the Timber Lake, SD and Bowman, ND locations. These are new properties that have proved themselves and will be utilized much more in the coming seasons.

If you are interested in a late season hunt, there are still plenty of opportunities available.  If you are interested check out www.dakotapheasantguide.com then give me a call.  If you would like to book an Ice Fishing Trip or plan ahead for an open water trip, check out the newly re-designed www.eyetimepromotions.com and then give me a call.

Dennis Foster
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Dennis Foster
605 887-3451