Archive for the ‘ Camping ’ Category

Grouse Nirvana

After  a long week hosting the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Conservation Ed Training Academy I took the weekend to head out west with my father-in-law to chase grouse.  We had a blast!  I think grouse hunting is just plain awesome and truly enjoy chasing these psychotic sandhill chickens.  You will walk a ton (like I need that kind of impact to my cholesterol level) but in some of the best scenery in the state.  Grouse can pop up at any time and give you little warning but when their numbers are large it is a blast (yes pun intended). 

Grouse can be a challenge for some and generally we have luck when the weather gets a bit cold and they tend to huddle up on the protected side of hills from the wind.  On warmer days, the shady side of hills is best.  They are not like pheasant and do not care for thick cover grass but rather favor more choppy sand hills with mixed grasses that have been thinned a bit by grazing.  Give it a trip or two and you’ll get the hang of it. 

We also enjoyed a bit of waterfowl in the sandhill potholes and of course had no intention of going through an entire pheasant opener without chasing them too!  Life is good!

Get Em’ Out There


Last night of camp with a tired old dog (the lab was tired too)!

Did I mention I like a BIG fire?

Finally a critter he was familiar with

Every morning was a gift!

Not a lot of trees in them there hills...


Where You Been?

I would  like to say that ever since the hunting seasons opened,  Hershy and I have been in the field but that just wouldn’t be completely true.  Sure we have had a few outings to the field (most recent was a grouse hunt while out west) but most of our September – October to  date has been working.   One such effort was our new Family Outdoor Adventure Camp. 

This new program found us at Camp Kateri with around 45 participants for a weekend of kayaking, fishing, camping and shooting sports.  We hosted the program to get more families to take the outdoor plunge and become outdoor families.  We had a great time and I think the families learned a lot.  It is really rewarding to watch kids shoot their first gun, bow or catch their first fish.  Getting Mom and Dad to participate is definitely a step toward making good stewards of our natural  resources!  We are definitely planning to  host this one again. 

Are they enjoying the outdoors or what?

Water mayhem?

The families really enjoyed learning how to shoot clays and many were interested in doing this more a family!

Get Em’ Out There



Those Beautiful Hills

…the prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse & prairie chickens) that inhabit the short-grass areas of the sandhills have several defenses against the human hunter…one is their good eyesight that allows them to see danger coming from afar – another is their mottled browns & off-white feathers that allow them to become dang-near invisible to the shotgun carrying predator as they make their living in the clump grasses…as if these two adaptations weren’t enough these sandhill birds have a very sinister desire to “off” us hunters by living in vast expanses of very un-flat terrain that is covered in sandburs & prickly pear…you may think my statement is a little extreme but that would just prove that you have never chased these feathered-boogers across miles of short-grassed, sand dunes only to see a family flock of sharpies jump 20 yards beyond your gun’s reach and appear to land ‘just over the hill‘ – which spurs you to walk several more hills of sand so that your trusty pointer can lock up hard on 1 ornate box turtle and exactly zero grouse…

…to celebrate opening weekend of the Prairie Grouse season I headed towards Valentine chasing the promise of grouse and good weather with my former College Adviser and two other grouse-nuts…we set-up base camp at Big Alkali Wildlife Area and had lots of fun telling stories and reliving past hunts…we ate some wonderful food and did our best to stay warm on the chilly, wet mornings of our hunt…though, the grouse were scarce and the shots few we had an amazing time – and surprisingly saw very few other hunters, even on the public access areas…we did manage to put enough sharpies in the game-pouch for a decent meal and plenty of memories to help start the season and perhaps provide some fodder for campfires yet to come…


…Dr. Jim Pease, my former college prof, was in charge of cooking the grouse and I wanted to watch his technique so that I could add another recipe to my file – prairie grouse are sometimes given a bad name as table-fare, but I think this is mainly due to the fact that even ice cream wouldn’t be as popular if you had to walk several miles over rough terrain to secure it…so I watched Jim work his magic on the skinned-out birds as he readied them for the pot…he started  by placing garden-fresh tomatoes and peppers around the grouse as they lay in the cast-iron dutch oven…he then sprinkled onion flakes, garlic salt and several other spices on them…just as the dutch oven was being placed over the fire I asked Jim what he called his grouse recipe – his reply was “Whatchagot Grousecause you take whatcha-got in camp and put it in the pot with the grouse”…worked for me! – it was delicious…

Whatchagot Grouse


Family Outdoor Adventure Camp

Hershy and I will be hosting a family outdoor adventure camp for families in eastern Nebraska September 25-26 in cooperation with Camp Kateri just south of York, NE.  The camp will allow families to participate in fun outdoor programs including fishing, kayaking, shotgunning, archery, air guns, camping and outdoor cooking.  Families of up to six are just $99 and we have room for two more families in the camp.  To register just follow the link below and send in the form with your hard earned cash.  I guarantee you will enjoy the weekend!

Get Em’ Out There


Missouri River Outdoor Expo

Folks if you have made the short drive to Ponca State Park in northeast Nebraska for the Fall Expo you really owe it to yourself and family to get up there.  The largest Expo in Nebraska (and maybe the midwest) Ponca has something for everyone…from shooting rifle, shotgun,  muzzleloaders, archery, big game rifles, kayaking, Missouri River boat rides, fishing, bow fishing, camping, tree stand safety, outdoor villages, crafts, games, wildlife activities…you just can’t go wrong this weekend at Ponca. 

Jeff Fields and the team at Ponca have done an outstanding job, along with all the volunteers that make this huge program such a success.  And of course, just visiting Ponca State Park in the fall is a treat in itself.  The attitude amongst all the staff and volunteers just seems to foster a fun and exciting time for all who are fortunate enough to participate in this grand event.  Don’t miss out!  The Expo will run Saturday through Sunday this weekend only.  We’ll see you out there!

Get Em’ Out There


Shooting is a big part of the Ponca Expo and is a lot of fun for anyone!

Maybe this Weekend!

…gotta tell you about the record my wife and I have been silently working on for some time now…it has to do with camping and it goes way back…since August 2002 (and maybe even slightly before that) my wife and I have camped in three different states and in some very diverse areas – and each time we go camping – yes, each time – it has rained on us!…the last several years our 6-year old son &  4-year old daughter have joined in on the fun, too!…

…sometimes it has been just a few thousands of an inch, but at least a couple of times we have endured 2+ inches of the wet stuff…most of this has taken place while we were tent camping, though last spring we added a small pop-up to the rotation and the rains continued …despite what you might be thinking we still have lots of fun on these outings…

…take for example our past weekend at the Nunda Shoal Campground, on Calamus State Recreation Area, where it rained just over an inch on Saturday Night…with a quick adjustment of locations we still got our morning hike in – ate breakfast and headed to Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park…the reenactment wasn’t taking place but there was a whole bunch of cool stuff to see as we toured the Fort’s buildings in the dreary conditions…once back to the campsite we played a few games we keep handy and when the sun did come out we headed to the beach…

…it’s always a good idea to be prepared for some rainy weather whenever you head out on a camping trip…my wife and I often pick spots that have more than just outdoor fun available, there are several such places here in Nebraska, and we make sure there are some activities we can do as a family in the camper, or tent, as well…also, plan a meal or two that take little prep and involves no cooking,  just in case you need to eat indoors…

…we will be putting our streak on the line again this weekend at Branched Oak as we look to take part in the Rinehart-100 Archery Event…wish us luck!…


Summer Outdoor Safety Tips

With summer on top of us and the high temps baking this short fat guy (did I mention I melt above 70 degrees?), it is a good time to keep some safety tips in mind while enjoy the great outdoors in Nebraska.

The sun – personally I am not a huge fan of sunshine.  This recent bout of cloudy rainy weather works for me.  But since most of us must work in the sun…use some common sense for your skin.  The sun is a great source of Vitamin D but too much of  a good thing can be dangerous.  For long periods of exposure (several hours daily) I like a SPF of 30 or more for total sun block.  Lower levels such as 15 will still allow a burn but it just takes longer.

Mosquitoes – these things have a purpose I am sure but I hate em’!  With recent issues with diseases from these critters, it is more important than ever to protect yourself from their pesky bites.  For sprays – it is hard to beat good old deet.  I know it is not the best thing for your skin but most of us don’t wear it enough to be a huge issue.  At 30% it really begins to shake off mosquitoes.  The heavier rates of 40% or more work great in heavy mosquito areas but I like to spray the heavier rates on my clothes and leave the lighter rates on my skin.  There are a lot of “softer” compounds out there but I have found nothing to work as well as deet which is found in Outdoorsman’s Off, Deep Woods Off,  Cutters and other blends.  Also, I am a firm believer in the Thermacell units.  They work without th mess of sprays and the dangers they bring!

Ticks & Chiggers – see mosquitoes – the same sprays work with deet being great for ticks.  I start by spraying my calves and socks.  I then pull my pant leg down and spray my pants.  This has reduced 95% of my tick bites.  For travel in heavy infested (such as when turkey hunting or hiking in fields) I also spray my torso, arms, neck, hair, hat, etc.  I try to avoid spraying my face unless necessary. 

Dehydration – Over 75% of our body is water!  Lose too much of it without replenishing and your in trouble.  Signs of dehydration include excessive sweating or lack of sweating when you should be, dry mouth, headache, weakness, nausea, dizzy…about like you feel when you wake up each morning :)!  Drink lots of fluids when working outdoors in the heat.  Sport drinks are absolutely awesome in replenishing electrolytes you lose through sweat.   Once you start feeling symptoms, unless you enjoy heat stroke, you need to get the person (or yourself) in the shade, cooled off, hydrated, etc.  If you find your friend is not sweating, refusing water, etc. these are warning bells that you need to act on!

Navigation – Hard to believe you could get lost in Nebraska but it happens every year.  I am a true believe of GPS systems but I also think outdoorsmen and women should learn to use a compass.  I bet even your cell phone has this application (along with GPS) that will keep you a well known dot on the map throughout your travels.  For GPS make sure you have extra batteries and still make sure you use your compass in the tall and uncut such as the Pine Ridge country.  Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return.

SnakesNebraska has four kinds of poisonous snakes — the prairie rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, western massasauga (a small rattlesnake), and copperhead. The prairie rattlesnake is found in the western two-thirds of Nebraska and the other three in the southeastern corner.  A good walking stick is hard to beat for this application (previous blog)!  Key ID characteristics of poisonous snakes include:

1. Blotched marks – generally any snake with lengthwise lines are non-poisonous

2. Triangular shaped head

3. Rattle – keep in mind the non-poisonous bull snake can do a good job of mimicking a rattler by curling up and rattling its tail.

For more info on snakes visit

Sasquatch – Really hard to avoid this critter.  If he finds you the best thing to do is lie in the fetal position and sing the Love Boat theme song.  Actually, “I’m a Little Tea Cup” with animation has shown some degree of effectiveness.  Knowing how to avoid bigfoot is the best idea all together.  Look for key sign such as a big hairy ape or large man like tracks size 20 or larger?

Just use some common sense and you will enjoy the outdoors each outing.  In my opinion there is more danger going to a movie than a camping trip!  Did I mention Sasquatch?

Get Em’ Out There