Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trip Home For Dove Hunting - Sikeston, MO 2010

Upper field facing west
This year I finally got back to Sikeston to go dove hunting.  There is nothing better than going home to the farm and see all the doves flying.  Yes, there were a lot of doves flying this year.  Last year I did not have a chance to make it home to hunt because there was no corn cut until later in September.  This year my dad had almost finished cutting all the corn on all the farms so there was plenty of ground to hunt.  One of my favorite fields to hunt is a 120 acre filed that is split into a two-tiered filed.  The upper end is about 80 acres and lower end is about 40 acres.

Upper field with rob doves up

I decided to start hunting in the morning in the upper field by the irrigation walkie.  With the use of my blind I was able to get out in the field about 30 years with no cover around me.  I set my my robo doves on thier 10 foot poles out about 30 yards which was just about the range my Stoeger over/under with my light modified chokes would reach.  As you can see it was a perfect setup.  The birds flew all around my decoys and a few tried to light on them.  Notice how I place them at least 20 feet apart to get the impression of several birds lighting or getting up.

Upper field facing behind me

Lower field facing south
That evening I decided to go hunt the lower field which is surrounded on 3 sides by trees where the doves love to roost at night.  You might notice that this corn was cut but the stalks were not.  I really like fields like this because when the stalks are not cut it is easier for the birds to find the loose corn.  I was out in the field with no cover again, with my back to the sun, which made it easier to shoot.  Notice again my decoys are out about 30 yards.  This was a prime setup.  I probably saw more doves in the lower end than I did on the upper end.

A good start
I shot a total of 15 birds for the day.  Not bad for a day of shooting.  I shot a few times this summer but not near enough to get my shooting eye in shape. No matter what type of hunting you do, you have to be prepared.  It also did not help that I also made some shooting and hunting mistakes when I knew better.
I am my own worst critic when hunting.  As I said before I should have shot my limit on both hunts, but I was not patient enough.  There were more than enough birds flying in flocks to get a limit.  Too many times birds would come in and I was too excited and my shooting mechanics were poor.  I did not shoulder my gun correctly or lead enough.  If you don't shoulder your gun correctly first, then everything else will also be off.

The other bigger mistake I made was stupid and rookie like.  About 5 times I kept getting out of my blind and chasing birds that would light near me expecting to get a shot.  This is a terriable mistake made by dove hunters.  I should have just let them light and used them as decoys.  But again I knew to sit tight, but I kept getting up thinking I could shoot these lighting birds.  I was just too excited about getting a limit that I did not stick to the basics.  

As my friends will tell you I always carry my blackberry to keep in contact with family, work and friends.  In this day and age its not uncommon to carry your phone with you in the field.  You might call me a high-tech redneck.  

Field bag with blackberry
Good luck in the field, see you in a few weeks.  This week teal season started in KS and MO and I will be heading out to my hunting club Hunting Sports Plus for some more great action.

Monday, August 23, 2010

3rd Annual Sportsman's Night Out

This is a great event if you live KC...come join us if you your tickets online now...

The South Johnson County Ducks Unlimited committee is holding their 3rd Annual Sportsman's Night Out event at Bass Pro Shop in Olathe, KS on September 23, 2010.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Don't forget to check out Tom's Hunting Journal on Facebook

I have some items on my Facebook page.  You should check out my new videos on Cabelas Duck Calling Contest at their Waterfowl Sale this past weekend.

Tom's Hunting Journal

Look forward to hearing from you....Tom

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The South Johnson County Ducks Unlimited Sportsman’s Night Out

Event Date:September 23, 2010
Location:Bass Pro Shop 12051 S Renner Olathe, KS
City:Olathe,, KS
Contact 1
Name:Gary Mellard
Tickets:$30                             Buy your tickets click here! 
5:00 p.m.
Description:Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 - Sportsman’s Night Out (SNO) at Bass Pro Shop in Olathe
  1. No live auction, no sit down meal, just lots of fun with friends as we raise funds for wetlands conservation. You haven’t seen a DU event like this unless you were there last year!
What gets raffled at a SNO event?  To begin with, there will be at least 15 GUNS.

Plus we'll have lots of fishing & camping equipment along with gear for duck, deer, upland game and turkey hunters.
Why wear camo or blaze orange the night of the event? To make it a more “festive” atmosphere, every attendee dressed in camo or blaze receives a raffle ticket for one of our mini-raffle guns.
So, how much is this going to cost? The SNO event is a low-impact evening. Tickets are only $30 per person!! Your ticket includes a collectors cup, sandwich meal and a year's membership in DU.

Early Bird Specials? You bet we have them!  You can invest in one of our Early Bird Special raffle packages.  For $50 you will receive $80 in raffle tickets OR for $100 – you can get $200 in raffle tickets PLUS six tickets in the mini-raffle.

Where and When? Mark your calendar for Thursday, September 23, 2010 at Bass Pro Shop in Olathe.  Doors open at 5:00
Want More Information? Contact Gary Mellard at 913-967-9898 or at


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dove Season - Successful hunts start with a plan

Dove hunting can be an extremely frustrating or successful experience.  It is a great start to get back to the outdoors and get ready for hunting season.  There is nothing like opening morning and listening for those first few shots and seeing those first few birds come racing across the field.  Although any time spent in the field is always a good time, I usually measure my experience by what I harvest or how much action I encounter.  This is why a successful hunt always starts with a plan.  In my first article of the hunting season, I gave you a few tips to get ready before dove season.  Now I would like to share with you some of my own tactics and strategies to make this dove season your most productive yet.

Scouting Fields – Dove hunters across the country all have their favorite type of field or vegetation they believe is the best.  Growing up in southeast MO, I always thought thrashed milo was the best followed by shelled corn, which was convenient because we always had some shelled corn by Sept. 1.  However when I moved up to Kansas City, all I heard was sunflowers was the best.  I don’t necessarily disagree with that, except to say I believe you have to hunt what type of vegetation is near you.  Dove will feed on what their migrating pattern provides for them.  I have seen doves over several different kinds of fields, cut wheat, field grass, watermelons and even a wood pulp plant.  Although agricultural fields are the best option, the main thing to remember is to scout them out in the evening and early morning to see where they are flying.  What you want to see if it is a  morning location, an evening location or both.

Here is an example of 80 acre field I hunt on the home farm.  You will notice that I have 3 areas I like to put my blind and decoys.  Depending on several factors I will choose a different spot for my setup.  Here are some things I look at when deciding field location.

  • Are there any high line wires?  Doves love to light on high line wires after they feed and they use them as a flight path between roosting and feeding.
  • Are there any trees surrounding the field?  Are there any breaks in the tree line? Doves roost in the trees in the evening or during mid-day after the they feed.   They also use that break in the trees to enter a field.  Doves would rather fly through a break in the trees than fly over the trees when coming in to feed.
  • What is the high point of the field or is there a ridge in the field?  Doves tend to use the contours of the field when flying though the field.
  • Is there a water source in or near the field?   Doves need water and this makes a great place to hunt in the evening or mid-morning.  However you do not need to find a big pond. Any standing water near a good feeding ground will work great.
Field Spot – So you have your field all scouted out.  Now it’s time to figure out what is the best spot in the field.  Depending on whether you have a small or large group, you can put yourself in a good opportunity to have more shots.  Taking into account breaks in the trees, which way the wind is blowing, high wires, contour of the field and location to others all will have an effect on your success.  Regardless of where your location in the field is, hunt 180 degrees in front of you.  You want to try and make sure the birds are kept in front of you when possible.  Yes, I realize that birds will come from behind you and this is where help from others comes in handy.  If everyone is spread out at least 50 yards everyone will see the birds coming and can alert everyone else. 

Above is a drawing of the field of the picture below.  This field is about 180 acres and is a great morning and evening spot.  Notice I have positioned my decoys and blind over the lower end where the the irrigation has produced standing water.  The birds will come into the field usually straight in or from my right.  In this setup, regardless of where the birds come from, they will head straight for the decoys because doves see water and other birds and they want to join in.  As for the birds coming in behind me, normally if I am still they will try and light with the decoys.  When they come over my should they usually are flying low and slow, which gives me enough time to get a shot.


Decoys and Calls – Up until about 5 years ago, the only time I used bird decoys was during duck season, however now I also use them for dove season.  For years there has always been the use of dove decoys either pinned to a limb or fence.  I never used these because I felt they provided no real value.  However now I have adapted to using Mojo Doves.  Yes the makers of the original Mojo Duck have created a dove decoy whose wings rotate just like their duck.  This provides a great attractor just like when you duck hunt.  The rotating wings attract the doves to your part of the field.  I have seen doves purposely alter their flight just to come to the decoys.  Here is how I setup with them:

First, I put them on a 10 foot, inch and half, pvc camo painted poles.  The stake the mojo doves comes with is too short.  So by putting the stake in the poles and put the poles in the ground that gets them high enough to see them from a longer distance.  I then will cut the ground end of the pole at an angle so they can dig into the ground easier.  Also, I cut the pole in half to make it easier to carry to the filed. 

Second, I put them about 20 feet apart about 30 yards out from my stand.

I now take a ground blind to the field so I am not limited to hunting right up next to trees, corn or a fence line. This allows me to conceal myself and also allows me a good chance for those birds that approach me from the back. I like a blind that is 48 inches tall and maybe 10 fee long so I can wrap it 3/4 quarters around me.

As for calls I will use one to get birds to make a pass at my decoys but I really do not call that often.

Shooting  - Finally, here a few helpful tips on helping you with your shooting.

Stay alert, pay attention, and just swivel your eyes back and forth across the horizon.  
Remember, movement is what scares birds the most so make sure you move slowly and try to avoid sudden jerky movements either while shooting or waiting for the birds to fly over.

As for your shooting form, learn to raise your gun deliberately and shoot slow.  You want to raise your gun at a pace that allows you to properly mount the gun on your shoulder, put your chin on the stock, lead your target and squeeze the trigger.  Throwing up the gun and just shooting is what causes missed shots which leads to wasting shells.  Your tempo can be worked on by getting to the range.  Make sure you practice the way you hunt.  If you are shooting sporting clays, start with the gun partially down and when you say “pull” – mount, chin on stock, lead and squeeze.

One tip I got from a shooting instructor was to never cover up the target with the gun or you will be shooting behind most of the time.  I have found this to be very true.

In the next few weeks I will be going to the range myself and getting ready for dove season.  I have had a few questions on Hunting Sports Plus (my hunting club).  Its not late for a membership for the up coming hunting season.  If you are interested in finding out more information please email me, I would be glad to talk to you about all of the hunting and financial advantages of HSP.  

Good luck and if remember if you have any tips or questions please post or email them to me.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time To Get Ready For Dove Season

It's that time of the year when there is no football yet, most of the golf majors are over and there is just not much going on in sports. This is the perfect time of the year to start getting ready for dove season. Regardless of where you live, September 1 will be on us in a hurry. Every year when we hit the fields on opening morning we say (while we are missing birds, sweating and cussing ourselves) "$#%#%#@, next year I am going to get my gun and myself in better shape before season." Opening day does not have to be this way.  Why not take a little time this year before opening day and get everything in shape? Besides, it will give you an excuse to go to Bass Pro or Cabelas, get into your hunting gear and do some shooting. 

Regardless if you are going for the first time in years or you go every year, it is my sincere belief that if you take the time now to prepare you will have a much better opening day hunting experience. So, let's make a pledge to be ready for opening day. To help here is my 5 point plan to prepare for dove season.

1)  Pull out your hunting clothes and make sure everything is ready to go. You want to make sure your shirt, pants, hat and boots still fit and are in good shape. I am a camouflage nut especially if it has something MU on it. If you are looking for that Mizzou camouflage hat to wear, try this one or this one. Comfort is important and if you are like me and you are getting tired of wearing that old cotton shirt or pants that do not breathe, here are a few ideas in hunting clothing that will breath:

Shell belt pouch – I really like a shell belt pouch more because a vest is just too hot wear. Avery's shell belt is the best for comfort, use and style (yes I am biased to shop at Mack's Prairie Wings , however Bass Pro's shell belt is not bad either. Cabelas Dove Vest is still an option if you like a vest that will keep you cool.

Times have changed as far as early hunting season clothing. There is no need to wear all cotton head to toe and just sweat. Remember dove can see color so camo is important but it is not necessary to wear a long sleeve camo shirt and pants. Here is me and Frank Grispino in short sleeves and shorts.


2)  Pull out your shotgun and give it a good cleaning. You want to make sure it's in good working condition. Another thing I do is get out my chokes and make sure I have my IC (improved cylinder) and LM (light modified). The LM is for that range between IC and Modified. I like to shoot LM for the first few weeks of the season, it's the perfect range. One of the things I have been shooting with is my extended chokes by Carlson. Take a look at the sporting clays and ported sporting clays chokes. Both have a better pattern than normal flush chokes. I take both to the field with me just in case the birds are a little weary.


3)  After getting your gun and chokes in order, head to the local gun range to shoot some sporting clays, trap or skeet, this will help you get your shooting eye and swing in shape. I like to start shooting trap for my first few trips to the range and then the last few I switch to sporting clays. It doesn't matter which discipline you choose, what is important is that you practice, practice and practice. Also, shells and chokes play a big role. You want to pattern your gun with your choke and the right shell. I hate shooting those cheap dove loads because they do not pattern as well and they tend to jam. I love to shoot Bass Pro Winchester Heavy Dove Loads because they have 3 ¼ dram of powder and are 1250 fps which is just like shooting a sporting clays shell. . These shells are a bit more expensive at $6.99 a box, but with this shell you will hit more birds. Some people will shoot Winchester AA loads, but since I do not reload I don't care to spend the extra money. As for shot size, either 8 or 7 ½ is fine.

4)  While you are getting your gear out make sure nothing is worn out and make sure you have everything to take to the field. One of the things I now take with me is a good comfortable chair. The chair I have has a pouch in the bottom to carry everything I need however, it is not sold anymore. One option is LL Bean's camp chair, comfortable and has a drink holder. 

Also, make sure you have a small hunting bag with the following:

Bug spray
Multi tool (I like this one for the price)
Spare rag
Small game knife (I like my Browning, this one is on eBay)
Game shears (for easy cleaning, cuts the wings right off)
Ear protection and shooting glasses (practice with them so hunt with them)
Water bottle (for you and your dog)

5) Finally, scout out a place early either public or private land. Early season scouting can pay off big time. I do not like public hunting because some of these people on public land are sometimes reckless and dangerous, so be cautious. One option might be a lease or getting permission to hunt someone's land. I belong to Hunting Sports Plus in Kansas City, MO. They have leased land available all over MO, KS, NE and IA for a variety of hunting. It's a great way to have access to land at a reasonable cost. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a member and it is a great option for those who do not own their own land and like to hunt everything from dove, duck, deer, quail, and pheasant.

Here are a couple of pictures from their website from some successful dove hunts.

Well there you have it, your 5 point plan for getting ready for dove season. In the next few weeks I will be sharing with you my thoughts on some of my early and late season dove hunting setups and tactics. If you are interested in finding out more about Hunting Sports Plus, please feel free to email at

Good luck and see you in the field….


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Turkey Season is almost upon us...

As the first few warm days of March begin to pop up, my thoughts turn to the Spring 2010 MO and KS Turkey season.   Here are some links for more information.

2010 Missouri Turkey Season Booklet

2010 Missouri Turkey Season Outlook

2010 Kansas Turkey Season Booklet

Kansas 2010 Turkey Atlas - Public Hunting Areas

I have been scouting some Linn County KS property via my hunting club Hunting Sports Plus.
The cold and heavy snow we experienced during the past winter may have had an effect, however I have seen some turkeys and just about got them scouted out.   I am hoping to get out on the first few days of the KS season, but I will not be able to hunt in MO this year.

One of the main reasons I like hunting KS for turkey season is because you can hunt from sunrise to sundown, unlike MO where you can only hunt till noon.  Those afternoon gobblers sometimes like to hang out in those open fields before going to roost so its nice to have that afternoon time.

For the last week I have been downstairs getting my gear ready for the season, I realized a trip to Bass Pro and Cabela's was needed to replace some items and pick up a few new things.   This year I am hunting with my new Benelli Super Nova given to me by my wife.  It has the Seclusion  3D camouflage and shoots 3 1/2 inch shells which makes it an ideal turkey gun.  The first I have to do is go and get an extended choke for it, most likely a Carlson Turkey Super Full.  Next is going out patterning my shotgun, which should be done ever year to make sure it is patterning correctly.  Sometimes guns depending on the type of shot and make of the shell, guns will pattern differently.  I like to use the Federal Premium Mag Shok, it is priced nicely and produces a very nice pattern.

The only real change beside my gun, is I have decided to carry some extra calls with me.  I always carry 2 or 3 diaphragm calls, a slate call, a box call, an owl call and a crow call.  This year to help get them Tom's a talking in the afternoon, I am going to be carrying a hawk call and a coyote call.  Sometimes in the late afternoon after trying all my locator calls, I don't get their attention.  I heard that trying a hawk call or even a coyote call in the late afternoon can be just the trick.  Since I hunt in Kansas in the afternoon, these calls just might be the trick.  If you are wondering to yourself that sounds like a lot of calls to hall around, well its not a problem because 2 years ago I went and purchased a great turkey vest, Cabela's Tactical Tat'r II Turkey Vest.  I love it, its comfortable to wear, nice form back and comfortable seat with lots of pockets to carry all your calls and whatever.  It also has a nice large safety vest for carrying your bird out after hunting.

Well I hope you enjoy getting ready for Turkey season and good luck and safe hunting.  Also be sure to check me out on Twitter for updates on hunting season.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trout Season Is Upon Us In Missouri and Kansas

Well tomorrow will begin the Missouri Trout season while Kansas trout season began on Friday.  This is the time of year that most outdoors-man begin their annual trips to the hunting and fishing stores for new lures, baits and rods and reels.  I have not been fishing on opening morning of either Kansas or Missouri trout season in about 5 years and I miss it.  There is nothing more nostalgic than standing shoulder to shoulder with other fishermen waiting for that first horn of the year at Bennett Spring State Park or finding that perfect place at Shawnee Mission State Park to catch those early season trout.

For those of you headed out to Shawnee Mission State Park in Kansas City be advised you need to bring something to make holes in the ice.  There is about a 6 inch layer on there right now.  However as the weather begins to warm up this week, that ice will become weak and you may be able to find some open water.  As for the fishing right now it is just like ice fishing up North.  You can knock a hole in the ice with a shovel or pipe and then fish from that hole.  A lot of folks say the bait to use is Power Bait.  Here is an article from the Kansas City Star on Friday's opening day.

As for those maybe thinking about heading down to Bennett State Park, remember opening day crowds are not for everyone.  Usually the first month is some of the best opportunity to get a real nice trout for the wall, although as we go into Spring there are several good trout available.  While going to school in Springfield, MO at Southwest MO State this where I learned to fly fish for trout.  The surrounds are beautiful and there is nothing better than being in Zone 1 (which is fly fishing only).  I usually will start out at the horn fishing a black and gold maribou jig on an ultra light casting rod with 2 lb test:
I usually wade in and cast towards the middle arch of the bridge.  Be ready because you will have a fish on within a cast or two.

Then I move up the stream into Zone 1 and break out the fly rod with either a dry fly or a red and yellow glow ball using a roll cast.  I like to start below the actual spring and just move down to the the dam.

And yes you can walk out on the dam.

Any trip to Bennett Springs would not be complete without first checking the fishing conditions at Weaver's Tackle Store.  This store is located just outside the park coming in from Lebanon, MO.  
Also if you get a chance check out Larry's Sporting Goods for a great selection of flies and if you need help with your casting visit Jim Rodgers Fly School.  Normally after catching a limit I will visit both places and  catch up with what is going on in the park and get a cup of coffee.

Next week I will be blogging about how to get ready for the upcoming Missouri and Kansas 2010 Spring Turkey season.

Good luck on your hunting or fishing trip and remember a day spent hunting and fishing is better than any day of work.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Greetings and Welcome to Tom's Kansas and Missouri Hunting Journal.  Over the past 25 years I have been hunting and fishing Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas both public and private land and every time I went online to get information on how, when and where to hunt, it seemed that no one had any information except the KWDP or MDC.   In looking at online resources most writers and bloggers were just writing about their experiences but not really giving any information about how and where there were hunting.  The only place I could get any information was out of local hunting and fishing magazines such as Missouri Game and Fish and Great Plains Game and Fish (which is currently offline for some reason.)

However buying magazines in this economy is tough on the wallet and sometimes a waste of time, so I decided to start sharing my own experiences about hunting and fishing in and around the Kansas City area.  My goal is get others who hunt and fish either Western Missouri (from Springfield to Maryville) or Eastern Kansas (Fort Scott to Leavenworth) to add in their own experiences and information  for everyone's benefit.

I am hoping to get fellow hunters to share information such as public land, local hunting clubs information (nothing illegal or that violates club's policies), local hunting and fishing stores, favorite equipment, techniques used in both hunting and fishing, favorite locations, how to and such so that when someone wants to try and find a new spot to hunt or fish they have good quality information so that no one goes out unprepared.

Sure there are plenty of websites that talk about hunting and fishing, but none that focus in on Kansas and Missouri.  So I hope to hear from you soon with Spring Turkey Season around the corner and Spring fishing coming on....