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Outdoors on the Farm

RSS By: Chip Flory, Pro Farmer

Comments and insight to the show from Chip Flory, host of “Outdoors on the Farm."

What a Trip!

Nov 28, 2011

 

Chip Flory

What a Trip!

I've been waiting for some time to write about another story we taped this fall for Outdoors on the Farm. I traveled to Meeker, Colorado, for an elk hunt at the Louisiana Purchase Ranch (LPR) and had a great time visiting with ranch owner Rick Tingle about his farming and hunting operation.

While I've always wanted to do an elk hunt, Rick spurred my interest in the hunt at his ranch for a couple of reasons. Number 1: They've got elk! Number 2: Rick is working hard with the National Resource Conservation Service to change the way the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ground is managed.

Rotational grazing is nothing new to American agriculture. But, using rotational grazing on federally owned land is ground breaking at the LPR. Not only is the development of fenced off, smaller and more-manageable paddocks a way of getting more (and more nutritious) forage from the BLM ground, it is also helping to improve the availability of water for livestock and for wildlife. Reason: Each paddock needs a water source for the livestock (and it's hard to keep the wildlife away from a full water tank).

Meeker, Colorado, is in the northwest part of the state: North of Rifle and south of Craig. I researched the area a bit before heading out for this hunt -- but I mostly focused on elevation. I didn't really check into the habitat. I just figured it would be the "dark timber" Colorado is famous for. Wow... was that wrong! The mountains are legitimate mountains... up to about 9,400 feet. But there is very little dark timber. Most of the cover on the mountain sides is oak brush that can easily be grazed by wildlife and livestock.

One of Rick's long-time guides set me straight on how the BLM ground should be managed on the first day I arrived at camp. He explained, "The way to manage this BLM ground is to put enough livestock on a small enough paddock to graze it down hard in 20 or 30 days then move the livestock to the next paddock and let the grazed area recover. As soon as the new browse starts to grow in that grazed off paddock, it will be covered up with deer and elk in there feeding on the tender new growth. It's the best way to get manage this ground... hit it hard with livestock and then get out of the way and let the wildlife have it."

This guide has lived in the Meeker area all his life (he joked that he's moved five times but found his way back each time so he must belong there). Rick hasn't and the rotational grazing tactic he brought with him from Louisiana seems to be taking hold in the high ground.

Rick also operates a commercial forage operation. Normally, Rick says they harvest just one cutting of the alfalfa-grass mix. It's not just because of the short growing season in this part of the world. In fact, before fall feeding patterns for the deer and elk took hold, Rick said some of his fields had alfalfa that was standing nearly knee high. When I visited with Rick during Colorado's first rifle season starting Oct. 22 this year, these fields looked like they'd been recently harvested.

"The deer and the elk have grazed off these fields," explained Rick. "I'm farming this ground, but I've also made the choice to manage this ground for the wildlife and that means making sure there's an adequate food supply available. This hay ground is as important to my hunting business as it is to my farming operation."

Unfortunately, I didn't kill an elk on this trip. In fact, I didn't pull the trigger. I got close a couple of times, so I thought I'd share how some of that went down:

We'd hiked fairly deep off the path up the mountain and were heading deeper in for an all-day hunt. Jeremiah was our guide for the day and I was hunting with Dobey Walker from Texas. On the way in, we spotted a nice bull making his way along a ridge below us. Without getting too excited, Jeremiah told me to get ready and picked out a spot on the ridge below us. If we could get the bull to that spot, I'd be pulling the trigger. I was getting organized and asked, "How far?" His answer: "750 yards." My reply: "Ummmmm... I haven't practiced out to 750 yards." Jeremiah's calming response: "That's okay... it's about 400 yards down, so shoot at 350 yards. We've done this before."

Unfortunately, that bull made a move over the top of the ridge and despite an effort to get around and in front of him again, we never saw him again.

We spent the day on a rock shelf overlooking a small watering hole in the bottom of the canyon. Again... a long shot that would be as long as it measured because it was so far below us. We suspected the bull from the morning had made it over into this canyon and was holding up. We sat there all day watching, listening, hoping (and, yes, we took a nap or two) and we didn't see another elk that day. It was nearly 80 degrees that day (even in the high country) and the elk and mule deer had no intention of getting up and moving around until well after nightfall.

We learned from another hunting group later that night that a group of five bulls had made its way down the ridge towards the waterhole and held up about 100 to 150 yards up from the hole. Of course, that put them on the other side of a small ridge that was covered with the oak brush and some aspens. We never saw those bulls making their move.

Believe it or not... I consider that one a "close call!" It was awesome seeing that bull down on the ridge below me, picking out a spot to shoot, getting all "bulled up" for a shot... and then feeling the disappointment when it didn't happen. That -- the company I had that day and the scenes I saw -- is what hunting is all about.

Another close call came the next day. After putting the miles on the boots the day before, we were putting some miles on four tires in the back country. We'd drive to a canyon, glass for a while and then make our way to the next bowl. We saw plenty of mule deer on this day, but we made it all the way to the back of the property without seeing an elk.

The guys we were hunting with that morning were from the south camp... about 5 miles south of the camp I was staying in. As we pulled up to the last overlook of the morning, one of the guys hunting with us said, "I'm surprised we haven't seen any elk. We heard them bugling when we stepped out of the cabin this morning!" Of course that was after we drove about 7 miles of rough roads to the back of the property! Needless to say, Jeremiah restarted the truck and we headed back for the front-half of the property to look for these bulls.

And we found them... unfortunately it was after another guide and pair of hunters had found them too. Two dead elk later and we were about to be out of luck. We stopped and talked with the other guide, who informed us there was a bull "around that little rise right there."

We eased the vehicle into toward the bottom of the gully and just before getting to the bottom, this bull busts through the brush, clears the fence and flies nearly 15 feet through the air right in front of us. We got through the gully in about 5 seconds; had a shell in the chamber in about 7 seconds and were standing on top of a small ridge in front of us in no time at all -- and the bull was gone. Seriously... gone -- disappeared! But... again... I'll call that one "close." (It's as close as I've ever been to an elk anyway!!)

That afternoon it started a light rain. It picked up a bit toward evening as we were making our way straight up a ridge. Honestly, it didn't look that far to the top of that ridge. But when we got to the top and looked back at the Suburban sitting at the bottom, that big old tank of a truck didn't look so big! We were a long ways up, but hadn't traveled very far north to south in making the climb. We tucked into some cedar trees on top of a ridge for an afternoon hunt and it didn't take Dobey long to spot elk. They were a long ways off... at least 1,500 yards. But we could see them and watch what they were up to. We counted 25 or 30 cows and 15 to 20 bulls in the group. One of them was a huge 7X7 bull that dwarfed other "shooter bulls" around him.

Jeremiah was working the calls and got at least one bull to commit to making the trek down the ridge they were loafing on and across the hayfield on the other side of a ridge right in front of us. More than once we were convinced we had a bull coming over the top of the ridge... they sounded really close, but we just couldn't get one to commit to making the move over the ridge to get close enough for a shot.

On that ridge nearly a mile away, we could see two bulls fighting and the evening was calm enough that we could hear the horns bashing together. That... along with Jeremiah calling and bulls returning the bugle and the company I had and the scene I was seeing -- is what hunting is all about!

Just because I didn't get a chance to pull the trigger on a bull doesn't mean the area doesn't have elk. I was hunting the first season and the weather simply did not cooperate. It was unbelievably mild and the elk were scattered out across miles and miles of high country. There was success in camp... three nice bulls were killed while I was there along with several nice mule deer bucks and even a really nice black bear.

When I was preparing for the hunt, I told my wife Sue, "Hey... If I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it right because it's a once-in-a-lifetime deal." Now I've got to figure out how to tell here I'll be heading back to the Louisiana Purchase Ranch as soon as I can!

Check out the LPR website: When your there, be sure to go to the "2011 braggin' page" and look for Kenny from Texas (mule deer); Don from Texas (mule deer and bull), Royce from Texas (mule deer and bear) Dave from Texas (mule deer), Butch from California (bull) and Dobey from Texas (mule deer).

I don't know how I got in with so many Texans on this trip, but these are the guys I had the privilege of spending time with and getting to know on my trip to the Louisiana Purchase Ranch. Since then, Don has sent me another picture of a successful Axis deer hunt in west Texas. I'm hoping I get a chance to cross paths with these guys again, along with Danny, Walt and Jim from Louisiana.

And, of course, I'll be requesting a chance to hunt with Jeremiah when I get back to the LPR. But Rob, Casey, Stormy, Nick, Roy, Bud... they all seemed to know what they heck they were doing out there. I did get to spend some time with Casey and his knowledge of the area is impressive.

And then there is Rick, Teresa and Missy. Rick describes himself as a "duck on the pond -- calm on top and paddling like hell underneath" to keep things running around there. I tried to pay attention to all the things Rick was managing at the ranch... and there are a lot of moving parts to a two-location camp with 16 hunters total in the two camps. I think that's where Teresa comes in... Rick might be paddling like hell, but I think Teresa has things pretty much under control. (That should score me some points for my return trip!!) And Missy made sure everybody in camp had plenty to eat... morning, noon and night. No matter the time in the morning or at night, she got the crew very happily fed!

One last note. If you've ever thought about doing an elk hunt but just never felt like you were in good enough physical condition to do it, you've got to look into this part of Colorado and the Louisiana Purchase Ranch in particular. I'm NOT saying this was an easy hunt. In fact, I'll be in much better shape the next time I hunt in those "hills!" But these guys make good hunting accessible to almost anybody. I won't call any of the guys that I hunted with "old," but a few were carrying quite a bit more experience with them than I've got... and they had successful hunts!

Prepare the best you can for a trip like this, but don't let the physical demands stop you from doing it! This country is wild and demanding, but the guys at the LPR will get you in position for a successful hunt!

Finally to the farmers and ranchers... if you make this trip, don't be afraid to sit and talk farming and cattle with Rick. I don't care where you're from, you'll leaving knowing you've spent time with "good people" at the LPR.

And most importantly, keep on having fun outdoors on the farm!

Read about Justin Moore's turkey hunt!

Jul 28, 2011

 

Chip Flory

Justin had two close calls on Michigan turkey hunt

I'm just rehashing some memories of this spring's turkey hunt with Justin Moore up in Michigan. Even if we didn't load up the back of the RAM with a bunch of long-bearded strutters, we still had a great time. And we found a little time to get some promo work done for the show. I don't remember exactly what was happening or what was said to get us laughing in this picture, but it's a good example of the fun we had...

Justin Chip truck

 

Here's a quick recap of how the hunt went:

It was me and Justin in one blind with his manager Pete and cameraman Eric in the blind next to us. I got a hen to come in... right into the decoys. She was putting and clucking and yelping... she sounded like a turkey ice cream truck calling the kids to the street! We were able to keep her in the decoys for at least 20 minutes... I told Justin she was doing a lot better job of calling than I could do so we wanted to keep her close.

Finally, a tom explodes just over the ridge. I basically asked Justin if he had a favorite recipe for wild turkey because I knew that hen would pull him in. He crossed in front of us at about 65 yards and all we could see of him was his blue head plodding along behind the crest of the ridge. When we got a look at his full body, he was a really nice tom... about 75 yards away and in full strut trying to get my flock of decoys to come his way. (Oh... we had about a half-dozen deer in front of the blind while this is going on.) After about 10 minutes, he dropped off the back side of the ridge, popped up on the other side, ducked into the hardwoods and just teased us for the next 45 minutes. We had to leave without a bird that afternoon.

Tuesday morning, we set up Justin and hunt winner Mike Oelschlager in the blind with me on the ridge behind to do the calling. Shortly after the robins started singing, two or three toms gobbled behind us and to the right. I called after they hit the ground and they started moving down the hardwood draw. I figured it was a done deal... when they hit the open pasture at the end of the hardwoods, they'd see the hen decoys and make their move over to where Justin and Mike were set up. I called again to check their location... they were working along nicely. Called one more time... got an immediate response and heard and immediate gun shot. Somebody (not in our group) was sitting at the bottom of those hardwoods and shot a bird right out from under Mike and Justin! I couldn't believe it...

You'll see all this in the show this fall... along with a tour of the ranch and what ranch manager Eric Cherry is doing to improve the deer, turkey and upland bird habitat on the property. That alone is worth watching!

Aside from the fellowship and good times, you'll also have to watch this show to get a look at the fireside "concert" by Justin. It was an awesome night of music and fun!

Here's a look at the crew we had in Michigan.

 turkey hunters

Left to right: Jeremy Stover (wrote theme song for the show with Justin and is a co-writer and producer on Justin's first CD as well as "Outlaws"), Tom Flory, me, Emily Flory, Mike Oelschlager, Justin Moore, Pete Hartung (Justin's manager). (What a crew...)

Don't forget...

If you can't watch on RFD-TV every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. CT or Saturday at 10:30 a.m. CT, you can always watch the shows here on the web site.

And most importantly, keep on having fun outdoors on the farm!

What does an outdoors host do for vacation?

Jul 20, 2011

 

Chip Flory

What does the host of an outdoor show do for vacation?

He goes fishing and leaves the cameras behind!

I just recently returned from a vacation with most of the family and we had a great time. Instead of going north, this time we decided to head south. A very good friend of mine offered up his lake house and Lund fishing boat on Grand Lake in Grove, Oklahoma. After hearing his fish stories for the past couple of years, we had to take him up on it. The only thing that could have made this trip better is if Emily could have made the trip with us. Instead, she stuck around the Detroit, Michigan, area working on her summer internship. She did, however, find a little time to get away and meet one of her role models in the outdoor world. Check out this pic of Emily and "The Crush" host, Tiffany Lakosky.

emandtiff

While Tom, his friend Hunter (Wichita, KS), Sue (my wife) and I were headed to Oklahoma, Tiffany and her husband Lee were in the Detroit area, so Emily went to the meet-greet and ended up making friends, getting some great pictures and even got to spend some time with Lee and Tiffany's dog. She had a great time... it kind of made up for the fishing she missed with the rest of the family down in Oklahoma.

On to the fishing report...

I don't have any pictures to prove this one, but Tom turned into the "Crappie Slayer" down at Grand Lake -- at least for one afternoon/evening. While nobody else was putting crappie in the basket for supper, Tom caught enough to feed us all. It's amazing what you can accomplish with a float, a split-shot and a gold hook, isn't it?

We did head out with a guide on the second morning we were on the lake. The reason is simple -- we didn't know the lake at all and we wanted a chance to get into some of the bigger large mouth we knew were swimming around the area. If we'd searched enough rock points and studied the electronics enough, we probably could have figured it out. But the cost of a half-day trip with a guide (Ivan Martin Guide Service -- tell him where you got his name!) that gets you right to the fish... tells you the kind of spots to look for around the lake and didn't mind too much when we pulled up to the same point early one morning is WELL worth the expense. If you've spent the money on the tackle, the boat, the gas to get to the lake, the bait -- whatever you're spending money on to get to a new fishing spot, don't blow it once you get there by getting too stubborn to hire a guide to show you where and how to fish! If we hadn't of done it, we MIGHT have found the fish later in the week. The way it worked out, we had plenty of good fishing after spending just a few hours with one of Ivan's guides.

chipfish

This was a nice chunk of a fish... I caught several like this during the week... and we never really pushed hard to catch the large mouth (or Black Bass as they're called down there!).

hunterbass

Hunter Payne was with us on this trip. Here he is with one of several fish he caught on the first day out. (I know, you'd think with a fish like that in his grip he'd smile a little, wouldn't ya? I mean... look at the smile on may face in the picture above!)

tombass

Tom was a consistent performer on the lake... he was into the black bass, the white bass and fed us a mess of crappie one night. And notice this is a different boat than when we were out with the guide. That's how it works on lakes that are new to you -- hire that guide for a few hours early in the trip and use what you learned to put fish like this in the boat for the rest of the week.

One last thing. We had three different fish meals on Grand Lake... crappie, white bass and catfish. The water was hot... really hot. Like 90 degrees or better down about 3 feet from the surface on the first couple of days there. (Then we had a rain that cooled down the surface a bit.) I've had fish out of hot water before and it sometimes just isn't the best. This was a completely different story... all three fish meals we had were awesome. (Might have something to do with the cook... but we'll give some credit to the lake, too!)

Don't forget...

If you can't watch on RFD-TV every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. CT or Saturday at 10:30 a.m. CT, you can always watch the shows here on the web site.

And most importantly, keep on having fun outdoors on the farm!

Corn is coming; Morels are popping!

May 12, 2011

OutdoorsOnTheFarm1 

Chip Flory

Corn is coming and morels are getting some size.

What a great time of year. I haven't had time this spring to get to my favorite crappie hole, but I have had a chance to get out in the timber for a little morel hunting. And to top it off, the corn planted around northeast Iowa is finally starting to emerge. Like I said... what a great time of year. And the morel mushrooms are starting to get a little size to them. Check it out! By the way... favorite way to fix them is to cut in half length ways, bread lightly with a mix of half flour and half finely-crushed saltine crackers, then brown in butter over medium heat in cast iron skillet.

morels

Unfortunately, this spring is also coming with unbelievable flooding along the Mississippi River in the Delta. Think supportive thoughts and say some prayers for those battling the flood waters.

Don't forget...

If you can't watch on RFD-TV every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. CT or Saturday at 10:30 a.m. CT, you can always watch the shows here on the web site.

And most importantly, keep on having fun outdoors on the farm!

Tom scores a tom!

May 09, 2011

OutdoorsOnTheFarm1

Chip Flory

Tom scores a tom!

Turkey season was starting to "drag on" a bit at the Flory hunting hole! In fact, it was delaying the start of seeding some clover on our food plot... just didn't want to risk too much change in the area and spook the birds.

We're in kind of a strange situation. Just beyond our property line is a really nice ridge covered with mature hardwoods. That's where the birds roost. Unfortunately, there's also a creek that separates the roosting area from our hunting area. In the morning, it's rare to pull a bird across the creek. It can happen, but it's got to get late in the season. By the time we get birds on our side of the creek, most of the hens have made their nest and are sitting tight -- that's why we hunt hardest during the latest of four season in Iowa.

This weekend, it all came together. Tom and I were out in the timber before sun-up Saturday morning and the birds were really active. We had at least a half-dozen birds blowing-off on the other side of the creek. When we didn't get a bird to cross over at first light, we backed out.

After a few chores, we got in the blind on the food plot around midday. (The winter wheat we seeded last fall looks awesome, by the way.) We did a little calling and could tell a bird was coming our way. When that bird got into view, Tom didn't waste any time. Heck... he said it was there and that he had a shot and I couldn't even see it. One shot with the 3 1/2-inch Federal Premium 12 gauge turkey load from the SP Remington 870 and that tom barely even flopped at about 40 yards. Tom said all he could see was the blue and white on this bird's head when he pulled the trigger.

 tom2011

It's a nice bird! 9 1/2-inch (and thick) beard. 1 1/4 hooks (one was a little shorter than that) and a really nice fan. His wing tips were groomed off from all the strutting he's done this year, too -- I love that part about big, dominate birds.

You'll see some of the action this fall in our annual food plot show! Hopefully, Tom will also have a buck down this fall on the food plot by the time we have to put it together, too!

Don't forget...

If you can't watch on RFD-TV every Thursday at 7:30 a.m. CT or Saturday at 10:30 a.m. CT, you can always watch the shows here on the web site.

And most importantly, keep on having fun outdoors on the farm!

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