Andrew Vavra

Andrew Vavra is the marketing specialist at Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s national headquarters. Born and bred in Minnesota, he's a passionate sportsman who appreciates the thrills (and chills) that come with hunting, fishing and camping in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

It’s the Middle of February, Do You Know Where Your Shotgun is?

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Recreation, Birding Updated: February 11, 2010 - 2:04 PM

Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. Punxsutawney Phil has cursed us with a few more weeks of winter, the action on the ice rink is heating up and men are thumbing through Hallmark greeting cards while cursing half-naked bow and arrow wielding angels. It’s true, February is in full swing and I’m wondering: Do you know where your shotgun is?

February is supposed to be the month in which you express your affection for those who you care for the most, and who (or what) treats you better than your shotgun? Take a moment to ponder this. It puts food on your table, a smile on your face and it won’t ask you to take out the trash. So why not show some offseason affection to your trusty scattergun? As with any other relationship, a little TLC here and there will pay dividends for you in the long run.

Here are some tips for keeping your gun in top condition while in storage:

  • Thoroughly clean your gun with bore solvent.
  • Once cleaned and wiped down, apply a thin coat of gun oil to the metal interior and exterior components to prevent rust from forming.
  • Wipe down synthetic stocks with an all purpose household cleaner (such as 409) and thoroughly dry.
  • If you have a finished or wooden stock, use a furniture spray and wipe completely dry. Once dry, examine for cracking or wear-and-tear. You may want to consider applying a paste wax to increase your gun's longevity.
  • If you have a gun safe, place any type of dehumidifying wand or gel pack in it to remove moisture from the air.
  • Remember, moisture is your gun’s greatest enemy and the leading cause of corrosion and missed shots (I may have made that last one up, but you get the point).

Do you have any other firearm storage tips? Your gun put up with your abuse all season long, now show it some love.

Pheasant Season 2010-2011: Get Ready Now

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Birding Updated: January 5, 2010 - 5:12 PM

Throughout much of pheasant country, the 2009-2010 ringneck season is either coming to a close or is nothing more than a fond memory. For many of us, it will be remembered as a season that began with an overabundance of crops and finished with bountiful flushes of roosters. Regardless of how you choose to remember it, hopefully this past year has left a smile on your face and a few birds in your bag.

No matter where you hunted or how many birds you harvested, the closing of pheasant season will leave you feeling restless. Your weekends will seem too long as winter’s daylight fades too quickly. The dog in your life will begin looking out the window longingly while your boots sit in the closet collecting dust. The pheasant off-season can be a very bleak time for an admitted upland addict, however, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Just like any other fine-tuned professional athlete (this is where you roll your eyes) pheasant hunters can enact an off-season regimen that may not have you benching 300 lbs, but will at least help you survive the winter and have you ready to hit the fields like never before.

Below you’ll find a list of things to take care of this off-season that will help you and your dog ring in the New Year. Just think, before you know it you’ll be hearing the cackle of a flushing rooster again.

  • Now is the time to buy gear. It shouldn’t be hard to find some great year-end sale prices at your local sporting goods stores or at Pheasants Forever’s Upland Marketplace.
  • Create a journal on all of the various fields you hunted before you forget. Make note of where the birds flushed and the type of weather conditions there were.  This way, you’ll know exactly where to go next year.
  • How did your dog perform? Did your pup do enough off season conditioning?  A dog is a year round commitment - put in the time all year to keep old Sparky sharp and you'll be rewarded the entire 2010 season.
  • Quell your off season boredom and stay connected to the outdoor world by attending a local PF banquet. Simply go to www.PheasantsForever.org to find a fun chapter banquet near you.
  • Write thank you letters to all of the private landowners who let you hunt on their property. Sometimes the easiest way to be allowed back on a great piece of property is a simple “Thank You” when the owner least expects it.
  • Practice your marksmanship. Trust me, your friends get tired of your early season excuses for missed birds.
  • Keep yourself and your dog in shape by visiting a hunting preserve during the off-season. It’s a great way to keep your legs fit and your dog's nose “birdy.”

Win Your Battle with Wild Winter Roosters

Posted by: Andrew Vavra under Outdoors Women Updated: December 9, 2009 - 3:02 PM
There comes a time every winter where outdoorsmen and women have to prioritize things. Does the cost of your sanity outweigh the benefits of harvesting a cold weather buck during muzzleloader? Do you really want to lay in a frozen corn field for 3 hours while praying for a few geese to land in your spread? Can you escape for the weekend to South Dakota without your spouse forcing you to fight with the dog over who gets to sleep on the couch Sunday night? Hopefully with a little negotiating and the right tactics, harvesting a few late season roosters will soon become your top priority.

Pheasants are out there. Thousands of them. You just have to know where and how to find them once December’s nasty temperament takes hold. So strap on your winter boots, throw some hand warmers in your pockets, take note of these time tested winter pheasant hunting tactics and have a blast, literally.

  • When it comes to late season roosters you have to think of one thing: Cover. And lots of it. Just like you’d rather be sitting on a La-Z-Boy in front of the TV when it’s 10 degrees outside, a rooster would rather be tucked away in cattails or horsetail where it can escape the elements. In fact, some of the best upland hunting can be had in Waterfowl Production Areas, and now that the ice is frozen you won’t have to worry about bringing along your hip boots.
  • It’s no secret that the late harvesting of crops dampened the early season success rate of upland hunters. On the flip-side, this is a good thing for those now willing to brave the elements since there are more birds waiting to be discovered. If cattail sloughs aren’t abundant in your area, check out the grassy areas next to recently harvested agricultural fields because birds will hold there after being disturbed by farming machinery.
  • Be ready to hunt the second you leave your vehicle. Often times, people aren’t ready for the sudden flushes that occur in the ditches of gravel roads. These roadside hot spots can be loaded with birds collecting gravel for their gizzards.
  • As Elmer Fudd would say, “Be very, very quiet.” These birds have survived for a reason; they flush wild and way out ahead of you. Therefore the less you slam your car doors or yell at your dog the better chance you’ll have at getting a close shot off.
  • Sometimes the closest chance you’ll have at a rooster will be a Hail Mary poke at 40+ yards. For this reason you should switch to a modified or full choke once late December arrives.

Hopefully the snow and cold will cause the birds to bunch up and hold tight for you. This could provide some of the most amazing flushes you’ll ever see. However, you won’t know for sure until you get your priorities straight. Good luck, stay warm and happy hunting.

Don’t Rock the Boat

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: November 19, 2009 - 11:31 AM

This past weekend I found myself in a zombie-like state that is all too common for many people during the fall: Awake at 3AM and running on a mixture of caffeine, cookies and optimism. All the while, wondering why the majority of my hobbies involve waking up at obscene hours. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I kept reminding myself of this as I neared my destination. Waterfowl was on tap that morning and I had high hopes of ducks moving through Rice County. 

That particular Sunday morning was just like any other, and a calm lake and clear skies made setting up decoys easy and enjoyable. Even better was the fact that my friend and I had gotten on the water early enough to stake claim to the coveted reed island. With our decoys set and being satisfied with a job well done, we took a moment to stand and soak in the light shining brightly from Orion’s Belt.

Without warning, everything suddenly went from being serene to surreal - the earthquake of 2009 hit (at least that’s what I’m calling it). My hunting partner had just accidently back-flopped into 4 feet of water and almost flipped my 14 foot V-bow while doing so.

It was 5:30AM and my friend finally regained his footing enough to climb back into the boat. Shocked at what had just happened, all I said was “I’m guessing we should probably head back to the truck, huh?” The layer of frost that covered all of our equipment (and his freshly-drenched hunting jacket) made it quite obvious we should go back to the boat landing, but being naïve young men, we didn’t.

Looking past a few squeaky duck calls and one bruised ego, we enjoyed the action that came with the first rays of sunshine. After that, we quickly packed up before his feet turned too dark a shade of blue and tried to figure out how he ended up in the drink. I blamed clumsiness, he faulted the frost.   Either way, I’m now picking up a pair of gunwale clamps and some long wooden dowels to keep my boat steady in even the most severe earthquakes.

Oh, to be a duck hunter. We are a strange breed indeed.

Judgment Day: Leaving Your Dog at Home

Posted by: Andrew Vavra Updated: November 6, 2009 - 1:47 PM

If you chase upland game, percentages say that you own, will own, or want to own a four legged hunting partner. Dogs are called “man’s best friend” for a reason; we love having them around (no matter how much mischief they get into).  However, there will come a few times in every dog’s life where you should make the tough decision to leave your pup at home or in the kennel.

When you’re invited on a hunt, you’re someone’s guest and you should act accordingly. If you know you’ll spend more time yelling at your dog to stay within range than you’ll spend talking with your friends, you should probably save yourself the sore throat and give your friends’ eardrums a break.

Make a game plan before you hit the fields. If you hunt over a flushing lab and you’re planning on hunting with the owner of a pointing dog, you should know if your lab is capable of honoring a point. It takes a lot of time and energy to produce a dog that points and doesn’t break. The last thing that owner wants is your lab crashing in on the bird and teaching his pointer that it’s acceptable to do the same. 

In certain situations, less is more. It can actually be more beneficial for a younger dog to hunt around less birds (I know, this sounds crazy). If you take a young pup to a field that’s loaded with a hundred roosters the scent can become overwhelming and you’ll soon have a crazed ping-pong ball on your hands instead of a controlled dog that’s learning to use its nose.  Therefore, bringing your new, never-hunted-before puppy along on your trip to South Dakota could be fun – but it could also cause setbacks for the future.

If your dog’s old age is starting to stir thoughts of retirement, take note of the terrain you’ll be hunting and the dog’s current capabilities. For instance, my 13 year old Labrador/German Sheppard mix couldn’t make it 100 yards while chasing pheasants without having to stop. Nonetheless, if I know I’ll be hunting smaller fields with more frequent breaks, then I’m more than glad to have my dog out in front of me.

Few things are stronger than the bond between a hunter and his or her dog. Just don’t let this bond (or your ego) get in the way of what’s best for the group and what’s best for your four legged friend.

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