Brute's Bleat


I noticed I wasn’t the only one doing yard work on Sunday even though there still are lots of leaves on the Maple trees. That means I’ll probably have to go through the process once more before the snow flies.  This apparently was a great year for black walnut trees to bear their fruit and I probably should have been picking them up, but I decided to leave them for the squirrels. That wasn’t a difficult choice and probably stems from my youth when we had to pick potatoes and put them in the cellar. We had a mechanical potato digger for the roughly half-acre, but it still seemed like a back-breaking chore.  
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We, Daryl Hennen, Mike Muller and myself, decided on a half-day pheasant hunt last Thursday and headed west toward Morris. We hunted two different walk-in plots, one of which was alongside a Wildlife Management Area.  Pheasants have been reported to be down in numbers this year so we decided to hunt in different directions to get a handle if there were any birds in that area.  There weren’t many in the first plot we hunted, but Hennen and Cocoa found two cocks on his jaunt, one of which ended up in his game bag.  One hen flushed ahead of Vana out of a dry waterway and I saw two others flying which I suspected Hennen and Muller flushed.  Later in the afternoon we hunted another walk-in plot which looked like part of a conservation reserve plot (CRP) with great looking grass bordered on two sides by cornfields.  Hennen and I went opposite ways planning to meet at the far end and Muller elected to guard the car.  We all saw birds, mostly hens, although Muller saw a rooster flying.  Vana had one point near a low spot and I moved ahead of her to flush the bird. I got about 15 feet ahead of her nose without flushing anything when Vana came off her point and blew past me after the running bird. Moments later the rooster flushed out of range and flew back into the cornfield. Hennen and I tried to corral a rooster he saw fly into the CRP on our way back to the car.  Both Cocoa and Vana got hot, but the birds apparently kept on the move and were nowhere to be seen. We were impressed that we saw any pheasants, considering the reports we have been reading. Although the roosters seemed few and far between, the hen numbers gave us an indication there will be some egg laying stock available next spring. They’ll need a warm spring to get the pheasant population headed in the right direction.  
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On Saturday Anna, Vana and I decided to head north for another chance at ruffed grouse.  It wasn’t a banner day with the wind blowing at 10-15 mph which makes it somewhat difficult to hear the grouse until they take off with a thundering beat of the wings.  We flushed five grouse and shot at two without harvesting any.  We hunted walk-in only trails and enjoyed the peace and quiet without being interrupted by ATVs.  One thing I learned Saturday was to take a compass reading before starting on a trail.  Anyway, Anna and I were walking on this trail which suddenly seemed to disappear so I hauled out the compass. I set the 12 gauge down and was fumbling with the compass, Anna was calling for Vana who apparently was on a bird, but I didn’t know it at the time.  Totally unprepared, a grouse suddenly busted out of the brush nearly taking our caps off.  I didn’t have time to react and get a shot off.  Later on the way back to the car we should have zigged, but we zagged and we came across a clear-cut area which we hadn’t seen before. We eventually came across our forest trail and Vana went on point from the trail’s edge. She was pointing at an evergreen so I started walking toward the spruce. I didn’t have to take very many steps before two grouse flew out from under the tree on the opposite side and I didn’t get a shot. Anna said she saw one land so Vana and I made our way through the underbush in that general direction.  We didn’t get very far before we heard the grouse fly, giving us the slip.   We came home empty-handed, maybe next time it will be different, but don’t bet on it!­
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