Brute’s Bleat December 2, 2015

The most unusual happened last Tuesday when I was doing a solo grouse hunt in the Sandstone area. I was headed for the St. Croix State Forest and as I entered the hamlet of Duxbury a rooster pheasant walked across the county road intersection as proud as can be. I figured it must be someone’s pet and left it undisturbed. It was a nice sunny day and the grouse should have been out and about. Vanna and I did see a couple and later in the afternoon we had one flush in the Nemadji State Forest which we got a glimpse of but didn’t react quick enough to shoot. There was snow on the trails we walked and there were grouse tracks which told us the birds had been on the trails sometime earlier. We stayed overnight in the Sturgeon Lake Motel, the only one we could find that accepted dogs. The motel owner said he had purchased the motel in late October and was eager to help us find some birds. He and others we talked with said the numbers are up, but so had been the ATV hunters. He took us out to his 40 acre spot and showed us another 80 nearby that we could hunt. A restaurant owner just off 35W drew us a map to get to his deer hunting paradise which was east of the freeway. All three areas looked grousy to us with creeks in them as well as one with a beaver dam in the making. We had two flushes in the 40 acre spot on the edge of a swamp, but none in the other two. I’m convinced there were birds there, but I didn’t want to bust through the brush to get to them. As for the unusual we had a snowshoe rabbit jump off a trail. Fortunately Vanna was off in the brush and didn’t smell or see the snow white critter as it hopped away. I was amazed at the number of deer camps which seemed fairly close together. Along with some of the camps were patches of standing corn which should be a boon to the deer’s survival this winter. . . On Thanksgiving Janis treated us to pheasant and most of the trimmings along with the traditional pumpkin pie. . . I did a little pheasant scouting on Friday and found out quickly I wasn’t alone. One Wildlife Management Area had hunters on three corners of the WMA. Two fellows, one from Buffalo and the other from Duluth, were standing next to their pickup with a brush limb sticking out between the door and the frame. It was obvious to me they had locked the keys inside of the truck, something that happened to me a few years ago when I was hunting grouse in the Sand Lake WMA north of Staples. They were unable to hit the release button and eventually called AAA for assistance. The Duluth guy said he had good grouse hunting up north, commenting he was fortunate to have friends with land he could hunt. I didn’t do any hunting that day and on Saturday ventured up Hwy. 55 and found more of the same. The great weather was apparently the reason. I’m sure it wasn’t the pheasants. Vanna and I walked several spots, but we didn’t raise a feather. I’m thinking cattails might be a better choice than the high ground and spots where there is feed close by would be a definite attraction for late season hunting. The daily limit in Minnesota is three roosters as of Dec. 1. One farmer we talked with figured the DNR was making a mistake allowing an extra bird when there doesn’t seem to be very many. I heard some shooting, but guessed it was goose hunters, judging from the volley of shots.
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I’m toying with making a late season pheasant hunt to North Dakota to use up my second half of the license, but a lot depends upon the weather and as I look out the window (Monday) it’s beginning to snow here with plans of 4-6 inches and maybe more.
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Spearing from a dark house has been open since Nov. 15 and I’m guessing it will be another couple of weeks before there will be sufficient ice locally. Those who enjoy this age-old sport need a valid fishing license and a $5.00 spearing license to be legal. The $5.00 is waived if you’re 89 years old. Winter angling also needs some cold weather and while I’m content to wait I imagine some of the die-hards have already put new line on their sticks as well as stocking up a new supply of ice jigs. One fellow remarked there were anglers in boats on Buffalo and Maple Lake Sunday. Fishing from a boat Nov. 29 will make a good story to tell grandchildren!

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