My thanks to Nick Pawlenty for pinch-hitting for me last week while I was admiring the country-side while hunting for pheasants in North Dakota. I think he should be a regular columnist. As for our late season pheasant hunt, Mike Muller, Daryl Hennen and I, could summarize by saying it wasn’t a good trip. But that would only be true if a person’s decision was based on the pheasant harvest which in our case was five pheasants and two sharptails. We were hunting south of Bismark on the west side of the river and stayed in the small town of Flasher at the Antelope Lodge and Recreation Center. Despite the attractive name, it wasn’t the Taj Mahal but more than adequate for the three of us and our three dogs and inexpensive at $20 a night per person.
To begin, Harold has the week off and has gone to do some late-winter hunting with Vanna this week, and to say the least I am very jealous, and hopefully, he bags a couple birds to brag about. I will start this off with a small introduction about myself. I started at the Maple Lake Messenger about eight months ago, which has been a great experience. I love the small town feel, and have been received with nothing but kindness. I have met a lot of people in town and they are truly wonderful. The community here seems very deeply rooted, and the traditions of Maple Lake run rampant around town. It is a deep breath of fresh air, and lacks the rush and clutter of big cities such as Minneapolis. This I enjoy the most.
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.
I’m guessing most Midwest turtles are getting ready to go into hibernation for the winter now that we’ve had a sampling of snow (Nov. 19th). Ruth (Pribyl) Ternes, daughter of Louis and Fran Pribyl, commented about seeing turtles migrate from or into Mud Lake (Hwy. 55 East, Maple Lake) from Maple Lake back in the ‘60s and looking for information about them and if they still are crossing Hwy. 55 each fall or spring. She said the ones that caught her eye back in the ‘60s weren’t snapping turtles. We’re ruling out painted turtles and are guessing it could have been Blanding’s turtles because she remembers them as being fairly large. Another guess is they might have been rubber back turtles which are fairly large. So if any of our readers have noticed the migration of turtles across Hwy. 55, let us know what you’re seeing and we will pass on the information to Ruth.
Eleven-year-old, Ryker Pierson, Maple Lake, added a bit of new decor for his room when he took this 8-point buck on Nov. 13. He was hunting off the home property with a new shotgun (owned less than 48 hrs.) when he bagged the monster buck. His parents are Jason and Tonya Pierson, 7833 Endicott Ave. NW, Maple Lake.
Last week was a combination of good news and bad news! Under bad news I missed a golden oportunity to harvest a rooster Tuesday west of Litchfield hunting alone. On Wednesday I decided to go grouse hunting before the deer hunters took to the woods on Saturday. I should have checked the weather more closely, but I thought I would drive out of the drizzle by heading north to Blackduck or Northhome. I checked into a motel in Northhome and the proprietor commented he saw a covey of three while cutting wood for his outdoor furnance. That was good news, but the drizzle was still coming down. Vanna and I got in a couple hours of hunting on the Porter Ridge trail, saw three grouse, shot at one and missed. We slept in the next morning with the rain pattering on the roof. The rain would come in squalls and we finally ventured out about 9 a.m. and talked with a gas station owner who said there was a good grouse population earlier, but extensive hunting and ATVs had thinned them out.
A synopsis of hunting pheasants in North Dakota’s oil patch country this year would be it wasn’t as good for us as a year ago, but it still was a good time. Each of the three dogs, Vanna, Lucky and Bella, made their handlers, myself, Mike Muller and Daryl Hennen, proud. That being said we left Maple Lake at about 4:30 a.m. Sunday and arrived in White Earth (about 8 miles east of Tioga) at 2:45 p.m. staying with Ken Muller, who operates a foam insulation business there. We hunted some of the same parcels as a year ago, but found the pheasants scarce. Hennen had the first and only bird for the few hours we hunted on Sunday and was the $1.00 winner. On Monday we hunted west of Alamo and Muller wounded a rooster, but none of the dogs could come up with the bird, despite a diligent effort. He also had the second bird along with two more before the day was over. Hennen and I each had one.
I gave pheasant hunting locally my best effort on Tuesday of last week and blew a golden opportunity to harvest a two-bird limit when I didn’t connect on an adult rooster which Vanna pointed well. She also pointed the first bird which was small and one of this year’s hatch. To summarize my last two outings, 1 - 4, which is almost enough to tell me it’s time to hang up the 12 gauge. But being something of an eternal optimist, I plan to give pheasant hunting a try in North Dakota starting Oct. 26 with Mike Muller and Daryl Hennen. We plan to hunt the northwestern part of that state with Mike’s son, Ken, who lives in White Earth, west of Tioga. . . Mike and I tried a couple of spots west of Milan last week Thursday and found the birds scarce. We hunted a Wildlife Management Area first where two roosters and one hen flushed well out of range.
Tuesday Vanna and I headed toward Litchfield on a pheasant scouting mission. We didn’t come across any birds until we crossed over into Renville County. We spotted two pheasants on the edge of a standing cornfield and chose a Wildlife Management Area (WMA). We flushed a hen, and later, shot at one rooster which flushed ahead of Vanna. I missed and to add insult to injury the rooster flew into a tree. We started walking toward the tree line with an attempt to get into range, but hadn’t taken ten steps when the wily cock flew out of the tree into the swamp. Later in the day we flushed 7-8 hens out of a WMA during the ‘golden hour’, but no roosters. . . On Wednesday we teamed up with Daryl Hennen and Coco for an afternoon hunt west of Madison. We didn’t find very many birds which leads us to believe there just aren’t very many. Toward evening Hennen and Coco put up a pheasant which flew behind me. I couldn’t see any color and didn’t shoot, but he said it was a rooster.
I had to choose between chasing roosters or making another attempt at ruffed grouse hunting last weekend and grouse hunting won out after I heard the warm weather reports that predicted temps in the 80-degree range for Saturday in southwestern Minnesota. I got kind of a late start, about 7:30 a.m., and took along plenty of water for Vanna and myself. My eventual destination was the Paul Bunyan State Forest north of Akeley and we stopped enroute northeast of Leader at a trail we have hunted in previous years. We had three flushes and I shot at one grouse twice when it busted its way out of the brush and flew across the trail behind me. From there we headed toward Backus for a look at the Foot Hills State Forest. Apparently that area is a haven for 4-wheelers, and believe me, they were enjoying themselves ripping down the shoulder of the county highway before taking off down another trail. I figured that was no place for Vanna or myself so we got back on Highway 64.