Brute’s Bleat October 14, 2015

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. I planned to stop in Akeley to get some local input on the grouse situation at the restaurant, but it was closed and an attendant at the CENEX station didn’t have a clue. We chose the eastern side of the Paul Bunyan State Forest which has numerous trails for both 4-wheelers and some gated trails for walkers like myself. This was about 2:30 p.m. and the outside temp on my car showed 73 degrees. There was a breeze, but I figured I would be better off listening to a quarter of the Gopher-Purdue football game before starting to hunt. It wasn’t the best quarter of football, but they apparently turned it on in the second half winning decisively. Vanna and I were getting organized when a group of dirt bike riders sped past us. There are different ways to have fun and, while we don’t appreciate the noise and commotion they make, we’ve come to accept their rights to the state forest are as good as ours. The trail we chose didn’t seem to have had much traffic, but it had lots of clover and prickly ash. Vanna gave me a solid point, her first of the day, and I actually had a moment to get set before I heard the whirl of wings and got a shot off. Vanna found the grouse, but took the “it’s mine attitude” when I asked her to drop it. I lavished her with praise and hope she will not be so possessive next time. We hunted one gated trail, but didn’t raise a feather and decided we’d had enough for the day. We were 1-5, not good but we weren’t skunked. We wound our way through the forest back to Highway 64 keeping an eye out for birds, but we saw only 4-wheelers and no birds. My observation is there are plenty of entertainment dollars out there! The warm day also brought out quite a number of anglers who were fishing on the 11th Crow Wing Lake; some from shore, but most in boats on both sides of the bridge. One gentleman was seated in a lawn chair apparently just enjoying the warm evening. The ride home was mostly uneventful, but we did see some deer feeding in a meadow off one of 64’s S curves. . . From what I gleaned out of the Mpls. Sunday Tribune the pheasant population is up in the southwestern part of the state and the Governor’s entourage found some birds in the Worthington area. It sounded like some of the pheasants seen weren’t feathered out enough to tell the roosters from the hens. I drive by Doug Starry’s pheasant operation quite often and a week can make a big difference in the maturity of roosters. My guess is hunting in Minnesota will get better as the crops are harvested. . .
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We have an abundance of black walnuts in our yard this year which the squirrels usually clean up before the snow flies. Like the soybeans and corn which are setting records for the local farmers, the walnuts seem to be doing the same thing, way too many for the squirrels to collect. I started raking them up last week and thought I had most of them picked up, but two days later the yard looked liked I hadn’t touched it. I thought most had fallen off the trees!

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