Friday, September 30, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Ely MN September 25th 2011

Tina, Marge, Fergie, and I With Sunday's Grouse Harvest

Sunday Sept 25th

We actually got rolling a bit earlier this morning than we did yesterday. I dropped my dad off at a new trail that he wanted to try and I went up the road to the spot that we tried for the first time Saturday. There wasn’t much breeze as Tina and I started down the trail, I was curious to see if we would see any birds or if yesterday was a fluke. It took about 15 minutes before she got birdy at all but we didn’t move a bird on the way out. After about 30 minutes we reached the end and turned back. I wasn’t feeling too optimistic at this time. About half way back Tina started to tighten up her quartering and locked solid. I was able to move in and connect on a flush through the brush. We didn’t see anymore birds on the way back to the truck. If we can get a chance at a bird or two each time down this shorter trail I’ll be happy.

I picked up my dad, who hadn’t seen any birds on his walk, and headed to the other short trail that we had hit yesterday. Marge got the call this time and we started off. About 2/3 of the way along the trail she went on point in a small area with thicker cover. It was a strait away shot and I thought I saw the bird go down but wasn’t sure. After looking and not easily seeing anything I got down on my hands and knees and found a couple of batches of feathers. I brought Marge back to the spot and she started to work the trail. After she cut back across the trail I could her the bird trying to make a run for it. Marge was right on her which was a little surprising as she is fairly hard of hearing. After coming back along the forest road we called it quits for this area.

We made another try at our old standby but again were not able to move a bird. We pulled the plug and listened to the Vikings blow a huge half time lead for the third week in a row.

All in all it was a decent weekend. Six birds in the bag, some nice Woodcock points. It was a little disappointing to be moving fewer than 1/2 of the birds that we were seeing last season.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Ely MN September 24th 2011

15 Year Old Marge and Her First Grouse Of 2011

Saturday Sept 24th

We awoke to a foggy morning and started the drive to a new spot that I had found last year.  ( ok, just to be clear that I have never found a “ secret spot” in MN.  All of my grouse hunting is on public land ).  We were lucky and no one else was there.  I dropped my dad off at the turn and then Tina and I got out farther down the road.  We started down the trail and for most of the way she wasn’t getting birdy at all.  Finally in the last 100 yards before we got to the turnaround she started to work some scent.  She went on point along a small strip of pines.  As I moved in the grouse flushed from the back side of the pines and I lucked out as it decided to cut back over the trail and I was able to connect on a nice right to left shot.  We worked the rest of the way back to the vehicle and didn’t move another bird.  On the way back I did hear another shot and was hoping that it was my dad.  I found out that it was in fact him but that he hadn’t connected.

We decided to just drive along the forest road to see if we could find another spot to try.  After a few trails that weren’t long enough to make it worthwhile we did find one that looked like it could be a bit longer.  I unloaded Marge and we made our way down the trail.  As we came over a small rise I could see a beaver pond just to the right.  Just then a grouse was flying up the trail towards us, it flared when it saw Marge and was just out of range.  We looked for it in hopes of getting another opportunity but did not come across it.  Another 10 minutes of walking and Marge started to go into her stealthy stalk mode.  Not exactly classic pointing dog / grouse form but it proved effective as she slid into her point.  As I moved in the bird flushed just behind and to my left.  I made it two for two and the right to left shots.  Not something that happens all that often for me.  

After getting back to the truck we went to a spot that we first started hunting about ten years ago.  The cover has gotten older and the new clear cuts haven’t grown up enough yet but last year it was still productive enough to make it worth a stop.  After getting Fergie her exercise I put Tina back into her beeper and gps collars.  We worked our standard areas for a good our and didn’t move a bird.  I’m hoping that the clear cuts will start to produce some birds in the near future.

We ended up calling it a day around 2 pm as it was starting to warm up a bit and we still had tomorrow to hunt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Prairie Shotguns

By Steve Smith

A friend of mine once accused me of having a Texas-quail-low-humidity-over-setters-on-Friday-afternoons shotgun, his point being that I maybe had gone a little overboard over the years accumulating shotguns for special purposes. I don’t have a gun like that, of course. I sold it, selling or trading shotguns being the best way I know of to buy other shotguns. Besides, I had no way of knowing if I’d even be hunting on any Fridays.

But, you know, I wouldn’t play golf with one club (even though you can’t call what I do, strictly speaking, golf) because my driver can’t do what my pitching wedge does and vice versa, and I can’t expect my Michigan brush-country woodcock gun to be of much use on late season South Dakota pheasants. And vice versa.

As the title more than implies, I’m going to talk about prairie shotguns, those guns used in the Big Open for birds other than pheasants, mainly Huns, sharptails, and prairie chickens. These are birds and it’s a place that calls for some specialization. Let’s take the birds first.

Huns can be tough to kill at times, especially late in the season when, as Ben Williams says, the September Squeakers have turned into November Rockets. I don’t mean because of the distance of the shots they offer as the season progresses, though that’s a major factor. I mean the birds need to be hit solidly. Sharptails and chickens, on the other hand, don’t have to be hit with a hammer to bring them down – a few shot of moderate size will usually do it. But that is where range comes in.

Read More Of The Story Here

Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 Desert Quail Forecast

2011 Desert Quail Forecast from The Traveling Wingshooter.

Review covers California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

2011 Pheasant Forecast - Traveling Wingshooter

Traveling Wingshooter's 2011 Pheasant forecast for the state of SD, KS, ND, NE, IA, and MN.

An extremely harsh winter across the heart of the pheasant range in the Midwest –  the last in a string of bad winters in some states – plus a wet spring in the Dakotas and Minnesota, and the continued loss of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, all combine to mean tougher prospects for ringneck hunters in the traditional top states.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011 Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Forecast

2011 Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Forecast from  The Traveling Wingshooter.  Covers MN, WI, MI, and ME.

SOLD - Men's Columbia Grouse X Comfort Vest - Large - SOLD

I'm pretty sure I never wore this vest.  The game bag is clean and no other marks on it.  It also still has the 12 and 20 gauge inserts in the shell holders.

Designed specifically for the demands of upland hunting, this highly functional vest has everything you need to chase the fantails.
The durable shell features Blaze panels for safety, padded shooting shoulders and a lightly padded comfort yoke to distribute weight evenly across the shoulders. Eight quick-loader tubes keep you ready to take your shot; two zip-closed pockets provide plenty of storage for shells and extra gear. A front-loading blood-proof game bag zips down for easy cleaning after you’ve bagged your limit. Relaxed fit. 
  • Shell 1: 60% cotton/40% polyester. Shell 2: 100% polyester Blaze
  • Spacer Mesh Columbia Comfort System yoke distributes game weight
  • Front-loading blood-proof game bag
  • Rear license holder
  • 8 quick loader tubes 12 and 20 Ga inserts

Sold - Columbia Ptarmigan X Upland Hunting Parka - Large - Sold

This is a very versatile hunting jacket.  Take the sleeves off to make it into a vest or if it is cold keep in the fleece vest.

A hunting parka has to be durable and warm, yet adaptable enough to meet changing conditions in the field. 

The Ptarmigan X Upland Parka has a 60% cotton/40% polyester canvas outer shell with zip-out sleeves for comfort on warmer days. 

A removable liner vest is constructed of 100% MTR Fleece for added warmth. 

The parka has front cargo pockets with four quick-loader shell tubes in each, along with a front-loading zip-out game bag with blood-proof lining.

Does not include the 20 gauge shell inserts.
This jacket is used but not abused.  Some stains from usage but no rips or tears.

Retail was about $150 when I got it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

SOLD - Garmin Astro 220 GPS Unit w/ DC 30 Tracking Collar - SOLD

Used for one season.
I put a screen protector on after the first hunt.  Very slight scuffing.  Still works great.
220 Receiver Unit
DC30 Collar
Wall Charger
Car Charger

I loved hunting with this unit.  It cut way back on my worrying about losing a dog.

Astro® 220 W/ DC 30 Tracking Collar
Suggested Retail Price: $ 649.99 USD

Tired of searching for your hunting dog in tall grass or dense cover? Now you can leave the hunting entirely to him. Astro is the premier high sensitivity GPS-enabled dog tracking system for sporting dogs. This unique system pinpoints your dog’s position and shows you exactly where he is, even when you can’t see or hear him.

See Your Dogs’ Every Move
The Astro system includes a bright color-screen handheld GPS device and the rugged,DC 30 collar. The collar accommodates most e-collar receivers — eliminating the need to put two separate collars on a dog. Plus, Collar Lock creates a four-digit PIN number that helps prevent others from seeing your dog’s whereabouts — a useful feature in field trials to ensure that an Astro is used only as a recovery tool when a dog in competition becomes lost.
To get started, just take Astro outdoors and turn on the handheld and transmitter to acquire GPS satellite signals. Then attach the DC 30 to your dog. Now you’re ready to turn him loose — no other setup required.

Track Dogs in Dense Cover
As often as every five seconds, your dog’s DC 30 transmits his position to your handheld, and you can see his current location and a trail of where he’s been on the Map page of your handheld. Switch over to the Dog Tracker page to view a compass pointing to your dog’s location as well as his current status: whether he’s running, sitting, on point or treeing quarry. Astro can also sound an alarm to let you know instantly when your dog goes on point.
Astro boasts a high-sensitivity GPS receiver that can track your dog’s position even in the densest cover. You can track up to ten dogs at one time with Astro, at a distance of up to seven miles away (depending on terrain). The system transmits information by line-of-sight, so it reaches farthest in flat, open territory.

Count Your Coveys
After you’ve captured your quarry, mark the exact spot with Astro’s Covey Counter™, a special waypoint that tells you the exact location, time of day and elevation where you found your prey, as well as the number of birds you flushed and took from that location. Astro lets you save other special waypoints, such as "Truck" and "Lodge," so you can save the location of these places quickly and easily for each hunt. Astro also offers special waypoint icons to represent food plots, tree stands and other hunting-related points.
Experience Full-featured GPS
Astro shines when you’re out on the hunt, but it also excels in getting you back to your truck at the end of the day, or even back home again. In fact, the Astro handheld has all the features of Garmin’s top-line handheld outdoor devices, including a barometric altimeter, electronic compass, microSD™ card slot, celestial information, area calculator and rugged, IPX7 waterproof exterior. With optional detailed city street maps, you can search for over 6 million points of interest and create a route on roads with exact turn-by-turn directions.

Experience Full-featured GPS
Astro shines when you’re out on the hunt, but it also excels in getting you back to your truck at the end of the day, or even back home again. In fact, the Astro handheld has all the features of Garmin’s top-line handheld outdoor devices, including a barometric altimeter, electronic compass, microSD™ card slot, celestial information, area calculator and rugged, IPX7 waterproof exterior. With optional detailed city street maps, you can search for over 6 million points of interest and create a route on roads with exact turn-by-turn directions.

For Sale Here

Monday, September 19, 2011

Shooting Sport Issue #7 Digital Now Available

Shooting Sport is a FREE digital magazine from the publishers of Shooting Sportsman.

The world's finest online wingshooting magazine is free, easy to use, and available right now!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Briley Choke Tubes For Sale 12 GA

In a black oxidized finish. Long shotgun choke tube extends beyond the length of the muzzle, features highly polished interior for less pellet deformation; reduced fliers and tighter patterns. Knurled grasping band speeds installation and removal. Shotgun choke constriction is marked on band so there is no need to remove shotgun choke to verify size

Check them out on Ebay


All Choke Tubes Are New

Beretta Optima Plus - Improved Modified - Extended 

Beretta Optima Plus - Light Full - Extended 

Beretta Optima Plus - Improved Modified - Extended
The Goose Getter Choke is made to bring big, big birds. You can count on it to deliver a lot of punch with the large BB's normally used in Goose hunting. Using this Improved Modified on Geese will deliver every time.

Beretta Optima Plus - Full - Extended

Remington - Light Modified - Extended 
The Dove Duster is a choke between Modified and Improved Cylinder, you get the best of both worlds.  Distance is never a problem and when the birds are in close your pattern is open and ready.

Beretta Optima Plus - Skeet - Flush - Silver

Friday, September 16, 2011

MN Hunter Walking Trails - Ruffed Grouse

Minnesota's primary grouse range features a number of hunter walking trails that wind their way through Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), sometimes connecting with state forests and other public hunting lands.

These trails, most of them with signs, provide comparatively easy access to areas where small game such as grouse and woodcock may abound.
Many of the trails are gated, helping to prevent OHV access. Some have parking lots, while others simply have places to just pull off the road.
Enhancements on the trails vary. Some feature clover planted along the trail, others have forest openings that tend to attract wildlife and some are mowed annually. Many of the trails follow the courses of old logging roads.

Forests change over time as the succession of forest growth progresses. Because of this natural cycle, the forest along the trails and the wildlife that inhabit the area change with time.

Using the walking trail tool

Use the walking trail tool to locate hunter walking trails. Simply select a county from the list and click on the trail name. The map will automatically zoom and the trail will appear marked in red. Clicking the "PDF" link opens a new browser window that displays a printable, aerial view of the selected trail.
Trail maps are being updated continually and new maps are being added to the walking trail tool. Please check the tool regularly during the fall for new additions.

Google Earth file

Downloading this file and saving it to your computer allows you to view all the hunter walking trails using Free download of Google Earththe free Google Earth application This link opens a window to an external site.. If you don't have Google Earth installed, simply save the Google Earth installation file to your computer, run the installation progam, download the Hunter Walking Trail file and click "Open". All Minnesota's hunter walking trails will appear in the application, allowing you to zoom in and out at your leisure.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pheasant Forever's 2011 Pheasant Hunting Forecast

Overall Outlook:

After the better part of a decade of fantastic pheasant numbers in the Midwest – bird numbers aided by a strong Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – pheasant hunters will be finding fewer ringnecks during the 2011-2012 pheasant hunting season.
Tough weather, from drought in Kansas to hard winters in the Dakotas, did its fair share to hurt pheasant populations, but it’s the 5 million fewer CRP acres than there was just four years ago that made sure pheasant numbers were bound to decrease, which they did in every major pheasant producing state. Pheasants Forever is advocating for a strengthened CRP and other federal conservation programs in preparation of the upcoming Farm Bill, but cannot do it without your support as a Pheasants Forever member.
Despite the decline, there are still millions of pheasants roaming the grasslands, fencerows and field edges in the heart of pheasant country. South Dakota will again be in a class by itself, while Kansas, Nebraska and North Dakota look to be next best. In other states, boot leather will have to wear thinner in the fields this year. But as veteran uplanders know, any day hunting roosters is a day well spent. Remember to always consult official state hunting regulations for rules and season dates, and please carry Pheasants Forever's code of conduct with you into the field this fall:
As a member of Pheasants Forever, I believe in conserving wildlife and protecting the environment. I promise to leave the outdoors a little better than I found it. I will hunt safely and treat hunting on public and private land as a privilege. I will always ask permission before hunting private land. I will obey all game laws and insist my companions do as well.

2011 Wyoming Forecast

Wyoming - Big Horn Basin for Birds

See The Original Pheasant's Forever Article

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Google Earth data files available for Minnesota MN Walk In Access WIA

The data files for the MN Walk In Access have been released by the DNR.

I used the data files to pull up the WIA's in Google Earth and it made it very easy to zoom into the different areas and see what the hunting units look like.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Minnesota’s MN 2011 pheasant count / index falls 64 percent from 2010

(Released September 6, 2011)
A severe winter followed by a wet spring contributed to a significant decline in Minnesota’s pheasant counts. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the pheasant population index / count declined 64 percent from 2010 and is 71 percent below the 10-year average.
Contributing factors include:
  • A second consecutive severe winter, resulting in hen counts 72 percent below the 10-year average.
  • Cold, wet weather during the April through June nesting period, resulting in brood counts 75 percent below the 10-year average.
  • Loss of nearly 120,000 acres of grass habitat enrolled in farm programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) since 2007.
Severe winters combined with cold, wet springs are doubly hard on pheasant populations. That’s because fewer hens survive the winter and those that do are less successful in producing broods.
Pheasant hunters are expected to harvest about 250,000 roosters this fall, the lowest harvest since 1997. This compares to harvests that have exceeded 500,000 roosters five of the past eight years. The 500,000 bird harvests correspond with a string of mild winters and high CRP enrollment.

“We expect hunters to harvest a similar number of birds in 2011 as they did in 2001, which was another year with a severe winter followed by a cold, wet spring” said Kurt Haroldson, a wildlife biologist for the DNR’s Farmland Wildlife Population and Research Group in Madelia. Haroldson noted survey results indicated an unusually low ratio of hens to roosters.

This suggests hen mortality was high or hens were nesting or caring for young broods during the survey. If the late nesting effort was greater than normal, the 2011 pheasant population and the fall harvest may be higher than forecast. Pheasant populations can rebound quickly given good habitat, mild winter weather and favorable spring nesting conditions.

Minnesota is not the only state to see pheasant index declines. Wildlife officials in South Dakota reported a 46 percent population index decline. North Dakota’s spring population survey showed a decline, too.

The pheasant population estimate is part of the DNR’s annual roadside wildlife survey. The survey summarizes roadside counts of pheasants, gray (Hungarian) partridge, cottontail rabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits and other wildlife observed in the early morning hours during the first half of August throughout the farmland region of Minnesota.

The highest pheasant counts were in the east central region, where observers reported 51 birds per 100 miles of survey driven. Hunters will find fair harvest opportunities in pockets of south central and southwest Minnesota, but harvest opportunities in most of Minnesota’s pheasant range are rated poor to very poor.

This year’s statewide pheasant index was 23 birds per 100 miles driven, the lowest index since 1986. The pheasant index in southwest Minnesota, typically the state’s best pheasant range, fell 82 percent from last year to 19 birds per 100 miles driven.

Haroldson said the most important habitat for pheasants is grassland that remains undisturbed during the nesting season. Protected grasslands account for about six percent of the state’s pheasant range. Farmland retirement programs such as CRP, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, Reinvest in Minnesota and Wetlands Reserve Program make up the largest portion of protected grasslands in the state.

High land rental rates and competing uses for farmland diminish the economic attractiveness of farmland conservation programs. During the next three years, contracts for 550,000 acres of CRP lands are scheduled to expire. If not re-enrolled, this would reduce CRP acres in Minnesota by 36 percent.
To help offset continued habitat losses caused by reductions in conservation set-aside acreage, DNR has accelerated acquisition of Wildlife Management Areas in the farmland region of Minnesota. DNR also supports habitat conservation on private lands by working with a variety of partners in the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership and Working Lands Initiative. Also, nearly 10,000 acres of private property will be open to public hunting through the state’s new Walk-In Access program.

Full MN DNR article

The 2011 August Roadside Report and pheasant hunting prospects map is available online.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Minnesota MN Walk-In Hunting Area Full Map Set Available

The full map set of all the Walk-In areas for MN is now available online.
The maps show all of the properties available in the Walk-In program.

There are over 9400 acres enrolled for 2011.

Friday, September 2, 2011

South Dakota SD 2011 Pheasant Outlook - Counts Down 46% From 2010

Pheasant counts decline from historic highs, but still good

PIERRE, S.D. - Pheasant brood counts indicate that pheasant numbers in South Dakota have returned to levels below the remarkable high counts of the past few years.

However, the pheasant population in the main part of the state's pheasant range will still provide quality hunting opportunities.

From 2003 through 2010, the statewide pheasant-per-mile index was at levels not seen in the previous 40 years. The index this year is 46 percent lower than the 2010 index and 41 percent lower than the average of the past 10 years.

"We observed abnormally high mortality of hen pheasants during the brutal winter of 2010-11," explained Jeff Vonk, Secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department, "The loss of that reproductive potential inhibited the ability of our pheasant population to rebound to the record levels that we have enjoyed in recent years."

Declines in the counts were consistent across the state and most pronounced in eastern South Dakota, where winter's grip was tightest and grassland nesting habitat is diminished.
"We knew this day was coming when important pheasant habitats provided by the cover in Conservation Reserve Program fields were lost," Vonk said.

CRP enrollments in the state are currently at 1.17 million acres, down from 1.56 million acres in 2007. The reduction equates to over 600 square miles of grassland habitat.

"On the other hand, we were pleasantly surprised how well pheasants responded in central South Dakota, where abundant moisture from winter snow and spring rain allowed grasslands to flourish and provide the essential habitat for excellent pheasant production," Vonk said.

The counts in the main pheasant range are similar to or higher than the counts in 2002 when hunters bagged 1.2 million pheasants. Pheasant hunters harvested 1.8 million pheasants in 2010.

"All things considered, pheasant numbers in much of the traditional pheasant range of the state are still good despite the declines in the counts," Vonk said. "Much of South Dakota will continue to provide a premier opportunity to hunt pheasants."

2011 Pheasant Brood Survey Results by Area

Pheasants per mile (PPM)
Difference of 2011 PPM with
City Area
2011 Survey
2010 Survey
10-yr. ave.
2010 Survey
10-yr. ave.
Sioux Falls
Western SD
NOTE: Comparisons are valid only between years within each local area.

See Complete SD DNR Article