Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Top Secret MN Grouse Hunting Spot Revealed - Grand Rapids Area

Marge and Tina With Limit Of Grouse From Grand Rapids, MN Public Hunting Area

Thursday 10 / 20 / 11

45 degs and Sunny.

I am lucky enough to have a job where I can occasionally skip out for an afternoon and make up my time in the evening.  I decided that today was one of those days as it was cool and sunny.  It has been gray and windy the past few days and I’ve had good luck a few times when I was able to hunt the first sunny day after a few crappy days.

Tina and I started out at a small area that we have seen birds at each time that we have hunted it this year.  We have never gotten a bird here though.  In fact the last time we hunted this spot, three of us moved 4 birds and didn’t put one in the bag.

When we pulled in I could tell that the area had been hit fairly hard in the days since we had last hunted it.  The grass on the trail was much more beat down by people driving in.  We worked the trail out and bushwhacked through the clearcut on the way back and didn’t move a bird.

Off to the second area.  I marked this area “ Don’t Hunt “ as it is mostly older growth and we have only seen one bird there.  I decided to give it a shot again though as it was on the way to the third area and the trails were easy walking for 15 yr old Marge.  After about going 100 yards down the trail she locked up solid.  I started to look around and just as I looked to the right into some saplings the grouse came up and with the shot the grouse came down.  I’m always excited when one of the dogs has a nice point that produces a bird but I am even more so when one of the old timers can have it happen.  We worked the trail for another 40 minutes but didn’t move another bird.  After putting Marge back into her travel kennel I got out Fergie and we went for a stroll.  Even though she is totally blind she still loves to get out and smell the air.  We did a short walk and then returned to the truck.

Our next spot was a MN Hunter Walking Trail.  These trails are well publicized  by the state so they aren’t any big secret but this one has decent habitat diversity and we have seen birds here before.  The hunt started well with Tina going on point less than 100 yards from the truck and and easy straight away shot put the bird into the bag.  The next bird was luckier as Tina had a good point on a corner and it broke down the side of the trail that I hadn’t gotten to yet and I didn’t even get off a shot.

We had started to hunt an area of the trail system that I hadn’t been able to cover yet and I could hear Tina working off to the side in an area of thick pine trees.  I was starting to get a bit impatient as she didn’t really seem to be working the type of cover that had been producing birds when her beeper collar indicated that she was on point.  I made my way into the pine trees but couldn’t see where she was when I heard a flush and saw just a flicker of the bird.  I still couldn’t see or hear Tina when I heard a second flush and was able to get off a snap shot.  I couldn’t see if I had hit the bird or not but I heard a thud letting me know that I had connected.  A third bird flushed but I passed on the shot as I wanted to make sure I had correctly marked down the bird.  As I made my way to the bird I could see Tina holding her point downwind of where the birds had flushed.

As we made our way back to the truck another wild flush from the opposite side of the trail that Tina was working caught me by surprise and I wasn’t able to get off a shot.  I was feeling pretty good about getting three birds already and was daydreaming a bit...

About 25 yards from the truck is an area where two of the trails come together and create a choke point and Tina started to get really birdy but I figured “ how could there be any this close to the truck “.  I was about to find out as she locked on point and I moved up the trail to cut them off by the edge of the trail intersection.  A flush and a hurried shot saw the bird fly off unharmed but the shot sent another bird up and this one wasn’t as lucky and became bird number four in the bag.

There was still and good 90 minutes of daylight left and Tina was still showing good energy so I decided to take a look at the other trail that starts at the parking area.  It started out by going through an area of younger growth but soon changed to older cover.  The trail split and we took the fork to the right after a short time it hit and area of blow down and Tina started to get birdy again.  She was a decent distance through the blowdown and off to my left when the beeper signaled point.  I wasn’t too excited about making my way through all of the logs to get to where she was but she had been pretty good with her points as of late so I thought it would be worth it.  As I started to approach her I was off her right side and could see that the cover was much thinner past where she was pointing.  As I passed her I could see that it was actually the other fork of the trail and as I stepped onto the trail a bird got up from in front of her and I again missed and again I was lucky enough to have a second bird get up and even luckier when I was able to connect and drop it just a little distance up the trail to make for an easy retrieve for Tina.

All five of our birds came from public land and four out of the five came from a well marked Hunter Walking Trail in the Grand Rapids, Mn area.

The Garmin Astro said that Tina covered 7.9 miles in 2 hrs and 17 minutes

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Prairie Grouse and Hungarian Partridge Forecast

2011 Prairie Grouse and Hungarian Partridge Forecast

By Larry Brown
bird imageThe outlook for prairie chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, and gray (Hungarian) partridge is a mixed bag at best this season.

In MONTANA, a very severe winter and heavy rains in the spring had a strong negative impact on upland birds in general. Those areas of the state where prospects for one or the other species are at least average are: Region 3: Huns improved from last year, close to average, same in Region 4 (north); Region 4 (south): sharptails average; Region 5: Huns improved, close to average; Region 7 (south): Huns above average.

came into the breeding season following its third consecutive harsh winter, and spring 2011 was unusually wet.  With a sharptail breeding population that’s 30% lower than last year, that spells lower bird numbers, for both species.  More rain than normal also means taller cover, which in turn means that the birds will be harder to find.  It all adds up to lower numbers for both sharps and huns, although there will be localized pockets with decent hunting.
Especially for nonresidents planning a trip to the western part of the state (the best region for huns and sharptails), there’s an additional problem:  the state’s oil boom means that lodging is hard to come by anywhere west of Bismarck.  If you haven’t secured reservations, don’t count on finding a place to stay.
Although the oil industry has provided a significant economic shot in the arm, there are concerns about the impact of the oil fields on sharptails.  And North Dakota is losing significant amounts of both CRP and PLOTS (Private Lands Open To Sportsmen) acres because of high grain prices.

Things look somewhat better to the south. With an estimated 57,000 birds bagged, SOUTH DAKOTA experienced its best prairie grouse harvest (sharptails and chickens combined) since 2001. That was a significant increase over the 39,000 birds hunters took in 2009.
This year, spring lek counts were down somewhat for sharptails, but up for chickens. Although there was some heavy rain during the nesting season, overall conditions were relatively favorable. Rains do help the grass, which puts the habitat in good shape for the coming season.

Top grouse counties are Stanley, Dewey, Lyman, and Hughes in the central part of the state, and those immediately adjacent to them. The South Dakota website includes an excellent map showing grouse densities.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lake Winnibigoshish ( Winnie ) MN Grouse Hunt

Saturday October 3  2011

Tony and Quetico with Lake Winnie Grouse and Woodcock

We had been having decent luck with the Hunter Walking Trails so we decided to try a larger one just a little ways from Lake Winnibigoshish ( Winnie ).  I thought that since this area is even a little bit farther from the Mpls area that we would see even fewer hunters.  After seeing trucks at the first two areas that we had planned to hunt it was clear that I wasn’t even close to being right.  
We decided to just drive while the Garmin pointed us to where it said that there were some clear cuts to hunt.  (  I purchased the maps and data files from ).  The first spot Tony decided to hunt it with his two dogs.  He wanted them to get a chance to focus on birds and not other hunters and dogs.  He ended up taking two birds from this spot.  The first trail that Mark and I tried ended at a beaver pond so we made a quick trip farther up the road to another trail.  After about 5 minutes on this trail Tina got birdy.  Two birds got up from the left side of the trails.  Mark shot left and I shot right.  Neither one of us connected.  We worked the trail a bit longer and then made our way back to meet up with Tony.

The next area Mark went with Tony as he had had some luck and we had hunted together earlier in the week before Tony arrived.  Marge and I went down another trail that looked promising.  We made it all the way through and area of good looking cover without any action.  I was starting to daydream as we went through and area of older habitat when Marge locked up in the middle of the trail.  I started to scan the area for the most likely location and settled on some scruffy looking cover to the right when out of the more open older area to the left a bird came up.  I was able to connect on a straight up shot and as I fired a second bird launched and I was able to bring that bird down also.  A third bird also flushed but I was making sure I had the first two marked so I didn’t take another shot.  We continued on the trail and didn’t see any other birds.  When I connected with Mark and Tony I found out that they had not any any more success.

The third area we decided to work it together.  A short distance down the trail Quetico went on point and Tony connected on a woodcock.  Quetico had to chase down the bird as it wasn’t too well hit.  He made short work of the chase and soon the bird was in Tony’s game bag.  This woodcock proved to be the trickiest woodcock we’d ever come across as he got out Tony’s game bag two times before Tony decided to finish it off.

A short while later the dogs started to get birdy as we approached a grassy area.  Two birds took off.  The first went up the trail and then banked left no one connected on this bird.  The second bird went to the right and back towards us.  Tony and I both emptied our guns and I saw the bird go down after my third shot.  We marked the bird down and made our way towards it.  I called Tina over and Tony brought Quetico and Stone over.  We looked for a good period of time and I couldn’t find it but Quetico kept working the area and finally found it buried underneath some brush.  Tony said the bird was hard to pull from the brush as it was biting on a stick at the bottom of the pile.  We decided that it was Quetico’s bird since we wouldn’t have recovered it without him.  We worked our way back to the truck without any more action.

Once back at the cabin I prepared a shore lunch style dinner of crappies and walleye that my dad had caught earlier this summer.

15 yr old Marge and I With Her Winnie Grouse Double

Friday, October 21, 2011

2011 Quail Hunting Forcast

A combination of unfavorable conditions, from drought in the south to hard winters further north, and continued habitat loss will make the 2011-2012 quail hunting season tough on hunters.

On top of the drought in Texas to the hard winter in Iowa, there are 5 million fewer Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres – many of which acted as quail habitat - than there were just four years ago. Quail Forever is advocating for a strengthened CRP and other federal conservation programs in preparation of the upcoming Farm Bill, but we cannot do it without your support as a Quail Forever member.
Despite the overall decline, there are still coveys to be had should hunters be willing to walk hard. The quail bread basket of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas will still provide the best numbers of bobwhites. In the southeast, habitat improvements are making a difference at localized levels; and western quail hunters should be the happiest of the bunch, with numbers for all western quail species strong across the board. Remember to always consult official state hunting regulations for rules and season dates, and please carry Quail Forever's code with you into the field this fall:
As a member of Quail 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.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mixed Bag Hunting Tips For Grouse & Woodcock

by Brad Eden

During the overlap of the ruffed grouse and woodcock seasons, upland hunters get a unique opportunity to hunt both game birds at the same time. Here are some hunting tips for grouse and woodcock and how you can prepare yourself for a mixed-bag hunt.

Grouse and woodcock prefer young woods in regrowth — what is known as successional habitat — to woods that are middle age or approaching senior citizenship. Successional habitats are thick with aspens, birches, maples, hemlock, spruce and brushy scrub.

During the early season it’s the feeding areas that hunters need to key on. Opening a grouse crop reveals they aren’t picky, but during the fall they are likely feasting mainly on berries and fruit such as high bush cranberry, feral apples, and wild grapes.

Woodcock, on the other hand, feed almost exclusively on earthworms in the soft soil of young clearcuts, abandoned farmland and areas near or in wetlands.

The overlap of areas that appeal to both grouse and woodcock — or what I call combo cover — is so prevalent that the chances of encountering both species in one hunt is a forgone conclusion.
With that said, grouse and woodcock are “where you find them.” I have flushed grouse from the middle of open fields and woodcock on dry hillsides under towering white pines. You need to be ready for anything.

It’s well known that a bird hunter can put a fair amount of ballast in his game pouch hunting ruffed grouse without a dog. But that hunter wont be spicing up many grouse dinners with woodcock appetizers. Like many grouse hunters I started out without a dog. I learned where they spent early mornings and mid days and where they went to roost in late afternoon –and, most important, the escape routes they used in a particular cover. On those dog-less grouse hunts I would occasionally kick up a woodcock by nearly stepping on them. One woodcock means there are likely more in the general area and you can wander around aimlessly, or even do a grid pattern and move birds.
Author Brad Eden with his springer spaniel Jake and a mixed bag of grouse and woodcock. Photo by Brad Eden.

But for mixed-bag grouse and woodcock hunting at its best, a close-working flushing dog or a staunch pointing dog is the ticket in the thicket.

I can tell when my flushing spaniel is tracking woodcock scent. Woodcock bop and weave around the forest floor like a wind up toy while feeding or moving about a cover. A flushing dog will twist and turn itself into a pretzel when on that ground scent. When I see this I get ready because a flush is imminent.

Not all dogs will share exactly the same body language, but you can become good at reading your dog. My current springer spaniel has a unique behavior that gives me an extra second or two to prepare for the flush. When approaching the feathered source of that scent trail he will suddenly stop and look up into the air to watch the bird flush — as it inevitably does. Although under most hunting situations a hard flush is expected of a spaniel, I have come to rather appreciate this unique “heads up” for woodcock.

Pointing dogs and woodcock go together like birds and flying. The woodcock often sits patiently under the pointing dog’s nose, allowing ample opportunity for the gunner to approach, look around for shooting lanes, and close in for the flush. That’s the perfect scenario and happens enough to be typical.

But woodcock aren’t slouches and will sometimes walk out from a point and flush wild like a grouse. Be prepared to be surprised.

Read The Rest Of The Game & Fish Article

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Grouse Hunting With The Boys Bigfork and Deer River MN

Friday October 7th 2011
Tina With Deer River, Mn Grouse and Woodcock

We got a bit of a late start as we decided to make breakfast and eat at the cabin.  We decided to start with an area near Bigfork, MN.  When we arrived at the location there was a pop-up camper parked by the forest road.  This area receives a fair number of hunters but has been decent in the past even when there were other hunters.  Tony unloaded his two GSPs.  Quetico was starting his second hunting season and Stone is now 12 years old.  I started out with Tina.  As we worked down the trail a little Brit came shooting out of the woods.  It’s owner wasn’t too far down the trail, in shorts and a short sleeve shirt.  We guessed he wasn’t doing too much off trail hunting...  He told us that his buddy was by a beaver pond working a one year old GSP.  We later heard a dog yelping quite loudly.  It sounded like the owner had just figured out how to work an ecollar.  From the dog’s response he was creating a future client for an actual dog trainer...

We hit the turnaround with only moving one bird.  This same weekend last year we were moving 20+ birds in the same amount of time on the same trail.  We started to hear some rumbling off in the distance.  We picked up the pace on the way back to the trucks and didn’t move any birds.  We made it to the vehicles just as the rain started.  After lunch and rest at a bar/grill in Bigfork we started to work to the west and south.

We ended up just north of Deer River at an area that I had tried a few times in the past.  With three hunters and three dogs it was clear that we weren’t going to sneak up on any birds.  A short way down the trail Tina started to get birdy and locked up.  I swung up the trail and moved in towards her.  She stayed staunch.  I could see her eyes looking just off to her left and I moved that way.  Up came a woodcock and I decided to try take it as a reward for her hard work.  I missed, but saw where it landed and released Tina and made our way in that direction.  She made another nice point and I didn’t miss this time.

We made it to an area with some younger pine trees and Tina started to work off the trail so I decided to bushwhack it a bit.  Tina was working to the trail and then off to my side.  She started to slow and was getting ready to point when I heard a flush at the same time Mark called out.  The grouse came my way and I was able to connect on a going away shot.  Tina made a nice retrieve.

We ended up back at the truck without moving any more birds.  We decided a totally new area ( new to us anyway ) was in order for the following day.

On the way back Tina either bit her tongue or it got poked by a stick and was bleeding all over her front.  She looked a mess but I think was mostly tired.

Tina All Bloody

After riding home and getting washed up in the lake she was all set for her dinner and some sleep before the next day.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pheasant Opener Hutchinson MN

I've started the last few pheasant seasons by hunting in the Hutchinson, MN area and have had good luck so I decided to go with what had been working.

Our friend Greg and is GSP, Tank, joined us on the hunt.  Our first stop was a farm just west of Hutchinson.  The corn was still up along two sides of the field.  We started out by following the edges of the field in hopes of cutting off any birds that might be trying to make it to the corn.  The dogs did get birdy along and in the corn but we didn't move any birds.  Next we moved towards some trees on the way to the drainage ditch that cuts through the unit.  The dogs didn't get too excited in any of these areas.

We decided to change it up and cut across the field and the dogs started to get more interested.  Tina pointed and relocated a few times before locking up solidly.  I moved in and the birds came up.  Six hens ended up flushing.  They looked really small so I am guessing late hatch or a renest.  we continued to work the field back to truck and didn't move any other birds.

We then moved to another farm.  This farm is just south of Hutchinson.  We started by working the edge of the cattails.  The dogs were worked all the way to the other side of the wetland and started the point and go, point and go that signals a bird nearby.  I took a step to the right and a rooster got up.  I totally blew the opportunity.  I was hunting with my Browning Over / Under and flipped the selective trigger to the side instead of forwards to release the safety.  By the time I recovered the bird was out of range.  I was pissed at myself.  I have been mostly hunting with my Beretta semi-autos this fall and wasn't able to make the adjustment.  arrgg.

After recovering from being ticked at myself we made a swing towards the south edge of the field.  As we pushed through the trees that line the border of the field the dogs started to get more active.  Tina went on a solid point.  I hoped to redeem myself and moved ready for the bird.  Up came a huge Tom Turkey.  It was a shot that I'm sure that even I could have connected on.  Not having a turkey tag and using dogs on turkeys being illegal I passed on the shot.  At the edge of the field we made a move towards some thicker cover.  As we approached the cover we had a rooster bust out well past gun range.

The dogs continued to work well but it was warming up to the mid 50's and the wind was picking up as well.  We decided to call it a day.  With moving so few birds the easy missed opportunity stings all the more.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt Deer River MN - Day Three

Thursday October 6th

Mark With His First Bird Of The Season

Our friend Mark arrived after lunch and we headed out for the afternoon.  We hit the trail at around three.  It was Mark’s first time out hunting this year.  We were hunting the walking trail that I had hunted a few times earlier.

We had been going about 15 minutes when Tina gave me a solid point.  I was able to connect on a nice crossing shot and put the bird in the bag.  It was still very dry and I was happy to take the bird over a point.

We went down a branch of the trail that I hadn’t been down before and Tina started to get birdy again.  We had a few non-productive points so I wasn’t too sure about the point but when her tail stopped wagging I got more confident.  Mark moved in and was able to connect on his first bird of the season.  A short time later she was on point again.  I made a good sized loop to try to pin the bird.  I kept moving closer and closer but no flush.  I made it to within about five feet before the woodcock flushed.  I took the bird on the flush.  I don’t normally shot woodcock but I wanted to reward Tina for her hard work.

It was staying in the mid-70’s so we started back to the truck.  Tina was still working hard as we made our way back and made a wide cast along a small area of blow down.  As she hit the far side of the area she locked up solid.  I wasn’t too excited about having to make my way through the area as the walking was tough.  I went straight towards her as she appeared to be looking right at me.  I kept waiting for her head to move or for her to break point but she stayed solid and the first thing to move was the grouse.  It took two shots but I was able to bring it down.

We ended up taking three grouse and a woodcock in about 90 minutes hunting on a less than optimal day.  I was very pleased with Tina’s work and happy that we were able to connect on all the birds that we shot at.  It doesn’t always work that way but it did.

Tina and I With Our Deer River, MN Grouse and Woodcock

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thorn In The Eye

Thorn In The Eye
The vet pulled this thorn from Marge's eye this morning. She had been rubbing it since Wednesday morning and today was the earliest I could get her in.  He said he didn't think it caused any permanent damage.  I looked and looked but couldn't see anything in there.

Shoreview North Oaks Animal Hospital has done good work for us in the past. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Ball Club, MN

Tina and Ball Club MN Ruffed Grouse

October 5th 2011

Another new area was on tap for today.  We made it to the woods at 10 am and it was already 60 degrees.  The Garmin said to take a forest road right off of hwy 2 and it wasn’t too bad until we passed the newest clear cut area where they were still working.  We went another mile down the road to the clear cut that we had marked.  It looked very promising.  Tina, as usual, was the first dog out of the truck.  She worked the area well but didn’t get too birdy.  The trails along the clear cut ended up being rather short so it was back to the truck and another mile down the forest road that was now getting more narrow.  I wouldn’t want to be on it most years as it looked like it would normally be very muddy.

Spot number two was a narrow trail with about a 10 year old cut on one side and some lower areas along the other.  About 15 minutes down the trail and Tina had a nice solid point and I was able to take it on a straight away flush.  The trail only lasted another 5 - 10 minutes.  On the way back we were able to move the same Woodcock three times.

Spot number three was six more miles down the forest road and I was getting more nervous about driving down it.  Luckily I have been practicing my Rally Driving skills on the Mac at home.  We made to the spot ok and I put Marge down for her workout.  The cover was a bit older than what I prefer but I was hoping the grouse might be trying to stay cool in the shade.  Marge did get birdy once but we didn’t produce a bird.  Back at the truck it was Fergie’s turn to get some time on the ground.  We got a nice walk in and checked out another trail that was in the area.  She got in some good sniffing but not bird action.

We pulled the plug as it was over 70 degrees and it was time to get back to the cabin and start to work.  It was a decent hunt and fun to get back into some areas that I don’t think I’d normally be able to get back to.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Deer River, MN Day 2

Tina and Her Deer River Mn Grouse

October 2nd, 2011

Saturday night was a long night as the dogs had drank so much water during the day that they kept having to go outside.  They woke me up at 11:30, 12:45, 1:30, and 4:30.  After the 4:30 wake up I put their training collars on them and they stayed quite.  Too quite it turned out as I ended up sleeping until 9 am.  That ruled out the longer drive to try some new areas that I had mapped out as it was already starting to get warm out.  so I decided to retry some of the areas from the day before to see if they still looked good.

The first spot that we went to was the walking trail area.  Tina and I started by walking a different section of the trail system.  After 30 minutes she hadn’t really gotten birdy at all we turned around and headed back to the section that we walked on Saturday.  Within 10 minutes she locked up solid and I was able to connect on a nice crossing shot.  We walked a while longer and didn’t move any other birds.

Next it was Marge’s turn to see if the forest road with the older growth would produce another bird.  We worked the trail a fair amount and while she did get a little birdy in a few spots we didn’t have any success actually moving one.  After getting back to the truck I got out Fergie and took her for a walk.  She can’t see but she still loves getting out in the woods and sniffing the air.

Tina and I then took a chance on the first spot that we had hunted yesterday.  The temperature was over 70 so it was a good last spot to try.  We went down the trail next to the clear cut and it still looked promising but it was just so dry it was hard to know if the scenting was decent at all.  We ended up going through the new growth to get back to the truck and she did make a nice point but it was so thick I couldn’t get into a good shooting position when I did flush the grouse.

Even though we cut the day short we did put one bird in the bag, confirmed that two spots were still a good bet, and ruled out another.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt Deer River, MN Day One

Saturday October 1 2011

Typical Cover For The Deer River MN Area

We left Mpls / St. Paul in the morning and made the three hour drive north.  After stopping at our rented cabin to drop off some gear and supplies we headed to the woods.  I decided to start out by trying some brand new areas to hunt.  I had purchased some maps that were created using Google Earth to show clear cuts and trails.  I loaded the gps info into the Garmin and we were on our way to just north of Deer River, MN.  The first area was two sets of small clear cuts with a small foot trail along one side of them.  As we worked the trail we came to some older growth and moved just a little ways into the new growth and turned back towards the vehicle.  About half way back we got a wild flush and moved towards where it looked like it set down.  Tina was working the scent but we did not make contact again.  It looked like a good enough area and with moving a bird in the 30 minute walk it has made the list to try again.

Spot number two ended up being a forest road that bordered an area that looked to be an older cut over area.  I was skeptical of it’s bird potential but we were there and it looked like easy enough walking for the 15 year old setter Marge.  This turned into and out and back affair but on the way back Marge made a nice point on a young bird and I was able to drop it.  Another 30 minute walk and another bird moved.  This area looked older than I would like but since we got a bird I added it to the try again list. 

Area number three turned out to be a MN Hunter Walking Trail.  There were no other vehicles there and with it hitting 60 degrees we decided to give it a chance.  There ended up being a number of different trails within the system.  We took the trail that looked like it went through the younger looking area.  It was hot and dusty.  The Northern MN area has been pretty dry after a wet and cool spring.  Tina was working a good pattern through the cover and after about 20 minutes and a few non-productive points she had one nailed and I got off a decent shot and connected.  We were able to repeat the pattern on the back side of the loop and collected another one for the game bag.

We made a stab at a fourth new area that also looked good but didn’t move a bird.  It was getting a bit later in the day so we went to our old standby in the Big Fork area.  In the first 40 minutes we moved 10 birds, got off 2 shots and didn’t connect on anything.  In the last 90 minutes we only moved one bird.

All in all it was a good start to the day with three birds in the bag and four new areas to try again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unlimited Snows: Late Season Snow Goose Hunts are an Experience of a Lifetime

Written by  Andy Lightbody | Photos by Andy Lightbody and Kathy Mattoon

Years ago, I had the opportunity to bird hunt in Mexico when I was the Senior Editor at Petersen’s Hunting Magazine. I thought I had died and gone to bird hunting heaven. Ducks, geese, quail and dove in virtually unbelievable numbers.

 It not only made for some great stories in the magazine, but was an experience that I thought would be impossible to rival. Guess what? I was wrong! Because now, I’ve discovered the Light Goose Conservation Order (LGCO) right here in the U.S. For those not familiar with the LGCO, it is a fancy name for having the opportunity to hunt for late-season light geese that are migrating back up from Texas and Mexico to their nesting grounds in Canada.

And best of all… no plugs are required in your shotgun. You can use large decoy spreads with electronic calls, and there are no daily bag or possession limits on the number of snows that you can harvest.
Not only is it a lot cheaper and safer than traveling to Mexico, chances are excellent that regardless of where you live and hunt, there are huge migrating flights of snow geese within a several hour drive of you. A quick check on will give you access to all hunting and fishing regulations for every state in the U.S. Simply go to the waterfowl regs for your state and see if you too have a late season snow goose hunt. You are likely to be surprised at how many states have very liberal season dates and are encouraging hunters to get out in the field and put a bunch of snow geese down for a dirt nap!

P1015724The decoy spreads worked exceptionally well, bringing in the show geese very low.

So why are so many states declaring a late season war on snows, blues and Ross’s geese? Simple and best answer is, there are simply way too many millions of them and they are destroying nesting and wetlands areas in Canada.

Go back historically, and a lot of the states actually banned snow goose hunting back in 1916 because of low population numbers. This ban by many states stayed in place until 1975 when it was deemed that the population numbers were again stable and that hunting could start up again. Unfortunately for the wildlife experts, the white geese population took off and exploded. Today it is estimated that there are upwards of 25 million of these white geese, and they are literally destroying their nesting areas, and eating themselves out of house and home.

Realizing that the problem was growing like an upside-down  pyramid, the LGCO was initiated in 1999, with the idea of making a late-season, unlimited harvest on these light geese in an attempt to reduce their numbers by at least 50 percent. For the hunter, with seasons that often run from September until the end of May, it’s been a bonanza/shoot fest for those who make the effort to chase and outsmart these wily birds.

On the downside, even with the late-season/unlimited hunts, many wildlife experts are saying that all the hunting efforts have and are doing very little to put a dent in the overall light goose populations. And while other methods… including the destruction of nests is being considered for population control, experts say that option is extremely expensive and controversial.

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