Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bigfork - Deer River MN Grouse and Woodcock Hunt


Tony, Quetico and a Bigfork MN Grouse

The weather in the Grand Rapids, Mn area was supposed to be wet snow on Friday so I decided to head up early on Saturday morning.  I met my buddy Tony and his dog Quetico in Deer River and we decided to head up to Bigfork to try an area that we’ve had good luck with in the past.  This area can be entered from two different roads so we thought that we’d try parking one vehicle and then driving to the other side and hunting our way back to the first vehicle.  This way if we got into birds we could always hunt out and back and if the birds were scarce we could bail at the first vehicle, swing back to the second and then head to a new spot.

We put the two dogs on the ground and started down the trail.  It looked to be a good morning for a hunt as there were still spots of snow on the ground.  Within the first 5 minutes we got a wild flush and didn’t get a shot off.  The trail comes to an intersection with two side trails and if you go forward you hit a clear cut that has started to have islands of growth.  It the past few years these islands and the edges of the field have held good numbers of birds.  We worked the area pretty thoroughly and did not move a bird so we headed down one of the side trails towards the parked car.

As we hit the main loop on the lower portion of the trail the dogs started to get more excited.  They started to work an area of newer growth when you could hear them slow their search.  Tony went into the area to check on the search when a grouse got up in front of Quetico ( Tony’s GSP ) and he was able to drop the bird.  We kept moving along the trail to an area that was an awesome hotspot in 2009 and 2010.  There is a large beaver pond along one side and a small pond on the other.  In ’09 and ’10 I’m certain I moved multiple birds in this small area every time that I hit it.  Tina started to get excited first as I’m guessing that she remembered all of the birds that we had seen there in the past.  We were close to the end of this area when the dogs started to tighten up their casts and narrowed their search to some softer ground.  A lone woodcock decided to make its escape and I was able to bring it down and put it into the game bag.

We finished up this trail and decided it wasn’t worth hunting our way back so we loaded up the one vehicle, swung back for Tony’s truck and decided to head to an area close to Deer River that I had excellent hunting a number of times last year.

The dogs worked the cover well but we only moved on woodcock and we didn’t take a shot at it.  I found it odd that we didn’t move any other birds from this area.  As we were leaving I did notice that the cabin across the road had 3 or 4 trucks at it with lots of guys wearing blaze orange and I don’t recall seeing any vehicles at it last year.

Even though we didn’t move a lot of birds it was still a great day to be in the woods with the dogs.

Tina and I with our Bigfork MN Woodcock

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quail Forever's 2012 Nationwide Quail Hunting Forecast

Quail Hunting Forecast 2012
Across the country, the mild winter of 2011-12 gave many states’ quail populations a needed reprieve from the cold, wet winters of recent years. Leading into summer, productive nesting conditions in early spring across the country gave quail managers hope of a significantly increased year of quail production. But as temperatures increased, rains decreased, and much of the country became locked in drought throughout the summer.
While most quail managers agree that quail can handle a pound of heat for an ounce of cold, wet weather, the effects of the drought of 2012 are yet to be determined for quail populations nationwide. If hens were able to get their clutches on the ground early enough in the spring, as some reports note, the more mature chicks may have been able to get a wing up on the heat and make it through to hunting season.
As if these 6-ounce birds didn’t have enough stacked against them, this season quail hunters will note a rapidly changing landscape in many states as habitat is continually converted to row crops at an astounding rate. With commodity prices at or near all-time highs, federal crop insurance coverage buffering the risk of planting marginal lands, continued fire suppression management in the southeast range and grasslands formerly enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and previously unbroken native prairies being plowed up at an astounding rate, it should give quail hunters pause, and more reason than ever to get involved in the work of upland conservation.
Many CRP lands and even some public lands were opened to emergency haying and grazing to help agricultural producers through the drought of 2012. Thus, hunters are urged to check ahead due to the effects of this dry season and land use changes.
The above said, it is important to note that quail are resourceful and will make use of what they can, so there are coveys to still be had. In addition, if readers note the numbers of states included in this report, they will find that there is still huntable populations across multiple species of quail in over half the continental United States, giving impetus for hunters to seek out one of North America's original upland gamebirds for yet another season.
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.

Click on the State Link for a detailed forecast. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Briley - Beretta Choke Tubes For Sale

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tower MN Ruffed Grouse Hunt 9/23/2012

Tina In Thick Grouse Cover - Tower MN

Sunday wasn’t quite as windy as Saturday had been.  Tina and I took off for the Tower area to give it another try.  We started at the area that we hunted second on Saturday.  I was hoping that the grouse would be coming out to the edge of the trail.  As soon as we hit the main part of the trail Tina started to get birdy.  Tina was working the cover well but we weren’t able to move any birds in the first two areas of cover.  The trail opened up a little bit with a clear cut to the right side and Tina swung wide into the cut.  As she came back toward the trail she locked up on the one piece of heavier cover along the trail.  I moved up along the trail and was trying to get into a good position for a shot when four grouse decided to take off for better cover.  I got off one shot but didn’t connect.

We worked our way to the end of the trail and back to the truck without coming across any more birds.  We loaded up to head to a short trail that we hunted just a few times last year.

Last year when we hunted this trail each time we moved one bird but it has good looking cover and if you can move one bird on it it is worth the walk.  About 5 minutes into the trail we came across a tree that someone had hung a plastic bag with the remains of a grouse inside.  I was hoping that the grouse in the bag wasn’t the only grouse in the area.  We walked the trail past one beaver pond to the second pond that marks the turn around on this trail.  The water level in both of he ponds was much lower than last year.  On the return trip Tina started working the cover a little bit farther out than she had on the trip out.  As we got close to the “grouse in a bag” her pattern started to tighten up a little bit.  She went on a soft point at a pile of blow down.  I was circling around the pile when the grouse came out from behind a pine tree.  I wasn’t able to get off a shot but it was nice to see that there was still one grouse in the area.

Our last stop of the day was the trail that we had started at on Saturday.  Almost immediately Tina was working the cover in a way that told me she was excited about the area.  In just a few minutes she was on point at the bottom of a small ravine.  As I was sliding down the side of the ravine a pair of grouse decided to make their escape.  We made it to the end of the trail without any more contacts with birds.  On the return trip Tina again went on point near the ravine.  I wasn’t too enthusiastic about our prospects but decided to go into the cover as she was staying solid on point.  This time I picked an area that wasn’t quite as steep to make my approach.  Tina didn’t budge as I got closer to her and this time the grouse held long enough for me to get into a decent shooting position and I was able to bring the bird down.  This ended up being the last bird that we saw for the day.

We didn’t see or take as many birds on this trip as we had on our trip to the area at about the same time last year but I was happy with the way that Tina worked and it was still a great weekend to be in the woods.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

American Woodcock Migration Mapping System

Woodcock Migration Mapping will be Active from September 2012 through April 2013

Submit Daily Migration Activity Report 

Access Historical Maps and Summaries 

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 95
Welcome to the Ruffed Grouse Society’s National American Woodcock Migration Mapping System. In partnership with, the online authority in waterfowl migration tracking, RGS started providing real-time tracking of the annual American woodcock migration in 2006 -- for the first time in history. It has continued each year since. The advanced GIS mapping system relies on daily migration data provided by our members and online readers. Users enter the zip-code for the area they're reporting on, then select if the woodcock activity in that area is Light, Medium, Heavy, or at its Peak.
**The map is a real-time summary of daily (24-hour) entries which reset each midnight, so we encourage our visitors to report each day they encounter woodcock. To view prior 24-hour or longer prior period historical maps, click the Historical Maps and Summaries link.

More Info and Complete RGS Article

Monday, October 8, 2012

MN 2012 Walk-In Access Program

Walk-In Access (WIA) Program

...providing public hunting opportunities on private lands thanks to volunteer landowners.
  • Walk-In Access sites are open during any legal hunting season from Sept. 1 to May 31. Please respect private property and verify public hunting areas by observing boundary signs.
  • No hunting is allowed in any WIA until it is posted.
  • Only walk-in hunting traffic is allowed on enrolled acres. Land enrolled in the WIA program is not open to trapping, trap shooting, dog training or activities other than hunting. No vehicle traffic is allowed. Parking is along roads or in designated parking areas.
  • Hunters must follow the Code of Conduct This is a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to download it. developed for WIA lands.
  • Emergency Grazing and Haying on WIA sites

Find a WIA Interactive Map

See WIAs for Grant County See WIAs for Traverse County See WIAs for Stevens County See WIAs for Pope County See WIAs for Big Stone County See WIAs for Swift County See WIAs for Kandiyohi County See WIAs for Lac Qui Parle County See WIAs for Chippewa County See WIAs for Yellow Medicine County See WIAs for Renville County See WIAs for Redwood County See WIAs for Lincoln County See WIAs for Lyon County See WIAs for Brown County See WIAs for Pipestone County See WIAs for Murray County See WIAs for Cottonwood County See WIAs for Watonwan County See WIAs for Rock County See WIAs for Nobles County See WIAs for Jackson County See WIAs for Martin County Click on a county in the map to bring up detailed maps of WIAs

WIA tools

 Printed Atlas Updates

Map update status as of 8/31/12:
  • All WIA online map products and downloads are now updated!

WIA maps & data

All map data and map products (including Google Earth, Google Map, and GPS files) are general and do not accurately represent the actual legal or established boundary of these areas, and thus should be used for reference only. Please respect private property and verify public hunting areas by observing boundary signs.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tower MN Ruffed Grouse Hunt - 9/22/2012

Tina With Her First Two Grouse For 2012 - Tower MN

I arrived home from my work trip at 10pm on Friday night and was on the road by 7am Saturday so that I could pick up Tina at the trainer.  She had been at the kennel for a month so that they could road her while I was gone.  Having your dog not get any exercise for three weeks right before the start of the season is not the best way to set yourself up for success.  She was lean and mean.  She had lost four lbs overall.  I’m sure she lost more fat than that and put on some muscle as she was looking ripped.  They shaved her so that helped the look also.

I picked up my dad in Ely and dropped back down to the Tower area.  We have hunted a few spots in this area on and off for 10 years.  We started at a set of trails that has gone from being prime cover to being on the old side of productive.  There has been some new clear cutting in the area so hopefully we will see a rebound in the future.  Tina and I started on a trail that heads downhill to some low areas.  With it being so dry this year I thought that the birds might be lower where there might be some dampness.  About 5 minutes into the trail we came across some blowdowns which isn’t all that unusual in the area except that there usually is a group of deer hunters that have stands at the bottom of the trail and they tend to keep the trails open.  Perhaps they have given up on the area.  I’ve been seeing fewer deer and more wolves each year...  

As we got to the fist set of blowdowns Tina was working off to the left and her bell went silent and the beeper came on.  Once I got an approximate location I turned off the beeper and headed into the woods.  Not much of the cover had come down yet so it was tough to get to her point and the grouse didn’t stick around for me.  Still, getting the first flush 10 min into the hunt isn’t too bad.

We continued down the trail and in just a few minutes Tina went back on point.  She was pointing right in the middle of the trail.  As I approached two birds flushed too low to get off a safe shot and by the time they rose they were headed into the cover.  While I enjoy seeing birds it is nice to be able to reward the dog and myself by getting to take a shot once in a while.  Luckily the next bird wasn’t quite as skilled with its escape.  Tina made a nice point and the grouse held its spot long enough for me to make a decent approach and was able to finish the job with a single shot.  At the shot another grouse got up a bit deeper into the cover but I was unable to get off a shot.

A bit farther down the trail a grouse got me in the classic I’ll wait until he is climbing over the blowdown before I flush maneuver.  Tina held point but the bird was trickier than either of us.

We made it to the end of the trail but didn’t end up seeing any birds in the damper areas like I thought we would.

On the way back to the truck Tina made a wide cast and I was day dreaming when a grouse flushed as I walked past it on the trail.  The flush gave my heart a jump start but I was able to swing around and get off three shots.  This ended up being one of the very few times that I have hit a bird after the second shot.  Usually the third shot just ends up being a wasted shot but this time I think it took me until the third shot to collect myself and actually concentrate on the shot.

In under two hours we saw seven birds and got two.  One advantage to having the blowdowns is that a fair number of hunters used to road hunt that small stretch and now it isn’t getting as much pressure.

We loaded up and headed to another spot.  We hunted this spot right before Christmas last year and about five minutes into our hunt a wolf came right up the trail towards us.  I shouted at it and it left the trail but I thought it best to pull the plug on hunting that spot for that day.

We ended up only getting one point along this trail but a bow hunter that we saw said that he had been seeing grouse in the area so I’m sure we will continue to try it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

2012 MN Grouse Opener Report

Carmel California

The 2012 MN Grouse season opener ended up being a bit different for me than in years past.

I ended up working in California for three weeks and the second weekend was the first weekend of the grouse season in Minnesota.

I did get a chance to see a few birds though.  As we drove the Carmel Valley Road on the way back to San Jose we did see a covey of California Quail.

Even though I enjoy my trips out to the West Coast I was anxious to get home and start to chase some grouse.