Thursday, November 13, 2014

Aberdeen SD 2014 Pheasant Hunt - Public Land - November 12th

Tina, Tasha, and a limit of Aberdeen SD Pheasants

When we first planned our return pheasant hunting trip to the Aberdeen SD area I was excited as we had had really good luck there in 2013.  Even 2 weeks before the hunt I was excited but with about a week to go the weather forecasts had started to change for the worse.  A snow storm and dropping temps hit chunks of the midwest the day before we were set to leave.

I left Tuesday morning from the St. Paul area and headed west.  I made an error by heading on 94 towards St. Cloud and then cutting across on hwy 23.  They had gotten more snow in St. Cloud and 23 was a bit sketchy in a few areas.  Hwy 12 had a fair amount of small snow drifts from Wilmar to the SD border.  Once I hit SD it wasn’t so bad.  It ended up taking me an extra 1.5 hrs and I didn’t make it in time to hunt at all.

As I was heading out to dinner I saw a couple come in from hunting and they were remarking on what an “adventure” it had been.  At breakfast the next day one guy was commenting on how they had bagged duck hunting because the weather wasn’t any good.  After breakfast I saw the couple from the night before and he said that he was heading home because he was tired of walking through knee high snow.  I was getting less excited by the hour.  My hunting buddy Tony arrived and we took off at about 11 to start our hunt.

We hit our first spot.  It is actually 2 areas, one that Tony calls the “Honey Hole” and another that we’ve called the Ravine.  I’ve never had much luck at the Honey Hole before but we found an area that we could park without getting stuck in a snow drift and started to hunt.  I started with Tina as it wasn’t as big of an area and I wanted to save Tasha for the Ravine and for a larger area that I’ve had good luck at.  Tony put both of his dogs down.

Tony’s dogs went on point about 10 yards from the truck by a clump of trees.  We weren’t thinking they were really on point... More likely a bathroom break or just waiting for us.  That all changed when 2 roosters and a hen flushed and we didn’t get off a shot.  We worked our way through the cattails for a bit but didn’t move anything.  Tina and I swung to the edge of the cattails while Tony and his dogs cut through the middle.  ( Tina is 12 and likes to hunt slowly to it is a really slow process if we go through the middle of the cattails )  About 5 min later I hear one of the beepers go on point for Tony’s dogs.  I see the rooster get up, heard the shot, watched it come down.  A nice retrieve and they were off.  

As we were heading towards the end of the area birds were flushing out so we swung wide through a cleared field hoping to have a few stay in the cover.  Tina and I made it to the end first and swung back along the other side of the cattails.  Tony was in the middle and the birds were still getting up.  Tina worked up the side and locked up along the edge.  I took a step in and the rooster flushed and I was able to drop it.  About 30 yards later Tony’s dogs were working and area and a rooster got up.  I shot missed, Tony took 2 shots and dropped it.  As the bird hit the ground another rooster got up.  I was waiting for Tony to shoot but he had not reloaded after his first bird so he was empty.

We kept working the same area and about 100 yards later both of Tony’s dogs locked up.  When he walked in the rooster came up and with one shot it was down.  It took them a little while but they found the bird.  He had filled out.  We made it through the thickest part but didn’t move anymore birds. After crossing a fence line Tina started working some thinner cover and I was skeptical that there would be a bird there.  She pointed and relocated twice and then I got the bird to flush.  I was able to bring it down.  As Tina went to retrieve it a hen flushed from right by where the rooster went down.

We were now at five birds and I still hadn’t hunted Tasha.  We decided to take the thinnest easiest cover back.  We have tried this “ let’s leave one bird left so I can hunt my other dog” deal before and it has bitten us in the butt.

At the truck I got Tasha out and we took off through the Ravine area.  We were going right with the wind so I wasn’t sure what to think of our chances.  About 10 minutes into the hunt Tasha went across a narrow area of the creek that runs through the field.  Coming back over she went through the ice and had a little bit of a challenge getting back up so she was fully drenched when she got back onto land.  She is a skinny thing so I was worried about her getting too cold but she seemed fine so we kept going.  She ended up rolling around in the snow and running through the grass and that must have dried her off.  

As we made our way through the field I could see hundreds of pheasants flying back and forth from a section of corn field that was sheltered from the wind and a bunch of trees.  It was fun to watch but they seemed really spooky and couldn’t tell if seeing so many would be good or bad.  When we got closer to the area where they had been feeding one rooster flew a loop around me.  He wasn’t close but he was close enough to clearly see him so I took a couple of shots and he laughed as he kept on flying.  As we hit the end of the area we swung back lower and into the wind.  We approached an area with the creek on one side and the steep side of the hill on the other.  Tasha was working the area hard and it was only about 10 yards wide where she went on point.  I only took one step towards her and a hen and then a rooster got up and I was able to bring it down.  It landed on a frozen part of the creek and Tasha made a nice retrieve. 

The hundreds of birds ended up being a none factor for two reasons. One, we had filled out and the second is that the area that most of them landed is basically an island in the middle of the creek which meanders around is too wide and still open water to cross but I would like to try it when it freezes over...

For a day that started out with a bit of a negative vibe it ended up working out really well.

20 degrees, 20 mph wind, and snow.  It was a good day to be pheasant hunting.

Tony, Beau Jack, and SD Pheasants

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lake Winnibigoshish, Deer River, and Pennington MN Ruffed Grouse Hunt October 21st and 22nd

Lake Winnibigoshish Ruffed Grouse

Tuesday October 21st 2014

After taking a recovery day off the dogs and I decided to try a different area than where we have been hunting lately.  We took off to the Lake Winnibigoshish area.  There were a couple of trails that we had hunted last year that I wanted to take a look at.

About 15 minutes into the hunt Tasha went on point at the intersection of two trails.  One step towards her and the grouse flushed straight up in the air and I was able to connect on the first shot.  Two hours later when we were about 10 minutes from returning to the truck she went on point along the side of the trail.  As I walked up the trail the grouse got up and flew straight down the trail and it still took both shots of the O/U to connect.

Just over 2 hours of walking and both birds were flushed within 15 minutes of where we parked.  Lots of good dog work but no birds to show for all of the time in the middle.  On the plus side when I reviewed the GPS tracking afterwards I did find that I had come within about 5 minutes of a different forest road that would have cut down on the time it took to walk back.

We drove down the Forest Road a few minutes to a trail that we had never hunted.  Tina got the call.  It ended up being 30 minute out and back walk.  She did get one nice point on a woodcock though.

I decided to head closer to the cabin for the late day hunt.  As we drove by the spot the dang pickup with a dog trailer was in our spot again...  I went to a nearby area and there was another truck there.  On the way to yet another area I saw that the pickup was at now at that spot so we went over to the spot that we had wanted to hunt.  Like most people I prefer to hunt an area that hasn’t just been hunted by another party but sometimes you take what you can get.

Tina got the call again as she had gotten short changed earlier.  I had switched over to my new Berreta a400 28ga semi-auto.  I had gotten a woodcock with it earlier and was hoping to take a grouse with it.  It didn’t work out that way.  Tina had 6 nice woodcock points of which I shot at 3 and missed all 3.

Wed  October 22nd Pennington Mn

Tasha got the call first and within 10 minutes she went on point at the edge of a small clearing.  I stepped in to the cover just to her right and the bird flushed just to her left.  I quick shot ( are there many slow ones when grouse hunting? ) and the bird was down.  It was another smaller bird.  I am seeing way more small ones than usual.  Another 10 minutes, another grouse but a miss this time.  10 more minutes and repeat the process with yet another miss.  We walked for another hour without moving another bird.

Tina got to hunt the next area.  This trail was cut in half by a forest road.  Tina went on point just 5 minutes in.  She was on point near a small rise as I moved in the bird flushed on the other side of the hill and I wasn’t able to get off a shot.  This pattern of not getting off a good shot repeated itself 4 more times before I pulled the plug on the hunt.

I’ve been changing guns almost every time I switch out the dogs because I am trying to make sure that each gun gets used.  I think I am going use one gun for the whole day to try to get a little more consistency.

We took Thursday to give myself and the dogs a rest.

Tasha and her Pennington, MN Ruffed Grouse

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deer River and Cass Lake MN Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock Hunt Oct 17-19 2014

Sunday's Harvest - Ruffed Grouse and Woodcock - Deer River MN

Friday Oct 17th 2014  Deer River MN.

My friend Mark and his 15 yr old son Martin drove up from SE Iowa to join us for a few days of grouse hunting.  We got to the woods at about 4.  I put both dogs on the ground since we’d only have about 2 hours to hunt.

About 20 minutes into the hunt Tasha went on point about 20 yards off the trail.  As I bobbed and weaved my way in the grouse ended up busting out another 15 yards ahead of her, I didn’t get off a shot.  200 hundred yards up the trail the same scenario repeated with Tina.

We came up to the edge of the field and Tasha locked up tight.  We sent Martin as the cover was pretty thick and we figured his young legs could handle it.  One step into the woods and the bird took off.  On the far edge of the field Tasha got another point and the result was pretty much the same.  One step in and 2 yards out a bird flushed and no shot was taken.

Tina got two nice points towards the end of the trail and I at least got my gun up both times but it was the old “it flushed behind the one pine tree in the area” trick.

We didn’t move any birds on the way back.  We moved a total of 6 birds in the first hour, took no shots and didn’t move anything on the way back.  It would have been nice if Martin had been able to at least take a shot but he did get to see some nice dog work and see that hunting isn’t always like they show it on TV.

Sat Oct 18th - Cass Lake MN.

The team was in full force as our friend Tony arrived with his two GSPs.

After a meal of homemade breakfast burritos we headed north of Cass Lake.  Tony was running both of his dogs and I stated with Tasha.  Within 15 minutes all three dogs started to work the same area and with a couple of flash points the grouse got up.  Three of us took a total of four shots and the bird was done.  We all could claim that we hit it so it was a win all around.  Tony was especially excited as his 2 yr old Beau Jack made a nice retrieve to hand.  Until this bird he would find the downed bird but then just stand over it and not retrieve it.  After another 15 minutes on the trail Tasha went on point about 10 yards off of the trail.  I was able to work my way in and the grouse gave me a straight away snap shot and I was able to connect.  At the time I thought I had barely hit the bird but when I was cleaning it I found that I hit it better than I thought.  Tasha made a nice retrieve to the trail and when she dropped it one of Tony’s dogs picked up and made a nice delivery to hand.

We split into 2 groups with Tony and Martin hunting together so that he could see how someone else hunts and Mark stayed with me.  About 15 minutes into this stretch I saw a grouse flush when Tasha over ran it.  She didn’t see it flush and continued to work the area.  She went on point about 10 yards farther up the trail.  I was hoping that there was another bird.  There wasn’t.  She moved another 20 yards to an small area of ferns and went on point again.  I figured it was still scent from the bird that got up but found out otherwise as I took a step into the cover a bird got up, shot miss, a second bird got up, shot miss, three more birds got up. I kept pulling the trigger on the over under but nothing.  I reloaded and walked in a step or two more and another bird got up, shot miss.  By this time Mark moved in and as I was telling him what happened another bird got up and we both missed.  7 birds and no hits.

We walked down 2 more branches of the trail towards a section of lower elevation.  We saw a grouse run across the trail so I guided Tasha towards the area.  She locked up solid and as I moved towards where the bird should be two other grouse flushed from the other side of the trail.  As I turned to try to get a shot off the original bird got up behind my now turned back.

On the way back to the car we had one more nice point but the bird got up just a little too far out.

After moving to another trail I put Tina out and she got 2 nice points but they were in areas that were so thick I couldn’t even get my gun up.

We moved 15 birds and put 2 in the bag.  We walked about 4 hours and our birds moved per hour was pretty decent but almost all of them came in two batched.

Tony had a couple of homemade soft tacos and drove back to the Twin Cities.  He had to get up at 4ish the next morning to run the Mankato Marathon.

Sunday Oct 19th 2014 Deer River

We only had a couple of hours to hunt in the morning before Mark and Martin had to head home so we went to my favorite spot as it is close by.  The was a pickup with a dog trailer ( never a good sign ) in the spot that we wanted to hunt so we went to the other side of the WMA.  The side that we went in on has habitat that is a bit older and I haven’t seen as many birds on that side the past 2 years.  We put Tasha down and after about 25 minutes she locked up on the side of a field and then relocated 10 yards farther up the clearing.  I took one step in and the bird gave me a nice straight away shot and I promptly missed the easiest shot that I’d seen all weekend.  We didn’t move anymore birds on our way back to the truck and we pulled the plug for the morning.  We had a quick lunch, headed back to the cabin, they loaded up and took off for home.

I went back out and by the time I got to the trail the pickup was gone and I decided to give the trail another try.  Tasha got the call and within 10 minutes she had a point and I was finally able to connect on the shot.  It was an over the head “duck tower” kind of shot so I was extra happy to have connected.  20 minutes later I was able to repeat the process.  At the end of the trail she gave me a nice point but I was not as lucky this time.  On the way back to the truck I was able to harvest 2 woodcock over points.  It was Tasha’s best outing to date.  She hunted hard but in control and was really confident on her points.

Tasha got the call for the last bit of the hunt.  We hit the edge of the field again and she got me a nice point and I was able to take my first woodcock with my 28ga.  On the way back to the truck we had a wild grouse flush but I was not able to connect.

It was a good 3 days stretch.  Not a lot of birds the first 2 1/2 days but it was great to get out and hunt with friends.

Mark, Martin, and the team harvest

Tina, Tasha, and I with our solo Cass Lake MN Grouse

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Oct 2-3 2014 Ruffed Grouse Hunt Deer River MN

Thursday October 2nd 2014

Deer River MN Ruffed Grouse & Woodcock Oct 2 2014

I’ve rented a cabin near Grand Rapids, MN for the month of October with the goal of chasing ruffed grouse for as many days as possible.  I am planning on hunting Every Thur - Sunday and an additional week right after mid-month.  I’ll be driving back to the Twin Cities each Sunday evening and then heading north on either Wed evening or early Thursday morning depending upon the weather.

I got back home from a work trip at about 12:30 am Thursday and hit the snooze a few times in the morning.  By the time I wrapped up a few things it was about 10:30 before we hit the road.  After checking into the cabin and unloading a few items we hit the woods at about 4.  There wasn’t much wind at all and fortunately the rain had stopped as we were ready to hit the woods.

Tina got the call first.  At 12 1/2 years old she has plenty of experience but is starting to show the miles.  20 minutes after starting she went on point.  Unfortunately I walked past the bird and when it got up I didn’t even get a shot off.  We were almost to the turnaround when she locked up again.  This time it was a straight away shot and I was able to connect.  On the way back we hit an area that is a bit lower than the rest and got 2 woodcock points and I was able to take one.

After a quick snack I let Tasha have her chance.  A short way into the trail she took off running hard and bumped a grouse.  I had a left to right passing shot but did not connect.  I was a bit worried as the blasting through birds was something she did all too frequently on grouse last year.  We hit a number of side trails but didn’t move any more birds until we got closer to the start of the trail.  She had 2 nice points on woodcock that I again was not able to finish off for her.  It was nice to see her hold her points on the woodcock as she had not pointed any last year.  On the last stretch before we got back to the truck she locked up hard along the edge of a field.  I started to walk up the side and a grouse broke too far out for me to get a good shot.

In 3 hours of hunting we moved 4 grouse and 4 woodcock taking 1 of each.

Friday October 3rd

We woke to 35 degrees and rain drizzles.  I decided to not hunt so in the morning we went into Grand Rapids and got some groceries and lunch.  After lunch we drove to an area south of Deer River to look for some areas that we had not hunted before.  We did find a few places that did look promising but there were also a fair number of trucks parked along the trails.  Clearly there are a number of hunters who are more hard core than I.

Tasha and Tina Ready For The Start Of Grouse Immersion 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SOLD - FOR SALE - SportDOG Upland Hunter SD-1875 Controller + 2 Beeper Trainer Collars

Lightly Used

I used this system as a backup on my trip to South Dakota last fall.  I now longer need it.
Has probably only been in the field 2 or 3 hours.

Optimized for upland hunting, this model features a situation-programmable transmitter that controls the collar receiver and removable audible beeper. Collar receiver offers seven levels of continuous and momentary stimulation, and vibration and tone options. The removable beeper is audible at 500 yards and has nine selectable tones, three run modes and an instant locate feature. Extended one-mile range. Uplandblaze® orange finish. DryTek waterproof design. Control up to three dogs with the optional Add-A-Dog extra collar.

  • Remote transmitter with antenna (4.6 oz.)
  • 2 Collar receiver with grey collar strap (4.6 oz.)
  • 2 Remote beeper (2.6 oz.)
  • 2 Charging cradle
  • Manual

  • 1 mile range
  • DRYTEK™ waterproof and submersible to 25 feet
  • Expandable to 3 dogs with additional collars
  • 7 continuous and 7 momentary stimulation levels
  • Vibration and tone options
  • Rechargeable batteries with 2 hour charge
  • The UplandBlaze® orange transmitter finish helps you find your transmitter if it’s dropped.

Monday, September 15, 2014

MN 2014 Walk-In Access Maps Now Available

Walk-In Access (WIA) Program

...providing public hunting opportunities on private lands thanks to volunteer landowners.
  • Hunters must purchase a WIA Validation to legally hunt WIA Sites this fall. Purchase Online or by phone: 1-888-665-4236 (ELS CODE 190)
    It is a nominal $3, a portion of which covers the license transaction with the remainder to be used for a hunter evaluation next year. The validation will also give DNR and policymakers a way to track the number of hunters whom hunt Walk-In Access sites. Landowners cannot give others permission to hunt without a validation.
  • 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.
  • Clay County WIA #55 is within the Clay County Game Refuge and is closed to waterfowl hunting during the regular season. Open to all other hunting.
  • Walk-In Access sites (WIA) are only open to hunting where WIA boundaries are posted with WIA signs. Landowners may opt out of the program, and will be reflected in the Online Atlas and the WIA County Interactive Map.
  • Only walk-in hunting traffic is allowed on enrolled acres. "No target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding or fires are allowed by the public. The landowner retains the right to engage in, or give permission to engage in hiking/dog walking on a leash, trapping, camping, horseback riding, or campfires, and other limited activities that do not impede public 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.

Find a WIA Interactive Map

See WIAs for Clay County See WIAs for Becker County See WIAs for Otter Tail County See WIAs for Wilkin County See WIAs for Grant County See WIAs for Douglas 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 Meeker County See WIAs for Lac Qui Parle County See WIAs for Chippewa County See WIAs for McLeod 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 Blue Earth County See WIAs for Pipestone County See WIAs for Murray County See WIAs for Cottonwood County See WIAs for Watonwan 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

ALL WIA sites will OPEN to Public Hunting Sept 1, 2014.

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.

Check the MN DNR website for updates

Saturday, September 13, 2014

2014 MN Ruffed Grouse Opener - Ely MN

Tasha Tina and their 2014 Ely Grouse

We started the 2014 MN Ruffed Grouse season in Ely again.  Our luck hasn’t been too good the last few years in this area so I was anxious to see how this year would pan out.

We hit our first spot at about 9:30.  45 degrees, sunny, and slight breeze.  I started Tasha the two year old setter.  The trail spits into a Y, the dogs and I usually go to the left but this year we went to the right.  The trail drops down to a creek that has been low or even dry recently.  This year it was the highest that I’ve seen it in a while.  Tasha plowed right through the deepest part and I carefully picked my way across.  We made it to the end of the trail without any bird activity.  

About 1/3 of the way back Tasha’s bell went silent.  I tired to make my way back to her but the thick cover slowed me too much and the bird broke before I could get into a position to make a shot.  Tasha continued to work the cover well be we didn’t make contact with any other birds.

Trail number two was Tina’s turn.  Tina is 12 1/2 now and has me spoiled as a hunter.  I can go on autopilot.  I can just walk and listen for her bell to stop.  About 15 minutes into her hunt I saw her locked up on the side of the trail.  I moved into position and took one step into the woods and the bird broke, I was able to snap off a shot in the general direction of the flush.  Tina went into the woods and picked up the bird.  We worked to the end of trail and turned around.  Tina continued to work the cover but we didn’t move any more birds.  The trip back ended up being just a little too far and Tina started to limp about 15 minutes from the truck.  I’m hoping that she is able to do a short hunt on Sunday.

Tasha got the call for spot number three.  This is a shorter trail but we usually see a bird here.  We don’t normally get one but we normally see one.  Never more but one.  This year Tasha was able to pin one and I was fortunate enough to get a shot off and Tasha was on the bird.  Once I got to her I could tell why it had been an easier shot, it was the smallest grouse that I have ever harvested.  I’ve taken a young of year but this one was half the size of most birds that I’ve taken.

We hit two more areas but didn’t have any luck but it was nice to be out in the woods again.

Overall we had much better luck than we have had in the past couple of seasons.

I put my hat in the picture to show the relative size of the tiny grouse.

Both birds cleaned.  You can see the difference even more clearly.