He left Pine River for the University of Minnesota in 1965, got a degree in English and was admitted to law school, but the Vietnam War forced a detour. “I joined the Army in ’69 and they decided I’d make a good medic,” he said. He survived, with hearing loss, returned home and got his law degree, then headed back to quiet little Pine River north of Brainerd to practice law with his father.
And got hooked on hunting ruffed grouse.
“I got a bird dog and a lightweight shotgun, and life was good,” Lundrigan said. “I had the benefit of good bird dogs that taught me. It was one of those things I started to do, and did well. Everybody has one thing they can do really well.”
Lundrigan hunts other game birds, including ducks, pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse. But tramping the dank woods near his home for ruffed grouse is his passion.
“I’m at home in the woods with grouse,” he said. “I’m not sure why. The smell of it. The look of it. The challenge it presents. Grouse are unpredictable — you never know what they will do. It’s a chess game between dog and bird, and I have to execute my part of the plan; four of five times I fail.”
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Lundrigan doesn’t travel far.
“I hunt right around here,” he said. “Cass, Beltrami and Crow Wing counties, I think, are the best places in the world to hunt grouse. The counties all manage their aspen. That’s why we have good hunting.”
He hunts often, and this year isn’t concerned Minnesota’s grouse population is down, plunging to the bottom of its boom-to-bust cycle.
“Oh, hell no. I recommend everyone stay home,” he joked. He has friends, and 30-year-old Max, to hunt with, if he chooses.
“I hunt alone almost all of the time,” he said. “I like the freedom of hunting alone. It’s a solitary bird, it’s a solitary pursuit.”
But he’s never without a dog.
“I couldn’t hunt without a dog; it’s as important as a good pair of boots,” he said.
Butch, his German shorthair, has been Lundrigan’s hunting partner for 14 years.
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Lundrigan has written three hunting books: “Hunting the Sun” (1997), “Grouse and Lesser Gods” (2002) and “A Bird in the Hand” (2006), all published by Countrysport Press. “I’ve never made any money at writing. I write because I have something to say. For me, words are tools.”
Meanwhile, by lunch Saturday the pair had flushed six birds, bagging one. They flushed two more later but got no shots — and then rain washed out their hunt.
“I anticipated a few more flushes,” Lundrigan said later. “But that’s hunting. It will get better, without a doubt.”