Being wrong about pheasant opener would've been nice

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 14, 2013 - 12:54 AM

Enthusiasm exceeded expectations, but the opening-day pheasant hunting did not.

hide

With chilly winds gusting more than 25 miles per hour and clouds hanging low and dark, pheasant hunters stepped into tall grass Saturday morning in search of roosters, in this case in Yellow Medicine County in southwestern Minnesota.

Photo: Photos by DENNIS ANDERSON • danderson@startribune.com,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Odd how things turn out sometimes, no less so for pheasant hunters who a few months back observed with dread the snow, rain and cold that persisted into early June.

It’s then that most of the state’s hen pheasants hatch their young, and the concern was that nests would be washed out by the unseasonable elements or that chicks that did hatch would die soon thereafter.

At least that’s what our party of six worried about Saturday, the pheasant season’s first day, and we worried also that the vast amounts of corn still standing in state fields — also an outcome of the late spring — would hide birds from our efforts.

Hunting with me were Will Smith of Willmar; his sons Matthew, 19, and Harrison, 17; Denny Lien of Lake Elmo; my son Cole, 18, and me.

Aiding us were the Smiths’ golden retriever, Rufus, and my two Labs, Allie and Mick.

“With this much corn still standing in the fields, hunting’s going to be tough,” Denny said as we drove Friday from the Twin Cities to Granite Falls, where we headquartered.

Figuring the southwest part of the state might give us a fighting chance to bag a bird or two, we had shifted from our traditional opening-day base of operations in Willmar to Granite Falls.

On a Big Deal scale of 1 to 10, this registered about an 8, because in the Willmar, Benson, Morris region (we will cover a lot of miles on the opener, as needed), we know nearly every small-town café still open for business. It’s in these establishments that we meet our kith and kin, as Robert Service said, the down-home types who favor bib overalls over other clothing options, except on Sundays, when Sansabelt pants might get the nod.

So, anyway, 9 a.m. Saturday arrived, and our expectations were low. Nonetheless, we stepped off energetically onto a state wildlife management area that we’ve hunted previously on the opener, and done well. So highly regarded was this choice by our bunch that we arrived a full two hours ahead of the opening bell to ensure dibs on the property.

Did I mention the howling winds? Only brisk earlier in the morning, the breeze had morphed to something much stronger than that by legal shooting time, and beneath heavy gray skies, hanging low, we marched into the teeth of the winds.

There was room for optimism. A detailed look at the state roadside counts issued by the Department of Natural Resources this fall show that, while ringnecks were down statewide by 29 percent, rooster numbers were actually up. It was hens that were significantly down from a year ago, and largely responsible for the reported 29 percent decline.

But hens likely had not died by that percentage. Instead, because of the late spring and resulting late hatch, they likely were reclusive during the August counts, and thus underrepresented in the survey.

“Some of the very young roosters might be hard to identify when they flush,” Will said.

A fair warning. But we, each of us, wanted a chance to do just that, make the distinction, and wanted also if possible a crack at an adult rooster, its wings thundering in an attempted escape.

But alas, our first hike, lasting perhaps 90 minutes, yielded not a single flush, prompting us a short while later to seek a report from four hunters who had scoured a wildlife management area not far away.

“Nothing,” said Dave Doerr of Afton, who hunted with his son, Joel, of Savage, and Sid Pederson of Roseville and Jerry Wohnoutka of Richfield. Also in their group were Heidi, a German shorthaired pointer, and Coco, a chocolate Labrador.

The late morning advanced, and our outing took an unexpected turn when at the invitation of a woman we met serendipitously in Granite Falls we hiked a grove on her farm that she exalted as a pheasant haven.

But the grove held no birds, and by then, in early afternoon, the strong winds carried rain, at times a lot of it, and we felt the day slipping away.

  • related content

  • Walleye production on Mille Lacs is encouraging

    Saturday October 12, 2013

    Department of Natural Resources regional treaty coordinator Tom Jones of Aitkin, Minn., discussed the recent Lake Mille Lacs walleye population

  • Latest Minnesota license plate puts pheasants at the forefront

    Saturday October 12, 2013

    Critical Habitat Program’s latest push involves a popular bird and a successful artist.

  • Labradors Allie, foreground, and Mick scoured a wildlife management area in southwestern Minnesota on Saturday in search of pheasants.

  • Sheltering themselves behind a truck from a blustery wind, pheasant hunters took a cookie break between fields they walked Saturday morning.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 90 4th Qtr 1:35
Detroit 95
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 69 4th Qtr 12:00
Memphis 62
Brooklyn 77 4th Qtr 10:25
Houston 76
Miami 82 4th Qtr 11:03
New Orleans 76
Minnesota 71 4th Qtr 10:25
Chicago 75
Utah 42 2nd Qtr 4:49
Denver 28
San Antonio 9:00 PM
Sacramento
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
Portland
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 3rd Prd 6:34
Tampa Bay 3
Colorado 1 2nd Prd 5:32
Dallas 2
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 53 2nd Half 1:44
Akron 65
Dartmouth 71 2nd Half 3:53
Columbia 57
Valparaiso 9:00 PM
Cleveland State
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 64 2nd Half 2:41
Bradley 60
Drake 50 2nd Half 4:19
Wichita State 71
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 49 2nd Half 1:54
Loyola-Chicago 63
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 32 2nd Half 12:18
(10) Arizona State 20
Providence 39 2nd Half 10:49
Villanova 48
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close