Bill Klein

Bill Klein is a lifelong lover of the outdoors. He's passionate about mentoring children in a wide array of outdoor activities and teaching respect for the land and landowners. He lives on a small farm in northern Washington County and has never met a dog he didn’t like.

Posts about Fishing

The Ghost Goose

Posted by: Bill Klein Updated: October 30, 2009 - 9:52 AM
 

If you take nothing more from today’s post, know these three lessons: It’s never good when fully-grown adults are eating with their fingers.  Especially mashed potatoes and gravy.  Evaporation is a cooling process.  And, folks who have maids at home make poor duck camp partners.  Your life as a chef will go much smoother with these tidbits of knowledge.

 

Smoked goose sounded so yummy and appropriate since my hunting partners and I had just de-blinded from a day on a waterfowl slough.  We were ravenous.  A chill November rain had dampened our spirits.  Oh, another take-away: “Water resistant” in the sportsman’s catalog doesn’t necessarily translate into “waterproof” in the field.  We were all soaked to the bone.

 

Not to worry.  Hot, smoked Canada goose coming right up.  What could be more manly?  More hunter/gatherer?  More haute than smoked-goose cuisine in a duck camp setting?

 

When my gourmet meals fail to rise to the normal standard of excellence I have set for myself I can always trace the root cause to the tools.  It is never, ever the carpenter.  The culprit in this case was a charcoal-fired smoker, about the size of a three-year old child and just as unpredictable.  Would it smoke?  Oh, yes.  Like a Turkish elder.  Would it produce cooking-level heat in a steady rain?  Suffice it to say this was not an appliance you would want to huddle around on a cold winter’s night.

 

While my partners were warding off the chill with assorted beverages and clinking their silverware in anticipation of the meal, I was racing between the smoker and the three-burner stove on the old school bus we call home in duck camp.  I was cooking potatoes to be mashed and attempting to finesse the gravy which looked quite a bit like the mattresses on the bus – lumpy.  I was ruing the fact that my goose was not dripping the stuff I needed for my gravy rue.  Plus the drips on the school bus were becoming more demanding about my meal’s timing.

 

Every time I took the lid off the smoker to check on the goose the room-temp air inside escaped.  A steady November rain was evaporating as it hit the smoker, chilling any chance of a hot meal.  After two-hours the gander still had the pall of a goose ghost.

 

 I finally had to admit there wasn’t a ghost of a chance for putting a hot meal on the table.  So I went back to the bus to serve mashed potatoes, cheese and crackers, apples and candy bars.  And there they were, my hapless hunting partners, sound asleep with gravy smeared all over their fingers and faces.  The least they could have done is use the forks and put themselves to bed on the lumpy mattresses.

 

 

From No. Dak. to No Duck

Posted by: Bill Klein Updated: October 25, 2009 - 10:51 AM
 

Having hunted ducks in North Dakota and Minnesota on successive weekends, the disparity is really quite stunning.  In North Dakota, a week ago, there were ducks on every wetland from Valley City to Bismarck and points north and south of the interstate.  And when you got up on the coteau that runs from west of Minot southeast to Ashley there were even more ducks.

 

In Minnesota this past weekend I drove from my home north of Stillwater to west of Alexandria and failed to see a single duck.  And a morning-long hunt on a 60-acre slough reinforced the dramatic difference between the two states.  I saw exactly one duck all morning – a high-flying mallard hen which wouldn’t have been considered fair game anyway.

 

And this is supposed to be prime time for a Minnesota duck hunter.  The late October grand migration; skeins of waterfowl across the sky; ducks that actually turn to calls and decoy; all those yesteryear pipe dreams.

 

If you are one of the waning number of Minnesota duck hunters who cares enough to buy a license the empty skies are screaming for your help.  Find Ducks Unlimited, The Minnesota Waterfowl Association, Delta Waterfowl or any of the newer groups funded by the increased sales tax on the Internet and offer to invest some of your passion for the sport for the sake of your kids and grandkids.

North Dakota Duck Hunting

Posted by: Bill Klein Updated: October 18, 2009 - 9:06 AM
 

For Minnesota duck hunters North Dakota is akin to Mecca.  A place that must be visited just to keep the faith alive.  And having just returned from a three-day hunt there I can attest to the relative health of the North American waterfowl population.

 

Ducks still swirl into harvested wheat fields like the vortex of a tornado.  Rope-necked pintails still dive into decoy spreads on cupped wings.  And bull redhead drakes still skim across the waves stunning you with their beauty.

 

Winter-like conditions made for laborious duck hunting.  Most small sloughs were capped with ice.  The few that still had open water were crowded with ducks.  Higher than expected water levels tested even the best chest waders.  Driving down section roads, with the snow, was out of the question.

 

My son Jon and I spent the first afternoon scouting for the right place.  One with solid ground near the edge of open water to plunk down our buckets and young Labrador in relative comfort.  I’m too old to stand in waste-deep thirty-five degree water for hours.  And I certainly wouldn’t ask my Lab, Doc, to do that.

 

Due to the drought of the last two years in north central North Dakota, the sloughs are grown up in food and cattails.  Wading to set decoys is like walking down a flooded sidewalk.  No boot-sucking mud.

 

We had no problem shooting limits of ducks amid an ever-present chorus of sand-hill-crane calling.  Canada geese were everywhere.  And we even saw a few flocks of snows and blues.  The only thing conspicuous by their absence were hunters.  We heard very few distant shots during our three days afield.

 

If you can afford the time and money I heartily recommend a North Dakota duck hunt. Your faith will be renewed.

More Lessons Learned In A Long Hunting Career

Posted by: Bill Klein Updated: October 6, 2009 - 6:08 PM
 

 Like wing shooters, dogs have good days and bad days.

 

I consider myself a slightly better-than-average wing shot.  But I’ll guarantee you there are days I couldn’t hit my own fanny with a handful of sand.

 

Why then should I expect my dogs to be able to bring their A-game to every outing?

I learned this lesson on my own small acreage in Washington County.  I had raised some bobwhite quail for use in dog training.  I invited friend and neighbor Jerry Kolter to bring a couple of his dogs over to train with me.  Today, Jerry owns Northwoods Bird Dogs and has a long track record of breeding and training champions.

 

We placed several quail in spring traps and armed ourselves with starter pistols.  Jerry released one of his better dogs and told him to “find birds.”  His setter raced right past a couple of the caged quail and ran out of sight.  Jerry called him back in and tried again.  Same result.  He then called his dog to heel, lifted him gently into his travel kennel and released another dog.

 

“What’s up?” I asked. 

 

“This just isn’t Chief’s day,” said Jerry.  Wow, I thought, remembering the days I had bellowed at my own dog for acting the same way Chief did that day.  Lesson learned.

 

 

Relationships with hunting partners are more important than any single duck, pheasant, deer and, maybe even gobbler.

 

The only competition in hunting is between us and the game we pursue.  It is not a contest between hunting companions.  When a hunting partner had a good day and we got skunked, it’s human nature to sniff conspiracy.  He took the better blind.  She walked the edges instead of through the heavy cover.  My dog pointed his bird. 

 

Don’t let a minor dispute injure a major friendship.  Hunting is recreation.  It can re-create you into a mellower person if you let it. 

 

Check your freezer before you set your daily limit.

 

Consider the DNR-set limits on all game to be the outside limit.  If you’ve got a freezer full of early-season geese, do you really need another two or four?  Most of our pursued prey are under enough stress already without us being meat hunters.

 

If you need to take a limit to validate your personal worth you’ve got a bigger problem than you can fix by reading my blog.

 

 

After Fifty Years Afield This Much I Know

Posted by: Bill Klein Updated: September 29, 2009 - 9:29 AM
  This is the first of several blogs on lessons I've learned during a long hunting career.

 

There are shooters and there are hunters.  And the two don’t mix well afield.

 

Hunters are characterized by their interest in habitat, signs of prey, weather, well-trained dogs, stealth, etc.  Shooters are interested in gun and loads.  Period.

 

The epitome of the hunter is a man I met in Winona.  When Bud Safronek wasn’t cutting meat at the Red Owl supermarket he was testing his ability to fool turkey gobblers during spring mating season.  In the days when winning a turkey license in the lottery was rare, he’d “hunt” anyway, without a gun.  He’d scout the wooded hills in southeastern Minnesota for sign, rise in the dark of night, set out a hen decoy and call using his home-made, turkey-wing-bone call.  The thrill for Bud was luring a tom as close as he could.  He would then measure the distance between himself and the gobbler when it spooked.  And document that distance in a notebook.

 

Shooter is personified by a guy I overheard talking with the Federal Ammunition field rep at a Gander Mountain store recently.  He wanted to know, in all seriousness, when Federal was going to introduce four inch shotgun loads.

 

A kid’s first duck/pheasant/grouse/deer is far more important than your 201st.

 

The mindset required on those first hunts is that of coach.  The youngster is not your hunting partner.  You are the guide.  He or she is your client.  And you want them to learn all that you know about the sport before they start hunting without you…which will come sooner than you like.