North Dakota Roosters

This past weekend I joined my son Tyler in North Dakota to participate in the Pheasant Opener and based on the preliminary estimates we should have lowered our expectations but….

A nice flock of ND roosters.

The trip started out on Friday morning at o’dark thirty or more specifically 3:00 AM; yes I said 3:00 AM, now that’s before breakfast…I was planning on driving out to Bowman ND to look at some land I had permission to hunt prior to, stopping in Dickinson ND to meet my son Tyler at work.

As I arrived south of Bowman to look at the land, I was greeted with about 3 inches of rain that had fallen and still coming down; so the the scouting I was intending on doing just didn’t happen.  I will literally take a “rain check” and hunt this another time…

I arrived in Dickinson about 1:30 mountain time and visited w/ Tyler prior to driving to Tyler’s house to attempt to nap but was unsuccessful while the rain continued to come down.  Tyler called me and apparently we were going out for supper; steaks on the grill sounded better and cheaper but and I was going to meet Tyler’s girlfriend Keanna, so all was good!  We went out for mexican and had a good supper.  Tyler appears very happy and content with Keanna; nice to see.  Both Tyler and Keanna like to ride horse, spend time outdoors and go hunting so I hope this continues.

As was expected, I was in bed by 9:00 and excited for the opener; a mere 10 hours away…

Saturday morning Tyler were up at 6:00 AM.  If you not familiar with ND, the pheasant shooting hours are 1/2 hour before sunrise which is a stark contrast b/t MN and SD.  We got up made some coffee and talked about our plan which was really simple; drive 2 miles down the road and start hunting!!  Over the past 1 1/2 Tyler has been helping a local rancher with chores and also keeps a couple horses at his place so we had permission to hunt about 5 sections of land.  Keep in mind many of the acres were crop land but the ravines and cuts provided some nice cover and we also had some treelines, conventional CRP and farmplace groves to hunt, so we were set.  Having a nonresident license I was not able to hunt an PLOTS (private land open to sportsman) land or State or Federal land since they were closed until October 19th.  I guess it helps the locals out for a week; not sure I agree but it’s the law…?

The first area we hunted on Saturday.


We were greeted with a 15 MPH NW breeze and bright sunrise on Saturday so the plan was simple.  Work into the wind and keep doing that until we had or 6 birds.  As we scanned the hillsides for any feeding birds in the dimlight prior to sunrise we decided to work the north side of a ravine.  After giving Duke some water and a few bites of dogfood, Duke was ready and eager since it was the opener for him too..!  As we approached our first prairie thicket on the sidehill Duke did his customary 180 degree turn, head cocked, ears perked and stood still for a brief second or two as a warning to Tyler our first rooster exploded from the cover…The rooster flew from right to left across Tyler’s site and with one shot from the Benelli loaded with 1 3/4 Kent Fastlead we had our first bird…

As we progressed on our 1/2 mile drive Duke flushed a few hens here and there but at another prairie thicket just above the cattle watering hole; Duke was birdie again.  As he worked around the thicket I chose so stay on the high side rather than go in the draw behind the thicket to have a better sight picture but two roosters flushed and stayed low.  I rattled off three shots at the rooster on the right but was unable to catch up.  Would do that different the next time.

As we turned and headed back the ravine the other way Duke was really birdie and as we followed him into the thick CRP a rooster busted out in front of Tyler and Duke was on the retrieve.  As we reorganized and came back to our drive it wasn’t long and Duke came was quartering b/t Tyler and I and suddenly he stopped, looked to his left above the first watering hole and a big rootie flew straight north and down the hill.  First shot rocked him and the second he tumbled.  Duke flew off the hill into the pond and swam across to the bird on the otherside; impressive retrieve…At the truck we had three roosters and ready for more.  We decided to go get Tyler’s truck and park one truck at the end of each of our drives to save time and evergy; at least for me not my 21 year old son!!

Tyler with a pair of roosters…

When we came back with Tyler’s truck we drove along some treelines to our next stop and a rooster got up and flew into the prairie thicket I had my first encounter this morning…we’ve been here before?  Tyler went across the ravine and posted while Duke and drove down the fence and started walking towards Tyler.  Should of had a video camera on this one.  Picture perfect!  Duke worked straight to the place the bird landed worked left to right to the CRP and out came the rooster.  One shot from the Benelli and we had our 4th bird by 8:00 AM.

After walking for a couple hours we had some lunch and drove to the farmsites we had permission to hunt.  The first one we worked Tyler was on the outside of a L shaped grove and I was on the inside.  About halfway through Tyler said Duke was birdie so I ran down to the end of the grove and shortly after a rooster flushed from the timber.  As the Benelli barked a couple shots the bird dropped and Duke was there again.  Next stop was Grandma Rose’s grove we needed one bird to fill our limit and worked it west northwest and flushed a bunch of birds out the end; little too big for two guys but one actually flushed in front of me but flew towards the buildings so I could not shoot.  Shortly after, two shots rang out and Tyler was able to shoot from his angle and bird tumbled through the trees.  After about a 5 minute search, Duke had the bird pinned under a dead fall so 11:15 PM and 6 birds down.  Time for lunch and a beverage of choice.

Tyler and our limit of ND roosters on Saturday.


Saturday night we grilled venison brats on the deck and reminisced about the days hunt and Sunday we would do it all over again…

Sunday morning the temperature was a crisp 25 degrees so the wind was calm and you could here a pin drop outside so it was imperative to be quiet on our hunt.  On our way to our first spot we seen many birds feeding out in the fields so we had a good vibe going on Sunday morning.

As we turned into Grandma Rose’s driveway, pheasants were running all over.  We waited for them to settle into the grove and we started our drive.  At the end of the drive I had shot one rooster and most busted out early; imagine that after two days of being hunted.  After stopping back at the farm, we were asked to help herd some cows into a new pasture so that was different.. Afterwards we hunted another vacant grove and shot two birds and a porcupine!!

Sunday afternoon roosters and a porcupine…


On Sunday after all was done, we had our limit by 4:30; now it was time to meet Tyler’s girlfriend’s parents.  After cleaning up and organizing our gear we went into Dickinson and had a real nice conversation.  Can’t wait to have my wife Lisa meet them on the next trip…We ended the night with a big ribeye steak!!

Monday morning we were greeted with steady rain.  We hunted for a little while and then decided to get my things together and head home.  Very enjoyable hunt.  It has been a long time since Tyler and I had actually hunted alone together and can’t wait for the next time I come out in a month or so.

Having the opportunity to enjoy this great sport of hunting with family is extra special.  Since Tyler was 4 years old he has accompanied me on many trips and I can’t wait to hunt with his children someday.   Remember to practice safety all the time and introduce someone new to the great sport of hunting whenever the opportunity exists.


40 Years of Duck Hunting

As I was preparing for the annual duck opener this past weekend it was very surprising that I would be participating in my 40th duck opener.  Many things have changed since that fall day in 1973 in a duck blind north of Cyrus, MN.  My Mother’s family farm was north of Cyrus along the Chippewa river and we also had some nice cattail sloughs that were always good duck hunting!!

Before I was old enough to carry a gun I remember picking up the spent shells from Dad’s gun and smelling the gunpowder and drinking hot chocolate to stay warm in the cold duck blind.  In those days we primarily did pass shooting along an area between two sloughs and jumped other potholes and hunted along the river.

Last Saturday morning,  I was joined by my brother Ron, nephews Mik, Jeremy, Jonathan and Freddie and soon to be, son in law Neal for a hunt on Lake Elizabeth.  As we all met and traveled down the field road to our blinds, it was sureal to think it has been 40 years.

Ron and I had  taken all the boys along on hunts since they could legally shoot some 20+ years ago, so it’s imperative to remember the Ole times and keep enjoying this sport as long as your body will allow.  I do need to send a shout out to my Son Tyler who if you remember is in North Dakota working so he’s not with on this hunt…See you in a few weeks on our pheasant hunt; Love You!!

We arrived at the blinds about 6 AM and everyone grabbed a bag of decoys and afterwards we enjoyed a cup of coffee and listened to some birds flying over, relishing in the cool and foggy September morning.  As we all talked about many topics, a few shots rang out across the lake; a little early on my watch!  Afterwards, we all accended into our blinds and prepared for the “official” time….

The blinds.

A few minutes later a pair of woodies banked into our spread and as the shots rang out; Duke, Emma and Isabelle were on the move to retrieve…Emma the youngest of the dogs, on her first hunt was very impressive, hats off to her!!

Not long after the woodies were layed in the blind another group “came out of nowhere” and banked, tipped and feet down….a rather loud thunder of gunfire erupted and the dogs were on the move again.  This routine played itself many times through out the early morning light.  Obviously we did not hit on every shot but to be honest we shot very good and we were patient to let the ducks work into range before shooting which is hard to do on the opener because of the excitement.

The Young Guns; Jeremy, Freddie, Jonathan, Neal and Mik.

As shots echoed from all sides of the lake, the ducks were very active.  The fog was very helpful because it cut down the glare and helped conceal us in our blinds.  The ducks continued to come from all directions and the dogs were very busy and as the sun rose over the trees we had limited out on Woodducks (21)  by 8 AM!  Having only shot one Mallard and not seen any other species of ducks, we enjoyed some comraderie and decided to pickup the deeks; back to the trucks by 9 AM.

The Old Farts; Tim and Ron

The hunt was safe and memorable!

As you enjoy this great sport of hunting remember the little things that draw duck hunters to their hallowed spots.. The gathering of friends, the smell of gunpowder, the squeal of a woodduck, the sound of whistling wings, the distinct honk of a goose, the smell of fresh coffee in the blind, the often repeated huting stories and the unique sounds of nature.  Don’t forget to introduce someone new to the outdoors!

Waterfowl Season to Remember?

With the upcoming Minnesota waterfowl season set to start September 21st and a extra-early Canada Goose season slated for August 10th through August 25th; yes I said August 10th, all waterfowl enthusiats should be happy.   Make sure to check the area open during the August hunt since it encompasses a small portion of West Central Minnesota.

I’m sure your wondering, wow, has this ever happened before?   Honestly,  this will be the earliest opening day of waterfowl season in nearly 70 years.

The extra-early goose season will be the earliest anyone has ever been able to hunt waterfowl since regulated seasons were adopted in over 100 years.

Considering all the changes, it’s time to start preparing for the  hunting season.  Like I was looking for an excuse to start…Start locating the deocys, calls, blinds, etc.  Make that extra trip to buy shells and maybe purchase some new camouflage since we never seem to have enough camo.

With all these new times and dates, it’s interesting to ponder if this is good or bad; you pick since the response will be across the board.  One thing is for sure; hunters will have many opportunities to enjoy waterfowl hunting this fall which starts in August!  Be patient and do your scouting because there are plenty of geese in the area but if you don’t plan, you plan to fail!

The ealy start will bring many new concerns that hunters need to be aware of.  First thing for me is dog safety.  With the anticipated warm days during the August goose season, monitor your dog cloesly for heat exhaustion.  In addition, take precautions for yourselves, too.  Mosquitos will be prevalent so bring some insect spray.  As our dry season is now upon us, remember many small shallow ponds may be dried up so look for crossing areas between large water and food sources and you may be successful with no decoys or calling necessary.

The amount of fields available to hunt will be limited so start scouting early to insure a good field to set up on the first day.  I was just out last Saturday talking with some landowners and I looked out their family room window and counted 38 Canadian geese roaming their lawn next to the lake.  I was asked when I was coming hunting…At the time I had not heard officially on the date but now I do…….August 10th!!

Wheat fields and pea fields should be the ticket.  I’m sure there will be some sweet corn fields but the majority of them will be harvested later in August and into September.  Hunting over water is accepted so this may be a popular option but remember if you shoot geese on their “roost” they will leave and find a new home.  As more geese are disrupted that helps but they have ways of finding the secluded ponds and disappear so be aware of the risk of shooting over small bodies of water.

Remember to always think safety and introduce a young child to the outdoors.


Fishing Opener facts and observations

With the stubborn winter and late spring or whatever metaphor you want to use to describe the days since March 20th, all available anglers are eager to wet a line.  It appears with the recent warm weather and strong winds the ice will be gone by May 11th.

One thing for sure, the walleyes will be shallow and the presentation will be very elementary; slow, slower, repeat!  Find the sand, gravel and rocks and present the bait in a slow methodical manner.  As is normally the case a good fathead minnow will most likely be the best choice and based on the cold and ice up north, leeches will be very limited if available at all.

With the spawning temperature of walleyes between 40 and 45 degrees, the chances of landing a lunker may be extremely good.  Please practice catch and release if possible.  Make some quick measurements and have a graphite mount made.  Let the big’n back into the water for another day!

Everyone has a preferred method and “secret” weapon but the most prevalent mistake I see is for people to think too much.  Keep you plan simple and I’m sure you will land enough to fill the frying pan and enjoy that fresh taste of Walleye.  I recommend a jig and minnow or a slip-bobber with a minnow.  When fishing a slip-bobber please pay attention and eliminate “gut” hooked fish.  It’s very irritating to see anglers using slip- bobbers and waiting too long to set the hook and then release the fish and see it floating on the surface dead.

Take the time to inspect your line and change it if you can feel abrasions or anything that will cause it to break prematurely.  If you don’t know when it was replaced, spend the extra $10 dollars; it will save some of your religion!  Inspect you rods and reels since they break and have been known to falter at the most inopportune moment.  Check your drag and make sure everything is in good working order prior to setting the hook.

Buy a new fishing license for sure since the one you have in your wallet is most likely expired unless you’ve been after some pan fish lately.

Start you motor and inspect your boat prior to backing up to the public landing in the dark?  You know who you are……The most frustrating site is to see someone performing preventive maintenance at the landing with no flashlight or any tools while 20 people are waiting, losing their religion watching you lose yours.

For those that don’t know, my wife Lisa and I are Managers at Kandiyohi County Park 2 on Big Kandiyohi Lake in southern Kandiyohi County.  This will be our 8th year and over that period we have experienced many events during the annual fishing opener.  If possible stop in and say hi.  As always, we are open for business and will have bait, gas, and food starting Friday afternoon, May 10th.

Good luck and remember to introduce someone new to the outdoors.




Spring Goose Hunting

Ever since the bill was passed to allow spring snow goose hunting in 1999, I’ve participated in about 12 of those years.  The last few I have not for a variety of reasons but this year I plan on venturing out to South Dakota and/or North Dakota.  For the traditional waterfowler, the spring snow goose hunt can pose a variety of challenges and some awesome experiences.

Along with the snow goose hunt you have an opportunity to witness the massive migration of all kinds of waterfowl.  All the species are in full plumage so you see the birds with their finest color and majesty.  In the fall we witness very few birds in full plumage and harvest even less, so the sheer sight of them in all their splendor is incredible.  Don’t forget a good camera or camcorder to capitalize on this photo opportunity!!

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hunt snow geese, you remember one thing, they are very abundant and your decoy spread can require large amounts to match the color necessary to attract them into shooting range.  This concept can be argued for many hours between hunters but the norm is “more color the better”.

My first hunt was in south central North Dakota and then all the other trips have been to South Dakota with a few hunts in Big Stone and Traverse counties of Minnesota during the mid 2000’s.  After analyzing the success in numbers harvested, my best hunts were in South Dakota.

I have used about every tactic to hunt the snow geese; pass shooting, stalking/jump shooting, decoying with small sets and decoying with large sets.  As I age (gracefully), I trend towards smaller decoy sets since they are easier and if the birds have switched to a different field I can pick and move faster.  If you gauge your success by the harvested  number, the stalking/jump shooting technique will probably provide your best scenario but your hunt is hard and grueling since the conditions are usually muddy.  Having said that, keep in mind it’s spring and the fields and roads are incredibly muddy and you will encounter unprecedented conditions.  The mud and water can be overwhelming and at times you will not have an opportunity to access the areas holding the largest concentrations of birds, which for some reason,they always know!!  In addition  as is normally the case in the fall, you are most likely not going to have an opportunity to drive out into the field to unload your gear.  As the mornings are usually below freezing, the ground will not be firm enough to drive on and most farmers are receptive to allowing you to hunt but they don’t want ruts in their fields!  The real hunters rise to the occasion and after a long hard days hunt you can be proud of your effort and reminisce about all the days events….

When scouting for snow geese make sure to observe them  while feeding.  As you will discern, they are constantly moving and “leap frogging” until they have completely depleted all the available feed in a particular field.  With the large numbers that are inhabiting a field, it doesn’t take long to blow through the entire field so before you decide which field to set up in, insure there is sufficient feed for them to return.  I like to “put them to bed” at night before I determine which field is best.  Even by doing this, you can find yourself in the wrong field in the morning but that’s hunting….

With the explosion of electronic calls on the market, you can provide the calling necessary to attract the geese to your decoy set but you still need the “hot’ field that they want to come into to be successful.  With the large numbers that will be decoying, make sure to capitalize on the loners, pairs and small flocks.  If you wait for the “mother load” you may be waiting for a long time.  With more birds comes more eyes to watch you; one wrong move and your busted..!  On a hunt by Redfield, SD my brother Ron and I learned this the hard way.  Having passed on some small groups earlier in the trip we were looking for them at the end.  Also, don’t forget a good supply of batteries since on this trip we didn’t buy fresh batteries for the electronic call on the last day.  I decoyed some in but with one call, I was a little out of breath by the end of the day….

On another hunt, my wife Lisa accompanied me and prior to, she wasn’t overly excited to come along, but shortly after observing the birds she was astonished by the large numbers  of geese, the incredible noise they created and the rumble when thousands of birds erupt into flight!!

The spring migration of waterfowl is a sight to see, no question about it….

4/9/2013 Update:

With the recent weather event we are having the birds are stacked up from Highway 12 in Northern South Dakota and I-94 in Central North Dakota and in Western Minnesota.  If  you have an opportunity, this could be one of those rare occasions when the birds will be idle for a few days.

Hunting waterfowl in the snow is a special event.  The birds have one thing in mind; eat!  If you can find a location that is between the water or “roosting pond” and their preferred crop field, you can harvest birds all day with your gun, shells and hopefully your dog.  Don’t shoot over the water; I can’t stress this enough.  Forget the decoys since the snow and conditions will only bring you heartache because the fields won’t be accessible and most farmers won’t allow you to drive on them.

Check your calendars and load up the gear!!  Good Luck.


Gun Control?

Is our goal to control guns or people..?  I can only hope the goal is both….

As an American, the first thing that comes to mind when I hear gun control is concern.  As a parent and grandparent I’m obviously concerned about the safety of my children and grandchildren based on the recent events of gun related violence.  As a hunter I’m concerned what this discussion will do to the sport I truly enjoy.

I can cut and paste all the statistics that the television stations show and the newspapers print to prove a point and we can all vividly remember most of the mass killings that have occurred over the past decade and a couple in Minnesota.  No doubt about it, these events are horrible and need to be eliminated.  The ultimate question is how…

Immediately, gun control discussions start and the solutions are across the spectrum.  The recent popularity of the assault rifles have sent this into another level but to be honest, the shotgun is arguably more lethal than an assault rifle.  Gun purchases at gun shows should be eliminated if a background check is not performed.

Our mental health issues in America are now under scrutiny since it appears we have not handled this problem effectively.  When you mention mental health, no one wants to admit their problem or admit anyone in their family has issues so the denial is very prevalent.  We can’t eliminate all the horrible events but if we can eliminate one and build from that, we will be moving in the right direction.

Guns are part of the problem no question but a gun needs a shooter.

When I purchase a gun, my information is sent to the ATF (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and then cross referenced with the FBI to determine if I can legally purchase the gun.  If everything is verified, I can purchase the gun.  Background checks are the first line of defense when attempting to limit gun purchasing.  If we adopt programs and procedures that would update personal information that is verified and cross referenced when a background check is performed we will have accomplished something.  If any of the information is disputed during the background check the purchase is not permitted.  The prospective buyer would have a delay in their purchase which at worst is an inconvenience.  With increased documentation and awareness, we can hopefully eliminate a purchase, that would prevent a potential catastrophic event.

The ultimate question is what is the standard operating procedure for recording information for a person.  In my opinion the more information the better.  Our attempt is to limit gun purchases based on extraordinary information, nothing else….All the human rights advocates will scream about something but we’ve seen what ignorance produces; victims!

National Instant Check System

  • The National Instant Check System (or NICS), created in 1998, enables gun  dealers and state point-of-contact offices to run background checks on potential  customers to determine if they are allowed to purchase a firearm. This FBI  monitors this system. Most background checks can be completed within minutes  unless further investigation is necessary. Information contained within the  database includes prior criminal records, information from the U.S. Department  of Defense and information from the U.S. State Department. When purchasing  multiple firearms on the same day, only one background check will be conducted.  To purchase firearms on different days, you must undergo multiple background  checks for each firearm.

Contacting NICS

  • Gun dealers contact the NICS database directly and speak with an operator,  who runs the background check. You will be required to fill out Part A of the  Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm’s (or BATF) form 4473 so you can be  identified correctly in the database. If you have a common name, you may be  asked to provide your Social Security number for verification. This is  voluntary, but it can help speed up the process. The gun dealer will be given a  verification number once you have been cleared to purchase the firearm. If  additional information needs to be verified, NICS has up three days to complete  the background check. If you have not been cleared to purchase a firearm, the  gun dealer will be told to delay the purchase until a further investigation has  been conducted.



January Roosters

This past Saturday, January 5, 2013, I had the pleasure of joining my brother Ron Bailey, nephews Mik Bailey, Jonathan Hinderks and friends Mark, Jeff, Tyler and Braedon Anderson for a pheasant hunt at Sandpine Pheasants game farm just outside of Avon, MN.  The dogs on the hunt were my yellow lab Duke, Ron’s black lab Isabell, Mark’s yellow lab Benelli and Mik’s black lab Jet.  As is the case on all pheasant hunts, the dogs are the stars of the show.  With the exception of a few “unplanned” bursts of energy by all dogs, other then Jet who was in slow gear all day, (sorry Mik) the dogs did a great job…..

Our hunt was organized by Ron and the location was chosen by Mik who lives in Sartell, MN, which is a 10 minute drive to the game farm.  We purchased 24 birds and our hunt lasted from 1:00 PM until 4:30 PM.

The weather on Saturday was almost perfect; about 20 degrees with a light breeze so since your walking through switch grass, standing corn or brushy tree-lines it was very comfortable.  A couple guys started out with a little heavy clothing but shortly into the hunt the bibs and parkas were removed.

The Pheasant Factory.

Prior to hunt we met up with Keith Sand, the owner of Sandpine Pheasants.  Keith had us sign in and complete the necessary release forms and then Keith drove us around to familiarize us with the fields and property lines.  The property is divided into three fields; our designation was field #2.

Our hunt started out with a couple birds within a few minutes.  The snow really collapsed the coverage so many of the pheasants were under the snow so the dogs had their work cut out for them.  Duke and Benelli both caught a pheasant which is a testament to their speed and keen noise.  Towards the end of our first push, the guns were warmed up with a number of shots fired and 6 birds in the bag.

Pushing the standing corn.


As we all reorganized, our next push was a standing corn field with a treeline on either side.  It wasn’t long until the first birds erupted from the snow-filled rows of corn.  Jonathan who was walking on the west tree line had the hot spot.  After a few well placed shots, JJ had two solos and some assists on other birds.  All tallied, the push produced 5 birds and all the dogs were having fun…

We split up for the next two pushes and as we met at the lodge in the middle of the property, we had harvested 15 birds.  Time to warm up and grab something to drink and have a snack.  As we all sat around a table and watched some football and talked about the hunt we planned our next move.  We decided to walk the area we started on but to start from the west and work east.   At the end of the first cornfield when we were positioning to walk another area, a rooster flushed behind Mik…After turning around and shouldering his Beretta; one shot and the rooster tumbled to the ground.

As we all continued, I spotted a rooster running ahead across the snow.
As the dogs caught up the bird flushed to my right and then flew back over Ron, Jonathan, Mik and Jeff…. Not a good idea.  After a their volley of shots, the rooster folded.  The next push produced three more pheasants; so after a fun afternoon we ended up with 20 birds.

Mik, Jeff, Jonthan, Tim, Ron, Mark, Tyler and Braedon with the days harvest.

As we all posed for some pictures after our hunt it was time to go back to Mik’s to clean birds, have a few beverages and grill some burgers. Thanks to Mik and Jessica for their great hospitality and good food.   As we conversed about the days hunt it was a nice end to the hunting season.  If you have friends or family members that are just learning to hunt or an inexperienced dog the game farms provide a nice opportunity to guarantee the flush of birds and provide some nice close shots.  Even with experienced hunters as was the case with this group, we enjoyed ourselves and have put this date on our calendar again for next year.

If your looking for a safe and exciting hunt, give Keith a call at 320.363.4790 or go to for more information.  Good luck in the field and remember to practice safety and introduce someone new to this great sport of hunting!


South Dakota Hunt, Part II

On November 14th my South Dakota hunt continued with turkey hunting and deer hunting.  After some corporate human resources training in Fargo on the 13th and 14th, I arrived at the hotel on Wednesday night.  I met Noel Nemitz and Dan Rathman at about 7:30 PM.  Having all grown up in Olivia MN in the seventies and graduating in 1980, it was surreal that over 30 years later, we were together again in a hotel room in North Eastern South Dakota….

Thursday morning we started our hunt scouting with binoculars and spotting scopes to see what the “mother nature” had to offer.   As the early morning light rolled across the countryside to slowly illuminate the wildlife in it’s most prolific and peaceful setting, it was quickly apparent why we were here.  With the deer meandering through the rolling prairie, the roosters cackling to say good morning and the turkeys squeaking and gobbling to gather the flock, it was therapeutic and exciting.

View of the landscape.

After we observed the daylights first couple hours and enjoyed a thermos of coffee, it was time to place ground-blinds and hang deer stands to prepare for the deer opener on Saturday, November 17th.  As we continued to complete the days work, we spotted a variety of deer that really increased our curiosity.

Ground blind placement with my son Tyler on a cold Friday morning.

Thursday ended with a trio of 51 year olds very tired and thinking how nice it would be to have younger helpers….ironically my son Tyler Bailey would arrive later in the evening from Dickinson, North Dakota, after most of the work was completed.

Friday morning started the same as Thursday with some very positive scouting results.  As the day progressed we observed a good population of turkeys in an area we have shot some nice deer over the past few years so we added this to our “to do” list.  As Friday’s sun began to set, we were again scouting for deer and to our pleasure, we identified a number of quality deer.  When we arrived back at the hotel, we were met by my son-in-law Neal Strege from St. Michael, all anxious and ready to roll.  As we discussed the past two days accomplishments; deer stands, ground blinds and deer and turkey spotted it was time for supper so we went into town for some food and beverages.

Saturday morning came early; 4:30 AM to be exact!  After we all loaded our trucks and double checked we had all our gear loaded.  Funny how everyone had their truck; Ford, 2 Chevy’s , GMC and a Nissan, nice little convoy going down the road!  Just prior to leaving,  Dan and I conversed since we were wavering which stand to choose.  I was planning on a tree stand and Dan a ground blind; well as fate would have it, we switched.  This was first sign of how my hunt would go!

As we all proceeded to our chosen stands, we  hunkered down for the long wait between o’dark thirty and legal shooting hours. As daylight slowly creeped over the eastern horizon, I turned to the west and noticed a deer headed straight for me and with a south east wind, it was almost perfect; except for a small 6 pointer, not a shooter.   The buck proceeded to walk within 25 yards and then came down wind, stopped, blew a couple times and then ran straight south and stopped 70 yards broadside, so I had a good time to evaluate to kill or not; onward he went to hopefully grow up.

About 7:30 AM, I heard a shot from Dan’s direction and noticed Dan repositioning to see if he had connected.  As Dan descended down his stand, it wasn’t long after I received a picture of Dan’s nice 8 pointer, from the stand I was originally planning to go to; the trend of things to come.

Dan’s 8 pointer

As I pondered my decision and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a snack, I received a text from my son Tyler indicating that Neal was ready to go turkey hunting since he harvested a 9 pointer at 7:45 AM.

Neal’s 9 pointer

After a hunter fills their tag, they are done deer hunting; there is no party hunting.  Since we had two bucks down, it was time to help everyone with their deer so around 9:45 AM I walked back to my truck to start the process.  After all was done, I was back in my stand by 11:00 AM and ready to spend the remainder of the day in my ground-blind.

During the remainder of the day I seen a few deer in a variety of directions but nothing was in range and worse yet, none were shooters.  As darkness descended on the landscape, the first day ended as it had started; dark, windy and cool with some light snow.

After we all arrived back at the hotel, we all grabbed a beverage and talked about all the days events.  This is always one of my favorite times; recount the day, learn from what happened and adjust and plan for the next day.  As in many instances, how you adjust to the variables you are given will determine how successful you are.  In a hunting scenario, the weather patterns, hunting pressure or lack there of and game availability are factors that must always be contemplated.

Sunday morning started with a shuffle of the cards that put Noel, Tyler and I into different stands and of course my choice was close but no cigar!  Noel and I went to the “pinch point”.  An area we have killed many deer and where Neal harvested his deer on Saturday morning.  As I approached my stand and started climbing my ladder stand, I was stunned by the brightness of the stars.  It was really cool how it seemed you could reach out and touch the stars since they appeared as in 3D.  About 6:30 AM I heard a crack of a branch and noticed some motion to my right but with legal shooting hours about 35 minutes away, all I could do is wait and hope it walks back my way since with the wind from the southeast, it was unable to detect my presence.  At 7:45 AM I was startled by a shot fired in Noel’s direction and shortly after a picture of his nice 8 pointer.

Noel’s nice 8 pointer.

Shortly after receiving the picture, I rec’d a text from Noel that he had called Neal to come over and help him.  Hopefully with the activity on the other side of the forty, some deer would be coming from the west and avoiding the noise and scent.  About an hour later I was joined at my stand by Tyler, Neal, Dan and Noel and no deer.  My impeccable luck was continuing…. After conversing and deciding what our next move would be we walked back to Noel’s deer and proceeded to drag the deer out to the trucks.  We were expecting another party member, Jeff Clausing from the TC Metro area at about 9:00 AM so the timing was almost perfect.  Noel had called Jeff “Gilligan” and determined he was on schedule.  After Tyler and Neal, “the youngest members” dragged the deer out we were joined by Gilligan and decided to have lunch.  Gilligan had brought a venison roast he had marinated at home and had cut into sandwich slices so it definitely hit the spot. The remainder of Sunday, Tyler, Gilligan and myself went back on stand.  Gilligan went to the stand Dan had shot his buck from and Tyler and I went to series of deep wooded ravines.  Gilligan did have a shot on Sunday evening but unfortunately missed but Tyler and I only seen a few does…..

Monday started with Gilligan returning to Dan’s tree stand and Tyler to the wooded ravine Neal and Noel shot their deer and I traveled to a spot we haven’t deer hunted in the past but seen some nice deer sigh while pheasant hunting in October.  As my luck would have it, I seen plenty for pheasants and no deer.  I did bump a deer walking in but with the cover of low light and dense cover I could not see it.  Without having a stand I was merely scouting with a rifle in my hand but I scouted pheasants, not deer.During the day we conducted a few small drives and kicked out a couple small bucks and does but chose not to pull the trigger.  The highlight of the day was that Dan and Neal killed 4 turkeys.  Neal had a chance to kill his first turkey; a triple bearded jake!!

Neal’s first Turkey.

Monday night came and it was time for Tyler to drive back to Dickinson, North Dakota and Noel had to drive back to the TC Metro area so we were down to Neal, Gilligan, Dan and myself.

Tuesday morning Gilligan and myself went out on stand but to no avail.  At about 9:00 AM we orchestrated two small drives but only kicked up a few does.  At about 11:00 AM it was time to load up and head back home.

As I reminisce about our hunt, I’m always surprised how plentiful the wildlife in South Dakota is.  The area we hunt is heavily farmed but with the creek bottoms, buffalo ridge hills and pot-holes the habitat is almost perfect.  As with every year, on my drive home I ponder the weeks memories and start to look forward to next year.  With everyone safely home and back at the “daily routine”, I will count the days until next year!!

For everyone that has this burning desire to hunt, it’s hard to explain to people that don’t.  Almost everyone is passionate about something and it really dictates their behavior and attitude.  As my wife continues to tolerate my passion for hunting I don’t thank her enough for her patience and tolerance during this crazy time of the year.  I will continue to try and close the deal on a nice buck with my muzzle loader in Minnesota and also use my cross-bow,.  Since my numerous surgeries and partial replacement of my left shoulder I have qualified for a permit so I purchased my cross-bow back in 2010.

Good luck hunting and remember to be safe and introduce someone new to this great sport of hunting.

Deer Hunting

Every year deer hunting comes around it’s a time to remember all the could of dones, should of dones, successes and disappointments from the previous years hunt.  As with most years, we attempt to prepare and organize everything; put stands up and down but we are most likely, behind schedule.  If our daily work routines wouldn’t interfere we would be fine but the reality is, we need to work to hunt.

On Saturday morning November 7th, I was joined by my daughter Christie, her fiance Neal, my brother Ron, his son Mik, son-in-law Freddie my life-long friend Noel and Ron’s Brother In Law Jeff and his son Josh.  So as you can see it’s a family affair and I’m sure most people will agree that the camaraderie among a hunting party is a special bond.

As the sunrise approached, it was probably the most quiet I can ever remember sitting in a deer stand.  Besides the cloudy morning, the temperature was near perfect and the little to no wind, provided a very relaxing setting.  As I scanned across the field and grove I was sitting next to, I was alerted many times by a good population of red squirrels that appear to be well nourished….I have never seen such fat and happy squirrels that were obviously very energetic since they continued to run up and down trees and across the leaves, that always mimiced a deer approaching….

As the morning progressed, many deer were sighted but there were a couple “stories” .  Freddie had an ancounter with a buck and a herd of does at first light but for “reasons unknown” could not get positioned to shoot.  My brother Ron who has more hooks above and around his stand for hanging everything from “soup to nuts”;  had a buck run behind his stand.  While attempting to find a clear path through the clutter, he had two shots at a full gallop, which did not find the mark.  To Ron’s defense, behind his stand there was new windfall that was not cleared out and some other natural obstacles so I will give him a “hall pass” on this one…..I do know that he had made some changes to his stand, so I will keep you posted.

As we all converged and had lunch at about 11:30 it was determined that we would all go back on stand for the remainder of the day.  As everyone dispersed after lunch, Christie and I drove home to check with the grand-daughters and Grandma (Lisa) and also get some new boots for Christie since her feet were cold.  It was 1:45 when I crawled back up in stand an settled in for the afternoon.

Deer Stand.

As the afternoon went on, nothing new was happening and based on a significant reduction in the shots fired around the area, the deer had decided to lay down and wait for the cover of darkness!  Right on cue, as the sun set, there were a few shots fired in the area but no one in our party.   We did spot a few does and possibly a buck or two chasing but nothing in range; opening day had passed with a few chances, but nothing harvested.

Sunday morning began the same as the opener but it’s Noel’s turn for the “story”.  About 8:15 I heard three shots from behind my stand in a small woodlot where Noel has his permantent stand.  Noel did call me and ask if I could come over and discuss the plan for looking for a “wounded” deer…..As I approached Noel he indicated to have me walk through the grove from the north to the south and hopefully determine if the deer had laid down or was piled up in the grove.  Keep in mind, when deer hunting comes around and the ground is dry and hard, tracking becomes an issue and finding deer that don’t bleed immediately, can test the most experienced hunter.  Ironically, we did receive some moisture on Saturday and Saturday night so the ground was damp but tracking was hard.  I did cut some tracks that appeared to have been recent since the leaves were turned over and the dry side was up.  As I followed, I encountered a few small scrapes and some new rubs on some willows and small trees and ended up about 45 yards from Noel’s stand.  As we continued to search methodically, we determined it was a clear miss…..

As the party reassembled and had some coffee and sandwiches we decided to do some small drives.  The first drive we did push some deer out but as is normally the case, the posters are not in the right time but the deer did run to another area we hunted, so we organized our next plan and continued on.

As we positioned Mik, Freddie and Noel as posters; the rest of the party started walking towards a couple cattail swamps that usually have deer and with a couple already running there, our optimism was high!    When Josh, Jeff, Ron and I were about 100 yards from the truck a nice buck jumped up on some private ground east of the swamp that we could not hunt on and 3 deer came running from the west, so before we even got started, 4 deer were running the wrong way, hmm…?  We reached the first cattail swamp and no more than 45 seconds later a deer jumped up in front of Ron and with me on his right, hollered out,”buck, shoot”!  As the deer lunged forward, I shouldered my Benelli, which I have a scope on and seen some deer and mostly weeds; first shot behind him, second shot the deer had an instant headache.  Not where I would like to shoot them, but it was down and I guess my lead was a little aggressive but effective.  So after about 15 hours of hunting we had our first deer!!

The remainder of the day started and ended as it had started.  A few deer spotted but nothing in range.  We will continue our hunt sporadically throughout the week and thru next weekend, so I will keep you posted.

Ron & Jeff checking a trail cam along a trail by Ron’s treestand.

Last weekend our luck continued to dwindle since we spotted many does and fawns but no bucks.  With the weather changes that we experienced and the accompanied wind, most of the deer were very content to lay low and only come out at sunset.  Our trail cams showed most of the buck movement was done in the evening so we know they are there, just need to be patient.  In addition to being nocturnal, the rub and scrape activity has proven to be more active, too.

Deer scrape along trail.

Overall it was disappointing deer season so our sights will be set on the muzzle-loader season in Minnesota and the upcoming South Dakota deer opener this coming weekend.  In the past, the South Dakota season has always provided a positive impact since our success has been very consistent.  I will be joined by my son Tyler during this trip so for the first time all year, we will have the opportunity to hunt together.  Something we took for granted unfortunately, until Tyler moved to Dickinson, ND in June….

Joining us on this trip will be Noel Nemitz, Dan Rathman and Jeff Clausing; all from the Twin Cities area.  In addition to deer hunting, we will also be doing some pheasant and turkey hunting, so our time spent in SD will be active.

South Dakota Hunt, Part I

Since my last post I’ve had a very active schedule.  I hope I don’t lose you in the first few paragraphs so please bear with me, as I jump around a little…..

Over the weekend of the 20th I accomplished a variety of outdoor activities.  Saturday morning my brother Ron I set up on Lake Elizabeth and shot a couple wood ducks.  I did harvest a mature drake that is destined to hang in my office.  Really nice bird.

Saturday night my wife Lisa and I were joined by Noel and his girlfriend Christine for some shore fishing for walleyes.  Although the wind was a little brisk, we caught a number of fish and kept 6 that we added to some already frozen fillets that we had for Sunday evenings dinner.  Excellent as usual thanks to Lisa’ s culinary skills!

Sunday morning we had 5 hunters (Ron, Mik (nephew), Freddie (nephew), Noel and I) in a cornfield anticipating a good wood duck shoot but after a couple hours it was time to do something else, like inspect deer stands and make adjustments if necessary.  No missed birds however….

Noel and I proceeded to relocate two permanent stands that for some odd reason turned into portable stands…Hmm?  Not recommended!  Long story; we are either dedicated or need psychiatric help….?  6 hours later we had cleared shooting lanes, cleared out windfalls and moved 2 stands into very encouraging locations.

Wednesday October 24th, Noel Nemitz, Gary Wells and I were up early on our way to South Dakota for our annual pheasant hunt and pre-season deer scouting.  I have been hunting South Dakota for 11 years for ducks, pheasants and deer.  In the past even in north eastern South Dakota which is historically not the best pheasant hunting area, we have shared in some memorable hunts.  Last year was a struggle but hopefully this trip is better.

Once we arrived and bought our license we proceeded to our hotel and dropped off our extra gear and bags and patiently waited until noon…Not sure if the later opening time really has an effect on the birds but I guess it allows all the non-residents time to partake in other activities.   In the past we have duck hunted in the morning but on this trip we decided not to hunt waterfowl which based on the ducks and geese we seen, was a mistake….

First stop on our pheasant hunting trip was a small cattail draw that has always been good.  Not even 5 minutes into the hunt Duke was birdie and a rooster flushed between Noel and I and we had our first pheasant in the cooler.  Unfortunately we walked another half mile and flushed some hens and no more roosters.

As we traveled the area we hunt, we hunted smaller sloughs and draws that were bordered by picked corn fields.  Remember one thing when pheasant hunting; “CORN IS KING.”  Yes I have shot pheasants next to wheat fields and soybean fields but you can never go wrong with areas bordered by picked corn!!

The next two spots we worked some hillsides adjacent to picked corn fields and flushed a few hens but no roosters.  As we finished the second area a car drove up and informed us that down a mile on the left they seen a flock of pheasants fly into a cattail slough, next to a picked corn field….imagine that!!  Obviously we heeded their advice, determined it was a place we could hunt, and “cowboyed up”.

Noel providing Duke some water after a tough hunt….

After determing Gary’s area to block, Noel and I walked into the wind (northwest) and started to work a drive from southeast to northwest ending back at the road we started on.  Halfway through, Duke jumped deep into the cattails and a rooster busted out to my left, directly over Noel; dead bird was the next command to Duke.  After retreiving the rooster I circled around to Gary with Noel pivoting in the middle and another rooster busted out and as shots rang out, another rooster down.  Good job Duke!!

Across the road to the south was an area about 240 acres that had numerous cattail sloughs and creek bottoms that we quickly planned our route and started hunting.   Gary drove Noel and I about 3/4 of mile south and we started zig zagging to Gary, with Duke leading the way.  Shortly after starting we flushed some hens and a nice whitetail buck but no roosters.  Noel and I turned and headed straight north through a willow thicket embedded in a cattail slough; suddenly Duke went ballistic, jumping, hopping and exceptionally birdie…Shortly a rooster flushed to my right on the other side of the willows; Noel shouldered his Benelli, one shot, rooster down.  After we completed walking through the thicket, Duke continued working back and forth and darn near ran me over.  As I stopped to let Duke work past me, a rooster flushed directly in front of me; one shot, rooster down.  Immediatley to my right another rooster; this one took three shots, but rooster down.  At the end of this drive, Noel shot a bird that for some reason we could not find.  We even went back later and spent over 10 minutes searching for this bird.  Sure do hate losing roosters.

Duke and Tim with a daily limit of South Dakota roosters.

With an hour and a half remaining on day one, we decided to drive back into town and hunt a cattail draw we hunted late last year with incredible luck.  Earlier today, we noticed a bunch of pheasants in the fields above a draw feeding.  We positioned ourselves into the wind and started working north along the railroad tracks that bordered the cattails on the west side.  It wasn’t 3 minutes when Duke stopped, and looked down and suddenly a rooster flushed to my right; one shot rooster down.  One step further another rooster flushed and again as the shot rang out, the rooster dropped.  It’s funny how you can walk for miles and not fire a shot and then walk 50 feet and shoot two roosters; the pheasant gods were talking!

As we ended the first drive a number of birds flew into the draw from the fields above so we chose to hunt the area they landed in.  As we pushed through the previoulsy bailed area, hens busted out on all ends and Duke to say the least was a little excited.  As the last hen fluhsed, Duke darted straight right to a cattail patch next to a lateral fence line running east and west.  Duke actually gained a few yards on me so I called him back and then commanded him to “get’em”.  Immediately after, the rooster flushed and my first shot was a little behind but the next one found its mark and the rooster tumbled down.

We ended up next to the railroad tracks and proceeded to reminisce about the hunt when Duke with his nose down and tail wagging worked parrellel with the tracks and with Noel to my left and Gary ahead of me, two roosters busted out with a good 45 yard start.  Having Gary in front of me I could not shoot and Gary thinking it was too far did not shoot either but Noel decided to rattle off two shots as one of the roosters glided down.  As the bird collected its thoughts with it’s legs moving and racing into the weeds, their was one problem, Duke was shortly behind.  A few seconds later, Duke was gleaming with a live rooster in his mouth; exceptional retreive Duke.

Tim, Duke and Gary Wells with a daily limit of roosters. (Noel taking picture)

I will continue my South Dakota recap on my blog after the deer opener this weekend.  As we prepare for Saturday morning it appears the weather shouldn’t be a deterrent.  Maybe some rain on Saturday but that just helps quite things down and control our scent.  Good luck deer hunting and remember to practice safety and introduce someone new to this great sport of hunting!