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….
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…?
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!!
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.
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!!
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.