Fall hunting trip creates warm memoriesMid-October marks the opening of pheasant season. Wisconsin’s opener was Oct. 16 and that was the same day we were scheduled to leave for a week of hunting in North Dakota.
By: By Mike Reiter, New Richmond News
Mid-October marks the opening of pheasant season. Wisconsin’s opener was Oct. 16 and that was the same day we were scheduled to leave for a week of hunting in North Dakota.
Wisconsin’s season extends through the end of the year, so my dogs and I would still have plenty of time to try to outsmart a few of our local birds.
Early that Saturday morning, my hunting buddy, Larry, and his dog, Briar, were on the road for our seven-hour trip to our North Dakota destination. Our plan was to put in a few hours of hunting upon our arrival. Anticipation was high and we looked forward to another great hunt.
This year marked our seventh year hunting with the group. Nine hunters made up our party and, as a rule, we usually break up into smaller groups for our hunting forays. We rent a double-sized trailer house with all the amenities.
Dividing the cost of the rental by nine and figuring in license, gas, food and ammo, the trip is very inexpensive for what opportunities we are provided.
Hunting is very much like that experienced in Wisconsin. We don’t post standers and drive the pheasants but let the dogs do the work for us. I much prefer this type of hunting. Pheasants, sharptail grouse and Hungarian partridge are numerous and chances to harvest depend on the proficiency of the shooter. There are always lots of opportunities.
Larry and I purchased the upland game license while the rest of the group bought both upland and waterfowl licenses. A crane license can also be purchased for an extra $5, which allows the hunter to harvest three cranes per day.
The cranes out in the Dakotas are “lesser sandhill cranes,” a subspecies to our Wisconsin cranes, which are classified as “greater sandhill cranes.” The lesser cranes are quite numerous and are either decoyed as they leave their roosts in the morning or waylaid as they return to feed in the grain fields. Despite looking like a very large stork, they are actually the size of a small goose. Long necks, wings and legs exaggerate their size. They have dark meat and are extremely tasty.
Each morning, while Larry and I slept in, the rest of the crew left well before daylight to set their goose, duck and crane decoys in a field or wetland edge that was selected the previous night. The water conditions in the Dakota wetlands have improved tremendously from previous years and the waterfowl hunting proved to be excellent for all species.
Pheasant populations in the area of North Dakota where we hunt peaked two years ago and have declined some since then because of back-to-back hard winters. Pheasants are still very abundant and sharpie and Hun numbers appeared much higher than observed in the past.
Sharptail grouse are a prairie relative to our ruffed grouse and are very unusual birds. The males dance on “leks” in the spring to attract girlfriends.
Sal and I had traveled to Crex Meadows in Wisconsin a few years ago and observed this courting ritual. Sharpies have feathers all the way down their legs, grow snowshoes in the wintertime, make a weird putting, cooing sound as they fly off and have dark breast meat. Usually they flush in flocks out of range and fly for long distances disappearing over the horizon.
We saw many sharptail grouse during our week of hunting. I was lucky enough to harvest my first sharptail as it flushed out of range as usual, but instead of flying off in the opposite direction it turned and flew right at me. As it cooed and putted in its flyby, I was able to drop it with my third shot. I can now check a sharptail grouse off my “bucket list.”
During our hunts we observed many coyotes, hawks and whitetail deer. The size of some of the antlered bucks observed rival anything we’ve see in Wisconsin.
While transversing a cattail slough or pushing a cut sunflower field it was a common occurrence to have a huge whitetail jump up from nowhere, foliage hanging from its antlers, and run a mile across a cut wheat field. With a lack of any real wood lots in the area, it is amazing that these deer can become so large and be so numerous.
Porcupines have also been observed. Some of the others in our group also saw herds of pronghorn antelope. This is the first time we had seen them this far east in North Dakota.
Twice Larry had a close encounter of the wrong kind with a striped skunk. Briar went on point and Larry, unable to flush what he thought was a pheasant, parted the cattails only to be confronted with the south end of a north moving skunk. Both times dog and hunters were lucky enough to retreat unscathed.
Larry also is an excellent photographer and would take photos of game and nongame species if the opportunity presented itself. At times I served as the “wheel man,” driving down the back roads and trails as Larry peered out at the landscape looking for that Kodak moment with his camera resting in his lap. Numerous quality shots were made during our time out in North Dakota both with the camera and the shotgun.
Each evening, after slaving over a hot shotgun all day, we would return to camp to be treated to some of the best wild game cuisine imaginable.
Steve “Gilly” Gilbert, a northern Wisconsin fisheries biologist, was also our camp chef and would prepare meals of duck, goose, pheasants, sharptails, Huns and crane. Entrees like “Gilly” Duck stuff, goose kabobs, pheasant Alfredo and Italian crane with all the trimmings made sure that no one went to bed hungry. Jackrabbit tenderloin strips were served as appetizers during one meal after the harvest of a jackrabbit. Washed down with a Leinies Original these were meals that could be served to kings at the best restaurants.
Our week flew by quickly and plans were made for our 2011 North Dakota excursion. North Dakota is a land of desolate beauty and bountiful wildlife. It is truly a sportsman’s paradise.
Warden Paul’s Corner
Order tree seedlings now
for spring 2011 planting
Autumn is a great time of year for landowners to enjoy their property, but it is also a good time to work on improving the property by preparing for tree planting next spring.
The spring 2011 tree and shrub ordering form is now available from the Department of Natural Resources State Nursery Program. The form includes information about tree and shrub species that are available and directions on how to order online or by mail. Species information and tips on how to prepare a site can also be found on the forestry pages of the DNR website.
Contact information for DNR foresters can be found on the DNR website.
Even though these trees will not be distributed and planted until next spring, it is important to order now because many desirable species sell out quickly.
Landowners can purchase seedlings from the DNR state nurseries for reforestation, wildlife habitat and windbreak and erosion-control purposes. The nurseries offer pre-mixed seedling packets of 300 seedlings for small landowners with mixes for windbreaks, wildlife habitat, shoreland and hardwood and savannah restoration.
Customers who would like to select specific seedlings or shrubs must order a minimum quantity of 1,000 tree seedlings or 500 wildlife shrubs. Hardwood tree species available from the state nurseries include red oak, bur oak, swamp white oak, black cherry, silver maple, sugar maple, green ash, white ash, quaking aspen, river birch, white birch, yellow birch and black walnut. Conifer tree species available include white spruce, black spruce, white pine, red pine, jack pine and white cedar. Wildlife shrubs available include hazelnut, ninebark, American plum, silky dogwood and red-osier dogwood.
Seedlings and shrubs are distributed in April and early May. Landowners who order from the DNR can pick up their seedlings at the state nurseries located in Boscobel, Hayward or Wisconsin Rapids, or in many counties at a central location designated by the local DNR forester.
For any questions call Warden Paul Sickman at 715-684-2914, ext. 120.