Come and see the mallards
Come see the mallard ducks at the Pelican River's outlet from Lake Sallie, near the Hotel Shoreham pizza place. Here, at about 5 p.m. every afternoon, resident landowner Tom Lynch tosses out 100 pounds of shelled corn. And the big, beautiful drakes and susies arrive, greedily consuming the grain. You can come out and see this! How about this evening at the time stated? You'll see hundreds of wild birds that you didn't realize are in the area. They will be ten feet from your boots, and they'll stay in a feeding frenzy for about a half hour. Tom tosses out $800 worth of shelled corn per season, the height of which is right now. If you are a hunter, bird lover, or just a person who enjoys the out of doors, you should come out past Hotel Shoreham. Cross the Pelican River and park. Come to Tom's house and watch these beautiful birds, at a very close distance. You will see 300 to 500 ducks, close up!
Profile: The Canada goose
When I began hunting at the age of fourteen, we lived at Perham. Duck hunting was pretty good, on the Ottertail River where it exits Little Pine Lake north of town, at Gourd Lake near the town of Ottertail, and at various sloughs and marshes in the vicinity, some of which were located in the pine and popple woods around both Pine lakes. Occasionally there would appear in the Enterprise-Bulletin, an account of some lucky hunter bagging a Canadian goose, while hunting ducks. It was news, as there were very few of the big geese, and only when winter weather had set in and the geese were migrating. My shotgun was a single shot H & R "Bay State" -- a gun that had cost me $7 and was no gun to take goose hunting, even though I had hopes of luckily getting a shot at one. Canada geese were few and far between.
Branta Canadensis, the honker, is a big bird. Nowadays, the goose is quite common, and a number of hunters take them regularly. White chevrons of geese appear in the autumn sky, and with skillful calling, good concealment and a large spread of decoys, taking a bird that weighs in at eight to 12 pounds is a fairly common thing in a field or water blind. When the geese fly in the vee, it usually means that they have a distant landing-feeding sight as their intention. When coming in to a set of decoys, the birds are more likely to be individuals, each on his own, watching the area below. The Canada goose has a white patch at the head, and a glossy black neck. The bird's markings must be clearly visible to the hunter or he should not fire a shot -- less than 60 yards up before you can clearly make out that neck stripe. Sixty yards is too far to insure a clean kill. If a hunter waits until the barred breast is visible, the range will be 50 yards or less and a kill is more likely.
When a chevron is in good range, some men will not shoot at the lead bird, reasoning that the flock leader is an old gander unfit for the table. This isn't always the case. Geese take turns at flying lead to break the wind and easing the flying of the remainder of the flock. Geese prefer to land into the wind. Geese are large birds and usually they're not as close as they appear.
Geese like to feed on agricultural lands. Favorite grains are rice and corn. They feed while on the water, after wild rice, aquatic weeds, duck potato, and wild celery. The wingbeats are slow and rhythmic. They're flying at 60 miles an hour, although they don't seem to be. When geese have broken up into pairs or small flocks, they will decoy more readily. They generally will land outside a decoy spread and slowly swim toward the decoys. When they're coming in, feet down, straight at you, it is the time to shoot. Head shots are easy, centering your bead and your attention on that white chin patch. Canada geese are among the last waterfowl to migrate. Nesting in Canada's maritime provinces, in North Dakota and eastern Montana, they move south to the rice of Arkansas the corn of Iowa and the central plains. When colder weather hits, these midway stops, Canadas get to the Gulf of Mexico, and on into Mexico and further south.
There are many sub species of this bird. The greater Canada, once believed to be extinct, was found to exist in rather large numbers at a river area kept open in winter, near the city of Rochester, Minn.
Geese do a lot of talking, while in flight. Their distinctive honk has been fully mastered by many hunters, and the birds respond readily to the goose calls that are in common use. Ducks respond to large rafts of decoys, often set out for goose hunting. Mallards, in particular, will be into your goose decoy spread. Concealment in a blind at the waters edge or in a field of corn stubble must be natural, as geese detect easily when something isn't natural.
Goose hunting requires a ten or twelve gauge shotgun with non-toxic shot. The new blends of tungsten and other metals, as evolved by the three large ammunition makers will bring geese to bag when shooting is skillful and the birds are in range. This means 50 yards in most cases. A Canada goose provides a lot of edible meat and is a delight on the dinner table, with a side dish of wild rice, corn or other vegetable. Goose hunting today is a reality not evident when I first began hunting. A Canada goose is a wary bird and bagging one, or several is very satisfying to dedicated waterfowlers.
Slow start for rooster chasers
In August, our DNR advised hunters that they would find pheasant numbers down. The season kicked off Oct. 10 and will run to the end of the year. It has been difficult for most to come up with the two-bird limit. Many parties have felt fortunate if they took two birds for the group on a weekend of hunting. A good Minnesota season scores about half a mill on birds. This year will probably be average, with perhaps 400,000 roosters taken.
The Federal waterfowl tracts and the Minnesota Production Areas have seen lots of boot tracks and fewer birds. The opening day crowds are now at home watching the Gophers and the Vikings. Hunting is bound to improve because we do have some birds afield. Not as great as the Dakotas, where hunting has tapered off a bit this year, but still very good. Don't give up on Minnesota pheasants. Stop at a likely looking bit of cover. Ask for the owner's permission. Often times, when pressure has eased, you'll find a landowner receptive to your request.
Duck hunting, well that's down in most places, but should get a bit better. Geese are a better bet. Huntable numbers are at many of the usual good locations. Waterfowl season limits are six ducks daily, with season open until Dec. 1.