Minnesota hunting will be good this fall
But to reach some of Minnesota's good hunting may require a bit of travel. But we're not opposed to some of that, as we can reach out and take part in some of the greatest hunting America has to offer.
Minnesota's mourning dove season has been underway since the first of September. It ends on October 30, but the early migrants will be long gone from the local scene before that date. Where can one find good hunting for the mourners? I'd suggest you try the Rush Lake area, south of Perham. The woods and fields in and about the St. Lawrence church area has always been good. But most any area where grain has been grown and is now harvested will always be good. Hunting mourning doves is always a great opportunity to get the family involved. No better way to start a young hunter on live flyers, than to put them out on the edge of a field, with a light 20 gauge shotgun, bottled water or a Coke, sandwich and a dash of enthusiasm. Action can be fast and furious, with few birds in the bag. You miss 'em when you don't provide enough head, so be sure to follow the bird's flight path, move the gun muzzle far more ahead than you thought necessary and shoot. Its great fun and weather is always nice.
The early goose season is opening and hunters have been enjoying some success. An excellent hunting season will occur at Lac qui Parle again this year with the DNR's managed goose hunt. Wild rice harvesting began three weeks ago, and good to fair results are being experienced. The waterfowling in North Dakota will be very good this fall. The prairie pothole region received precipitation at the right times, and the N.D. Game & Fish Division predicts good duck and goose hunting. Central North Dakota, especially the south central areas of the state, will be the best. Rugby, Lakota, Church's Ferry and areas west of Devils Lake will be good. Waterfowl nesting is said to be up 18 percent over last year. Minnesota, too, should have pretty fair waterfowling, especially on the geese, both early and late. We have seen some nesting in the Becker-Mahnomen-Ottertail areas and this usually works out to some pretty good local, early hunting.
Minnesota's southern boundary and western pheasant ranges look pretty good. Pheasants have shown an increase around Breckenridge, Wheaton and Fergus Falls. Though its nothing like the two Dakotas, in past years! Spring crows, a DNR yardstick in prediction, bird numbers were up in the spring. With some good connections as to hunting access, many Minnesota pheasant hunters will bag some roosters this year. North Dakota pheasants are way, way, down!
In some central locations, pheasants are down 50 percent or more. Bismarck and central North Dakota had eight inches of rain, just at the time when the chicks were on the nest. Antelope hunting, too, in North Dakota is going to be less than spectacular. The Department of Game & Fish will reduce the numbers of licenses that will be available.
Duck hunting in North Dakota should be pretty good. Prairie potholes there filled up in the early spring, and there wasn't a whole lot of hot weather to reduce the waters.
New regulations on donating venison
There are a few new rules this year. You will be able to donate ground meats -- this wasn't permitted last year. More deer processors are participating this year. There are several new rules governing this once popular program, and we suggest it best to review these as outlined in the very informative annual hunting and trapping bulletin edited by the DNR. This is available free at all license outlets.
It is good to see this program returning. Except for deer taken by archery, all venison will be testified and classified. It is great to see this voluntary venison donation program returning.
Transporting the shotgun in the hunting vehicles
Minnesota is finally getting around to more sensible rules about the transport of a rifle or shotgun while driving to the next hunting field. In both Dakotas, the rules have been safe, sensible, and practical. Not so in Minnesota. In the Dakotas, you return to the vehicle, you unload the gun's chamber. You may leave the shells or cartridges in the magazine. You get in, and you may opt to putting the muzzle into an open gun case. Place it between your legs. Inserting the muzzle in a gun case protects the muzzle, yet your gun is ready to go at your next woods, pheasant field or blind. I've never heard of anyone shooting his boot or putting a hole in the floorboards of the pickup. It is sensible and safe. But in Minnesota, some changes are coming. Read up on them in the fall summary of the game laws, now available at license outlets. In Minnesota, you've needed to get the gun unloaded, of course, into a gun case, specifically made for the purpose, zipping it up and stowing it away.
We're still all choked up
About chokes, that is! Choke is the constriction in the shotgun barrel in the last few inches at the muzzle. Generally credited to market hunter Fred Kimble of the Illinois River bottoms, it's been a controversial subject among hunters the last quarter of the 19th century. All things when considered, we're generally choosing too much choke. A shotgun is a short-range firearm, and no tightening of the choke is going to lengthen its range. Full choke may be the answer to success in longer-range pass shooting for waterfowl, but it is far too tight for ducks over decoys. Modified is a lot better and, at times, it is also too tight. For upland hunting, when you're out after ringnecks or sharptails, improved cylinder or skeet choke is what you want.
With all gun makers now offering a wide range of screw-in chokes for insertion into the threaded muzzles of their shotguns, getting the right choke has never been easier. Many gun makers offer five chokes with their shotguns, and you can pair them up in your favorite combination in the case of a double gun. With a semi-automatic or a slide action pump gun, it takes but a minute to change chokes in the field. Some are snug when finger tight without even using a wrench. But I've always used a wrench to just snug 'em up a bit, to make sure it'll stay there. Open chokes are the ticket for ruffed grouse and woodcock. Modified is often too tight for pheasants. Hitting 'em with half a dozen pellets with improved cylinder choke screwed in will be the answer for 97 percent of your pheasant opportunities. Most are at 30 yards or less. Ducks over decoys is about the same situation. Geese? Not a great deal further out, but larger shot may be the ticket. Use #6 shot on early season pheasants; go to #5 in late season. My personal favorite has always been a 20 gauge, with the 3" loads that carry a 12 gauge 1/4-ounce load. It doesn't get any better than that! Open up on choke, and your game bag will get heavier if you do.