Snow goose migration in full swing in Dakotas
The snow goose migration is on full bore in the Dakotas. Fast and furious reports are appearing, as the snows move northward. With liberalized hunting restrictions, unplugged shotguns, electronic calls, and liberal limits, we'll see local hunters making the trip. Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern South Dakota isn't too far away, and there are always plenty of birds there. Go there and you'll see lots of other hunters, but there's always a spot for more.
Tim Kjos is ranching near Kulm, N.D., and he reports that his area is loaded with the migrating snows. Permission to hunt usually isn't difficult to obtain.
Timing is everything. You need to locate a field where the birds are feeding in the afternoon, then return to the site next morning, very early and set out hundreds of decoys. Pieces of white sheeting, crumpled newspapers, interspersed with field decoys is a common tactic, sometimes satisfactory, sometimes not.
The snow geese are smart, wary, and cautious. You'll need good concealment. Make your set up away from public roads. As far away as possible. Cut grain fields are best, particularly barley or corn.
Motion decoys are a great help. There are times when fewer decoys will work, but often there'll be nearly 500 decoys put out. Decoys with spinning wings work well. Smaller groups will break off from the big flocks, and you're hoping they'll favor your spread. Shooting will be at considerable ranges at times, so the premium grades of non-toxic shot will be what you need. At times, the lower cost, common steel shot works.
When the snow melts and there is shallow, sheet water in the fields, the geese break up into smaller flocks, and will decoy better.
In the spring migration, you can shoot 20 birds daily. This is very liberal, of course, but there shouldn't be any wanton waste. Clean the birds in the field. Get them to ice or other preservation. Have them processed into jerky or brats. Take along a charcoal grill and fire it up. Goose breasts, thighs and legs will be welcome when you've quit for the day.
You do not need the Federal migratory bird stamp or the duck stamp. But you'll need a spring light goose stamp. Be sure you're properly licensed.
Minnesota offers limited spring goose hunting, but it is best to go to locations where there are far more geese, and that's central Dakotas.
Less lead in venison
Six percent of the venison tested this year had lead. Two years ago, 22 percent did! Donated venison, given to the food bank programs was less last season, as the deer take was less. But following new training programs, processors have achieved noted success. This past year, hunters donated about 17,650 pounds of venison, far less than the amount donated before a North Dakota Doctor expressed concern for harmful quantities in the meat, deposited there by disintegrating big game lead bullets. An estimated 20 percent of the venison donated this year was brought in by archery enthusiasts.
Hunters are now aware of the lead issue, and things are improving. Game meat processors too, are cooperating.
Trap shooting ammo is costly
If you don't reload your shells for trap shooting, you'll probably balk at the price being asked for the popular, top of the line Winchester AA and Remington's STP line of 12 and 20 gauge shotgun shells. In a "truckload sale" put on by a large and leading Twin City retailer, the case price of these shells was set at $79.90 for ten boxes. Promotional rounds -- they're perfectly suitable -- were advertised at $59.90 a case. Reloading your own took a hit several years ago when bags of lead shot took a price jump. Factory shells were a bargain. Not anymore! Reloading will probably have a new resurgence, regaining its status as a money saver. And done right, the reloads are very satisfactory. The Sportsmen's Club buys shells at a good price and you can place an order for some with Perry Nodsle this spring.
As soon as the Ottertail River was clear of ice, that's when we kids were out after bullheads. They were easy to catch; we usually did it from sundown to midnight or one o'clock. Bullheads have spiny tentacles projecting from the mouth area, which turns off many anglers. Then too, it takes more effort to remove the tough slippery skin. You do it with a knife and pliers, working from the head area to the tail. There is no limit, usually, but we always quit when we'd reached one hundred. We would catch a bullhead, cast it ashore into the streamside grass. On going home you filled your gunny sacks with as many of the fish as you wanted. Size of a bullhead is six to ten inches, and weight about a pound or so.
For the table, few fish are better. The flesh is a bright pink and it is delicious when dipped in a batter of egg, salt, and crushed Ritz crackers.
The pieces are small, so you will need a lot of fish. No problem there, as bullheads are abundant. On the dinner table they're different from the suckers or tulibees that are usually smoked. Bullheads aren't fussy eaters. They will bite in clams, liver, fish, or crustaceans. Occasionally an angler may catch a dogfish or some other exotic. Bullhead fishing is done when it is still cold, and that time is coming up soon for anglers.
Federal's 20 Gauge Turkey shells
You can use your 20 gauge for turkeys this spring. Federal Cartridge has the ammunition for it. The 3" shells contain 1 1/2 ounces of #6 shot. 225 pellets, which are denser than lead, so they impact harder. That load was once considered max in 12 gauge. The non-toxic Tungsten pellets are hard, and do not deform on the trip up the gun barrel. Proven in field use, Federal is a step up on other ammo makers with this one. They're not exactly giving them away, though. At $19.99 for a box of five, that's $4 every time you pull the trigger. Wouldn't you like to use that load on waterfowl?