Spring rains may hamper pheasant success
Much of the Minnesota pheasant belt was pelted with spring rains and cold weather. For pheasants, it was less than an ideal spring in terms of the weather. The winter was considered to be relatively mild, with a good number of hens ready to nest, but the rains continued. Traditionally, according to game biologists, if wet weather dooms a clutch of pheasant eggs, hens will renest often. But once they're hatched and the poults perish, there's no more re-nesting. Warm, dry weather did finally arrive about June 15 as the peak of the hatch arrived. There was a lot of standing water in the fields for a longer time than we usually have.
The final result of things will not be known until August when the roadside studies are completed.
Things were no better in South Dakota, with rainfall exceeding the averages. There were plenty of birds available for nesting, but weather didn't cooperate there either. The state came through the hunting season like there hadn't been any hunting, the pre-season estimate being about 12 million birds, highest in half a century.
Iowa had the worst spring weather of all of the northern prairie states. It was cold and wet, and the hatch is usually a bit earlier than it is in Minnesota. There too, it will be necessary to wait until counts are made at selected roadside locations. In Iowa, there has been a significant loss of CRP lands, to add to the worries about pheasants. The outlook isn't at all dreary, but the anticipated gains probably won't materialize. We can only wait and see.
Spring duck numbers are up
The reverse is true when you're looking at waterfowl numbers. There has been a retention of sheet water due to the cold wet spring, and mallards have stayed in Minnesota. The number of mallards nesting here rose this year to 298,000, up 23 percent from last spring's survey count of 242,000 birds, according to Steve Cordts, the Minnesota DNR waterfowl specialist. The mallard count was up was up 34 percent above the long-term average. The DNR makes an annual survey via aerial observation, the planes being in the air before the "leaf out" of the trees, so observation was good, this year.
Blue wing teal numbers were up, due to favorable conditions. Other ducks like gadwall, ringneck, wood ducks and redheads all appeared to be above the long term average too. Breeding populations for ducks in Minnesota looks good this year.
Our Canada goose population too, is in very good shape. Production should be better than last year, and that was a good one. Waterfowl are not looking as good over in North Dakota. Spring has been the reverse of ours, with dry fields and shallow ponds drying up. The number of breeding ducks is about the same as last year, but there are dried out wetlands in the state. Poor water conditions are hurting breeding. With the sheet water unavailable when the migrants arrive from the south, they move on to the north into Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This makes a difference in the fall. Ducks don't nest in water, they need grass and they're not finding secure nesting cover. And the loss of CRP lands means less nesting cover.
The July brood survey will give a better idea of duck production and what hunters can expect this year.
"The Best There Is!"
You'll recognize the above phrase as the claim of Browning firearms. That may well be, as Browning is one of the world's leading makers of the rifles and shotguns we sportsmen have come to love. But it is also the heading of the published opinions of a group of famous gun writers. The opinion poll was instituted by the National Rifle Association and it was published in one of their monthly magazines, The American Hunter.
Seems the "best" is not a Browning after all, but the famous Winchester Model 70 rifle, which was introduced in 1935 and manufactured ever since the famous rifle got top billing from J. Scott Olmstead. In the rifle category, Ron Spomer, a somewhat new authority, but a seemingly good one, agrees. Bryce Towsley lists the Remington 700 as tops. Shotguns lists the Remington 870, and perhaps that's right, as nearly ten million have been made. The ubiquitous Winchester Model 12 is in third place. I was surprised to see the .308 Winchester get to the top of the list as "best" cartridge, with the 22 long rifle second and the .30-06 coming in third.
My personal choice would place the Winchester Model 70 #1, as there hasn't ever been anything better. I've had several in my gun racks, a .220 Swift, 257 Roberts, .270 Winchester and a .30-06. All gave excellent service, bagged a lot of game, gophers, crows and targets over the years.
The Browning Automatic 5 was near the top of the shotgun list for several of the writers, and everyone placed the 22 long rifle very high.
It was an interesting study, and I found very little fault with the conclusions of the many gun writers. The Winchester Model 52 target and sporting 22 rimfire was a top choice, along with Ruger's #1 single action rifle, which was popular but not outstanding. The Winchester Model 94 30-30 carbine was a popular choice. Get all of the details from the NRA magazine, and see if you agree with the choice of America's gun experts.
Shotgun enthusiasts in America will instantly recognize this as the premier over under shotgun made in Japan and used in the U.S.A. for hunting, trap, skeet and sporting clays. Introduced in 1973, it was the budget gun for the working man as the Belgian made Superposed was edging upwards in price, and was beyond the financial reach of many of us.
I owned a number of Model 12 shotguns and was happy with them. Al Ungerecht had fashioned butt stocks and fore ends to my specifications, did a masterful job of checkering the very nice walnut, but I yearned for an over-under shotgun, and the Citori seemed within my budget. I bought a field grade Citori for less than $300 from gun dealer Dave Vore in Fergus Falls.
Becoming accustomed to the over-under after a lifetime of slides was taking some learning experience, but I shot it quite well, did some pheasant, grouse and trap shooting with it. But it was a heavy gun, about eight pounds and I yearned for a slim 20 gauge. It was some years later, but I managed to get one that was used, and I hade a semi-matched pair.
The Browning Company, based in Utah, opted to have their Superposed raised to custom level at very high prices, and it was continued to be imported from Belgium.
However, the lower priced Citori was taking America by storm, and other manufacturers were in a frenzy, and began importing stack barrels from Italy, Japan, Turkey and Brazil. There was a mish-mash of over-under guns available, competing with the Citori, now, but its overwhelming popular continued. This spring, the one millionth Citori was made. It is an elegant gun, with gold engraving, superb walnut, and a fitted case. It has been donated by Browning to the National Rifle Association, and will be offered on a raffle basis at the NRA annual meetings in the fall, this year.
If you're in the market for a beautiful, serviceable over under, and who of us isn't, well, you'll see it at your gun dealer, in larger numbers and greater selections than other very good offerings. You may opt to buy an over-under shotgun for one reason or another, but Citori offers value and a quality piece, for a price that many of us have found we can meet.