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Minnesota deer season is almost here

The nine November days so eagerly awaited by Minnesotans are nearly here. The first two weeks include the time that most biologists regard as the rut. It is a time when hunters fashion the whitetail buck to be a bit more careless in his evasive behavior. This may be true to some extent, but usually the bucks don't make many mistakes, so hunting them takes skill and savvy.

Minnesota offers a whale of a lot of options, with archery, muzzle-loaders and slug gun opportunities. With all of the options, legal hunting can be had until Dec. 13 when muzzle-loaders are still legal.

There are antlerless opportunities and zones where extra deer may be taken. The excellent booklet put out by our DNR explains it all, and you obtained one when you spent your $26 for the basic license. Study it carefully.

Be careful if you use a deer stand. Injuries occur every season, mostly the result of dumb procedures. Deer don't look skyward, so a deer stand puts you above their usual scan of the woods.

Some dogs have got it made!

They are the breeds we have developed for hunting. They are the dogs that sportsmen go into the marsh with, to retrieve waterfowl. On the uplands, they flush the pheasants, quail and sharptails. In some southern states, they track down deer, or find raccoon or porcupine at night. Sporting dogs live in kennels or right in the house with the family. These breeds are many. A popular dog in our area is the black Labrador retriever, or the golden, the big Chesapeake, a whole slew of Spaniels. This is not to say that the non-hunting dogs don't fare well. They are kept for family pets and do live well. They provide companionship and social contact. Any dog that is well treated rewards its owners with loyalty, and we get a great deal of pleasure in having them around. Anthropologists believe that man domesticated wolves between ten and twenty thousand years ago using them to hunt game.

But today's specialized gun dogs are animals of instinct. They learn from your voice, by hand signals, and prove to be capable interpreters of the human communiqué.

If a name is decided upon, repetition of that word soon becomes the main contact. These canines can generally be trusted with children. Dogs of the hunting breeds bond with kids easily, but this is a happy fact with many small dogs as well.

If provided with loving care, a sensible diet and proper use in the field, sporting dogs will live for nearly 15 seasons. Owning and maintaining a gun dog is one of life's choicest pleasures. They enrich our lives in and out of the sporting fields on many levels. They repay us with loyalty and affection. Not only to the hunter, but the entire family.

Ruffed grouse

The season in Minnesota opened in mid-September. Hunting success is listed as fair to poor. Our area, including Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, has been just that. Earl Johnson, Area Game Manager of our local DNR office, agrees with the assessment, "better on the other side of the state." Harvest success is "spotty" at Thief River Falls, Cook, Blackduck, Brainerd, and Remer. Deer hunters sometimes find the grouse and take the time to bag a few birds.

North Dakota bird hunting

Waterfowl? Good, to really great almost statewide. Water, water everywhere, and that's always the answer. Pheasants? Perhaps 250,000 fewer roosters than last year, but a total that is still above recent averages. Cold rainy weather in central and west North Dakota right at the hatching season caught many of the just-hatched chicks. But still, there'll be good pheasant hunting in much of North Dakota. Try the south central part and experience good hunting with a lot less hunter competition. Public hunting areas and PLOTS areas will provide hunter access.

Duck hunting 2009

It was poor, to nothing at all. Don Lefebvre and his nephews, Aaron and Joshua Stern from Alexandria did get a few birds hunting at Harding Lake. One man I talked with said that he had "interviewed" eight parties hunting at Tamarac that had taken four birds in three days. Dr. Don Steinmetz was with a party of four hunters. They took a few wood ducks in two days of hunting. Dr. Don said that the group did not see any birds other than woodies. No mallards, no teal, no gadwall or widgeon. The local birds did not decoy well, so shooting was at longer range than is desirable.

If a local hunter is in earnest about waterfowl, he will be disappointed hereabouts. Only alternative is to make the trip to central North Dakota.

That trip does not require all the length it formerly did. Pretty good duck hunting can be found as near as Valley City, near Rugby, and at Lamoure. The last named town is usually good for pheasants. In as much as that south-central part of North Dakota didn't experience that deluge of the central, the pheasant hatch around Lamoure may have turned out favavorably.

Are there any pheasants around here?

Yes! Pheasants are seen along the roadside of Highway 59 a few miles south of Osage. Pheasants can be seen in the Westbury vicinity. Most always it will be a single bird picking up gravel on the roadside. Pheasants are fairly prominent and available in the state wildlife area lands north of Bejou. Perhaps they're escapees from the commercial pheasant operations east of town. And there are a few pheasants six miles west of Highway 59 along County Highway 12. With a good dog, a hunter might be able to scratch out a limit of two roosters in a day. There is some pretty good cover available in these areas and the birds survive these open lands. Some would be good stocking areas for the Becker-Mahnomen chapter of Pheasants Forever.

Minnesota's pheasant season is once again a long one, closing on Jan. 1. The reports so far have been good, with limits being taken in the usual south and southwest zone. I've been hunting pheasants since I was a boy in high school and can never get enough of it. There's something about being afield with a good dog, good friends, hunting is a special event. A long spurred rooster erupts in the sky and the air is filled with feathers. The result is satisfying, followed by a very good dinner with the same friends.