It has been a long time since I’ve provided a meaningful update on the blog. There has been a lot going on and life gets busy but I’d like to think I’ve been busy having fun and doing the things I love, which I have. On top of that, our computer broke down and I haven’t been able to download and access any of my pictures.
The fact is, hunting season gets so busy and I’m finding that it is hard to dedicate time to writing. Below is a photo journal and descriptions of my favorite memories from the 2016 season.
Opening weekend was hot but we hit the woods and I was able to put one grouse in the game bag. Woodcock season wasn’t open yet but the dogs found plenty.
The following weekend, I hunted my way up to meet Northwoods’R Nick for our trip out to Michigan to grouse camp. We met up with some new and old friends and had a heck of a good time. You can see a quick write-up of that hunt here: http://www.northwoodsr.com/upland-lowlife-grouse-camp-photo-journal/
One of my most memorable shots of that trip was when Hartley went on point in an aspen stand. The birds were running and I walked in. The bird ran behind us and flushed. I spun 180 degrees and got a quick shot off. I saw the bird tumble and Hartley helped with the retrieve.
Jay and I traded guns for a walk and he connected on his first shot with my Fox. It took me a few shots but I finally connected on a woodcock with his Parker.
On an October hunt, I took my good friend, Nick. He had bird hunted but never behind dogs. We had a lot of shooting and put a lot of birds in the air. He was able to bag both grouse and woodcock over points.
A few of us played hooky one day and hit the woods with my buddy Phil and both of our wives. A good time was had by all.
I escaped up north for a long weekend of grouse hunting and hunting/exploring new covers. We found a fair amount of birds and made some lasting memories.
My cousin isn’t a hunter and I wanted to give him some perspective on my passion so I invited him along for a day in the brush. He started the day with a box of shells in his vest and walked out with one shell left and one woodcock. His smile is priceless and I think he was humbled.
My buddy Levi and I skipped work for an enjoyable day in the woods. We joke about a curse that we both have while hunting together. We’re always into birds but the grouse seem to give us the slip. This particular day, we broke the curse and were both able to bag a grouse. We were also heavily into woodcock. The dogs had some great work. I shot one within the first 10 minutes or so. As Stella was coming back with the retrieve, she locked up again with the woodcock in her mouth. I walked in and killed the bird which left a great memory that will last a lifetime.
In late October, I found myself with my three year old daughter for the weekend. I could spend it at home with her and take a weekend off of hunting, or I could pack up and have her tag along. I decided on the latter and invited Levi to go with. Our expectations were low but we were excited to be at the shack for the weekend and spend quality time together. We woke up to wet and drizzly conditions Saturday morning. After breakfast, we packed up and headed to one of my favorite covers.
I carried Grace in a pack and off we went. It wasn’t long before we were into birds. When Levi was close, I would set Grace and the pack down to walk in on Stella’s points. On a couple occasions when Stella was in sight, I was able to put Grace down and work the bird as she watched. When cover allowed, I carried her in on points and on one occasion, I was able to bag a woodcock with her on my back experiencing the whole thing. That was my absolute favorite memory from the 2016 season.
Grace kept asking, “Daddy, why didn’t you shoot that one?” It’s difficult to explain limits and conservation to a three year old, but I tried.
Sunday morning we headed to another good cover. We hopped out of the truck and Levi announced that he had left his gun at the shack. We were tight on time and not about to drive the half hour back to get it so I decided to let him carry my gun and I would just carry Grace. We each had a dog on the ground and hit the cover. I told Levi to make a loop with his dog and meet me back on the trail. Just after Levi disappeared into the cover, Surly went on point 50 yards away. Grace and I waited for Levi and after a few minutes he popped out on the trail. I put Grace down, grabbed the Fox and headed to Surly. There he was, holding point for over five minutes in some gnarly cover. I battled my way through and flushed a woodcock. I couldn’t hone in on it but pulled the trigger anyway hoping I would get lucky. Surly and I both watched that bird fly away.
In the last cover on the day, Surly made a nice point and Levi walked in on the point with my fox and bagged a woodcock. I caught the whole thing on video and snapped a few pictures afterwards.
As a tried and true Minnesotan, I found myself sitting in my deer stand on the whitetail opener. My friend Kevin joined our camp this year in attempt to bag his first deer. Late on opening morning, I heard Kevin shoot. I waited a half hour and then climbed out of my stand and hiked to Kevin. He told me that he shot a spike buck and could tell that he hit him so we searched for blood. We had to look a bit before finding some but we eventually picked up the track. It didn’t look like lung blood to me so we sat down and gave the deer some time. After an hour or so, we decided to track the buck. Tracking was difficult but we eventually caught up to him and put the finishing round in him. Kevin was pretty pleased to recover him and claim his first deer!
After eight years of applying, I finally drew a North Dakota mule deer tag. Anticipation was high and I didn’t waste any time hitting the field. I sat and glassed deer until sundown and headed into town to spend time with my family. My father in law, Curt had a landowner tag and joined me for the rest of the hunt. I sure was in for a treat considering I grew up hunting deer in the north woods of Minnesota where I’m not able to see very far and deer are few and far between. As day breaks on the prairie, deer seem to materialize out of nowhere. I’d glass one deer, put the binoculars down and see another one. We’d frequently count over 20 deer out feeding. There were a few nice bucks but not one that I was ready to pull the trigger on. We changed tactics one afternoon and walked a coulee and to Curt’s delight, bumped a few whitetails. He hadn’t shot a whitetail for a number of years and was eager to put one in the freezer. He wasted no time getting set up for a shot and made a perfect 200 yard shot.
On the fourth day of the hunt, we tried hunting some new land and I spotted a mature buck about 1000 yards away. We glassed him for a while and decided that if I wanted to get a shot at him, we’d have to move to him. We dropped out of sight and Curt got in to position to glass him from about 500-600 yards away. I crossed a couple of deep coulees and as I was nearing the rise, I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled. Once I crested the peak, I saw the deer and pulled up the range finder. They were right at 300 yards. I practiced at that range and was sighted in for it so I positioned myself for a shot. Once I had a perfect broadside shot, I pulled the trigger. At the shot, the buck dropped and I stood up to look back at Curt. He was yelling at me to shoot him again. I looked back and the buck was on his front legs dragging himself down another coulee. I dropped him again on my second shot and I started hiking to him. We didn’t want him to end up at the bottom of the coulee so I kept moving towards him and shot two more times. This wasn’t quite the fairy tale ending hunters envision. The buck suffered more than he deserved and I felt terrible. Truth be told, it was one of the toughest hunting experiences I’ve had. In hindsight, I could have made a number of better decisions along the way and it reaffirmed for me that a hunter, we must do everything in our power to hunt efficiently and ethically.
Once we got the buck back to town we hung him up and skinned him to age for few days. Fortunately, I had a few more days to spend on the prairie and I went to town to buy an upland license. I had the dogs with and we had been seeing birds so I had to cut them loose to get some exercise. It didn’t take long to get into birds and we had a wonderful time dropping into coulees and climbing back out with a little extra weight in the game bag. On one two hour walk with Stella, I limited on roosters, bagged a sharptail grouse and found a few shed antlers.
Our family tradition for Thanksgiving is to head to North Dakota to visit my in-laws. We typically get to sneak out for a couple days and chase pheasants. In one cattail slough, Surly pinned a bird. As I approached a big rooster cackled up. I can still see the bird rising from left to right and remember thinking to myself how long his tail was. It was just hanging down and floating with the wind. I raised the fox and pulled the trigger as the gun hit my cheek. He came down hard and Surly made a nice retrieve. This bird is likely the biggest rooster I’ve bagged to date. It was just a beautiful mature bird so I made sure to take a few pictures before putting him in my vest.
December always gets busy with family events and holidays but I was able to get out a couple days to chase grouse and had a nice walk on the last day of the season to wish them well for the winter.
I’m always amazed by the amount of experiences and memories are made over the course of a season.