Posts Tagged ‘grouse hunting’

My Upland Season: So Far, So Good…

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Here’s what’s happened so far in my ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting season.

One dog ran into an electric fence three times within two minutes. Fortunately it wasn’t live. He bounded into it, bounced back out of it. Looked at me confused, then charged it again. This time he stumbled with one foot caught in the lowest wire. Then he backed away, ran to his left and charged right into it again. I worry about his IQ.

My other dog dragged me through what seemed like 20 miles of thick dogwood and buckthorn – the kind that grabs ankles, wrenches knees and makes my arms look like I had a cat fight…with a cat. After he pointed and tracked, pointed and tracked, a bunny raced through the underbrush in front of me. I bellowed “Rabbit, bad!” cursing my allegedly experienced bird dog. Then a lovely plump woodcock zoomed out of the tangle in front of the dog.

I spent two hours in the most magnificent, storybook gorgeous grouse cover I could imagine. Apple trees, ferns, dogwood, thick cedar trees and maples, young birches and raspberries. Blow downs for cover, open lanes for landing. Even a perfect, moist streambed meandering through. Two hours. Not a bird.

Never have so many chipmunks materialized in one region, however. Understandably no one knows where they come from or where they go, but there’s a shockingly large population this fall. Probably due to global warming.

The one grouse I got so far was beautiful, a gray female whose center tail feather had just a shimmer of russet brown to it. Carefully labeled with the date – and the dog who pointed it – it will wait in the freezer for another grouse to complete a dinner for two.

So far this season I have shot maples, dogwood, alders, black locust, sumac, oaks, cedars, beechnut trees and hemlocks. I’ve shot air, mist, leaves, rain, saplings, bark and inadvertently one abandoned squirrel’s nest.

My young dog taught me one of those “trust your dog” lessons when I didn’t believe he really had a bird under his nose. The older dog proves to me again and again that we hunt as a team, our communication fine-tuned over the years. Both dogs have told me that we need to hunt more than a couple of hours after work each day and that it’s okay if I run out of 7½ shot – 6’s will be just fine.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

The 25 Best Bird Hunting Towns in America

Monday, April 29th, 2013

25-best-towns-2013 (1)

Last year’s list of the 25 Best Pheasant Hunting Towns in America selected locales predominately based in the Midwest where the ringneck is king. Because Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever members hail from all reaches of the United States, from Alabama to Alaska, we’ve assembled this year’s list to include pheasants as well as multiple quail species, prairie grouse and even forest birds. The main criterion was to emphasize areas capable of providing multiple species, along with destinations most-welcoming to bird hunters. In other words, there were bonus points awarded for “mixed bag” opportunities and neon signs “welcoming bird hunters” in this year’s analysis.  We also avoided re-listing last year’s 25 towns, so what you now have is a good bucket list of 50 destinations for the traveling wingshooter!

What towns did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.

1. Pierre, South Dakota. This Missouri River town puts you in the heart of pheasant country, but the upland fun doesn’t stop there. In 2011 (the last year numbers were available) approximately 30 roosters per square mile were harvested in Hughes County. Cross the river and head south of Pierre and you’re into the Fort Pierre National Grassland, where sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens become the main quarry. In fact, the U.S. Forest Service manages the Fort Pierre National Grassland specifically for these native birds.  Just North of Pierre also boasts some of the state’s best gray (Hungarian) partridge numbers as well.

While you’re there: Myril Arch’s Cattleman’s Club Steakhouse goes through an average of 60,000 pounds of aged, choice beef a year, so they must know what they’re doing.

2. Lewistown, Montana.  Located in the geographic center of the state, Lewistown is the perfect city to home base a public land upland bird hunt. Fergus County has ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, gray (Hungarian) partridge, as well as sage grouse. You’ll chase these upland birds with stunning buttes and mountain ranges as almost surreal backdrops, and find no shortage of publically accessible land, whether state or federally owned. Two keystone Pheasants Forever wildlife habitat projects are 45 minutes from Lewistown. Located six miles north of Denton, Montana, the 800-acre Coffee Creek BLOCK Management Area is located between a 320-acre parcel and an 880-acre parcel of land – all three areas are open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever also acquired a 1,000 acre parcel known as the Wolf Creek Property, a project which created 14,000 contiguous acres open to public walk-in hunting.

While you’re there: Once the birds have been cleaned and the dog has been fed, head over to the 87 Bar & Grill in Stanford for their house specialty smoked ribs and steaks.

3. Hettinger, North Dakota. Disregard state lines and you can’t tell the difference between southwest North Dakota and the best locales in South Dakota. Hettinger gets the nod in this region because of a few more Private Land Open to Sportsmen (P.L.O.T.S.) areas.

While you’re there: A visit north to the Pheasant Café in Mott seems like a must.

4. Huron, South Dakota. Home to the “World’s Largest Pheasant,” Huron is also home to some darn good pheasant hunting. From state Game Production Areas to federal Waterfowl Production Areas to a mix of walk-in lands, there’s enough public land in the region to never hunt the same area twice on a 5 or 10-day trip, unless of course you find a honey hole.

While you’re there: The Hwy. 14 Roadhouse in nearby Cavour has the type of good, greasy food that goes down guilt free after a long day of pheasant hunting.

5. Valentine, Nebraska. One of the most unique areas in the United States, the nearly 20,000 square mile Nebraska Sandhills region is an outdoor paradise, and Valentine, which rests at the northern edge of the Sandhills, was named one of the best ten wilderness towns and cities by National Geographic Adventure magazine in 2007. Because the Sandhills are 95 percent grassland, it remains one of the most vital areas for greater prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse in the country.  Grouse can be found on the 115,000-acre Samuel McKelvie National Forest, and grouse and pheasants may be encountered on the 73,000-acre Valentine National Wildlife Refuge.

While you’re there: Head over to the Peppermill & E. K. Valentine Lounge and devour the Joseph Angus Burger, a finalist in the Nebraska Beef Council’s Best Burger Contest.

6. White Bird, Idaho. Hells Canyon is 8,000 feet of elevation, and at various levels includes pheasants, quail, gray partridge and forest grouse. Show up in shape and plan the right route up and down, and you may encounter many of these species in one day. It’s considered by many wingshooting enthusiasts to be a “hunt of a lifetime.” Nearly 40 percent of Idaho’s Hells Canyon is publically accessible, either through state-owned lands, U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands or U.S. Forest Service lands.

While you’re there: Floats and rafting adventures are popular on the Salmon River, in case your bird hunt also needs to double as a family vacation.

7. Heppner, Oregon. Nestled in the Columbia Basin, within a half-hour drive hunters have the opportunity to harvest pheasants, California quail, Huns, chukar, and in the nearby Blue Mountains, Dusky grouse, ruffed grouse and at least the chance of running into mountain quail. With the exception of the Umatilla National Forest for grouse, the hunting opportunity is mostly on private land in the area, but the state has a number of agreements in the area for private land access through its Open Fields, Upland Cooperative Access Program and Regulated Hunt Areas.

While you’re there: As you scout, make sure to drive from Highway 74, also called the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, winding south from Interstate 84 through Ione, Lexington and Heppner.

8. Winnemucca, Nevada. Winnemucca claims legendary status as the “Chukar Captial of the Country.” Long seasons (first Saturday in October through January 31), liberal bag limits (daily limit of six; possession limit of 18) and the fact that these birds are found almost exclusively on public land make chukar Nevada’s most popular game bird. The covey birds do well here in the steep, rugged canyons that mirror the original chukar habitat of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the birds’ native countries. Just know the first time you hunt chukar is for fun, the rest of your life is for revenge.

While you’re there: Nearby Orovada, 44 miles to the north of Winnemucca, is known for excellent hunting areas as well as breathtaking views of the Sawtooth Mountains.

9. Albany, Georgia. Buoyed by tradition and cemented with a local culture built upon the local quail plantation economy, Albany has a reputation as the “quail hunting capital of the world” and a citizenry that embraces “Gentleman Bob.”

While you’re there: save an hour for the 60 mile trip South to Thomasville, Georgia where you can visit Kevin’s, a landmark sporting goods retailer devoted to the bird hunter.

10. Milaca, Minnesota. There are places in Minnesota where pheasants can be found in greater abundance, ditto for ruffed grouse. But there are few places where a hunter may encounter both in such close proximity. While pheasants are found primarily on private land here, state Wildlife Management Areas in the region offer a chance at a rare pheasant/grouse double, including the 40,000-acre Mille Laces WMA. The nearby Rum River State Forest provides 40,000 acres to search for forest birds.

While you’re there: For lunch, the Rough-Cut Grill & Bar in Milaca is the place. This isn’t the type of joint with a lighter portion menu, so fill up and plan on walking it all off in the afternoon…before you come back for supper.

11. Sonoita, Arizona. Central in Arizona’s quail triangle – the Patagonia/Sonoita/Elgin tri-city area – the crossroads of U.S. Highways 82 and 83 puts you in the epicenter of Mearns’ quail country, and 90 percent of the world’s Mearns’ hunting takes place in Arizona. Surrounded by scenic mountain ranges, the pups will find the hotels dog friendly, and moderate winter temps extend through the quail hunting season. Sonoita is also close to desert grasslands (scaled quail) and desert scrub (Gambel’s quail). After your Mearns’ hunt in the oak-lined canyons, you can work toward the Triple Crown.

12. Abilene, Kansas. A gateway to the Flint Hills to the north and central Kansas to the west, the two areas in recent years that have produced the best quail hunting in the Sunflower State.

13. Eureka, South Dakota.  Legend has it the town’s name stems from the first settler’s reaction to all the pheasants observed in the area – “Eureka!”

14. Wing, North Dakota.  Located just northeast of Bismarck, this town’s name is a clear indication of its premiere attraction.  While primarily a waterfowler’s paradise, bird hunters looking to keep their boots dry can find pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse and Huns on ample public ground.

15. Redfield, South Dakota.  By law, there can only be one officially trademarked “Pheasant Capital of the World” and Redfield is the owner of that distinction . . . and for good reason!

16. Tallahassee, Florida.  Home to Tall Timbers, a partner non-profit focused on quail research, this north Florida town is steeped in the quail plantation culture and quail hunting tradition.

17. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.  This fisherman’s paradise also makes for an excellent October launching off point for the bird hunter.  Head south toward Fergus Falls to bag your limit of roosters, then jog northeast to find ruffed  grouse and timberdoodles amongst thousands of acres of public forest lands.  Point straight west and you’ll find prairie chickens in nearby Clay County if you’re lucky enough to pull a Minnesota prairie chicken permit.

18. Park Falls, Wisconsin. For more than 25 years, Park Falls has staked its claim as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” It’s more than just proclamation – more than 5,000 acres in the area are intensively managed as ruffed grouse and woodcock habitat.

19. Iron River, Michigan. Four-season recreation is Iron County’s claim to fame, and with the nearby Ottawa National Forest, it’s no coincidence the county bills itself as the woodcock capital of the world.

20. Lander, Wyoming. Wyoming is home to about 54 percent of the greater sage-grouse in the United States, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Wyoming manages millions of publically-accessible acres.

21. Miles City, Montana. Sharp-tailed grouse are well dispersed throughout southeast Montana, and the state boasts the highest daily bag limit – four birds – in the country. Thicker cover along riparian areas also provides chances at ringnecks. Did we mention there are roughly 2.5 million acres of publicly-accessible land in this region?

22. Spirit Lake, Iowa. The many Waterfowl Production Areas and their cattails make northwest Iowa a great late-season pheasant hunting option.

23. Holyoke, Colorado. Lots of Pheasants Forever and state programs – including walk-in areas – are at work in Phillips County which has made the rural, northeast Colorado town of Holyoke the state’s shining upland star.

24. Barstow, California. San Bernardino County  is a top quail producer in the state, and the vast Mojave National Preserve is the most popular destination for hunters from throughout southern California, where wingshooters can also find chukar in addition to quail.

25. Anchorage, Alaska. From the regional hub of Anchorage, bird hunters can drive or fly to excellent hunting areas in all directions, which include ptarmigan, ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. To maximize your chances and stay safe here, consider hiring a guide.

Return to the On the Wing eNewsletter

Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at AHauck@pheasantsforever.organd follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.

Happy Birthday Bird Dog

Monday, March 11th, 2013

"Izzy" has made great leaps as a bird dog and member of our family in her first year.

“Izzy” has made great leaps as a bird dog and member of our family in her first year.

Today marks the first birthday for my youngest bird dog, Izzy.  During the standard “what’s for dinner” chat with my wife this afternoon, Meredith informed me she’d be late arriving home this evening.  The delay – she had to stop at the “fancy” pet store on her way home to purchase Izzy a special birthday present.  Truth be told, I hadn’t realized it was the pup’s birthday . . . or that we’d be celebrating said occasion.

After an initial scoff gurgled out of my clenched cheeks, I warmed to the idea of rewarding the newest member of our family with a minor indulgence.  After all, this youngster has already played a sizeable role in answering our daily “what’s for dinner” question with pointed pheasants, grouse, quail and woodcock.

While I’m admittedly guilty of anthropomorphizing my bird dogs . . . and I’m guilty of posing this same question at Christmas . . . do you celebrate your bird dog’s birthday?


The author's wife, Meredith, presents Izzy with her first birthday cupcake while the couple's older GSP, Trammell, looks on.

The author’s wife, Meredith, presents Izzy with her first birthday cupcake while the couple’s older GSP, Trammell, looks on.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre .

The 39-Year Old Pheasant Hunter Contemplates Growing Up

Monday, January 21st, 2013


The author and his first bird dog, “Trammell,” then (left, on their first upland hunt) and now. 

Last December, I turned 39, which means that I will move into a new demographic bubble at the end of 2013.  As I get older, I find myself doing a lot more reflecting on things; hunts, dogs, relationships, and my own life’s legacy.

Case in point, in years prior I’d hunt one field and move along to the next tract of public ground on the map.  I lived in the moment asking “what’s next?”

This year, however, I’d get to the end of the field and contemplate how I may have been able to more effectively put the pinch on an extra bird here or there.  Or, how I appreciated the work of a beloved bird dog, the beauty of a rolling grassland or the deepness of a rooster’s colorful plumage.  In other words, I’ve found myself living in the moment asking “what have I learned?”

The same contemplative trend has greeted me in the New Year as I reflect on my hunting adventures of the past and future.  While I’ve never been one to endeavor for a lifestyle filled with “resolutions,” I’ve come to recognize the invincibility approach of my younger days is impractical.  I’ve found the compelling need to address my personal goals defining my own version of the meaning of life.

I’m guessing some readers have stopped and are thinking: “The meaning of life is pretty weighty stuff for a pheasant blog.”  Perhaps it is to some.  But, as I look into the future and think about the inevitable reality most of us will face of laying immobilized in a hospital bed reflecting on our lives, I believe my thoughts will gravitate to hunts shared with my family, birds missed over bemused bird dogs and wild game dinners toasted with hunting partners at pheasant camp.  The very same things I cherish in my life’s prime.

It is with this spirit of renewed appreciation I look forward into 2013 and offer my own personal reflections for your consideration.

  • Turn off the cell phone.  Like cigarettes were to the Baby Boomers, smart phones will be the plague of Generation Xers.  I hate my phone, and I don’t think “hate” is too strong a word for the disdain I feel about my inability to unplug and enjoy the outdoors in solitude.  This year, I plan on doing a better job of disconnecting, enjoying the wonders of nature and personally engaging in the conversation of my friends.
  • Go Hunting with Dad, Mom, Brother, Nephew, Wife, and Best Buddy.  My dad almost died about 20 years ago after a sudden brain aneurysm.  During those days spent praying alongside his hospital bed, I thought about the special times we’d shared.  Most of those times revolved around hunting.  Miraculously, my dad fully recovered and I’ve been blessed with hundreds of new treasured memories.  Surprisingly, it’s easy to take the people we care about the most for granted, even after almost losing them. However, I know from first-hand experience, the times spent with my family chasing birds are the memories we all cherish the most.
  • Bird Dogs Never Live Long Enough.  Readers of this blog know I am guilty of treating my two pups like children.  I love my dogs.  They have brought greater joy to my life than I could have ever imagined prior to becoming a dog owner.  My oldest pup, Trammell, will turn seven this spring.  While I hope she’ll have another seven strong autumns ahead, I’ve already noticed the sands of time tilting to the other side of the ledger.  As I look toward next fall’s hunting season, I’m tempted to embark on new adventures and new species of birds to add notches to her checklist.  To chase those ptarmigan in Alaska I’ve always threatened.  To swing through quail country for a grand slam.  However, a part of me believes that’s missing the point.  A truer, more meaningful, way of enjoying Trammell’s “salad” days would be to savor the pheasant fields, grouse woods and timberdoodle bottoms we’ve both come to cherish together.  Either way, I realize Tram’s peak has passed, but she’ll shine bright enough this year for me to savor a few more glimpses of my first bird dog’s genuine greatness.

For those readers who’ve crossed the four decade mark, what sage advice would you offer me as I approach the big 4-0 as a bird hunter?

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

Strangers Aren’t Always So Strange

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

Photo by Nancy Anisfield / Anisfield Hunting Dog Photography

I put four bottles of red wine and a few nips of brandy on the counter at our local liquor store. A voice behind me said, “That’s a good sized collection.” Turning, I saw a squirrely-looking guy, wiry, with a stubbly narrow beard and boney face, wearing a dark bandana on his head and a much-too-worn Harley t-shirt. Living in a small town, I recognize most the locals even if I don’t know their names. He wasn’t familiar.

“It’s for hunting camp,” I said.

“Oh yeah? Your husband’s heading to deer camp?” he asked with a chuckle, probably wondering why a bunch of manly men hunters would sip wine instead of bourbon or beer.

“No, it’s for girls’ hunting camp.”

“So you hang out, drink wine, take walks, stuff like that?” he continued with a smirky half smile starting on the left side of his mouth.

“No, we hunt,” I replied, loving the direction this conversation was going. He gave me a doubtful look that said, “Yeah sure.”

“Fourteen women, ages 39-73. We all have our own bird dogs that we trained ourselves. Actually, I think there’ll be about 19 dogs at the camp this year. We hunt. Hard. All day.”

His eyes lit up, “Really? What are you hunting?”

“Grouse, I mean partridge, and woodcock,” I answered, going with the local term – “partridge” – for ruffed grouse.  “Up in northeastern Maine, in Eustis. Most of us have pointing dogs, but there’s a Lab or two in the group. Partridge are pretty good up there. We’re hoping some flights of woodcock come in.”

That seemed to convince him and flip a switch in his mind. He instantly pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and showed me a photo of his living room with handsome deer mounts covering the walls. I admired them. We launched into a conversation about how this year’s deer and bird seasons were looking, what the odds were he was going to get a buck during bow season, and how tough the Maine woods would be for bird hunting until more leaves came down. Then we moved on to the relative merits of duck hunting and goose hunting, my hunting dogs and his non-hunting dogs. Twenty minutes later, I picked up my double-bagged collection of bottles and turned to the door as my friend and I wished each other good luck and good times hunting. Expectations overturned, enthusiasms shared. Pretty cool.

Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.

What’s Tougher on your Body: Pheasant Hunting or Ruffed Grouse Hunting?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Grouse cover may look like a tangle, but my small stature finds it easier to navigate than the thick grasses of a pheasant field.

Although most of my favorite outdoor publications annually run the same old tired stories about “getting into shape before bird hunting season,” I don’t think the non-hunter realizes the physical demands of a walk across the prairie, or through the forest, with a shotgun in tow.  Similarly, I doubt most forest grouse hunters appreciate the exertion needed for a wild pheasant hunt and vice versa.  It’s along these lines the debate in the Pheasants Forever offices last week commenced.


At 5’8” tall, some consider me relatively short . . .  Okay, I’m really 5’7” and a ¼” . . .  Anyway, I’ve always considered pheasant hunting to be far more physically demanding than grouse hunting.  The resistance of the tall prairie grasses, cattails and brush against my short legs have always led to extreme leg fatigue and cramping, while ducking in and through alder swamps and aspen thickets have been relatively easy for me.


Get off the Stairmaster and give pheasant hunting a try for your next workout

To my surprise, my taller colleagues Andrew Vavra, Anthony Hauck and Rehan Nana complained of finding the grouse woods to be far more difficult than the pheasant fields.  They find the ducking out of the way of branches, climbing over deadfalls, and squeezing through poplar thickets to be much more of a physical workout than a sojourn across a pheasant prairie.  I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in Michigan’s northwoods, while all three of these guys cut their teeth on the open pheasant prairies of Minnesota and Kansas, respectively.


So the debate has got me thinking about the classic nurture versus nature debate, from a bird hunter’s perspective.  Are the physical demands of pheasant hunting and ruffed grouse hunting directly related to your height or to the type of hunting one is introduced to in the beginning?


How tall are you, what kind of bird hunting did you grow up on, and what type of bird hunting is hardest on your body?


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Wisconsin Welcomes Wingshooters

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

photo by Mark Herwig

I recently visited my local Gander Mountain retail location to purchase a Wisconsin small game hunting license in advance of a trip east in search of ruffed grouse and woodcock.


“Is this the first time you’ve purchased a hunting license in Wisconsin,” the Gander Mountain clerk asked.


I annually buy a fishing license during visits with my brother’s family in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, but this was indeed the first Wisconsin hunting license of my life.


It turns out Wisconsin has a fantastic promotion to help encourage hunter recruitment in which all first time hunting licenses are sold at a 50 percent discount.  In other words, my non-resident small game hunting license cost me $42.75 instead of the normal $85 charge.  In fact, Wisconsin residents buying their first adult small game license are only charged $5.

The following note appears on my license:

“Thank you for your license purchase.  Wisconsin implemented a Recruitment Program that offers incentives to first time participants and the individuals who recruited them into hunting, fishing, and trapping.  You paid a reduced license fee since it was either your first time purchasing this type of license or you haven’t purchased one within the last 10 years.  This recruitment program also gives you the opportunity to recognize the individual who encouraged you to participate in this activity.  If you would like to designate the person who recruited you, call the DNR at 1.888.936.7463.  Enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors.”

Another nice nugget about Wisconsin is the fact their ruffed grouse hunting season remains open across the state’s northern range through January 31st.  That’s an extra thirty days of late season bird hunting when compared to neighboring states Minnesota and Michigan’s grouse season.  I’m already planning a snowshoe hunt in January.


Wisconsin can consider this bird hunter hooked for life.


NOTE: A pheasant stamp (resident or non-resident) costs an additional $10.


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Is It September Yet?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

That’s what I said to a co-worker this week as I passed by his office. His response, “Yeah, it’s a long time between turkey season and dove season.” You’re telling me.

Yes, the off season doldrums have set in yet again and I’m feeling the pain. My forlorn question was prompted by reading an amazing grouse hunting tale by Robert Murphy entitled “The Phantom Setter.” Find it if you can…it is worth the read.

Photo by Mark Herwig / Pheasants Forever

I spend a lot of time outdoors whether its hunting season or not, but summer gardening, canoeing, outdoor art events (I don’t fish much) and the like here in the big city (Minneapolis-St. Paul) are fun, but pale in comparison to the adventure and heart pumping exhilaration of a dog pointing a rooster, rising to swing on a screaming flock of bluebills passing over the ‘coys or fingering the trigger on a .270 waiting for a white-tailed buck to come just a bit closer.

Yes, training my dog eases the anguish somewhat. But, breaking out the whistle and collar for a run around town in shorts under sunny summer skies is just a big tease compared to the real thing: the smooth metallic click of sliding some rounds into a 12 ga., the enthusiasm of a friend’s voice when calling out “he’s on a bird” or watching the sun break the horizon from my boat on a North Dakota duck hunt.

Like many of you, I’ve planned some fall hunts already. It’s exciting to imagine giddy phone calls with a hunting buddy, packing up the gear and loading the dog before putting the lever in drive and heading for points north, west, south or east. Alas, after penning in a hunting date on my schedule, I then must simply and grudgingly forget about it all and wait for the long, interminable passing of June, July and August…ugh!

This time of year, I’m jealous of the hawk, fox and even the earthly short-tailed shrew (a subterranean insectivore that hunts my lawn all summer) as they pursue prey each and every day in plain sight, mocking modern human’s soul-stomping halt to the chase.

I guess for now, I’ll just have to hang on until the first week of September and hold on tight to the words of Hungarian writer Sandor Marai who wrote in 1942 that, “In my whole life, I think I have loved nothing so much as the first light of dawn on the day of a hunt.” Amen.

The Nomad is written by Mark Herwig, Editor of the Pheasants Forever Journal and Quail Forever Journal. Email Mark at

Ruffed grouse, big bucks and a bad joke

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The author with an early season ruffed grouse, courtesy help of his springer Hunter, right, and buddy Dave Riopel's wirehair griffon Vashti.

Ruffed grouse and archery deer season opened here in Minnesota Saturday, September 18. I partook of both. Fellow PF staffer Jared Wiklund put us onto a great spot near Duluth.

Since most the leaves are on the trees and shrubs, we did not expect great shooting (two co-workers also went out and didn’t bag a bird due to the leaves). We did have lots of action, however. Many flushes, five birds seen, four shot at and one bagged (see photo). The bird flew on a straight away in a tall aspen grove where I could see it for a good 25-yard shot.

My springer Hunter and buddy Dave Riopel’s wirehaired griffon Vashti did the flushing. We are returning Oct. 9 when the leaves should be down and the shooting up. My wife Terri and I dined on roast grouse with spuds and summer squash from the garden Sunday.

Grouse hunting humor:

What do you get when you cross a pointer and a setter? A flower…..the poin-setter!

Buck fever!

I scouted my archery deer spot 13 miles north of the PF office Saturday night and saw a big 12-pointer! I hunted from a ground blind Sunday as didn’t have help to put up a ladder stand – big mistake.

First, a big doe and two fawns came within 50 yards, but spooked, snorted and ran. At dusk, the buck and two of his buddies of equal size came out of the woods onto an adjacent alfalfa field. I got one to approach twice with a grunt call, but he stopped at 50 yards and then all three bolted…..again spooked by the unfamiliar ground blind.

I went Monday to pull the ground blind and set up my ladder stand. I’ll keep you posted on the results! Anyone out there have any better luck with the grouse or deer?

By the way, I heard a rooster crowing from the deer blind. His turn’s coming! The deer spot also had wild turkey, sandhill crane, mourning doves and giant Canada geese running and flying all over. What abundance. We are blessed. May it always be so — help keep it that way by joining Pheasants Forever!

The Captain, Two Shot & A Cold Front

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

This weekend, I was reminded of the incredible value of friendship and how the outdoors brings people together. 

Yes, I know, the cheese-o-meter on today’s blog entry is already off the charts and I’m only a single line in, but I will stand by the statement.  Besides, today’s blog is intended as a bro-hug anyway.

"The Captain" Billy Hildebrand and his golden retriever, Tess, show off a Montana limit of roosters and a pair of mallards.

“The Captain” Billy Hildebrand

I met “The Captain” about six years ago as a guest on his radio show, FAN Outdoors.  Over time, we began to establish a rapport.  Pretty soon, we took our friendship to the field.  A few years back, I was welcomed to the Hildebrand family pheasant camp for the Minnesota opener.  Although my pup made herself at home on the furniture, I have been welcomed back every year since.  About a year and a half ago, “The Captain” invited me to spend my Saturday mornings on the radio as his sidekick.  We’ve visited Pheasants Forever chapters from Waseca, Minnesota to Fort Benton, Montana in the last few years.  He’s pulled my truck out of a ditch after an icy accident and helped me navigate a two mile marsh in the pitch black of a pre-dawn morning.  This weekend, he mentored me and my wife Meredith as we purchased our first fishing boat; a Crestliner he found, researched, and inspected for me.  He loves pheasant hunting, bass fishing, and a good cut of venison.  He’s passionate about conservation and committed to instilling the same land ethics in his two sons, Chad and Erik.      


Anthony "Big Cat" Hauck and Matt "Two Shot" Kucharski pose with Matt's Lab, Lucy, during a U.P. grouse hunt.

Matt “Two Shot” Kucharski

Pheasant hunting also brought me together with Matt.  As a senior vice president at the prestigious Padilla Speer Beardsley public relations firm, Matt’s passion for the outdoors and PSB’s commitment to volunteering in the community led to his donation of expert guidance on a wide array of complex issues.  Like most of us, he’d rather be navigating a WMA in search of a wily rooster.  So, that was PF’s original trade with Matt: public relations and marketing guidance for hunting adventures.  Truth be told, that’s how it started, but our friendship has expanded well beyond those “work hunts” to annual grouse adventures in my home Michigan woods to his family duck camp in North Dakota.  He earned his nickname as “Two Shot,” for being the deadliest shot I’ve ever hunted alongside . . . after he misses his first attempt.  Matt has also helped me move into our first house, repair my deck, and fix my garage door (are you getting the picture that I’m not very handy around the house?).  However it’s a shared devotion to our bird dogs that galvanized our friendship.  His black Lab, Lucy, is as good a pheasant dog and retriever as you’d ever have a chance to spend a day in the field behind; although her fearless demeanor and lightning speed has led to her propensity for spendy mishaps.  She had one of those mishaps on Easter Sunday, but thankfully things appear to be looking good for a full recovery.  That’s great news for us, bad news for the birds!


"Cold Front" Mike Kurre shows off a walleye.

“Cold Front” Mike Kurre

As Thursday night’s FAN Outdoors sidekick, “Cold Front” and I share the pleasure of following Captain Billy’s lead for two hours of fun-filled radio each week.  This Saturday afternoon, fellow PFer Anthony “Big Cat” Hauck and I were treated to a day of crappie fishing on Kurre’s boat.  Kurre easily took home “Fisherman of the Day” honors as he boated twice as many fish as his two pheasant comrades.  And although the fishing wasn’t fast and furious, the conversation, fish stories and good natured jabbing was rampant. 

The moral of the story, take someone hunting or fishing.  You may end up with a fixed garage door, expert boat buying guidance, a pull out of a ditch, or even a radio gig.  But for sure, you’ll end up with fun days afield with friends.  Thanks guys, this bro-hug is for you.