I don't think we're in pheasant country anymore, Toto.

By Nick Simonson

I awoke in the northern reaches of the state on Friday (10/28) to cloudy skies and calm winds.  As I milled about in bed, I debated whether or not to hit the stand, but my lust for antlers at this time of year got the better of me and I headed just north of Cherry, MN to an extended family member’s farm and a tripod stand tucked into the pines and popples along a hayfield.  The only deer I saw on my morning hunt were a doe and a fawn crossing the road that led to my parking spot as I arrived.  I did hear something milling about in the woods behind me while on stand, but other than the sound of sleet and snow hitting the last remaining leaves, all was quiet on the farm. 

During the day I walked my favorite grouse trails with my father-in-law along the Saint Louis River east of Makinen, MN.  We flushed four birds, with one coming on my lab Gunnar’s point, and only one provided a shot, which I missed.  All of the leaves are down, and there were a still a good number of birds holding along even the most well-trodden trails of our walk. 

On my evening deer hunt at the same location where I started my day, three does entered the field about 45 minutes before sunset, milled about and then traversed the field to another copse of trees to the south and disappeared from sight.  While leaving just after dark, a very large doe, perhaps one of the biggest I have seen, highlighted a trio of deer including a medium-sized doe, and a fawn grazing in the bottom on the edge of the farm. 

Saturday (10/29) afternoon was highlighted by Gunnar’s two excellent points on scent pocket grouse along another trail, but the birds had long wandered off into the woods, and flushed deep within the stands of aspens, not providing shots for either my brother-in-law or me.  In total, we put six grouse in the air, but no one could muster a shot; but sometimes that’s how grouse hunting goes.  We did find one dead bird in a small ravine, which had been shot earlier in the day, but not found by a hunter. 

That event reminded me of my mantra of grouse hunting – as with most hunting – we owe a great deal of respect to the animals we pursue – big or small.  We should meet them on their terms and to put forth a sporting effort, not only in the hunt but also to locate them.  Now, I know not everyone has a dog, but when grouse hunting, a dog isn’t absolutely necessary.  Get out of the truck or get off the ATV (if you’re able – which most hunters should be) and try walking the trails for these birds - road hunting shows a lack of respect for the quarry. 

Deer season kicks off this weekend, I’ll mix it up this weekend with some bow hunting and maybe some slug hunting.  I didn’t see any action up north that got me excited.  I did see one rub and one scrape while walking a deer trail in the woods off the beaten path, but that was the only one.  I think we’ll be waiting on the rut. 

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