2019 Reports

I had fun hunting and learned a lot. I am an adult onset hunter, and no matter how many books you read some things are only learned in the doing. Opening day was crowded, cold, and sleet/snow in the afternoon. Other days were warm. Crops were in one trip and out the next. I hunted Le Suer, Waseca, Rice, Dakota, Blue Earth, Meeker, MacLeod, Dodge and Olmstead counties. I kicked up around a dozen shootable roosters, I took shots at 8, and I dropped zero. Once I was adjusting my vest and a rooster jumped out. Another time I was in a dirty ditch with feet out of position and there went the rooster. Two birds on different hunts flushed very close to me and although I've seen many times, "you can't lead them too much," and "It's hard to shoot in front of a rooster," I think that is exactly what I did. I got to experience which covers the pheasant like and when. I learned lessons the hard way, that birds can flush when least expected, even when walking downwind. I learned that when the dog runs into the corn foodplot and then a rabbit runs out, stay ready, because a rooster might fly out 20 seconds later. I'm really looking forward to next season. I've joined a winter trap league that starts in a few days, and am going to continually work on my shooting. Hopefully next year I bag my first wild bird.
 

jackrabbit

New member
Stick with it. Reading your posts, it sounds like you've got the passion. I would somewhat consider myself an adult onset hunter as well. Grew up fishing a ton, never hunting. Moved to South Dakota for college, and at age 19 hunted for the first time and it really took off since. 10 years later, my absolute favorite thing/hobby to do in the world is now pheasant hunting. Your posts remind me so much of my first few years, hardly shot any birds, missed tons, but learned a lot with each time out. Even through all the lack of success, I somehow still had a blast and developed a passion for it. Each year has improved for me as far as shooting accuracy, dog work, success, learning types of cover, etc. It all is really starting to come together now.
 

BirdDoggin

New member
Here's my two cents, Bob.
Recognize smaller pieces of land that might hold a few birds and ask for permission. Park away from your entry point and always be as quiet as possible. I always look for a way to enter a field, particularly if it's public land, that is different than the rest of the foot traffic...always working into the wind. Often times I will put my dog on a short leash and walk quietly on the outskirts to get to the opposite side, and then hunt back to the truck. My lab is 3 yo and well behaved but, if he's excited and running around so I have to call for him, there goes my element of surprise. I think stealth and finding pieces of land that are not pounded every weekend is key. I have many times knocked on doors and pointed out a smallish piece of land that is somewhat less visible from the road. The chances that I get permission are better because fewer hunters are asking to hunt the land, and also you are not spending half your day as a solo hunter walking through a huge piece of land that seems overwhelming. And, if there are a couple of birds, you will have a good chance at having a shot. Doesn't always mean you have success, but you get the idea.
Over the years, I have hunted all through Mn, SD, and Iowa on both Public and Private ground. The competition and hunting pressure in Mn is way worse, in my experience. So finding land to walk that isn't constantly pressured is crucial. It seems you cover a lot of ground in the state, so narrow your efforts to where you have noticed the best bird numbers, and try to knock on doors for permission.

If you have the desire, and it sure seems you do, and the financial resources, a bird trip to SD is quite the experience. Even in down years, your odds of finding good bird numbers and having success are much higher. And, you can legally hunt the road ditches, which opens up a whole other option for land access.

Best of luck in 2020.
 

gimruis

New member
BirdDoggin brings up a lot of good points. I too would avoid highly pressured tracts of public land as a priority. I almost exclusively hunt private land now that is untouched (in other words, I'm the only person who hunts it). I gained permission at these spots over the course of the last 15 years by simply scouting and knocking on doors for permission. When I would see a good looking spot, I'd try to find the owner and gain permission. Generally, when I got permission, I could get it again. And so the spots start to accumulate. I'm up to about two dozen spots now and some of them I don't even hunt because I shoot my limit before I intend to go there!

Hunters that hunt only public pressured ground are missing out on some much better opportunities because they simply won't put the time or effort into asking for permission and finding better spots. You also have to be willing to accept being told no at some spots.

One more piece of advice I would like to add that BirdDoggin didn't mention: spend more time hunting the second half of the season rather than the first half. Sure, there are more dumb birds in October but there's also a sea of corn. Try to go after most of that is harvested, which seems to be late November and December now. My success almost exclusively comes from Thanksgiving on because of the crop harvest. Hunting public pieces of land with fields and fields of corn in the area is a recipe for failure.
 

BRITTMAN

Active member
This year being different ... generally speaking the past 10 years or so ... many times when I go to my core pheasant area I had my limit in two walks. I see shootable roosters on 75% of my walks on public land. Spend more time driving than hunting. I suppose that I should have stayed a day or two and knocked on doors in the afternoon. Don't have that kind of time ... yet.

Outside of my core (favorite) area ... I visit these other MN areas maybe a couple times each year max. May not limit, but usually have opportunities for my companions and myself - most on public land, but some private. Most of my companions do not want to drive as far as I will.

One year I had good luck north of the cities, but found that area a mix of swamps and unharvested corn. Killed a lot of birds that year, but not the funnest place for me to go with by Britts. One private land area was "easy" hunting as far as killing birds go, but tall woody swamps alongside corn field is not want I like to hunt. One of my turkey areas if full of pheasants, but i have never visited ... corn early ... they deer hunt .... guess I also do not want to over extend my welcome.
 
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Hey Jackrabbit, BirdDoggin, gimruis and brittman, thanks for the advice. It's been a big learning curve for me the past couple years, but I feel that I've come a long way. I have followed the reports, and taken notice of advice given. Although I think I'll always hunt public land, I did line up some private stuff as the season went on. I'm glad I put the time in this year, because it gives me the confidence to pre season scout for next year, and make contact with landowners about the possibility of hunting their spots. I have a unique situation in that I borrow a dog to go hunting. This may sound unconventional, but its from my best friend, and we go hunting together a few times a year, and fishing, etc. As far as SD is concerned I was hoping to go this fall but the trip fell through. The farmer was very honest and said all his CRP, ditches, etc. were flooded and bird numbers were off. But the biggest reason I didn't go is that my friend who got me into pheasant hunting passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a very rare disease. That was a very tough time for me, and so I decided to just stay in MN and hunt the weekends with my favorite field bred golden retriever. It was a good season and I can't wait to go next year. And I can't wait for the next vikings game out at San Fran!
 

BRITTMAN

Active member
Generally speaking the weather, harvest, flooding, etc... could not have been much worse (for pheasant hunting) across western MN and much of ND and SD too.
 

gimruis

New member
I wish the DNR would delay the opener by a week or two and then keep the season open longer in January like Iowa does. Hunting in October has really been poor in recent years because there's almost no crops harvested and its been so wet. Not sure about the rest of you, but I'd rather hunt in January when its 20 degrees than in October when its 60 degrees.
 

BirdDoggin

New member
Agreed with the later start and finish date. I assume that part of the reason for that being that MN is further North and would, in theory, have crops come out earlier than down South. I avoid the first couple of weeks of the season because of the potential for temps in the 60's or even 70's. About 20 years ago the temps for SD opener shot up in the 80's and many dogs died from overheat. It happened to be near drought like conditions that year and so the normal potholes and low spots that would hold water in previous seasons were all dried up. Hunters were caught unprepared and didn't have enough water or the ability to find a water hole to cool off. There were many broken hearts in the field as dogs began to overheat almost immediately and many died as a result. It was a big story at the time. and I'm sure there are guys on this board that remember or were there at the time. I'm glad I was not out there during that opener as I'm not sure I would have made the right decision and not taken my dog into the field.
With that said, it was almost 45 in Iowa yesterday as I closed out my season.
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BRITTMAN

Active member
Need to be careful of small potholes in early season (when warm). Blue-green algae blooms kill dogs too.

If you do not like the opener date ... don't go. I actually like the opening date and I chose not to go (crowds). But I do hunt later in October and like the idea that opener is long gone.

I prefer the season end no later than 1st weekend in January. Birds do not need to be pushed out of cover as winter sets in hard. Let them go into winter survival mode. If you want to extend the season, run down to NE or KS both has seasons that run to January 31st. Those states have a much different winter weather pattern.

MN ruffed grouse season is similar in that it opens before the best hunting prospects occur.
 
I have come to prefer the early opening of the season for somewhat selfish reasons. Most hunters here in Iowa only hunt the first few weeks of the season when the majority of the crops are still standing and roosters are hard to locate. By the time the corn is picked, there is little competition for the majority of the years birds that are now forced to move into the public hunting areas.
 
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