MN report and update on several threads I started

I went out Saturday to SW MN trying public land I'd never been to before. It was gun deer opener and I dressed like a pumpkin and so did the dog. There were a bunch of spots near each other, all of them had deer or upland hunters already there when I was driving around at 9:10, luckily the last spot in the cluster was empty, so off I went. Thirty mins. in I got to a spot with thicker grass that looked "better" to me. I also noticed that my vest wasn't buckled so I gave a light whistle to sit the dog and fix my vest. That's when a rooster jumped out in front of me with a loud cackle. I mounted and missed 3 times. Cursing myself, I started shucking more shells in the gun when the dog ran straight in where the rooster came from and another one jumped out of the grass in close range. I mashed on the bolt release as quick as I could and popped off two shells at the second rooster. Both cocks flew into standing corn and to my eye were missed clean. So yes, I still have a ways to go on my "wild bird shooting"(a thread I started on the main hunting page). Two spots later around mid-day, the dog ran into a very large patch of phragmites, and out the top going away a rooster flew, but I didn't shoot because I doubted that if hit it might be a difficult/impossible retrieve. On the other side of the phragmites was a large slough with very thin ice, which always makes me worry about the dog. After that I tried a spot that was the classic "sea of grass", and looked way too big for 1 guy and 1 dog. Very soon upon walk in puppy got really birdy and was chasing one very fast. I kept up behind her but the rooster jumped wild, and was too far of a shot for my taste. Sunday we slept in and decided to hunt closer to the cabin in south central MN. Hunted from 2-5pm and the first spot flushed two hens wild, and then leaving 45min. later had two hens fly from picked corn over the hood of my truck and land 30 feet from the parking lot in tall grass. During the last hour of hunting I picked a medium size chunk I had tried 2 weeks prior and hadn't seen any birds on. We walked with the wind in our face near the dirt road/ditch, then turned and went up a hill. Just before we crested the hill dog got hot for just a few seconds and out jumped a bird that I'm 80% sure was a rooster but I didn't shoot in case it was a hen(can be harder to tell in low light). Resigned to the fact that another hunting trip passed without me getting my first wild bird, I followed the beautiful field bred golden back through the prairie, wind at our backs, towards the truck. Suddenly a rooster jumped out 30 feet in front of us but I wasn't ready for the shot because I wasn't expecting the opportunity. Closer to the truck in a depression 3 or 4 more birds flushed at the same time, I think all hens, shooting hours were over either way. I wish I got some pheasants, but I'm trying to look at the positives. I'm getting experience with the dog, getting better at reading her body language, and learning what types of cover birds tend to like. And the biggest lesson of the weekend, that I need to be at least somewhat ready for a shot opportunity at all times while in the pheasant fields. For an adult onset hunter with no mentor I've learned most things from a few books, this website, and just going out and trying it. I might take this weekend off and go fishing because it's way easier to catch 20 walleyes than to shoot 1 pheasant(for me). But I hope to be out most of the rest of bird season.

Matt D

Keep putting in the time and things are going to come together. Glad you are seeing some birds.
MN public land hunting can be frustrating at times. There is good habitat and it produces birds but they are pressured and opportunities can be in short supply compared to say SD public land hunting. A little bad luck and/or a missed shot can be the difference a lot of days between a bird or two in the bag or a zero. Sticking with it is a good plan as more time in the seat will soon equal better execution and success.

Do you have the option to hunt mid-week? The MN public land cover is almost always the best habitat in the area and after getting pressured on the weekends the birds who are sensitive to pressure will usually have moved back in by Tuesday or Wednesday. The uptick in hunters starting on Friday often starts the cycle all over again.
My local MN expectations - have the opportunity to shoot a Rooster or two on about 2/3 of the pieces of land I hunt (lots of variables with that though, and more often than not they get up just out of range, wrong side of tree, human shooting error...., etc. But the opportunity was there if luck was just a bit more on my side), see a few hens, allow the dog to work, get out and exercise, learn a few things. My SD expectations are the same, except with the expectation to get shots at multiple roosters, which allows for a bit more error on my part.

If you are learning something each time out, the dog is working and making wild bird contacts, then I think you are on your way to being successful. First time I ever hunted was in 2008, I didn't get a bird all year. 2009 a few. 2008 -2011 was hunting with friends or their dogs and I increased my success rate just a bit each year. 2012 I got my dog and have drastically improved my expectations and success each year since. You start to learn how to read your dog, type of cover to look for, etc.

I will say to ALWAYS be ready. I can't tell you how many roosters I have shot or missed while hanging around the truck or walking back a piece you've already walked, or sitting next to a 2'x2' clump of grass or tumbleweed along a fence row.


Keep at it, it will fall together sooner than later. Public land birds are tough. As the season progresses they get tougher. I found out the quieter you are at the truck getting ready and in the field the better. I try not to whistle at the dog. I started using the tone feature on my ecollar to cast the dogs and to hup(sit) them if they are on a fast running bird so I can catch up. Also if hunting with a partner we use hand signals instead of talking to each other. Sounds over the top but it helps. As the previous poster said always be ready. I've missed lots of easy opportunities because there were birds were the they shouldn't be.

Stay positive and keep at! You are on the path to a lifetime of awesome memories. Once you connect that whole scene will be burned in your mind. I can clearly remember the first wild bird Ellie and I got.

Sorry for rambling,


Active member
Go practice at a sporting clays range. Have them launch the clay without you saying pull. Start gun down. Learn to lift (from any position), lead and shoot on a quicker basis.


For those of you that curse about hunting pressured public land, I would like to offer some advice: get in your truck, drive around, scout for birds/habitat, knock on doors, and ask for permission. I have done this for 21 years now and it pays off because you will eventually gain access to untouched, private land. But you have to be willing to try and put some of the time in. And you have to be willing to accept no for an answer. I've accumulated about 20 spots now over the years because of this and once you gain access, they almost always let you come back the following season. Most days I only hunt for an hour or less and fill my limit (even in December when the bag limit is 3). I never have to worry about getting to a spot after someone else has been there either.

I don't even try to hunt pheasants before deer season because of the standing corn, warmer temps, etc. I jump into it this time of year until the season is over and all of the birds I hunt have never seen a hunter or dog yet. I'm telling you, forget public land. Gain permission on private land and you'll find a much higher success rate.