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DULUTH — How tough was Minnesota pheasant hunting for last weekend's season opener? Here's a sampling of reports. From a Marshall-area hunter: Total bust. Six hunters, six dogs, two days, one bird. Private land. From a Madison-area hunter: Four hunters, four dogs, one missed rooster. Public land or walk-in areas. From a Sauk Center hunter: Two hunters, good dogs, two days, one rooster shot, one rooster missed. "It's a corn conundrum," said Anthony Hauck, director of public relations for Pheasants Forever, and a Minnesota native.
DULUTH — When a nine-point buck came walking toward Leif Birnbaum's deer stand last Sunday, Oct. 15, the Duluth bowhunter took a good look at him. "He was a nice deer," Birnbaum said, "but I was waiting for something a little bigger." Something bigger — way bigger — showed up about an hour later. Birnbaum shot a 10-point buck that field-dressed at 260 pounds.
SUPERIOR, WIS. — After 28 years of guiding fly-fishers on his beloved Brule River, fishing guide Damian Wilmot has decided to cut back pretty seriously. He will also give up most of his grouse and woodcock guiding in the fall. "I'm going to cut back a lot, literally doing two to three trips a month," said Wilmot, 50, of Superior. "I'm still debating whether to do any hunting (guiding) at all. I have some great dogs, and the amount I get to hunt behind them is pretty small. I want to do a lot more of that."
NEAR BRULE, WIS. — The high-pitched tone blaring from Casper's beeper-collar told hunting guide Damian Wilmot all he needed to know. "Casper's on point," Wilmot hollered through the stand of doghair aspen.
NORTHWEST OF ISLAND LAKE, Minn. — Phil Johnson was up near his hunting shack northwest of Island Lake one day when he came across an older man sitting in his pickup along the road. Johnson, of Esko, Minnesota, is an amiable guy. He stopped to say hello. The man in the truck had been hunting, too, he told Johnson. Johnson noticed an old black Lab lying on the seat beside the man. It had been his son's dog, the man told Johnson, but his son had moved away and — well, the old man had ended up with the dog.
DULUTH — Stone Boulanger of Stone River Wildlife Control says it was the largest nuisance bear he's ever trapped for a homeowner. He trapped the bear last Monday evening, Oct. 9, at a residence in the Duluth Heights neighborhood, he said, where it had been causing repeated damage to the home. The bear weighed 605 pounds field-dressed. That's a whopping big black bear. "I've never seen anything bigger than this," said Boulanger, whose business is based in Carlton. "A big bear is 300. This is just phenomenal."
NORTHWEST OF ISLAND LAKE, Minn. — Phil Johnson had shot the woodcock over his young Brittany's point, and he had seen the bird go down in the popples up ahead. This was several years ago, when Sophie, the Brittany, was about a year old. Johnson of Esko, Minnesota, is a longtime grouse and woodcock hunter, and he knew that some dogs just don't like the taste of a woodcock in their mouths. He wasn't sure whether Sophie would retrieve it.
I received the text early one morning this past week. It came from a buddy of mine who was out west — North Dakota — hunting. His texts are characteristically terse. So was this one. The text included a photo of his black Lab, facing directly away from him, sitting perfectly still in the cover of prairie grasses. The text said: "It's all about the Wait." What my friend and his Lab were waiting for on that Dakota dawn were sandhill cranes, he told me later. They had field-hunted for ducks and geese a day or so earlier, with success.
ELY, Minn. — The U.S. Forest Service has announced that its lottery system for issuing Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness permits for a few highly sought entry points near Ely no longer will be used after the 2018 season. The system will be replaced by the first-come, first-served system now in use at other entry points for the Boundary Waters, said Kris Reichenbach, public affairs officer for Superior National Forest.
Grouse hunting is, by its nature, a walk in the woods. A couple of recent lost-hunter incidents, one in Pine County and another near Remer, serve as reminders that hunters can sometimes find themselves turned around. Both of those incidents involved hunters being lost for multiple days and requiring rescue. With that in mind, here are some tips on how not to get lost grouse hunting, from David "Swede" Johnson, a regional director for the Ruffed Grouse Society from River Falls, Wis.