LITTLE FALLS -- Lt. Col. Knut Vold, a senior training coordinator for the Norwegian Home Guard, thought he and four other senior training coordinators would have to "dig out" the pheasants during a pheasant hunt at Don LeBlanc's Family Shooting Preserve east of Little Falls on Saturday after five inches of snow fell on top of several inches that had fallen a few hours earlier.
But he forgot he would be hunting behind the "four-legged shovels," or dogs. Three Labrador retrievers, which at times only had their heads above the knee-deep snow, flushed 16 of the 20 pheasants released. Vold and his group bagged 12 birds, the most in the hunt's three-year history.
The group was part of the 28th annual U.S. Norwegian Troop Reciprocal Exchange at Camp Ripley from Feb. 22 to March 4. They were escorted by Minnesota Army National Guard officer counterparts.
This was the second consecutive hunt for Vold, who was the officer in charge of the exchange. Last year he was the assistant officer in charge. Each assistant returns the next year as the exchange's officer in charge.
Montana, a chocolate Labrador retriever, plowed through a corn field as she retrieved a rooster pheasant for her owner during the hunt.
At a game farm like this, shooters can shoot either a hen or rooster and do not need licenses.
The hunt was the third one for a chocolate Labrador named Montana owned by Maj. Dirk Kloss, operations officer at Camp Ripley. Montana's third birthday is Feb. 28. The other two dogs, two black Labradors, belong to Geno Redka of Pierz.
But even young dogs like Montana got tired. So much so that after retrieving a rooster later in the hunt, she followed her own trail back to Kloss.
The hunt started with the coordinators trap shooting at the preserve. While they were doing this, Master Sgt. Roger LeBlanc and Kloss hid the pheasants.
Lt. Col. Knut Vold cracked a smile during a break in Saturday's pheasant hunt.
When Kloss returned he told the coordinators that in some places in the preserve the snow was up to his waist. The senior training coordinators were able to walk on snowmobile trails made a few days earlier.
Lt. Col. Rolf Thronaes, the assistant officer in charge, said the snow depth and temperature (above 20 degrees Fahrenheit) was similar to where he lives in Norway. It was his first pheasant hunt.
"I felt a little bit sorry about the birds," he said. "They were a little bit slow."
Kloss, who has escorted similar groups for the last three years said, "By far (members of this group) were the best shots."
Geno Redka (left) of Pierz, his two dogs and Norwegian Home Guard senior training coordinators Lt. Col. Amund Flesvik and Lt. Col. Knut Vold set foot in a corn field Saturday during a pheasant hunt at Don LeBlanc's Family Shooting Preserve east of Little Falls. Flesvik, Vold and three other senior training coordinators were part of the 28th annual U.S. Norwegian Troop Reciprocal Exchange at Camp Ripley. (Camp Ripley Public Affairs Office Photos by Sgt. Clinton Wood)
The group feasted on pheasant with all the trimmings, including wild rice stuffing and apple pie, at Roger LeBlanc's residence. He is the nephew of Don LeBlanc, who died last year.
As Thronaes said, "They tasted heavenly."
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