With the arrival of August this outdoorsman's thoughts turn to hunting. Some good fishing remains to be had in the coming months, but with the way my fishing season has gone so far I'm definitely looking forward to hunting.
This fall I plan to hunt bear for the second time. My first attempt two years ago was unsuccessful. I don't have a strong desire to shoot a bear, but I'd like to see one in the woods. The only bears I've seen in the wild were running across roads. To see one coming through the woods at a natural gait would be a thrill.
I also plan to hunt Minnesota's newest gamebird, the mourning dove. I've watched the doves around the bird feeder in our yard this summer and wondered how many will end up in hunters' bag this fall. Part of the reason I anticipate the dove season is that I have a new pup. Doves will be a great way to introduce him to hunting. On our nightly walks he's flushed a few doves, and as I watch their erratic flight I wonder how I'm ever going to hit one. I have a hard enough time with straight-flying grouse, pheasants and ducks.
Speaking of grouse and pheasant, I hope to do better on each this fall. I've managed to shoot only two or three grouse in each of the past four seasons. Yes, the birds have been at the low end of their population cycle, but now they're on the upswing and that excuse no longer holds.
Same for pheasant. Minnesota hunters downed 511,000 ringnecks last fall and I added none to that total. South Dakota had a near-record harvest last fall and I added a whopping two birds to that total. I should've had about a dozen on my one South Dakota hunt, but the rooster pheasant remains a tough challenge for this wingshooter. For that reason I've made weekly visits to the Lake Shore Conservation Club this summer in hopes that trap and skeet practice will help my aim.
Ducks haven't exactly cluttered up my freezer the past few falls. Despite rosy predictions of great hatches and good flights, ducks have been scarce where our party hunts in Morrison County. In seasons past it was common to shoot two boxes of shells in a day. I haven't shot even one box in a day for several seasons now. Are the good 'old days of Minnesota waterfowling behind? I'd like to be optimistic, but when I note how many potholes have been lost in just my lifetime it's evident that ducks are losing the battle for habitat.
Deer hunting remains a bright spot. August is the month for bowhunters to round up the gear, make sure it works and practice shooting. Too many times I've taken too long to get in form. The Camp Ripley bow hunt in October or the rut in November are not the times to be working out kinks in your setup. By then the quick and efficient placement of a deer stand and the ability to place an arrow in a 6-inch circle should be second nature.
And this fall I plan to do something I haven't done since 1997: buy a firearms deer license. When I got into bowhunting I found that to be successful I had to set aside gun hunting and concentrate all my efforts on getting within bow range of deer. But now I realize it's been seven years since I hunted with my brother, who hunts the firearms season only. For both of us the greater portion of our hunting days are behind. If we don't get together and hunt now we might never do it.
How about you? What hunts are penciled in on your calendar? Let all hunters resolve now, at the start of August, to leave some of the yard work and household chores undone this fall and get out hunting. Before we know it Dec. 31 will be here and we'll be watching the sun go down on another hunting season and wondering where it went.
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 855-5862.
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