Brute’s Bleat: November 27, 2013

After doing a little research on whether to hunt South or North Dakota, our group of three (Mike Muller, Daryl Hennen and myself) figured North Dakota might be the better option this year. So we headed out that way a week ago Saturday for the oil patch country and arrived in White Earth the following morning after driving through the night. We stayed with Mike’s son, Kenneth, who is an electrical contractor, and Jody Paumen an electrician. It was cozy, five people and three dogs in his mobile home, but great accommodations for the five days we were out there.  As electricians, both of our hosts have done enough rural work to become acquainted with local farmers and where there might be pheasants which was a big asset for us.  Our hunts usually include a contest and this year wasn’t any different. $1.00 on the first bird each day and a $1.00 each on the longest tails and biggest spur for the trip. Four of us hunted Sunday after a light snowfall, choosing tree lines and grass and by 2:28 p.m. we had our 12 birds. Daryl had the first bird (which I found, but he didn’t share any money with me) and Ken the longest tail. None of the spurs were large enough to save. My English Setter, Vana, saved the day for Ken when she found a dead pheasant for him in a tree line after all of us went back to look for it. The weather warmed up enough that day to thaw and reminded us how slick and sticky the rural roads can get.  The truck traffic to the oil pumping pads and drilling derricks contributes to the road dilemma which Kenneth said really gets black when it rains. On Monday we hunted on our own and we didn’t do as well without our guide. Daryl had the first bird and shot his limit. I had one that day which was sunny with very little wind. Vana made my day when she chased down Daryl’s cripple and retrieved the cock, bringing it back to me. This was her first long retrieve and I was impressed as was Hennen. She also found the bird I shot and it was still alive. It had tried to bury itself in the grass.  On Tuesday all five of us hunted some private ground near New Town where Jody won first-bird honors. Ken had a double and we ended up with 12 birds. I had opportunities to shoot a limit each day, getting some great points, but didn’t come through. Mike’s dog, Lucky, and Vana found birds as well, but I’d say Daryl’s 13-year-old Cocoa, a Brittany-Springer cross, is still the best. On Wednesday all five of us took a two-plus hour road trip to a farm near Fortuna, a stone’s throw from the Canadian and Montana borders on a cold (5-10 degrees) and extremely windy day. Ken had the first bird and Daryl shot a cock which Vana found in a grass-filled gully. Cocoa was back in the car’s kennel sitting out the brutal weather on that one. The trip ended with Mike winning the spur contest and Daryl the rooster tail. We didn’t find birds everywhere, but hunting with Ken and Jody helped to put us on birds in that vast land of oil rigs, wheat and cattle range country.     .      .      Hunting on the oil patch for the most part added another dimension to the North Dakota hunt and gave the three of us a first-hand glimpse of what’s happening out there.  There are still jobs to be had out there, but I didn’t apply when the sign said, “Good Help Wanted”.  Ken’s illustration of a motel that started at about $165 a night for a single gave us an example of the astronomical prices that are common to boom country.  He felt the area is being overbuilt, noting some of the projects have gone great, but others haven’t had sufficient funding to be completed.  I was amazed at the gas (methane, I think) that is being burned off at the pumping sites. The active pumping sites had at least one burning flare and some several. Some of the sites had multiple pumps (two to four) side by side, which was impressive, to say the least.  There seemed to be derricks drilling for oil in a helter-skelter fashion and there were roads being built to the various pads being put in place for future drilling. Bringing in electrical power to the pumps is another necessity in the boom and many of the pumping sites are connected by underground pipes which go to a collection point.  We noticed an above-ground water line and Ken said it provides some of the water needed (about a million gallons each) for drilling one well. It comes from the Missouri River (Lake Sakakwea). He said core samples are taken every foot and they drill on an average of 2,000 feet.  It was a long ride, both coming and going, 21 degrees below when we left on Thursday morning and it kept getting warmer the closer we got to Maple Lake.  It’s good to be back and thanks to Ed Pawlenty for providing our readers with a great story on their deer hunting episodes.