Brute’s Bleat September 20, 2017

Last Thursday was a great morning for fishing sunfish on Indian Lake in the company of George Palmer and guide Gene Wadman. We anchored near some aerators to start off the day, but there just weren’t any sunfish in that spot, so Wadman moved into about 15-16 feet of water where there were weeds and we immediately began catching fish. Palmer was in the bow of the boat and had the hot hand with Wadman a close second seated in the stern. I was kept busy opening the liveable cover for them. That’s my excuse for not being as adept with a rod and reel. Pieces of leeches and angle worms seemed to be the food of choice for the sunfish. Sometimes they would hit the bait with a vengeance and other times would be so timid you didn’t realize you had one on. There wasn’t much sorting necessary and the fish were running large, 8 – 9 1/2 inches. Wadman had the largest sunfish which measured 10 inches. He took a good look at the hump behind its ears and commented it was “too ugly” and released it. The sunfish seemed to be moving constantly and there would be a lull when they left the area only to be replaced by another school of fish. Anyway, it was a great morning and all three of us enjoyed the peanut butter and oatmeal-raisin cookies Janis sent along with us. We had 38 in the liveable when we hung it up at about 12:30 p.m. If the weather holds, that lake may see me again before the snow flies!
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The ruffed grouse seasons opened Saturday and past experiences reminded me hunters hear more flushes than seeing grouse the opening weekend. It’s been a few years since I’ve hunted this early, but Daryl Hennen and I planned on a Sunday hunt this year more or less to commemorate his 65th birthday which was Saturday. His family surprised him Saturday afternoon with a party which gave me a chance to visit with his boys, Brad, Adam and Tony, whom we hunted with while they were growing up and now have families of their own. Eric Froehling also made the trip from Wishek, ND, another fellow we hadn’t seen since the demise of CRP and good pheasant hunting in that state. He commented about some of the spots where we limited out in less than an hour one year. All the CRP and grass is gone and those acres have been put back into production. Because it has been extremely dry out there this summer and an ice storm last winter killed a lot of birds he didn’t feel hunters would find many birds this year. He said the pheasants that survived the winter were those in the farm lots where there were cattle. He said there are lots of ducks and while the small ponds are all dried up there is still enough big water to keep them around. Hennen and his boys are headed out there for ducks and geese in a couple of weeks when the season opens. Ron Rassat showed me a photo of his new three-month-old Springer Spaniel. It’s a black and white beauty which he plans to hold off hunting until next year. It seems every time we get together as a group I hear about Sharptail Grouse hunting in the Dakotas and how I miss-took a song bird for a grouse! Apparently some things are never lived down! Another incident that haunts me is taking a bonus pheasant that I figured I was entitled to because of my advanced age! Actually it was such a beautiful point by my first Setter, Blue, one that I couldn’t refuse. There were others like the time when a pheasant flushed, Mike Muller yells rooster, and me like a dummy, shot. It wasn’t a rooster, so I figure I still will have to get back at him for that one! Getting back to grouse hunting on Sunday with Daryl, we figure we had five or six birds flush, but neither of us had a chance to shoot in the dense underbrush. Besides our shotguns we were armed with two dogs, Vanna and Tony Hennen’s springer, Paisley, who was on her first hunt. Both dogs hunted hard and Vanna bumped a small covey of two or three in the brush. We were in WMA gated walking hunters trails in Wadena County and not very impressed considering the grouse population is near the peak of their 10-year cycle. The day started out on the cool side and we didn’t get started hunting until about 10:30 a.m. which was great for walking and hunting. We didn’t see or hear any more birds in the afternoon and two young fellows said they weren’t flushing any birds and an older gentleman with two pointers said he had been blanked by flushes. He was on a trail in the Sand Lake WMA which I had walked in previous years and usually held birds. We saw about five deer and a ton of turkeys while we were on the road. Number-wise, we estimated the turkey count at roughly 60 birds which leads us to believe the DNR will have to modify their licensing system or turkeys will soon get the same kind of reputation as do the cormorants. I don’t know if turkeys and ruffed grouse are compatible or enemies. One North Dakota farmer from Bowman, where we hunted pheasants for a couple of years, wasn’t a friend of turkeys and felt they destroyed the pheasant nests and eggs. I’ll probably get back on the lakes until a frost does a number on the underbrush and I get some kind of a handle on grouse population hot spots if there are any. My assessment is it’s going to take an overnight trip to get far enough north to find any better numbers. In the meantime I’ll keep busy with those fall chores like washing windows and tidying up the lawn, to name a few!

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