Indian Lake was still producing sunfish last week Tuesday when George Palmer and I teamed up for several hours, starting about 9:30 a.m. Like other trips to that lake the panfish were in 17-18 feet of water where they did a lot of bumping the bait before inhaling the hook. We used only artificial bait which seemed to stay on better than angle worms. I was using an altra-light rod and a 2 1/2 lb. test monofilament line which added to the sport, especially when I reeled in a 10 inch sunfish. I was wishing I had brought a landing net along, but the line held and the rod didn’t snap in two pieces. Most of the sunnies we kept were 71/2 to 8 1/2 inches. We had the lake to ourselves, something that happens quite often in September when other activities seem to command a lot of time. By other activities I mean high school sports, sight seeing when the leaves start to turn, fall lawn fertilizing, wasp and bee control, exterior painting, casino trips, participating in the open hunting seasons and a host of other things that come around each fall. I missed seeing the six-point buck deer that visiting Maple Lake one day last week. But lot of other people watched it as it went from backyard to backyard, stopping in some of the gardens. Apparently a dog put a run on the deer and it left town in a hurry. * * * Minnesota’s ruffed grouse season opens Saturday and the DNR has this to say about the 2018 hunting season. “There’s more to Minnesota than 10,000 lakes. Try 11 million acres of public hunting land, 528 designated hunting areas in the ruffed grouse range covering nearly 1 million acres, more than 40 designated ruffed grouse management areas and 600 miles of hunter walking trails. Minnesota offers some of the best grouse hunting in the country. Even in down years of the grouse population’s boom-and-bust cycle, hunters in other states still envy our flush rates and hunter success rates remain high. Grouse already know Minnesota is the perfect place. It’s time you did, too. West Nile samples needed from hunters If you would like to contribute to research on West Nile virus in ruffed grouse, you can become involved in this voluntary hunter submission of samples collected within 60 miles of Bemidji and Grand Rapids. Participation involves submitting hearts, a few feathers for sexing and aging and blood collected on filter strips from harvested birds for testing. You must also provide the location of harvest (GPS location preferred). The location will not be made public. Contact Ted Dick at email@example.com or call 218-395-0577 for more information. Sampling kits will be available on a first-come, firstserved basis.” Funding for this project is provided, in part, by The Ruffed Grouse Society. Hunting grouse and woodcock is a great way to tune up your dog, be it a flusher or a pointer. Ruffed grouse don’t like to sit still very long, but woodcock, which opens a week later, hold much better and often almost under your feet. They’re a small migrating bird and if you get in on the migration, you’ll need lots of shells. One hunter told me the secret to harvesting woodcock is to wait after they flush. They tend to fly almost straight up and when they clear the trees, aspen, etc., they tend to hesitate before leveling off. “That’s the time to fire away,” he said. That’s about the only tip I can give you on woodcock. I remember one sharptailed grouse and ruffed grouse hunting trip out of Baudette when we ran into a migration of woodcock. We were pretty nieve at the time and didn’t know about those long beaked birds leveling off, but we shot up a bunch of shells with not a whole lot to show if it if I remember correctly. * * * Pheasant hunting doesn’t open until October 13, and the report is that the August road count showed about a 19% increase from a year ago. This year’s statewide pheasant index was 45.5 birds per 100 miles of roads driven. That’s a positive report considering the state didn’t have ideal spring nesting conditions. The DNR says the Upper Minnesota River Valley offers tremendous opportunities for pheasant hunters. The Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area covers 33,000 acres. The Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge adds another 11,000 acres. Plus there are literally hundreds of wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas in the region that are all open to public hunting. The new Walk- In Access program offers 1,000 acres in the area. Usually the bottom half of the state provides the most birds, but there can be hot spots further north too! The pheasant index increased in all regions except the southcentral region, which decreased by 36 percent from 2017. The highest pheasant counts were in the west-central, southwest and central regions where observers reported 48 to 65 birds per 100 miles driven. Hunters should find the best hunting opportunities in these regions. Going to one of the many pheasant farms in Minnesota where you know you’ll get shooting and birds is a good way to start out the season, especially if you’re using a new hunting dog. It’s been my experience that the more a dog is exposed to birds makes it a much better hunting dog. There’s something to that phrase, “Practice makes perfect”. * * * Minnesota hunters haven’t really caught on to dove hunting which is in progress right now and will continue until they migrate south because of the cold weather. The best hunting for doves is next to harvested grain fields (oats, barely, wheat), but those crops are hard to find in this neck of the woods where the emphasis is on corn and beans. I got wind of one local hunter who is having mixed success in Wright County using a blind and dove decoys. Doves are another bird that requires some scouting and it’s also necessary to have ample ammo for a successful hunt. We used to run into them occasionally in South Dakota while hunting pheasant there in the early part of the season. We seldom got close enough for a good shot, considered they’re the most hunted bird in the United States. They’re supposed to be great eating, but I haven’t tasted one yet! Maple Lake has quite a few doves within the city limits and their cooing can be heard early in the morning, that might be why they’re called mourning doves.