It’s been an exciting and busy fall hunting season – a little wet for some activities, but that’s the nature of North Dakota. We never know what to expect.
So far I’ve had many bright spots, both personally and professionally. I’ve had several chances to partake in our upland game hunting season, and while I haven’t had that much luck, the bright side is that I’ve seen more pheasants than expected, and my son’s dog, Harley, is getting pretty darn good.
I’ve written about Harley before and mentioned her potential. There were times I questioned whether I was “reading” her right, but if this fall is any predictor, I’d say I read her pretty well.
She’s a mixed breed with way too much energy, but then again she’s just 2 years old. As with any young dog, it takes about an hour to run off the excess energy before she really starts hunting, but even that is getting better.
Earlier this fall I decided to take her to a local wildlife management area one afternoon. A year ago, Harley was reluctant to go into the brush, but on that day she readily put her nose to the ground and dove into the cover.
As is usually the case with me, pheasants flushed on the other side of the brush and I wasn’t able to pull the trigger.
Near the end of the afternoon my legs were feeling the miles and Harley was slowing down a bit, too. We hit another brushy spot and, again, she readily entered the area, broke out the other side, then pulled a U-turn. I was ready to whistle her back, but it was a welcome relief to just stand and watch her work.
When Harley entered the cover for a third time, she flushed a grouse that, you guessed it, flew behind some trees and brush, preventing another opportunity for a shot. If I were to translate the look she gave me, it would be something like: “I went through all that and you didn’t even shoot?”
While I didn’t harvest anything that day, it was one my most enjoyable hunting days of the fall. It was an absolute blast to be outdoors on a beautiful day in North Dakota and watch a young dog work her magic. Having my family along on the hunt is the only thing that would have made the day better.
While that was one of my personal bright spots, on a professional level, I’ve received a number of emails, phone calls, and letters from hunters who want to share their stories. I’ve received some good reports from pheasant hunters, so even though bird populations are down from last year, there are still plenty out there in places for people who put forth an effort.
The youth-only deer season has also come and gone, and evidently it provided some of the intended benefits of offering young people the opportunity to participate in a hunting season without competing adults. The letters and emails indicate that hunting is alive and well in North Dakota, and appreciated by those parents and mentors who want their children to have the same opportunities they did.
We have to continue to work to maintain this heritage in North Dakota. We are losing habitat, and weather conditions will continue to play a large role in how our wildlife fares. Preserving what we have, replacing at least some of what we’ve lost, and continuing to work toward that balance on the landscape is vitally important.
We live in a special place and things constantly change. But we don’t want our heritage to change. Let’s work together to preserve those things that make North Dakota special and prosperous.