This past December I visited the Winneshiek County Pheasants Forever chapter in northeast Iowa. We had a great pheasant hunt on public and private lands that the chapter has helped protect for the birds. We hunted one landowner/member’s land that included a bluff considered sacred by the Winnebago native tribe. In fact, he allows native leaders to visit the bluff to perform rituals. We scaled the bluff with two state natural resource officials and found it still covered on one side with native plants off all types – a cultural and wildlife gem, one the chapter is helping protect.
Before visiting the bluff, we hunted this land. My springer, “Hunter,” confirmed my belief in walking slow while pheasant hunting. Hunter isn’t pressured easily to go fast over cover, and again he proved this behavior sovereign. I had just walked, slowly, over some thick cover and, as I often do, noticed Hunter working the grass behind me rather intently. I slowed up, and sure enough, a rooster flushed not 10 feet behind me. I swung and dropped him with one shot. Go slow! Heck, I’ve shot a lot of roosters just when I stop to talk. It freaks them out if you’re close.
Good pheasant hunting is just the beginning of the great life style folks enjoy in this relatively unknown corner of the Hawkeye State.
Decorah, the chapter’s home city, is a bustling little town of over 8,000 with a vibrant downtown. My last night in town I shopped at the local food co-op and cooking store and found some great items. There was also a great holiday parade and a BBQ joint that had just opened a week before. The ribs, smoked onsite, were great.
And Decorah offers more than pheasant hunting. The chapter’s work, and that of many others, has also greatly improved the trout fishing in this area, which wasn’t glaciated like most the Midwest and still has hills, bubbling springs and cold, clear streams full of naturally reproducing trout. We went fly fishing with a local Trout Unlimited leader and caught browns, brook and rainbow trout, several of which I kept and grilled up fresh when I got home to Minnesota.
On your way in or out of Decorah, don’t miss the drive along the Mississippi River from the Minnesota border to Guttenberg. This drive should be on the bucket list of anybody who loves stunning natural beauty and wildlife … the river’s forests, wetlands and islands are loaded with incredible plant and animal diversity.
The last hunt on my stay in Decorah, Winneshiek County PF chapter habitat chair Terry Haindfield decided to go after a rooster that flushed when we pulled up to hunt an hour or so earlier. Hainfield disappeared over a hill in the direction of the rooster about a half mile away. Sure enough, in a few minutes I heard a single shot. As you can see, it was quite a bird!
If you want to read more about this fun hunt and the Winneshiek chapter’s efforts in this bejeweled corner of my birth state, Iowa, stay tuned to upcoming issues of Pheasants Forever Journal.