After an unusually hot autumn, my springer and I welcomed the chance to hunt late season roosters in the cold last week in west central Minnesota with Pheasants Forever’s Pelican River Chapter.
Because of the hot autumn this year, I had to reschedule several hunts, stop hunting in the morning before it got too hot on some days and simply didn’t go hunting other times because it was too darn hot – for the birds, myself and the dog.
Perhaps December is becoming the new October for hunters in this changed, hotter world?
A lot of folks don’t hunt late season. I like it because the birds are concentrated in remaining cover, the dog and I can hunt harder in the cool temps and I love getting the low down on birds that had the smarts to survive this long into the season.
This particular hunt was probably so successful because we hunted a property the chapter had just purchased, thus it had been hunted little. We had seven hunters to drive what really didn’t look that promising: a dry, one-acre wetland with a heavy cattail edge surrounded by soybean stubble.
Once the drive started, however, so did the flushes and shooting. The roosters were holding tight, probably since they knew they were in a bad position, that is, no escape habitat. It helped that we were all good shots too, with one shot/bird with few exceptions. And the dog work was tops as well, with six good gun dogs.
When the smoke cleared, we had eight roosters in the bag. Two escaped the gauntlet, but we followed up after them and put them in the bag too, for a total of 10 birds in less than an hour. Several other roosters got away on that follow up drive in adjacent habitat. Oddly, we saw few hens. (On an earlier drive in another location all we flushed were hens, about a dozen).
One great thing about late season hunting is I don’t have to bring a dang cooler with ice to keep the birds chilled. Years ago, I rigged a shallow plastic tray atop the dog’s kennel that keeps the birds in the cold air, but prevents blood from getting all over my truck and the dog from nipping at them from below.
When I got home, I hung the birds in the garage for two days before putting them on the smoker. I used grape vine wood for smoke. Man, those birds were tasty! We had the leftovers the next day with alfredo and egg noodles. Don’t get any better than that!