Minnesota pheasant hunting – back when it was easy

The landscape is a lot different than it was when the author got into pheasant hunting about a decade ago. (Photo by Joe Albert)

I still recall the creaking floors of my buddy’s old house in Blue Earth, its sparse furnishings and college-house feel.

The latter made sense because we were just a few years removed from college, most of us with jobs but without real responsibilities, thinking nothing of spending almost every fall weekend on the road, chasing birds. This would have been 2005 and 2006, and we didn’t know it, but it amounted to the modern-day pheasant heyday in Minnesota.

Nobody in our group – which usually numbered between three and six – owned a dog, though we generally were able to borrow someone’s. Or we’d invite along someone who had one. And if there were no dogs to be had, we’d simply walk drainage ditches and other confined areas where the lack of a canine wasn’t a huge detriment.

None of us had done much pheasant hunting before those years, so we really didn’t know how good we had it.

I’m sure I wrote about the results of the August roadside surveys in those years; I certainly don’t recall them now. But I can easily recall the cackling sound roosters make as they take wing, the smell of gunpowder, and the feel of black dirt caked on my boots as we crossed muddy fields to hunt little sloughs. I recall full days spent afield, and on one occasion looking at my buddy at about 9:30 a.m. after he’d dropped the morning’s fourth bird, wondering how we’d spend the remainder of the day.

Jobs and young families have prevented us in recent years from gathering to hunt pheasants, but just like clockwork with opening weekend upon us, my mind turns to those carefree days a decade ago when we didn’t know how good we had it.

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