Adventuring To The West – North Dakota 2022 Sharptail Opener – Part 2

Bum Bum Bum Bumdum dumdumdumdum

My alarm was going off. It was 5:30am, time to get up and make the drive to our first hunt of the year. I had scouted a bunch during my free time at work. It was time to see if I made the right choices.

We got dressed, grabbed the gun, laced up the boots and jumped in the car. We headed West from Minot. I needed coffee, the crap in the hotel room is just that, crap. I stopped in the big truck stop down the road, grabbed a cup of joe to help warm the soul. There’s something about the aromatics of coffee that just hit right.

We drove about an hour, pulled off the main road, and headed 3 miles down a gravel road. The moon was huge this morning. The air was still. I parked the car, checked my GPS, we were here. A public piece of land, ND State trust I believe. I got out of the car, got my things together. Went through a mental checklist make sure I had everything I needed in my vest. Lainey is getting excited, wanting to crawl out of her skin a get outside. She knows what time it is. I sit back in the car, waiting a bit longer for the sun to rise. It’s a golden beautiful morning. My mind is racing with anticipation.

I sip my coffee a bit more. I think it’s time. A truck rolls by – instinctively I look to see if they have kennels or dogs. No sign. Must just be farmers or someone headed to work. There’s lights in the distance, looks like an oil well or something similar. To my side there’s some private land with a nearly dried up pond with some ducks in it. I get out, let the dog out, and we start looking for a good place to go over or under the three stranded barbwire fence.

I lift up the wire and lead Lainey under it. I realize this is the first time we’ve ever had to do this. I take my vest off, set it, and my gun on the other side of the fence on the ground carefully. I slide underneath and we take off.

This is beautiful ground. These a dried up pond here with thick cattails around it. There’s bushes and rolling hills. Sparse areas with trees as well. I think this will be a great spot. We roam around for some time, taking in the new to us terrain. Finishing up hitting the various edge habitats we can find on the first piece of ground we start heading to the next fence to cross. I check the GPS, yup it’s still hunt-able and part of the same tract.

Crossing over the next fence we stop and I realize a group of 8 deer on the horizon with the sun just peaking through them. Highlighting them about 300 yards in the distance. I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful while upland hunting. We keep on hitting our various waypoints.

Lainey seems to be covering the ground and ranging accordingly. I’m pleased. I have high expectations for the week ahead.

No birds thus far. Must not be here. We stop again, the deer still in the same place.

We start back to the car. Nearing the first big hill on the Northwest side by the first dry pond a grouse flushes up 50-100 yards in front of us. This is it. If there’s one, maybe there’s more!

Heading in that direction we approach. I’m expecting Lainey to get wind of the bird and freeze in her tracks. I so badly want her to have some feathers in her mouth after this long trip to get here. We crest the hill together and the bird flushes 25 yards ahead of me. I take 2 pop shots at the grouse BANG…BANG.

Welp missed those. We continued down the hill and towards the pond. Maybe something is in these cattails.

Nope…

We get back to the car. Load up and get ready to check another spot. I’m frantically looking at OnX for another waypoint to check. There’s a bunch around, so I figure I’ll start driving to one in hopes of finding something that looks nice.

Not more than 2 miles down the road there’s a PLOTS piece of land, a small farm with some horses behind the fence by the road. It looks like it’s all hayed land. We crest over the hill and I see 3 grouse next to the road. I bring the car to a stop thinking maybe we can get the dog to point them being some obviously close. At least I know there’s birds here!

We hop out of the car and I send Lainey in their direction. They immediately flush and head to the tall grass. I see where they land. Lainey chases off into the distance after one of them. She ducks under the horse fence.

“Oh shit, I don’t need her getting hurt by a horse” I call for her to return. She comes running back shortly. The horses following her to the corner of the fence. The horses are beautiful. The dog acting like a hopped up kid on mountain dew. SHHHH i hold her close and pet her stomach to calm her down.

There’s no calming her. She runs back down the fence row to where the birds were. Now on the wrong side of the fence. I call her and she eventually comes. I want her to head through the grass to find where these things went!

We head in that direction. A bird gets up wild and flies away. The other 2 not to be seen again. How do they do that? We continue to hunt this cover hitting areas which look to be birdy. Nothing comes of it. We stop at the far end of the property to take some water. Lainey stops and starts sneezing and rolling in the tall green grass. She keeps sneezing. And sneezing.

What in the world is wrong? She’s got some strange grass/grain in her nose. I pull it off. She’s fine now. We meandered back to the car not seeing another bird.

“Well that started off exciting” I’m hungry at this point. The sun is out and it’s warming up. Lainey seems a bit tired. So we head to the nearby town to try and find sometime to eat. I stop at this small diner in Stanley “Joyce’s Cafe.” I sit down and admire the people here. It’s such a small town, everyone knows one another. People are stopping from table to table on their way out, saying hi, talking about landscaping, driveways, and general banter. There’s some football helmets in the corner. Must be local teams I thought. My order comes – the breakfast burrito. MMMM that looks good the nearby table says to me. I agree and start to tear into the food. 2 was too much for me. But of course I clean my plate like every good midwesterner would.

Time for the next spot. I hop in the car, Lainey now waking from her slumber. We take off to a place I had a lead on. Arriving at the spot, I have very high expectations. There’s a great variety of cover, rolling hills, ponds, grasses. It’s textbook it seems. Across the road a big bull cow stares at me. There’s cattleguards keeping it from crossing the drive and keeping it within the fenced area. We set off into the new cover. Not more than 5 minutes in a couple of deer get up and run off to the north. We didn’t encounter anything more than those deer which got up again later in the hunt.

We stop after this hunt and sit to cool off. It’s pushing 75 outside so Lainey is hot. I pull out my folding chair as a few trucks drive by. 1 guy looked familiar, in an f150 – a host of a podcast non-the-less. The other guy stops a half mild down the road. We take off in a bit and drive past him getting ready to head out to hunt. He’s got a dogbox with 3 dogs ready to roll. We chat for a bit before heading out.

I see an alfalfa field and it’s not posted. I figure why not. We take off down the drainage area. Lots of grasshoppers. That’s a good sign. Further down 4 grouse get up way ahead of us! Lainey gets to the spot excited about the birds, making circles expecting to find another. We make a loop back up another drainage, expecting to find more. Unfortunately we do not.

We get back to the car, I figure that’s been enough for 1 dog, so we drive about scouting some areas far to the north. We drove by the Lostwood Wildlife Refuge. There’s a huge tower for people to spot stuff from. Tempted to go look, I did not as I didn’t feel like leaving the dog in the car for an extended time.

We headed back to the hotel to chill, rest, recuperate, excited for what the next day holds.

Dinner included a stop at JL Beers for a burger and beer. It was good and I’d recommend anyone check it out.

Part 3 coming.

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