Pheasants are not native to North Dakota, but they’ve been in residence for decades and bring lots of enthusiastic hunters to the state every fall, including me. This is my fifth trip and I love everything about it.
The plains are beautiful, the people are friendly, the state economy is booming, the lodge we’ve rented is really nice, the pheasant population is up, and my six hunting buddies are a great bunch: Jim and Jenness Robbins, Pete Williams, and Steve and Donnie Lucas are all Mainers, and Frank Sweeney is the outlier from Massachusetts. But I’ve put Frank through his paces and he’s now qualified as a real Mainer.
On Saturday, our first full day in the state, we went on a road trip, visiting Teddy Roosevelt National Park – an amazing place in the Bad Lands where we saw tons of wildlife from bison to Rocky Mountain Sheep and lots of birds including Golden eagles. The scenery is stunning.
Then we drove up to Williston to see what the oil boom is doing for the state. I’ll have more to say about this later, but oil has turned North Dakota into the state with the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Essentially, no one is unemployed, and they’ve had to import workers from many other states.
We arrived at Kysar Farms (www.kysarfarms.com) – the place where we were renting the lodge and hunting on the owner’s five parcels of land totaling 1200 acres – on Sunday morning, moved into the lodge, had lunch, and headed out to hunt. We got six pheasants and I missed a couple of shots. I knew immediately that I should have gotten out to the range and done some shooting before we got here. But hunting on Sunday was a bonus because we hadn’t planned to do it, so I wasn’t a bit disappointed.
Our group is really serious about hunting, so we were out before dawn on Monday morning, and the parcel we hunted was loaded with pheasants. We hunted about 4 hours, walked for miles, and came back to the lodge for breakfast at 11 am with seven pheasants. I got one of them, while missing several others.
We took a break, I posted my first column on North Dakota on my website and the Bangor Daily News website, read my local newspapers online, had an awesome breakfast prepared by Chef Pete, and we were back at it by 1:30 pm.
The parcel we hunted this afternoon was 320 acres and I swear we walked 15 miles. I know that’s impossible, but the hot temperature (76 degrees), unusual for this time of year here, and the thick grass that made walking tough, was exhausting. We didn’t get a lot of birds, but I got two of them, completing my 3-bird limit for the day. Hooray!
We returned to the lodge about 4 pm, relaxed for a half hour, then headed right back out for the last hour and a half. You can hunt until sunset and we added to our day’s total which was 19 pheasants plus one Hungarian partridge. We saw a couple of flocks of them.
Back at the lodge about 6:30 pm, Chef Pete went right to work preparing an amazing dinner of pheasants, fried and covered in a mushroom gravy sauce. Ohhhh myyyy. Pete is actually in the insurance business, but he can really cook. We also had wild rice, a salad, a nice bottle of wine and we were in bed soon after. We’ll be out after pheasants by 6 am tomorrow morning.