COLEHARBOR - The wind was howling, the number of birds and hunters may have been less than in previous years, but the opener of the upland game hunting season at Audubon National Wildlife Refuge still proved successful for many participants.
According to Jackie Jacobson, Audubon NWR visitor services manager, about 60 hunters participated in last Monday's refuge opener. The refuge is among those that annually opens for upland game hunting on the day following closure of the state's deer gun season.
"We actually had a fairly slow and relaxing day here on the refuge," said Jacobson. "I'd guess the birds were slightly down from last year."
Mike Monson, left, and his son, Matt, are shown with a limit of Lake Audubon NWR pheasants. Both men credited their dog, “Rainy,” for making the hunt a success.
Approximately 100 hunters descended on the refuge during the 2013 opener. That compares to a pre-2012 average of about 300. Nevertheless, participating hunters enjoyed some success and the opportunity to set foot on a national wildlife refuge.
"It was great. Cold, but at least we're not working," said Mike Monson, Minot, after returning from his Audubon hunt. "There's birds if you look for them."
Monson and his son, Matt, braved very strong winds that negated temperatures in the mid-20s. Face and ear coverings were necessary, common dress for a late season pheasant hunter.
"Anytime a father can be out pheasant hunting with his son is a great day," said Monson.
Matt Monson shook off the effects of the biting wind while examining the duo's limit of six rooster pheasants.
"They were holding tight today," said Matt Monson. "There was about five birds that got up behind us and, of course, I missed every one of them. Still, anytime you are out in North Dakota, it is a great day."
The Monsons managed to put their limit on the ground by 10 a.m. and were looking forward to getting some breakfast. They credited their dog, "Rainy," for excellent assistance during the brief hunt.
"She did great," said Mike Monson. "She was down in there working where the birds were. In front of us, behind us, next to us. It was a great, great day."
Jacobson said the Audubon refuge staff did not conduct any official surveys during the opener, other than to count the number of hunters in the field. However, she noted, hunters with dogs appeared to be having the best luck.
"General conversation was that if they were utilizing dogs, many of them did get a three-bird limit, but it was sporadic. A few folks without dogs came up empty," said Jacobson.
Good dog work was the key for a pair of hunters who put five roosters in the bag during their first walk on the refuge - Nick Boehm of Minot and Kevin Garbowski of Oakdale, Minn. Boehm was hunting behind "Bear" and Garbowski behind "Roscoe."
"He's 9 so he sticks close to me," said Boehm. "He works back and forth like he should, no problems. I outshot the out-of-stater so it can't be all bad! I got three. He got two."
Garbowski responded with a laugh, "I had to come out here and show him how to shoot! I did miss a few in the wind but I got a few. It was nice to get out and get some fresh air."
The state's upland game hunting season end at sunset Jan. 5.