COMMENTS BY KIM: Hunting upland game
A few days ago I was reading an old North Dakota hunting proclamation. Weird, I know, but it’s is something I enjoy doing from time to time.
Terminology has changed somewhat over the years. The 1972 proclamation still refers to “droppers.” Droppers is a reference to pointing dogs, or more accurately, setters. Today’s English setters are bred and trained to stand tall and proud, tail held high, when finding a bird or a covey. Originally though, setters dropped to the ground when finding birds. Hence the named “droppers.”
While it’s interesting to compare the then and now, old hunting proclamations do something else too. They bring back memories of hunts of days gone by. Of the people and dogs and incidents that made for special moments in the field.
When looking at the 1972 Game and Fish Department hunting proclamation for the state, one of the first things I observed was the limits on birds. That season it was 4 Hungarian partridge, 4 sharp-tailed grouse, 3 ruffed grouse, 2 rooster pheasants and 1 sage grouse. This year’s daily limits, and the season opens up Sept. 12, is 3 Hungarian partridge, 3 sharp-tailed grouse, and 3 ruffed grouse. Pheasant season opens Oct. 10 with a daily limit of 3 roosters.
Other than the closure of the sage grouse season, the daily bird limits haven’t changed much over the years. What has changed though is access to hunting land. 1972 was much different than today. I’m glad I got to experience hunting when there was so much open land to hunt. Sure, the land is still there today but, in many cases, the use of that land has changed dramatically. So too has access. Opportunities for hunters still exist of course, but it sometimes takes a little more work to gain access for hunting today that it did in years past.
I remember very well the first sharp-tailed grouse I slipped into my hunting vest. I was hunting with my dad and grandfather, mostly walking prairie with a few Russian olive trees scattered about and young patches of buckbrush. We were hunting without dogs, just walking and hoping to flush a few sharptails or partridge.
As I zig-zagged through a patch of low buckbrush I emerged on the other side of it without having flushed a sharptail. Dad was standing there, shotgun in hand, waiting for the expected flush that never happened. Together we started walking toward the next likely looking spot for sharptails. We’d only gone a few yards when I told him I was going back to the buckbrush patch.
When he asked why I told him because I didn’t finish walking through one corner that extended out about 10 feet. I went back to that very spot and, sure enough, flushed a lone sharptail. I shot, certain that I was on target, but the sharptail kept flying. Dad said not to worry about it, that I’d get another chance.
I remained in disbelief that I missed that grouse but kept an eye on it as it flew away. Then, more than 100 yards distant, it tumbled out of the sky. Neither my dad or grandfather saw that and teased me about my wishful thinking. A few minutes later I arrived at the spot where the bird fell and proudly picked it up. Dad and grandpa congratulated me too.
Since that day I’ve harvested many other birds but that one always remains special. Not just because it was my first wild bird, but because it was shared with two of the greatest people in my life. To me, that’s what hunting is and always should be.
Putting birds in the vest is a goal but it should never be the only goal of the hunt. There’s so much more to it. Enjoy friends and family and dogs and the experience of walking ground and breathing fresh air. Every hunt should be enjoyable no matter how many birds are cleaned.