By Chris Schultz Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn. October 19, 1998
Pheasants at the end of the rainbow
The hunting was excellent and the scenery was breathtaking - a true wonder of Mother Nature.
It wasn't the eight-bird limit of roosters, or the first pheasant hunt of a young dog that will burn unforgettable images of the 1998 Minnesota pheasant hunting opener into our minds.
Limits of pheasants and forays after roosters by always forgiving dogs are extremely easy to remember. For me, they are almost impossible to forget.
But on this trip, it wasn't the work of the dogs or the cackle of the first rooster of a season that will forever jog our memory. It was a rainbow that cast the amazing glory of Mother Nature across the southwestern Minnesota horizon.
For myself and long-time hunting partner, Stan Hoof of Glencoe, the opening weekend of the 1998 Minnesota pheasant hunting season was a good one.
In fact, the hunting and number of birds in the bag was much better than the past two, three, or maybe even five openers. The dogs worked extremely hard, considering the warm conditions on Saturday, and every rooster of the eight-bird limit we bagged, was well deserved.
We, along with tens of other hunters began the season on a state wildlife management area near Trimont. Bird numbers on that piece of ground were fair, but hunting pressure was immense, and with quite a bit of corn still in the fields, the hunting was tough. Every bird flushed and harvested took a lot of dog work and plain old sweat.
From Trimont, we headed west and north to the Jackson and Windom areas. There we found a few more birds and on Sunday, a thousand or so less hunters.
Bird numbers were fair and the hunting was good in the southwestern part of the state, but hunting pressure, especially on Saturday, was - well, let's say there were more hunters in the field than pheasants.
With temps hitting the high 70s and conditions dry on Saturday, it made for miserable hunting. A majority of the hunters didn't head back out on Sunday. In fact, we saw very few hunters out on Sunday, and at 9 a.m., we were the only hunters in a very large management area.
With Sunday morning and much of the afternoon gone, we were still two roosters short of our limit and decided to head farther north and knock off two birds with one stone. We would be closer to home and hopefully hunting a good area right at the prime time - an hour or so before sunset when the birds come out of the corn and head to roosting sites.
With that decision to head a little farther north, you could say we found gold at the end of the rainbow. A light rain was coming down and the dark clouds above us slid to the east unveiling a gorgeous sunset in the west. We bagged roosters number seven and eight for the weekend.
A quick change into dry clothes and we were on the road home. The road was Highway 14 heading east to Springfield and Sleepy Eye. Ominous, black rain-filled clouds covered the sky to the east as the sun set in the west.
The break from sunlight to dark, stormy clouds was definite, almost like a line painted in the sky. The dark sky to the east was eerie, almost scary.
But as the sun fell closer and closer to the farmland in the west, its rays began to beam through misty rain in the east creating a show of color that even the most full cock pheasant could not produce.
The rainbow covered the horizon, creating an arch with the colors on each end so wide and vibrant it was almost unbelievable, most certainly unforgettable.
For us, on the opening weekend of the 1998 Minnesota pheasant hunting season, it was truly pheasants at the end of the rainbow.
- The rainbow I experienced during the opening weekend of the Minnesota pheasant hunting season was truly amazing. I wish I could share it with you in a photo because a rainbow as wide, bright, and vibrant as that one is something you only see once in a lifetime - if you are lucky enough to see one like that at all.
- The firearms deer season in Minnesota opens on Saturday, Nov. 7.
- The wearing of blaze orange is required while small game hunting in Minnesota.
- Be prepared for your upcoming hunting trip. Double check your list and then check it again.
- Look for pheasant and duck hunting in our area to improve as fall moves move on. In a short few weeks, depending on the weather, more crops will be off the fields and more ducks will arrive from the north.
- Take some time to enjoy the outdoors this fall. The days are getting shorter and very soon the trees will be bare and the ground covered in white.