22 Nov | Posted by Mark
This week I’d like to share about a recent hunt we did in North Dakota, at a great lodge there called Rolling Plains Adventures in McKenzie, ND. This is my fourth season at Rolling Plains. It is also a family run operation managed by Jeremy and Jay Doan, located about 30 miles SE of Bismarck, ND. With over 10,000 acres of fields and marsh land located adjacent to the Missouri River and smack dab in the middle of the central flyway, it’s the perfect location to experience a combo waterfowl and upland hunt. The Doan family are fifth generation ranchers, cowboys, and expert hunting guides. Rolling plains also provides rifle and bow hunting opportunities for white tail deer, which are plentiful. They have a host of seasonal guides to provide every guest a personalized hunting experience. The main lodge has 3 separate sleeping quarters and they also have several houses on property for large groups. Lunch and dinner are served daily in the main lodge, and they have a full bar–drinks are included in the package price.
North Dakota waterfowl for nonresidents are not restricted, but is limited to two 7 day periods which must be specified on your license. Our mornings started off with a cold breakfast in the new addition to the lodge where my good buddy Bill Yarberry and I we met our guide Ken Carbary for the day. We loaded up our gear and trucked over to the marsh about an hour before shooting time so we could wade across the mud flats to our set up. We put out two dozen decoys with a mix of teal and mallards. The marsh provided us with some good opportunities of pass shooting and a few decoying ducks. We took teal, pintails and diver ducks. We had a huge flock of Canada’s work us, which was a sight to see even though we couldn’t get them to commit. We were still ahead of the migration, but even though this year’s timing was off, years past have been awesome and I’ll return next season.
Wading through the mudflats (Typically you would see Bella in this picture but she’s spending the week in Minnesota with her new boyfriend Rocky in hopes of having puppies in a couple of months)
Mark, Murray, and Bella in 2015, with more water and more ducks in the marsh
After a nice family-style lunch in the main lodge, we set off to the fields on our own in search of pheasants and grouse. We ran a big draw sandwiched between two huge sunflower fields with little success, so we decided to join the lodge in their line dance push through the cover crop south of the lodge. Bill and I lined up on the right side of the line working the push north to south into the wind. I left my dogs up for this. I was down to only Sky, Pearl and Rosie and didn’t want to lose them in the tall cover crop we were pushing (Bella was off to the breeder and Stevie was at the home vet with stitches from a barb wire cut). I got a couple of birds on the first push and Bill got his first ND pheasant on the second push. We ended the day with 4 roosters and plenty of misses.
Bill and Guide Ethan with Bill’s first ND pheasant
We took my three dogs southeast of the lodge with Ken and hunted some cover crop with Greg, a fellow guest from California. A couple of birds flew over and one landed in top of a tree in a stiff wind. Bill asked what it was, and Ken yelled “Grouse! Shoot it!” So when it flew I did! My first ND sharp tail. Minutes later we flushed a rooster to my left and I knocked it down. We looked but didn’t find it, so pushed the field out the rest of the way. When we reached the end, the cock ran out, then hunkered down in plain sight. Sky and Rosie saw it and the chase was on – one bird in the bag. At the edge of the field we saw some roosters in the alfalfa, so we decided to head to that corner and work the field back to the west. Rosie and Sky ran the edge and Rosie went on point. We flushed 4 roosters – it was awesome! Later down the field, with all dogs working birds pointing and flushing, we took 4 more birds and finished the day with 5. The only bad news was Pearlie caught the fence chasing a rooster at the road, so now I’m down to two dogs.
On the third day, Bill, Ken, Rosie, Sky and I hit the black top corner. A partially-cut corn field with large draws of grass and cover in the middle. Rosie went wild getting on birds in the corn and I had to switch the E-collar over to her belly vs. her neck. Over 40 roosters came out of the corn, and Rosie was right there with them! Sky had several great points but they were all hens or we couldn’t shoot the birds over the corn. Once we got into the grassy draw we harvested a rooster and had a few more points along the way. The sand burrs were a problem for both dogs and after one big loop we called it a day.