Upland Nation

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November 6, 2019

Basic dog first aid supplies. This little kit won’t take up much weight or space but it could possibly save your dog’s life. Do your best hunting buddy a favor and carry it every time you get far enough from your truck you wouldn’t want to carry him all the way back.

Cotton swabs: clean wounds, remove seeds from eyes

Benadryl or other antihistamine: reduces windpipe swelling from snakebite or insect sting

Duct tape: all-around bandage, emergency boot

Blood-clotting gauze

Triple antibiotic ointment: prevent infection in wound

EMT Gel: stops most bleeding, speeds healing

Hemostats: pull porcupine quills, foreign objects from wounds and nostrils

Phone numbers, open hours and locations of nearest veterinarians

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"This Land is Your Land" public access feature ... more details:

Pierre, SD: Near South Dakota’s capitol city is a real gem: the Fort Pierre National Grasslands. Sharptails and ringnecks populate the prairies, creek bottoms and cattail sloughs and it’s all open to the public. You’ll put in the miles and earn your birds, but the vastness of this federally-managed land is jaw-droppingly beautiful in a stark way.

You can watch your dog at eight-hundred yards on this open landscape, and your shots will be long ones so tighten up your chokes. But you’ll see wild birds in a wild place.

It’s why I visit almost every year, so maybe we’ll connect some time.

South of Duluth, Minnesota in northern Wisconsin is the Douglas County Forest, a haven for ruffed grouse hunters. I’ve battled my way through publicly-accessible, carefully-managed mixed-age timber and endless miles of walking paths for ruffies and a bonus woodcock here and there. I have the scars to prove it!

Put a bell on your dog, and pack extra batteries for your GPS. You’ll be in gnarly, rank habitat that will challenge your body and your shooting abilities. I know, I’ve been there and can’t wait to get back.

Ringing Lewistown, Montana are a variety of private and public lands open to hunters. I’ve shot pheasants, sharptails and Hungarian Partridge on vast ranchlands, river bottoms and crops that are accessible to anyone through the state’s Block Management Program. Most habitat is pretty good because landowners are paid by the hunter visit, not the acre.

Do your homework, get the map book for Region Five and follow directions for reservations. You’ll need good boots and lots of water but the birds are wild and you’ll come away with a real taste of the West. Watch for my truck – I’ll see you downtown. 

Western Kansas pheasant numbers are on the rise, and so is the acreage available to the public in their Walk-in Hunting Area program. I’ve found the town of Goodland in Sherman County a good starting point. You’ll find wheat, sunflower and CRP habitats harboring ringnecks – and the limit is four in the Sunflower state, so take plenty of ammunition. Go after harvest is done, and your walking will be much easier. Make sure you check out the giant easel with a copy of Van Gogh's "Sunflower" painting - awesome.

Online maps give you a bird’s eye view so you and your dog get the lay of the land before you drop the tailgate.

Watertown South Dakota may as well be in Minnesota for all the lakes they have. The main difference? Pheasant populations, and public access. I freelanced there last year, picking out nearby spots in the state’s hunting atlas. Some are more cattail slough than fields, but there are pheasants. One or two guys can pick smaller more manageable tracts that can be covered in an hour. Big groups will find whole sections to walk. Cover is usually thick so a flushing dog might be more appropriate than a pointer but Manny’s done fine.

Iowa’s best bird hunting days are behind it, and maybe ahead, as I found last year. Pheasants and bobwhite populations are both on the rise and you have access through the state’s Habitat Access Program, among other initiatives. I’ve had good success on the wildlife management areas south and west of Ottumwa, where folds in the land, timberlands and crops meet. Western Iowa pheasant hunting opportunities are more numerous – just click on the online map for details.

A later crop harvest and more southerly location make Iowa’s public access lands a good late-season destination. Worked for me!