Another big day at Hawk Ridge on Sunday

Another big flight of broad-winged hawks led an 8,508-raptor day at Hawk Ridge in Duluth on Sunday, according to Janelle Long, executive director of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

A total of 7,219 broadwings were counted on Sunday, along with 821 sharp-shinned hawks, 145 bald eagles, 126 American kestrels, 13 peregrine falcons and several other species.

That’s the biggest count so far this fall at Hawk Ridge and brings the season’s migration total to 35,630 raptors.

Steve Kolbe and Karl Bardon were counting on Sunday, with help from volunteers Dave Carman and Russ Edmonds.

Hawk-watching is free at Hawk Ridge. The main overlook is about one mile east of Glenwood Street on Skyline Parkway.


Early-morning walk in the woods is always worthwhile

A whitetail doe peers through the branches of pines at Duluth’s Hartley Park on Monday morning. (Sam Cook photo)

I took a short walk with the yellow dog at sunrise Monday morning at Duluth’s Hartley Park. I was expecting to see some Canada geese leaving the pond, but they must have departed earlier. But an early-morning walk at Hartley is always a pleasure. A pair of swans dabbled on the pond. They’ve been around for at least a couple of weeks, often at the far end of the pond. A whitetail doe and her two yearlings browsed in the shadows. And the sumac, already in full fall glory, was brilliant in the morning light.

A pair of swans feed in the shallows at Hartley Pond. They were too far away for me to identify, but I’m guessing they were tundra swans. (Sam Cook photo)

Sumac in fall colors look good in the morning light. (Sam Cook photo)

A yearling whitetail checks out a visitor in the woods Monday morning at Hartley Park. (Sam Cook photo)

North Dakota pheasant counts up 30 percent from last year

North Dakota’s roadside pheasant survey counts are out today, and they indicate that the number of birds and broods are both up statewide, according to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

Stan Kohn, upland game management supervisor for the agency, said the survey shows total pheasants are up 30 percent from last year. In addition, brood observations were up 37 percent, while the average brood size was down 4 percent.

A hunter in North Dakota prepares to slip a rooster pheasant into his game bag. (News Tribune file photo)

“Late-summer roadside counts indicate pheasant hunters are going to find more pheasants in most parts of the state, with more young roosters showing up in the fall population,” Kohn said.

Here’s a regional breakdown:

Southwestern North Dakota: Total pheasants were up 22 percent and broods observed up 23 percent from 2013. Observers counted 19 broods and 154 birds per 100 survey miles.

Southeastern North Dakota: Total pheasants were up 2 percent from last year, and the number of broods up 16 percent. Observers counted six broods and 50 birds per 100 miles.

Northwestern North Dakota: Pheasants are up 21 percent from last year, with broods up 26 percent. Observers recorded seven broods and 57 birds per 100 miles.

Northeastern North Dakota: The northeast district  showed two broods and 16 birds per 100 miles. Number of birds observed was up 126 percent, and the number of broods recorded was up 166 percent.

The 2014 regular pheasant season opens Oct. 11 and continues through Jan. 4.

Ruffed grouse broods down, turkeys up in Wisconsin


Ruffed grouse broods seen per observer-hour were down about 2 percent from last year across the Northern Region of Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Statewide, ruffed grouse broods were down 10 percent compared to 2013, and brood size rose from 3.8 to 4.0 young per brood.

“While some areas of the primary ruffed grouse range will be better than others, it appears that ruffed grouse numbers will be no better than last year and well below their cyclic high experienced a few years ago,” said Scott Walter, DNR upland wildlife ecologist. “We anticipated a continued population decline as grouse progress through their nine- to 11-year population cycle, so these numbers are not unexpected. The grouse population should reach its cyclic low within the next couple of years before beginning its climb back to the top.”

Turkey broods were up 12 percent in the northern region, DNR officials said. The statewide turkey observation rate was 22 percent above the long-term average. The average brood-size documented in 2014 was 4.5 young per brood, up from 4.2 in 2013.






More than 6,000 raptors pass over Hawk Ridge on Monday

A bald eagle. (Sam Cook photo)

Monday was a banner day at Hawk Ridge in Duluth, where in 12 1/2 hours counters Karl Bardon and Steve Kolbe tallied 6,622 raptors. That’s the largest single-day migration at Hawk Ridge this fall, said Janelle Long, executive director of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Mid-September always marks the peak of the broad-winged hawk migration, and on Monday more than 5,500 broadwings were observed, bringing the broadwing season total to 13,385. That’s nowhere near the single-day record for broadwings at Hawk Ridge. On Sept. 15, 2003, nearly 102,000 broadwings coursed over the ridge.

Also on Monday, the count included 876 sharp-shinned hawks, 57 bald eagles, 45 American kestrels and numerous other species.Through Monday, this fall’s total hawk count is at 19,331. Counting began in mid-August, and 18,771 hawks have been counted in September so far.

From 1991 to 2013, the total fall hawk migration over Hawk Ridge has averaged 76,000 raptors, according to Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. The main overlook at Hawk Ridge, free and open to the public, is one mile east of Glenwood Street on Skyline Parkway. For more information about Hawk Ridge, go to



Send us your best hunting-dog story

Do you have an amazing hunting-dog story to share? We want to hear it. Duluth News Tribune outdoors writer Sam Cook wants to share your story with our readers.

Cooper, a yellow Lab owned by Duluth’s Bruce Smith, retrieves a ruffed grouse in 2013. (News Tribune file photo)

Just email it to us (300 words or less) and tell us what happened. We’re looking for hunting-related stories — a remarkable retrieve, a surprising moment in the field, a humorous anecdote. If you have a photo of the dog, send it along, too. And please include a phone number where we can reach you during the day. Deadline for entries is Oct. 1. We’ll publish as many as we can. Send your stories to with the subject line “hunting story.”

Eastern Montana offers good sharptail hunting for Minnesota hunters

Mark Helmer of Duluth and Millie, his Lab, walk across a piece of short-grass prairie in eastern Montana during a sharptail hunting trip. (Sam Cook photo)

Four of us made our annual pilgrimage to eastern Montana to camp on the prairies and hunt sharp-tailed grouse for a few days. We found plenty of birds and covered a lot of ground. We pitch our tents in a tree-lined hay yard of farm friends we have come to know. They opened their farm to us for camping during the first conversation we had with them at a convenience store in town.

Sharp-tailed grouse, a relative of ruffed grouse, are birds of the short-grass prairie. They like to be in wide-open country where they can easily see predators approaching. Hunters can easily flush the birds without dogs, but it’s nice to have the dogs for retrieving. Plus, we just wouldn’t hunt without them.

Montana’s sharptail season opens Sept. 1 each year. Western North Dakota also has excellent sharptail hunting, and hunters have easier access to the land there than in Montana. We hunted Block Management Areas, private land opened to hunters by landowners.

We were greeted upon arriving at the farm by this sign, made by Bailey, the oldest of the two farm couple’s children.

We felt welcome from the moment we arrived. (Sam Cook photo)

Our farm friends had made a generous alcove among the hay bales for our little camp. From left are Steve Harrington of Duluth and Rick Francisco of Hermantown. (Sam Cook photo)

Steve Harrington spends some quality time with Willow, his German wire-haired pointer. (Sam Cook photo)

Mark Helmer takes a break on a piece of prairie with dogs Boof (left) and Lucy. (Sam Cook photo)

Helmer gets some midday reading in around the fire as Boof and Millie rest. (Sam Cook photo)

Eastern Montana is wheat country, and sharptails sometimes feed in cut wheat fields. This year’s harvest was running late, and much of the wheat was still standing. (Sam Cook photo)