By Bret “T-Bone” Amundson
My first time to the Badlands of North Dakota was in December a few years back. Now most sane people will tell you to steer clear of this wind swept state when the snow is falling because travel can get interesting, temperatures plummet and hunting buddies suddenly have “things to do”.
The instant I skidded to a halt amidst the buttes that Theodore Roosevelt once called home, I was hooked. The landscape is as majestic as it is intimidating. A lazy horseback ride on a warm July evening can offer a breathtaking vista while crunching along the Little Missouri surrounded by a blanket of white gives you a whole new appreciation in life. And long underwear.
Longjohns, hand warmers and a heated vest were all part of the layering system deployed beneath my snow camo shell. Mercury readings around 0 were common each morning that I shivered my way to a giant cottonwood holding my office high off the ground for that day.
I’ve gotten into a system now where I try to make three trips out here a year. The opening weekend of the bow season, a week in December and sometime in between. I didn’t draw a gun tag this year so I took my middle trip here at the end of October. I plan on dressing in camo on Oct 31st while spooking up some roosters and arrowing a quivering buck for Halloween. I bet he’d like all those apples that I begrudgingly took as a child during the annual costumed candy grab.
Since this job allows me to spend a little extra time out here, I decided to scout on the first day. Although I did sneak a quick walk for ringnecks in during the afternoon. The dog was spectacular. My shooting was not. My lab, Mika, is now laying with her back to me.
Despite reports of a dip in the mule deer population, numbers seemed fairly strong in this part of the state. A number of mule deer and whitetail does were spotted along with a few that sported some hardware.
The weekend has some bow time set aside as well as a few miles of crp crashing for pheasants. I even saw a few ducks buzzing around and it just so happens I threw my blind and some decoys in the back of the truck. Why can’t days get LONGER this time of year? I can’t fit it all in.
The interstate greeted me with a clean, dry surface void of the usual snow and icy patches that would occasionally turn I-94 into a demolition derby. A stiff 35 mph northwest wind caused my miles-per-gallon average to suffer but offered weaving mallards and Canada Geese as they muscled along their migration.
It’s that time of year folks. If you’re not having trouble sleeping because of what you’ll be doing the next day, then you’re probably not reading this blog. The waterfowl migration is on, bucks are in pre-rut, hogs are getting hoisted out of the frigid waters and ringnecks are mysteriously avoiding every pellet of my lead shot. Before you know it we’ll be shoveling driveways and scraping windshields. Make winter earn it. Get out and enjoy fall before it’s too late!
by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson