by: Wade Amundson
Anticipation. Ancticipation is a feeling that goes hand-in-hand with outdoor sports. Anxiously awaiting the upcoming season. Waiting for the license lottery. Waiting for the next bite. Waiting for the next flush. All these things raise the blood pressure a little bit and create an extra level of excitement. This time the anticipation was a little different. This time we wondered: Would it would be painful? Would it work better? Would he be able to keep up? Would it be a distraction? This time the anticipation was building around Dad’s new surgically enhanced knee. For several years the knee had been giving him trouble so he finally had it replaced at the end of summer. Now hunting season had come and he had not yet tried to walk the fields and forests as every past year that we could remember. We decided to put it to the test.
Halloween morning found us heading towards Frederic, Wisconsin to a lovely place called Coyland Creek. We had been hearing about Coyland for a few years now. That it’s a game farm within an easy drive from The Cities and that they do a really nice job. Turns out that’s all true and then some. Coyland was our destination today for several reasons: Close to Mom & Dad’s house, the great reputation, and hope that their fields would not tax the untested knee too far. As we wound our way north the anticipation was building!
We knew something was different the minute we pulled into the parking lot on a cold, rainy October morning: The parking lot seemed nearly full. We entered the club house and noticed that everyone was smiling and hanging out. Clearly many of the hunters were already done hunting, but they were still mingling, telling stories, and sharing laughter. No sooner did we get through the door and we were met by Kelsie, one of the owners. She let us know that her husband Mitch was placing our birds and would be ready for us in just a few minutes. She walked us through the preliminaries and we were soon heading to the field. The human portion of our hunting party was just the four of us: Dad, my son Danny, brother Bret, and me. Of course we had the yellow dogs along: Casey and The Sisters: Mika & Echo. It was time!
As we surveyed the hunting field we were relieved to see a level trail down the middle. That would be Dad’s to walk while we spread out on each side and let the dogs work across the front of the whole group. We figured the birds wouldn’t be right next to the path but we hoped they would flush that way to provide Dad with a few opportunities to shoot. Bret and I shared a secret understanding that we wouldn’t shoot too fast just to make sure. Turned out, that agreement was completely unnecessary. The dogs were on hot scent almost immediately. Anyone who has worked behind a dog hot on a fresh trail knows the feeling. The heart beats faster, the breath comes a little shorter, and the nerves tighten up. Anticipation!
At this point another difference between Coyland Creek and a typical game farm became clear. These pheasants were not just waiting in the grass for the dogs to come pick them up. They were running ahead, circling back, maybe even digging a bunker or two. The Lab trio was having quite the fun time tracking them down. Finally Echo put the pieces of the puzzle together and flushed a big rooster. Safety came first and no shots were fired as the wily bird kept dogs and people in line until he reached the bordering hay field. Our attention quickly turned back to the other dogs as they were solving another bird trail. This one erupted in front of Bret and headed for Barron County. It would have made it except that Dad wasn’t about to let that happen. I saw a little smirk on his face when Bret missed. Then he calmly shouldered his old Model 12 and crushed that pheasant. That scenario would play out over and over throughout the hunt. Someone would miss (usually Bret!) and Dad would play clean up. I’m guessing that we will be hearing about this for years to come.
*Editor’s note: Bret doesn’t remember missing quite this much!
We spent three hours following the dogs up and down our hunting area and the standing corn along its edge. A couple of our birds proved to be too elusive even for Dad and his trusty skeet gun, but Kelsie had tipped us off that the scratch birds take up residence in the corn rows. We found our remaining pheasants there plus a few more that fooled us into letting them go. We were tired, happy, and ready to tell some stories. Isn’t that the way every hunt should end? We kenneled the dogs and headed back to the club house.
The parking lot was still nearly full and all the people inside were still smiling. I pointed that out to Kelsie. “People come here for fun things. They come to hunt, for weddings, or for parties. We get to help them enjoy themselves,” she said. Clearly Coyland Creek is more than just a game farm. Due to a little mishap involving Bret’s car keys inside the locked truck, we had the chance to enjoy some extra time hanging out. Mitch used his engineering background to design the landscape to provide perfect wedding photos and a challenging course for sporting clays. The wedding/banquet facility offers a wonderful place to hold a reception whatever the weather may bring. If you want to spend the night they have rooms for you. Mitch and Kelsie clearly understand that outstanding customer service takes the experience well beyond the birds, buildings, and grounds. As we waited for Bret and his spare keys, kids in Halloween costumes began showing up to Trick-or-Treat. “We want this to be a place where people feel welcome,” stated Kelsie. I don’t think that will be a problem.
For more information on Coyland Creek, visit them at http://www.coyland.com