Treating the Family Like VIP’S

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by Bret Amundson/


Each October for 12 years the grassy fields and sloughs around Montevideo has been host to a variety of dignitaries and politicians from across the state during a pheasant hunt called the VIP Hunt. Former Mayor Jim Curtiss started the tradition and this year current Mayor Debra Lee Fader continued it.


Only this year everyone was invited.

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The crowd listens to US Congressman Collin Peterson at the Hollywood on Main in Montevideo during the banquet dinner


The public was able to take part and hunt prime public land in search of wary roosters. In addition to breakfast and lunch at the Watson Hunting Camp, dinner would be served in at the Hollywood on Main downtown Montevideo.


US Rep Colin Peterson would be back once again along with various other business leaders from the area.

This is a good opportunity “…to let people understand what tremendous hunting opportunities you have out here,” Peterson said. “Jim Curtiss deserves a lot of credit as he and I dreamt this up way back when.”

“Our region is very famous for our pheasants,” said Mayor Debra Lee Fader. “We have been voted 15th (Pheasants Forever’s 25 best cities rankings) in the past by Pheasants Forever and we’re very proud of that attribute.”  Listen to the Mayor’s radio interview with MNSJ Radio here.


The date of this years event would fall within my family’s annual hunting trip so we’d take advantage of the opportunity to get on a piece of ground that has been managed for wildlife. While I’ve walked a lot of public land in the area and found birds, I’ll always welcome the chance to gain access to private land.

The Amundson and Hauge family

The Amundson and Hauge family along with the honorable Dwayne Knutsen


As luck would have it, we’d walk the same groud that we did the year before during the annual hunt. A large tract owned by a group of area residents including Dennis Larson and Judge Dwayne Knutsen. We found a good number of birds there the year before and were excited to get back on it.


The northeast corner of the property was a mix of grass, small trees and pines, situated along a bean field and a small stand of hardwoods.   The previous year that particular area exploded with two-dozen pheasants that escaped unharmed. This year we’d be prepared and soon birds were popping up out of the cover in front of us.   Just a few minutes into the walk Judge Knutsen’s young black lab Jaz, had her tail wagging furiously and her nose to the ground. The rooster doubled back towards us and flushed 10 yards in front of me. We’d put one in the game bag right away and hopes were high for the rest of the day.

Bret Amundson and his lab Mika admire a western Minnesota long tail

Bret Amundson and his lab Mika admire a western Minnesota long tail


That would be the only rooster we’d shoot.


We saw a fair amount of birds, mostly hens or roosters that flushed wild. There were two exceptions however.


The first involved a very lucky redhead.   Our group of the Judge and myself also included members of my family, Ron, Denny, Wade and Danny Amundson, along with friends Steve, Tyler and Travis Hauge. Halfway through the property, we regrouped and formulated a plan for the next half.   As we stood there, my lab Mika got birdy and began spinning in circles around us. Despite our pleas of “heads up!”, the group never quite got ready enough. Just like so many times before, a rooster got up while we were standing around talking with guns over our shoulders. I won’t mention any names (Wade), but one hunter (Wade), had the only clear shot and couldn’t shoulder his 12 gauge quick enough and the fortunate bird flew off to buy a Powerball ticket. (I can throw Wade under the bus-he’s my brother. It’s allowed.)


A second rooster would narrowly avoid coming home in the cooler by matrix-ing his way through the shooting later in the day. Again some story telling was taking place and not enough attention was being paid to the four-legged pheasant finder in front of them. Something we’re all guilty of.   A shrug of the shoulders and a few mentions of the popular phrase “Shoot and Release” were made and we continued the walk.


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A morning full of ringnecks-the waterfowl, not the upland bird-can be a fun time!

We’d bust cattails, work the grass and circle every small cluster of birdy-looking cover. After the tough winters we’ve endured I knew it wouldn’t be hundreds of birds piling out one after another but the number of hens that we saw encouraged me. With most of the area corn still standing, birds would be hard to come by.


Luckily for us, this was a multispecies trip to the Montevideo area.


While most of the group went duck hunting each morning, Ron and Denny Amundson went fishing. Shore or bridge fishing this time of year can produce a variety of fish including those tasty walleyes and crappies that everyone is always after. A couple of nice filets made their way into the freezer to be enjoyed another day.


The duck hunting turned out to be the best part of it all. While the migration had stalled a bit there were pockets of ducks that could be found if you put enough miles on your truck.


We’d gotten a tip that some ducks were using a State Wildlife Management Area near Ortonville. We scouted it out and a good number of ringbills were rafting up in the middle. We used a pair of Maven B1 8 x 42 binoculars in conjunction with Google maps and planned out our set up the next day.   With 6 guys we decided two spreads would be more efficient and if we set up on both ends of the slough, we could keep the ducks from landing away from us.


A drake redhead was part of a morning harvest that was scouted using Maven binoculars

A drake redhead was part of a morning harvest that was scouted using Maven binoculars

There was an interesting moment the morning we arrived at the slough. There is a funny thing about hunters: When you see them at the bar or in the café having breakfast, you greet them with a smile and “How did you do?”.   But when you see them pull up to your spot in the morning, usually it’s a scowl and “We were here first” type situation. But this day would be different.


I’d be leading the pack and as I marched through waist-high weeds I looked back to notice a pickup/boat combo stopping next to the slough. We’d already be hunting two spots on this pond so adding another group could get congested.   One member of our hunting party was nearby as they stopped and had a conversation that I imagined going this way:

“You guys hunting here?”


“Well, so are we.”


Sometimes those situations get tense and sometimes they work out just fine. But anytime you have another group hunting in the same spot you never know how it will go.   Fortunately for us, this is how it went:


“You guys hunting here?”


“Well, that’s great. This is a good spot. We’ve had luck here all week. There is another spot we can go to so we’ll head there instead.”

“Thanks, good luck!”


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Duck hunt #2 on the trip.

We’d go on to shoot 23 ducks there that morning and watched our dogs have multiple retrieves that required swimming almost across the slough entirely chasing diver ducks that would, well, dive every time the dog would get close.


Shooting was so good in fact the other group we were with made the walk over to us to restock on ammo.   I’d heard a noise in the cattails behind me and turned to see one of the hunters. Surprised, I asked how it was going.


“Well, it’s kind of embarrassing. We’re out of ammo.”


“That’s not so bad, I’ve heard a lot of shooting down there. How many ducks do you have?”


“Well, it’s kind of embarrassing. We’ve only got 5.”


Hey, 75 shots and 5 ducks isn’t so bad. You could only have 1 duck after 75 shots.


“Well, 4 of the ducks dove on our dog and never came up.”




We’d hunt ducks again the next day and once again hit the jackpot with 23 ducks. That’s 46 ducks across two days. Not a bad total when most of the ducks had either left the area or hadn’t arrived yet.


Travis Hauge with his first redhead.

Travis Hauge with his first redhead.

The final day of the weekend saw 3 of us head back out for one more duck hunt. We’d go back to the well and hunt the same slough as two days before. Not expecting much but getting lucky and knocking down 4 more ducks. Not the greatest day hunting, but it would bring our duck total to 50 in 3 days worth of hunting (across our 4 day trip).


There is a reason that I have been bringing my family out to this area, the opportunity to find various game birds and animals is vast. The people are great and you can find accommodations and plenty of local restaurants and bars that rely on the hunting and fishing traffic each year.


To learn more about city of Montevideo and the VIP hunt, you can click here.   For more on the Watson Hunting Camp, click here.

Here are more pictures from the trip:

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L-R: Denny Amundson, Montevideo Mayor Debra Lee Fader, Ron Amundson, Danny Amundson, Bret Amundson at the Hollywood on Main

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Wade Amundson’s 11-year-old Casey looked like she had fun that morning.

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Drake Ring-necked ducks hang on a WPA (Waterfowl Production Area) sign.

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Bret Amundson, Mika and a western Minnesota pheasant

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Bret shows Mika how he appreciated her hard work with a belly scratch.

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4-year-old Echo retrieves a blue-winged teal.

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The first day’s bounty of various divers including numerous ring-necked ducks.

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4-year-old Mika charges through the muck to retrieve a downed bird.

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Echo retrieves a mallard during the final day’s hunt.

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The veteran Casey with another retrieve.


MNSJ Radio Podcast: Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener Recap, Gator Hunting and the MWC Championship

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We recap the Governor’s Pheasant Hunting Opener by talking to a number of people involved.  We’ll hear from Governor Dayton, Congressman Tim Walz, Chad Cummings from RadioWorks, Scott Pain from Worthington Public Utilities, Scott Rall the Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter President and more. We hear about the need for more land conservation around Worthington for more than just wildlife, as the need for clean water is more important.  Mandy Uhrich, the DNR’s State Wildlife Depredation Biologist talks about the new land that was dedicated and tied together a piece of public property that someone could walk 12 miles on.  She also tells us about hunting alligators in South Carolina!  And Chad Maloy from FM Walleyes took second with his partner Don Denning at the recent MWC Championship on Devils Lake with an impressive haul of fish including a 1 day bag of over 35 pounds of walleye! (5 fish!!)  How’d they do it?  Find out this week.

Click here to listen:

Or download each segment to your mp3 player here – SEG 1SEG 2SEG 3

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Mandy Uhrich and landowner Les Johnson pose with our opening day pheasants.

MNSJ Radio: This week we talk beer, grouse and muskies!

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How would you like to drink beer and create more wildlife habitat at the same time?

Beer For Wildlife founder Jason Markkula explains what BFW is all about.  When you purchase his beer, proceeds go into habitat creation.  Matt Breuer sits on the MN Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society board and recently filmed an episode of “The Flush” near Thief River Falls with Bob St Pierre from Pheasants Forever and Travis Frank from The Flush.  He’ll tell us how that episode went and where in MN you can hunt sharpies.  Joe Foxx has been putting huge muskies in the boat and he’ll tell us how he does it and how you can get in the boat too.

Here’s when and where you can listen to the show: 

  1. Fargo: AM 970 WDAY  Saturdays at 6am *NEW TIME (LISTEN LIVE)
  2. Park Rapids: AM 870 KPRM Sundays at 7am
  3. Walker: AM 1570 KAKK  96.3 FM Saturdays 8:00a
  4. Wadena: AM 1070 KVKK Saturdays 7:00a
  5. Wahpeton: AM 1450 KBMW Saturdays at 8:00a (LISTEN LIVE)
  6. Grand Forks: AM1310 KNOX Saturdays at 10a (LISTEN LIVE)
  7. Fergus Falls:  AM 1020 THE GAME Saturdays at 10a 
  8. MontevideoAM 1460 KDMA Saturdays at 9am (LISTEN LIVE)
  9. BemidjiAM 820 WBKK Sundays at 7am
  10. St CloudAM 1450 KNSI/103.3 FM Saturdays at 1pm   (LISTEN LIVE)
  11. Ely94.5 FM WELY, Saturdays at 6AM  (LISTEN LIVE)
  12. Hibbing: AM 650 WNMT, Sundays at 8AM
Markkula stands in the middle of where the magic happens

Markkula stands in the middle of where the magic happens


Click here to get the MNSJ Magazine for half price!

Click here to get the MNSJ Magazine for half price!

Deer hunters encouraged to buy license early; get subscription to MNSJ Magazine for just $9!

With nearly 500,000 firearms deer hunters in the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to purchase their licenses early to avoid long lines and any potential system issues associated with the high sales volume. The 2014 Minnesota firearms deer season begins Saturday, Nov. 8.

“Buying now beats buying later as last year we sold more than 150,000 licenses on the Thursday and Friday before the firearms season,” said Steve Michaels, DNR licensing program director. “A lot of those folks end up standing in lines who didn’t need to be.”

Trail cam picture of Dylan's buck.  Wow.  Wooow.  Whoa.  WOW.

Trail cam picture of Dylan Beach’s 28-point buck. Wow. Wooow. Whoa. WOW.

Deer licenses can be purchased by Minnesota resident adults for $30 at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-665-4236 or online at There are additional fees for telephone and Internet transactions. Hunters who purchase licenses by phone and Internet will receive their deer license and tags by mail, which can take three to five business days to arrive.

When you purchase your license online, you can get a subscription to Minnesota Sporting Journal Magazine for just $9.  Click here for the discount!

Hunters must have a valid deer license and tag in their possession when hunting deer.

The information center and license center at DNR headquarters in St. Paul will extend their hours on opening weekend to accommodate additional phone calls from deer hunters. Phone lines will be open on Friday, Nov. 7, until 8 p.m., andSaturday, Nov. 8, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Hunters need to be familiar with deer hunting regulations, which are available at any DNR license agent or online

License questions should be directed to the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.