Sharptail on the Side
A tradition I share with my brother is getting together to hunt ducks and geese in North Dakota each year. We also get to hunt in a couple of other places each fall but N.D. is our focus.
Beyond the great waterfowling, North Dakota Pothole region has some fantastic Sharptail hunting. Now I am no expert; you can find more knowledgeable guys then me on the subject. But I love walking up Sharptails. It has become a big part of our duck hunting…. Limit up fast and we can go get some sharpies!
The Sharptail we get are mostly found under thick thorny trees with red berries. I’m not sure what they are called but they are spread out across the Northern part of North Dakota. Usually in a clump on two to six. I find them primarily in the cow pastures. Because almost all of my sharptail hunting is done in the afternoons, the birds are in the middle of these complexes staying cool and avoiding predators.
The hunting for these birds follows a couple of rules. One is walking. The key is hiking from clump of trees to clump of trees until you bump birds. The second rule is it is “feast or starve”.
Sharptails typically hang out together. From a couple to a dozen or more. Earlier in the season when the vegetation is thicker and the weather nicer they are in the smaller groups and will allow you to get fairly close prior to exploding into the air.
This is good work for a lab. The birds don’t typically run out from you. Of course the sparser the cover the more likely they will flush sooner and run when pressed. They are a quick bird and don’t get high off the ground. They almost always use the cover to their advantage and many times you will jump some and just hear them get up on the other side of the trees and never see them. Most shots are quick and won’t give you much time to think about the attempt.
Sharptails don’t have a lot of pride and it doesn’t take much to kill them. Target loads of 7.5 shot do them in just fine.
Remember, were there is one there are probably two. And where there are two there are probably four. Many a day I have walked three miles without firing a shot and then collect my three birds in a frenzy of shoot and reload (I’m shooting an over/under) in 20 seconds.
As the season moves toward winter sharptails eventually get almost impossible to hunt. The vegetation dies off and the snow comes and the birds will gather into flocks of 50 to 300. With so many eyes one will get nervous upon your approach and they will all start heading to parts unknown.
On the table, well they are no pheasant. They have a dark meat and are more gamey then pheasants, dove, Hungarian partridge or quail. They are ok; not great. I put them in a crock pot, wrap them in bacon on the grill, and use them in stew.
So if you take the trip to North Dakota to whack the ducks and geese, remember in the afternoon, walking up some sharpies is a great way to add to your experience.
Until I see you in the field or on the water…be safe…be good…and BE LUCKY!