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Park Falls Ruffs
Follow the green stuff

** WISCONSIN** The town of Park Falls is a Mecca for ruffed grouse hunters. Even when ruffs are on the downside of their population cycle-as they will be this fall-gunners willing to hoof it will find birds in the surrounding 1.3 million acres of public land.

“One of the biggest keys to grouse hunting is finding what they’re eating,” says guide Terry Ides. “I’ve found that green vegetation is the answer for most grouse. As the frosts come and start killing plants, the grouse will go from wild strawberries to fern tips to aspen leaves to clover.”

Also essential to successful low-cycle grouse hunting is plain hard walking. “I once took some clients to a patch of cover that was surrounded by mature hardwoods. We flushed birds in there I’m convinced had never been hunted.”

Contact: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (715-762-3204); Terry Ides (715-762-4007). -Scott Bestul

** Bowhunting the Badlands **
There’s nothing bad about this land of mulies and whitetails

**NORTH DAKOTA **Most mule-deer nuts drive past North Dakota on their way to traditional Western hot spots. Big mistake, according to John Hanson, owner of Logging Camp Ranch outside Bowman. Hanson offers semi-guided archery hunts on his 12,000-acre spread. “We’ve got some great mule deer bucks here,” he says. “My hunters take four or five really good bucks each year, but they average 30 to 40 opportunities each season. It’s prime deer hunting.”

Mule deer aren’t the only show on Logging Camp. “Whitetails are abundant on our river bottoms and areas with dense cover,” Hanson notes. “So my hunters can choose the tactics they enjoy. Whitetail hunters sit in tree stands on the river; the mule deer guys mostly spot-and-stalk in the badlands and breaks. I tell them to bring good binoculars, get out early and get above the deer to set up a stalk.”

Hanson says rutting activity occurs in two waves. “Breeding heats up in late October and early November as the first does come into estrus. But I think Thanksgiving through December 10 is prime time. The majority of does have been bred then and the mature bucks are back on the prowl. That’s when you can really get on a big one.”

For do-it-yourselfers, public ground is abundant on the nearby Little Missouri National Grasslands. The state’s any-deer archery licenses (good for a whitetail or mule deer) were allocated in a spring drawing, but whitetail-only archery tags are unlimited and available at most license agents.

Contact: North Dakota Game and Fish Department (701-328-6332); Logging Camp Ranch (701-279-5501; www.loggingcampranch.com). -S.B.

Hybrid Toms
Birds of a different feather

KANSAS Eastern turkeys prefer timbered terrain and Rio Grandes do best in thick brush country. However, an Eastern/Rio Grande hybrid strain of birds prospers not only in those environments, but also in places where purebreeds don’t fare well.

From Johnson County south to Cherokee County, Easterns and hybrids are co-dominant. Among the best public-land bets for fall hybrids are Marais Des Cygnes national wildlife refuge, La Cygne Lake wildlife area and Marais Des Cygnes WA in Linn County. Other potential hot spots include Hillsdale Reservoir in Miami County, Hollister WA in Bourbon County and Mined Land WA.

Contact: Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks (620-431-0380); Marais Des Cygnes national wildlife refuge (913-352-8956); Marais Des Cygnes wildlife area (913-352-8941). -John Haughey

** Michigan Monsters **
Big brown trout with European accents

WISCONSIN Along the shorelines and in the harbors of Lake Michigan, browns upward of 15 pounds are becoming common, and fish exceeding 25 and even 30 pounds are making the bragging boards each fall.

Key to this surgis the introduction of a unique strain of Salmo trutta, the seeforellen, found originally in Eastern Europe. Boat fishermen troll stickbaits such as Rapalas and Smithwick Rogues. Harbor fishermen prefer Crocodile, Kastmaster, Little Cleo and Mepps Syclops spoons along with stickbaits. If all else fails, try baby alewives, smelt and spawn. Among the top tributaries for monster browns are the Root, Sheboygan and Milwaukee rivers. Big browns also roam the shores of Algoma, Manitowoc and Two rivers.

Contact: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (414-263-8500). -Mike Pehanich

Burning Some Boot Leather for Grouse
South-central ruffs offer a challenging opportunity

MISSOURI Grouse have never been a primary quarry for Missouri hunters. The game birds have struggled here, especially in central and western Missouri. Nevertheless, wing-shooters willing to canvass hardwood stands, field edges and brushy creek bottoms in northern Missouri’s Adair and Putnam counties, or the eastern reaches of Mark Twain National Forest in south-central Missouri, can score. Be prepared to put in some time and walk some miles. In October, broods disperse. Birds are on the move, looking to bulk up on wild fruit before settling into winter roosting areas.

Some of the best grouse habitat is on state and national lands managed for timber harvest. The best bets may be areas within the Doniphan/Eleven Point District of the 1.5-million-acre Mark Twain National Forest. These areas include Cedar Bluff area in Carter, Oregon and Ripley counties; Compton area in Ripley County; Irish wilderness area in Oregon County; Round Mountain area in Shannon and Carter counties; and Wildhorse Hollow area in Carter County. There are also nearby patches of state lands open to hunting, including 5,746- acre Sunklands conservation area in Shannon County and 5,387-acre Stegall Mountain natural area within Carter County’s Peck Ranch conservation area. Contact: Missouri Department of Conservation, Ozark regional office, West Plains (417-256-7161). -J.H.

Saginaw Bay Ducks
Non-traditional tactics pile up the birds

** MICHIGAN** Jeff Godi’s decoy spreads resemble a Broadway production and his pontoon-boat blind may lie two miles from shore on Saginaw Bay, but the Bay City guide bags ducks when most other hunters stay home. “It was a warm, moderate fall last season, but we had our best year ever,” Godi says. “We had plenty of wind, and that seemed to keep the ducks flying throughout October.”

Godi and hunting partner Roger Fields find that early- season hunts typically yield local ducks. “Then we have a small gap of slower action until the fifteenth, when another push of birds comes through,” Godi says. “If I had to pick one day to hunt all season, it’d be October 22. We had exceptional shooting on mallards and redheads right around that date last year.” Godi camouflages his pontoon by tying cedar trees and other vegetation to the sides. “It looks like a floating island out there, and even wary ducks pile right into the blocks,” he says. “I’ve worked with a variety of decoy setups, but last year I strung two parallel lines-one upwind and one downwind of the boat-with about a ten-yard gap in between. We had some great shooting at close birds.”

Contact: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (517-373-1263); Jeff Godi, The Michigan Experience (888-383-8257). -S.B.

ILLINOIS Best Bet for Fall Turkeys: The best shotgun season bet in terms of success rates, numbers and public access is Calhoun County. Last fall, Calhoun hunters took 71 turkeys for the state’s second-highest success rate (57 percent), but only 138 of 200 tags were issued. Calhoun includes parts of the 24,386-acre Mississippi River FWA and 8,500-acre Two Rivers NWR. Contact: Illinois DNR, Region IV Headquarters (618-462-1181).

Evergreen Muskies: Troll or fan-cast bucktails and medium-sized stickbaits on the big flat near the dam for muskies to 38 inches. Evergreen Lake features good shoreline structure but few weed patches and little laydown timber so the key is finding the shad schools that entice foraging muskies. Contact: Off the Hook, Bloomington (309-827-6071); guide Rich Gallagher (847-741-9771).

**Key Dates **
October 1: Archery turkey season opens.
October 1: Archery deer season opens in counties with a firearm season and not in restricted archery zone. Check regulations for specifics.
October 1: Archery deer season opens in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties.
October 1-31: Archery deer season (antlered deer only) in Champaign, Macon, DeWitt, Moultrie and Piatt counties.
October 20-28: Fall shotgun turkey season.

INDIANA
Lake Michigan Cohos: Target daybreak coho salmon to 10 pounds with plugs, spoons and shiny dodgers trailing gaudy streamers in Burns Ditch on the mouth of the Little Calumet River near Portage. Fish school in Burns Ditch at night and are shallow at sunrise. Later, salmon move deep and may require downriggers to catch. The action is best when rain runoff spurs the river’s flow. Contact: Indiana DFW, Lake Michigan office (219-874-6824).

Monroe Reservoir Stripers: Wade-cast white or chartreuse streamers on Fairfax recreation area beach flats where schooling shad will draw hard-hitting hybrid stripers. Action is best when shad move into sun-warmed flats after the first frosty nights of fall. Boaters can catch hybrids and walleyes trolling crankbaits, drifting live minnows near the dam or off Sugar Creek and Moore’s Creek Bay. Contact: Indiana DFW, District 6 office (812-279-1215).

Urban Bonus Does: Deer are in virtually every metropolitan park, nature preserve, green belt and neighborhood, prompting the DNR to create urban deer zones where bonus does are available to archers. Indianapolis, Elkhart, Lafayette and Evansville offer urban deer zones. See hunting regulations for details. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4200).

**Key Dates **
October 1: Early archery deer season opens.
October 1: Ruffed grouse season opens.
October 16: Applications for deer-herd- reduction hunts must be received in the DNR Indianapolis office by close of business.
Applications available at www.in.gov/dnr.

IOWA
French Creek Deer and Trout: Allamakee County’s Yellow River State Forest is popular among area hunters, but prospects are often better on smaller public lands, like French Creek WMA. The 1,338-acre area is also a premier trout fishery. Artificial lure and catch-and-release fishing for native browns and stocked rainbows is available. Contact: Biologist Bob Kurtt (319-382-4895).

Loess Hills Turken Muskies: Troll or fan-cast bucktails and medium-sized stickbaits on the big flat near the dam for muskies to 38 inches. Evergreen Lake features good shoreline structure but few weed patches and little laydown timber so the key is finding the shad schools that entice foraging muskies. Contact: Off the Hook, Bloomington (309-827-6071); guide Rich Gallagher (847-741-9771).

**Key Dates **
October 1: Archery turkey season opens.
October 1: Archery deer season opens in counties with a firearm season and not in restricted archery zone. Check regulations for specifics.
October 1: Archery deer season opens in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties.
October 1-31: Archery deer season (antlered deer only) in Champaign, Macon, DeWitt, Moultrie and Piatt counties.
October 20-28: Fall shotgun turkey season.

INDIANA
Lake Michigan Cohos: Target daybreak coho salmon to 10 pounds with plugs, spoons and shiny dodgers trailing gaudy streamers in Burns Ditch on the mouth of the Little Calumet River near Portage. Fish school in Burns Ditch at night and are shallow at sunrise. Later, salmon move deep and may require downriggers to catch. The action is best when rain runoff spurs the river’s flow. Contact: Indiana DFW, Lake Michigan office (219-874-6824).

Monroe Reservoir Stripers: Wade-cast white or chartreuse streamers on Fairfax recreation area beach flats where schooling shad will draw hard-hitting hybrid stripers. Action is best when shad move into sun-warmed flats after the first frosty nights of fall. Boaters can catch hybrids and walleyes trolling crankbaits, drifting live minnows near the dam or off Sugar Creek and Moore’s Creek Bay. Contact: Indiana DFW, District 6 office (812-279-1215).

Urban Bonus Does: Deer are in virtually every metropolitan park, nature preserve, green belt and neighborhood, prompting the DNR to create urban deer zones where bonus does are available to archers. Indianapolis, Elkhart, Lafayette and Evansville offer urban deer zones. See hunting regulations for details. Contact: Indiana DNR (317-232-4200).

**Key Dates **
October 1: Early archery deer season opens.
October 1: Ruffed grouse season opens.
October 16: Applications for deer-herd- reduction hunts must be received in the DNR Indianapolis office by close of business.
Applications available at www.in.gov/dnr.

IOWA
French Creek Deer and Trout: Allamakee County’s Yellow River State Forest is popular among area hunters, but prospects are often better on smaller public lands, like French Creek WMA. The 1,338-acre area is also a premier trout fishery. Artificial lure and catch-and-release fishing for native browns and stocked rainbows is available. Contact: Biologist Bob Kurtt (319-382-4895).

Loess Hills Turke

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