North Dakota Boomtowns Dodging traffic while pheasant hunting |

North Dakota Boomtowns Dodging traffic while pheasant hunting

One of my all-time favorite classic movies is “Boomtown” starring Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamar.

Boomtown is the key word here as I spent much of October hunting around the North Dakota boomtowns of Mott, Dickinson, Killdeer, Watford City, Bowman and Williston. The pheasant hunting was very good and should have been, considering the forecast was for a 59 percent increase in pheasant production.

The challenge to hunting birds in North Dakota and eastern Montana this year is not in finding the birds. It was dodging the oil field traffic. Left turns are made in an average of 10 to 15 minutes as the aforementioned cities scramble to rebuild their infrastructures to handle all of the traffic.

North Dakota oil production reached a monthly record of 20.9 million barrels in July. North Dakota has passed Alaska this year as the number two oil-producing state in the USA behind Texas.

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The population of Dickinson was about 18,500 in 2011. That number is expected to triple in the next few years.

What does this mean to those of us that hunt around these “boomtowns”?

You had better get your rooms reserved well in advance. I made our reservation for October last May. Prices that you have to pay for rooms, food and services are going to be somewhat inflated.

A short visit to a vet near one of the boomtowns to remove 12 to 15 quills from my young dog’s mouth and nose cost about $10 per quill. I hope he has learned that porcupines are not real friendly critters.

North Dakota’s personal income per capita grew faster than any other state in the last five years. North Dakotans vaulted to No. 7 overall among U.S. states in personal income at $47,236 in 2011, up from number 38 in 2006 when the boom started.

Harvey Brock of the “Dickinson Press” apologized to Jeff Foxworthy but came up with, “You might be living in a boomtown if:

■ Fast-food workers and maids earn more than teachers.

■ Coin-operated Laundromats stay busy 24/7.

■ Guns, bottled water and energy drinks never make it to the shelves at retailers; they are consumed so quickly.

The two routes from Greeley (Douglas, Gillette, Miles City and Sydney or Lusk, Newcastle, Belle Fourche and Bellfield) have always been a gauntlet of deer on the highways and or bad weather.

Fortunately, we have been able to dodge both in the past 20 years.

It may be necessary to run that gauntlet again this hunting season if last week’s opener in Nebraska is an indication of what the hunting is going to be like in the drought-stricken states.

While hunting in Nebraska we saw more deer and turkeys than anything else. Pheasants were extremely difficult to get close to as the habitat/cover is almost non-existent.

Judging from what I saw there last season as compared to what I saw over the opener, Nebraska’s pheasant population is down about 70 percent. If you are going to hunt Nebraska I suggest you hunt the wheat stubble fields, as they offer the most cover. Be prepared to walk long distances to try to corner birds at the ends of fields. A good bird dog will improve your odds substantially as trying to corner pheasants is like trying to herd cats.

You can also purchase a non-resident turkey license for $91, and it is good for two turkeys with the season extending until Jan. 31, 2013.

Our turkeys filled up our cooler much quicker than pheasants would have. A small turkey is twice the size of a pheasant, and a friend’s tom was four or five times the size of a pheasant. That should take care of Thanksgiving. ❖

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