Back from vacation … and Paul Vasquez update

Well, it’s back to the grind after a week’s vacation for the “October trip,” the annual ruffed grouse and relaxation week at the family getaway in northern Minnesota.

Besides the opportunity to kick back and spend a few days with friends, two of us managed to land tickets to see the Winnipeg Jets play the Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 17 at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg — and we still got in a morning grouse hunt.

We also saw history made that night, as the Jets 2.0 scored their first victory with a 2-1 win over the Penguins. To say the MTS Centre was loud would be an understatement.

Grouse numbers, at least where we hunted, appeared to be similar to last year. We walked a lot of miles for the birds we encountered, but that’s part of the fun. It’s hard to top spending time in the woods on crisp October days in my book. I can only imagine what hunting would have been like if we’d avoided the monsoon rains of May and June, which likely hampered production.

Speaking of grouse, I had a voicemail from Paul Vasquez, the Grand Forks man who spent more than 24 hours in Beltrami Island State Forest after getting lost Sept. 30 while pursuing a ruffed grouse. Vasquez only had planned to make a short walk down a trail near the old Penturen Church when he encountered the bird, so he’d left his compass and matches in the pickup.

Paul Vasquez

I wrote about Vasquez, who openly talked about his ordeal, for a story that that ran in the Herald on Oct. 16. When staff photographer Eric Hylden and I stopped by his house for a short visit the morning of Oct. 14, he was getting ready for a return trip to the forest.

I asked him to give me an update, and I’m happy to report the return trip was considerably less eventful than his previous hunting excursion.

“Everything went well,” Vasquez said in his voicemail. “I didn’t shoot any grouse, though — didn’t see too many.

“My son who was a first time hunter up there shot two, my friend Brian Vidden and I didn’t shoot any. Everything went well … went to the church. Nothing happened, pretty much everything like I expected. It went really good. Can’t wait to get up there.”

DNR reopens burned areas of Roseau River WMA

The Department of Natural Resources has reopened the portions of the Roseau River Wildlife Management area that were closed during the recent “Juneberry” wildfire in northwest Minnesota.

“Even though some of the WMA is black, there are still plenty of good hunting spots available,” said Randy Prachar, manager of Roseau River WMA. “This time of year, Roseau River WMA is a destination for waterfowl hunters, and we’d like to assure all users that plenty of opportunities still exist.”

The Roseau River WMA is a 75,000-acre public hunting ground located along the Minnesota-Manitoba border in northwestern Roseau County. Prachar said the fire will improve habitat and nesting and breeding cover in the long run.

Here is updated information the DNR released Thursday afternoon for those deciding on whether to include Roseau River WMA in their fall hunting or wildlife viewing plans:

• Campsites and other facilities are safe to use.

• Pool 2 did not burn, so hunters should expect to find it in its usual condition. Though the campgrounds associated with Pool 2 did burn over, they are still functional (some soot present).

• Pool 3 did burn, but much of the pool that is navigable for hunting, and its associated cattail cover did not burn, thus hunters should be able to hunt their usual spots. As with Pool 2, the Pool 3 campsite burned, but the site is functional.

• The Roseau River south of Pool 3 burned, but fire was kept from the most popular areas. The major campsites north of Greenbush were not burned. Hunters should note that the drought has made navigating a boat difficult in the shallow river water.

• There was significant disturbance to waterfowl on Pool 3 and along a portion of the Roseau River due to consecutive days of helicopter traffic. Hunters should expect the influence of this disturbance to wane as we get farther into October and as new birds arrive in migration that were not there to experience the disturbance.

• The wooded areas of the WMA that were burned will be black until snow falls. Already, bear, deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and snowshoe hares have been observed along the perimeter of the burned area.

More information on Roseau River WMA is available here:

Map of Roseau River Wildlife Management Area:

‘DUTV’ to feature Devils Lake

The Devils Lake area is scheduled to be featured in an episode of Ducks Unlimited’s “DUTV” airing this weekend on the Outdoor Channel.

In a news release, DU said the upcoming episode looks at what happens when freelance hunting trips don’t go as planned. The Green Bay, Wis., area also is featured in the segment, DU said.

“DUTV” airs at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Central time). The show will air through December, and episodes from the 2006-2010 seasons are available here.