The Free Press, Mankato, MN


October 27, 2013

John Cross: A Field of Dreams on the Iowa Opener: CRP


It would probably be accurate to say that those that still return to the state are prompted to do so less by the prospects of bagging a few ringnecks, than tradition.

Including this hunter.

As has been the case for nearly three decades, after a fortifying breakfast, courtesy of the Ventura Volunteer Fire Department, Tim Ackarman, a longtime hunting partner and freelance outdoor writer, and I waded into an expansive field of thick native grasses a few miles north of that tiny community.

Two years ago, his father, Craig, retired from farming and decided to give some of the land that had provided him with a living for so many years a rest.

He enrolled 200 acres into the Conservation Reserve Program. Where corn and soybeans once grew, tall prairie grasses and native forbs now wave in the breeze.

With a stiff wind blowing from the northwest, we were just a few yards from our trucks when Sampson, my 12-year-old springer spaniel suddenly got very intense, the old dog’s tail wagging furiously as he snaked through the thick grass.

“He’s already birdy,” I yelled to Ackarman. Moments later, a rooster clattered into the air. My first shot rocked it, a second anchored it, sending it spiraling down.

Barely five minutes into the 2013 season, we had our first bird in the bag.

Ninety minutes later, back at the truck to give the dogs a water break, we had four handsome roosters in our game bags, two short of our limit. We had flushed several more.

Ackarman decided to save a final opportunity to bag his third bird for later in the day when he could take another dog, his aging 11-year-old Lab, Junior, out for a hunt.

Instead, he followed me with a camera, as I followed the dogs back into the cover.

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