OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
Part 1:THE HUNT
Minnesota Early Season Doves
At The Watson Hunting Camp
By Dan Wennerlind
When most hunters think about the early September hunting season in Minnesota they automatically think of Canada geese. Don’t get me wrong I am just as big of a goose hunting fanatic as the next guy, however this year a group of us elected to try something a little different and chase some early season doves with Chuck Ellingson of The Watson Hunting Camp.
Prior to this hunt, my only experience hunting doves was found south of the border in a cactus field, when a group of us went down to Ole Mexico the winter before, for a duck and dove combo hunt. When we booked that trip I have to say I was not very excited about the dove hunting side of that combo hunt. However as our entire group would soon find out, the dove hunting turned out to be the highlight of the trip, being such fast action and tricky shooting with very high bag limits.
When outfitter Chuck Ellingson told me that they had some of the best dove hunting in the state of Minnesota, at their goose hunting camp in Watson, Minnesota, I was once again a little skeptical. I thought to myself, how good could it really be, especially after experiencing what a World Class caliber dove hunt was like back in Mexico the winter before. I would soon find out.
My hunting partner Troy Maag called me the day before we were to depart for the dove opener on September 1st and asked me “What do I need to bring”? My only answer was “Well all I can think of is a can of bug spray and a lot of shells” as the limit is 15 doves per day. Lucky for us we could have left one of those items behind and it wasn’t the shells.
Upon arrival at The Watson Hunting Camp, located on top of the hill that overlooks the Lac Qui Parle Goose Refuge, I recalled the great times I had shared with Chuck over the years in late October, hunting the thousands and thousands of Canada geese that stage on the refuge. It seemed just a little off, not being serenaded to sleep by the multitude of Canada geese on the refuge all night long. But I had to remember we weren’t here for the geese, we were here for the doves!
After a few cocktails at The Ellingson Saloon (Chuck’s bar and lounge found above the 8 bedroom on-site motel) Troy and I were off to bed, while a couple of the other hunters in camp elected to stay up a little later than we were used to and enjoy the night life.
The 5am alarm went off even a little earlier than we were expecting, but lucky for me I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to experience my first ever Minnesota dove hunt. Now Chuck had been boasting the night before about how many doves were actually in the field we were going to be hunting this day. In fact the number 1.2 Million may have been thrown around, jokingly. Now it was time to see if this hunt was really all it was cracked up to be.
Pulling out of the camp after a light breakfast we had a real caravan I tell you what, with 16 over jealous dove hunters following our fearless leader. I was really hoping there was enough room in the field for all of us.
Upon arrival at the field, Chuck gave everyone the pep talk and explained how and what we could expect this day. Then he personally escorted my group of 4 hunters including Troy Maag, Brandon Crowley, Neil Morris and myself out to our position. We would be hunting the west side of a 40 acre cut wheat field with 8 – 10 spinning wing dove decoys set up on
some sort of crazy tree looking thing. Chuck already had the decoys activated and a green lawn chair set up for each of us in the long grass found on the field edge. His final advice as he departed was- “You might want to tuck those chairs back into the taller grass a little bit but remember guys they ARE just doves” he chuckled a little bit and off he went!
In the dark we could see Chuck’s tail lights heading back to the road to pick up the next group of hunters, we all kind of looked at each other like- what in the heck are we doing out here.
Not 20 minutes later and the first barrage of guns went off down to the south of us and it was Game On! Next the guys to the north of us sounded off. Then we had our first encounter as a single dove came barreling down on Troy’s side and with a single shot we had the skunk out of the box as our partner Brandon cheerfully boasted.
It wasn’t 5 minutes later and a pair came in on Neil’s side and we had another bird down. The two dogs we had with were more excited than we were with all of the gun fire.
Troy Maag gets the
group on the board with
the first dove of the day!
For the next 45 minutes it was like a war zone and it was every man for himself as singles, doubles and flocks of 5 would show up out of nowhere, incoming from all directions and barreling down on us 5 to 10 feet off the ground heading for our “dove spread”. In fact the poor dog’s heads were literally spinning as they would be on their way back with one bird and three more would fall in 3 different directions. This was turning out to be an unbelievable experience. One we would all remember for years to come!
Around 8am we had to make the dreaded phone call- “Chuck we are out of shells!” Now with a 60 bird limit (15 birds a piece) we still had about 25 to go (they were not that easy to hit but it sure was fun). Chuck came racing across the field in his big white truck and dropped off another case of shells for our group. You could just see the satisfaction on Chuck’s face as he pulled up and we were all grins from ear to ear. We were skeptics no more!
Over the next ½ hour we easily finished off the 15 bird per hunter limit. At the end of the hunt as I made a quick trip back to my truck I ran into another one of the dove hunters in the group, an older gentleman who was all by himself, without a dog. I asked him how he was doing. He said “Well I have at least 13 down so far. Three of them are right over there by you, could you see if your dog can find them, I’m looking for another one over here in the grass right now, oh here it is”! He was like a kid in a candy store as I helped him collect his limit of downed birds.
After the smoke finally cleared in the field literally, we took some time and relived the mornings adventures, each of us jumped in with our favorite shot / memory of the day. I recalled a nice split double I connected on while Troy recalled a fun miss where everyone in the group took fire at a single dove that was headed over the spread and on a dime stopped in mid flight and took a 360 out of there unscathed. By the end of the hunt the dogs could barely stand up they were so tired from chasing down the multitude of birds.
We couldn’t thank Chuck enough as we headed back to camp to meet up with the rest of the hunters- all of which easily limited out for a grand total of 240 doves harvested that morning for 16 hunters. Chuck’s parting words were “You think there were a lot of doves in that field, you should see how many are in the field I have for tomorrow morning”. Although we were not able to stay for day two, we would all be back for next year’s Minnesota dove opener that was for sure!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
Having known outfitter Chuck Ellingson for over 10 years now and having spent countless days at his camp in Watson, Mn we have found Chuck to be an absolute delight to spend time with in the field. And after this trip it is clear that Chuck knows how to hunt doves! Everything about this hunt was fantastic! 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
When it comes to dove hunting there isn’t a lot of equipment needed but Chuck did throw out pretty much every type of spinning wing dove decoy on the market and his green lawn chairs were very comfortable. I think the smaller details were just as important like having extra cases of ammo in his truck, ready to deliver to the hunters as needed. And after hunting ducks and geese with Chuck over the past 7+ seasons, Chuck always uses the best equipment money can buy- 5/5!
|Score||5 / 5|
The opportunity to harvest a full limit of doves on this hunt was incredible, and not just for 1 or 2 hunters, for all 16 hunters Chuck had booked for the day. There were more doves and opportunities to shoot and practice your shooting in one day than most hunters get all season. A great way to introduce a youngster to the sport of hunting as well. Not to mention there were more doves feeding in the field Chuck had set up for the next day’s hunt. 5 / 5 for sure!!!
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
Chuck has an incredible hunting lodge for his hunters to stay at, at The Watson Hunting Camp! The lodge is an 8 bedroom motel on the lower level, with a built in sauna and shower facility. He also has private suites with their own bathroom facilities in several of the rooms. Dogs are also welcome at the lodge and in the upstairs banquet room area Chuck offers a licensed bar and grill with pool tables, video games for the kids and a great atmosphere for a hunting trip. From start to finish the Watson Hunting Camp has all the amenities a hunter needs for an enjoyable experience- 5/5!
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||3 / 5|
Chuck charges $200 per day for his Minnesota dove hunts. Even though that may seem a little on the high side for some, for the amount of shooting and excitement you have on this trip, for a single day or two day trip you can’t put a price tag on that kind of fun!
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall we all felt the trip was an absolute blast! Everyone had a great time from start to finish. The true tell on this hunt is if the hunters would come back and the answers across the board were an astounding YES!
Overall The Watson Hunting Camp Scored 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer Chuck For His Spectacular Minnesota Dove Hunts or any of his Minnesota Waterfowl Hunting Adventures For That Matter!
|28 / 30|
Part 3: Booking Information
Contact Information For: The Watson Hunting Camp
Outfitter: Chuck Ellingson
Additional Hunts Offered:
In addition to Chucks’s World Class Minnesota Dove Hunts. He also offers:
- Minnesota Duck & Canada Goose Hunts
- Minnesota Pheasant Hunts
- Minnesota Whitetail Deer Hunts
For more information on any of these hunts be sure to give Chuck a call ASAP as many of his hunts are pre booked each year from his repeat customers.
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