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The hunt took place on several corn fields that are soon to be harvested soon. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)

Pheasant hunt puts polio in the crosshairs

REGENT, N.D. — Seven hunters were spread evenly across roughly a hundred rows of corn on Dave Anderson's farm near Regent, N.D., on Tuesday afternoon and marched from one end of the cornfield to the other.

Four other hunters, or blockers, waited at the other end of the field for the marching hunters and their four dogs to flush pheasants to the end of the field and into the air.

Dickinson's Mike Schwab was on the hunt and explained the group's strategy.

"With corn, since the birds are running than dogs are running too," Schwab said, "the birds are not going to hole up because their isn't any cover, they're just feeding in here and they are running down the rows so you have to block them."

As the hunters neared the end of the field, a flurry of birds quickly emerged from the tops of the cornstalks and flew up into the sky

"Hen!" one hunter shouted as the guns remained silent.

"Rooster!" another shouted as he focused the sites of his shotgun on the flying bird. Several shots then rang into the air from different directions and a pheasant fell out of the sky. Shortly afterwards one of the dogs returned to the group wagging its tail with the bird in it's mouth.

But on Tuesday morning's pheasant hunt, hunters were taking aim at more than just pheasants, also in their crosshairs was an eradication of the polio disease worldwide.

The event raised over $6,000 for PolioPlus, an organization that helps provide polio immunizations to underserved areas around the world and organized by Dickinson's Rotary Club. The club sold the all-expense hunt at a charity auction dinner to four hunters visiting from Minnesota.

Don Bares, a longtime member of Dickinson's Rotary Club, said that the charity hunt has been running for several years and he thinks it is a great way to put his passion for hunting to good use.

"This is something I came up with as a hunter, when you get to those silent auctions you get the typical things people give away, pictures, baskets, Twins tickets," Bares said, "but we wanted to raise the bar a little bit."

This year, the same group of four hunters purchased the hunt as last year but due to windy weather and low pheasant numbers in general they faced more difficult conditions this time around.

The group of four are old friends from the Detroit Lakes, Minn., area and though he now lives in Hermantown, Doug Duba has continued to go on hunting trips with the same group of friends.

"The hunt yesterday was so windy it was really tough, Duba said, "but we've had a wonderful time, we came back for a second go around because we loved it so much. The pheasants out here are thick and even though they are down this year, the hunting is what we've come for not the shooting."

Brian Lund of Detroit Lakes said that the second day of hunting was much better as the wind had died down.

Mike and Alex Schwab of the Dickinson Rotary were also happy to join the hunt along with their dogs, Zia and Ted.

"It's nice to meet some people who are also rotarians from outside of our club," Alex said, "we are part of a group that takes action rather than sits around."

Bares said that the club ended up choosing Polio eradication as the cause because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation agreed to match any donations they contributed. Bares was also appreciative of the support he's received in the Dickinson community to make the event possible.

"A big part of this is getting Dave Anderson to donate his land, he could have fee paying hunters come on here" Bares said, "Ramada donates rooms and meals for these guys ... it would cost about the same for them to come out and do this hunt on their own, their money is just going to a good cause."

Anderson said that he was happy to donate his land for the event and also wanted to highlight the work the Rotary does for the Dickinson community and around the world. He noted that within the last few weeks the club has also held a pancake breakfast fundraiser (also for polio eradication), donated books to schools and volunteered with local students.

"It's a really good organization but we are all struggling to get membership," Anderson said, "A lot of people who don't belong don't realize how much good Rotarians are doing."