Posts Tagged ‘grouse’

Wisconsin Welcomes Wingshooters

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

photo by Mark Herwig

I recently visited my local Gander Mountain retail location to purchase a Wisconsin small game hunting license in advance of a trip east in search of ruffed grouse and woodcock.


“Is this the first time you’ve purchased a hunting license in Wisconsin,” the Gander Mountain clerk asked.


I annually buy a fishing license during visits with my brother’s family in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, but this was indeed the first Wisconsin hunting license of my life.


It turns out Wisconsin has a fantastic promotion to help encourage hunter recruitment in which all first time hunting licenses are sold at a 50 percent discount.  In other words, my non-resident small game hunting license cost me $42.75 instead of the normal $85 charge.  In fact, Wisconsin residents buying their first adult small game license are only charged $5.

The following note appears on my license:

“Thank you for your license purchase.  Wisconsin implemented a Recruitment Program that offers incentives to first time participants and the individuals who recruited them into hunting, fishing, and trapping.  You paid a reduced license fee since it was either your first time purchasing this type of license or you haven’t purchased one within the last 10 years.  This recruitment program also gives you the opportunity to recognize the individual who encouraged you to participate in this activity.  If you would like to designate the person who recruited you, call the DNR at 1.888.936.7463.  Enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors.”

Another nice nugget about Wisconsin is the fact their ruffed grouse hunting season remains open across the state’s northern range through January 31st.  That’s an extra thirty days of late season bird hunting when compared to neighboring states Minnesota and Michigan’s grouse season.  I’m already planning a snowshoe hunt in January.


Wisconsin can consider this bird hunter hooked for life.


NOTE: A pheasant stamp (resident or non-resident) costs an additional $10.


The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Hank Shaw: Pheasant Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Hank Shaw's fantastic new book: HUNT, GATHER, COOK

Editor’s Note: Hunt, Gather, Cook author Hank Shaw has penned a portion of Pheasants Forever’s “Wild Game Cooking” special section appearing in the upcoming winter issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal.  If you’d like to become a member of Pheasants Forever and receive this issue along with a full year’s subscription, join today by following this link.


According to Wikipedia, the market for organic foods grew from nothing to a $55 billion industry by 2009.  I believe a similar trend is developing around our roots as hunters and gatherers.  From Steven Rinella’s Travel Channel show, The Wild Within, to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg declaring that he’d like to become a hunter, folks that hunt, fish and gather their food are becoming today’s pop culture trendsetters.  Suddenly, mainstream America has an interest in the origination and acquisition of the food on their tables.


One of the leaders bridging our hunting and gathering roots to mainstream America is Hank Shaw.  Shaw is most known for his popular blog: Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.  I caught up via email with Hank  to ask him about a couple of his new endeavors; including, a fantastic new book titled Hunt, Gather, Cook.


St.Pierre: The Minnesota DNR’s Chris Niskanen, a mutual friend of ours, was the guy that introduced you to hunting when you were 32 years old.  Tell me about that experience; why were you interested, what surprised you, and what hooked you on hunting to the extent that you make your living today as a result of your ability to hunt, write about hunting and cook the fruits of your labor?

Shaw: I first became interested in hunting because, oddly, of my fishing abilities. When I’d lived on Long Island, I developed a deep knowledge of the waters there – to the point where I could almost always catch something. I knew the tides, moon phases, and seasons. I could read current breaks, knew where structure was to hold fish. And, most importantly, I had the skills to make pretty much any seafood taste great.


When I moved to Minnesota, I wanted that same ability on land. Chris took me out to South Dakota to hunt pheasants. It was a hard hunt, as it was the last week of the season and we were hunting public land, but Chris could still easily come away with his limit of pheasants each day. I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but I was hooked.


What surprised me most was how engrossing hunting became. You can drink beer and shoot the breeze when you are fishing, but when you are hunting you must live completely within the moment. You become a set of ears and eyes, you start to notice smells you’d never notice before; I’ve smelled deer before I could see them. I never felt so truly alive as when I am quiet in the woods, hunting for deer, rabbits or squirrels. Even when I don’t come home with anything, I feel rejuvenated after the experience. 


St.Pierre: Both your book and your blog are subtitled “finding the forgotten feast.”  To me, that subtitle echoes of Aldo Leopold’s often referenced passage from A Sand County Almanac in which he talks about food not coming from the grocery store, but from the land.  Why is it important to you for America to rediscover this “forgotten feast?”


Shaw: Because we are one of the only cultures that does not, for the most part, eat food from our land. Very few of the foods Americans now eat are native to the 50 states. This was not always the case. Muskrat (called “marsh hare”) was sold in the finest restaurants in America a century ago. Our basic knowledge of plants and animals was far greater than it is today. Wild game and wild foods were once a normal part of the fabric of our lives. Now they are an exotic novelty.


What I hope to achieve is to rekindle people’s interest in nature’s bounty – and I am not talking about living off the grid or anything. I am talking about it becoming normal for people to own their own slice of nature within an otherwise “normal” life: Maybe they’re anglers, maybe they gather wild rice or berries or mushrooms. Maybe they hunt a deer for the freezer every year. Minnesota is one of my favorite states because so many Minnesotans already do this, so what I do is not such an alien concept for them.



St.Pierre: I consider myself to be a hunter, angler and gatherer.  I pick morel mushrooms and wild asparagus, hunt voraciously, and fish adequately, but some of the things you pursue had me thinking some of this stuff is more work than it’s worth.  The effort to make a cup of acorn coffee, for instance, seemed a painstakingly long process for the reward.  Where do you find the balance between adventure and practicality?

Shaw: Everyone has to find his own balance. I don’t really do acorn coffee so much because its flavor is only so-so, but acorn flour has such a distinctive nutty flavor I find it more than worth the effort. It is the perfect flour to use when cooking game.


But you bring up a good point, because if your calculus is always cost-benefit, or whether wild foods are cheaper than Wal-Mart, wild food will always lose. But there is a spiritual, emotional component to this that cannot be quantified. Anyone who has ever gone fishing on a camping trip, and who’s fried that fish up over an open fire that night, knows just how good that fish will taste – it’s more than the sum of its parts. There is something deeply satisfying about working for your dinner.


St.Pierre: Of all the crazy things you’ve chased, gathered, and cooked, what is: a) your favorite and b) the thing most of us would think odd that you absolutely loved?

Shaw: I dunno. There are so many awesome experiences. But I have to say ruffed grouse hunting in the far north of Minnesota is right up there. Hunting grouse in the forest touches me in a way that no other hunting does. I grew up around very old forests in New Jersey, and whenever I return to that kind of woods – no matter what state I happen to find myself in – I get the feeling I am home. I love the desert, I love the mountains, but I am most at home in the forest. And there may be no other game bird as delicious as a ruffed grouse. Maybe a woodcock, but that’s arguable.


Hank Shaw prepares a "forgotten feast"

Crazy things? Hard to say. Maybe periwinkle snails off the rocks of New England. Blue camas bulbs in the High Sierra, which you need to be sure aren’t the disturbingly named death camas bulbs. I also happen to love the freshwater drum of the St. Croix River, which most people scorn. I love that they are fatty and rich, just like their cousins the redfish of Louisiana.



St.Pierre: Since I’m a pheasant guy, I’ve gotta know your favorite pheasant meal, the sides you like to serve with your pheasant and the drink to wash it down?

Shaw: OK, this is tough one, because I eat pheasant all the time. But I do a dish where I gently poach the pheasant breast in pheasant broth, then crispy-fry the skin separately. I serve the poached breast with the crispy skin on top, with a sweet-savory corn sauce underneath. It is just awesome. Sure, it’s a little cheffy, but I like my pheasant breast gently cooked and I love, love, crispy skin.


A drink to wash it down? I think a heavy white, like a Cote du Rhone blend, a Viognier, or an unoaked Chardonnay are good. But so are dry roses from southern France or Spain, and even light reds such as a Gamay, Grenache or Pinot Noir work well, too. It depends on how you’re serving the pheasant. Same goes with beer: Everything from a Grain Belt to an expensive Chimay Belgian beer works with pheasant, depending on the preparation.



St.Pierre: My wife and I are looking forward to dining at Corner Table in Minneapolis next Monday night when you will be the guest chef for the evening.  What can folks attending your special appearances expect to taste and learn from these events?

Shaw: Our wild food book dinners are expressions of time and place. I work closely with the chefs, in this case Chef Scott Pampuch, to create a multi-course menu that can only really be done in one place and in one time – in our case, we’ll have lots of autumn Minnesota products, like walleye, pike, highbush cranberries, real Ojibwe wild rice, pheasant, venison – that sort of thing. Minnesota has such a wealth of wild foods that Scott and I are really looking forward to putting together a symphony of the North Star State’s finest foods. Even experienced eaters will taste something new here. I guarantee it.


Hank Shaw will be appearing at Corner Table in Minneapolis on Monday, October 10th at 6 pm.  Reservations for this special meal can be made by calling 612.823.0011.  Price is $65 per person.



The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.


Where will you be on the 2011 Pheasant Opener?

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Opening Day 2010 with (left to right) me, Billy Hildebrand, Erik Hildebrand & Chad Hildebrand. In addition to a limit of roosters, the Hildebrand boys bagged a few ducks early that morning.

Are you ready to go bird hunting?  Personally, I’m ready to hang up the fishing pole and shrink-wrap the boat in exchange for my over/under.  My shorthaired bird dog is wagging her tail in agreement as well. 


Yes, I know it’s only August, but hunting season can’t get here quick enough as far as I’m concerned.  And judging by the comments on PF’s Facebook page, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for pheasant season’s arrival.


While I’ve already got two ruffed grouse hunts and a sharp-tailed grouse hunt on my September calendar, I am also happy to report that I know where I’ll be spending my first pheasant hunt of 2011.  For the 4th consecutive season, I will be hunting in central Minnesota on Saturday, October 15th with my FAN Outdoors radio partner Billy Hildebrand and a small collection of friends, family and bird dogs. 


Where & when will your 2011 pheasant hunting season begin?



2011 Pheasant Hunting Opening Days

(These dates are tentative, please be sure to check your state’s regulations)

Colorado                                                    Still TBD

Iowa                                                           Saturday, October 29

Kansas                                                       Saturday, November 12

Montana                                                     Saturday, October 8

Minnesota                                                  Saturday, October 15

Nebraska                                                    Sunday, October 30

North Dakota                                             Saturday, October 8

Ohio                                                           Friday, November 4        

South Dakota                                             Saturday, October 15

Wisconsin                                                  Saturday, October 15



The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Live Life Like a Bird Dog

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

PF Member Joe Nicklay's Britt, Daisy

My love of bird dogs is obvious to regular readers of this blog.  Today, I’m honored to share the story of a fellow Pheasants Forever member, Joe Nicklay, and his beloved Brittany, Daisy.  As I’ve said before, the only thing bad about bird dogs is the short length of time we get to spend with them.  

The Day the Bell Went Silent

For nearly fifteen years I’ve listened to the sound of a sleigh bell as it rang in the woods, fields and sloughs.  I followed this sound listening and waiting for it to go silent.  And when it did, I approached with great anticipation, knowing that Daisy had once again located a grouse or pheasant.  She would remain motionless as I approached to flush the bird.  Many of the times I would fail her efforts and the bird would sail off untouched. 


As the years unfolded from her days as an excited puppy when I wasn’t always sure if we were hunting bugs or birds, to her transformation into a seasoned hunter, she became the real joy of fall.  Her endless energy and enthusiasm supplied by an internal drive to endure hours of heat, wet and often cold days when the snow was deeper than she could stand, left all that hunted with her in awe.  If she had any shortcoming it was only a result of me. 


She taught me more than I ever could teach her.  She reminded me daily that life should be approached with a smile or wag of the tail and enjoyed even when it seems less than ideal.  This fall there will be some grouse and pheasants that can breathe a sigh of relief for on Sunday, June 26th, the bell went silent for the final time.   

–Joe Nicklay, Pheasants Forever Member from Finland, Minnesota

Thanks to Joe for sharing his memories, and for reminding us all . . . Time is short – Live life like a bird dog! 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre.

Does the Preseason Pheasant Forecast Influence Whether or Not You Hunt?

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Minnesota's 2010 Pheasant Outlook Map - MINNESOTA DNR

I received a hunter satisfaction survey from the University of Minnesota last month.  The University, on behalf of the Minnesota DNR, was hoping to assess my ruffed grouse hunting experiences over the last decade. 

One set of questions I found particularly interesting focused on how influential the preseason ruffed grouse hunting forecast is in my decision to hunt during the autumn.  Although I pay attention to drumming counts and the ups and downs of the grouse cycle, I know I am going to grouse hunt every fall even if the prospectus is poor. 

I feel the same way about pheasant forecasts.  I absolutely pay attention to the severity of the winter, spring nesting weather and overall habitat conditions, but come October you’ll find me in the field no matter the outlook.  I never thought of myself as odd in this regard.  I am a bird hunter, therefore I bird hunt every autumn.  It’s part of who I am.  Besides, my dog would disown me if I didn’t take her afield in the fall.

Instead of determining IF I’ll go, I use the pheasant hunting forecast to help me determine WHERE I’ll focus my time and travel plans. 

What about you?  If the preseason pheasant forecast is terrible, do you hang up your blaze orange vest and shotgun until the pheasant population rebounds? 

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

Stuffed Birds and the Status Quo

Monday, February 21st, 2011

When someone first takes a tour of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s national headquarters, it’s hard for them to ignore the copious amounts of taxidermy being displayed on my coworker’s walls, desks and tables. A quick lap around the office and you’re bound to run into everything from ptarmigan, grouse and wigeon to snow geese, deer and of course, pheasants. Heck, there’s even a salmon hanging up in the warehouse for good measure. With each mount comes thoughts of an expensive tab and hopefully a good story, but I can’t help to look at these and ask, Where’s the creativity? Are there really only so many options to choose from or have we all just settled in to accepting the status quo?

Recently, while hanging up my newest addition to the ‘ole cubicle, a coworker chirped “Great, that’s exactly how I was going to have my bird mounted, now I need to think of something else.” Sorry, but if you snooze you lose. Granted, my flying wall mount isn’t the most creative thing in the world and I’m certainly not suggesting people French Mount their rooster’s ear tufts, but I wouldn’t mind seeing some fresh options out there as well. Suddenly PF’s Anthony Hauck’s idea of dead-hanging a few birds on an old barn door and creating a wind mobile consisting of doves sounds much more appealing.

Everyone has their own personal taste, and maybe your significant other wouldn’t appreciate 10 doves hanging from your living room ceiling. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t think outside the box.

What are some of the more creative trophy mounts you’ve personally thought of or seen?

PF/QF National’s Tour de Taxidermy:
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The Over/Under blog is written by Andrew Vavra, Pheasants Forever’s Marketing Specialist.

Opening Day Puppy

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Here's a photo of Trammell on the first hunt of her life. Notice that there are no birds in the bag as yet.

Yesterday afternoon at the office, fellow PFer Rick Young and I were discussing the best time to bring home a puppy if you wanted the dog ready for this fall’s hunting season.  In Rick’s opinion, folks had better be looking hard at breeders now if they are planning to be hunting over a new pup by autumn.  I’d have to agree with that assessment.

My pup, Trammell, was born in mid April of 2007.  She came home with us in early June.  So at 5 months old she hunted ruffed grouse in Michigan and at 6 months old she hunted pheasants in Minnesota.  Okay, “hunted” is an exaggeration.  She went along for a run and learned “how to hunt” from the other dogs.  However, by the end of her first season at nine months of age, she was certainly showing the signs of becoming a darned good bird dog with solid points and confident retrieves. 

Backing off the math from my experience with Trammell, I’d assess that puppies born in February would enter into the 2011 pheasant season in pretty solid form, given proper obedience training and exposure to both gunfire and live birds.

Which brings me to Pheasant Fest in Omaha this weekend; whether you are interested in pointers, retrievers or flushers, attendees will be able to check out a wide array of breeders and litters.  There will be breeds I can’t pronounce (Braque du Bourbonnais), breeds that sound like ice cream (Spinone Italiano) and the most popular breed in America (Labrador retrievers). 

So what do you think, if you could pick the perfect age to have your pup enter into his/her first hunting season, how old would that pup be on opening day?  Drop your comment below.

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.

Happy Anniversary Honey, I’m Going Hunting

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Last weekend, my hunting widow joined me and the pup for a visit to the grouse woods.

Meredith Godfrey of Golden Valley, Minnesota became Meredith St.Pierre on October 8, 2005 and forever joined the ranks of hunting widows. 

Today, I depart for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in pursuit of ruffed grouse and timberdoodle with buddies Anthony Hauck and Matt Kucharski.  In five years of marriage, I’ll miss my fifth consecutive anniversary tomorrow. 

In my defense, I explained the future problems of an October wedding to Meredith during our wedding date selection discussion. In all actuality, Meredith is about as low maintenance a gal as you’ll find when it comes to my hunting addictions.  In five years of missed anniversaries and autumn absences, I can count our conflicts over hunting adventures on one thumb. 

So, if you’ll indulge me for one blog, I’d like to wish my beautiful hunting widow a “Happy Anniversary” tomorrow so I don’t have to sleep on the couch with the dog when I get home. 

Love you Mere!

Books on Buffalo and Grouse

Monday, March 8th, 2010

Steven Rinella's book, American Buffalo, is a fantastic read.

As the ice on the lakes begins to weaken and most of the hunters wait for gobbler season, I’d like to suggest two books I’ve just read that would fit on any outdoors lover’s bookshelf.

American Buffalo by Steven Rinella: In 2005, Rinella was one of 24 people to win a lottery tag to hunt wild buffalo in Alaska.  The story of his hunt is weaved through an historical recount of the buffalo’s place in American history.  Grizzly bears, wolves, Neil Young, the Buffalo nickel, and Ted Turner all make appearances in this fascinating tale of the hunt.  Rinella’s first book, The Scavenger’s Guide to Haute Cuisine, is up next on my book shelf.  If you’ve read it already, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ruffed Grouse – - Woodland Drummer by Michael Furtman: Until I finished this text, I had no idea how important a drumming log was to the ruffed grouse’s life cycle.  This quick read will take you through the life of a ruffed grouse and provide you with some important tidbits that will make you a better grouse hunter come autumn.  The book is also filled with some fantastic photography from a guy that’s also had his work appear on the cover of the Pheasants Forever Journal.  I’m also very interested in Bill Marchel’s drumming log experiment.  Can’t wait to see how the experiment goes Bill.