Posts Tagged ‘ruffed grouse hunting’
Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Based upon a completely unscientific poll of my friends, family and co-workers, I’ve come to the conclusion most folks wrap a little something under the Fraser fir for their bird dog. Truth be told, my wife already has some fancy doggy biscuits and chew toy pheasants stuffed into our two shorthair’s stockings. Yes, both of our GSPs have stockings hanging from the fireplace mantel.
However, after my recent run of hunting outings involving dog accidents, I’d like to offer a more practical, and potentially life-saving, Christmas idea for you and your bird dog- a sporting dog first aid kit.
Consider, during my last three hunting excursions I’ve been in the company of three separate dog injuries. First, my buddy Matt Kucharski’s shorthair was poked in the eye with a branch during a ruffed grouse hunt that broke off and left a two inch segment inside the pup’s eye cavity resulting in my first trip to the vet for the week.
The very next day, Billy Hildebrand, host of FAN Outdoors radio, and I were pheasant hunting when his fabulous Brittany sliced a massive gash in her paw on some remnant barbed wire bordering a Minnesota WMA. The second vet visit. By the way, vets don’t offer frequent visit punch cards. I asked.
And five days later, Kucharski’s shorthair attempted to eat a dead porcupine to the dismay of her owner. A half hour later, we’d removed two dozen quills. Somehow, I’d miraculously avoided the vet visit hat trick.
Add my recent string of bad bird dog juju to my young shorthair’s own porcupine encounter earlier this year and my older shorthair’s penchant for skunk sprayings, and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s inevitable for any dog owner to go through too many seasons without a bird dog medical emergency.
While the sporting dog first aid kit offered in the Pheasants Forever online store rings the cash register with rather a large $85 mark, I’ve found it’s virtually impossible to assemble this kit’s components individually under the sticker price. In the end, it’s a small investment on a critical piece of gear most of us believe we’ll never need, but wish like heck we had when an accident occurs.
NOTE: Items purchased through the Pheasants Forever online store by the end of Thursday, December 13th will be guaranteed arrival prior to Christmas.
Will your bird dog find something under your tree on Christmas morning?
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Although most of my favorite outdoor publications annually run the same old tired stories about “getting into shape before bird hunting season,” I don’t think the non-hunter realizes the physical demands of a walk across the prairie, or through the forest, with a shotgun in tow. Similarly, I doubt most forest grouse hunters appreciate the exertion needed for a wild pheasant hunt and vice versa. It’s along these lines the debate in the Pheasants Forever offices last week commenced.
At 5’8” tall, some consider me relatively short . . . Okay, I’m really 5’7” and a ¼” . . . Anyway, I’ve always considered pheasant hunting to be far more physically demanding than grouse hunting. The resistance of the tall prairie grasses, cattails and brush against my short legs have always led to extreme leg fatigue and cramping, while ducking in and through alder swamps and aspen thickets have been relatively easy for me.
To my surprise, my taller colleagues Andrew Vavra, Anthony Hauck and Rehan Nana complained of finding the grouse woods to be far more difficult than the pheasant fields. They find the ducking out of the way of branches, climbing over deadfalls, and squeezing through poplar thickets to be much more of a physical workout than a sojourn across a pheasant prairie. I grew up hunting ruffed grouse in Michigan’s northwoods, while all three of these guys cut their teeth on the open pheasant prairies of Minnesota and Kansas, respectively.
So the debate has got me thinking about the classic nurture versus nature debate, from a bird hunter’s perspective. Are the physical demands of pheasant hunting and ruffed grouse hunting directly related to your height or to the type of hunting one is introduced to in the beginning?
How tall are you, what kind of bird hunting did you grow up on, and what type of bird hunting is hardest on your body?
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012
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.
Monday, September 24th, 2012
I was struggling. It was Sunday morning and I was on the second day of a fruitless grouse hunting/scouting excursion intended to produce some new spots. You see, I’ve been hunting my exact same haunts the last five years and “my” aspen stands were starting to age out of their grousey prime. So, I’d set off east and north of my normal destinations in search of new coverts.
I spent Saturday pounding decent looking grouse woods with very little flushes. And the one layup shot presented to me clanked off the backboard with a horribly makeable miss.
Truth be told, I was really struggling with two nagging thoughts in my mind. First, it was my first solo exploring expedition with two dogs, so I was very nervous about losing my 6-month old pup in the woods. Second, I was nervous about getting lost myself. Despite my GPS lock on my truck’s location, I had trouble diving into the grouse woods with abandon. Fortunately, hope was just around the corner.
Around 11AM on Sunday, I rounded the corner of a state forest gravel road and passed two trucks on my right. To my surprise, I recognized the two faces under the blaze orange hats. If you’ve attended Pheasant Fest or Game Fair in the last ten years, then you’d probably have recognized both of them too. They were Tom Poorker and Mark Haslup from Focus Outdoors Television and Midwest GunDog Kennels.
After commenting on the serendipity of their coming out of the woods at the exact moment I drove by, I shared with them my frustration of learning a new grouse woods. That’s when my luck turned around. Although, they’d both been set to finish their hunting for the day with dog training obligations waiting at Midwest GunDog Kennels, they offered to show me a spot in their home woods. They even went so far as to insist on my two pups being the only dogs in the woods as their bird dogs had already completed their work for the morning.
Needless to say, we found grouse and woodcock in the woods where these two veteran hunters aimed our trio. In fact, Mark bagged a nice opening weekend timberdoodle that my young pup was able to deliver to his hand, and Tom brought down a beautiful ruff with a dandy shot. However, I earned the trophy of the morning’s walk with renewed confidence.
After sharing a few laughs over our impromptu hunting trip and thanking them for their generosity, I went north in search of some spots of my own. And I finally started to find what I was looking for in the woods. In fact, in one particular alder/aspen mix, I elected to hunt my 6-month old shorthair solo for the first time and she produced three neatly pointed woodcock, quickly earning me a day’s limit.
To me, the moral of the story is that membership in Pheasants Forever definitely delivers more habitat on the ground – we’ve got 8.5 million acres of proof of that fact – however, membership in Pheasants Forever also creates friendships. Whether you’re a chapter officer, banquet goer or Pheasant Fest attendee, your involvement in Pheasants Forever will introduce you to new people, good people. Some will even become your friends, help you train your dog, and show you a new hunting spot.
To Mark & Tom: Thanks a bunch for a great experience! It truly meant a lot to me for you to take the time out of your plans to give me a little nudge in the right direction.
Tuesday, September 18th, 2012
I had the good fortune of celebrating the ruffed grouse hunting opener in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula over the weekend with a large contingent of my immediate family. While we didn’t spend every moment of daylight scouring the woods, four ruffs found their way into our game vests. In the afterglow of barbecued grouse jalapeno poppers, I offer the following observations:
- The Woods were Grousey! Although all Midwest drumming counts will indicate our slide on the downward side of the grouse cycle, there are absolutely enough birds to keep the aspen and alder woods exciting. Our group averaged 2.5 grouse flushes per hour in four hours of hunting on Saturday and one hour of hunting on Sunday. And our group included me, my brother, his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, my mom, my dad and two shorthairs. In other words, we weren’t exactly a stealth group of grouse hunters.
- A Special Family Opener. Many folks will complain about the grouse opener being too warm or tough hunting with the woods filled with leaves. The grouse opener is particularly special to me and has become a St.Pierre family tradition. A little over 13 years ago, my dad suffered an aneurysm that nearly took his life. Thanks to medicine and miracles, I am always thankful to spend another walk through the September grouse woods with my dad. This year was extra special as my brother joined us for his first bird hunt in two decades. And, to top it off my niece and nephew slapped on their blaze orange Pheasants Forever gear and joined the family tradition. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
- Grouse Broods already Dispersed. It seems the grouse family groups had already broken up in the grouse covers we walked. Every flush was a solo bird. Perhaps the early spring in the Northwoods did indeed result in an earlier hatch. If that were to be the case, it’d make sense for the grouse family groups to already be broken.
- Crazy about Timberdoodles. I was amazed by the number of woodcock we encountered on opening weekend: the most I can ever remember on a grouse opener. Presumably, the migration hasn’t yet begun so these would have been local ‘doodles. We averaged 3.5 woodcock flushes per hour. My older shorthair, Trammell, showed mid-season form pointing numerous woodcock right out of the gates, which presented a number of “honoring” opportunities for my 6-month-old pup, Izzy. NOTE: Michigan’s woodcock season doesn’t open until September 22nd.
- Fruity Pebble Forest. The woods are dry and the leaves are changing quickly. While there were plenty of leaves cluttering our view of flushing birds, I wouldn’t be surprised if the leaves are off the trees a week earlier than normal this autumn.
- Irish Indeed. This summer, after four pairs and a decade of loyalty to Danner’s Santiam boots, I elected to give the more affordable Irish Setter Wingshooter boot a shot. I couldn’t be more pleased. The leather broke in easily after a mink oil application and a couple of days worn in the Pheasants Forever office. They are comfortable and light. Fingers crossed they hold up for multiple years of bird hunting torture.
- Open Up Your Chokes. In the last couple of seasons, I have been shooting a cylinder choke out of my top barrel and a skeet choke out of my bottom barrel with .20 gauge Federal 7 ½ shot. I couldn’t be happier with this combo for grouse flushing 10 to 20 yards off a point. So far, I’m 3 out of 4 on grouse shots this early season thanks to the more open choke selection.
- Stay Cool with Pheasants Forever Apparel. With temperatures crossing into the 80s on Sunday, I was properly attired in Columbia’s omni-freeze long sleeve shirt featuring the Pheasants Forever logo. Don’t let the long sleeves fool you, this shirt is made to wick away your perspiration and keep your skin cool. It works great and is my absolute favorite early season shirt.
Did you get out grouse hunting (ruffed or prairie) over the weekend? Please feel free to keep the conversation going with your personal observations in the comments section below.