Posts Tagged ‘woodcock’
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.
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
There’s little doubt South Dakota rules the roost when it comes to pheasants. But if you throw all the upland game birds in the mix, what state offers the single best opportunity for the upland bird hunter?
Top Contenders for the title of “The Upland Hunter’s Mixed Bag Capital”
- California. The top producer of valley quail is also complimented by roosters in the Sacramento Valley.
- Colorado. The best pheasant state secret also features quail and chukars.
- Idaho. A climb up Hell’s Canyon can produce pheasants, quail, ruffed grouse and chukars.
- Iowa. The longtime pheasant powerhouse also features quail in the south, a few pockets of ruffed grouse, and a smattering of Huns.
- Kansas. The #2 pheasant producing state is also the #2 bobwhite quail producing state. There are also respectable numbers of greater prairie chickens to chase and it’s the only state in the country with an open season on lesser prairie chickens.
- Michigan. A top tier ruffed grouse state also boasts the top woodcock harvest in the country and ringneck opportunities in the southern farm country and “thumb” region of the Lower Peninsula.
- Minnesota. The top-harvesting state for ruffed grouse adds a top five pheasant harvest, a smattering of sharpies, greater prairie chickens and Huns.
- Montana. Big Sky boasts pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse and the best Hungarian partridge numbers south of Canada.
- Nebraska. Cornhusker country produces top tier pheasant and bobwhite numbers, along with significant sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie chicken populations.
- North Dakota. Another top tier pheasant state accompanied by Huns, sharpies, a few greater prairie chickens, and even a few ruffed grouse.
- South Dakota. The king of the ringneck also offers greater prairie chickens, sharpies, Huns and even a small population of huntable bobwhites.
- Texas. Lots of space for ringnecks, some chickens and four species of quail to hide.
- Wisconsin. Like Michigan, cheese country is a top tier ruffed grouse and woodcock producer in the northwoods and delivers respectable pheasant numbers in farm country.
Okay, so the question IS NOT “what state is your favorite to hunt?” or even “which state are you from?” The question is this: What state offers the best mixed bag for the upland hunter?
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
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.
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.
Sunday, June 12th, 2011
I am an admitted pointing dog fanatic. In my biased eyes, the pointing instinct is both fascinating and beautiful. I am also a horribly average wingshooter, and admit the help of a pointer’s cue has added dozens of extra breast fillets into my skillet.
However, pointer ownership isn’t always high art and rock solid points on cornered birds. Last weekend, my German shorthair locked up on a pair of sandhill cranes at 100 yards (don’t worry, no cranes or crane nests were disturbed). If you’ve never owned a pointer, my pup’s point of cranes may strike you as a bit odd. Your skepticism will likely deepen as I also admit that my pup, at 8 weeks of age, also pointed a small boy exiting a minivan. She has also pointed numerous mammals; including, coyotes, skunks, porcupines and deer. And if you’re not doubtful of Trammell’s hunting abilities yet, then I’ll admit to her point of a painted turtle in the middle of the Fort Pierre National Grasslands last September. While I have no idea what that turtle was doing in the middle of the prairie, I also have no idea what scent triggered my pup’s pointing instinct.
Thankfully, Trammell’s pointing instinct has been successfully honed to target pheasants, quail, ruffed grouse, sharpies, woodcock, and Huns in more consistent patterns than painted turtles.
Today, consider this blog the pointer’s confessional. What is the oddest thing your pointer has ever locked up on? Come on and be honest. I know you tell your buddies that your pup only points roosters and doesn’t even bother with hens, but I don’t believe you. What’s your pointer’s painted turtle point?
Tuesday, April 19th, 2011
While spring is seemingly having a hard time “springing” in most parts of pheasant country, summer can’t be far off. In fact, the Summer 2011 issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal of Upland Conservation mails today.
The first thing readers will notice is the original cover artwork. The Brittany pup was created by Atlanta, Georgia, artist Peggy Watkins, and represents the first time since the Winter 2008 issue that art has appeared on the cover. Prior to that, artwork last appeared on the cover for the Fall 2002 issue.
Now back to the Brittany. Making its first appearance on the Pheasants Forever Journal cover in 5 years, the Brit is representing all sporting dog breeds, as this issue contains a Sporting Dog Special Section. Check it out for training tips (especially timely if you’re the lucky owner of a new pup) and new bird dog gear.
In addition to a pheasant hunting photo essay, upland hunters will also enjoy Pheasants Forever Journal Editor Mark Herwig’s entry “Woodcock Conservation” about hunting and getting to know the American Woodcock (a thicker preview can be found at Mark’s blog). There are some surprising similarities between woodcock and pheasants, which is why it makes the grade for the pheasant publication.
Finally, conservation policy wonks can dig in to “Celebrating CRP’s 25th Anniversary” and “Will WRP Survive Congressional Cuts?” These programs – the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) – do as much for pheasants and pheasant hunters as any, so if you aren’t already, this is a prime opportunity to become familiar.
The next issue of the Pheasants Forever Journal will be the highly anticipated Pheasant Hunting Preview edition slated for later this summer. Don’t miss an issue, so if it’s time to join or renew your Pheasants Forever membership, call toll free at (877) 773-2070 or do so right here at the Pheasants Forever website.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Over the holiday weekend, I caught up on some reading. An article in the most recent issue of The Pointing Dog Journal particularly caught my attention. The piece titled “My Bucket List” was written by Tom Davis, also a contributor to the Pheasants Forever Journal. As the name implies, Tom writes about the hunting adventures he’d like to have before he passes on. It was an interesting read and likely follows thoughts many of us have this time of year as we review our calendars, health, and dog power for the coming autumn. I wrote a similar blog post a year ago titled “My Bird Hunting Bucket List.”
However, what really grabbed my attention was Tom’s tally of the wild upland game bird species shot over his bird dog. Turns out, this sort of “Bird Dog Life List” is fairly common. A couple of guys; Joseph A. Augustine (English Setters) and the renowned Ben O. Williams (Brittany) have even penned bird dog hunting books on the topic. The consensus is twenty different North American upland game birds constitute a “Grand Slam.”
So as I look toward my own German shorthaired pointer’s fourth season, I have taken inventory on Trammell’s own bird hunting life list. Here is Tram’s current tally: a) species I successfully shot over her point, b) the year it occurred and c) the state in which it took place.
- Ruffed Grouse, 2007, Michigan
- Pheasant, 2007, Minnesota
- Timberdoodle, 2007, Michigan
- Hungarian Partridge, 2008, Montana
- Sharp-tailed Grouse, 2008, Montana
In some respects, I look at that list and feel guilty. There’s the greater prairie chicken I missed in South Dakota’s Fort Pierre Grasslands last year. And there’s the doggy plane ticket to Georgia I couldn’t afford preventing bobwhite quail from hitting her list.
On the other hand, three seasons with Tram have been the best three seasons of my hunting career. And if you consider the dozens of states and subspecies necessary to reach double digits, a guy could go broke chasing this list. Plus, I’ll be in the Fort Pierre Grasslands in three weeks and I smell redemption. Come to think of it, I’ll be in Nebraska (bobwhite quail) and Kansas (lesser prairie chickens) in November too. Hunting season is here and things are looking up!
In the comment section below, post the following: a) your dog’s breed, b) your dog’s name, c) your dog’s age, and d) how many birds on his/her life list so far?
Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
It’s supposed to break 70 degrees today in Minnesota. Those temps have got me thinking about spring. Here’s a mixed bag of what’s rattling around in my head today.
Pheasant Mating Season: Have you heard the roosters cackling? That’s right, it’s mating season for ringnecks with the all-important nesting season right around the corner. The peak of the pheasant hatch typically occurs about June 10th. My fingers are crossed for a warm and dry early June in states like Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota to help the birds rebound after a harsh winter. In western states, I’m hoping for some early spring rain to green up the vegetation and kick off insect production. Did you know that pheasant chicks’ main diet right out of the shell is a high protein insect buffet? It’s true. Learn more about pheasant nesting season and the ringneck’s lifecycle by following this link. Also stay tuned to www.PheasantsForever.org. PF’s super intern Jared Wiklund is putting the polishing touches on Pheasants Forever’s 2009/2010 winter impact assessment.
Morel Mushrooms: According to www.Morels.com, folks have already found morels as far north as Ohio and Indiana. It seems like we may be in for an early mushroom hunting season this year. Excellent!
Boat Shopping: My wife Meredith and I are in search of our first boat. As a household with two non-profit incomes (Meredith works for Ronald McDonald House Charities), it’s going to be a used starter boat. We’re looking for a skiff that will satisfy our fishing focus of muskies, pike, bass, and panfish . . . with a little sun deck for the gal when the fish aren’t biting. Hopefully we find one this evening . . . the ice is coming off Bald Eagle Lake today – our neighborhood fishery.
College Sports Predictions:
NCAA Basketball Champ: Michigan State University Spartans
NCAA Hockey Champ: Miami (Ohio) University RedHawks
Timberdoodling: That’s right, Trammell (my German shorthaired pointer), pointed her first woodcock of the spring on a WMA near Forest Lake, Minnesota last evening.
WMAs closed to dogs on April 16th: Speaking of bird dogging, please remember that Wildlife Management Areas in Minnesota are closed to dogs on April 16th through July 14th to protect ground nesting birds like pheasants and ducks. Please be sure to check with your state’s natural resources agency to find out when your public lands are off limits to canines.