Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wisconsin DNR Releases 2015 Drumming Counts

Ruffed grouse numbers in Wisconsin will be about the same this fall as last fall.  Ruffed grouse drumming counts were down 13 percent in the northern part of the state and up 38 percent in the central part of the state, according to the Wisconsin DNR.  See the complete article here: 2015 drumming counts.

I have run into four broods this year -- three while mountain biking and one while driving -- so I think nesting conditions were good, but obviously this is just my take or perhaps my optimism. Two of the hens did their broken wing routine to try and lead us away from the chicks.  I haven't experienced this show in a few years.

I'm expecting decent bird numbers in 2015, a bit better than last season.  It's less than three months until the Sept. 12 opener.  Time to start training and shooting.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Wisconsin Wolf Numbers Up

According to the Wisconsin DNR, wolf numbers are up 13 percent over last year.  On June 11, the state wildlife agency estimated a total of 746 to 771 wolves roamed the state after their winter counts from Dec. 1, 2014 to April 15, 2015.  This number also included 208 packs and 30 lone wolves, with the densest population in the northwestern part of the state in some of the Wisconsin's best grouse and woodcock cover.  

Every place I hunt now has a wolf pack, something I didn't even consider 20, even 10 years ago. The pack roaming around my cabin in Saywer County has now split into two packs -- Seeley Hills North and Seeley Hills South.  This pack killed a friend's black lab last June.  That said, I don't want to sound like an alarmist.  As I wrote in a Jan./Feb. article in Pointing Dog Journal, I think Fergus or Jenkins is more likely to get struck and killed by a car or die of Lyme disease complications than be killed by a wolf.  I will keep them close as I hunt this fall, however, particularly in areas of known depredation.

A few months back, the wolf was relisted as an Endangered Species, and the Wisconsin DNR no longer has the authority to manage them.  There will most likely be no fall wolf hunt in Wisconsin.  The good news here is upland hunters won't have to worry about their dogs stepping in a wolf trap. 

See the Wisconsin DNR's wolf page for more info.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Dance Goes On

After a week of canoeing and camping and fishing in the Quetico Wilderness of Canada, we stopped at a friend's place on the drive home last Saturday, May 30th.  Yort lives just across the border in Hovland, Minnesota, and has carved out a homestead on 80 acres of boreal forest.  As the darkness deepened, the woodcock starting peenting and skydancing on the three acres of meadow surrounding Yort's cabin. It was a beautifully clear and cold night, and I could make out three males singing against a darkening star and planet-filled sky.  The dance helped the beer taste even better.

I don't think I've ever witnessed the skydance so late in the season.  I consulted the woodcock bible (Sheldon's Book of the American Woodcock) and found this: "Mendall and Aldous found two male woodcock performing 'half-hearted' courting flights in late July.  Pettingill cited instances of woodcock mating flights in October, but he did not hear the vocal song of the typical spring flight.  Liscinsky (1964) heard a woodcock going through a typical flight song on October 18 in central Pennsylvania.  I have witnessed many flights in July in Massachusettes similar to those described by Mendall and Aldous."  A May 30th flight song, particularly in northern Minnesota/almost Canada, is the norm not the exception.  I'm happy to have witnessed it one more time.