Monday, September 28, 2015

Woodcock, I Mean, Grouse Moon

Last night's lunar eclipse was a beauty, and it would have made a memorable woodcock moon had it occurred in October.  I wish it were the woodcock moon, bringing with it thousands of flight birds since so far this season I'm having difficulty locating woodcock other than those I helped band this spring.  I've trained the dogs a few times on those birds, but I can't shoot them.  It would be like shooting a pet.  Plus, doing so would skew the science and research the banding provides.

I'm wondering if the warm weather has moved the woodcock around some since they don't seem to be in my usual hot spots.  As I write, a cold front is sweeping through Wisconsin, and it's supposed to bring us back to autumn, so I'm hoping the woodcock hunting picks up.        
On the other hand, I'm finding good numbers of grouse.  Since it's been unseasonably warm this season so far (the warmest September I can remember in my 25 years of grouse and woodcock hunting), I've limited the length of my hunts, getting out for an hour or so in the morning.  After an hour, Fergus and Jenkins are panting and gasping and looking for the nearest muck hole to wallow in.  One cool morning, Jenkins and I did get out for a two and a half hour jaunt and put up 14 grouse.  After he bumped the first one and I corrected him, he was spot on with several fine points the rest of the morning.  Perhaps last night's full moon/eclipse was the grouse moon.    

For more on the woodcock moon, see the article I wrote in the Fall issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It's a Jungle Out There   

Here's Fergus pointing a woodcock on Saturday, the grouse opener.  He didn't get the memo that woodcock season begins the following Saturday.  Although we only hunted a few hours over the weekend in the early morning before it warmed, we did see decent numbers of birds in northcentral Wisconsin.  Jenkins got unhinged by a large covey of eight to ten birds on Sunday.  He's never seen those kinds of numbers all at once.  After the initial flurry, he settled down and did point one juvenile bird that lingered after the first flush, which I shot at and hit through all the green.  I'm always amazed when I get a bird this early in the season since I'm mostly shooting at sound, maybe a fleeting silhouette.  

I expect the leaves will hang on for a few more weeks.  The summer-like weather is back today and the weather man says it will stick around for much of the week.  I'm praying for some cool Canadian air to drop down into Wisconsin and remind us what time of year it is.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

If Only They Look This Big .... 

I hope the birds look this big on Saturday for the Wisconsin grouse opener.  After shooting a couple of rounds of skeet over the weekend at the Cable Rod & Gun Club, it seems my shooting will need all the help it can get come this weekend.

With high temperatures predicted to be in the mid-60s over the weekend, it should be cool enough to hunt comfortably, at least in the morning.  It's still pretty green out there with most of the leaves still clinging to the trees.  I never know whether to shoot 9s (more BBs to find their way through the brush) or 7.5s (heavier shot to penetrate the brush), so I usually compromise with a 9 in the bottom barrel and a 7.5 in the top.

Fergus and Jenkins haven't hunted since May when we banded woodcock, and they're a few pounds heavy even though they've been going on runs with me.  The early opener is a chance for them to tune up as well so by the time Park Falls gets lively in October, we should be in fine shape.  We may even get a few birds before then, especially if they look this big when they come up.