Monday, October 26, 2015

One More Week

Hard to believe there's only a week left in the 45-day woodcock season.  The woodcock moon occurs tomorrow morning, so with the heavenly bodies aligning, I'm expecting a last good week to the season.  We haven't seen massive flights of birds, but definitely days with lots of birds.  Here's Susan at the Woodcock Rock, a little pocket of cover that always holds a few.  This time it held a couple of grouse, too, which befuddled us since we expected woodcock.  Ah, the delightful dilemma of thinking woodcock and getting grouse or vice versa.    

Here's the first grouse shot with my Ithaca 37, a gun I bought this past spring.  It's a 20 gauge Ultrafeatherlight with the aluminum receiver and weighs just a bit over five pounds.  A bottom load/bottom eject design, the shotgun is a good design for lefties like me.  All I had to do was switch the safety around.  This is the first pump I've owned and the first I've carried in the woods.  I like how it points, but I'm not so adept at pumping in the second round yet.  That's usually not an issue since most of the grouse I put up don't offer much of a second shot.   

Monday, October 12, 2015

Summer Hangs On

Summer is dying hard here in the Upper Midwest, which is good for our garden, but not so good for grouse hunting.  Yesterday, the temp rose up near 80.  I went out early and hunted with Fergus for a couple of hours.  He was done by 9:30 or so, which he indicates by flopping to the ground on his side and panting like he is about to explode.  I just sit down with him and wait until he gets up.  I was bushwacking and came out onto a trail and ran into three other hunters, and he did his flop in front of this audience.  "He doesn't do so well in the heat, does he?" one guy said.

I'm seeing lots of woodcock lately and assume they are flight birds.  A lot of them are flushing head high and then dropping back down, covering about 20 or 30 yards.  Others are running away from points, if you can call what woodcock do "running".  Fergus pointed about ten yesterday, including a pair that came up at once.

Another cold front is predicted to sweep through Wisconsin this afternoon. It's supposed to drop temperatures, and maybe it will tear most of the leaves off the trees.  Should be primo hunting this week, like a real October.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tail Tale

I've shot grouse with a couple of short tail feathers before, often the two middle feathers.  The one I shot today, however, is the funkiest looking fan I've taken in 25 years of grouse hunting.  It almost looks like two different fans.  Even the colors and markings are different.  We almost didn't get this bird since it hung up in a popple after I shot it.  I walked over to where I thought it landed, didn't see it on the ground and finally noticed Fergus looking up into the trees. The grouse was lodged in the V of a branch about 15 feet up in the air.  One shake of the popple, and it dropped to the ground, almost bonking Fergus in the head.

Other hunters have told me that tail deformities such as this are from a predator (fox, coyote, wolf) snapping at a bird and getting a mouth full of feathers instead of a meal.  Then as they're growing back, they look like this. That just an old hunter's tale?     

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fall Finally Arrives


Monday a cold front blew through Wisconsin, dragging with it some cool Canadian air. According to the National Weather Service, September of 2015 went down as the 5th warmest on record.  It felt more like July or August, so we kept our hunts short in whatever cool the early morning or evening offered.  Fergus would flop on his side after a half an hour of hard running and pant in a panic.  Both dogs would wallow in whatever muck they could find.

But that all changed on Tuesday when I had a good hunt with Jenkins, and this morning when I jumped out of the truck with Fergus, it was 36 degrees.  The frost was heavy and the trees dripping as they warmed.  Speaking of trees, the popples are finally starting to drop their leaves, but it's still pretty thick out there.  We had our best hunt of the season, putting up 15 grouse and 7 woodcock.  

We had one strange flush this morning.  Fergus went on point in some tag alders about 10 yards from a creek.  I waded in, flushed a bird over the creek, shot and missed.  Two more birds came up, one squealing.  It was a wood duck joining the fun with another grouse.  I pulled off the duck and fired at the grouse and somehow it went down.  Lucky shot.  Ferg was on it quickly, and we had our first bird of the day. 
October feels like October, and life is good.