Monday, March 18, 2019

Cover Dog Trials – Good for Grouse Dogs

by Seth Heasley


For better or worse, this is written from a setter enthusiast’s perspective but still is just as applicable to any pointing dog breed that can compete in cover dog trials (AKC or American Field sanctioned). Many have heard about field trials but far less understand how they work, in their basic form they’re setup like two hunters, with two dogs going for a walk in the bird woods, here’s an attempt to explain how they differ in the particulars…

Earlier this month, I entered one of my setters in a field trial which had the luxury of being close to home. All stakes were “open” meaning both professional handlers (and trainers) as well as amateurs were able to enter as handlers. This particular trial is commonly referred to as a cover dog trial meaning wild birds in grouse and woodcock cover.

Generally, there’s three stakes in an average cover dog trial:
Puppy- younger than 1.5 years old, 20-30 minute course
Derby- 1.5 to 3 years old, 30 minute – 1 hour course
All Age- Any age but requires completely broke bird work – the dog must stand through flush and shot, 1 hour or more.

Stakes are made up of braces. A brace is composed of the following:
Courses- predetermined path that was intentionally timed upon it’s creation to match the length of the type of stake with marked trees to follow
Dogs- each brace has two dogs, if there’s a pulled entry (for example a female went into heat) or there was an uneven entry amount of dogs and a dog does not have a bracemate, that space is referred to as a bye
Handlers- each dog has it’s own handler (two)
Judges- two judges ride behind the handlers, they determine the placements
Scouts- help find dogs believed to be on point deep in cover or as an extra set of ears and eyes if the handler temporarily “loses” the dog.
Gallery- spectators, generally dog owners, breeders other handlers or anyone else who would like to spectate who are behind the judges.

Handlers are on foot, but often in All Age cover dog trials the judges are on horseback. A horse allows judges a better vantage point with eyes ahead on dogs and less worried about their footing. Most importantly, hour-long braces with a 30-dog or more entry would mean 15 hours of hiking to complete a trial.

Cover dog trials are beneficial to just about anyone who is involved with pointing dogs, those looking into getting a grouse dog, present pointing dog owners and of course the breeders. You would be hard pressed to find a group of individuals that have their finger on the pulse of present grouse populations and cycles better than those who actively campaign dogs in cover dog trials. They are in the woods and running nearly all year long.

Read the rest of the Ruffed Grouse Society article

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Wisconsin confirms first West Nile in grouse

Wisconsin's first confirmed cases of West Nile virus in ruffed grouse were reported Tuesday by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR said that West Nile was confirmed in three of 16 grouse tested so far. The DNR said the results are still preliminary because another 238 grouse samples remain to be tested.

The agency is testing both sickly grouse that were turned in to wildlife officials and grouse blood samples submitted by hunter volunteers in the field.

Wildlife researchers are concerned that West Nile virus may be one factor leading to an unusually rapid and steep decline in grouse numbers in recent years. Researchers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan this winter are testing hundreds of grouse samples obtained by hunters from birds shot last fall to see how prevalent the disease is in the popular game bird.

Michigan already had five positive West Nile hits in 2018 and officials in Pennsylvania say West Nile may already be a big enough factor there to spur grouse population declines, especially in areas where the bird is already stressed by poor habitat conditions.

After the Pennsylvania study showed problems, wildlife managers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan began to wonder if the recent, sharp downturn in grouse numbers in the Midwest may be related to the virus, leading to the region-wide testing effort last fall. Minnesota grouse drumming was down 29 percent in 2018 from 2017.

Charlotte Roy, grouse project leader for the Minnesota DNR, said her agency has not yet received any results from Minnesota grouse tested for West Nile. She expects the first results by March.

Friday, September 21, 2018

WI 2018 Grouse season could prove to be mixed bag

JERRY DAVIS For the State Journal 

Warm, humid weather was not conducive to hunting grouse coverts opening weekend, but those persons who were afield had some success seeing or hearing ruffed grouse and American woodcock. 

The woodcock season opens Saturday, Sept. 22. 

Some hunters did take a bird home, too. Some good news came from the team from Missouri who are trapping birds, 100 each of three years, in trade for grouse habitat improvement in Wisconsin. They reached their goal and were able to stay a bit longer to even out the ratio of males to females. They will return for a second trapping next year. 

“They captured and then released healthy birds very soon after capture, taking them south the same day,” said Mark Witecha, upland bird biologist for the Department of Natural Resources. “It took them a while to get started, in part because there is so much good grouse habitat in Wisconsin.” 

Wisconsin biologists learned from the birds, too, before they left for the “Show Me” state. Birds were weighed and blood samples were taken to test for West Nile Virus. 

During the trapping, just walking in to check traps, the team flushed a fair number of birds, including coveys of 4 to 6 young birds. 

Birds were trapped in five Wisconsin counties, and several locations in each county.

Read the full State Journal article 

Thursday, September 20, 2018


By Scott Johnson Grand Rapids Police Chief Where have all the ruffed grouse gone? 

After all, this is the first week of the hunting season. Somehow, regardless of the 10-year cycles, there just don’t seem to be as many birds in the woods. I am sure wildlife biologists can provide their scientific best guess, but I’m not really sure it matters. After all, the purpose never was to see how many grouse you could return home with after a hunting trip. 

Growing up, we never called them ruffed grouse. I think I was a teenager before I knew that is what they were called. To us it was, “Going partridge hunting,” and it was an annual fall tradition. My father would take my younger brother and me to “The Falls” to visit relatives and spend three days in the woods. We usually each got a partridge or two. Our dad taught us to clean the birds and then they would go into the freezer. He taught us many things about the woods and the history of the land. 

There is just something about walking down a logging trail with the crimson and yellow leaves, a coolness in the air, as the sun is rising further over the horizon. It is about the connection to each other and the woods. 

Read the rest of the Herald Review article

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Outdoor Bound TV Bowen Lodge Minnesota Grouse and Woodcock Hunting EP147 Video

This week on Outdoor Bound TV, we get ready to hit the woods at famous Bowen Lodge in Northern Minnesota for a little October grouse and woodcock hunting with a group of friends, who gather each year, from all over the U.S., to take part in this special weekend. Come on along, as it's all about good friends, good food and great hunting.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Regional West Nile virus monitoring effort for ruffed grouse to begin this fall

Mark Witecha, DNR upland wildlife ecologist, 608-267-7861
MADISON -- In collaboration with the Minnesota and Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, Ruffed Grouse Society, and Wisconsin Conservation Congress, the Wisconsin Department of Natural resources will begin a multi-year monitoring program this fall looking at West Nile virus (WNV) in ruffed grouse. 
Ruffed grouse- Photo credit: DNR
Ruffed grouse.Photo credit: DNR
The DNR is asking ruffed grouse hunters for their participation in this monitoring effort. Similar to past disease monitoring efforts, the department is asking that hunters submit samples from their harvested ruffed grouse using self-sampling kits. This effort will focus on the core ruffed grouse range in the central and northern forests.
The DNR has assembled 400 self-sampling kits for ruffed grouse hunters to use in 2018. The WNV sampling kits contain detailed instructions and all the supplies needed to collect and ship one sample. Hunters will be asked to collect a small amount of blood along with the heart from their harvested grouse. 
If you hunt the central and northern forests and would like to participate in the West Nile virus monitoring effort, sampling kits can be requested through your county wildlife biologist and will be available in early September. The number of kits provided per individual may be limited to ensure samples come from a large geographic area. 
Hunters will be provided test results via email. Be aware that testing of samples will not begin until after the grouse season has closed and final results will not be available for several months after the close of the season. WNV is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito and there is no evidence that WNV can be spread by handling dead birds or by consuming properly cooked game. It is one of several bird diseases afflicting native bird species.
Sick and Dead Birds ..  Read the full WI DNR article

New bird hunters learn habitat, GPS, and “Where am I?” at mentor hunt training

The Allegheny Chapter (Kane) of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) offered the second phase of its New Hunter Mentor training to ten new bird hunters on Saturday, Aug. 4, at Kinzua Bridge State Park. This training is open to any potential hunter or existing hunter that is interested in fine-tuning their skills for upland bird hunting.

The August training started with classroom instruction as to how to read a map, how to use a compass, learn to trust the GPS unit, and key habitat components for wildlife, particularly upland birds. Ten students from Elk, McKean, and Jefferson Counties attended the training sponsored by the local Allegheny Chapter of the RGS. Instructors were Rich Elliott of Brockport, Jonathan Wirth of Port Matilda, Holly Dzemyan of Smethport, and Christine Haibach of Wattsburg.

Once the trainees became familiar with the classroom learning, the entire group headed out to the woods to visit an area currently being worked on by the RGS Allegheny Chapter to improve habitat for Young Forest wildlife on Collins Pine Company lands.

Out there in the woods, the students could really see how sustainable forest management not only produces Young Forests for wildlife, but could also see how the mosaic of Young Forests interspersed with older forests, riparian areas, and forest openings serve as the cornerstone of wildlife habitats.

It’s out there in the woods that the students got to identify trees and shrubs, and learn what birds will use the habitat those trees and shrubs provide. Jonathan gave all students a hands-on experience in how to navigate with a GPS, how to orient the GPS to the maps he had pulled off the internet the day before, and how to return to your vehicle after a day of hunting. 

JoAnne Schiafone, one of the trainees, said, “I had some of this figured out before I took this course, but I didn’t know “why” things worked the way they did. This course filled in some blanks for me.”
Randy and Lucas Russell, grandfather and grandson, learned to identify Tartarian honeysuckle and got to see firsthand how the invasive honeysuckle was shading out the blackberry and raspberry brambles attempting to grow on the side of the roadway; habitat loss explained visually in real life. “I’ve always wondered what those red-berried plants were; now I know,” said Randy.

The third, and last, session on Sep. 8 will concentrate on dogs and their use as hunting companions. New hunters of any age that complete all three sessions will be eligible to attend a mentored grouse and woodcock hunt in nearby forests in October.

Full article - Registration Information