Friday, September 30, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Ely MN September 25th 2011

Tina, Marge, Fergie, and I With Sunday's Grouse Harvest

















Sunday Sept 25th

We actually got rolling a bit earlier this morning than we did yesterday. I dropped my dad off at a new trail that he wanted to try and I went up the road to the spot that we tried for the first time Saturday. There wasn’t much breeze as Tina and I started down the trail, I was curious to see if we would see any birds or if yesterday was a fluke. It took about 15 minutes before she got birdy at all but we didn’t move a bird on the way out. After about 30 minutes we reached the end and turned back. I wasn’t feeling too optimistic at this time. About half way back Tina started to tighten up her quartering and locked solid. I was able to move in and connect on a flush through the brush. We didn’t see anymore birds on the way back to the truck. If we can get a chance at a bird or two each time down this shorter trail I’ll be happy.

I picked up my dad, who hadn’t seen any birds on his walk, and headed to the other short trail that we had hit yesterday. Marge got the call this time and we started off. About 2/3 of the way along the trail she went on point in a small area with thicker cover. It was a strait away shot and I thought I saw the bird go down but wasn’t sure. After looking and not easily seeing anything I got down on my hands and knees and found a couple of batches of feathers. I brought Marge back to the spot and she started to work the trail. After she cut back across the trail I could her the bird trying to make a run for it. Marge was right on her which was a little surprising as she is fairly hard of hearing. After coming back along the forest road we called it quits for this area.

We made another try at our old standby but again were not able to move a bird. We pulled the plug and listened to the Vikings blow a huge half time lead for the third week in a row.

All in all it was a decent weekend. Six birds in the bag, some nice Woodcock points. It was a little disappointing to be moving fewer than 1/2 of the birds that we were seeing last season.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ruffed Grouse Hunt - Ely MN September 24th 2011

15 Year Old Marge and Her First Grouse Of 2011



















Saturday Sept 24th

We awoke to a foggy morning and started the drive to a new spot that I had found last year.  ( ok, just to be clear that I have never found a “ secret spot” in MN.  All of my grouse hunting is on public land ).  We were lucky and no one else was there.  I dropped my dad off at the turn and then Tina and I got out farther down the road.  We started down the trail and for most of the way she wasn’t getting birdy at all.  Finally in the last 100 yards before we got to the turnaround she started to work some scent.  She went on point along a small strip of pines.  As I moved in the grouse flushed from the back side of the pines and I lucked out as it decided to cut back over the trail and I was able to connect on a nice right to left shot.  We worked the rest of the way back to the vehicle and didn’t move another bird.  On the way back I did hear another shot and was hoping that it was my dad.  I found out that it was in fact him but that he hadn’t connected.

We decided to just drive along the forest road to see if we could find another spot to try.  After a few trails that weren’t long enough to make it worthwhile we did find one that looked like it could be a bit longer.  I unloaded Marge and we made our way down the trail.  As we came over a small rise I could see a beaver pond just to the right.  Just then a grouse was flying up the trail towards us, it flared when it saw Marge and was just out of range.  We looked for it in hopes of getting another opportunity but did not come across it.  Another 10 minutes of walking and Marge started to go into her stealthy stalk mode.  Not exactly classic pointing dog / grouse form but it proved effective as she slid into her point.  As I moved in the bird flushed just behind and to my left.  I made it two for two and the right to left shots.  Not something that happens all that often for me.  

After getting back to the truck we went to a spot that we first started hunting about ten years ago.  The cover has gotten older and the new clear cuts haven’t grown up enough yet but last year it was still productive enough to make it worth a stop.  After getting Fergie her exercise I put Tina back into her beeper and gps collars.  We worked our standard areas for a good our and didn’t move a bird.  I’m hoping that the clear cuts will start to produce some birds in the near future.

We ended up calling it a day around 2 pm as it was starting to warm up a bit and we still had tomorrow to hunt.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ruffed Grouse September 2011 - Bigfork, MN

Tina With Her First Grouse Of 2011

















Friday Sept 23rd 2011

We left the St. Paul, MN area at about 5:25 am and headed north to the Bigfork area for our first hunt of the season.  After a stop over in Grand Rapids we started to hunt at about 11 am.  There were no vehicles parked at our favorite spot.  It soon became apparent why when we started to walk the area as the telltale signs of logging we everywhere.  We decided to walk the trails that weren’t being traveled by the logging trucks.  Unfortunately the logging was taking place in the areas that produced the most birds last season and not in the older areas that we ended up walking.  We didn’t move any birds in the older growth.  We got to an area of younger growth that has usually held a bird or two in the past so I was hopeful of some action.  Tina didn’t get too birdy until we were almost through the area.  As we got close to the end of the cover she became birdy and I could see the grouse holding just up ahead.  Two steps towards it and it flushed and after the shot we had the  first bird of 2011 in the bag.

The next spot we hunted I call “ the field “.  When I showed it to some friends last year they wondered why “field” was part of the name and I told them that when I started to hunt the spot 10 plus years ago it was a clear cut at the end of the trail and that you could see all the way around it.  Now it is fairly filled in with different types of growth.  Tina and I made our way around the area and were lucky enough to find a grouse on the edge of the cover.  After another nice point I was able to add it to my game bag.

On the way back we followed the edge of a beaver pond and got to really solid points on woodcock.  I was wonder if they knew that the season hadn’t opened on them yet and that is why they presented me with such nice easy presentations.

After moving to a new location I got out Marge, my 15 year old setter.  I was wondering how she would do this season as she has been off a little bit on our walks this summer but after 15 minutes on the trail she was off into the cover.  She did pretty well except for where she had to climb over downed logs.  I had chosen a trail that I thought would be 45 -60 minutes of walking.  We didn’t move any birds on the way out so on they way back I was daydreaming a bit when Marge’s beeper went off.  I could here her not too far off in some older growth so I wasn’t too optimistic and didn’t really hurry to her.  By the time I got close to her one grouse decided it has waited long enough and flushed off to safety.  As I congratulated Marge for the nice point another three more flushed off into the deeper cover.  Lesson relearned.  Always Trust Your Dog.

We ended up getting two birds for the day and moved a few more.  I think I only saw 1/3 the birds that I saw in the same area that I saw last season.  The cover is definitely still in full force whereas last season I think we saw the leaves drop two to three weeks early.  It was still nice to get out and test the woods.

Friday, September 16, 2011

MN Hunter Walking Trails - Ruffed Grouse

Minnesota's primary grouse range features a number of hunter walking trails that wind their way through Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), sometimes connecting with state forests and other public hunting lands.

These trails, most of them with signs, provide comparatively easy access to areas where small game such as grouse and woodcock may abound.
Many of the trails are gated, helping to prevent OHV access. Some have parking lots, while others simply have places to just pull off the road.
Enhancements on the trails vary. Some feature clover planted along the trail, others have forest openings that tend to attract wildlife and some are mowed annually. Many of the trails follow the courses of old logging roads.

Forests change over time as the succession of forest growth progresses. Because of this natural cycle, the forest along the trails and the wildlife that inhabit the area change with time.

Using the walking trail tool

Use the walking trail tool to locate hunter walking trails. Simply select a county from the list and click on the trail name. The map will automatically zoom and the trail will appear marked in red. Clicking the "PDF" link opens a new browser window that displays a printable, aerial view of the selected trail.
Trail maps are being updated continually and new maps are being added to the walking trail tool. Please check the tool regularly during the fall for new additions.

Google Earth file

Downloading this file and saving it to your computer allows you to view all the hunter walking trails using Free download of Google Earththe free Google Earth application This link opens a window to an external site.. If you don't have Google Earth installed, simply save the Google Earth installation file to your computer, run the installation progam, download the Hunter Walking Trail file and click "Open". All Minnesota's hunter walking trails will appear in the application, allowing you to zoom in and out at your leisure.

MN DNR Site