Friday, October 31, 2014

Flushing woodcocks in Michigan

By Bob Gwizdz Outdoors columnist

Gena, Chuck Riley’s more experienced German shorthair (he also had a young dog with us) was locked on point in about the snarliest stuff you could imagine — under a sprawling autumn olive in the midst of a thicket intertwined with multiflora rose. There were two immediate questions: How were we going to get in there to flush the bird and, when we did, how were going to shoot it?

Riley told me to get ready so I positioned myself between a couple of autumn olives where there was a small window of sky. When Riley got in on the bird, a woodcock burst out and flew the only place I could get a shot at it. I did. The dogs were on it immediately.

“Well that’s 18 minutes,” said Riley, who keeps track of these things when he’s hunting. ”Yesterday we have had 10 flushes in the first 18 minutes.”

We were hunting in southern Michigan, on a state game area that shall remain nameless (as I don’t want to see your truck parked there the next time we go). It’s one of a number of places Riley bird hunts well south of what most folks consider to be woodcock territory.

“I started out hunting in southern Michigan with Andy Amman back in the mid-1970s,” said Riley, a Department of Environmental Quality retiree and involved conservationist. “Actually, we found quite a few grouse down here back then, too. And I’ve talked to guys who said there were a lot more in the 60s and early 70s.”

Grouse in southern Michigan seem rarer than Detroit Lions championships these days. But woodcock? There are plenty from opening to closing day, though they’re not always there for long periods of time.

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