Brute’s Bleat October 4, 2017

After a few days of being pestered by the ‘better half’ about why I’m not doing much grouse hunting and responding with “there are too many leaves and underbrush,” I did a little phone calling and taIked with a fellow in Hibbing who said his daughter hunts grouse, but hadn’t had much success because it’s “too green”. He commented he’s a crow hunter which is less frustrating. Regardless, I loaded up Vanna last Wednesday and headed northeast. My first stop was at a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Pine County where there were two vehicles already in the parking lot. One hunter was outfitted with knee boots and he commented he came the day before and found out right away he needed boots if he wanted to keep his feet dry. He was from St. Paul and was hunting squirrels. He said the only squirrel he saw was a red one when he was parking his car. He commented he had flushed one grouse and while we were visiting we heard one shot not too far away, apparently from the other hunter. After wishing him luck we drove to the Sturgeon Lake motel. Then we headed for Nickerson planning to hunt in the Nemadji State Forest. This is the same forest a hunter had spent a couple of nights lost in the woods before he was rescued last week. It had rained recently in that neck of the woods and the day before we arrived. The trails were very muddy and it wasn’t from the ATV travel. Considering most of the trails favor ridges, I figured that’s where the grouse would be because they don’t like to get their feet wet. It was a good theory, but after hiking for several hours on various trails, some of them gated, and not getting as much as a flush from grouse or woodcock, I began to wonder where the DNR came up with the glowing “increase in drumming counts and top of the cycle information.” The operator of Ernie’s Cafe and also a grouse hunter was surprised we hadn’t put up any birds, especially when he saw Vanna. He hunts in the same area and felt we might have better luck, because of all the rain, if we headed toward Floodwood or the Meadowlands. We hunted some higher ground out of Cromwell while enroute. The only birds we saw there were a couple hundred Canada geese feeding in some winter wheat, and several turkeys! We hunted a DNR designated grouse trail east of Floodwood, but again came up empty. We stopped in Floodwood for a cup of coffee and reports there were not good, with the consensus it may get better after a frost. The Duluth newspaper carried the story about the dog and wolf incident that involved a Keewatin grouse hunter, his Wirehair German Pointer dog, two kids and wolves. He was hunting near Isabelle when his dog went on point. Before the hunter could flush the bird, the dog let out a yelp and ran back with a wolf in pursuit and jumped into the vehicle through a window. The hunter said there were six wolves in the pack. Neither he nor his kids were attacked, but he said his dog wouldn’t leave the vehicle for the rest of the day. That kind of makes me wonder about hunting with a dog where the wolf population is reported as being up 25%! Anyway, it started to rain and we pointed our car toward Hill City with hopes of driving out of it. It took until about 4 p.m. before the drizzle stopped and the sun came out. Previous hunting experiences reminded us that grouse sometimes dry their feathers by drumming and consequently give away there location. We walked several trails and listened, but again came up empty, although the habitat looked great. To add insult to injury there was a road-kill grouse just south of town on Hwy. 169! The only really bright spot about the trip home was gasoline was down to $2.27 per gallon in Aitkin. So if Janis decides I should go again, it won’t be until there is a killing frost. In the meantime there’s still fish to catch and lots of yard work to do in addition to washing windows and putting on the wood storm windows.
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Mike Muller called me Saturday night and let me know hunting with his son, Ken, in Canada was great. He’s a numbers guy and rattled off their harvest of 24 Ruffed grouse, 30 Canada geese and 64 Snow geese for this year’s first trip. His grouse success made me drool, especially when his Canada friend, Jim Baker, told him the grouse numbers were good and he and a trapper friend had been seeing large coveys. Mike said quite a few of the grouse were small, obviously from this year’s hatch, but he wasn’t complaining!
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Minnesota’s Outdoor News Cuffs and Collars usually gives me a chuckle or two and the Sept. 29 issue had a paragraph as follows: “CO Caleb Silgjord (Sauk Centre), spent time during the week monitoring angling and waterfowling activity in the area. CO Silgjord staffed the TIP trailer at the annual Todd County Enviro-Fest, where young students were able to learn about the duties of a conservation officer. The waterfowl opener was worked, and CO Silgjord ran into a wide variety of issues during the weekend. While speaking with some duck hunters at an area access site, another hunter arrived and mistook the officer for a duck hunter. During the conversation, the driver offered CO Silgjord an alcoholic beverage while drinking a beer himself. However, the driver was on probation for a previous DWI and operating a motor vehicle with an open container. While being observed, members of one hunting group decided to open-water-shoot a large number of coots. The pair of hunters motored up to large flocks on several occasions and shot multiple birds. Upon return to the access, the pair decided to shoot at another flock a short distance from CO Silgjord’s observation location. Enforcement action was taken.”

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