Ruffed Grouse Minnesota is an online magazine devoted to upland hunting in the Upper Midwest. Published twice a month by photographer Joel Schnell.
Better Photos from your Ruffed Grouse Hunt
by Joel Schnell
Released March 5, 2014
Eager to share those photos fresh from the hunt? Why not make yourself look like a pro, and take a few steps to improve the pictures from your phone or camera before your share. The digital file from the card is just the beginning, a digital negative if you think about it. Simple processing in an app can make a hero out of an also-ran photograph.
First Things First
I always start with exposure first. Is it too light or too dark? Before I fix color problems or anything else I fix the exposure. Using iphoto or similar program, move the slider until it looks right. This image started out too light, so I gave it -44 exposure.
Next Up, Color
If the color is off, my next step is to reduce saturation. Most consumer cameras over-saturate, giving those vibrant -though unrealistic- colors we all love. Problem is, any color shift gets exaggerated as well. Reducing saturation may just clean it up. Another thing to try, is adjust your white balance. If your software offers a menu of options, toggle around from the "as shot" setting to auto, daylight, flash or others and see if it looks better.
Finishing Up the Edit
So we've fixed exposure, saturation and color balance. Stop there? I usually crop out any distracting elements from a photo and straighten it. Just remember what your subject is, that should be prominent. And how about a little clarity? Clarity is just a fancy word for improving contrast and sharpness at the same time. When you reduce the size of an image to share in social media, it likely will look out of focus and flat. So I punch it up a bit before sharing.
Add a Few Effects
Effects are popular and simple to apply. Make your image black-and-white, or tone it if you like. Make it old-fashioned looking with sepia tone, or warm it up - like an old 70's polaroid. One effect I use a lot is vignette, which darkens the corners of the image. It really makes your subject pop out.
The Editing Environment
Be aware of your surroundings when performing photo editing. If you are in bright sunlight, or there is bright light behind your screen, your eyes will lie to you. Better to be in a car, in the shade or darkened room. You need to be looking at your photo as your audience will see it on their screen. It's the only way to get your photos to look accurate.
Sharing Your New Photos
Last thing, share 'em! If you use email to share with family and friends, do them a favor and size the image down. Nobody needs their inbox cluttered with huge images that they have to look at in a photo browser. Just knock them down to 800 pixels on the long edge or less. That's the size that will show up in an email window, and is small in size too. Social media sites will do this automatically for you as they are displayed.
This is the final image as I envisioned it. Compare it with the first image in the article to see the difference. Now go ahead and give it a try with your photos. Good Luck!
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
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by Joel Schnell
Released February 20, 2014
I've had two Brittanies in my life, one mild mannered; and the other... is Maggie. A ball of fire in fur from the day I brought her home. My brother once said "Maggie is powered by nuclear energy". Never a dull moment with Mags, but a bird finding machine she is.
Maggie and Cody were like Oscar and Felix from the Odd Couple. Maggie is Oscar, the sweatshirt wearing jock, always up for a card game and a few brewski's. Cody was the Felix, mild-mannered, polite and intelligent. When I put the two together, one couldn't stand it if I petted the other. I had to stand between them, holding them apart with each hand.
As Mags grew older, she took over as lead bird dog when Cody retired. I had my doubts at first, as she just didn't seem disciplined enough to figure out this whole bird hunting game. She needed to slow it down and point the birds, instead of busting them like a brawler. It took a trip to North Dakota pheasant hunting to turn on the light bulb. The sheer number of bird contacts possible, in the days before ethanol production ruined the conservation set-aside programs, taught her what to do.
I once questioned her smarts to a buddy of mine in a pheasant field. Not one to figure the birds out, I'd say. Not too bright like old Cody was. He begged to differ. He said during our hunt in the tall grass, Mags ran up to him expecting to find me. Surprised she was, finding the wrong guy. So she stood up on hind legs, looked around over the tops of the grass, spotted me, and headed off in my direction.
Always a possessive dog, she doesn't like to leave me or her birds out of sight. Once I bagged a ruffed grouse on my land and hung it in a tree until I cleaned it. When my buddy and his dog arrived, Mags camped out beneath the tree and wouldn't let the other dog near it. Even took a little snooze while on guard.
Old Cody has been gone a few years now, and now Mags is getting pretty gray around the muzzle. She doesn't know it yet, but her world will be rocked in late May, when I bring the new pup home. She's not going to like sharing my attention. But dogs are pack animals, and she will come to appreciate some company when I'm not around. My vet said an old dog lives longer with a pack-mate in the house, and it proved true with Cody.
I'll have lots more adventures with Mischievous Maggie in the next few years. As long as we can find birds together, we will both be happy.
A Year In Ruffed Grouse Country
by Joel Schnell
Released Jan. 28, 2014
A year in ruffed grouse country offers an adventure every month for the outdoors enthusiast.
Come with me as I retell the year of 2013 with a picture or two of each month. From the frozen ice of winter to the floppin' crappie days of summer you can find something to do all year.
A Winter Ruffed Grouse Hunt
by Joel Schnell
Released Jan. 3, 2014
There's a deep silence in the Northwoods under a blanket of snow. So quiet, only the chickadees are fool enough to hunt with Mags and I.
It's going to be a longer winter than most, but the ruffed grouse knows how to survive. He's at home here, warm and dry. The deep snow is a friend to the wintering ruffed grouse.
Home in the snow
I know where to find 'ol ruff. In the pines where the North wind breaks. In a deep enough drift to burrow into an insulated bungalow. Beneath a deadfall where the predators can't pick them off. That's where I'd be too.
A good nose helps
With her little doggie boots on, Mags is game for the hunt. Not much for keeping cooped up at home all winter. I can't imagine the sniffer a dog has. Mags can smell them, buried deep in the snow. A faint whiff of bird scent is all she needs. Over here, Dad. Round about here is a bird or two. Let's wake 'em up.
We share the woods
The beaver is here too, safe below in his house of mud and sticks. Makes for easy walking, on the ice of a beaver pond. He's done his share of logging nearby, making a new-growth brushy forest edge the ruffed grouse loves. Two critters that made the frontiersmen able to tolerate the long winters. WIth a hat of beaver fur, and a meal of plump ruffed grouse on the spit, plenty of trappers owe their lives to our winter companions.
Sounds of the frozen forest
A faint gurgle betrays the creek. Battling the ice that seeks to hide it, constant rushing movement is all that stands between ice and water. Like a painter with a brush, the ice creates it's own canvas. Ice so clear it shines in the sunlight. Random in it's patterns, no artist can duplicate.
The only ones here to appreciate it are the ruffed grouse hunters. Maybe the silence will be broken with the boom of a scattergun, or maybe just the soft sound of a wild flush far ahead. On snowshoes or pac boots, we tread the lonely forest in search of our feathered prize. For a few weeks a year, I like it that way.
Hazards to the Ruffed Grouse Dog
by Joel Schnell
Released Dec. 18, 2013
A good coach expects 100 percent from his players, but I'd guess a hunter gets it from his bird dog more often than coach does. Our four legged friends tumble head long into the thickest of covers, it's a wonder they don't get injured more often. There is a myriad of dangers awaiting the ruffed grouse dog, and it's best to be prepared for the occasional sidelining injury.
Man's best friend- or sometimes not
As I stood in the parking lot of the the Super 8 in Dickinson, ND, Maggie ran her morning laps after breakfast. It was pheasant season, and travelers from afar gathered at that worn-out motel that allowed dogs in the room. There were rigs everywhere with dog trailers, pointers of all sorts barking and howling. Near a pickup with Oklahoma plates, a weathered old hand approached me, cheek full of chew.
"Don let dat leetle brittny near dem dogs dey tear er up".
Uncomprehending, I said "huh?"
Then he repeated himself, and he took a boxer's stance with his fists up.
"Oh, they'll fight". Now I got it. I leashed Mags and moved her away from the barking crowd.
Other dogs can be a threat to the four-legged hunter. It was a few years later right near home when a daily walk could have turned deadly, as a neighbor's dog attacked Mags, grabbing her by the throat. It was a close call. Fortunately they paid our vet bill!
When nature attacks
Once far afield, after Mags didn't come back after a spell, I called and called. I heard a sharp yelp of pain, and mag came running, impaled by this stick. She wore a vest that day, but the stick pierced her armpit and ran under the fur outside the rib cage, protruding near her belly. A jagged hole big enough to feed a garden hose through was at the entry and exits. A mess of dirt and bark filled the hole. Fortunately the local vet came into the office on his evening off to stitch her up.
That same weekend, my other brit Cody was running near me when she yelped, stopped and coughed. I didn't see anything wrong so we continued on. Later on she refused food, and closer inspection the next morning revealed a stick down her throat. Another vet visit but she healed well.
When a trap is set
I've pulled both my dogs from leg hold traps, one just a few weeks ago. They didn't do any damage- didn't even break the skin, but it's traumatic to the dog. If you can get the trap off without being bitten by your own dog, that's the trick. The conibear traps are more dangerous, and here's a link to a story about releasing a dog from them and another story about proposed changes to trapping rules.
It's an emotional and controversial topic. I think most hunters are supportive of trappers and want to work with them to prevent dog injuries.
Long after a pasture grows to woodlot, long after the farmhouse is reduced to a rubble foundation, barbed wire remains. Tacked up to old fence-posts, trees or stumps, it silently waits for a running bird dog. To a dog it probably looks like a blackberry stem or vine. But a ragged gash awaits the dog that stumbles into it. I took a bolt cutters to this strand of wire on my land that still remained from the old farm.
I carry a simple first aid kit for me and my dog. The only thing different packed for the dog is hydrogen peroxide to irrigate wounds. Mix it with water before you use it. Keep the local vet's number handy especially when traveling. Be safe out there, for you and your dog.
Find us on Google+
- Stocking Stuffers for the Ruffed Grouse Hunter December 2013
- A Recipe for a Ruffed Grouse Cover November 2013
- Explore New Hunts in Minnesota Ruffed Grouse Country November 2013
- August - October 2013 Articles
- October in Ruffed Grouse Country October 2013
- Ruffed Grouse Tech October 2013
- Hunting Early Season Ruffed Grouse 2013 September 2013
- Use the DNR Website for Better Ruffed Grouse Hunting September 2013
- Seven Great Ruffed Grouse Gear Items for Under $20 August 2013
- Blueberry Pancakes and Camp Coffee August 2013
- May-July 2013 Articles
- Drumming Counts for 2013 Ruffed Grouse July, 2013
- Video for Ruffed Grouse July 2013
- One Thousand BB's June 2013
- Summer Comes to Minnesota's Ruffed Grouse Country June 2013
- Ruffed Grouse on the Trail Cam May 2013
- March-May 2013 Articles
- Firewood for grouse camp May 2013
- Adventures with Cody April 2013
- Rethinking the hunting camp outbuilding April 2013
- Buying land and building a hunting camp, part III March 2013
- Buying land and building a hunting camp, part II March 2013
- December-February 2013 Articles
- Buying land and building a hunting camp February 2013
- Tour the ruffed grouse woods by snowmobile February 2013
- What's on the grouse hunter's bookshelf? January 2013
- A Cabin Made of Canvas December 2012
- Ruffed Grouse in the Snow December 2012
- Woods Trucks and Forest Roads December 2012
- October 2012 Articles
- Dog boots curse of man and dog December 2012
- Grouse Guns for Minnesota Covers November 2012
- Hunting in the storms of November November 2012
- A grouse hunting respite for deer season November 2012
- The Woodcock Moon October 2012
- September 2012 Articles
- Grouse maps and the old red barn October 2012
- Use a bird's eye view for finding ruffed grouse October 2012
- Where are all the birds? Ask a grouse October 2012
- The Things You Find in the Grouse Woods September 2012
- Grouse Hunting Possibles September 2012
- Earlier 2012-2011 Articles
- Minnesota Ruffed Grouse Season Opener Tips September 2012
- Drumming counts decline, Winging it in the woods for grouse, Changes brewing in woods won't help grouse, How to find and hunt grouse in the early season September 2012
- Legislative Update for 2012 MN Session June 2012
- New MN Conservation officers May 2012
- Legacy Land Buy, MN Grouse Hunters Studied, & DNR Walk-in Program April 2012
- On The Trail for Ruffed Grouse, Grouse Hunters Wonder About Season's Slow Start, Grouse Territory isn't what it used to be, Forest Fires in the BWCA reflected in the news October 2011
- Drumming Counts Revealed 2011 August 2011
- For the Love of Ruffed Grouse he spreads the word June 2011
- Ups and Downs in the grouse woods April 2011
Owner and Editor, Joel Schnell.
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