By Joel Schnell November 4, 2015
It’s been a glorious warm October hunt. We’ve found our share of ruffed grouse, and the woodcock migrated in as they are compelled to do. Dogs with dragging tongues happily worked the cover for bird scent. The smell of wet leaves, the brilliant color of yellow tamaracks. It’s like a cathedral in the woods at times.
Where the birds Hang Out
Early season I moved a number of birds in coveys right along the trail. That doesn’t mean they flushed right down the trail offering an easy shot, mind you. They did present their share of shots though. A little later the birds moved down to the swamp edges as they dispersed. Last weekend they were in the open, the feed bag is on. I found one crop stuffed with acorns, and there has been a bumper crop this year. It doesn’t fit the traditional ruffed grouse playbook to find them in the open oaks, but that’s where some of them were last weekend. Good to have a dog, as their nose has not read the traditional playbook.
I Have a Theory
The woodcock flight was a bit odd this year. Later than usual, and spotty. Some covers heavy in birds, other covers nearby of similar composition held only one or two birds. I moved quite a few on Sunday November 1, which is odd in my neck of the woods. I figure three things drive the woodcock migration flight. The shortening of the daylight, the cold North wind driving them South, and the October full moon. Well, the full moon didn’t come until the 27th this year. Maybe it threw them off their game, who knows. Perhaps the earth’s magnetic field has an input, but i will leave that speculation to those of higher pay grade than mine. In this picture my new friend Bob, who has little experience in our far Northern upland game, shot his first woodcock. Shot his first grouse, too on the same day. Welcome to the fold, Bob, it was great to be a part of your introduction.
Dogs in the Office
Maggie, my Brittany, was having trouble with hearing and finding my direction early this season but got better after a few weeks. She hunts like normal now even at twelve. I was worried she was to retire early. Levi is learning the game and flushes birds well. Some are out of range but we can work on that. He has enthusiasm, let’s put it that way. Last weekend I got him on a bunch of woodcock flight birds so he got lots of shooting over him. Fair to say he gets it.
What’s in Store?
All in all it’s been a great season so far, with plenty left. I’ll take a break to try and put some vension in the freezer then it’s back at ’em. I’ve found some new covers that need further exploration. I’ve shot at birds from every angle- behind me, above me, straight away, hard crossing shots and left plenty for later. Some fall, most don’t. There’s still room in the freezer. Last Sunday I dropped a hard crosser at treetop level about 30 yards out in heavy timber. Best shot i’ve made in years. You have to savor those little victories, when most days my shots are only pruning brush.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com