Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bones of Bucks Past

Inspired by Bone Collectors

Professional news

One grouser gains tenure, another makes headlines...

RGS welcomes Andrew Weik as its New England Wildlife Biologist

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

RGS welcomes Andrew Weik as its New England Wildlife Biologist
Dedicated professional brings years of experience with him.

Ruffed Grouse Society

Ruffed Grouse Society

Coraopolis, PA – -( The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) announced today the hiring of Andrew P. Weik as its New England Regional Wildlife Biologist. Scheduled to start in January, 2010, Weik will be responsible for implementing RGS’ on-the-ground forest management and landowner and land manager education programs in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

A New England native Weik, 45, has been employed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Northeast Region at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge – the only National Wildlife Refuge dedicated to woodcock management – for the past five years. He serves as technical expert in USFWS Region 5 on early successional forest habitat management and its impact on American woodcock population dynamics.

In addition to providing technical training regarding forest management techniques that benefit wildlife to public and private resource professionals and landowners at workshops and meetings, Andrew was responsible for developing the Refuge’s Habitat Management Plan, Annual Habitat Work Plan, and assisting with the development of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan which will guide refuge programs for the next 15 years.

Prior to working with the USFWS, Weik was the Waterfowl and upland Game Bird Program Leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife where, among other projects, he coordinated the development and implementation of programs and surveys to assess the status of game birds.

Married with two sons, Nolan (5) and Collin (3), Andrew, together with his wife Angela (also a wildlife biologist), enjoys hunting with their two setters and one Labrador for grouse, woodcock and waterfowl. One of Andy’s favorite quotes from the father of wildlife management, Aldo Leopold, when talking about grouse hunting, is “There are two kinds of hunting: ordinary hunting, and ruffed grouse hunting”.

“All of us here at RGS are very excited about the addition of Andrew to our team,” says RGS President and CEO Mike Zagata. “Andy’s background and experience as a wildlife biologist with the USFWS, as well as his work with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, will help us continue our mission of enhancing the environment for ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and other forest wildlife that utilize or require thick, young forests created through ecologically sound forest management practices”.

“I’m really excited about working for the Ruffed Grouse Society,” says Weik. “The organization was founded on the principle that sound scientific management is essential in today’s landscape for thriving populations of grouse, woodcock and other wildlife. I look forward to building on the accomplishments of the other RGS biologists, raising awareness of the habitat needs of grouse, woodcock, and other wildlife that depend on young forest, helping incorporate successional forest habitat management in municipal, state, federal, corporate, and non governmental organizations’ management plans, incorporating wildlife habitat needs into the development of woody biomass technology to help meet our energy and wildlife habitat needs, and working with landowners and RGS chapters on habitat improvement projects,” Weik said.

One specific project that Weik hopes to see through to its conclusion in 2010 is revising the RGS-published “A Woodcock in the Hand” (Sepik 1994) — a publication that provides tips on examining, aging, and sexing American woodcock as well as information on population monitoring and conservation.

The booklet is currently out of print.

To assist Weik in his goals, RGS is currently seeking a regional director for the New England area. The position involves working with local chapter volunteers to create and host chapter events including fund-raising sportsman’s banquets, shoots, educational activities and youth events. Interested individuals should contact Mark Fouts at 715-399-2270 or by e-mail at .

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is the one international wildlife conservation organization dedicated to promoting conditions suitable for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and related wildlife to sustain our sport hunting tradition and outdoor heritage.

Information on the RGS, its mission, management projects and membership can be found on the web at:

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Blessings of Autumn Continue

After working 8 years to get tenure (takes longer when you do it twice), and finally getting word yesterday, I figured I could come in late (~1030) one morning. So, I packed up my pup, and headed south to Michigan Hollow environs. (We can’t all beat the crap out of Hector all the time, ‘specially with CowPoke Weik and the missus drifting into town). Started off by working downstream of the old beaver dam, having espied some nice alders there last winter.

Mindful of the warm weather and disdainful of fashion, I wore my old Finger Lakes Marathon long sleeved T under the Filson jacket. Andy’s boots completed the ensemble. I suspect he’ll want to claim the shirt too.

The beavers have been busy. It was a hellish nightmare, and I recalled thinking I really ought to have left word with Julie as to where I was heading. I vividly envisioned a Pongee stick puncture or twelve. This was not a lot of fun. Andy, sorry about the new tear in your boots. Nor was it in keeping with my vision of a contemplative stroll, full of reflections of career, place, friends, cycles, and all that romantic rot.

Backtrack to the backside of the old pond, now a series of small ponds surrounded by well-nigh impenetrable puckerbrush: multiflora, autumn olive, etc. But on the margin, there are gorgeous stands of old pine with hazel growing up. These stands drop off to the thick stuff to the East. Wonder of wonders, a bird flushed from one of these pines, left to right, and wonder-of-wonders, I dropped him with a single shot. To be honest, Conley had nothing to do with this: he was off busting through the thick stuff the way he ought to have been. But I whistled him over, gave him the line, and out he came with the bird…a purty brown phase young of the year.

I’d post a picture but Julie has the durned camera to take pictures of our kids in some danged neighborhood Halloween parade. Strange priorities.

Conley’s first NYS grouse. Life is good. Back to work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rock of Ages

Spy seems to have come down w/ anaplasmosis. Thought he was going to die last Mon./Tues -- shivers, couldn't stand, cried out in pain a couple times, could barely raise his head. But put him on doxicycline Thursday and he was ready to hunt again Friday -- 4 wc and 1 grouse point, 2 wc killed, 1 hr. He's his old self again.

I've gotten Brody out a few times since getting back from WI. It's always been maybe half an hour for exercise if nothing else. Tuesday afternoon (10/27) I had 15 minutes to run Brody before I had to pick up the kids. I put him down in a wet aldery area. Lots of white wash (day old?). Brody went on point.... but started flagging. He wouldn't take a step so I walked in and put up a low, weak-flying woodcock, which he chased out of sight. He came back around and continued hunting, and pretty soon went on point. Again tail flagging but wouldn't take a step . This time when I walked in a wc sprang up strongly. Easy shot. Bang. I missed. This time Brody just watched it fly away. I still haven't shot a bird over a long-held, statuesque point by Brody.

Wednesday afternoon. This time I had an hour. I brought Brody back to the same covert as yesterday. Ten minutes into it I bumped a woodcock that Brody didn't see. We continued hunting in the direction the bird flew. Brody was ahead, down slope among fir, cedar, and alders in a fairly soppy area, just about the right distance for land fall of the bumped bird. The bell went silent. I waited a bit for him to start moving again, and when he didn't, I moved ahead to find him. It took me a good minute, but there he was statue still in the thick wet stuff. A dark dog is hard to see in the dark woods. I moved ahead of the dog, approaching from the side. I was startled by a rustling of vegetation and a brown blur of hare hair hopped away. One jingle of the bell told me Brody saw or heard the bunny, but stayed put. I took two more steps and up twittered a timberdoodle flying right at me until it was about 5 yards away, at which time it turned away but quickly dipped low around a fir thicket and it was gone. Arghh! Brody had turned to rock, but my hands had turned to stone. Stoned by the woodcock. I really want to kill every bird pointed like that, to reward the good behavior.

So Thursday, a potential buyer of our house was visiting with a house inspector. I got them started, then got out of their hair for awhile. This gave me an hour and a half to try to get Brody into birds. Most of the first 60 minutes where uneventful. Then we worked along an old road lined by a stand of jack pine sloping down either side of the ridge into aspen and alder. I heard a grouse flush, so whistled Brody in to hunt the vicinity. He went on point about 30 yards into the pines. I walked in to flush, and a grouse busted out of the tree over my head, and my one shot did no harm. We followed, and again Brody pointed, this time looking up into the canopy to a spot from which a grouse burst forth. This time my load of steel 6s knocked it down -- Brody's first grouse on a solid point that lasted more than a few seconds.

Further down the ridge Brody's bell indicated he was moving slowly and pausing. In a little while the bell went silent. As I crept to his point from higher ground a bird flushed from about 30 feet up an aspen, and my shot broke a wing, at least. At the shot, the bird Brody had been pointing flushed.... toward me. I turned and took a going-away shot as it banked and flew down slope. The grouse went out of sight as I shot, but I did see a small cloud of feather dander hanging in the air in its wake. Shooting birds over Brody's solid points was just what I wanted. However a potential downside to this happy story is that both these last two birds were live on the ground so Brody then caught them (notice one bob-tailed bird in the photo). Time will tell whether he still wants to point, or if he thinks he can just run 'em down.

Last day for woodcock is Saturday, so I'll be out tomorrow trying to add a couple more birds to the larder for Thanksgiving appetizers.

Historic photograph uncovered

Recently I assisted the significant other of a prominent grouser in the relocation of said grouser's personal collection of pressure-treated lumber and double-pane windows. For this act of charity I was granted the temporary loan of the following historic photo.

famous grouser

Please assist me now in figuring out what this grouser is doing. Is he:

(a) Training his own super breed of pokey dotted, ground-snuffling Andy Amman cows to work as a brace for serious work on grouse?

(b) Moving to the Finger Lakes region with the expressed intention of putting Cagey out of a job?

(c) Engaged in habitat manipulations in the FLNF to increase woodcock breeding success in one of Jim's favorite brushy pastures?


(d) other?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Redemption at Jim's Comeuppance...and the House of Pain

I went to the Finger Lakes National Forest with Rich on Sunday to find Artemis a woodcock or two. It was the first woodcock hunt of the season for Artemis, having been benched for the Grouse Camp odyssey due to her master's absence from the continent.

I met Rich at the Ballard Pond parking area.

We decided on "Jim's Comeuppance " as the covert de jour, and we were off. Light wind, 54 degrees, 3:15 pm. I was wearing LL Bean Cords with chaps over top, a stylish custom art collector's item orange t-shirt, and an Orvis strap vest, topped by a bright orange "Ugly Dog Hunting" hat. I carried my LC Smith 12 ga Ideal grade, loaded w 7 1/2s. Rich was also properly kitted up, though perhaps a tad over-layered.

We hunted through the "Walk in the Park" portion of the covert, and though Miss got birdy a few times, produced nothing. We came to the flats at the bottom of the slope and made our way towards the corner, where I shot a grouse two years ago. Artemis, up a head, came to a sharp halt and a woodcock exploded up and away. The wind, I thought-- she over-ran the scent. Moments later, Rich shouted "bird." A re-flush. Rich thought he knew where the bird put down, so we steered Miss around. She came into a nice point and Rich and I approached. As luck would have it, the bird came out my way. Bang bang. I actually saw the wings, both of them, fall. Feathers floated down behind. Miss was pointing a blob on the ground. I picked up the wings, for science. Rich offered good-naturedly that perhaps the birds needed to be let further out before shooting. Rich is full of good, sage advice like that.

So we had shot one woodcock. We continued on, and were presented one or two more shooting opportunities that resulted in no birds. Then, we reached the hardwood edge and Miss was convinced that we'd find grouse there. I did not doubt her, but this was a woodcock hunt. So we shinnied over the fence towards what I used to call "deeper in" but has now been re-christened by Rich and I as "House of Pain." Here, there is penance and purgatory for any and all that require it. You will hurt if you hunt in there. Mike O'Connor experienced this covert three years ago. He said it hurt. I have never disagreed. I will let Rich speak for himself on this.

We were flummoxed by a grouse repeatedly, both Rich and I missing shots at the wily rapscallion. Miss drug us through every hidey-hole, every multiflora rose thicket, every Devil's Walking Stick. Shots were missed; shots were made. I added another woodcock to my bag. As did Rich. More shots were missed. You would pull up for the shot and be raked across the face and hands by any number of razor sharp blessings of nature. Unlike those hunts where one hears groans after the shots, here, in the House of Pain, one hears groans and shrieks intermittently, especially as the bird flushes and the shot is attempted...

Finally we had had enough. We exfiltrated, got out while we still could, bloodied and stumbling, but somehow satisfied, as flagellant priests during lent. We worked our way back through the flats, past the pond, up the slope with spruces and the walk in the park. We were walking languidly now, enjoying the sunset. Miss was hunting, rather aimlessly. We had that "end of hunt" stupor going. I mentioned to Rich the famous comeuppance bush, and told Rich the story of Jim's Comeuppance. As I pointed at the bush for emphasis, Artemis approached it, slinking a bit. "It was just like that, but it was Kate" I said... and Artemis slammed into a point. I was speechless. Rich walked to the outside and I volunteered to go into the bush on my hands and knees to try to flush the bird up and his way. As I began crawling in, Artemis adjusted to the right. As I began to straighten my back to stand, the bird flushed out and away to the right. A snap shot and it was down. "That one was for Jim, and for Kate" I thought.

Thanks to Jim and his generosity in showing me this covert, I have had, almost annually, a good afternoon outing here. It is a once a year covert for me (for woodcock), one that I was glad to share with Rich this year. We enjoyed a magnificent sunset at the top of the hill, sitting on the foundation of the old farm house that once stood over the coverts. We enjoyed some tobacco and some rum, made plans for our four woodcock, and parted ways.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The cure for flaccid bacon

While Josh waits for epic stories of grouse camp hunts (pssst, Josh . . . don't hold yer breath), I want to publicly commend Pete and Rich for taking care of the bulk of the Old T breakfasts when we were in Wisconsin.

But many of you grouse campers know that Pete has a, ahem, problem when it comes to cooking bacon. As in getting bacon heated above room temperature. As in not reading the health advisories on the bacon packaging re proper cooking. As in . . . flaccid bacon.

Now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, there's a YouTube video aimed directly at Pete to help him with his trichinosistic tendencies. Please watch this important safety video now. Thank you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"This country is full of wowsers."

Since I'm still waiting for epic grouse camp stories, I'm posting this in the interim. Study question: Is throwing a dead bunny inhumane, ill-advised, or indelicate?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Conley's First Grouse

'nuff said. The cycle begins anew.

Epic group portrait

So far nobody has blogged the epic photo that Path Walker orchestrated . . . at least forty-five minutes in the making, with a cast of thousands. Here for the first time in cyberspace, is that captured moment in time.

seated, l to r: Path Walker holding Brad 'Brody' Pitt, Lil' Billy corralling Spy and Maya, Dr. Dirt grinning over Lilly, The Vicar of State College clasping Claymore's collar, el Jefe grasping Gaston de Phoebe, and Safari Jim with Meg and taming Thor God of Thunder
Standing, overseeing all: our host, The Captain

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reward for Information Offered


REWARD: $5 or a six pack of your favorite beer for information leading to the identification of the felonious footwear grabbing grouse hunter who absconded with roughly size 10 La Crosse boots from the Old Tamarack Cabin near Mellen, WI, on or about the morning of October 17, 2009. Boots easily identifiable by the Minie Pearl-style price tag ring still hanging on the gusset buckle strap. Suspects were seen driving away from the vicinity in a tan colored late model minivan with out of state plates. Please contact the blog administrator with any and all information. Leads will be kept strictly confidential; the culprit(s) will be fingered publicly and humiliated accordingly.

More Cowbell

Pete and I put in an all-day hunt at the covert we called "More Cowbell" . . . Pete later returned to the same covert with Andy to hammer it again. No surprise there. (just kidding Pete . . . NOT) :-)

ANYWAYS, the "More Cowbell" skit seems to have been purged from YouTube, but here is a link to the entire skit at another site:

Better watch it before it gets yanked again.

Guess what . . . I've got a fever, and the only prescription, is more cowbell.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grouse Camp 2009

Here's just a few pics from Grouse Camp 2009.

7 guys and 8 dogs; sun, snow, rain and cold temps; fair grouse numbers, but few woodcock; great meals; singing and story telling; and the evening sauna! Another memorable camp!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Western exploration

Out in MT exploring fall waters. Thought a couple of you might enjoy this particular day:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

She's ready

Well, any ambivalence I might have had about taking an untested yearling setter into the Michigan and Wisconsin grouse woods has now vanished. The short version: we got Phoebe out onto the Hector Backbone today for the woodcock opener, and in one hour's time I watched her go from a completely clueless doggie doofus to an absolute woodcock-pointing machine.

The somewhat longer version: We were in the woods by 4:00 pm, under sunny skies, 62 deg F, 6-10 mph winds out of the north and northwest, and as usual I was wearing jeans, my torn and tattered Carharrt vest, Filson hat, and toting the 16 gauge loaded up with early season 8s.

For the first hour and a half we scoured two coverts in a row (many of you have been there, but if I told you where it was today I'd have to kill you) and turned up nothing. nada. zilch. I was beginning to doubt if I had any woodcock finding talent at all.

By 5:30 or so, things started to heat up. Phoebe had had one or two false points up to now, a pattern I'd seen fairly frequently, so when she went on point in some gnarlies I was expecting more of the same.

WRONG! wrrrrrrrr. WOODCOCK.

BANG. . . . . BANG.

Ouch. I missed two shots on Phoebe's for-real-first-ever live point on a live bird. Ouch. We hunted for quite a while where I marked it down, but never did get it to flush again. Oh well. So we kept going.

Ten minutes or so later: the same scenario was repeated. Point; bird; bang; bang; NOTHING. Ouch.

Now I'm starting to get pissed at my poor shooting. Damn. I really want to get a bird for this dogge now, and I'm blowing some very easy opportunities. Fortunately I had marked the second bird fairly well, and when we got to its general location, Phoebe went on point. Staunch! and there it was, the woodcock on the ground two feet in front of her nose. Cool!

I make my move on the bird from three feet away. That blasted bogsucker escaped two more shots from my mighty Parker . . . mighty powerless Parker, that is. DAMN! now I'm starting to foam at the mouth and swearing at my self in the woods. (Honestly. I'm talking to myself, and had to stop because I realized Phoebe was hearing my tone of voice and thinking it was being aimed at her.)

We move on. At this point I'm 0-for-six and am praying to the Almighty that I be given another chance. And then it happened.

Phoebe goes on point. No ambivalence now, no uncertainty, no doubts about my untested puppy. This dogge is for real. I move in, and two birds go up simultaneously--and they're GROUSE!!

BANG at the farthest one, flying away left to right. I don't see any reaction whatsoever from the first bird to that shot, and then I turn to shoot at the second, closer bird. BANG! and the bird falls!

Thank God. I call Phoebe over, who at the moment is going absolutely crazy with bird scent, so it takes her a while to come over to the spot that I've marked with my hat. And then it happens: I can't find the bird. Phoebe can't find the bird. I walk around the spot in circles with a sense of deepening despair. I saw the bird fall, but now I'm beginning to think that it was a crippled grouse that then ran away. Damn. This is quickly becoming one of the most depressing hunts of all time.

And then it happens. After circling and circling and circling, Phoebe comes right back to the small tree where I've hung my hat, and she locks up. There, two feet away, is a stone-cold dead woodcock laying camouflaged among the leaves.

HOORAY!! the dogge has found the dead bird, has done it by pointing dead, and in finding it has accomplished what I was not going to be able to do by myself. Her first dead bird over one of her points. Needless to say I experience an instant mood change. You know, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat kind of mood swing. I'm on cloud nine. I'm a bit surprised that it's a woodcock, having had the impression that the flushes were grouse, but I'm happy nonetheless.

After letting her nose the bird a bit, I put it away in my pouch and we move on. By now I am truly following the dogge every step of the way. She has come into her own as a hunter. And then it happens.

She locks up on point again. As I move in, she lunges at something on the ground. She's got it . . . and it's a GROUSE . . . the second of the two birds that ten minutes earlier had flushed simultaneously. And then it dawns on me--this is the first double of my upland hunting career. Granted, it is a woodcock and a grouse, but a double's a double I figure. (Judges, give me a ruling on that one. Grouse purists may insist that a true double consists purely of partridge. Discuss.)

Phoebe's first double

Wow. At this point I've got a grouse and a woodcock in the bag. It's getting dark, the dogge is now going absolutely nuts after having had the taste of grouse tail feathers in her mouth, so I decide it's best to leash her and quit while we're ahead. We exit the woods at 7 pm, happy and secure in the knowledge that this dogge is ready to hunt.

See you all in Wisconsin.

Kate the Great and the Puppy Formerly Known as Doofus

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Bounties of Autumn

Decided on a kid hunt this weekend rather than a solo grouse trip, for a number of reasons. We went for squirrels, on the Canoga frontier. Not only did we mange a few fat Gray Squirrels, we also made a fantastic score on a Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).