Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.
During the month of October, your author, dogs and wife completed a multi-state, two country bird hunting journey. Due to a wet spring across the Northern states, bird hunters were nervous most of the summer over clutch and brood survival. The question on everyone’s mind had been just how badly the wet spring hurt the bird population. Here’s our report.
Our grouse hunting journey began at Border Country Outfitters (www.bordercountryoutfitters.com) in Emo, Ontario. This was our second visit to Border Country Outfitters. Due to phenomenal flush numbers last year, we decided to return and launch our 2013 season in Emo. Flush numbers were down 30 to 40 per cent this year compared to 2012; however, this still meant very good hunting. Our best day last year was 49 grouse flushes and our best day this year was 29 grouse flushes. A bonus this year for the dogs was a plethora of woodcock. I don’t recall a single woodcock flush last year and this year we had eight the first morning. As with many trips to Ontario in the past, we’ve never been disappointed with grouse hunting. A huge bonus with Border Country Outfitters is that their guests hunt all private land. You will never see another hunter.
After a six year absence from hunting the Mid-west states, we left Emo, Ontario with our GPS set for Northern Wisconsin and the Michigan UP. We were invited to hunt with an avid grouse hunter from Milwaukee. He has a camp near Land O’ Lakes, WI. Our host, Tim Nettesheim, states emphatically that he hunts grouse 12 months of the year. Of course, he actually shoots grouse only during the season and scouts grouse the remainder of the year. I would like to say right up front that these Mid-western grouse hunters work hard. We were hunting seven to nine miles a day…no road hunting with these boys. Our best day was 15 grouse flushes with several woodcock flushes mixed in. Tim said that the Wisconsin/Michigan numbers are definitely down from last year. With all grouse hunting, you’ll stumble into pockets. One afternoon we had 12 flushes in one hour. That type of action is possible at any point in the grouse cycle. It’s generally felt that the Mid-west grouse states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan) were at the peak of their cycle in either 2009 or 2010. A highpoint of our Wisconsin/Michigan hunt was that our two-year old, Dena, had a stellar point on a grouse double. We’re very proud of Dena and have great expectations for her. Eastern hunters have asked me what the cover is like in the Mid-west. In general, it’s more open than our New England grouse cover. Also, you very seldom find briars such as multi-flora rose…the demon of bird hunting. Many thanks to Tim for a very enjoyable trip.
Two days after returning from Wisconsin, we were off to Sturtevant Pond Camps (www.sturtevantpondcamps.com) in Magalloway, ME. Tom Rideout, who has been guiding grouse hunters for 30 years, owns these camps with his wife, Martha. From these camps, we hunt primarily the Dartmouth Grant. Although Tom, due to his knowledge of the grouse cover, has consistently been producing 15 to 20 flushes a day this season for his clients, I personally found grouse flushes down about 30 per cent. Still great fun and good work for the dogs, however. Stu Bristol, Master Maine Guide and Journal columnist, and I did have one morning with 11 grouse flushes in just a little over one hour. Again, even with the grouse cycle in decline, if you can find a grouse pocket, you’ll have plenty of action.
After a one day break from hunting, my wife (Susan), the dogs, Stu and I were off to Allagash Guide Service (www.allagashguideservice.com) in Allagash, ME. This was my first visit to Allagash in forty years….it hasn’t changed much. And I say that in a positive manner. Allagash truly represents the Maine wilderness. It’s Way Up North to borrow from Johnny Horton’s song title. Allagash Guide Service is owned by Sean Lizotte. Sean is a very energetic and capable camp owner and guide. Although the talk around this small town was that bird numbers are down, we found enough birds to keep us busy. Sean guided us one day and we had 20 grouse flushes and several woodcock finds. On days we hunted without a guide, we had between seven and ten grouse flushes which isn’t bad considering we didn’t know the area. We will definitely return to Allagash Guide Service next year.
Covering thousands of miles while hunting four states and Canada made for a very busy but very enjoyable October. If only October could be extended another sixty days!