By Ryan Schmidt October 9, 2015
Publishers note: Ryan has offered to write an occasional Finland/Isabella Minnesota area grouse report for Ruffed Grouse Minnesota.
I was up in the Superior National Forest again this weekend, well for the whole day Saturday and headed home Sunday morning. We got out on the trails around 8:00am. There were a lot of people up north on 4 wheelers this weekend, but I was able to avoid all of them on side trails off of logging roads. I was walking one trail all the way back to a set of railroad tracks (4 miles) and saw 9 birds. Was able to get 4 on that road! Followed a set of fresh moose tracks for about a mile; I assumed that it walked down the road sometime in the night or early morning. First grouse I flushed scared the daylights out of me! Dang near stepped on it before it took off! Was able to get a nice bead on him and dropped him about 20 yards into the woods! Beautiful mature gray phase male.
I was fortunate to come up on a covey of 3 younger ruffies sitting in the road sunning themselves. I made up my mind to take the closest one first and get a running shot or flying shot at whatever one was still available after the initial shot. Well, the first young’un started to hurry into the woods, so I took a running shot. I was able to get him, and the second one instantly took to the air. I was on point that morning because I was able to knock him down as well. The third one will be nice and big next year.
There is something about the fluttering of a grouse’s wings when they take off that can make your heart feel like it is going to explode out of your chest! That is the fun feeling that keeps me going back into the woods in search of these beautiful and tasty forest chickens! After I had gotten back on my ATV and started riding back to camp, I couldn’t believe how amazing the smells and sights had gotten in just one week since opener! I love the smell of the falling leaves and the sun drying up the puddles on the trail. I always tell people, Minnesota fall seasons are unmatched by any other place in the world!
There was a lone grouse on the road all fanned out strutting his stuff in the sun closer to camp, so I pulled the wheeler over and started sneaking up the side of the trail. He ran into the thick brush so I started to follow him deeper and deeper into the maze of fallen trees and this brush. I had flushed him twice and was narrowing him down to a cedar patch where the woods finally opened up enough to get decent vision onto the forest floor. I had seen him scamper behind a cedar and started to circle around the tree. I heard the peeping sound that any grouse hunter is familiar with! I better get ready because this little sucker is about to beeline it to safety. I got my gun up and waited for him to take off and, BOOM!!! Made another clean shot and a very large male bird! Very peaceful and successful Saturday in the Northwoods of Minnesota! I never can think of any place I would rather be in the world when I am out exploring trails and enjoying the scenery you get during the grouse hunting season in the fall!
Made BBQ ribs, fried potatoes, and sweet corn for dinner and enjoyed a nice bottle of Pinot with my dad, stepmom, and Fiancé that night around the fire! And guess what…..I get to do it all over again next weekend with friends and each weekend after that until the Deer opener! I am completely O.K. with those plans! Leaves are changing and it is getting cooler this week, can’t wait for this weekend!
Another wonderful weekend in the North woods! Weather was beautiful, other than the heavy winds on Saturday most of the day. It was calm, sunny, and 30 degrees Saturday morning when we headed out. We were driving to the first trail to walk and saw 3 birds right away! We thought we were in for a great day for seeing birds, but at about 9:30 that morning, the winds picked up and didn’t stop until the middle of the night! Still saw plenty of birds and ended up getting 5 between the 4 of us that day! Made burgers, spicy honey BBQ wings, and maple baked beans for dinner, so all in all, Saturday was a blast with good friends and a great time in the woods! Went out Sunday morning for a couple hours and everyone ended up getting a bird! Saw 30 birds on the weekend! Lots of flushes and skiddish birds due to the high winds, but at least it didn’t rain!
End of October has always been my favorite time to get into the woods and grouse hunt! You can see and hear things so much better when the leaves are down and crunchy under their feet. The crisp cool air with the smell of decaying leaves and warm popple tree bark in the sun! I love it! Going to hopefully hunt all day Saturday and morning til early afternoon Sunday. I don’t have anyone with, so I can focus on hunting and my style a little more this weekend, which I am excited about!
Ryan Schmidt reports from Duluth, MN
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com