Mark Parman pens more grouse hunting stories

(Photos by Jerry Davis)

The last of two ruffed grouse seasons closed Jan. 31, so this winter is a wonderful time to read some grouse hunting stories in Mark Parman’s second book of essays about his many Wisconsin hunts in central and northern Wisconsin, what with concerns about grouse populations, weather impacts, and talk of West Nile virus possibly having an impact, too.

Parman, 55, now lives in Seeley in Sawyer County with his wife, Susan, also a grouse hunter. They have two English setters, Fergus and Jenkins.

Parman retired from UW-Marathon County a year ago, where he was an English professor. Writing fits perfectly with his teaching degrees and avid autumn and winter pursuits.

“Basically I write my way into something,” he said of Among the Aspen: Northwoods Grouse and Woodcock Hunting. “The working title was Grouse Coverts, but some of the editors at The University of Wisconsin Press didn’t think that title would convey the ideal of habitats and grouse cover.”

Each of the 30 essays is a story about a particular grouse covert Parman has hunted, and then titled based on some object or happening on those hunts. Some chapter titles are “Redbud Road,” “Swamp Loop,” and “Old Man Covert.”

The stories are sorted geographically in the four counties where Parman hunted and can be read in any order in the 227-page book. The first and last chapters, “The Wilderness Covert” and “Home Covert,” are strategically placed to begin and end the book.

Parman’s first book was A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac: The Other Kind of Hunting. His new book is not a sequel to that effort.

Parman doesn’t like to write “how-to” books and neither fits that mold, so readers will not become bored with shotgun gauges, shot size, and hunting strategies some authors sometimes get carried away with.

In general, Parman takes us along on these hunts, talking about the geography, geology, vegetation, hunting conditions, dogs dealing with the surroundings and things that must go through a hunter’s and his dog’s minds when they are away from civilization.

“In some ways grouse hunting is simplistic. I more or less go out and walk around.  Maybe it’s even deceptively simple.”

Parman likes to be more literary in his writings. Issues interest him, too, and he weaves some of these into the essays.

Readers should get a feel for each hunt, regardless of whether an essay is read on a steamy July day or a sub-zero Sunday in February. Still, there is plenty to learn in this read. Parman credits Fergus and Jenkins for much of that.

“Every time out I learn from the dogs,” Parman said.

Before retiring from teaching English in Wausau, Parman hunted several or more times per week during the season, which ended Jan. 31. He describes this season, 2017-18, as a “pretty good year.”

“I shot a lot of birds and was not disappointed,” he said.  “I saw more birds after mid-October; some were really small, which tells me the first hatch was lost in numerous cases. The nests were probably washed out from heavy rain.”

Parman saw and killed more grouse after gun deer season than ever, even though he was hunting new coverts since moving from Wausau to Seeley.

“While out skiing in early January, I saw a covey of birds, one at a time, flush from under the snow. Until then I had never seen more than one bird at a time flush that way,” he explained. “That was exciting and I wasn’t even hunting. I’m always looking for new coverts of aspens about 10 years old.”

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