I’ve just returned from a grouse hunt in northern Wisconsin to wrap up the season. Throughout the final days, my buddies and I, along with my black Lab Luna, trekked through an awful lot of swamps, clear cuts, and high woods ridges in search of a few ruffs.
We found plenty of birds, which seem to have carried over nicely from the previous winter. We also found a pair of secluded duck ponds on a piece of public ground we’ve hunted many times. A lone pair of grouse tracks led me to a clearing, which led to the discovery. The bird never flushed in front of my dog, but that didn’t bother me. Knowing that those quarter-acre ponds sit tucked into a clearing well off of the access path has me thinking about mallards, teal, and wood ducks next fall.
On another property we found a clear-cut of just the right age that we’ve ignored for years. Well, we haven’t really ignored it because we didn’t know it existed. We simply didn’t hunt there, opting to make a familiar loop every previous hunt. Again, a few fresh grouse tracks led us from our normal route and what we found was a low spot covered in deer sign. Better yet, the opening is shaped somewhat like a figure-eight with a very easy-to-identify crossing in the slim spot. That is one of my favorite stand sites for big woods bucks, and it looked ideal.
Etched into my memory are a few likely looking woodcock routes, and even a fair amount of pine-tree thickets criss-crossed with snowshoe hair tracks. Better yet, all of it was on public land. One of the tracts we hunted for grouse even yielded my hunting partner a beast of a four-point shed antler. Amidst the ducks and woodcock of next October, I’ll spend a little time seeing if that buck is still living there as well.