‘Rock-tober,' the month that's gone to the dogs
I devote the month of October to hunting grouse and woodcock with my dog, Rock.
Rock, or Rocket as he is known around the house, is a wire-haired pointing griffon. His coat is far too soft to meet the breed standard, so he was kind of a cast off when we picked up the timid 1-year-old from a Kansas breeder. He might not be much to look at, but he's a pleasure to be around and heck of a good hunting dog. "Lawn mower" best describes his hunting style. Not the fastest dog you've ever seen, but boy is he thorough, and when you do move on from one piece of woods to another, you can be confident no birds were missed.
When the ruffed grouse drumming surveys were released mid-summer, they showed flat to declining numbers of grouse in Wisconsin's northern regions, consistent with the "bottom of the 10-year cycle" we've grown to accept. The surprise in the survey was a drumming increase, up to 38 percent in the central part of the state. My usual haunts are here in Central Wisconsin, so I decided this fall I would focus my efforts locally instead of making a few trips north. Additionally, I committed to hunt some new covers.
The effort to explore new ground has paid off. We've found birds, both woodcock and grouse, in "new" covers in Mead State Wildlife Area, Leather Camp, and on county forest lands in Marathon County and west to Eau Claire County. There are indeed birds to be found here in Central Wisconsin, if you are willing to invest the effort.
A flurry of migrant woodcock will mark "Rocktober's" passage into November, but the boot leather we've laid down together promises to yield a few more grouse between bowhunts and to the season's end in January.
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