With the last of the deer hunting zones coming to a close it might be time to get back in the woods and chase a few ruffed grouse around. Even though the small game season extends through the end of the year it’s the time between the end of the deer season and the arrival of fresh snow that can be some of the best.
Sure you can legally bird hunt during the deer season but in my opinion it’s not the thing to do. For starters you could ruin somebody’s hunt by spooking deer and you could more importantly expose you and your dog to unnecessary danger.
Too much snow can shut things down and not just because it’s harder to get around. The fact is; snow covers up the reason they’re on the ground in the first place and that’s food. Clover along with wild strawberry leaves can be a big attractor but the first few inches of snow can bury it all and make it no longer a factor. When it happens they spend more time in the trees munching on buds where they can be difficult to recognize and even harder to get close to because they can see you coming from a long way off.
From now and until forest floor becomes a beautiful white there are some birds to be had. They’re not everywhere though but there have been good reports in the Grand Rapids to Bemidji area and north. But even there you’re more likely to find pockets of good birds and other areas with little to none. To give you an example on my last to trip north of Grand Rapids my buddy and I flushed eighteen birds on the first day and the action was phenomenal. The next day we managed to only put four birds in the air and ended up being a bit anti-climactic but in retrospect we did try a different area with about a fifty mile change in logistics. While things did seem similar with an abundance of ten to fourteen year old aspen, the second area lacked adjacent clear cutting with accompanying logging roads running through the middle of it covered with lots and lots of clover.
There is likely only a limited amount of time left before it’s all over. It’s impossible to say for sure but if we get two or three good weeks we’re lucky. See you in the woods.
Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.