Building a Grouse Dog: From Puppy to Polished Performer by Craig Doherty, is the most comprehensive, how-to manual there is for taking an eight-week-old little squirmer of any pointing breed and turning him or her into that most coveted game bird finder there is: a finished grouse dog. Unlike many general pointing-dog training books, this one concentrates on one species the ruffed grouse. Grouse are notorious for their caginess, their wariness, and their difficulty in being pinned down so a hunter can get close enough to flush and shoot. It takes a dog that has been trained nearly from birth to handle that task, and no one knows how to do it better than Craig Doherty. Craig was the driving force behind Field Trial Magazine, is a columnist for The Pointing Dog Journal, regularly competes in grouse trials throughout the Northeast, professionally trains grouse dogs for clients from all over the country, and this is important guides grouse hunters using his own dogs trained in his outstanding methods; important because paying clients need results, and those results can only come by following dogs that know the game. A number of how-to training books tell you what to do from beginning to end; but if you have started your own training, run into problems, and consult the literature, many times you ll find that the advice is something along the lines of, Well, you messed up because you didn t do X, Y, and Z. Remember that so you won t ruin your next dog. Not Craig if you have run into a snag with your current dog, Craig tells you what to do to get past it and on with the dog s completed training. So if your aim, your goal, is to own and hunt behind a finished grouse dog that knows what s what in the coverts, Building a Grouse Dog is the best guide you ll ever have.
by Parker Loew
After reports of pets being taken, federal officials set up a trapping zone and captured and euthanized eight wolves between Babbitt and Ely.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services Division doesn’t take decisions like these lightly and only performs the trapping of wolves under extreme circumstances.
“After the first report, they (USDA) didn’t set up a trapping zone, just deterrence plans. After the second report two weeks later, they opened a trapping control zone,” said Anthony Bermel, conservation officer with the DNR.
The trapping zone established was only around one acre in size, and lasted roughly a week, but the USDA trapped and euthanized eight wolves in the established zone.
While they would prefer to not euthanize any wildlife, Bermel explains how it isn’t that simple.
“Wolves have their territories, it is very difficult to relocate them,” said Bermel. “Once they identify humans as a food source, it makes it much more difficult.”
The DNR and USDA have received an elevated number of calls this fall from residents in the northwoods on their pets being chased and taken by wolves, and wolves that aren’t afraid of humans.
The wolf-deer dynamic is likely to blame for the increased interaction between people and wolves this year.
“I think it is primarily low deer population in the wolves’ territories,” said Bermel. “The abundance of deer in town and close to residents who often feed the deer plays a large part in drawing the wolves close to people.”
The eight wolves trapped by the USDA were described as “healthy, but fit.”
This time of year, it is early for wolves to be fit (thin), and further adds to the hypothesis that there is an abundance of wolves this year and a low deer population in their normal territories.
“If you live out in the woods or if you’re out grouse hunting or walking your dog, just be aware because there’s been several of these incidents over the last few weeks,” he said.
by Sara LaJeunesse, Pennsylvania State University
Despite decades of decline, a genetic analysis of ruffed grouse reveals that Pennsylvania's state bird harbors more genetic diversity and connectivity than expected. The findings suggest that the iconic game bird could be maintained in persistent numbers if appropriate protections are implemented. The study, led by Penn State and Pennsylvania Game Commission researchers, is published in Molecular Ecology.
According to the researchers, Pennsylvania's ruffed grouse populations have declined by up to 70% since the early 1960s, with birds in the southern part of the state particularly affected by West Nile virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, and by habitat fragmentation due to development.
"By all typical metrics, the ruffed grouse is in a state of rapid decline," said Julian Avery, associate research professor of wildlife conservation at Penn State and co-author of the paper. "Yet, until now, no one had used genetic tools to investigate the effects of this decline at a deeper level. By applying whole-genome sequencing, we have found that the bird is genetically better off than we suspected, which means that habitat protection and other management interventions can work to protect this species."
Leilton Luna, postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and corresponding author of the paper, explained that when an organism's population size drops too low because of disease or habitat loss, inbreeding can occur, which can lead to a decline in genetic diversity over time.
"Populations with low genetic diversity have a harder time evolving in response to changing environmental conditions and are at greater risk of extinction," Luna said. "In the case of the Pennsylvania ruffed grouse, due to the sharp population decline, it certainly doesn't have the same healthy genetic conditions as it did in the past. Even so, the current levels of genetic diversity and connectivity give us great hope for the preservation of this species."
As an initial step, the team produced the first high-quality reference genome for ruffed grouse. A reference genome, Luna said, is a representative example of a particular organism's genes.
"This reference genome serves as a standardized genetic baseline, facilitating accurate comparisons of genome-wide diversity between individuals and populations," Luna said. "Additionally, this genomic resource will enable us to investigate important questions, such as whether specific genetic components, like adapted genes, contribute to varying population responses to West Nile virus in different ruffed grouse populations."
To investigate the population health of the ruffed grouse in Pennsylvania, the research team sequenced 54 individual bird genomes within habitats that were both fragmented by development and intact. The researchers examined the sequence data for evidence of gene flow, which indicates that genetic material is readily exchanged among migrating populations.
I put the 11 year old Tasha down at the first spot that we could hunt at. It is a little bit older than what I would think of as prime but within a 100 yards of starting she went on point and I was able to take the bird with one shot. It was in thinner cover than what we have been moving birds out of. After another 1/2 hour we were ready to turn around and head back to the truck and she started to work scent and this one held for a moment before flushing close to the trail. I was able to also take this one. On the way back we had a bumped bird and I did not connect on it.
Tasha got in just over an hour at 70 degrees and we moved 3 birds and took two.
The second spot was Val’s and this one looked better. Unfortunately we had a tailwind to start and had two bumped birds on the way out. We turned around at the 45 minute mark. I wasn’t too optimistic that we would see anything since we had just hunted the trail. Val ended up working wider than on the way out and got a point within 10 minutes. She was 70 yards off the trail and I was a little surprised that the bird was still holding for her. I was able to take her on the flush and Val made the retrieve. We got a second point about 200 yards short of the truck and it was also near the trail and I had another day shot.
We ended the day as it was creeping into the high 70s and the wind was also picking up. We didn’t move any woodcock today, but on the plus side most of the shots were the easiest that we’ve had so far this season.
Gabriela Zaldumbide Gabby Zaldumbide is Project Upland's managing editor.
Wisconsin’s natural beauty caught my eye as a young child. Images of Devil’s Lake State Park and Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area are still vivid in my mind, even though I haven’t been to either of those places in over a decade.
I continued to admire southern Wisconsin’s humble beauty while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During my junior year, I helped a PhD student named Amy with her ruffed grouse research project. We took a trip up to the Sandhill State Wildlife Area to collect grouse scat one weekend, and while hiking around, Amy pointed out several drumming logs she’d found while working on her research project. Although I didn’t lay eyes on the king of the uplands while helping her with data collection, just being in its presence was enough to excite me.
I volunteered with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in my senior year of undergrad. I stocked pheasants for them in Dane County’s public lands, something I will never forget. I know planted birds are a completely different deal than wild ones; however, watching roosters explode out of my truck and coast all the way to the treeline is a glorious sight for any bird nerd to behold.
As a future bird hunter, I aspire to return to my home state to hunt ruffed grouse, American woodcock, and pheasant someday. I’d love to take another look at the natural areas that were important to me as a kid through the lens of a bird hunter. It’ll be an honor to join the ranks of other midwestern bird hunters who see Wisconsin’s incredible value.
Ruffed grouse are one of the most popular species to hunt in Wisconsin. They fill the state’s northern forests. One of the best areas to hunt for ruffed grouse is Price County. Price County and its 300,000 acres of hunting land is known to many as the “Ruffed Grouse Capital of the World.” There are other places to hunt ruffed grouse in Wisconsin, of course. However, it’s worth making it up to Price County if you’re hunting birds in Wisconsin.
The ruffed grouse season is broken up into two zones. Zone A, which is west of U.S. Highway 151, is open from September 16 through January 7, 2024. The daily bag limit is five birds, and the possession limit is 15 birds. Zone B is in the southeastern corner of the state. It is open from October 14 through December 8 with a daily bag limit of two birds and a possession limit of six birds.