By Mark Parman
''There are types of looking: traditional searching, and ruffed-grouse hunting.''—Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac
Like that past grouse hunter Aldo Leopold, Mark Parman takes to the woods while the aspens are smoky gold. the following, in an evocative almanac that chronicles the early season of the grouse hunt via its lead to the snows of January, Parman follows his puppy in the course of the altering bushes and foliage, thrills to the unexpected flush of thrashing wings, and holds a chicken in hand, grateful for the meal it is going to offer. Distilling twenty seasons of grouse searching into those essays, he writes of outdated canine and gun lust, disguise and transparent slicing, weather switch, partners female and male, natural world paintings, and stumps. A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac delves into the brain of a hunter, exploring the Northwoods with a watch for greater than simply game.
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Additional resources for A Grouse Hunter's Almanac: The Other Kind of Hunting
One theory states that parasites weaken birds to the point that other factors—cold and scarcity of food—kill off many of them. This idea comes from English scientists and their work with red grouse, research that may or may not be applicable to America’s ruffed grouse populations. Gordon Gullion, the country’s best-known and respected ruffed grouse biologist, has postulated that aspens emit a toxin to protect I 46 The Cycle 47 their buds and keep grouse populations in check. Grouse, ﬁnding their favorite buds no longer palatable, seek other foods not as abundant or nutritious.
Like Leopold, I love to hunt woodcock but know they are a fragile species, easily overhunted. Their habitat shrinks every year, lost mostly to development, and this destruction is pushing their numbers lower. A November 2008 National Geographic article also illustrates how many migrating birds, including woodcock, ﬂy into tall buildings in urban areas during their ﬂights. An incalculable number die this way. Since I’ve witnessed the sky dance, a few woodcock every season are enough. Some year, I suspect, I might give up shooting them altogether, content just to watch them twitter off out of sight.
Once his bark fetched my brother and me a hundred yards to a bird he’d treed. I threw sticks at the bird until it dove out of the tree, and my brother shot it. Gunnar pounced on it when it fell, quite happy to think he had outsmarted that one. Typically, I miss grouse that ﬂush from trees or brush, the uncouth downward ﬂush handcufﬁng my shooting. In my experience, however, most Wisconsin ruffed grouse are extremely wary. In all my years of hunting, I’ve never had a dog seize one on the ground.
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