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. right here, in an evocative almanac that chronicles the early season of the grouse hunt via its result in the snows of January, Parman follows his puppy in the course of the altering bushes and foliage, thrills to the surprising flush of thrashing wings, and holds a poultry in hand, grateful for the meal it is going to supply. Distilling twenty seasons of grouse searching into those essays, he writes of previous canines and gun lust, disguise and transparent slicing, weather swap, partners female and male, natural world artwork, and stumps. A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac delves into the brain of a hunter, exploring the Northwoods with an eye fixed for greater than simply game.
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Even though the In Praise of Old Dogs 29 cover had changed, the popples growing taller and thicker, they couldn’t obscure the points and ﬂushes and shots of long gone Octobers and Novembers. Gunnar was a young, lean dog then, full of vinegar, without the scar on his ear and the fatty tumor in his armpit, and I didn’t have a chronically sore right shoulder and a bunion on my right foot. A hard point brought me back to earth, and after a ﬂush and a shot Gunnar fetched up the dead bird. As he moved toward it, a frightened and confused doe arose from the long grass at his feet, and instead of ﬂeeing out into the empty marsh in front of us, she came right back at us, like a fullback bulling through a defensive line on fourth and one.
Still I hoped the judges had been impressed with Ox’s stamina and drive. He’d worked every bit of the cover, slashing and quartering, running hard despite a bleeding tongue. And since no other puppy had recorded a point, I still felt we had a chance as we walked out of the woods. Later that afternoon, as my wife and I sat inconspicuously in the rear of the awards ceremony, the winners were announced, and I Ox 43 sensed Ox wouldn’t be among them. He wasn’t. All the prizes in the puppy stakes went to dogs that bumped birds on the rationale that they had found birds.
Most of us have never witnessed this phenomenon, even though we might live just yards away from the dancing grounds. Most Wisconsin woodcock hunters haven’t seen it either. We have taken several of our neighbors to a ﬁeld near our cabin where the woodcock dance every spring, and the sky dance has become our annual entertainment. The male begins the dance in a clearing in a wooded area around dusk, emitting a series of peents, an insectlike sound. It’s also similar to the sound a nighthawk makes as it hunts insects in the twilight summer sky.
A Grouse Hunter's Almanac: The Other Kind of Hunting by Mark Parman