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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: battue] #14881392 05/15/20
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George_De_Vries_3rd Offline
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Battue, some pics are worth more than a thousand words. 👍

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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14882176 05/16/20
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It may be a shorter list of what ruffed grouse don't eat than eat, it is known that dogwood berries are a favored food of ruffed grouse. A large patch of dogwood will be a consistent draw for grouse (and robins) until the berries are gone though birds will still use it for cover. It is a "pioneer" plant which is one of the first to grow back in clearcuts. Iveshot many a grouse with a 22 either spot and stalking birds like deer or elk hunting out west or sitting in wait as if squirrel hunting.

Dogwoods are also one of the most important winter food sources of whitetail deer and are heavily browsed over a winter. One can be quite successful watching over said patches come November.

George, I've always thought that area was a biological desert rather than dessert though I have seen it mostly from the MN side.😀 That area is said to be the most likely to still hold wild bobwhites in MN though I don't see how. I believe it is wishful thinking based on the rare covey found in South Dakota.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14882298 05/16/20
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The “interesting” part was we were looking for new spots and the cover beside the backroad looked like it had potential. However, the further we went in, the cover turned to predominantly big woods broken up with open fields. Far from classic Grouse cover with the exception of the Dogwood trees. We eventually moved 20 some Grouse there. Place also had some great winter thermal pine cover..

Then went back last year, a week later, berries on the trees again, and didn’t flush a single Grouse.

Addition: Last year a Bud was archery hunting out off a tree stand, and in a short period of time 7 glided or walked in and milled around the tree he was in..how did they know and why, I’ll never figure them out.

Last edited by battue; 05/16/20.

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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: woodmaster81] #14882546 05/16/20
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Yes, “biological DESERT” 😀. Burn the ditches; spray weedlines; turn over every square inch, add chemicals, and when finished with all of that, spread shiet over all of it in the spring. 😳

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14883235 05/16/20
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woodmaster81 Offline
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George,
It isn't much different p here in farm country. The only cover are the swamps too big or too deep to drain and the occasional ditch. It has even become too barren to support Huns and they don't need much. It's why my moswwt productive pheasant hunting is not in the traditional areas.

Back to grouse.

Dogwoods in and of themselves can be very good cover, they combine a decent canopy to provide cover from Hawks, open enough understory to see land based predators, and plenty of food for a short time.

Odds are, your first trip coincided with the berries being ripe while the second was early. Last year there was a late April snow storm followed by a month or more of wet, cool weather that traveled east. Many berries and nuts were delayed if not killed outright. I saw dogwoods berries on bushes into deer season, the second weekend of November which is unheard of. Typically, they ripen here late September to early October and are gone in a week or so - maybe two weeks at the most.

The cool, wet spring also coincided with the hatch in many areas which may have played a role in local populations. The poor weather ended here just in time for the latter portion of the grouse hatch but it played havoc with the woodcock hatch which was affected for the duration and then some.

The idea of conifers being good winter cover must be an Eastern thing. We consider them a scourge and are cut down relentlessly when cutting for grouse habitat. Conifers are thought of as a last ditch, emergency winter cover as they provide, at best, a 10 degree thermal barrier. Far and away the best winter cover is snow with an 18" depth allowing for as warm as 20 degrees above zero in the dead of winter. The change in temps can cut feeding times and duration by more than half between the two cover types. That lessens predation opportunities greatly.

Conifers are also noted for providing perfect ambush perches for goshawks. Owls hunt from conifers a lot too and they can be a significant factor in winter mortality. Conifers are also home to red squirrels which are prime food sources of fishers and martens which won't pass up a grouse if given a chance.

Again, different regions have differing habitat availability and requirements. "Good" habitat can vary greatly from region to region. I'm still trying to get a handle on the grouse of North Dakota and the Driftless region of MN and WI- odds are I'll never do so to a reliable degree.

Last edited by woodmaster81; 05/16/20.
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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: woodmaster81] #14883684 05/16/20
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battue Offline
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Interesting thoughts on the berries.....and we have had miserable wet springs here in Pa for the last 5 years or so...

Re: Pines:

Agree on the snow being probably the best winter roosting spot....Problem is it rarely gest deep enough here in Pa. and when it does it takes a determined hunter to bust thru shin to knee high snow for any length of time, combined with our hills....Have done it a few times and when they came up out of the snow on a sunny day, it was almost magical....Back in the late 70's and 80's when we thought we could never kill all of our Grouse, there were more than a few covers that had thick stands of close together young pines.....Perhaps 5-7 feet high and packed tight against each other....Work the edges of them with a flusher going inside and it bordered on not being fair...the numbers of Birds that often came out of them in the second season could get crazy.....

Same with old strip mine high walls with low thick young wild grape vines....So thick that sometimes they had a hard time getting out....You heard the thrashing of wings and stood there waiting for them to clear....

As you said, different locations ....

Last edited by battue; 05/16/20.

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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: woodmaster81] #14884077 05/16/20
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WM, at least you have those swamps that cannot be tilled. Wildlife needs some natural winter cover, and it’s a balm for the soul to have some soil that’s never been turned over.

But then I shouldn’t get too worked up at Iowa farmers for squeezing the land when it goes for 18-22k per acre.

With your mix of farmland and swamps, I imagine you grow some nice whitetails.

One more divergence — even the Hun’s, the hardiest bird I’ve ever seen, have for the most part departed from here though they were never numerous.

Thankfully, America is wonderfully diverse in a thousand ways.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14884785 05/17/20
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Those swamps are the remainder of lakes which turned out to be a little deeper than the drainage ditches the tiles are run to. Went from waterfowl lakes to mosquito ridden swamp. It does provide winter cover to the handful of birds that make from the egg but there isn't much nesting cover as the land is plowed to the point the tractor sinks into the morass.

The largest deer (body weight) are regularly found in the far north part of the state, not farm country. The homestead is closer to Canada than a MN town and at least one buck dressing over 200#, often significantly more, is taken every year. The rest of the state see the occasional large deer but it seems much less common on a percentage basis.

Funny thing is, the deer of SW MN seem to be losing ground to the larger Missouri River deer expanding out from NE. The genetic lines of that portion of MN seem to run on the small side and somewhat counter to Bergman's Rule (I think that is the one).

I miss the Huns, they like droughty conditions and a normal year is just too wet for them. 30-40 years ago they were pretty common through the southern 1/4 of the state and along the western edge to Canada but now it is nearly a red letter day to find a covey. Thankfully, they are still pretty common in ND, MT, and Manitoba.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14884830 05/17/20
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woodmaster81 Offline
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Back to woodcock.

Yesterday went out checking the nests I found a couple weeks ago to see if they hatched. Two had, never found the first nest but was able to band three chicks from another. An older brood was found but they could fly far enough to land out of sight. The woods are greening up pretty quick. The other two nests should hatch any day but I hope it isn't today as it is raining and expected to all day long.

I have next weekend to find more chicks but rain is forecast for all three days. After that, other commitments and age of chicks greatly lessen the odds of placing bands. Having to rely on a 15 year old dog is also a factor as he just doesn't have the endurance anymore.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14885079 05/17/20
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A lot of good information about the migration of woodcock can be found here. They band birds and put geo-trackers on them as well. As the migration progresses you can look in your area for hits that give you an idea if they are in your area yet.

https://www.woodcockmigration.org/migration.html

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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14885372 05/17/20
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Last year I was driving to the barn early in the morning about sunup, there were 2 Woodcock by the water, I have never seen a Woodcock in Texas, the first time 1966, I hunted Woodcock was in South Woodstock, Vermont, with a group of old Yankee farmers, all of them used SXS 410s, I killed 3 the first morning after passing the first 2 or 3 because I didn't know what they were, they are tricky and fun to hunt.
Those old Vermont farmers were some weird ducks, I could tell some fun story's about hunting with them. Rio7

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: RIO7] #14885555 05/17/20
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Interesting. the SxS 410’s must have come from some local consensus as applied to woodcock at that time. I cannot recall that there were even that many offerings at that time. Expert shotgunning though I presume.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14885910 05/17/20
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George, Yep those guy's could shoot, The 410 they loaned me was a Harrington- Richardson, sxs they used 2 1/2" #8 shot, several of them rented farm land from my Father in Law who an avid bird hunter, my father in law used a FOX sxs, as I remember of my brother in law used a Ithaca.
That was a long time ago, but my son has the Harrington-Richardson now, his Grandfather gave it to him, abut 30 years ago. Rio7

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14886338 05/17/20
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Here in NC and also GA ( the only two sates I hunt woodcock ) they are not always found in thick cover but usually close to it.
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After a long day
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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14886495 05/17/20
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That last picture is great. The woodcock might be rising, but dog is plum tuckered out.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14888034 05/18/20
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woodmaster81 Offline
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At one time 410 shells were the least expensive shells one could buy. They were often sold singlely longer into the era than the larger bores. In that way it was the "22 LR" of the shotgun world for a few decades and one reason the 410 was so often a beginner's gun. I have owned boxes of 12, 16, 20 ga, and 410 of the same brand, era, and likely store which showed the price progression from 12 down to 410. The 410 was almost half the 12 ga and 3/4 that of the 20 ga for "low brass" in the larger bores and 3" in the 410.

The first O/U I bought was a Citori in 410. I bought it for the express purpose of shooting woodcock. The season for woodcock opened on Sept. 1 back then which was two weeks before grouse opened up. Cover was very thick and green as the first hard frost was a couple weeks away so ranges seldom exceeded 20 yards and often much less. Hunting was tough as temps were often in the 80's and even 90s were possible. There was also a 5 bird limit back in those days.

I was minorly involved in the radio collaring of woodcock in the early years, the adults were caught in mist nets and, most fun but also most miserable, at night using ATVs, spotlights, and fishing nets. It was miserable as netting required a rainy night which is just above freezing in April. Success wasn't huge but it is one of the few means of catching adult birds. It also was a decent break from the norm for the interns and volunteers working the project.

CWT's pictures are very familiar looking. The top could be any late season covert in MN or WI once the leaves have fallen. Flight birds seem to like more open cover, maybe due to being mostly adult males or because the openness allows them to use speed and maneuverability to flee danger. Late season can mean drier and/or frozen conditions so a source of unfrozen water and surrounding soil is a good place to start looking for birds.

The second is where I have found woodcock from Louisiana to North Carolina southward. It is getting to be what I think of when I hear "swamp quail" habitat. It is a bit drier than in some places but the look is very similar.

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14888559 05/18/20
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That second picture was from a first visit to a small Gameland tract in central NC. It turned out to be terrible woodcock habit except for one little spot about 40 yards in diameter. This spot had a patch of walnut trees and a bunch of low growing native "green" grass and some small saplings. I actually saw it before the dog got over to it and told my wife that we had a good chance here. She doesn't hunt but likes to go with me and the mutt. As soon as the dog got there he pointed and two birds got up together. I killed the first and missed the second. As we were walking off the dog went back and pointed again. I thought ya dummy why are you pointing those same birds. I told my wife just stay here and I'll be right back. I went back to the dog and he seemed so sure but I didn't believe him. Two more birds got up but flew in the direction of my wife so of course I didn't shoot.

Last edited by CWT; 05/18/20.

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Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14892037 05/19/20
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RIO7 Offline
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We Quail hunt about 4 or 5 day's a week in Jan.and Feb. my .410 is deadly on Quail. Rio7

Re: Woodcock Dance [Re: CWT] #14901863 05/22/20
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Just saw this great thread! Great photos and stories. Love to hunt woodcock in Texas. Did some undergraduate research (for a grad friend of mine) on them in ETX clearcuts back in 79. I got up and out to the field by 0400, 3-4 days per week for 4 months and counted their nuptial flights. Documented time of first pent and last pent, how many flights occurred, and how many birds. Had 2 sights to work while a friend of mine worked 2 others. Lots more birds in Texas than some think. I've found birds just west of Canton (about 40 miles east of Dallas. Find some brushy thick cover with a sandy seep and look for probe holes!

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