October in the North Woods

By: Rena Penkala © 2011
(Used with permission)

Rena and her husband Joe live in Newton, New Jersey. In the Fall of 2007 Joe and a friend of his took a Grouse hunting trip through the Northland which included Northern Minnesota and Little Bass Lake Resort. This year (2011) he and Rena decided to take a similar trip and their first "hunting" stop was again LBLR. She was kind enough to write this decription of the first leg of their trip. Read and enjoy.

Well, we have settled into our cabin at Little Bass Lake Resort in Northern Minnesota for the remainder of the week. As a welcome, Joe immediately heard the call of a Loon as he opened the door to the car. We have arrived, and the promise of productive hunts in the days to come keeps us excited. It took a bit longer than we planned to get here. It was decided that we drive straight north in Michigan, cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, avoid the traffic in Chicago, and immediately enjoy the wonders of the Great Lakes. As we drove across the bridge, Lake Huron was on our right side, Lake Michigan on our left, and upon arriving at the western tip of the UP, we were treated to the vastness of Lake Superior. Lake Superior even sounds like the ocean.

As a special bonus, the entire North Woods is in full color. I cannot say that I have ever seen Autumn’s colors look more beautiful! There is so much of it…nearly a sensory overload. As we crossed the UP, we saw very little of the trappings of civilization, very few towns, cars, or buildings of any kind; just colorful trees. A beautiful mix of evergreens and deciduous trees as you would expect in the Boreal Forest. We also spotted some Deer, several Eagles, and lots dead Porcupines alongside the road.

We stopped at the Brule River State Forest in Wisconsin on our journey to Little Bass Lake Resort. Joe read an article many years ago about fishing for Steelhead in the Brule River heading towards its mouth at Lake Superior. When you tired of fishing you would go in search of the Ruffed Grouse, a game bird that lives in the North Woods and is very difficult to harvest. When it flushes, it thunders into the air and flies very fast. For novice hunters such as myself it can be a bit startling the first few times you experience it. This visit to the State Forest is confirmation that the place that sounded so good in print actually exists.

So…the GPS is set, the handhelds charged, the pocket emergency kits ready, the camera battery charged, equipment and dogs ready, and a forecast for good weather. Hopefully there will be good cover filled with the elusive Ruffed Grouse.

We were up early the next day, scrambled around to get ready and headed out for the first morning of Hunting. The sun comes up a little after 7AM here. Grouse hunting is "civilized" in that you don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn to do it. A “Gentleman’s Sport”. Joe was here 4 years ago and has returned with me to share his great experience.

We wandered into the Aspen woodlot this morning. The air temperature is 63 degrees. There is a light wind blowing. The air is dry. This is good and bad. It is comfortable to be outside, but very hard for the dogs to scent birds in these conditions. Even so, they put up 4 woodcock and 6 grouse this morning. They are both working hard and finding birds and holding great points. Joe and I both connected with grouse today. What an experience; the sights, sounds, and smells of October in the North Woods.