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Grouse!

Bonasa Umbellus

Grouse hunting has evolved into something of an annual adventure. I learned to hunt for ruffed grouse from my dad all through my childhood. Following his passing my grouse hunts for the most part ended with the exception of the occasional weekend at Marks family cabin on lake Leora near Cotton, MN. In August 1986 I moved back to Minnesota from Illinois and began a new annual grouse tradition with my friend Pete,  later consolidating my hunt with Mark into a single fall outing. In the initial years of this grouse trip Pete and I returned to the Crow River State Forest / Greer Lake Campground that I had previously frequented with my Dad. Tent camping at  the State Forest primitive campground at Greer lake (near Cross lake, MN) allowed easy access to the Crow River State Forest and decent hunting trails but offered few amenities. In 1996 our outing location moved to private property near Beaver Bay, MN owned by the Bergman family who kindly offered us accomodations in a restored 1890's square log cabin named Sulomaki and access to the families many acres of forest / timberland.

The ruffed grouse is a chicken-like bird that weighs about 500 grams (1.1 pounds.). Males tend to be slightly larger than females and have a large tail that it fans to attract a mate or defend its territory. The female’s tail is similar but smaller and usually is the best external basis for determining sex (Gough 1998). Across most of its range, a fully-grown tail feather of over 14.9 cm (5.87 inches) in length usually belongs to a male; less than 14 cm (5.5 inches), a hen. Ruffed grouse have two or more color phases ranging from a grayish to a reddish-brown color. Red phased grouse become more prevalent in milder climates and gray birds are more abundant where winter climates are more severe. Male ruffed grouse are aggressively territorial throughout their adult lives and proclaim their area by a “drumming” display. The male usually stands on a log, stone or mound of dirt and beats his wings against the air to create a vacuum, creating a drumming sound. The substrate, often called a “drumming log,” is used strictly for a stage; the bird does not strike the “log” to make the sound (Rusch et al. 1999). Source Judy A. Barnes, SC DNR. http://www.dnr.sc.gov/cwcs/pdf/ruffedgrouse.pdf

  

The following is an attempt to reconstruct and chronicle our trips using notes, memories and photos. A work in progress, please pardon our mess! If you are in a position of knowledge and become aware of any errors or omissions please email them to me


October 13-16, 2016. 20th Anniversary at Sulo. Trails are dryer this year, saw some birds and had our opportunities. We drive up starting at 3am thursday. Quick donation at the Casino and breakfast with Eric in Duluth. 20th anniversary gift from David is 2 12 packs of Dos Equis XX beer waiting in the cabin. Much better than the skunky old Summer shanty Pete rescued out of his brother's garage. Pete gets out front with 2 birds, both on the main trail between 1 & 2 on Day 1. Mark arrives late thursday with the food. Day 2 Brad gets one out of a tree after following up a flyover and a second flush on the section line. Big burger party Friday night, Carmen brings her famous guacamole + a big red 20th anniversary cake. We had stopped at Betties Pies for a triple chocolate pie which we gave to david to bring back to cabin 1. Day three Pete takes a swing at a bird in the road to Sulo only to discover it was 2 birds in the road + 2 in the bush! All 4 escaped. Rounded the corner to flush 2 birds, Pete gets one and Brad the other. Brad's is a truly young bird, likely the smallest grouse ever shot by any of us. Final score Pete 3, Brad 2, Mark 0.

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October 29-November 1, 2015. Wet, wetter, wettest! Not a good year for the skillet, we were completely blanked this year! Previous weeks rain had the trails so wet that some atv tracks looked more like rivers than trails. Flushed a few birds each day but no one was accurate enough to bag one. Dave had replaced the front porch on Sulo complete with a cabinet quality notch job around the center support post, Pete made a nice gun rack out of reclaimed lumber for storing our guns just inside the cabin. Dave and Carmen came out Friday night for the traditional bacon cheeseburger feed. next year will be the 20th anniversary of our treks to Sulo, big party? Best food - Thursday night, mark surpassed all previous attempts at stand up porkchops - best ever!   

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large_2015Davidsfirstcourse.JPG large_2015Carmen.JPG large_2015newporch2.JPG large_2015newporch1.JPG 

 


October 9-12, 2014 - he shoots - he scores! Mark gets 2! Beautiful weather with peak leaf timing, highs in the upper 50's, frost at night. First day was looking good with 3 sightings on Highway #3 coming in, 3 flushes in the first half hour - then nothing! Day 2 lots of flushes but tough shooting, Pete and I each get 1 on the Alger grade + Mark gets his first bird at the north end of the grade beyond the road barrier and a 2nd one in the driveway after picking Pete and me up at the North end of the river trail (where we saw nothing). Amber start limping Friday night, probable bruise from jumping out the truck window so she had to sit out all Saturday. I got 1 more near Cabin #1 on Sunday which we gave to Carmen and her Mom. Installed a new countertop in Sulo created by Pete from laminate left over from his new kitchen and replaced the end porch board. Dave set a new bacon cheeseburger record Friday night with 2 singles (1/4# patties) followed by 3 doubles! Carmen brought her awesome guacamole as usual! Mark 2, Brad 2, Pete 1. Pete takes Davids new Can-Am side by side for a test ride, vows to own one soon!

   

   

   


October 10-13, 2013 - Look for water & the Red Berries! Skipped the Casino this year and drove straight up leaving MPLS at 4:00am. Stopped for the usual breakfast at Judy's in Two Harbors. Arrived at Sulo around 9am to a beautiful warm fall Thursday morning. Pete and I decided to work the 40 around Sulo first heading west to the river then south to the old bridge and crosscountry back to the cabin. Flushed 4 mostly in the thick cover of which Brad shot 2. Craws full of red berries. Mark arrives in time for the afternoon hunt, took the grade to #1 and worked the three trails between 1 & 2 before returning to Sulo. Mark flushes one near the Rock and one on the pump trail. Spent Friday morning chasing birds in the area around the cabin. Pete gets a beautiful rust phase on the road heading out to the Alger grade. Mark returns to the pump trail determined to find the bird he missed thursday and indeed bags the grouse not far from cabin 1. Dave and Carmen join us for dinner Friday night - Carmen brings her famous guacamole and Dave puts forth a heroic effort on the burgers. Pete locates a new area near the snowmobile trail which we work on Saturday morning. 4 flushes, Brad gets 1 more there. Hunted near the Ramstad trail shelter off the Alger, chased a couple birds around but no success. Hot, sunny weather with only a little rain on Friday night. Nice Fall colors. Birds mostly in heavier cover near wet areas or streams, berries, clover, pine nuts most consistently found. repaired the gas lantern with new mantles and replaced the broken glass pane in the front door. Final score Pete 1, Mark 1, Brad 5.

   

  


October 11-14, 2012 - Technology invades the solitude of Sulo! Casino was very harsh this year, both Pete and Brad lost their butts. Stopped for the usual breakfast at Judy's, then swung by the local lumber yard for a couple of 8' treated 4" x 4" to make repair to the outer porch posts at the cabin. Weather was cool but nice when we arrived at Sulo so decided to go hunt instead of working on the porch. Brad & Pete both had one bird in the bag by the time Mark showed up late thursday afternoon. Now the weather started switching between sunny / clear to suddenly snowing big flakes or short rain/sleet squalls. Mark and Pete set up the first wireless hotspot using Pete's Iphone4 and the two of them spent considerable time playing with their Iphone apps, so much for the peace and tranquility of the north woods! Friday night was double bacon cheeseburgers with Dave and Carmen in our usual get together. Of course Carmen brought her fabulous guacamole. Hunted hard, all day friday, saturday we took a break only long enough to fix the outer porch roof supports (luckily Dave was nearby with his chainsaw which shortened the job). Mark broke a kitchen chair and our new drill bit while attempting a half gainer off the porch while drilling for the lag bolts. Luckily he was uninjured. Hunted Sunday until 3pm trying to get that grouse for Mark. Final score Brad 5, Pete 2, Mark.............. . Brad switches guns this year to the vintage benelli montefeltro super 90 uplander 12 (21"barrel) he found at his sisters home in Colorado. Projects for next year include finding mantles for the Humphreys dual gas lamp, replacing the broken pane in the door, possible kitchen workspace / counter replacement.

   

   

 


October 13-16, 2011 -Toughest Year in memory! Casino results: Pete down 2 bills, Brad up about 70. Stopped for breakfast at Judy's then bought a 14' treated 4x4 post and concrete base at Two Harbors lumber. Had to leave the back topper window open since the post was longer than Pete's truck so the gear got pretty muddy on the way in. Unpacked and cleaned the cabin then set to work installing the new porch roof support post. Repaired the side (eave) posts  best we could but should do it right next year. Will need 2- 8' 4x4's to do the job right. Rainy Thursday, hunted the afternoon anyways (nada)! Mark shows up after dark with "stand up" porkchops (see below photo). Friday light drizzle off and on, very windy. Pete gets the first bird in a bush near the rock just off the trail. Seeing very few birds this year, Mark flushes a bird at the gate to Sulo at dusk, Pete gets him after they chase him down a couple times. Dave comes out for cheeseburger dinner (Carmen could not make it this year), noticed the new post right away. Brought a bowl of fresh guacamole made by Carmen's mother, Mark licked the bowl clean again so it must have been pretty good! Saturday was very windy again so we tried the Alger Grade and Bear Pit, Mark fails to fire at an easy road shot, Brad gets his first just north of the RR tracks. Found a new public hunting trail along the creek between Alger grade and Highway 3, nice terrain but saw nothing. Saturday night flushed same bird 3 times near cabin #1 but missed him. On way back through 1 hour later Brad picked him up near the same spot on a wing shot from near the green truck. Sunday was windy and Mark set out on a quest for his grouse while Pete and Brad packed up. Mark finished with a Blank-0 but not without giving it the old college try. Stopped in Duluth to return Carmen's guacamole pan and thank her and her mother for the great cleaning job on Sulo. Final score: Pete 2, Brad 2, Mark 0.

  

   

 

October 14-17, 2010 - Year of Bud, Mark's new gun, and "treeboy". Thursday Brad & Pete only, Mark arrived on thursday night. Casino was good to Brad (4 deuces), not as good to Pete, outdoor kennels were open. New tradition - Breakfast at Judy's in Two Harbors on the way up! Score ended Pete 4, Brad 4, Mark 0. Thursday -  Pete shoots 3 in trees, Brad gets one grounder. Friday we are skunked! Saturday Brad gets 2 on the wing and one follow-up on a log. Sunday Pete gets a wing shot near Cabin #1. Mark hung an old 9 point buck mount above the door in Sulo, came from the cabin he bought from Bud O'Brien - Dave likes it so now Bud the Buck has a new home. Mark brings a brand new Browning BPS pump 20 but he never gets a shot at a bird with it so we'll wait until next year to see if it works! Cabin #1 has a fresh coat of paint thanks largely to Carmen's hard work. New futon in Sulo replaces the old couch, Brad patches the hole in the floor under the table with hydraulic cement. Carmen and Dave visit for bacon cheeseburger dinner on Saturday night.

  

 

 

 

October 15-18, 2009 - Outdoor kennels at Grand Casino closed for the season when we get there. Brad brings a gps this year in addition to Mark's - we begin process of mapping all the trails. carmen and Dave in Mexico for the whole month so we did not get to see them this year.

October 16-19, 2008 - Discovered the outdoor secure kennels at Grand Casino Hinkley (would have been nice to know about last year...)

 

October 11-14, 2007 - First year with Amber. Amber makes a mess in her kennel in the back of Brad's Trailblazer while at the casino... Brad made new routed redwood sign for Sulo and affixed it above door. rePete makes one of his rare appearances.

   

  

  

 

October 26-29, 2006 - Drove in but did not bring three wheelers.

October 13-16, 2005 - Drove in but brought wheelers. Pete hits grouse with three wheeler!

October 14-18, 2004 - Drove in - road open. trailered wheelers. Brought new table for Sulo?

October 9-12, 2003 - wheelered in again.

 

October 2002 - First year that Mark comes along with us to Sulo. Wheelered in using the two 125Ms and the welding trailer. Marks emergency air compressor saves the day. Split up at 7 sided, mark & I headed down grade to cabin #2, Pete went out road assumed to be access to 7 sided. We all ended up lost but oddly ended up in the same unknown place. Mark's gps saves the day! (thats two saves in his first year)

 

 

 

March 27, 2002 Donald passes away from heart failure while sitting in his pickup at cabin #1. God rest his soul we truly miss him!

October 2001 - Brad misses this year because Jordan is newborn, Pete drives up in a friends RV. Lotsa rain - Don takes them into town for burgers.

October 2000 - bug bombed Donalds Cabin (cabin #1)

October 1999 - Road dispute - Donald towed our stuff in behind his 3 wheeler. brought bug bombs which really worked well

October 1998 - Brad suffering back problems (herniated disc) - skipped- same years as Brad's wedding

October 1997 - Found Donald at cabin #2 - he gave us permission to use Sulo. Lots of Flies - Pete sets personal grouse record, first to take 5 in one day

October 1996 - First year at Sulo - re-Pete & Jaime repairing Sulo. Pete & Brad tented in yard near garden. awesome northern lights viewed from roof.

October 1995 - Last year at Greer Lake.

 

October 13-15, 1994 Greer lake campground campsite #1. Brad's Jeep Cherokee

  

 

October 13-17, 1993 Greer lake campground campsite #24. Pete's grey / red Blazer. "Black" squirrels everywhere this year, Mia tries grouse dinner?

  

   

 

October 1992 - Greer lake Campground - snow again (much lighter this time) Pete's grey / red Blazer

  

 

October 31, 1991 Halloween Blizzard. Greer Lake Campground. Brand new $89 Wenzel tent.... Pete's grey / red Blazer

  

5pm 10/31/91                         7am 11/1/91

  

 

October 1990 - Pete's green Bronco. last year of the Spencer family's old canvas tent. Found a few woodcock in the swampy areas.

  

  

 

October 1989 - Greer lake Campground

October 1988 - Greer lake Campground - camped along lake near water pump - beaver makes bear like noises haha. borrowed truck?

October 1987 - Greer lake Campground (early in month - before the stock market crash) - cold - Mark joins us but brings a lightweight sleeping bag. Ends up sleeping in his T2000 and running the engine for heat every hour.

September 1986 - Grouse opener weekend - Greer lake Campground under construction. arrived late so spent the night there and moved to Cross lake campground the following day. Winston? Sunfish lunch? Got one grouse, one robin.... Used pete's pickup truck

 

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