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Something gorgeous to grouse about/Woods, water & worse

October 14, 2011
By Jim Junttila , The Daily Mining Gazette

"If you're a Yooper bird and duck hunter, this is your time to be beating around the bush," said WW&W waterfowl correspondent Red Head.

"While redheads are ravishing, wood ducks are things of beauty as well," added WW&W wildlife correspondent Paris Hiltunen, "Mallards are magnificent."

Upland gamebirds like partridge and woodcock are more popular with Yooper shotgunners, who tend to overlook our wondrous waterfowl. But here in the northernmost woods and waters of the Keweenaw, savvy duck hunters know they can find ducks in the same venues they fish for brookies. Just like 100 percent of the fish are caught when your line's in the water, an equally high percentage of upland gamebirds and ducks are shot with your gun outa the case. For the prettiest partridge photography you've ever seen by Tim Flanigan, visit natureexposure.com.

Ruffed grouse, Bonasa umbellas and woodcock, Scolopaz minora, cultural nickname "Timberdoodle," are both Yooper favorites. Partridge season runs Sept. 15-Nov. 14, daily limit five birds; woodcock season runs Sept. 22-Nov. 5, statewide limit three per day, six in possession.

North Zone (Yooper) waterfowl season for ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens runs Oct. 2-Nov. 30; Canada goose, as well as Snow, Blue, Ross, White-fronted and Brant geese, runs Sept. 16-Oct. 30.

For the record, Yooper ruffed grouse flush rates tend to fly highest in Zone 1 (the U.P.), followed by Zone 2 (Northern lower peninsula), and Zone 3 (Southern L.P.).

While WW&W Fall correspondent Autumn Equinox likes to call this time of year color foliage or football season, I grew up calling it partridge and duck season and it stuck to this day. I never did outgrow being a hick who says crick either, as in Woodtick Crick and Gooseneck Crick, all good wood duck hunting venues. Beavers are their buddies for creating ideal habitat where woodies thrive.

Woody Woodpecker was my first feathered friend of childhood. Then over the years, my tastes evolved to partridge, pheasant and woodcock, then ducks, geese and waterfowl of all kinds. These days I'm partial to the wood ducks, Aix sponsa, one of the prettiest and most colorful ducks ever, a turn-off to fundamentalists who believe being pretty on the outside detracts from what's on the inside, and that's what counts, you know?

Preferring nature's beauty to abnormal and unnatural fundamentalism, I don't know that, nor do talented artists who have been inspired by the strikingly gorgeous wood duck from prehistoric Indians to Audubon paintings to international award-winning artists like James Hautman, multi-winner of the Federal duck stamp contest, the most prestigious of all conservation art competitions with his painting of a pair of wood ducks in "Flud's Mill Pond Woodies." To see it, and other wondrous woodie art, visit scwa.org.

Also known as the Carolina duck or "Summer duck," woodies have their own mystique and have the largest, reddest eyes of any waterfowl. They don't call them redeyes for nothing; those big eyes give them enhanced vision in low light as they fly acrobatically through the trees.

Woodies are medium-size perching ducks about 19-21 inches long with crested heads and a wingspan of 26-29 inches. The drake, considered to be the most beautiful of all ducks, has distinctive, multi-colored. iridescent plumage, red eyes and a white flare down its neck. The female is more the plain Jane fundamentalist type, less colorful with a white eye ring. Nesting in tree cavities or man-made boxes, hens are prolific breeders, laying 7-15 white-tan eggs that incubate for 30 days, and can produce two broods in a single season, the only North American duck that can do so. Preferred breeding habitat is wooded swamps, shallow lakes, ponds and creeks, especially Woodtick Crick and other remote Keweenaw trout streams where beavers have dammed up ideal wetland habitat.

Woodies also love forested areas and tend to perch more frequently than any other North American duck. Wood ducks spend a good part of the day like outdoor writers, just loafing around, fishing and foraging, mostly to conserve energy and keep themselves hidden from pretty predators.

"Next to the mallard, woodies are the second most popularly-hunted duck in North America," said Red Head, thankful to be shot at less frequently.

Jim can be reached for a game of duck, duck, goose 24/7/365 at junttila@chartermi.net.

 
 

 

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