Venture into Michigan for a woodcock hunt
Nick Green is the public information officer for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and editor of Michigan Out-of-Doors magazine. We met at an Association of Great Lake Outdoor Writers Association (AGLOW) conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in September 2019.
If we’re lucky, a few times in this lifetime we’ll meet people who seem predestined to take this journey with us. Nick quickly became one of my favorite people.
We reconnected last week in Gaylord, Michigan and I killed a limit of woodcock behind its amazing bird dogs.
Burglar worms, as woodcock are affectionately known, are migratory game birds that can travel from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. They are hunted throughout the central part of the United States and make excellent table meals. The rich, dark game meat of a woodcock may be reminiscent of the liver. Once roasted with the skin on, drizzled with wine with mushrooms and onions, you will understand what royalty is experiencing in the dining room.
My first hunt with Nick was in North Dakota. We killed sharp-tailed grouse in the National Grasslands south of Medora. My goal was to hunt where Theodore Roosevelt had hunted. I wanted to walk, shotgun in hand, on the same meadow my hero had hunted. We managed to bag five birds between us. I killed a limit of three; Nick bagged two of them.
One of his best qualities is that Nick doesn’t care that I killed a limit and he didn’t. For him, the true value of the hunt lay in the work of his dogs, Calvin and Summit. I pretend to be the uncle of these canine hunting companions.
I have to admit that my feelings for dogs don’t match Nick’s level of extreme affection. I am a lab man. Labs are tougher than bird dogs. there is no doubt. Shotgun Willie, my 7 year old black lab, would destroy Nick’s tricky pointers in any manly challenge. However, Calvin and Summit serve an incredible purpose. They find and hold birds.
I watched Calvin hold a woodcock so that it could not point 6 inches under his nose. How that dog didn’t squeeze this bird with his jaws is beyond me. Willie has no such discipline. He is more like the footballer than a fraternal evening. You will know it is there.
What I love most about hunting grouse and woodcock in northern Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin is the way you have to take cover. These birds live in a new forest, so you dive into small trees and thicker ferns than anything a Midwest could imagine and plow ahead.
At the time, I was a linebacker in defense and a back in attack. Going aggressively in a straight line was the job. It is also my personality. I find it difficult to sit still for long periods of time. I want to move. To experience progress. Hunting these forest birds gives me this opportunity.
I haven’t found a better place to hunt woodcock than Gaylord, Michigan. This is the second time that I have visited this alpine village in as many years. Just south of the Mackinac Bridge, Gaylord is an outdoor paradise. Especially in the fall, you just have to see it to believe it. I was in town for a working conference, for which I brought fly rods, golf clubs and a 20 caliber CZ-USA double barreled shotgun. I ran out of time to fish, but I plan to talk to you soon about salmon fishing with Nick and Kevin Morlock on the Pere Marquette river on the way back.
Both times I have been here, I have stayed at the Treetops Resort. This place is phenomenal. I played the Rick Smith Signature Golf Course and the famous par-3 course. These golf courses are so hilly that it feels like riding on a roller following the path of the carts. I also ate fried lake perch, and not much in this life makes me happier.
See you soon on the track …
Brandon Butler writes a weekly column on the outdoors for the Daily Journal. He can be contacted at [email protected] For more from Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast at www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or wherever podcasts are broadcast.