By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Thinking about bigbirds
Random Thoughts, March 16
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - No – not the big yellow bird of Disneyland and television fame. I’m thinking about the big birds we sometime see in local fields and woods.

You may not think that woodland scene is special, but if you have been around this area for a few years you may remember that it was big news when wild turkeys arrived in this area after a long absence.

A small number of the birds came back to Southwest Wisconsin in a newsworthy manner during the last days of February and the first days of March, 1980.

The birds flew here – sort of! A news story in this newspaper explained that a group of wild turkeys, 11 hens and five toms, had been trapped in a woods in Crawford County, Missouri. The birds were placed on a waiting airplane and arrived at the Lone Rock Airport about 3:00 p.m. that day.

After a session at the ranger station, where they were tagged and blood and saliva samples taken, the birds were released near Arena just before nightfall. The new arrival hens weighed 10 or 11 pounds with one tom tipping the scale at 23 pounds.

A week later another release of a like number of birds took place in the Town of Pulaski hills near Muscoda.

The successful effort to restore wild turkeys to this area including sending trapped Wisconsin ruffed grouse to Missouri in exchange for the turkeys. Missouri was trying to get a grouse population established in the woods there. I don’t know how that plan worked out in the southern state.

However, it seems a big ironic that grouse here were plentiful enough to trap a few to trade, but now they seemingly are rather rare in Southwest Wisconsin woods.

During my hunting days, ruffed grouse were favorite game birds to hunt – and perhaps the best to eat. It was fun to hunt them with a pointing breed dog. My hunting days are over but my deer hunting sons report flushing a grouse in this area is rare.

In the 1960s I volunteered to get up early on spring mornings, drive specified back roads to designated spots to stop and listen for grouse drumming. The number heard at each location was recorded.

If what I hear from current deer hunters is correct, driving and listening for drumming grouse would likely be a waste of gasoline – except for seeing and hearing the woods wake up on still April morning.