Dedicated to the North American grouse species, the Spring 2020 issue is packed full of wild birds, conservation and public land adventures.
We’re kicking off the second volume of Project Upland with the public grouse themed spring issue focusing on hunting grouse — of all varieties from ruffed to ptarmigan to sooty — all on public lands. (Just ignore the pheasant on page 9) Here’s a sampling of just some of the great stories this issue has in store:
The Spring Hoot
Author and photographer Grace Sensing, follows along as her husband Wil and friend Casey McConnell search for sooty grouse in Alaska, the only place in the U.S. where you can hunt sooty grouse during their mating season.
“Even though I was not there to hunt, I was brought in on the chase for the sooty grouse, and was caught up in the anticipation of finding one ourselves. Documenting these hunts has been so enlightening, and I’ve met so many people who have shared with me their love for the uplands and passion for these birds. And, after Alaska, it’s easy to see why.”
Spirit of the Noonday Sun
“I know there are spirits that guard the secrets of that mountain, lurking in the shadows of its solitude. In the land where the last remaining aspen quakes silently in the foothills, cradled in the valleys of North Carolina. Somewhere deep in those woods my childhood fear of ghosts and apparitions seems to be reignited. Two times on that mountain, I was gripped in the clutch of forces well beyond my own comprehension, though I’m familiar with a similar shrill, hair-raising chill that crawls down the longitude of my spine.”
Public Access Training Grounds
Photographer John Taylor Pannill takes readers on a journey with long-time dog trainer Jim Heckert as he utilizes public lands and wild grouse to train dogs and get ready for the season.
“It is all very beautiful and magical here—a quality which cannot be described. You have to live it and breathe it, let the sun bake it into you. The skies and land are so enormous, and the detail so precise and exquisite that wherever you are you are isolated in a glowing world between the macro and the micro, where every- thing is sidewise under you and over you, and the clocks stopped long ago.”- ANSEL ADAMS
The Last Sage Grouse
Big Sky Upland Bird Association President Ben Deeble provides insight into the history and future of the sage grouse.
“Over the last century, crops, evergreen trees and fire-prone weeds have spread onto millions of acres of the best sage grouse habitat. Millions more acres are now crisscrossed by power lines, wire fences, roads, young forests, urban sprawl, and as of late, drill pads and wind turbines. Last year nearly 200,000 acres of public sage grouse habitat was leased for potential energy development in Montana with fewer protections than it received four years before. The greatest protection the habitat and grouse populations enjoys today is $50-per-barrel oil.”
Champion of the Bellwether
In his conversations with president and CEO of the Ruffed Grouse Society Dr. Ben Jones, author and Founder/Creative Director of Northwoods Collective A.J. DeRosa shares how the story is bigger than just ruffed grouse.
“We find ourselves at a critical crossroad for ruffed grouse. All our plans of the past have consistently fallen on deaf ears or have not worked. And despite our understanding of the science, the future of the ruffed grouse somehow remains dark. The health of our public forests is at stake.”
Sisterhood of the Traveling Biologists
Public lands brought Heather Shaw, Meadow Kouffeld, and Bailey Petersen together. As wildlife biologists, the three of them dedicated their careers to improving wildlife habitat on public lands, with special emphasis on forest wildlife including ruffed grouse and spruce grouse. In this piece the three of them met up for a hunt of a lifetime.
“Appreciation for the spruce grouse domain is an acquired one. On the edge of sleep, the brain draws creative freedom from the image and feel of these places. They are dense, dark, cool, quiet, and calming. This breathtaking yet foreboding environment will leave one scratched and disheveled, maybe bleeding, if it is hunted on foot. The birds themselves are concealed, hidden, quiet, and prone to remaining unseen mere feet from one’s head. Like forest specters, standing motionless, they watch you.”
Fight for #PublicGrouse
Ryan Busse, chair of the North American Board of Directors for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, discusses the fight to preserve wild grouse and bring them back to their former glory on public lands.
“As I came of age and began to understand the peril faced by what was left of the once limitless grouse habitat, I knew I must join the fight. Pavement, fences, roads, and energy—we possess a powerful lust to lay them over the spaces where grouse thrive.”
The Prince’s Grouse
Artist Michael R. Thompson shares a short story, and original artwork, of a hunter laying it all—his bird dog and soul—in a unbelievable grouse hunt with a dark stranger. This is the first fictional story we have published in the magazine!
“When Uncle Don came to visit during hunting season, he always said if we took good care of his dogs, and if Momma said we were good boys in general, he would tell us a real-life adventure story. Uncle Don had many colorful, outlandish yarns and we always believed them to be Gospel. Our favorite was the one of how Uncle Don and his little setter Purdey had shot the Prince’s grouse.”
Think Like a Mountain
Many know conservationist Aldo Leopold for his landmark book A Sand County Almanac. Here, author Mark Parman discusses Leopold’s teachings as they relate to the uplands.
“Instead of looking at land simply in economic terms, in the highest number of dollars we
could wring from it, Leopold argued that we needed to include aesthetics and ethics alongside economics in our decision-making about how to treat the land and all of its inhabitants. “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Grouse Meat of America
Author of four award-winning wild game cookbooks and the James Beard Award-winning website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, Hank Shaw offers tips on how to serve up each species of grouse for your dinner table.
“Each bird occupies its own environment, from the sagebrush sea to the icy tundra, each has its own diet and, at the table, its own flavor . . . You want to know which grouse is the best eating? Sorry to disappoint you, but they are all amazing, each in their own way. ”
Unfamiliar Birds, Unfamiliar Territory
“It was a healthy dose of reality for me to step out of my familiar Northwoods haunts, where I chase ruffed grouse and woodcock and my confidence seemingly grows in leaps and bounds with each passing year. Out there on the prairie, I felt small, both literally and figuratively. A tiny speck of dust floating along whichever way the wind blew. Capable of nothing on my own, I was at the mercy of the prairie. It was humbling and damn refreshing.”
Hunting the Land of the Free
Matt Hardinge, a third generation upland hunter who learned his trade in the driven shoots of England, examines the differences between hunting in the U.S. and in England and the uniqueness of having public hunting lands available.
Fast forward a few years, and a few gray hairs and I now reside in Nevada, a state consisting of 87 percent public land. Mention that kind of opportunity to anyone on an English estate, and they will look at you like you’re crazy, the concept of public land simply doesn’t exist in the United Kingdom. While I am blessed with this kind of opportunity today, the thing that irks me is that many Americans don’t appreciate, respect, or sometimes even utilize the public lands we have in the United States.
Looking Forward to Summer 2020
Some highlights to look forward to in the summer issue of Project Upland include a look at southern upland culture by author Durrell Smith, the history behind the boxlock insult, a conversation with NAVHDA president Dave Trahan by managing editor Rachelle Blair-Frasier and a deep dive into the history of the Spanish double nose.
That’s just a taste of what’s to come in the Summer 2020 issue of Project Upland. Stay tuned!
Rachelle Blair-Frasier is a Michigan native, bird dog enthusiast, and Managing Editor of Project Upland Magazine.