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Guide Damian Wilmot offers his clients grouse, woodcock and steelhead

Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune on

Published in Outdoors

NEAR BRULE, Wis. -- The high-pitched tone blaring from Casper's beeper-collar told hunting guide Damian Wilmot all he needed to know.

"Casper's on point," Wilmot hollered through the stand of doghair aspen.

John Rodelli, 72, began working toward the sound, carrying his 16-gauge double-barrel. Rodelli was Wilmot's client on this mid-October morning, prime time in the grouse and woodcock woods near Brule. Rodelli had driven up from Inverness, a Chicago suburb, to spend three days with Wilmot, of Superior, fly-fishing for steelhead on the nearby Brule River and busting brush for grouse and woodcock. He has hunted and fished with Wilmot in previous years.

Before Rodelli could get close to Casper, Wilmot's 3-year-old German shorthair pointer, the woodcock whiffled up through the popples.

"Woodcock your way!" Wilmot yelled.

Rodelli, a veteran upland hunter, picked up the flight of the woodcock just over the treetops. He mounted and swung his shotgun in one motion and squeezed off a single shot. The woodcock tumbled from the blue October sky.

This is how Wilmot, 50, spends many days each fall -- putting clients from Madison or Chicago or Milwaukee into Douglas County's best public grouse coverts, or alternately putting them onto the Brule River's fall-run steelhead or brown trout. Some clients come to hunt, some to fish. Some, like Rodelli, sample both in the same trip on different days.

Wilmot began guiding Brule River anglers in 1989, first on the upper river for brook trout and browns, later adding steelhead. He began using pointers for his own grouse and woodcock hunting and started offering hunts to clients about eight years ago.

Woof, his 9-year-old German shorthair, worked in tandem with Casper on this hunt with Rodelli. Wilmot grew up in Superior, fishing streams and lakes with his dad, hunting in the fall. All of this came naturally to him.

His first guiding job -- fishing the upper Brule -- was accidental. Another guide had an emergency medical issue in his family and had to abandon his client for the day. Wilmot was standing nearby as this evolved and offered to take the man fishing -- with no expectation of payment. They had a good day on the river, and the man offered to pay him.

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