Several times, Rodelli, a retired banker, would fire at a fleeing grouse or woodcock and file his report: "I shot a tree," he'd say, or "I'm pretty sure I scared that one."
Grouse numbers seem a bit down to many hunters this fall, and, so far, Wilmot would agree.
"Drumming counts were up in the spring," he said. "It's easy to feel disappointed. But we put up seven grouse in a morning. That's certainly not horrible. Last year I think we'd have put up twice as many birds as this year by now. But I'm not ready to say there are only half as many birds."
On their way back to Lake Nebagamon after the hunt, Wilmot slowed his truck for a bird in the dirt road up ahead. It was a red-phase ruffed grouse, taking its sweet time. The truck stopped, waiting for the avian pedestrian to clear. It was the best look either Wilmot or Rodelli had had at a grouse all day. But nobody made a move for a shotgun.
The grouse walked to the edge of the road and flushed over a clearcut. The low sunlight lit up the bird's tail feathers as if it were in a painting.
In the morning, Rodelli would be swinging flies for Brule rainbows.
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