GWINN - Small game season kicks off today, and serious ruffed grouse hunters have been preparing for the opener since last season ended.
Fitting into this category is Dennis Stachewicz of Gwinn, who prepares year-round for bird season with his hunting buddies - german short-haired pointers Georgia, Gretchen, Panzer and Gunner.
"When training hunting dogs it's all about patience," Stachewicz said. "You want them to succeed without breaking their spirit."
Stachewicz prepares his dogs for hunting with obedience training and conditioning. In the earlier part of July, he ratchets up their training a notch for the upcoming season, including conditioning the dogs with long runs in the woods and pointing practice everyday.
In addition, Stachewicz takes four mile walks during his lunch break to keep his own conditioning up to par.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the state's roughly 85,000 bird hunters should find grouse numbers similar to last year, which was considered the peak of the 10-year population cycle.
Grouse typically are in young to moderate-aged aspen stands and tag alder thickets, according to the DNR.
In addition to ruffed grouse, the small game hunting license allows hunters to take rabbit, snowshoe hare, squirrel, pheasant, sharp-trailed grouse, and woodcock.
Matt Keiser can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. His email address is email@example.com.