​ Wisconsin Behind the Scenes Blog Series: Ruffed Grouse and Lumberjill

Monday, December 23, 2019

 

Wisconsin Behind the Scenes Blog Series: Ruffed Grouse and Lumberjill

 

“The autumn landscape in the north woods is the land, plus a red maple, plus a Ruffed Grouse. In terms of conventional physics, the grouse represents only a millionth of either the mass or the energy of an acre yet subtract the grouse and the whole thing is dead.” -- Aldo Leopold

 

Thump, thump, thump… that’s the territorial sound of the male ruffed grouse beating his wings on his “drumming log” in northern Wisconsin.

 

The male birds make this sound by beating their wings quickly and forcefully to create a small vacuum. The bird beats his wings faster and faster - and end up sounding something like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

 

EMBED: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVfiIp3QGs4

 

Ruffed Grouse are widely distributed across the country, and have been observed in 38 states and all Canadian Provinces. They are a popular game bird for hunting enthusiasts, and primarily live in wooded habitats.

 

Chuck and the crew met up with Jon Steigerwaldt, 3rd generation tree farmer/forester and Regional Biologist of the Ruffed Grouse Society, a nation-wide non-profit organization that promotes education and conservation of this curious bird. Jon knows that ruffed grouse actually prefer a forest that is diverse, young and frequently harvested. As a private landowner, he and his family have made a priority of managing their land to create habitats for the ruffed grouse and a wide range of other forest wildlife species.

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

 

Jon’s property, thick with aspens, is home to a host of ruffed grouse, who will do most of their noisy drumming this spring. We filmed Chuck and Jon in his truck, chatting about Jon’s family history of tree farming, as the truck trundled through narrow paths deep in the Steigerwaldt property. Walking deeper into the woods, Chuck and Jon talked about aspens...We heard the rustle of the quaking and big-toothed aspens, which Chuck (and our sound recordist) loved.

 

We also met Kate Witkowsi, an actual “lumberjill” and Stihl Timbersports Champion! Kate taught Chuck how to axe-throw, a competition where the lumberjack or jill throws a double-bitted axe at a target from about 20 feet away. The trick is to use the right amount of force to line up the rotations of the axe just right, to hit the target dead-on. After missing the target once, and severing a ratchet strap, Chuck nailed it on his 3rd try! No cameras were hurt in the making of this scene.

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

 

Then Chuck, Jon, Kate, and our crew ventured off the path to fell a spruce tree that Jon has decided will make a great “drumming log” for the ruffed grouse on his land and further enhance the quality of wildlife habitat.

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

Sources and further reading:

https://ruffedgrousesociety.org/grouse-facts/

https://www.audubon.org/news/see-and-hear-ruffed-grouses-haunting-air-drumming

 

 


Wisconsin Behind the Scenes Blog Series: Menominee Tribal Enterprises

Monday, December 16, 2019

Wisconsin Behind the Scenes Blog Series: Menominee Tribal Enterprises

 

“...a forest is much more than cords and boards. It's a whole ecological process. Clean air, clean water, good soils, a place to gather.” -- Marshall Pecore

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

 

The Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin has an incredible history of forest stewardship, and Chuck and the crew traveled to the Menominee Tribal Enterprises to see this decades-old business in action. Marshall Pecore, a descendant of the Menominee Tribe, is the forest manager of the operation in Neopit, Wisconsin. Our crew interviewed him about the rich history of their long-term, sustainable approach to timber, and how they harvest trees on their own tribal reservation.

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

 

Although the Menominee tribe has lived in northern Wisconsin for thousands of years, as a result of a wave of restrictive treaties with U.S. government, their land was reduced from more than 10 million acres to 235,523 acres.

 

The sawmill, constructed in 1908, is a primary source of jobs for tribal members. With generations of experience, the tribe knows that their profit depends on a sustainable forest. Unlike other mill owners, they cut the diseased trees first, as well as any tree that won’t grow to be a thick, straight trunk suitable for milling boards.

 

The Menominee method takes into account not only the health of the tree, but the health of the surrounding organisms. Marshall explained how they survey the “assemblages”-- the plants on the forest floor-- to determine what species of tree would best thrive there. They also avoid felling “wildlife trees:” trees where animals like birds, snakes, porcupines, or raccoons have made their homes.

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

Later in our trip, we met Wade Fernandez, or Wiciwen Apis-Mahwaew (his Menominee name), at Audio for the Arts, a recording studio in Madison. Wade plays traditional Menominee music on flute and guitar. He and Chuck played “Wild Horses” (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones), Chuck was on piano (of course), and Wade accompanied him on native flute. Wade then treated us to our own private concert and played some of his original music solo. He regularly travels around the country and around Europe to tour his music. Take a listen: (link to music videos)

 

Photo Credit: James Edward Mills

Sources and additional information:

https://www.mtewood.com/Sawmill/History

https://www.mpm.edu/content/wirp/ICW-153

https://wadefernandezmusic.com/