Michigan is known for its outdoor treasures. The Great Lakes and incredible trout fishing on some of the nation's most storied streams immediately come to mind.
And the state also boasts one of the greatest deer hunting traditions in the country along with a growing turkey population. But for many Michigan residents and visitors, the primary draw come fall is "the flush" as Michigan offers some of the finest grouse and woodcock hunting in the Midwest.
If you're looking for barrel-smoking action amidst some of America's most beautiful fall scenery, here's where to go.
Located on the far western end of the Upper Peninsula, Gogebic County is quintessential grouse and woodcock country.
Massive tracts of conifer forest â€“ much of it open to public hunting â€“ are complemented by young stands of aspen and poplar intermixed among hardwood groves.
Grouse numbers are excellent most years, though populations do rise and fall on a natural cycle. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources keeps excellent records on grouse, so a quick check of their website is always a good place to start.
The Michigan DNR has also established a number of Grouse Enhanced Management Systems and Gogebic County is home to several.
These GEMS locations feature walk-in access trails that are seeded in clover and wind through areas of habitat managed specifically for grouse. Of course, you don't have to stick to the trail. You're free to explore any of the public areas that the GEMS areas are located in.
And while the GEMS locations are managed specifically for grouse, you'll encounter plenty of woodcock along the way as well.
Travel east from Gogebic County and you'll enter into the heart of the Upper Peninsula and Dickinson County. This area offers classic big-woods habitat with a more rolling terrain. The county seat is Iron Mountain â€“ home of Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.
Dickinson County features a GEMS location in West Branch Township where you'll find numerous public hunting acres including a high percentage of lands enrolled in the Commercial Forest Act.
These private lands are open to public hunting in exchange for reduced property tax rates. Best of all, these lands are actively managed for timber, which is critical to holding large numbers of grouse and woodcock.
If you're looking for one of North America's most unique grouse hunts, check out Drummond Island.
Located in Lake Huron, just off the eastern tip of the Upper Peninsula, Drummond Island covers 249 square miles and boasts 133 square miles of timber.
Drummond also features a GEMS location that can serve as a great starting point on your island adventure.
Access to the island is by boat and you'll find ferry options across the St. Mary's River in the town of DeTour.
Lodging and food is readily available as the island caters to both hunters and anglers.
Now we're heading into the Lower Peninsula and the northwest tip of the mitten offers some of the most scenic grouse and woodcock hunting you'll find anywhere.
This area of the state features plenty of timber with a solid mix of conifer and hardwoods. You may also find a few more woodcock here than in other areas because of that habitat mix.
The added hardwoods also mean this region of the state is known for its spectacular fall colors, making a grouse outing here all the more special.
There's plenty of public land in the area including national forests, state forests and commercial Forest Act lands.
Most of Michigan's prime grouse and woodcock haunts are located in the northern reaches of the state. That said, there is some great upland hunting to be had in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula as well â€“ and it can be surprisingly good.
Allegan County is a top starting point when looking for southern Michigan grouse and, especially, woodcock.
The Allegan State Game Area features some ideal woodcock habitat along the Allegan River and grouse can be found in the areas of young timber growth.
MIX IT UP
Fall in Michigan is all about choices. The grouse and woodcock hunting can be spectacular and the cost to play pretty inviting â€“ nonresident licenses start at just $80 for a 7-day small game permit. But limiting yourself to just bird hunting might be tough to do once you get here.
Michigan's fall fishing is the best of the year. From salmon and steelhead in rivers and streams to giant browns and brook trout, the fall months offer some of the top action of the season.
In the lakes, walleye, perch, pike, muskie, bass and panfish are on the feed in preparation for winter. After Labor Day weekend, fishing pressure is greatly reduced, which can mean even more opportunity for you.
Your small-game tag also allows you to hunt squirrels â€“ and you'll quickly realize just how good the opportunities are in Michigan's woods for those critters.
Cast-and-blast options are good throughout the state, thanks to an abundance of rivers, streams and lakes. So, no matter where you choose to hunt grouse and woodcock, odds are high you won't be far from top-notch fishing opportunities.