What about Henry?

Back in May I received a phone call from Mike Mullikin who has been an avid reader of this column in the Courier Press (out of Prairie du Chien) since long before Selina was born and she is 16.

Mike lives on his 400-acre family dairy farm with his wife, Julie, near Wauzeka where he has pretty much lived all of his life and is a 1971 graduate of Wauzeka/Steuben High School. Even though he did not go out for track in until his junior year in his high school he excelled in the mile with a best time of 4:32 and took fourth at state in 1970 and fifth in ‘71 in the event.

Mike was a dual-sport athlete those two years and was the Hornets’ shortstop and they took conference his senior year.

The reason that I was given the call was because of Henry and his ruffed grouse in a part of the state where they are close to nonexistent and pretty much extinct on the Mullikin farm. Back in 2013 Mike was checking fence with his ATV as he does daily when he thought he saw a ruffed grouse moving through the woods.

A couple of days later, Mike was cutting firewood in the same area and was taking a break when not only did he see a ruffed grouse but it walked right up to him. Thus the relationship began with a grouse that became known as Henry.

In the world of ruffed grouse, like rabbits, life is generally less than a year but some make it to two or three before a bird of prey or some type of predator enjoys them for dinner.

Henry, who literally lives on about a two-acre area of land which is almost a mile off the road, is for sure 5-years-old and in reality he should have been eaten a very long time ago.

When Mike takes his ATV to “Henry’s Domain” he calls his name and in 1-30 minutes Henry comes in and it is very obvious that he wants attention. Mike has never fed or allowed anyone to feed Henry and if I have ever seen a bird that reminded me of a golden retriever, it is Henry. Henry never stops talking which is kind of like a coo, putt and snort!

Last week Mike noticed that all of Henry’s tail feathers were missing and that Henry did not want to come out to the field but wanted to visit in the hardwood forest that he calls home. Today, Henry’s new tail feathers were 2 inches long and it appears Henry probably escaped from the literal grasp of something that wanted him for dinner.

Twice Mike has been visiting with Henry in the field and Henry fled to the woods without notice. Both times Mike looked up and could see a tiny speck of a hawk very high in the sky.

Once Mike was checking fences on his ATV and Henry literally dropped out of a tree onto him. Another time Henry saw his dad/ buddy approaching and flew out of a cornfield and hovered over him like a helicopter.

This spring Mike took up turkey hunting/mentoring for two of his grandsons with his family friend Bill Bulwa of Prairie du Chien. Not only could they hear Henry drumming in the forest, Henry came out to their blind for a visit and actually got inside with them.

Incidentally, both boys, Casey and Charlie, harvested tom tur- keys.

A couple years ago one of the grandchildren (there are 18) dropped off six boned-out deer carcasses near Henrys domain and Mike was very concerned that the inevitable predators that would attract would be the end of Henry. Not to be, though I bet there were some close calls, and Henry made it.

Any outdoors person from a farmer to a biologist to a hunter knows that for a ruffed grouse living on its own to last five winters is pretty unusual but for a bird that will jump up on your arm and coo and putt and not want you to leave when your visit comes to an end is basically unreal.

Henry is super cool and I will be sad when I hear that he no longer shows up when Mike comes to visit him.

Sunset


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