Tuesday, February 1, 2011
A perfect September grouse hunting day
Once in awhile the stars just seem to align perfectly.
This was one of those days.
It was last September and Sam and I skipped out of camp one morning to see if we could find a ruffed grouse.
We drove our boat to a peninsula covered with golden-hued birches and dark jackpine. Sam leaped ashore before I could even tie up and started zigzagging through the ground cover of wild roses and tall grass. His nose worked overtime as he eagerly searched for our prey.
But it was also very windy and therefore difficult to pinpoint the odor that must have been everywhere. A few seconds later I climbed over the bow of the boat and tied up to a tree. As soon as my feet touched the ground a pair of grouse that had been sitting at the base of the birch exploded skyward and disappeared into the dark stand of pines.
Although they had been within mere feet of Sam when he jumped out of the boat I realized they had also been downwind, their scent carrying out over the lake. No matter, they were still on the peninsula somewhere.
I loaded up my Ithaca Model 100 12-gauge side-by-side with #8s and headed down the centre of the spit of land. Sam immediately moved ahead of me and went into search mode. We got to the base of the point of land without kicking up anything although we never could have heard them had they flown; the wind whistling through the pines drowned out all other sounds.
We started back toward the tip, this time sticking near the lake. Sam had moved about 20 yards ahead when I saw a grouse launch off the ground in front of him and come rocketing my way. The lightweight double barrel barked as the bird came straight at me and it dropped like a stone. Sam had it in his mouth in seconds and brought it proudly back to me.
I praised him for finding and then retrieving the bird and started forward again. Sam again took the lead and after a few more minutes flushed the second bird out of the alders that grow all around the water's edge. It flew nearly straight up, climbing skyward to perhaps not only get above the alder but the larger trees as well. At the peak of its climb I fired the second barrel and the bird tumbled right to Sam's feet.
He and I couldn't have been happier. We took our pair of grouse and headed back to camp.
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