I love Grouse Hunting. The long season starts in Late September, and closes the end of February. It is an excuse for me to get out in the woods and walk, almost every day. It gets me into areas of the woods around Loon Lake that are not frequently travelled.
Grouse are elusive and smart. They may roost in a tree, hide in a bush or downed tree, and burrow under the snow. More often than not, your hear the grouse as they fly off as you approach. Occasionally, you see the grouse as they fly away from you. For me, I might get a possible shot at a grouse about every fourth bird that I see. They are shot on the wing, which means you need to anticipate where the bird will be.
Early season hunting is difficult, as the leaves on the trees and ground mask the grouse and announce your presence. Grouse would rather run than fly. November is tough, as you share the woods with big game hunters, who don’t appreciate your walking through the woods where they have been sitting silently for hours.
I like late season hunting the best. Snow covers the ground, and you see all the tracks of the animals and birds traveling through the woods. The woods are wide open. Most times, I am wearing snowshoes, unless I am traversing a well packed logging road or trail.
The late season is also something I have always done solo, given snow depth. I lost my hunting dog this past Fall, which took the joy out of hunting for me. He died a day after our first grouse hunt of the season. I miss him terribly.
The thing about snowshoes is— it is hard to get lost. So I tend to push further into the deep woods, exploring new areas. It is also a good workout, so most trips are, at most, only a couple of hours.
I ventured into a new area this past weekend. Over successive days, I built and extended my snowshoe track. Yesterday, I flushed four grouse. The first I heard fly from a roost. The second blasted up from under the snow, startling me, as I watched it fly off. The last two emerged from under a downed tree and flew. I shot one, and did not even try for the second, saving one for seed.
There still is a week left to grouse season, but it is over for me. I will leave the birds in peace, and thank them for getting me out in the woods, and for lessening the pain of the loss of my best hunting companion.
So we will have grouse for dinner tomorrow, prepared like Chicken Marsala.