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Bill, MN

Creating Firsts While Hunting Grouse

There are a couple of young ladies at the office who are big time enthusiastic about hunting, but just don’t have the opportunity to get out very much, so I invited them to join me on a late season ruffed grouse hunt. For Courtney, it was her first “official” grouse hunt. For Richelle, it was the first time ever to hunt upland birds of any kind.

As much as they appreciated the chance to go hunting, I appreciated them joining me. It made the hunt possible! The area to which we went was new to me on a tip from a friend. My wife’s not keen on me solo hunting any more, especially in new, remote areas and when the ice on the swamps and creeks is thin. I tried all my usual oldster hunting companions, but not a single one could make the time to go, so if the girls had not joined me, I likely would not had gone.

While no grouse were harmed in the orchestration of this hunt, it was filled with great learning moments for all of us. BB the springer put on a great show of dog work for the girls to enjoy, plus they liked “oohing” and “ahhhing” over how “cute” she is. We flushed a bird from a spruce tree, and it flew straight over Richelle’s and Courtney’s heads, so they saw their first ruffed grouse and witnessed how fast and elusive these wonderful birds are. I told them about grouse being birds of the “transition zones” of new growth and old growth and how the best places to look for them change with progression of the season and the snow.

A little later they learned it’s best to follow the guy who weighs 120 pounds more when crossing a lightly frozen creek. And they learned if you don’t, you should bring along extra dry socks and boots – maybe a few pair.

Walking down one trail that showed no human footprints since the snow, we ran across a big wolf track. Richelle’s a wolf fan and Courtney’s a wolf detractor. We talked about how things happen in the natural world, the idea of a place for everything, and the need for proper management of all wildlife that includes hunting and trapping. We even bickered a bit, but all in good-natured teasing.

Near the end of the day we were crossing a jack straw clearcut partially grown up in young aspens – a nasty place to walk. Richelle stumbled, and the barrel of the 28 gauge side-by-side I’d loaned her became stuffed with snow and mud. It was another great learning opportunity. We stopped, and she unloaded and checked the barrels. I instructed her how to clear them. She loaded back up, and the hunt continued.

When everyone but BB was wet and tired, we loaded up and headed to town for lunch at a perfect little bird country café then headed for home. It was a great day with many firsts – for the young ladies, and for me!


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