Another journey north, to the grouse woods of northern New Hampshire served to further expand my knowledge of this most noble bird. What did I learn? That's easy. I learned that grouse hunting without a dog sucks. Sure, grouse can be hunted without, and with some company to help move the birds forward you're sure to sling some lead. But solo, truly solo; no dog, no friends, it's a different, and much more challenging game. And the birds sure seemed to know the difference, preceding to flush behind me after I'd moved past them.
As I'm sure you could guess, my idea of accessorizing is a lanyard with dog whistle around my neck. And if you've been following my blog, you'll know I've got no one to blame for my dog less position but myself. I should have started a pup a couple years ago, and been prepared for the inevitable passing of Austin, my setter. But sometimes we don't make the best decisions, or think clearly, so I must resign myself to less intense grouse season, and a more intense dog training season. Happily, the latter is making up for the former, and Ginger, my springer pup is coming along grand.
All hope was not lost on this last trip north, however. I took some time to venture deeper into an area I'd hunted last year, and the trip proved out my suspicions. I moved quite a few birds in there. Of course this marks a growing understanding of the functions of my GPS. Now that I've had the GPS a couple of years, and experimented with it's functions, I've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable busting brush into parts unknown, and using it to navigate my way back. That was precisely what I did. Last year, in unseasonable heat, Bryan and I hunted this area for a couple of hours. We hunted it in the typical walk the trail while the dog courses the cover routine. The heat, however, sapped the energy of both dog and man, and we quit hunting quite early every day we were there. This year I felt the call of the wild, and went where the cover took me.
The birds in the cover often seemed, to my detriment, to not really care too much about my presence. Sure, they were sneeky, and flushed behind obstructions, but they flew as if they'd never seen a human before. This should have been a recipe for success, should your measure of success be a heavy game bag, but I found myself being punished in other ways. I'd decided I'd carry my 28 gauge Gamba over/under into that covert. That turned out to be a mistake. Not the result of bad shooting, so stop thinking it. But rather a more mundane, and foolish annoyance. Being a rather cold day, I'd elected to wear gloves. I say elected, as if I had a choice, but I didn't. It was about 22 degree in the morning, and had only warmed to about 32 degrees by the time I was in the woods. The Gamba, of course has a rather low profile thumb safety,.....yup. Safety trouble of the highest order. Three softballs go up, and three times I fail to switch the safety off. A dog wouldn't have helped in this case, but at least I'd have had a companion to bitch at. But I can't blame the gun, nor the lack of a dog, nor the weather. I can't blame anything, or anyone for my troubles afield. It is, after all, grouse hunting.