Like many sportsmen around the globe I identify myself more or less by the species I prefer to hunt. I'm not a hunter, I'm a grouse hunter. Sure I hunt other species, ducks, geese, deer, and rabbit, but it's the pursuit of Ruffed grouse, and Woodcock that make me tick. Yes. I've fallen in love with grouse hunting. I can't really put my finger on what it is about grouse hunting that raises my pulse rate, however, there are a couple of things that quickly come to mind. The wild nature of the game is one of the draws to Ruffed Grouse. Unlike other places in this country, the only truly wild upland species around here are grouse and woodcock. Put and take pheasant and quail hunting just don't stand up to it in my book.
I've dabbled in other sporting pursuits over the years, and I've wondered what it'd be in love with if I lived someplace with no Ruffies. Would I have the same affection for another species of game bird? Probably I would. As any working dog owner will tell you, the relationship between man and dog is equally as important as any game you seek. I don't think it matters if we're talking pointers after quail, hounds after bear, beagles after hare, or labs after ducks; the bond one feels when their pooch rests it's head on your knee after a hard day hunting is second to none. So, I guess if I lived in the Dakotas surrounded by wild ringnecks, on a Georgia quail plantation, or in the rocky chukar habitat of Oregon, as long as I had a bird dog I'd probably have a love.
Not everyplace has wild uplands, nor everyone an affinity for walking miles and miles behind a dog. Some would much rather sit over decoys next to a statuesque Lab watching the sky for flocks of ducks. I've often wondered if this might one day be my fate. After all, knees don't last forever, and I haven't been kind to mine. I suppose if I lived in the flooded timbers of Arkansas, or the pothole region of Nebraska I could keep my self occupied with Lab training, blind building, and decoy carving. I imagine I'd have to relearn a little about shooting, too. The snap shooting, instinctual methods commonly used in the grouse woods being less of a necessity.
Hunting of big game has had a place in my life, too. I cut my teeth bow hunting deer, and while I still greatly enjoy bow hunting it takes a back seat to anything I can hunt with my dog. I could, under the right circumstances, probably fall in love with a form or two of big game hunting, however. For several years I tested my hunting skills in early September by chasing bears. With bow in hand I attempted to take a bear from both treestands and ground blinds. It was never to be, but I still consider my attempts to be successful having seen bears on two occasions.Should I have connected, I might be writing a different story right now. I also become enthralled with the idea of one day tagging a nice bull moose. These majestic animals are in my opinion the kings of the outdoors, and it's by that standard that they make it on my wish list. Nothing less than a king causes one as much work, and turmoil after the shot. Again, should this dream ever become a reality, I could see myself in a whole new light, with a whole new identity.
While my love remains with the Ruffed Grouse, and Woodcock, I might well be easily swayed, though I don't see it happening in the near future.