I found, or perhaps made, some free time to get away up north to do a little grouse hunting. In fact, I am writing this from the great north woods. A week in grouse camp is really good medicine, even if nothing ails you. Though, it has been an interesting week.
I've always enjoyed cold, November grouse hunting. Once the leaves are down, if you can find the grouse, the shooting usually gets good. Unfortunately Mother Nature wasn't playing nice. My week up north started out with a bit of rain. Sure, grouse can be hunted in the rain. I just don't like hunting in the rain. Of course the rain did stop, but things got worse. Wind. Everyone knows a good wind makes grouse extremely spooky. I still hunted. Finally on Saturday we got some typical November weather. In the morning the thermometer in the car read 25 degrees, 28 degrees by the time I arrived at one of my favorite sunny, eastern facing hillsides. I made the right choice, and walked out with a heavy game bag. Despite the near perfect November weather, I was at a bit of a crossroad, and packed it in for the day at 11 am after just 2 hours of hunting. Why? Well, the Rugby World Cup finals were on TV at noon, and regular readers of this blog know I'm a rugby guy, too. I wasn't going to miss it.
Sunday, even though the weather was a bit drizzly again I decided to head to one of my honey holes; The Trail of Tears. Sadly, 3 hours of really tough walking and hunting produced only 6 grouse flushes. After lunch I met up with my friend Gregor, of Braeval apparel, and his red setter Laddie. In the 2 hours we had left to hunt, Laddie put on a nice show, pointing 6 of the 7 grouse we saw. And that 7th, un-pointed grouse was a wild flush between me and Gregor while Laddie was hunting well out in front of us. More impressive than Laddies pointing prowess, was Gregor's shooting, knocking down 3 of the 6 pointed birds.
Yesterday was an outstanding day. We decided to hunt a spot that I'd not hunted in about 5 years, and one that Gregor had wondered about. Due to recent logging it took us quite a bit of hiking to get back into good cover, but once we did,....... Later we explored a bit, and hunted a hillside with good looking cover. Another good move. At the end of the day we'd had 22 grouse flushes, most handled by one dog or the other. Sadly, neither of us could put a shot string where it was needed. In fact, I never even fire my gun. But that's hunting.
Today I made my last day push, and again I headed up the Trail Of Tears. Again the Trail was slow, with only 7 flushes in 3 hours. Another spot much closer to camp proved to be a bit more exciting, offering 4 good off the nose flushed in just 1 hour of hunting. And again, I failed to connect..
All in all, it's been great to be up in the north woods, and to be hauling my butt through the woods. For the time I spent in the woods, and the number of birds flushed, I feel like things were a little slower than last year. Averaging everything out, we got a grouse flush about every 17 minutes. I think the weather might account for this slow down. With the exception of Saturday, it's been very warm here. On Saturday, when it was cold, I went looking for the birds in the type of cover I'd expect to find them in when it's cold. But what I found was that they weren't in their standard October spots on the warm days, nor were they in their standard November spots. Seems like they were somewhere else, and I couldn't figure out just where that was.
Anyway, grouse hunting is always great, and a couple of good shooting days sealed the deal. I had the good fortune of carrying 3 woodcock and 3 grouse out of the woods. But more importantly, every aching joint, and sore muscle in evidence of week spent wisely.