My friend, Giuseppe asked me to share with the readers of The Grousefather my worst misses on a ruffed grouse. I told him that this was like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack because I miss so dang much. However, after some thought, one particular grouse really stands out in my mind and I’ve already recorded the incident for posterity to share in my shame.
The following passage comes from a grouse hunting book I am working on entitled, Drummer in the West. The chapter is entitled, “Ruffin’ it with Misty”:
It’s the beginning of November and I am not ready to hang up the hunting vest yet as it has been the best season I have had in years, which has a lot to do with Misty, my American Brittany. Besides, this Saturday morning is blue bird beautiful. I decide to take the dogs to the Royal Macnab, one of my favorite coverts holding sharptails, Huns, pheasants, and ruffed grouse. Since the sharptail season is now closed in Idaho, we are looking for ruffed grouse in the thick quakies above the rolling CRP fields. We walk along a two track road, with thick chokecherries and quakies on either side. The cover reminds me of many of the New England coverts I have read about in so many books and fittingly, the fall colors are in full force. It’s enough to bring a tear to this grouse hunter’s eye.
In the midst of my revelry, Misty wanders off to my right into an impenetrable tangle and goes on point, with Sunny Girl [my French Brit] backing. There is no doubt in my mind that she has a bird. While my heart pounds in my chest, a bird rips up through the cover and I promptly miss it twice.
More determined than ever, I mark the bird down and go right to the spot it landed and it flushes again, with the same result. The bird’s flight is farther this time, but I think I know generally where it is. We approach the site and I’m walking on egg shells as I know the bird will erupt any second. The dogs and I are pushing through sage and bitter brush near a grove of aspens and the bird gets up in the wide open. I blow two more holes in the sky and the bird is gone.
Later that day, I post on Facebook, “Grouse 6, me 0. I got my butt kicked today in the grouse woods!” But Misty did pretty good.
I call these sorts of missed opportunities “groaners” and I experience my fair share every year. They sting at the time, but eventually the pain wears off and I’m rearing for more punishment. I think groaners make your successes that much sweeter. Every day in the grouse woods—even with groaners—is to be savored!
(see more of this story at www.uplandways.com)