Saturday, September 3, 2011

Into the Twilight Endlessly Grousing (a great book by Patrick McManus)

2 Sept 2011

The kids were out of school today and so I took them to hunt for the wild ruffed grouse of NE Oregon. We have some thickets we love to hunt each year, one of them is even named after my black and white springer Maggie. It's her thicket, no matter what the cows may think, she owns it and the grouse shot in there are tributes to her and her love of all things that fly.

We left a little later than I wanted to, but still froze to death on the ride in. A dog, 3 boys and me on one four wheeler has got to be against some law, but we went slow and had a nice time. The first grouse flew up from under our front tire. It was in some grass along side the trail and it "escaped" to the hawthorn thicket a few yards away. We tried to get Cole on it, but the excitement pushed it further in and higher up. In the end Tyler sniped it with the Wing Master. The old 30", full choke barrel, does a number on grouse heads, even at 25 yards. It was a clean kill and a good retrieve by Jesse, once he found it. There was another grouse running around in there, so Jesse had a hard time focussing on the dead bird, but once he realized it was there, the game was over.
We drove on another mile or so and Corey spotted a grouse off the road. We hunted the thicket through finding a half dozen birds. Corey missed the only chance at an adult bird, as it flew just before the shot. Corey vaporized the branch it was on, but only a few feathers floated down from its escape. Cole was the successful on, officially killing his first ruffed grouse, by him self. All I had to do was find it in the tree and then try and explain to him where it was at. Once found it had little chance. A stationary target is in big trouble with the single shot 20 gauge. Cole helped shoot a grouse last year; my dad held the 12 gauge and Cole squeezed the trigger, so it was kind of his bird, but today it was all his.

The next thicket produced a good covey of young birds. Jesse broke up the covey, scattering birds into the trees and bushes. He had a few good ground points, but the grouse scattered so fast off the ground and into the trees, it was hard for him to get a bird held on the ground. Personally, I'd rather the kids shoot them out of trees and bushes. It is safer, because we aren't shooting at the level another person would be at, and the kills are cleaner, with less meat wasted. We practice head shots, and head shots only, on ruffed grouse. Anyway, Jesse had the covey pinned down and they scattered into the brush and trees. I was on the outside of the thicket, walking along the stream. I could see Cole through the brush, and when the covey went up, he excitedly told me he could see one. It had landed right in front of him in a big ponderosa pine. He quickly cocked the hammer, drew a bead and killed his second grouse. His, "I got it" was a very satisfying thing to hear. He was all grins, as was his dad! It was fun, watching him through the brush, and seeing him respond, without help, and kill his own grouse. Dad didn't have to spot it and point it out, his dog put it up, and he did the dirty work.
Corey killed his first grouse of the day right after that. One of the other chicks landed in an adjacent pine, and Corey had to made a quick trail through some thick brush to get there. We pointed it out and off went its head. Tyler showed up right after that and while we were admiring the boys birds, another chick flushed straight away from us. Tyler passed on the shot because he felt the shot wasn't safe to take with us all grouped together like we were; a good, responsible decision! We jumped more grouse at the end of the thicket and Corey missed a chick, flying away from him through an opening across the stream. He swung well but it sounds like he held too far out in front of it. All the other grouse that day were running or flying through thick brush and we just couldn't knock them down.

We stopped for a few photos at the truck before heading home.