Grouse Hunting Part 1

I have done a lot of hunting in my life, but in all the time I have been hunting I have never had an entire week off to go do nothing but hunt. Most of my trips are very quick turn around trip driving all night to get somewhere and then quick hunt for 2 or 3 days and then quick drive home to get back to work. This year I planned to take a whole week off to go do nothing but hunt. I planned my trip in two phases and the first phase is coming to an end today and tomorrow I will start phase two.  

The first few days of this trip I have been up near Brainerd, MN staying with my brother and doing some grouse hunting. I don't usually hunt grouse but I used to 20 years ago and always enjoyed it. Last year I went out with Kev and got back into it and thought I would give it a try again this year. Instead of just taking a weekend though I am going to take the whole week and see how it goes.  My first day here I headed out on my own and walked about 12 miles of trails trying to find some grouse. I didn't see any grouse but I did come across a porcupine hanging out in a tree. I don't know if grouse are anything like pheasants but that first day was windy as hell and I wonder if that keeps them hunkered down because I didn't flush a single grouse all day and that seemed odd to me. 

Day two got a little better, Kevin took the day off and went out with me. There was no wind but it was raining all day. Not a hard rain but a light mist that never went away. The first spot we chose to hunt seemed promising, as soon as we got out of the truck we heard a grouse drumming of in the distance and set off into the woods. Not long after we got in to the woods Kona (my dog on loan from a friend) got all birdy and took off into the woods. She flushed a grouse and it flew past us and landed not far from where we were standing. Kevin walked down the trail to see if he could flush it again and it jump up right at his feet and flew off into the woods. Kev and I joked that whenever we reflush a bird we should just walk to where we saw it land and then shoot at our feet because that is where the grouse always jumps from. 

We took a little break for lunch and then headed off to anther area I wanted to try. We weren't even 200 yards into that spot and flushed a grouse. We walked about four miles of trails and crossed a swamp that I ended up waist deep in and flushed 5 more grouse on that trail. We missed all of them, at that point I was feeling a little wet and cold and ready for some bourbon. Then I flushed a woodcock, I shot and it dropped. I saw right where it went down and took off after it. When I got to the spot I saw it go down it jumped up and flew away. I saw where it flew to again and walked to that area, Kona flushed it again and I missed another shot. I chased that woodcock across the woods and flushed it 2 more times before I lost it. I was so excited because I have never shot a woodcock before and I still haven't. That was the end of that day and I needed some bourbon to console myself.

Today looked like a perfect day to be out hunting, no wind, blue skies and our Mom was going to join us. We headed out early and got off to a good start. The first grouse walked out in front of us and we were able to shoot it with out a problem. Then Kona got all birdy again and took off into the woods. I followed behind her and flushed another bird, it took two shots but I drop it on a fairly long shot. A few hundred yard down the trail Kona did it again and I shot my third grouse of the day. Officially making today my best grouse day ever. Then I took us down the wrong trail and got us into a swamp that was some of the hardest walking I have ever done. I was certain it would come out on a trail and loop us back around to where we parked but I was wrong. We walked for about an hour and finally got out of the swamp and woods. By the time we got back to the truck I had wasted what started as a great morning. Mom was tired out and we called it a day after lunch. 

We got back to Kev's house and I had some plucking to do. All three birds were shot pretty good and the breasts and legs were in great shape. I can't wait to get home at the end of the week and start cooking with them. I have three more days left to hunt and am going to head further north and west to hunt for sharptail grouse, a different variety of grouse that I have seen while deer hunting but never shot. I might even get lucky and down a couple of sandhill cranes while I'm up there. I am sure you'll hear all about it if I do.