It’s the complexity of waterfowl hunting that makes it so appealing to me. There’s so much to it … decoys, blinds, calling, shooting skills, dogs, on-the-wing identification, strategy, location, planning, preparation, and on and on and on.
I love ruffed grouse hunting for exactly the opposite reason: It’s so simple. Grouse hunting is a handful of shells dropped into the pocket of a familiar old hunting vest, heading to traditional cover, turning out the dogs and taking a walk under October’s golden leaves and clear blue skies. Grouse (and woodcock) hunting is life’s greatest simple pleasure.
That’s what I’m enjoying right now in the North Woods of Minnesota. A couple buddies who work at Federal Ammunition, Tim Brandt and Michael Kinn, invited me up to their grouse haunts for a few days of great hunting, pretty good shooting and lots of talk about guns, dogs and ammo. At this moment we’re taking a mid day break because it gets too warm for the dogs, so I’m sitting on the deck of the cabin overlooking Lake Vermillion writing this blog on my laptop. Life is good for the grouse hunter!
Straight out of training, my young dog, Callie, is doing very well. She’s hunting close and always under control. She’s already found half a dozen downed birds we’d never have recovered without her. Every time I stop the truck she’s ready to go.
At nearly 12 years old, Huck goes about things a lot slower. But in the morning, when the air is still crisp and the leaves still dewy, there is definitely bounce in his step, too. I just make sure the circuits I take him on are no more than a half-hour long. He, too, has brought back several birds that would have been fox food (well, wolf food up here now, I guess).
Every hunter deserves at least one trip (hopefully more) like this every fall. There’s no pressure, no stress. We’re not competing to see who can get the most birds. We’re not worried about only shooting a trophy. At camp each night, we follow the creedo that Dad drilled into me: At the end of the day, “You take care of your dogs, your game, your guns and gear, and then yourself … in that order!” Yet, when we do, there’s still plenty of time left for a great meal and a “nightcap” before turning-in under the bright stars and hint of Northern Lights.
There’s simply no other way to say it: “Life is good in the grouse woods.” The only thing better is getting to do it again tomorrow!