Friday, September 30, 2011

Grousing The Woods Of Western Washington State: Fran's Diary

Disco And Scott On The Hunt

 September 28, 2011

It was a perfect day for grouse hunting.  The temperature was cool enough to keep the mosquitoes in the Bahamas, or wherever they go when it gets too cold for them.  The sun was out and the ground was wet from the previous day’s rain, which made for great scenting conditions for the dogs.  We had our two labs, Sarge and Disco. This is Sarge’s second hunting season and Disco’s fourth.  Both are good grouse dogs, but today, Sarge showed some of his immaturity with his lack of control in staying close with all those tempting smells pulling him ahead and out of shotgun range.  Grouse hunting in the northwest requires a dog – especially a flushing dog - to hunt very close.  Even after the deciduous trees lose their leaves, our forests still have a majority of evergreen trees.  So it doesn’t get much easier, even later in the year, to get a shot off before the bird disappears in the woods.  And, like our first encounter today, many times you don’t see the grouse when they flush, you just hear them.  And, there is no other bird in the forest that sounds like a grouse in flight.  In addition to the sound of breaking branches as they fly through trees, the vibrations from their wings can be felt in your ears.

Fran And Sarge
Both dogs were working hard, quartering back and forth through the thick cover.  I love to watch the dogs work, doing what they were born to do.  Scott and Disco were off to my left about 50 yards.   Sarge, who had been happily working the cover in front and to the sides of me, suddenly disappeared in Scott’s direction.  Then, I spotted his “birdy” tail up ahead of Disco – he was definitely too far out.  But before I could get him back in gun range, we heard the double flush of two grouse as they headed into the thick woods.  I got a glimpse of grey wings as a grouse flushed from the ground where Sarge was.  I called him back to me with a reprimand - and then my “stay close” command.  Scott and Disco would have run right into those two grouse!   

A short while later, both dogs got birdy again and started hunting in circles and doubling back and forth– a sure sign that bird scent was fresh.  Scott and I stopped and were both ready for action.   As Scott turned to his left anticipating a flush from where Disco was working, a grouse came up on his right about 5 yards away.  It was crossing in front of me at about 20 yards!   I had a brief opening in the woods where I could get a clean shot.   As I watched the bird coming furiously through the woods from my left, I raised my gun and just as I was about to take the safety off and shoulder it, something caught the butt of my gun (a branch?).  Just for an instant, I was “stuck.”  As I freed the gun and got it to my shoulder, my opportunity was gone.  I could barely see the grouse as it continued behind a large pine tree and disappeared in the woods.  I was stunned.  When grouse hunting you don’t get those types of shots too often – like almost never.  It’s no secret I’m not the best shot in the west.  But, I’ve been practicing lately, and I REALLY thought I could hit that bird.  Drats!

Sarge In The Woods
So, now we know for sure we are hunting a good area and at a good time.  The day is gorgeous, the dogs are hunting great, and we are into some birds.  Life is good.

As we hunted on, I heard Scott make a couple startled noises and I stopped, waiting for another flush.  Then he said, “Oh! Disco grabbed a rabbit!”    He told her to drop it, and we continued on.  Sarge moved off to my left, nose to the ground and in an instant he disappeared in the woods.  I waited a few seconds to see if he would reappear, but then from behind and the other side of Scott (who was 40 yards to my left), we both heard grouse flushing.  I whistled for Sarge and sure enough, that’s where he came from.  This time Sarge was not only out of range, but also behind us too!  I determined to keep a closer watch  – to not let him slip out of range again.  Normally, he’s better at “staying close”, but today he was high on finding birds and he was having fun.     

But, there were still more birds to be flushed and it was Disco’s turn.  She flushed a grouse just to Scott’s left and  . . . . well, I don’t know what happened.  Scott doesn’t usually miss an opportunity to take a shot.  And, he is a great shot.  But, “something” happened.  The bird was “right there” flushing and then, nothing.  When I asked Scott, “whaaat?”  He said, “It appeared at two gun lengths and disappeared at four gun lengths.”   “I couldn’t get my gun to my shoulder before it was gone!”

We hunted our way back to the truck.  Although the dogs continued to put up a nice hunt, we didn’t get into any more birds.

It was a great day.  Hunting is just what the word says, “hunting.”  Sometimes we get lucky and bag a grouse.  But many times we are simply, (wonderfully) hunting.  With great dogs and a great hunting partner on a beautiful fall day in the northwest woods, nothing is better than grouse hunting.

1 comment:

Fast Pup Dog Training said...

Thanks for the update Fran. Good to see that you and the dogs are having a really great time up there in the hills, and even though you have not bagged your first bird this year, you are getting closer! The taste of Grouse will be all the more sweet when everything comes together, but in the mean time you guys are having a blast. Watch out for the Bears and the Elk!