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Tales from the Grouse Woods

Chronicles of a typical two week period in a New England ruffed grouse season…

One dog ran into an electric fence three times within two minutes. Fortunately it wasn’t live, the fence that is. Big dog bounded into it, bounced back out of it. Looked around confused, then charged it again. This time he stumbled with one foot caught in the lowest wire. Then he backed away, ran to his left and charged right into it again. All hunters present agreed that dog’s IQ is questionable.

The other dog dragged his hunter companion through what seemed like 20 miles of thick dogwood and buckthorn – the  kind that grabs ankles, wrenches knees and makes arms look like refugees from a cat fight…with a cat. After the dog pointed and tracked, pointed and tracked, a bunny raced through the underbrush. The dog’s owner bellowed “Rabbit, bad!” cursing the allegedly experienced bird dog. Then a lovely plump woodcock zoomed out of the tangle in front of the dog.

Never have so many chipmunks materialized in one region, however. Understandably no one knows where they come from or where they go, but a shockingly large population appears during grouse season. Probably due to global warming.

So far this season these two hunters have shot maples, dogwood, alders, black locust, sumac, oaks, cedars, beechnut trees and hemlocks. They’ve shot air, mist, leaves, rain, saplings, bark and inadvertently one abandoned squirrel’s nest.

Nevertheless, the magical chaos – and calm – of grouse season proves again and again that hunter and dog hunt as a team with communication fine-tuned over the years. Ugly and not-so-ugly bird dogs tell us we need to hunt more and need to hunt again, and that it’s okay if we run out of 7½ shot – 6’s will be just fine.