The trials of a new grouse hunter: Article 3

Author: Quinton Merrill
Instagram Handle: winninquinnin

There is almost a sense of panic when you look around and see no familiar landmarks nearby. Your grip tightens around your shotgun and you do all you can to keep hunting while your dog blasts through the underbrush. You are still on high alert, ready for the sounds of a wing beat to explode in front of you, or to suddenly glimpse up and see your dog motionless, gazing into the thickets. If you want to expose yourself to more wild birds, you will have to get comfortable with this feeling; remaining aware that you very
well could take an extra forty-five minutes just to reach the trail that leads to your vehicle. Embrace this feeling and know that you’re working hard for your hunt. These birds have been busted by many a hunter and have—thus far— had luck avoiding any hunters that walk haphazardly down the two-track. These birds have learned to stay low and wait until the threat has passed, unaware that those who truly seek adventure start in to the thickest part of the forest. Look to your dog for reassurance, admire the focus she has for the task at hand and willingness to press on. Follow suit, buckle down, and get some birds in the bag.

Every step brings you closer to your objective, and at this point you’re not sure if that means getting closer to your parking spot or getting closer to another opportunity at a bird; regardless you press on, diving through autumn olive bushes, gritting your teeth as you scrape through a patch of brambles that somehow your dog weaves effortlessly through. She is in her prime, flawlessly ducking under fallen trees pausing only to scan the landscape for any sign of a misplaced feather. By now you’re starting to feel her energy and you both become one force gliding through the forest like a pair of seasoned predators. This time there is no warning. A flash of brown and black burst from underneath your dog’s gate and without much thought your gun is already mounted, aimed, and executing the shot. “Dead bird!” you shout as her nose hits the ground in excitement. “Find that bird,” you exclaim, almost expecting a reassuring response from your companion who then trots back with your first bird of the day wrapped gingerly in it’s mouth. Wherever the truck may be, now, it seems too close.

Hunting new and uncharted public land can be intimidating at first, but remember that nothing can ruin a good day’s hunt if you walk into the woods prepared. Equip yourself with knowledge of the area, and always bring some sort of navigation with you, whether that be a compass, cellphone, or your GPS device. That sense of panic that you felt in the beginning of the hunt will fade if you consistently put time in preparing for the unexpected. Lose yourself in the moments that make the travel worth it, and expect nothing in return unless you’re willing to rough it for you ruffed grouse.

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