Be careful . . . ruffed grouse will burn a passion into your hunting heart from which you can’t break free.
Give me just a touch of cooler air and for some reason, I have to start roaming. If the calendar is on the right month, that means the ruffed grouse season is in full swing. I am going to spend my free time experiencing a dense woods devour me, bones and all. I could spend some time waiting in a treestand for a whitetailed deer to come by but, I must admit, I still get fidgety. That sitting in one spot doesn’t give me any relief from that feeling that I have to roam. As I study my simple reaction to cooler weather, some will call it many things. I no longer think of it as being a passed-down tradition, being taught by someone, etc., etc. It is in my blood, and this feeling comes over me much the same as breathing; so simple and natural.
I let all of my senses come alive in the woods as the two of us share in the feast. It only takes a moment of time to take in a deep breath to smell what is around you. Hold your feet still while you decide your next direction to move and your ears just might hear something other than your feet shuffling the leaves. Let yourself spin a full 360 degrees in a unique spot just for your eyes to get satisfied with all of the colors that are still there, even after the leaves have fallen. Take one of your gloves off to feel just how smooth a tree’s bark can be.
When the time came that I couldn’t hunt for ruffed grouse any more without having a pointer present, I then added the element of living vicariously through the hunting dog to the list of senses being stroked with silky pleasure. In this modern crazy world that we live in filling our heads with various issues, all of those headaches drift away like gray smoke into matching clouds when you’re following a hunting dog of any breed or type. With a young or old pointer of any breed, you get those moments of anticipation while the dog goes on point. You want to drink up every unique and special moment and still be able to perform in the shooting department if the chance for a shot should present itself. It doesn’t matter if you have a good or bad performance, you have made some fine memories that will fill the rest of your wait for next season with glee.
If a challenge trips your trigger, welcome to the holy grail of upland bird hunting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a first-year ruffed grouse or one that has made it through a few winters, chasing one is going to take your mind every now and then into the “How and Why Department”. I know I have come home empty handed many times. Yet, I still love it after all these years when my old worn out ears hear one flush close by me or the dog with the force of shear blistering speed that you can sometimes feel. Drumming in the spring is needed and interesting, but flushing in the fall is breathtaking and exciting. To hold one that has been downed from the air in your hand is a trophy of the finest outdoor order. Make sure to jot down a note about that day. Also, make sure to take a closer look at the gorgeous bird’s backside and look for those “Hearts of Fire Feathers”. Be careful though, as this bird will burn a passion into your hunting heart from which you can’t break free. It will make you feel like I do when I say, “I truly love to hunt ruffed grouse!”
Douglas B. Egenolf is an RGS member and outdoorsman from a better time and place in Indiana whose hunting ways run deep through his family tree across the big pond. When he’s not working for corporate America, he attempts to bring home as many outdoor memories, large or small, that he can to re-live for those years in a rocking chair.