The Habitat and History of the Canaan Valley
Grouse camp mystifies the overall grouse and woodcock hunting experience . . . sitting next to a fire, telling stories of misses and great days afield, belly laughing at your buddies, all while petting a bird dog . . . these are all things we cherish and must preserve for future generations of grouse and woodcock hunters.
Famed grouse and woodcock hunting author, George Bird Evans, who happened to write many of his oft-read stories about his exploits in West Virginia may have said it best about grouse camp importance when he said, “Much of the pleasure of shooting is what accompanies it and sharing it all with a good friend.”
At the same time, our future of grouse hunting is being threatened by the lack of young forest habitat being created and enhanced, and this is true throughout the Southern Appalachian Region of the United States, our destination for this year’s RGS Grouse Camp Tour. The RGS/AWS staff kicked off this year’s Tour to spread awareness about the need for healthy forests by visiting the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia, a place with a storied history for grouse and woodcock hunting.
We had the pleasure to hunt with Walt Lesser, an author in his own right from Elkins, West Virginia, who is known as a local historian of the habitat and hunting within the Canaan Valley. His book, the Real Ryman Setter, showcases his experience raising and hunting this special bird dog breed. While afield carrying his 20-gauge Ithaca side-by-side, he took a break to share a special story . . . the day he hunted with George Bird Evans in 1958 at a place called “The Gates”. Although we didn’t know it at the time, he shared a secret with us . . . we were standing at that exact place. Hunting at “The Gates” is a story that will be told by future produced video . . . Stay tuned!
We also had the pleasure to spend time in camp and to hunt with Dave Truban of the Northcentral West Virginia RGS Chapter, and Rich Skeweris and Scott Berg of the Backbone Mountain RGS Chapter who volunteer hours of their time and efforts to RGS to fight the right fight of creating healthy forests for grouse and woodcock. They get out in the community to spread awareness about the RGS mission and to get others involved with their local chapter. They hold numerous events including habitat projects, tree plantings, chukar challenges and more. We enjoyed hunting over their dogs and viewing the great assets and treasures of the West Virginia grouse woods. Without grouse hunters, RGS/AWS members and Chapters as these, RGS could not continue to preserve our sporting traditions for future generations.
The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to celebrate grouse and woodcock hunting and the creation of young forest habitat by visiting local chapter grouse camps within the region to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the mission of RGS/AWS. Special thanks goes to Dave Truban, Rich Skeweris, Walt Lesser and Scott Berg for donating their time and efforts to show staff around the great place of West Virginia. Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.