” . . . and part of the reason I hunt is because I love the bonds that this sport creates. The bond between a man or woman and a dog, the bond between fellow hunters, and the bond between the hunter and the hunted. Being able to share a hobby and passion with the ones I love means everything to me.” RGS Member Morgan Wolfe
I remember the first grouse flush I ever saw. It was in a New Hampshire cover we call “Spilled Milk”. The dairy farmer who owned the land passed away a long time ago, but before he did he left an old milk can down by the river. It’s on its side as if it spilled the milk, and it’s near a tremendous amount of Japanese knotweed. We find woodcock are in there, but further up where the feeder stream joins the river are some old apple trees. We always work the cover counter-clockwise beginning with the knotweed and woodcock and closing out with the apples and grouse.
One late season we scratched a few woodcock in the knotweed. But up by the apples, my setter Rowdy got birdy and stopped. A grouse blasted from the base of the tree and my passion for that bird was lit.
But it wasn’t always that way. As a native North Carolinian my outdoor passions began with horseback riding. Freshwater and saltwater fishing followed, and ultimately I learned to shoot rifles and shotguns. While I love to shoot pistols, I was most curious about bird hunting. I think it’s partly because I saw how excited my step dad got for fall. If you know him, Tom Keer, then you know he’s obsessed with bird hunting. My friends call Tom “the guy in the woods with the whistle and all the dogs wearing cow bells”.
To me, he is my mentor, my hunting and fishing buddy, and part of the reason I hunt is because I love the bonds that this sport creates. The bond between a man or woman and a dog, the bond between fellow hunters, and the bond between the hunter and the hunted. Being able to share a hobby and passion with the ones I love means everything to me. Upland bird hunting is a hard sport and it takes hard work, patience and perseverance. But the moment all your hard work pays off, the reward becomes so much greater than the struggle.
I hunt grouse because I can do it all year long. Maybe not the actual hunting part, that’s only for a few months, but the other aspects, too. Training our four English setters is my favorite activity, and working through their commands, whistle training them, staunching them up with check cords and the like. I take care of our gear which includes waxing chaps and boots, stitching vests, and cleaning guns. I love to shoot clays whether it’s at our local gravel pit using Tom’s Parker VH 20 side-by-side or my mom’s Beretta 28 gauge over/under.
Grouse hunting is learning experience, and every time I hunt I learn something new. Sometimes I see Tom match a particular dog to a cover based on the way the dog hunts, while other times we study topo maps to find new coverts. The hard work pays off when the dogs lock up on point and either a grouse rumbles out or for a woodcock whistles. It’s cool to see bore holes along dirt roads and chalk in the woods and to find grouse in Hawthornes, briar tangles, near Goldenrod and other areas.
I’m a sophomore in college, so it’s a little difficult to get out in the woods. Last year I only snuck in two days and it poured rain for both. We went anyway, because that’s all the time I had. When school gets busy and I don’t have time to hunt much, it impacts my mood and my personal well being. It’s probably because I don’t get to spend as much time with some of my favorite people and dogs doing what I love to do most of all. So I look forward to making the most of this upcoming bird season and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll shoot my first Carolina grouse this fall.
To join or for more information, go to www.ruffed.org