Vintage Shot for Your Classic Double

End the silence of your classic grouse gun with this vintage shot from RST.

A recurring theme with grouse and woodcock shotguns, and collectively throughout upland hunting guns, is the presence of turn-of-the-century manufactured doubles. Between the potentially rst-badge_000weaker steel tubes, chamber lengths less than 2.75 inches and guns that generally just weren’t designed with today’s shotshell pressures in mind – many of these guns have sat and continue to sit in silence. From past experience in the used double market, I can tell you there are some real gems still out there with owners that believe they have a inert relic for the mantle – which keeps them from carrying the gun afield OR with no real attachment to the gun and not against selling it, do not believe the gun as perceived relic won’t bring a price worth more than what it holds to them as a conversation piece. What many don’t know is a shotshell company in Friendsville, Pennsylvania fits these needs . . . the Classic Shot Shell Co. Inc. – RST Ltd.

rst-grouse-gun20RST offers shells in 2, 2.5 and 2.75-inch lengths. Their Best Grade offerings are low pressure and subsequently low recoil. There must be some sort of performance trade off, right? I can tell you that I haven’t been able to determine it. What is appealing about RST beyond the previously mentioned aspects of their offerings, is also their use of spreader wads, size 9 and 10 shot sizing, paper hulls and roll-crimped manufacturing. In short, they can make a 2 and 9/16-inch chamber 12 gauge double choked full and full, a viable woodcock gun. Their Premium shells fall within the more modern offerings from other manufacturers, yet still don’t punch your shoulder.


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A 1916 Baker Gun & Forging, 12 ga. Black Beauty with 2 and 9/16-inch chambers is all business in the grouse woods.

A 20 gauge, 2.5 and 7/8-inch ounce and 8 shot are generally the shells in the pocket of my vest – great on grouse and woodcock over pointing dogs. I’ll note, that the 20s annie-bird-rst are modern manufacturing, post 1950. Another favorite shell is in 12 gauge, a 2.5-inch hull, spreader load in 1 ounce, with 8s- a great grouse shell.

RST really takes care of an important need in classic grouse guns and has done so in a industry-leading way. You’ll often find them represented at an RGS banquet through a case of shells they’ve donated and proudly advertised in the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine. They offer mixed cases as well through their website, which allows you the option to combine different gauges, shot weight and sizes as well as their other specialty offerings.

For more information on Classic Shot Shell Co. Inc., RST Ltd. – visit their website: www.rstshells.com.

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2016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – North Carolina & Georgia

grouse-camp-tour-banner-2North Carolina/Georgia

RGS chapters are striving to ensure national forests are properly managed in the Southern Appalachian Region to preserve our grouse hunting traditions for future generations.

The famed conservationist Aldo Leopold once said, “We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.” The word “strive”, being the operative, is exactly what RGS chapter volunteers are doing in North Carolina and Georgia to ensure our public lands, namely national forests, are being properly managed for wildlife.

rgscamp2016-93-of-256-1024x684With two setters on point up a steep ridge off a North Carolina national forest trail, longtime RGS member and grouse hunter Jeff Johnson rounded one side for a better view as he directed 19-year-old college student Noah Smith to approach from the other. A report of one flush, and then another, escaped the hunters through the young forest. The grouse escaped, as the King of Gamebirds often does, straight up the mountain without a shot. The sequence of one generation of grouse hunter working in tandem with the next generation paralleled the discussions RGS staff had with the local volunteers from North Carolina and Georgia regarding the absolute need to have a bigger voice to influence proper forest management on national forests.

rgscamp2016-109-of-256-1024x684In North Carolina, the Tour met with Jim Gray, Jeff Johnson, Tom England and Noah Smith, among others from the local RGS chapters, to discuss the state of young forest habitat and hunting in their area. Through our discussions, Jim Gray urged that the continued decline of habitat populations, not just for grouse, is the biggest threat to their public lands. Jim, and others from the chapter, have spent countless hours making a stand for proper forest management on national forests in the region through numerous political processes including the current Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Plan Revision process.

One of the first things Jeff Johnson stressed was the need to support the next generation of grouse hunters. The local volunteers had a profound understanding that in order to ensure future advocacy for habitat and wildlife, we need to increase the voice for young forest habitat. For example, Jim, Jeff and Tom have made a concerted effort to grouse hunt with Noah Smith, a 19-year-old college student, to educate the next generation on the importance of habitat and to “pass the torch”, in a sense, to new grouse hunters.

rgscamp2016-115-of-256-1024x684Noah stressed why he is passionate about grouse conservation and hunting, “Without grouse conservation, my dogs wouldn’t have anything to chase in the forest that is truly wild. The fact grouse are truly wild are what make them so special.”

The Tour had the pleasure to stay at a hunting camp along a trout stream owned by Monte Seehorn near Hayseville, North Carolina. The next day,  Monte and Bill Bunch showcased RGS chapter habitat projects in northern Georgia. Monte is an 83-year-old grouse hunter who continues to climb the mountains grouse hunting and to advocate for young forest habitat creation in Georgia. During our hunt, we asked Monte why grouse conservation continues to be important to him at his age. “I’m stubborn . . . I’m not willing to let the Forest Service get away with not doing what they should be doing on their own,” he adamantly responded. “I’m old enough to know what grouse populations used to be, and I know what habitat management can do for grouse here in the future.”

rgscamp2016-45-of-72-1024x683We found birds in Georgia, and while walking the trail back to the truck for the final steps of this year’s Tour, we heard a grouse drumming deep down a seemingly endless ridge, almost as if sounding a signal of goodbye as the Tour ended.

The grouse hunting story of the Southern Appalachian region is one of historic tradition with optimism and potential for the future. Throughout the Tour, we found birds where we found habitat, however the bottom line is that thousands of national forestlands are not being properly managed, and therein lies the potential for grouse populations and sporting traditions in this region for the future.

rgscamp2016-38-of-72-1024x683The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to spread awareness about the need for young forest habitat by discussing regional and local habitat creation issues with chapter volunteers. For our North Carolina and Georgia stop, special thanks go to Jim Gray, Jeff Johnson, Noah Smith, Tom England, Monte Seehorn and Bill Bunch, among others from the local chapters,  for helping with the Tour and for donating your time and efforts for the benefit of forest wildlife.

Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

 

 

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2016 GROUSE CAMP TOUR – Virginia/Tennessee

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Virginia/Tennessee

Grouse/woodcock hunters are speaking for the wildlife that cannot speak for themselves – influencing forest management on public lands.

Only partially down the Tennessee mountain trail, Parker Street, of the Appalachian Highlands RGS Chapter, pointed to some Rhododendron sandwiched between clear old growth and a more recently managed mountainside. “Right here . . . there ought to be a bird in here, boys,” he urged.

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A mere second after rounding the first thick, green patch, the English setter’s bell went silent, and a quick glance showed the bird dog focused and facing us through a crack in the brush. A few steps toward the point, a red-phased bird flushed our way, leaving a memorable sight through the blue southern sky, all caught on video.

As we gathered admiring the flush, we could distinctly hear a male bird drumming his territorial cadence not 100 yards further into the forest. Parker said, “Well, there ya go . . . where you find habitat, you find birds. This is what they need, the diversity. Imagine what it would be like if we had more of it.”

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Wildlife in the Southern Appalachian Region are in serious need of a larger/stronger voice to create the habitat they require to survive. As RGS often states to members, grouse hunters and the public, “This is why your voice, our voice, makes a difference for the wildlife that can’t speak for themselves.”

Another theme that rang true throughout the region was the optimism for habitat creation, and the word “potential” was repeated multiple times. With thousands of acres of national forestlands, there is significant potential for the future of grouse populations and young forest habitat if science-based forest management is properly completed.

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Last year, RGS took a stand to benefit wildlife in the Southern Appalachian Region by filing a Petition for Rulemaking with the United States Forest Service due to the consistent failure to provide the young forest habitats required by the ruffed grouse, American woodcock, golden-winged warbler and other game and nongame wildlife on national forests throughout the eastern United States.

Unfortunately over the past several decades, individual national forests throughout the eastern United States have met, on average, only 24 percent of forest plan minimum acreage goals for these important young forest habitats.  Not surprisingly, wildlife dependent upon young forest habitats are experiencing substantial population declines on many of our national forests.

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Throughout this process, RGS is closely monitoring the on-the-ground actions and regularly interacting with the Forest Service at local and national levels to ensure that the outlined conservation imperatives are consistently and effectively addressed.

RGS staff, members and dedicated volunteers are actively spreading awareness about the truth behind science-based forest management to those who are uninformed and may battle against the issue of cutting trees on public lands. This is happening from the national to local levels, but the voice could be louder – the larger the contingent supporting healthy forests, the more this education and outreach can influence governmental agencies and the public for future change.

The purpose of the Grouse Camp Tour is to spread awareness about the need for young forest habitat by discussing regional and local habitat creation issues with chapter volunteers. For our Virginia/Tennessee stop, special thanks go to Chris White, Parker Street, Robin and Raymond Cooper, O.J. Chartrand, Steve Stafford, Steve Dula and Tarn Rosenbaum, among others in the Appalachian Highlands RGS Chapter based in Bristol for helping with the Tour and for donating your time and efforts for the benefit of forest wildlife.

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RGS Digital Media Specialist Seth Heasley, Parker Street, O.J. Chartrand and RGS Director of Communications Matt Soberg.

Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

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2016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – Monterey, Virginia

grouse-camp-tour-banner-2RGS 2016 GROUSE CAMP TOUR – Monterey, Virginia

The Birthplace of the Ruffed Grouse Society

Walking down the short main street of Monterey, Virginia, a small mountain town in the northwestern part of the state, it would be difficult to assume that North America’s leading forest wildlife conservation organization was started there way back in 1961, but it was . . . welcome to the birthplace of the Ruffed Grouse Society.

day-3-1That year, three gentlemen sat around a table in a downtown real estate office and decided it was important to conserve ruffed grouse populations for future generations. Unbeknownst to them, they started a national conservation organization in that little mountain town that grew to the well-respected national conservation organization that RGS is today.

gruse-camp-va-day-3-8-of-48-1024x684During our Stop #2 in Monterey, we did a little research in town and located the original Articles of Incorporation from 1961 at the clerk’s office and stories from 1962 at the local newspaper. The 1962 newspaper article mentioned ruffed grouse as, “the king of upland game birds”. It is clear that passions for ruffed grouse were the same in the early 60’s as they are today.

gruse-camp-va-day-3-2-of-48-1024x684The Articles of Incorporation state that the purpose of RGS is to ” study ruffed grouse and its habitats . . . to cooperate with all agencies, public and private, who have an interest in conservation and good sportsmanship . . . and to simply promote interest in, and conservation of, the ruffed grouse.” That same purpose still holds true today.

While in northern Virginia, RGS staff also had the pleasure of spending time with volunteers from the James River and H.C. Edwards RGS Chapters afield and in grouse camp. We enjoyed the camaraderie, stories, great food and laughing inherent in the grouse camp tradition. Thank you to the many chapter members that welcomed RGS staff with open arms and thanks for all you do to create healthy forest habitat so we can preserve our sporting traditions for future generations.

1And, we found habitat. But, the wildlife in Virginia and the Southern Appalachian region need more habitat, the grouse need more, especially on national forests.

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Where we found habitat, we found birds. Hunts resulted in flushes and a birds harvested. RGS member Middleton Smith bagged his first grouse during the Grouse Camp Tour, which we all know is a memorable moment in the lifetime of a grouse hunter. The bottom line is that where there was habitat, there were birds, which proves that the RGS mission of creating healthy forests based on scientific forest management works.

gruse-camp-va-day-4-11-of-16-1-2-1024x684The 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 Darrell Feasel, Bill Sneddon, Mike Carpenter, Roy Lambertson, Middleton Smith, and many others for donating their time and efforts to show staff around the great place of Virginia. There are others who helped, and names missing from this list will be added here and mentioned in the Spring Issue of the Ruffed Grouse Society magazine. Also, thanks to SportDOG Brand for being the official dog collar sponsor of this year’s Tour. www.sportdog.com.

 

 

 

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2016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – West Virginia

 

grouse-camp-tour-banner-22016 RGS GROUSE CAMP TOUR – West Virginia

The Habitat and History of the Canaan Valley

early-morning-canaan-valleyGrouse 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.”

img_4292-1024x683At 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!

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Walt Lesser with his Ryman setter Katie are pictured while hunting the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia during the 2016 RGS Grouse Camp Tour.

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.

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Pictured are, from left to right, RGS Digital Media and Marketing Specialist Seth Heasley, Rich Skeweris from the Backbone Mountain RGS Chapter, Dave Truban from the Northcentral West Virginia Chapter and A.J. DeRosa from Project Upland.

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.

 

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35th Anniversary National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt Results

natlogo2016gr_v22016 results showed increases in ruffed grouse and American woodcock harvest compared to 2015.

The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) held its 35th annual National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt (NGWH) on October 13 and 14, 2016 in and around Grand Rapids, Minnesota with harvest results, obtained by RGS wildlife biologists, showing increases in ruffed grouse and American woodcock harvest compared to 2015.

rgs-national-hunt-1-1280x977Participating hunters (104) harvested 175 ruffed grouse during the two-day hunt, which is a 17 percent increase over the 2015 harvest of 149 ruffed grouse. Each hunter harvested an average of 0.86 grouse per day in 2016, which is the fourth lowest in NGWH history, compared to 0.73 in 2015, which was the second lowest. These results are not surprising as we climb from the bottom of the ruffed grouse cycle. Based upon calculated results, the index to reproductive success for ruffed grouse was 15 percent lower than the long-term average, which means there were fewer young birds in the current population.

Participating hunters harvested 384 American woodcock, which is an 8 percent increase over the 2015 harvest of 357 American woodcock. Each hunter harvested an average of 1.9 woodcock per day in 2016 compared to 1.7 in 2015. Based upon the calculated results, the index to reproductive success for American woodcock was on par with the long term average.

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RGS/AWS President & CEO John Eichinger is pictured with a harvested American woodcock during the 2016 NGWH.

“Not only has the RGS National Hunt been an important celebration of grouse and woodcock hunting for 35 years, but it provides an unparalleled opportunity to study the population ecology of ruffed grouse and American woodcock,” said RGS President and CEO John Eichinger. “Each year, the data collected gives us a chance to better understand these two important game birds. The information accumulated throughout the history of this event represents one of the longest, continuous efforts for collecting scientific data of a target species within a specific region.”

The late Gordon W. Gullion, universally acknowledged as the world’s expert on ruffed grouse, immediately recognized the scientific potential of the NGWH when the event was first held in 1982. Gullion understood that because it is conducted in the same locale, at the same time each year and using the same methods, it provides an outstanding opportunity to study the annual variation of the local ruffed grouse population and how that variation relates to the 10-year cycle.

The NGWH is conducted in the Grand Rapids area during the second week in October each year. This world-class event is sponsored and coordinated by the Grand Rapids Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society whose volunteers contribute literally thousands of hours of their time to make the event happen.

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RGS/AWS Director of Member Relations & Outreach Mark Fouts is pictured mentoring a young grouse hunter during the 2016 NGWH.

“We are proud to host the RGS National Hunt in Grand Rapids. Not only does the event enhance the future of grouse and woodcock populations, but it brings marketing and tourism benefits to the local community. Thanks to all the Grand Rapids Chapter committee members for their hard work and dedication to host this celebration of grouse and woodcock hunting,” said Grand Rapids Chapter President Marty Niewind.

For 35 years, the NGWH has provided invaluable insight into the ecology of these two premier game birds. RGS will continue to ask questions and, hopefully, find answers through the NGWH that will help secure the future for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and the sportsmen and women who hold them so dear.

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Thank You! ~ Fall 2016 President’s Message

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THANK YOU!

“Nothing happens until a sale is made,” is a maxim sometimes used in the business world. For the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society, we could modify it to say, “Nothing happens until a volunteer steps forward.”

In the last issue of this magazine, we presented excerpts of the 2015 RGS & AWS Annual Report to highlight the progress your organization has made in pursuing our mission to preserve our sporting traditions through the creation of healthy woodland habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other forest wildlife. 2014 was a tough year to follow because in that year RGS and AWS set records for habitat projects accomplished – in terms of project dollars invested and the number of impacted acres.

I’m very happy to report that 2015 was even better! Our investment in habitat projects increased from $1 million in 2014 to $2 million in 2015. The number of acres impacted increased from 10,000 acres in 2014 to 30,000 acres in 2015.

The fact that our mission impact is increasing dramatically is just one example of a great story we can tell about RGS and AWS, but it’s important for you to know that, for virtually every mission-based program we have, none of the accomplishments would happen without the help of volunteers.

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Our volunteers embrace the duty to enhance forest habitat and wildlife with a sense of fulfillment from being involved with an effective organization on a local and national scale. Being involved in RGS and AWS is easy – our volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, devoting their time, talent and treasure with all efforts making a difference for the future of habitat and hunting.

For example, a member from Pennsylvania volunteers her efforts in terms of advocacy, habitat, recruitment, fundraising and more. An RGS Life Sponsor from the Upland Bird Hunt Chapter, she donates the lunches and a huntsmen gun to the annual Upland Bird Hunt in Pennsylvania. She is a great ambassador for RGS volunteering hours of time advocating for the RGS mission in many forums including emails, letters, articles and public meetings. She also spends her time in the spring and summer working on habitat projects. This is a great example of how powerful RGS volunteers can be and shows the multitude of opportunities to make a difference depending on your skills and time.mag-comp

For a list of specific member volunteer achievements in terms of advocacy, habitat, recruitment and fundraising and examples of ways you can help, see this “President’s Message” in the Fall 2016 Ruffed Grouse Society magazine companion.

 

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Why We Hunt, with Member Douglas B. Egenolf

Be careful . . . ruffed grouse will burn a passion into your hunting heart from which you can’t break free.

that-moment_copy-2-1024x989 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.

misty-morning-2-1024x634When 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!”

michigan2013beginning-037-2-1024x750Douglas 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.

 

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Book Review – Tranquillity Revisited

Tranquillity Revisited, by Colonel Harold P. Sheldon

~ Review by Jason S. Dowd

Collecting and reading outdoor literature is a hobby many of us pursue as a means to stay sane between autumns. Some of us take this a step further and seek out authors from the earlier part of the 20th Century, the “Golden Era” of grouse gunning. Not being excluded from the latter bunch, myself, it was only a matter of time until I stumbled across a man that turned out to be one of my favorite authors of the genre, Colonel Harold P. Sheldon.

image1Colonel Harold Pearl Sheldon (1888 to 1951), a native son of Vermont, is known quite well by some, but for those new to collecting classic hunting literature, his body of work may be overshadowed by some of the bigger names of the era. Growing up in rural New England around the turn of the 19th Century undoubtedly helped foster Sheldon’s love of the outdoors, and after serving with the United States Army during World War I, he went on to make a career of his passion by becoming the Vermont Commissioner of Game in 1921 before being named the Chief United States Game Warden in 1926. He later pulled duty as editor of such publications as The Sportsman, Country Life and Outdoors Magazine, as well as publishing his essays in the form of Tranquillity (1936), Tranquillity Revisited (1945), and Tranquillity Regained (1945).

I first came across Sheldon’s writings in an anthology of upland stories compiled by George Bird Evans entitled The Upland Gunner’s Book.  Being a habitual peruser, I am often guilty of scanning through publications such as this and picking out only the titles that really pique my interest, and Sheldon’s essay on a late flight of woodcock entitled Ghost Birds captured my attention right away.

Once engaged in the story, Sheldon’s writings transported me deep into the Vermont hillsides. Before I knew what hit me, I was fighting my way through the alders, senses straining for the sights and sounds of a woodcock flushing in an almost eerie darkness. The muzzle flash from a set of London-made, 12-bore barrels lit up the gloom, and its sharp report shattered the silence. I knew despite the darkness I was in good company.

Sheldon’s ability to allow a cast of characters turn into tried and true friends is what really makes his writings shine. This paired with a backdrop that is painted so vividly that upon completion the story feels more like a first-hand experience than something that was put into print nearly a century ago. The ambiance created within these pages is a true treasure, and in my opinion, something that sets a good author in this genre apart from his peers. Tranquillity is a place that every sportsman or woman interested in classic literature should visit at least once.

Upon your arrival in the quaint village, you will find your time to be quite occupied. You will find yourself in your old crony The Judge’s library sharing a snort of brandy as you clean a well-worn double and discussing the next morning’s plans to chase grouse in the hills on the edge of town. You will feel warmth of the spring sun on a local riverbank as you pander over a selection of dry flies with your good friend The Doctor. You will experience the pain that comes with remembering a woodcock hunt with an old friend that never made it back for another gunning season, and you will most certainly make sure you stay within the good graces of The Dark Haired Lady.

The Good Colonel’s writings have made quite the impression on me, and I hope they move you in the same manner. The next time you are feeling like October could never be further away, keep in mind The Captain always has an extra box of number 8s, and the woodcock flights are always in. Tranquillity is just a few pages away.

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Anyone Can Be A Grouse Hunter

No cookie-cutter template exists to define a grouse hunter. You don’t have to shoot a double-barrel side-by-side, run an English setter, and wear brand new gear to be a grouse hunter. If you do . . .  great! But grouse hunters come in all shapes, sizes, practices and traditions – the more grouse hunters we have that appreciate the grouse woods experience and understand the need for conservation, the more effective we can be as a voice for healthy forests, grouse, woodcock and hunting.

IMG_20151003_100127 (2) (1024x1024)Some of the best birds dogs with which I’ve had the pleasure to hunt (when I say “best” I’m not talking about my own by the way!) have been specifically bred for grouse hunting, their bloodlines traced back many years to the classic champions of bird dogs past. These dogs have the genes and are often paired with serious grouse hunters who either effectively train them or have the luxury of spending significant time hunting wild birds. But maybe the the best I’ve seen was owned by my uncle, a dairy farmer who never spent a dime on a dog. “Hoss” was a Labrador retriever with a mysterious lineage who hunted grouse, woodcock and pheasants, and of all my hunting memories that make me appreciate sporting traditions, I’ve enjoyed hunting with Hoss probably more than any. Any dog can hunt the grouse woods.

That being said, it is not even necessary to have a dog at all to successfully hunt grouse. Many of life’s responsibilities dictate whether dog ownership is viable, and if it doesn’t work for you, don’t let that hinder your ability to get to the grouse woods. In fact, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources determined that more grouse hunters hunt without dogs than with dogs in a 2010 statewide survey (53 percent without dogs versus 47 percent with dogs). No excuse exists to not hunt grouse.

GUNS AND AMMO TOP 2 (1024x251)Any shotgun can be a grouse gun – often times, the gun action, gauge and shot size are of personal preference – whether it be a side-by-side, over-under, single shot, semi-auto or pump, use what you have available and hit the trail. The same thing goes for gear and apparel. Sure, new-fangled products come out specifically designed for grouse hunting every year, but they are not necessary to be a grouse hunter. Some of my hardcore grouse hunting buddies look like they were dropped off a bus straight from 1975 with their floppy-eared hats, plaid-ripped shirts and tattered chaps, but despite that, they probably enjoy the grouse woods more than I do.

There are many serious hunters that prefer to only hunt grouse, but grouse hunters aren’t IMG_20151124_075927 (2) (866x1024)an exclusive club. For many, a game bird is a game bird, and a bird hunter is a bird hunter. Sure, there are significant differences in habitat, terrain and strategies between hunting various species, but I encourage those who are bird hunters to diversify. If you reside in the primary ruffed grouse range but hunt primarily pheasants, find some grouse habitat and hit the trail. If you reside outside the range, I’m telling you right now, book a grouse and woodcockhunting trip and travel next fall. As I always say, once you get bit by the grouse hunting bug, you are infected. It is an addiction that will bring you back for more.

The bottom line is that the Ruffed Grouse Society is a melting pot of grouse and woodcock hunters and forest habitat conservationists that care about preserving our sporting traditions for future generations. As long as you are ethical, honor the birds and appreciate the overall grouse hunt experience, it doesn’t matter what you look like and how you do it. The more inviting we are to new and all types of grouse and woodcock hunters, the better chance we have to build a bigger voice carrying our mission of preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for the future.

~ First published 2016 Fall Ruffed Grouse Society magazine – From Point to Flush Editor Note by Matt Soberg.

 

 

 

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