Written by: Curtis Taylor
Chagrin Falls, OH
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a remarkable place with its beautiful pine forests, spectacular shorelines along three of the five great lakes, and some of the best bird hunting in the nation. I grew up hunting there with my father, my uncles, and my grandfather. Every Fall we would take to the magical woods of the Upper Peninsula and do our best to bring home a few grouse. I was six years old when my dad took me along for the for the first time. I carried a lever action air gun as I marched along proudly with my dad and our golden retriever, Charlie.
I was so eager to be taken seriously and prove myself as a hunter. I focused intently on everything happening around me and wanted to see one of these elusive creatures that I was told were the “king” of gamebirds.
Following Charlie closely as he circled and sniffed my dad would say, “hang on Curt, I think Charlie smells a grouse.” We would stop and Charlie would go in circles sniffing and wagging his tail and finally come back to my dad where he was praised as good dog and patted on the head.
This went on for several hours. Dad would put his arm out and stop me, tell me that Charlie was on the scent again. After circling and sniffing for a few minutes Charlie would come back, having produced no results, and get heaped with praise and told he was a good dog.
I’m not certain what was going on inside my six-year-old head but after watching Charlie do this a dozen times without ever seeing a grouse, I waited until the appropriate moment to grab my dad’s hunting vest and tug on it. My dad turned and leaned down to find out what was on my mind. “What is it son?” my dad asked.
“Dad, I think I smell a grouse”.
My dad started laughing, and being all of six years old, I was defensive of my declaration. Through his chuckles my dad asked, “what do you think a grouse smells like?”
My response: “I don’t know. But I don’t think Charlie knows either”.
1966 – Little St. Martins Island, mid-October – Upper Peninsula of Michigan.