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An excuse to wander

Staff Reports

Grouse hunting may not be the most exciting of the small game hunts, nor the most relaxing, nor strategic but it probably the most enjoyable.Searching for the mountain blue grouse is an excuse, really, to walk aimlessly through the high alpine forest, letting curiosity (more than the trail) guide your way.A summer hike tends to have some lofty goal: a mountain peak, a high lake, or a waterfall.But the goal during a grouse hunt is, ostensibly, to find well-hidden birds that live just about anywhere.The real goal is to explore local forestland, get to know every brook and cranny of the valley’s wilderness. Many a grouse hunt ends empty-handed. No problem. A grouse hunter’s real quarry is something more.On a summer hike, one may hear a strange sound away through the valley, or see the glimpses of a pocket meadow through fingers of pencil-pine. But it’s hard to convince friends and family to waver from the beaten track.During a grouse hunt there’s an excuse to investigate, check it out, find what strange creek bed winds through that meadow, and analyze the tracks to and from a sunken wallow.Then there are the birds themselves.The best way to find a grouse is to step on it. Notoriously slow, vacant-minded, and brash, the grouse is a good bird to warm up the hunting reflexes and fine-tune the shot.They all have wings, true, but most of them don’t know why.Once the bird is spotted, he’ll begin the lengthy take-off process. At this point, a hunter usually has time to take off his pack, fix a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, write a letter to his mom, and then take the shot. Most of the time, they’ll actually try flying, or something vaguely related to flight (it’s really more like a flop/flight/mid-air tumble). Grouse always fly according to two strict maxims: flap the wings as little as possible and get back to a stationary position as soon as possible.Not a brilliant getaway plan.But, it works nicely for wandering hunters.If a hunter is familiar with the area he’s hunting, then bird decisions go something like this: “Well, I’ll probably wander up toward the old cabin and nose around there for a bit, take a nap, and then try the other side of the creek.”If a hunter isn’t familiar with the area he’s hunting, then decisions go something like this: “I’ll just wander around that hillside aimlessly, pretending I know where the birds are, then I’ll take a nap, and then I’ll try the other side of the creek.” And at the end of the day, the fluttering autumn leaves, the cool breeze, and the quality of one’s nap are directly related to the success of the hunt. Birds in the bag are a bonus.


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