It’s been a thrill, this October prime time in the grouse covers. Those brilliant blue sky days, and bright yellow aspen leaves fluttering to the ground. The explosive flush of a grouse, the twittering tower of a woodcock in flight. These are the days that sustain us and our bird dogs the rest of the year.
We are the lucky few, traveling the dusty back roads from cover to cover. Hand on the wheel, always on the look out for new thickets holding grouse. The old familiar spots have their charm too, that expectation of knowing when and where to expect a flush. It’s almost like a sixth sense, the hair standing up on the back of the neck, when you know a bird is about to become airborne. I see you there mister grouse, at the fallen treetop, the alder edge, the blackberry patch on the edge of an old log landing. Levi or Maggie will roust you out of your hiding place. I’ll be ready.
It’s a familiar ritual of fall. Open the gun, pop a spent shell into the vest. Let the smoke clear a moment, and reload. Follow the dog to a downed bird getting an enthusiastic sniffing. Give me the bird Levi, it’s my dinner. Ruffle the feathers around the neck, feel the heft, admire the color of the fan. Into the vest it goes, hopefully with a couple woodcock.
My dogs are never far from me. We share these most special of days. That familiar crunch of leaves under paws, the excited little yip when a bird goes up. Always in motion. Time out for a drink of water already, you two.
It’s a special place, the grouse cover. It’s where the great old pines have fallen to rest, covered in moss and leaf litter. It smells of damp earth and leaves. Never far from an alder swamp, alder trunks growing horizontal with old age. Young aspen whips drink up the sunlight in spaces left by old trees felled by the wind. It’s a rich landscape, full of color and life.
By Joel Schnell
Posted November 15, 2016.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com