By Joel Schnell November 30, 2015
We took a break for a few weeks to hunt the wily whitetail. My dogs gave me much grief, as I loaded up the truck but left without them. But now all is right in the world, we are back on the hunt for the ruffed grouse.
A different sort of hunt
Gone are the days of coveys of young birds, the whole family flushing from one spot. Birds are dispersed now, and what drives them are feeding for winter- and cover from the cold.
A young pup becomes a seasoned veteran
Levi gets it now. He knows what to look for, what they smell like. He’s tasted the elixir of grouse scent and there is no going back. I’m proud of him. He’s putting up birds in front of the gun, and with gusto. At breakneck speed he tears through the woods. I can tell when he’s on a bird, that snuffling nose betrays him.
Attacking the December birds
The lazy days of autumn are gone by. It’s struggle in the woods now, the cold and snow are our enemy. It’s very quiet, few other hunters share the Northwoods. The ground is hard and unyielding, and crunches under foot. The creeks gurgle under a blanket of ice unwilling to tell if it will hold my weight. An icy bath awaits a careless step. I look for grouse either feeding in the open, or hiding in the thickness depending upon the weather. It’s like a desperate campaign, bundle up to fight the cold, wear down the birds by sheer effort of boot leather.
That end of the hunt feeling
Few things are as satisfying as the end of a winter grouse hunt day at the cabin. A wood fire drives heat into your bones. Maybe a brown liquor swirls in my tumbler. Dogs lie content on the floor nearest the fire. Maggie snores to raise the roof. My world in these four walls is content for a few hours.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com