Today I’m writing to confess and attempt to explain my possible shortcomings as a grouse hunter as well as apologize for any wrongdoings I have done unto the bird I refer to as the King, the Ruffed Grouse. The story begins when I was just a young lad, cutting my teeth on the sport of grouse hunting.
You see when I was growing up, my family was not what you would consider a typical “hunting” family. Although we lived in Duluth, Minnesota my family wasn’t much into hunting, and my Dad, being a North Dakota transplant was a far cry from the cattail sloughs and flocks of Mallards that he grew up sporting. Lucky for me, that did not stop him from taking me into the Northwoods to teach me the ways of the sportsmen. A single “ride-along” grouse hunt later and I was a full-blown grouse hunting junkie! I couldn’t wait to take gun safety so I could begin carrying a shotgun of my own! Another thing that you need to know about my family is that the closest thing we had to a gun dog was a miniature Schnauzer named Hans, and while I have no doubt my beloved little Schnauzer would have given a valiant effort in the grouse woods, I’m not sure how well he would have fared against King Ruff.
Alas, I learned to hunt grouse without a dog which leads me to my confession and the age-old controversial topic of whether or not one should consider shooting a grouse on the ground. So I hereby confess to the King, I have shot grouse on the ground, in the trees, in a ditch, on a stump and probably a few other places I can’t remember. Yes, I did eventually learn how to wing shoot, but the point I want to make is that I learned how to hunt and stalk a grouse intuitively, on foot, and by myself. When I had the opportunity to take a shot, I did so more often than not. At the time I never questioned what I was doing, because I felt that by hunting the coverts in this fashion, without the use of a dog, I earned the chance to take every shot by outsmarting Ruff on his own turf. I certainly learned much about the Ruffed Grouse and his habitat in all my years of hunting this way, but more importantly the bird earned all of my respect as a hunter, as they truly never cease to amaze me!
All that being said, I certainly won’t be the one to judge anyone for shooting a bird on the ground, and in fact I believe there is a place for it, especially when it comes to a young hunter trying to earn his stripes in the grouse woods. However I also will not blame any seasoned hunter that turns his or her nose up at so much as the thought of taking the Ruffed Grouse anywhere other than on the wing! In my opinion, there is room for both types of hunters in this world as long as one element of the hunt holds true, and that is respect and passion for the Ruffed Grouse and his habitat!
On a positive note, I am excited to announce the expected arrival of my first bird dog this summer! I have placed a deposit on an English Setter pup, from a kennel that we hope to feature on the blog when the time comes. I look forward to joining the ranks of the bird dog community and pursuing upland hunting the way the heritage of the sport beckons it to be experienced! It is my hope that the grouse gods and leagues of bird dog enthusiasts out there can accept me into their circle and forgive me of my follies as a grouse hunter. For if I have ever made a fool of the King, please accept my apology, as any true hunter knows, the Ruffed Grouse should be making a fool out us more so than us he. That’s the way it ought to be!