Saturday, July 20, 2013


Shared grouse country is a treasure.
It was something that I read in Gene Hill’s Shotgunner’s Handbook that got me to thinking about bird hunting manners. It is seldom spoken about, unless introducing a youngster to the sport, or even an oldster I guess, but manners are extremely important.
Gun safety is at the top of the list, keeping track of where that muzzle is pointed. The way grouse explode into the air and reflexes take over, it is easy to imagine horrible things happening.  Most of my hunting used to be done alone, and much still is, which eliminates that concern.
Game hogs can’t be tolerated, but with the wily grouse of today it is almost impossible to be a game hog. I guess it is more of an attitude thing. Hunting is about a lot more than the number of birds killed.
Guests hunting with me are always encouraged to take most of the shots. I’m not sure if that is me being gracious or maybe me trying to hide my so-so shooting. Enthusiastic newcomers are fun to watch, even if the ruffed grouse is usually long gone by the time the trigger is pulled. Seasoned hunters, who actually kill birds with some regularity, are like watching magicians.
Woodcock pinned
Most of us could not imagine hunting without a dog, and I’m sure our opinions of our own dogs are like those of our children, a bit tainted. Never ever should a hunter make a negative comment about someone else’s dog, and please leave the directing of the dog to its owner. If you are not sure of the proper protocol around another person’s dog, ask.
On occasion, in a large alder flat or grouse thicket and when we’ve been gunning over two dogs or more, I’ll tell the trusted friend to split off and take my older dog along. The oldest girl is what I call bullet-proof, with good habits so well ingrained that I know she’ll be fine, no matter what is said to her. Besides, she’s basically a whore and will hunt for anybody.
Training together
I love dogs and enjoy the pandemonium of hunting over multiples. I’m sure a lot of people think this is insane, and I don’t claim that it puts more birds in the bag. I guarantee it is never boring though and what person’s heart doesn’t flutter at the sight of three or more dogs pointing simultaneously.
In the field most of them seem to get along and tend to business, but it certainly is more fun if they all honor each other’s points. Occasionally, some dogs, often who’ve spent their lives hunting in preserves, are clueless out in the big northern forests. Most will put it all together in short order though, particularly if they are hunting alongside experienced dogs, but, if after a day or two they still haven’t, I don’t know if they ever will.
The right friend can add a lot of pleasure
to a day afield.
And definitely, to avoid the biggest faux pas of all, you must assume that when someone takes you to one of their favorite coverts it is not yours to share unless the privilege is specifically granted. And, quite frankly, I’ve never heard of that happening. Productive grouse cover is just too precious and hard to come by to casually spread around. Sleeping with another’s spouse will get you into no more trouble than stealing their coverts—it is that serious.
So a gun shot a little too close to me or my dogs, a frantic attitude about bagging birds, an unruly dog, or a shotgun’s muzzle that wanders casually all over the place—any one of those can take the fun out of my day and you need not be hunting with me again.

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