Saturday, January 19, 2019


    The number of ruffed grouse was way up this past fall and the bird hunting the best in years. What’s different?
     There are many reasons, probably much of it had to do with a warm dry spring. The young broods prospered.  Many of the grouse found this past fall were in clusters, with sometimes a half dozen or more bursting into the air one right after the other. Talk about an adrenaline rush.
Colby pointing a bird.
     One thing that I haven’t heard mentioned, which has to have made a difference, is the number of blowdowns. A year ago this past October a storm passed through our area and knocked down thousands of trees scattered all over the countryside. Some broke off, but more where uprooted. Fir trees made up the majority of them and there is no better cover for a grouse than a dead fir tree lying on its side.
     So many times this past fall our dogs pointed grouse hiding in the shelter of a blown down fir tree. On one of the last hunts of the season a friend’s setter locked up on a horizontal fir and as the owner approached a bird flushed out the back. Almost immediately another shot right back at him and over his head.
     The grouse might not have been always been under the trees, but they were often nearby. One day, hunting up high next to a clear cut, a fat old fir tree that had blown down caught my eye. On the way over to investigate it, my youngest wirehair locked up on point in waist-high weeds. Three grouse exploded into the wide open space with two zipping right past my head and offering no shot.
Colby bringing it home.
When a dog points a bird hidden under a large blowdown you can almost guarantee it will flush out the backside and offer no shot. There is an old saying that a lone hunter will find more birds, but two hunters will kill more than twice as many birds. Send your buddy around the far side.
     Did the abundance of knocked down fir trees make a difference in the number of birds this past fall? I think so.