Thursday, September 16, 2010

Upland Bum

How I wish I truly was. I gave it my best effort over the last three days. After a crazy week at work and missing the chance to go up over the weekend in pursuit of elk with a muzzleloader, I was ready for a few days of upland hunting.

While this trip is none the Sporting Road by Jim Fergus, it was an adventure with a few loose plans. All I knew is that I had a few days off and I needed them....just ask my employees!!! I did know that I was going to chase some grouse and maybe head out with the muzzleloader. Where you ask? I was asking myself the same question as I drove up I-70.  As I hit the town of Kremmling, I decided on a covert that had some success and had come through from some previous scouting.

Having arrived in the mid-afternoon, I knew it was too early to hit the coverts with a flushing spaniel that thrives on wild birds and has an engine that doesn't stop. So as the clock turned 4pm, I let loose on an area that held a ton of birds only a 10 days ago. After an hour of holding the gun at ready and no flushes to keep us interested, we headed back to camp, the hard way, up hill. Just as the 3 liters of water I was carrying was down to 1/2  a liter, Mia got birdy. As I lost her in the brush, a grouse sailed along the bend of the hill towards my location. It took me split second to recognize the bird as I didn't hear the flush. But then it clicked and my memory skills kicked in as the bird landed only few yards down hill from my location. I was eager to find out what this grouse was feeding on so I immediately opened the crop of this young bird to find service berries, goose berries and rose hips.

Again, no grasshoppers so I decided to concentrate all my future covert efforts on the fruits of the mountains. But as my water supply dwindled, a trip back to camp was the next order of the day. As I traveled along a ridge top a familiar silhouette caught my eye. As a directed Mia to the base of the fur tree that held our treasure, I quickly moved to the down slope side of the tree. As Mia leaped in for the flush, I thought a trapped grouse would be a great story as Mia already has two traps on wild pheasants to her credits. She was close but the bird rushed out and I took one shot as I put the second bird in the game pouch.

Here are the two birds for comparison.  It's always nice to take a mature bird and this male was mature. He was huge, by far the largest Dusky Grouse that I have ever seen. It was double the size and weight of the juvenile female that I took earlier in the hunt. When I measured the fan it was 16" across in a fanned out position. A true trophy that I was very proud to put in my bag.

Big Bird!

After a quick break, we headed to a cover that had previously produced birds on the second day of the season. Not only did this covert produce,  it produced a brood for the third time within in 20 yards of the previous flushes. Talk about a hot cover!!! After a few misses I called it a day.


A true vagabond sleeps in his truck!

After a good night's sleep for Mia, we headed out in the morning in search of new coverts within a good hike of camp. Birds were found but so were the misses. A single grouse "back doored" us and a brood of 6 decided to feed on the thickest berries batch in Colorado. It was a good hunt and I decided my new honey hole needed a break. We were on our way to new coverts of sorts.

A view from the top

The next day brought further uncertainty as we headed for on a scouting trip and the temperature hit "too hot to hunt."  After a few hours we wound up on familiar ground. "Nothing wrong with that" I said to myself. I'll only hit new covers and covers that we missed on opening day due to the mass overcrowding.  After hitting a few "for sure" covers we headed back to camp to rest and eat. I almost called it a night but the sad eyes of a springer can almost call your gun to arm. So we headed out to a draw that was only yards from camp. As I walked in I noticed the bright red ripe rose hips and I thought to myself if I was a grouse.......the bbrrr of the flush echoed and my dulled attention brought two misses. As I reloaded, another brace flushed and quickly took the first bird and thought the second would be my first double of the season. Not so fast as the bird sailed too low for a decent shot. I marked the general direction of the first brace that flushed and we were on our way. Just as I turned Mia to hunt toward me, a huge bird flushed only a few feet from my location and then fell as I took my second bird of the day.

An after dinner brace.

The next morning saw more uncertainty as we woke to a few elk bugles. After the previous evening's success I thought a new covert should be order. We were packed up and our way to parts unknown as we drove down the hill. As I hit the pavement I remembered a promising covert only a few miles away. We hunted as hard as we could before the heat of the day set in at 10am. As we finished, the lone flush of the day could not cool us we headed to the truck and back to reality.

I've always wondered why the DOW put these out after the grouse opener. I did add a few specimens for study.

til next time....


Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

Congrats on a great hunt and kill. Those are beautiful grouse....we also call them Blues here in Montana. A 16" tail is a super nice sized grouse tail!

David said...

Looks like a great time Matt. Glad all went well for you up in the mountains.

Greyphase said...

Thanks for taking us along, but I'm getting to old to sleep in the back of a truck :). Neat looking grouse.

Silk Line River Horse said...

It seems the big males are starting to show up in areas where family groups have been. I've been wondering where the big boys were all season long as I've seen fewer than in years past. This sure has been a productive Blue Grouse year. I've gotten tons of reports from people who have had equally as good of luck.

Looks like you too had a pretty cool couple day adventure albeit more productive than mine (teehee!).

Shawn K. Wayment, DVM said...

Matt...the great grouse slayer!

Looks like you've had some great days in grouse country!

Nice post and great photos!


Matt Ortiz said...

Thanks all,

It's been a good season but finding the birds now starts to get tricky!