Posted by: cworthy | November 1, 2011

The Grouse With Nine Lives

They say cats have nine lives and so it seems some grouse do too.  It was the fall of 2009 and Sid my year and a half old English setter was in her first year of hunting by herself. We were in a favorite cover in Michigan’s upper peninsula that we call the Coyote Cover named for a late season hunt the year before when it was a foggy and cold with misty rain. A pair of coyotes followed along a two-track trail flanking each side and yipping every now and then to each other. It was eary; they were close but never seen.

Now, a year later, it was sunny and crisp. The leaves were down for the most part and it was a grouse hunting day if there ever was one.  It was Sid’s turn to hunt and we worked to the east between a beaver flooding and the trail. She found birds and while she was doing her best, none were holding for her until we reached a distinctive place where the cover changed. The trees became a little more open and the fur tree thickets slightly more scattered. It was the kind of spot that almost yelled “get ready!” to a grouse hunter.

Sid was just to my right when she locked up in a point only thirty or forty feet away. I moved in front of her and a big red-phase grouse flushed from nearly under my feet and crossed the opening in front of us giving a classic straight away shot, easy, except when I pulled the trigger the shell went “poof” and the shot charge followed by the wad lobbed out the barrel like a kindergarten baseball throw. Obviously there was no powder in that shell and only the pressure of the primer firing cleared the barrel.

The bird showing brilliant color with the afternoon sun behind us disappeared into the thickness.

I saw that same grouse in that spot more times that fall. He never ventured outside his half-acre as far as I could tell. His skill in avoiding being held by the dog or caught in the open beat us every time.

The following year, 2010,  found us back in the Coyote again and I remembered the big red bird and wondered if he had survived. We hunted the cover just like we had the year before moving from west to east and when we got to his home turf he was there. I don’t remember the exact circumstances of how he beat us that day or on a couple of more occasions that followed on other days, but the red bird always won.

On the final hunt of the year I circled the Coyote going counter-clockwise following some pasture land away from the beaver flooding first. Coming from the east was different, not that it should have made a difference. The red grouse heard us and wild-flushed ahead and we followed.  My guess on where he went was correct and again he wild-flushed ahead this time breaking hard to the left, leaving the thickness and going into a more open young aspen area. Birdie, swung wide left and I arced to the right as we entered the aspen stand. Either the grouse had flown a long way and crossed the road to security, or he was here somewhere near.

Birdie’s beeper started sounding in a slightly thicker brushy finger that stretched across in front of me. The bird had to be there. I slowed down and eased forward to the right knowing that the red bird was smart and would walk quickly away from the dog on the left. With Birdie pointing sixty feet away the red bird flushed in the open near me.

This year I hunted the Coyote cover several times and each time I remembered that bird and how good he was at being a grouse. The struggle that wild animals have to survive isn’t all that different that what we go through. Maybe the stakes are higher for the grouse, but then again maybe they aren’t.



  1. I sure enjoy your webpage and you obvious love for hunting with birddogs.
    Thanks For sharing the memories.
    Charlie Johnson
    Traverse City

    • There was talk in the up coffee shop about a guy in town who had killed 75 or more grouse this year from his 4-wheeler and I know that many, maybe most of the birds are shot this way, but watching a dog work is where it is for me. Grouse hunting with a pointing dog isn’t the most effective way to find a grouse dinner like catching fish with a fly rod isn’t the best way to get a plate full either. Still, seeing a dog work and understanding what they are trying to do is about as good as it gets.

  2. Amen Brother!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: