The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 11, 2012

Don Steese column: Feathers unruffled

By Don Steese
For The Daily Item

— I had a friend and his son up at our cabin last weekend for a couple days chasing grouse and woodcock. These fellas make the trip from Maryland each year to hump the hills of Pennsylvania for a couple days. It’s always a fun time, and this year was no different, unless you’re using dead birds as measuring stick.

I’ll let my buddy Bryan describe the hunt in his own words. Well, the first cover we visited on Friday morning yielded two woodcock within about 15 minutes of hunting. Neither bird was harmed.

No problem, there’s bound to be more, why we haven’t hardly started. Hmmm, little did we know that they would be the only woodcock we would see in two full days of hunting.

Reliable covers were empty except for old splash.

Ahhh, the mystery of the elusive timberdoodle. All we can figure is that we were in between flights.

Since the doodles were gone we found it easy to shift our focus over to Mr. Grouse.

One of Don’s favorite covers tends to hold both doodles and pats and Eddie and I had fair chances at a couple of grouse later on Friday. Always a challenge to put the shot where the bird is going, not where he’s been.

AND THEN we have the partridge that I’m sure is still laughing at me.

We’re almost back to the truck when I see Maggie on point about 75 yards away in a blowdown of timber. Eddie and I hot foot over to her just in time to see her break point. We saw for sure that no bird got up.

Hmmm.

She then promptly relocates her point under a pine tree about 40 yards away. We scoot after her, again no bird. She breaks again and literally less than a minute and 50 yards away she points again. There is no relocation this time.

Ed and I move in. He goes to the left around a blowdown, I go to the right. Just as I step around the end of the blowdown, I follow Maggie’s stare which is focused directly to my left.

HOLY MOLEY, there perched on a fallen tree is a BIG beautiful adult ruffed grouse! The bird’s crest is flipping up and down. It shifts its head from Maggie to me, back to Mags and then back to me — clearly thinking. “Wow, I’m in a bit of a spot here. Gee what poses the biggest threat? The doggie or the fellow with the stick in his hands?”

I’m thinking “Heh Heh Heh, I’m about ready to bag my first ever Pennsylvania grouse.”

Yeah right.

I raise the Fox and take a step. Mr. Grouse flushes the only way he can go, straight way and UP. Oh, I shot twice. Pretty certain I was under the bird both times. Despite being ready, that flush happened pretty darned fast.

Eddie got off both barrels, too, as the bird arced away from me unscathed. He stayed that way.

So there you have it. I sure hope that birdy survives everything thrown at him/her until we meet again next year. To add insult to injury, I had two grouse fly right in front of me offering perfect, open shots, and, in deference to my guests, I wasn’t carrying a gun.

Sometimes you win, but most times the birds manage to come out on top. In an odd way I think that’s what keeps us coming back!

Email comments to jdsteese@yahoo.com