The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports Columns

January 15, 2012

Don Steese's outdoors column: Warm winter for the grouse

Spent several days last week up at camp chasing grouse.

Found some birds, had some fairly nice dog work, but fired only one shot, which failed to hit the mark, so no birds were harmed in the making of this column.

I’m certainly glad that most experts gauge the relative success of a grouse hunt by the number of birds flushed, not the number that end up on the sizzling in butter.

All the birds we found were right along the old logging roads, which is understandable because that’s where we were hunting. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m happy to stay on the trails and let the canines bust the brush. My dogs both do a good job of getting off the trails and into the nasty stuff, which means that we aging hunters don’t have to. Mabel, the little setter, got into some stuff that was so nasty we both hoped she wouldn’t point a bird there. I suggested to my pal that we need to spend some of our moldy money and employ a couple young, able-bodied flushers to get those birds out of the greenbriar and into the air ... kinda like the beaters that the big game hunters use on those African safaris. He mumbled something about his money not having much mold or something to that effect.

It was really strange hunting in northern Pennsylvania in January with temperatures nearing 50 and not a trace of snow. Climate change or just a weird winter, I don’t know, but I’ll take it!

Another nice thing was that we didn’t see a single tick. Usually they’d be out in force with temperatures like this. If you spend much time outdoors you probably have noticed how much worse the ticks have gotten in recent years.

I’m sure there are some of you thinking that if we want to eradicate ticks in the Keystone State we need to put the Pennsylvania Game Commission in charge of managing them, but to quote a saying that I absolutely hate, “I’m not going there!”

We had a bit of a scare shortly after we arrived at camp. As we usually do, we left the dogs run while we unloaded the truck and got the cabin up and running. When we were finished we noticed that we were missing a pooch.

Mabel had evidently decided there was fun to be had on the other side of the mountain! We called and called and even fired a few shots into the air. Finally I headed one way and my buddy headed the other. I was heading around the hill going nowhere in particular, when here she comes heading right for me. She’d probably been gone for less than an hour but it seemed like a week!

I know you’re not supposed to punish a dog in a situation like this because they’ll think they’re being punished for coming back. I do think, however, that it is OK to call them horrible names under your breath ... which I did.

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