Sage Monkey

Sage Monkey

Monday, October 6, 2014

These Mountain Grouse Don't Stand a Chance

Sage and I's first few hunting trips this grouse season has resulted in slightly underwhelming and long hikes with a gun. We have had absolutely zero contacts with birds and I've been valiantly fighting the urge to feel discouraged. It's Sage's and I's first season as a team and needless to say its gotten off to a rocky start. Thank goodness she doesn't possess the knowledge to know what she's been missing. If she had I wouldn't be remotely surprised if she posted a Craigslist ad looking to replace me as a hunting partner.

On Saturday Sage and I headed out to try our luck once again. This time we focused on an 18,000 acre BMA in the Bridger Range. I spent just shy of an hour meandering thru the vastness of the Block Management Area trying to carefully select what I thought would be a good spot to stop and embark on our adventure. Once we settled on a promising looking area we cheerfully set out armed with my Berretta and big can of bear spray.

We worked our way up a steep mountainside that eventually leveled off and opened up to pristine mountain fields. The sky was blue, the air was crisp and the granite peaks in the distance were covered in snow. It felt glorious. It felt like what hunting should.

Sage was off to the races. She was running very big and I knew right away that if we were lucky enough to make some contacts she was going to bust them. I'm so hungry at this point for Sage to have wild bird contact that I could careless. Being 11 months old and not fully steady I want her to have exposure. I want her to learn. I can always tighten her up later.

We had been hiking for close to 40 minutes when a covey of 8 big fat grouse exploded from the under region of a tree. Sage stayed steady and held back from giving chase but she did shoot me a borderline fanatical look as if she was saying, "For Christs Sake woman get up here already". As I closed in she broke free covering the area where the covey had been held up. She was wild eyed and in a frenzy. My heart was beaming. It was what I had been waiting for, the wheels were turning she was figuring it out. I watched the covey fly off and settle down the side of the mountain. I made a mental note to work it on our way back.

Sage and I were pumped! We set off with new vigor and a healthy dose of adrenaline pumping through our veins. About 15 minutes later we hit our second covey and 5 more plump mountain grouse hit the sky with a flapping flurry. They were inevitably out of shooting range but Sage was getting the exposure I had hoped she'd get. We worked forward into the wildness for about 45 more minutes before turning back and working adjacent areas.  When we made it back to the location of the first covey I looped to the far side and carefully made my way down the steepness with Sage leading the charge. The cover here was thicker and Sage had finally settled down into a rhythm. Our best chance was going to be here because she was working closer. After a breath holding 10 minutes Sage finally locked up on point. In seconds three grouse burst into the sky. I pulled my gun up, focused on one and pulled the trigger. It was a perfect shot and the gun fire echoed through the valley like a symphony.

As soon as I had shot the bird and it fell into its final descent Sage and I looked at each other completely shocked. I smiled and said, "You did't think I'd get it did you!!" Then I sent her in for the retrieve while belly laughing alone in the woods. She mouthed it first and then drug it halfway. Not that I gave her the opportunity to bring it all the way in. I was entirely to pumped. She found us birds, I shot us one. It was our first successful time out. It was amazing. It was everything and more than I had hoped it would be. Now that we've had some luck these mountain grouse don't stand a chance.

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