Friday, September 5, 2008
Colorado Grouse Opener 2008
Gotta love a Sept. 1 grouse opener. Two years in a row now I've got to hit the mountain country early for Blue Grouse. Early in comparison to the Utah grouse hunt. The morning crisp air was typical for fall hunting season. A storm the day before left some moisture on the ground and wind in the air. We hit the aspen/pine ridges on the Colorado flat tops. The country looked great, foilage was abundant, It's been a while since I've seen seen such a rich supply of berries. Birddogs in front (Belle, Dixie, Nifty, and Mac), the 2008 upland season was officially underway! Nifty was the first to lock up on point. He was staunch and steadied up nicely on a single Sharptail. Unfortunately sharptailed grouse aren't typcially found in this area. This sharptail happens to be one of the "Furry Five"! (Furry Five comes from a coined term from little Nate. Team "Shoot More, Shoot More Often's" 14 year old upland prodigy. You've heard of the grand slam for each species. Well, last year in Montana after run-ins with a bunch of furry critters, he made up the furry five. Porcupine, Raccoon, Coyote, Skunk, and Badger.) Old porky got Nifty in the muzzle. I have to admit, Nifty is getting a bit more wise to porcupines. This is the third time he's been hit, and he got away with less than 50 quills this time. Steve and I split up and pressed on. Dixie was the next to locate some game. It happened to be uphill about 100 yards on the edge of some aspens, the beeper collar signalling her location. On my way up the hill I was buzzed by one of the grouse I assume she was pointing. By the time I pulled up to shoot, the bird had dropped the flaps and began to land in some tall quakies. I let it land and proceeded uphill when another fly by occurred just out of gun range. I'm not sure what happened. My tremendulous birddogs never bump birds! If it was Belle I'd understand. She's sometimes gets a bit anxious. As for Dixie, she's typically sound and hardly ever crowds her birds. I'll just chalk it up to the first season hunt, being a little rusty. By this time, Steve and I had joined up again. We went back to look for the bird in the tree. Steve was able to spot the bird perched high and tight to the main trunk branch. With a few shakes Steve managed to assist the bird into the air. It escaped free from harm gliding through the mixture of pines and quakies. Those were the only birds we saw in the 3 hour morning hunt. We expected to see more birds. Mainly due to the fantabulous birddogs we have! Perhaps the rain and wind keep the birds roosted or discourged them from milling around on the ground as usual. We continued on the 2 mile journey back to the hunting rig. We loaded up the dogs and headed to higher elevation to more pine country. We had only an hour left to hunt. We meandered in and out of the pines and berry bushes to no avail. After reaching our furthest southern stretch we turned around. I took the high route, Steve scooted down below. Within 30 seconds two quick cracks from the little 28 double gun informed me Steve had found some more grouse. I was able to watch Mac (our new addition to the team) point the fallen bird. Steve gave the okay to have him fetch it up. Two years in a row Steve christened the new season with the first game bird in the bag. It was a first year bird, no complaints, just an observation. It's flush was accompanied by another grouse. Steve said they were beneath a pine, under the low bows, protected from the elements. Dogs had just ran past the birds unaware of their presence. Perhaps this is why we were unable to locate more birds during the morning excursion. We admired the bird for a brief moment, then headed due north back to the truck. On the way back I noticed an aged, remnant pine. I snapped a few shots and continued. Steve and I arrived at the truck about the same time. The dogs had a good workout for the first hunt of the season. We gave them some water, removed their collars, cleaned the seeds out of their eyes, praised them and put them up in ther kennels. We loaded up the rest of the gear. While doing so Steve decided to check the crop contents of the bird he shot. It contained berries with seeds, possibly wild strawberries. There were quite a few unflowered yellow blossoms as well. We put the bird away, hopped into the truck and headed down the mountain. Muscles sore and a being a bit tired I decided to sleep on the way down. Not to mention, I'm a bit nervous riding on roads with drop off edges. Perhaps a soothing tune from JD could have eased the tension. For those that know me my choice for traveling music is typically John Denver. I know some of you think it's lame. I have to admit, some of his songs are. Not to drag this on any further. In memory of good ole' JD. This hunt was a Rocky Mountain High!