Monday, September 23, 2013

Grouse Hunting Through My Wifes Eyes

Rory and I met online back in 2008. Our first date was at a Starbucks, where I proceeded to shock him by ordering hot chocolate on a 100 degree day. I'm not sure if that is what prompted him to follow up and ask for a second date (a hike up nearby 'mountain' looking for Shorthorned Lizards), and then a third (another hike on another very hot day), but whatever the reason, a bit over a month later I found myself out hunting for basically the first time of my life.
September first for Rory means grouse hunting. And from the start of our relationship, I've tagged along - taking pictures, staying behind the hunters, and keeping a look out for grouse & where they fall once shot, and then more recently I've joined the hunt with a shotgun myself.

That first hunt we got up at what I (somewhat) affectionately refer to as stupid-o-clock, which basically means anytime far earlier than usual, generally well before dawn starts to make the outside world visible. Rory was living at his old house in town, and I was down visiting. We had a 30 minute drive just to get to where we live now, then further still on the forest roads to get up to the good grouse spots.
There was nervous excitement in the pit of my stomach, and chilly wind blowing on my cheeks, in part to alleviate the foul air that I've come to accept as part of the Jeep experience.  I quickly realized I was expected to peer sideways out my wide open window either upslope or downslope, depending on the road, and look out into the dawn light for grouse sitting on the ground, on logs, or on stumps, or perched on tree branches.
I don't remember whether he shot his limit that first time out or not, but I know I had a good time. Although by now I've hunted other animals with Rory - ducks, quail, huns, chukar, turkeys, and deer, my favorite by far is grouse. There is something about that first hunt of the fall. The cooler morning temperatures, the early dawn light, the scenic views from where we grouse hunt, the leaves starting to change color and drift to the ground, the first waft of smelly Jeep air.

Grouse hunting is something we do as a family, usually just Rory, the girls, and myself, with the hunting dogs bringing up the sides. We drive around looking for grouse, go on hikes with beautiful views, and have so much time to bond as a family - experiencing nature at its finest, while bringing home meat for the freezer.
As I looked back through 6 years of September grouse hunting pictures to accompany this post, family is definitely the center of the event. I can look and see Maddycakes growing up, from the first year I hunted grouse, when she was in my belly, to the following year where she wasn't yet walking, and on and on to this year, with new little Elsa just 3 months old.
That brings us to this year, these hunts with 2 littles, and a mama not yet back in shape from pregnancy. Rory's been just as interested in hunting every morning and night he isn't at work as ever, and hasn't been put off by us slowing him down. Ever the gentleman, he's instead adapted to our speed, accepting our limitations in stride. Too bumpy of a road for the baby? Nevermind mama, we'll just do this one over here instead. Too tired to be anything but cranky? Nevermind mama, how about I hike in and find you another grouse to finish out your limit and call you in when I've got it perched in a tree. Baby occupying your hands so you can't even help feather one bird? Nevermind mama, you just sit over there and Maddycakes and I will feather all your birds.
Although the first day this year we focused on getting him his limit, the second day was all about getting me mine. The daily limit here is 4 birds per person, and that second day we both limited out on our morning hunt. While the first day was a joint effort spotting the birds and finding where they lit up, the second day was all Rory. Bird after bird he spotted, and I'd move in for the shot. Five birds he spotted for me (the first one I would have gotten if I had been shooting high base not the low base that scared it off but didn't penetrate), and four birds he feathered and cleaned for our freezer for me.
With the baby this year, I'm not going to be duck hunting, and don't expect to be doing any deer hunting either. But grouse hunting was one thing that brand new baby or not, I was not going to skip out on this year.

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