I’m an avid outdoorsman.
But I don’t limit it to just going outside. I love to read about the outdoors. When I was a kid I lived for outdoor magazines. Whenever I got a new one I usually consumed it cover to cover in one sitting.
The white tailed deer was my all-time favorite mammal to read about and see in the wild. Dad had me in the woods as soon as I was old enough, and I shared his passion for the outdoors. Still do. Dad doesn’t get out hunting anymore, but there is not a time I go to the woods that doesn’t remind me of something we did together. As I write this, I realize that my daughter Alex will have that same joy.
Gotta say, that makes me tear up a little.
Anyway, not long after moving to West Virginia, I met a man named Max Elkins. Max is, like me, an avid outdoorsman. As a matter of fact, I often say that when I grow up I want to hunt like Max. If there is an open season Max is hunting. It wasn’t long after we met that he introduced me to grouse hunting.
Now, I’ve hunted grouse as a kid a few times but never like this. Max’s dogs were amazing. I was hooked. A year or so later I had a pup out of a litter from his two dogs, Autumn and Thorn. What great names, huh? My daughter Alex had a part in naming the pup, and since Disney’s Aladin was her favorite movie at the time, well, Jasmine it was.
Max operated a bird hunting preserve and there were plenty of birds to train her on in the off season. January and February is the time to be in the woods and after the native birds. There were plenty of birds around ten years ago but they have definitely been steadily declining. Contrary to what a lot of people think, hunters are avid conservationists. We do so much to save habitat and game populations, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s a post for another day, I guess. Thinking about it, I long for the days described by writers like Burton Spiller and George “Bird” Evans, the days when a hunter could have thirty plus flushes in a day.
All of the research done on the Ruffed Grouse says that the bird is cyclic. Meaning that the populations fluctuate over time. There has always been much debate among grouse hunters everywhere as to whether the numbers will ever be what they used to here in Appalachia. I sure hope so, but right now there seems to be fewer than ever.
The West Virginia Division Of Natural Resources has had a research program in place for a while now in cooperation with several other states to try a find out where all the grouse have gone. According to the reports the main source of grouse mortality is due to avian predation. Mammal predation is second and hunting is responsible for only fifteen percent. Anyone who has ever hunted grouse knows that the odds are heavily in the favor of the fast flying, extremely agile bird.
Grouse hunting for me is not about the bag, but where it takes you. Suddenly you will find yourself high on a ridge overlooking an awe inspiring landscape. That, and spending time with friends and family. I think most people like me, who read outdoor magazines, who go outside just to be outside, who love it in their hearts, feel the same way.