Author Topic: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!  (Read 1349 times)

Offline bearclaw_guajolote

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Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« on: November 14, 2019, 10:11:41 AM »
My Dad and I were able to get the whole day in the field with his three year old black Lab, Leo, and enjoy some decent bird hunting. We decided to pop over the hill to a wildlife area known to hold quail, huns, chuckar, and the occasional pheasant. Much to our surprise, we had the whole spot to ourselves...pretty unlikely on a holiday, but I'll take it!

 As we turned off onto the dirt half a mile from where we planned to park, we saw three deer cresting a hill not 100 yrds off. Except they were really strangely colored. What deer have white bellies reaching halfway up their sides, and narrow, long faces? Immediately we realized we were looking at three pronghorn does. Picked up the binos and confirmed it. Not impossible to see in WA, but certainly not expected. We ran into them a few more times that morning, as we all made our way around the mountain.

We parked and planned the hunt. It looked primo for a mild, overcast morning, with no other hunters. Leo did an excellent job working effectively between Dad and I as we staggered on opposite sides of the draw, as we've done countless times before. I'm always impressed to watch a dog work, and if there was a bird, I have no doubt he would have found it. We searched high and low, from the rocky crags to the rolling grasslands, and found nothing. Watching the dog work and enjoying the beautiful scenery with my Dad was more than enough reason to call this day a success already.

As lunchtime rolled around we decided to hunt our way back home. As we worked our way over the mountain we turned up a road with all intentions of getting the dog out for another hike. Leo likes finding any birds, but grouse are his specialty. Not halfway up the steep dirt road into our spot, the shoulder explodes with a flock of mature blue grouse right into a towering fir. Although we prefer the wing shooting, we're definitely not above shooting grouse out of a tree. No way am I passing up that delicious thunder chicken!

As we hop out of the truck we quickly plan to each pick a bird and fire simultaneously, then hopefully clean up another bird each on the wing. As plans often do, it turned to crap pretty fast. I picked one out and could tell he was getting antsy, I dumped him off the branch, and with a bang the chaos started. I hadn't waited for the signal, but that was ok, one grouse was down, followed immediately by the blast of my Dad's 20 gauge and another hit the ground. Typically if we see grouse from the road, we keep the dog in the truck until it's time to retrieve them. Leo did not agree with that tactic, and apparently sometime after the second grouse had dropped, had decided to jump through the open drivers window of the truck to lend his support in the mania. Grouse get me excited too...who can blame him.

So Leo immediately rushes to the one downed grouse, still flopping around, and scoops it up. I had sidestepped to the clearing below the tree, hoping to wingshoot the grouse I expected would flush after the shooting started. One bailed off the backside of a different tree, quite a ways out of range. I shot anyways, but missed. Shotgun shells are cheap, and I don't really care about my batting average. You miss all the shots you don't take.

Off to my side I hear another shot an look over. It's raining grouse. I see Leo with one grouse in his mouth, another at his feet, and one fall out of the tree a few yards away. Life doesn't get much better for a bird dog. So I begin to turn my attention back to the tree I'm sure there are a few more grouse in. I counted two shots from dad, and see two birds on the ground. Maybe we got them all? Nope. Dad had hopped out of the truck and only grabbed two shells for his O/U, thinking that we'd only get one or two. After he heard me shoot twice, he assumed I'd knocked down two birds, so he went back to the truck, grabbed more shells and decided to round out his limit. He busted one more grouse, who apparently didn't have the sense to fly away like his brother.

It was over in less than a minute I'm sure. By the time we regrouped, Leo had neatly stacked the four grouse at Dad's feet and was receiving well earned ear scratches. That's what I love about grouse hunting. You never know how it's going to go. Sometimes you flush ten birds and don't get a shot, or miss a shot. Sometimes you clean up a limit in a matter of seconds. Dad is cracking up, asking where my second bird is...saying "you shot twice, so I assumed you had 2". Good natured teasing is half the fun. So we walk right up the hill back to the truck and lay the birds out on the tailgate. I can honestly say, I've never seen such big grouse. Four mature birds with chicken sized breasts, and even decent sized legs worth keeping.

At this point I still have two grouse left to limit, so we continued up to the spot and took a short walk. What do you know, Leo flushed two more grouse for me. Neither of them gave me a shot, and he looked at me like "dude c'mon". Satisfied that we'd done enough damage to grouse at this spot, we decided to head towards home. Apparently at some point on the drive we decided we hadn't had our fill, because we opted to check out one more spot right off the river about ten minutes from my house. I traded out the lead for steel, and hoofed it towards the bank, hoping to find a goose, mallard, or even a merganser to round out the day before we lost hunting light. Dad opted to stay towards the edge of the alfalfa field and look for quail. As the pictures show, he made the right call. He couldn't praise Leo enough for how well he did with the quail. Apparently they busted a covey that splintered into singles hiding in thick brush. They had quite a few flushes, but the best moment was the awareness from Leo. While retrieving one downed bird, he paused, dropped it, and pointed another quail perfectly. The sense to know that the bird he was retrieving was dead, to smell an active bird in the bush and change priorities from retrieve to point was a new peak for this young dog.

Overall it was an amazing day. Dad outshot me, and Leo performed like a total stud. There's really no way I'd rather spend the day. Top that off with a Seahawks win, and a glass of good complaints here.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2019, 10:22:53 AM by bearclaw_guajolote »

Offline bearclaw_guajolote

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2019, 10:23:24 AM »
No idea how to rotate the pics, sorry.

Offline dmv9

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2019, 02:11:26 PM »
Nice birds and good dog!

Offline X-Force

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2019, 02:26:02 PM »
Very cool sight.

Nice birds too
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Offline bearclaw_guajolote

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2019, 02:41:22 PM »
Very cool sight.

Nice birds too

Can you point me in the right direction for rotating the pics for my future posts?  Thanks for doing that for me.

Offline Backstrap

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2019, 07:15:21 PM »
Great write up.

I always heard to pick off the lowest bird in the tree first, then work your way up. Less apt to scare off the other birds that way.
Step once, look twice...

Offline jagermiester

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2019, 08:59:12 AM »
What a great day!!
Lead em if they're running.

Offline Birdguy

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2019, 08:46:03 PM »
Great story! Even better pics of Dad loving the day he spent with his son and his dog!! Awesome memories!!

Online Birdgetter

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Re: Grouse, Quail, and Pronghorn!
« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2019, 06:42:48 PM »


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