Dispatch from Maine

Anne with a Frye Mountain grouse
Yes, even I get to hunt sometimes! After getting snowed out last year, we went back to central Maine to hunt with Jo-Ann Moody and her fine springer spaniels this year. As usual, we have been assaulting the grouse population of Frye Mountain, a state forest that is managed in cooperation with the Ruffed Grouse Society. With a combination of cover of a variety of ages, as well as "strips" that dissect oodles of wild apple and crabapple trees, it is managed exclusively for the benefit of grouse, as well as a variety of other animals (the whitetail deer hunting must be pretty good here, as we have seen many good buck scrapes).

Banded grouse from Frye Mountain

The weather was really cold yesterday morning
(20 degrees at the start, and we don't think it ever made it up to 30 degrees), so we were anxious to get moving, in part to stay as warm as possible. We were hunting with Jo-Ann's springer Anne, and she did a fine job of hunting hard and close and finding birds. We were in to some birds relatively quickly and one of the grouse made the mistake of flying in to my shot pattern (further reinforcing my belief that most birds are killed because they make a mistake, not because of my shooting ability). Anne tracked it down and retrieved it to Jo-Ann, making my trip east a success almost immediately.

Paul & Jo-Ann Moody with a 2015 grouse

We hunted the mountain for the remainder of the morning, moving eight grouse total. Moving to one of Jo-Ann's private covers, we found at least as many grouse in the afternoon. The cover was mostly thick, but Anne gave it her all and ended up flushing a low escaping grouse that Paul connected with - a nice shot that ended up being our final bird contacted for the day.

Pepper takes a break

Today's hunting turned out much differently - fewer grouse seen, but several more heard, at times distantly heard, so they knew what the game was. At least it was a bit warmer today, and much more comfortable for hunting. Jo-Ann's springer Pepper gave great effort as well and got in to some birds, but they were on the run and out of sight for much of the day.

The antenna on an unfortunate grouse - the antenna helps biologists track their movements.
You may have noticed the band on my grouse pictured above, as well as the pictures of an antenna and transmitter that was on a grouse shot yesterday by another hunter on the mountain. The Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department does a lot of research on their grouse population here on the mountain, tracking movements of birds to gain a better understanding of their cover needs.

That brown sack near the grouse's chest is the GPS unit that tells biologists where the bird has been and where he might be headed.
It seems to be working, as there were good numbers of birds this year, but be advised about these birds - they are the wariest, wiliest, and most challenging birds that I've ever hunted. They flush unexpectedly, in all directions and they often go out way (80 yards) ahead of us. In short, they're tough birds and holding one in your hand is somewhat of a trophy - I love it.

We have some bad weather moving in tonight and continuing tomorrow - we'll be out in it, along with those grouse.