Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Good Week Hunting

A Good Week Hunting.JPG
Originally uploaded by frankzappai.
I'm experimenting with my daughter's new digital camera and with blogging directly from Flickr. I have it on good authority that the third bird from the left is a merganser.

where's this grouse when you're hunting him?

check this out:

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve Grouse

Regular readers of this blog (that would be everyone including Pete but excluding Vicar) know that I've been busy lately, whooping it up with the nose-in-the-air Ithaca ballet crowd and hanging around backstage drinking champagne with three tenors from Ireland.

Well today I got back out in the woods for a chase after that noblest of game birds, his Majesty the Grouse.

Temp was a brisk 40 deg. F, there was a substantial wind from the northwest at 15-20 mph, and I was as usual dressed in my Carhartt vest and tattered old air force sweater. Katie sported her ten year old ATS Sonic Pro beeper collar, fueled by a new Duracell 9 volt battery for maximum audibility.

Away we went at 3 pm. It was the first time in the woods for me since October--as a mighty killer of Quaker state moby bucks puts it, I've been "busier-than-a-one-armed-wallpaper-hanger." And Katie hasn't been in the woods since October either. So you know it was an afternoon grouse hunt destined to be run at a faster clip than Mr. Mike runs his local 5K road race.

Katie made wind of bird almost right away. Straight uphill through thick thick dogwood, she followed a bird up a swale with me following slightly behind and off to the side of her. Near the top of the hill she went on point in the middle of the thick stuff, and as I move in the bird flushed, straight up and away. BANG! and the bird kept flying. BANG! with the second barrel, and the bird coasted into the woods about fifty yards distant. As I started toward where I'd marked the bird down, I noticed a bunch of feathers falling from the sky from my first shot. There were a lot of them, and I was hopeful as I got to the top of the hill and entered the hardwoods.

Nothing. No scent, no dead bird, no treed bird, nothing. I kept Katie in the area for three or four minutes until she got impatient and started hunting again away from me back downhill. I resolved to make my way back at the end of the afternoon to see if I could find the bird. Clearly I'd hit it, but it was nowhere to be found.

We kept going. We covered a lot of ground, the wind was fairly strong and very swirly, so it was quite a foot race to keep up with this setter who hasn't really stretched her legs since October. If you catch my drift.

We crossed a wood road at the bottom of the hill and continued into the low pines beyond. After one particularly strong but unproductive point, Katie reversed direction and headed back nearly due west along the contour. Straight into the wind. I raced to keep up with her, and suddenly she locked up! She was in some dogwood, nose pointed down the slope southward, and as I walked in on the point, up went a beautiful red phase grouse, straight into the air, woodcock-style.

BANG! and the bird folded instantly.

I just have to say . . . now THAT was a good feeling.

Katie was on the fluttering bird in an instant, and it was dead by the time I reached her. A beautiful mature male, huge bird--one of the biggest I've seen. Not quite a turkey, but bigger than a Tidball farm jake.

Just had to get that in.

On we went. It was getting close to 4:20 or thereabouts, so we headed back uphill to the woodroad, where we crossed and followed a trail in toward where the first bird had been. As we neared the spot where I'd marked it down, Katie got birdy back in the original swale where I'd shot at the first one. As I couldn't call her back to where I was, I hustled downhill to where she was now working a new bird in some real thick stuff. She'd point, I'd move in, she'd relocate, I'd reposition--the game continued for five or more minutes. Finally the bird turned the corner around both of us and was headed west back uphill when I cut it off on the uphill slope, and that was when it flushed away northward across the dogwoody field into a new patch of woods.

We followed up on it but didn't find it again. By now it was getting late, and Katie managed to point one more grouse on the way out that I was able to walk in on but didn't see when it flushed.

We made it back to the truck just as it was getting dark at 5 pm. All in all it was a great hunt, even though a hot and sweaty one. I had bagged my first Hector bird of the year, and clearly I'd hit the other one even though we couldn't find it. I have a feeling we'll be back up there tomorrow afternoon looking for that one again.

It felt a bit like Santa brought me an early Christmas gift. A Christmas Eve grouse.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas Grousers!

Tori, Fiona & Spencer, and Cagey with geese-
first day-after-christmas goose hunt at Canoga farms.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


After 15 years of deer hunting, I finally killed my first buck. Well, let's just say that it was the first buck that I knew was a buck when I shot it ("Yep, son, I've killed plenty of monster button bucks in my time. There was one that was practically the size of a Chessie..."). Ok, so I'm not much of a deer hunter, but this guy initiated me to the fraternity of eagle eyed nimrods who, when asked if they got a buck, answer: "yup."


It all happened on the first monday after Thanksgiving, which is opening day here in PA. Out of a sense of duty, more than anything else, I joined "tell me why I would want to work here" Rich on an annual tradition. Meet at my place at 5:00. Raise, then dash, the expectations of Abbey and Cody who only associate Rich with good things. And stroll down the lane to my neighbors’ over-hunted, un-posted woodlot.

Our plan was to settle into our respective hides long before the anticipated arrival of the opening day jamokes. The mercury was forecast to head into the 60s, so we were both dressed too lightly for the early morning temperatures. I imagine it was a bit like opening day in the south. Needless to say, expectations were at a minimum. Between last year’s uneaten venison (my freezer) and this year’s road kill (Rich’s), neither of us felt the need for meat. We agreed to shoot one doe between the two of us if the opportunity arose.

Around 7:30 I heard something crashing through the hemlocks to my right and a moment later a large doe hurtled by. I was just raising the 0.243 (Johny on the spot) when Moby raced by. Through the hurriedly raised scope he was a complete blur. Even so, I caught a glimpse of his eight points and, so low were my expectations, that just seeing him left me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

The arguments against today’s deer management program have been so aggravating to listen to, yet so “clearly” borne out by last year’s dismal season, that my thoughts went immediately to the vindication of poor Gary Alt. This one buck had to be evidence of the success of Alt’s management program.

Twenty minutes later two tails flagged through the red pines to my left. Could they be the same deer? Within minutes my thoughts were answered by jamoke #1, who came crashing through the ravine below me and, upon seeing me, waved and marched over to chat. A pleasant, funny, little fellow with a fading orange ball cap perched on top of an insulated cap. “Seen that spike?” he inquired. “Nope, but I saw I nice buck” I unwittingly offered. And off he went, with roughly 0% chance of ever seeing a live deer.

Oy, this story is dragging on and it’s getting late.

Shortly after the encounter with jamoke #1, Rich came strolling by. He was cold and had seen nothing. I was cold and happy, having seen a very nice buck and a funny looking jamoke. Rich suggested I warm up by putting on a small drive while he manned my hide, which, he felt, had clearly become the better place to be on opening day.

I walked briskly over a rise and then down the back side of the 70 acre ridge that we were hunting. My thoughts were on driving deer, not on seeing any. As I approached the “valley of death,” with its memories of past kills of deer and turkey, I was startled by the clatter of hooves on hard earth. I sat and stared through a narrow corridor of white pine boughs into the meadow below.

Suddenly, Moby materialized, and I could feel the excitement douse any illusion of self control. Fighting instinct, I tried to slowly raise the rifle as Moby tried equally hard to discern what had interrupted him from his pursuit of doe. When the gun had only traveled half the requisite distance in what seemed like an eternity I lost control and yanked it to my eye. Amazingly, there stood Moby. Amazingly, the scope was dialed to the perfect setting (5x) for the 75 yard shot. I aimed at his chest and squeezed the trigger.

Moby turned and trotted off. Within seconds I was groping for one of Rich’s new walkie talkies (I left one of mine at Black Lake this year). With some coaxing (ok, cajoling), Rich persuaded me to stay put. And, within ten minutes of his arrival, we had tracked Moby to the flood plain, bordering Joe Fye's little trout stream that has been the place of so many memories over the past few years. It was the spot where I killed a turkey over Abbey when we first moved to Pennsylvania Furnace. It was the spot where Rich had killed a doe last year. And, it was the spot where I had killed a doe last year following a series of very bad judgements.

Moby's antlers were extended to the heavens. I was overtaken with gratitude. Rich beamed at me like a proud dad. It was perfect.

It’s also 5:15 and I need to get home to the wife and kids… More later.

Back on the blog (at least for now)...


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More goodies from the archives

This one also appeared in December of 2005. Enjoy.

Let's Have Some Fun: You Provide the Caption

Hey lads,
Let's experiment with what I'd like to call, an "interactive feature." :-) I provide the photo, and you all provide a caption and/or description of what's going on.

I'll start:

(1) "This is a picture of Keith trying to stay tuned up in between the first and second duck seasons."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Birthday, Grousers!

Well, the blog is a year old. We've gained some members, lost some members, and had some fun. All in all a successful first year. Keep posting those stories, links, and limericks.

Limericks you say? The following limerick first appeared on Grousers in December 2005:

There was a young grouser named Richie
Whose trigger finger on point was so itchy
He walked in on a bird
A great boom could be heard
And when he missed he was ever so bitchy

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Danielle's Wisdom

I thought everyone would enjoy this.My daughter who is 8 yrs old was watching hunting shows on ESPN2 with me. She was writing in her journal at the same time after our show was over she gave me this letter to keep in my truck so I would not forget some important facts about hunting like when you can talk or not talk depending on what you are hunting.

Enjoy the Holidays

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday Gems!

Sorry I've been ABLOGWOL, busy at work and home.

I came across this gem of a site highlighting the top 10 most dangerous toys, and I HAD to share.

Three cheers for Lawn Darts!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Early Duck Season Ends

Well the first season of 2006 has ended and it was a good one.I look foward to some stories about all the duck and goose slaying that went on this fall. Nick and I had a great season but one hunt remains the most memorable. It was opening weekend and we had a great morning taking a mixed bag of mallards, teal, wood duck and even a pintail. My cousin hit a nice drake mallard and it fluttered down two ponds over so Nick and the two of us went after it. We worked the pond hard and no duck but Nick kept coming back to one spot. I checked the weeds along the pond numerous times and told Nick the bird had left and pulled him off this spot to go in search of the bird. Finally we gave up Dave and I were standing there talking about what a great hunt we were having and Nick went back to that same spot again he was in water up to his chest and kept going in circles.Suddenly he plunged his head under water and after a few seconds of thrashing around under water he came up with Dave's Mallard. It was unbelievable he knew it was there the whole time the instinct and scenting abilities of these dogs is unbelievable. Thanks to Nick we had a great season.

See you in the blind

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ball busters and nut crackers

I have been accused by a job-seeking, interview-hungry Penn State professor of shirking my hunting duties in favor of pursuit of a higher nature. I'm tired of him cracking my nuts.

I'll have you all know that I will be attending a hunting-related event over the weekend, and the game will be really, really big "rodents."

So there, I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Layout Boat Hunt

Big front, wind and winter's return. Made a try for the divers, the ones always out in the middle. Had birds check out the spread, but only one flock of Goldeneyes was fired upon, with no success.