GROUSE POPULATIONS VERY HIGH THIS SEASON!
For thirty years I’ve kept an average hourly flush rate for grouse during our season. The 2022 season will go down as one of the best we’ve ever experienced. With an average of over four flushes per hour this season, the action was steady and often fast. Additionally, the weather in September and October was spectacular and daily conditions were perfect. Mornings were cool enough to provide a bit of dew, always important for scenting conditions, and afternoons were sunny and in the sixties. The dogs (Maisy, Maggie, and Lucy) performed exceptionally well, experienced no significant injuries, and had more contact with birds than they’ve experienced in many years.
Several hunters managed to accomplish the forest grouse hat trick during their hunts. We have three species of native grouse here. Dusky (formerly called blue grouse) ruffed and spruce. And this area of Montana is one of the only places in the lower forty-eight where a hunter can get three native species of grouse. Knocking down all three in a single hunt is particularly special and satisfying. Ruffed and spruce generally come handily. Dusky grouse are a bit more challenging since they live at higher elevations and that means hiking to tops of the mountains. On one hunt, we gained fifteen hundred feet in elevation in one and half miles. Suffice it to say it was a challenge just getting to dusky habitat. But the rewards were great and we had success that day.
There is always a single memorable moment that defines a season. And this one is all about Maisy. She is our twelve- year- old English setter and has been a workhorse for all these years. She’s lovely, eager, in exceptional shape for her age, has a great nose, but has never, and I mean never, had much of an inclination to retrieve. She’s thrilled to find downed birds and proudly stands over them until I get there. But pick them up and deliver to hand, never. Until this one time.
Late one evening all three dogs locked up on point in a patch of rosehips. I stepped in, a ruffed blew up from the cover crossing left to right and I got lucky and knocked it down. Immediately, another bird got up diverting my attention from the downed bird. I had no shot at the second bird. While I was repositioning in hopes of other flushes, Maisy ran up to me with the downed bird in her mouth, sat down, and delivered the bird to my hand. I swear she noticed and enjoyed my surprise since for all intent and purposes she smiled before turning and diving into the cover again. It’s all about the dogs and there’s nothing better than hunting with four legged family members.
From all perspectives it was a banner grouse season and provided we don’t have a severe winter and a cold, wet spring, we can likely expect good grouse populations again in 2023.
Demand for our grouse hunts greatly exceeds our capacity. We always give first dibs to return hunters and then to hunters who have most recently been here. After that, we’ll get you on the wait list and hopefully can accommodate those of you who would like to join us in the future.