A Walk for Ruffed Grouse
Mark Twain once said that “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” Perhaps he should have tried hunting ruffed grouse. One of life’s simple pleasures for me is to stroll along a trail through the Turtle Mountain aspen forest during that “golden hour” before sundown, shotgun in hand, in search of ruffed grouse. I went out grouse hunting one evening last week. Although I didn’t hear or see a grouse, there were lots of interesting things that made the walk thoroughly enjoyable. That’s not unusual; it’s the norm.
Just walking through the forest this time of year is relaxing. As I strolled along the trail enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of the forest I had to stop several times because of some observation.
There were chickadees to watch and hear. I even saw a few new bittersweet plants, as well as some highbush cranberry and hawthorn. There were so many “diversions” that at times I had to remind myself I was looking for ruffed grouse.
I had to stop to listen to some coyotes howl. They howled, yipped, and yapped sporadically for several minutes. They were on the move, and communicating in a language I do not understand. Soon after the forest fell silent.
A red squirrel sitting in an oak tree took a few seconds out of its busy schedule to scold me before it scrambled to the top of the tree, jumped to another, and disappeared in the forest canopy. Red squirrels are not “wired” like the rest of us; they are wired to a 220.
At one point, while coming around a bend in the trail, I heard a loud nasal snort: deer ahead. Sure enough, it was a doe and two fawns. They looked me over, and then ran into the woods where the doe snorted her dissatisfaction at me several times for having the audacity to trespass into her forest.
This particular trip did not culminate in roast grouse. That’s okay. I was richly rewarded even without a grouse. That’s about the time I was reminded of Twain’s quote about golfing. If Twain had been a grouse hunter, he would have said, “Ruffed grouse hunting is a good walk guaranteed.”
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services
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