Wednesday, September 26, 2012

More Grouse Hunting In Utah


Hunting For Blue Grouse In The Beautiful Utah Mountains

Grouse Poop. They are here!
Jeff's first Blue Grouse
The Grouse Season is still in full swing here in Utah and we're enjoying every second of it. I've been getting out as much as possible and have been getting into enough birds to keep it exciting.

The dogs and I have been out hunting with family and friends and we are having a wonderful time. We're all getting slowly back into shape all while being in some of the most gorgeous country you'd ever want to be in. Elk, mule deer, moose, turkey, bighorn sheep, mountain goats can all be seen in the places we've been hunting. Spent Saturday in a spot where we were into both Blue and Ruffed Grouse. Bagged my first Ruffs of the season this past weekend. 

The dogs are doing good. Hazel is now the old vet and Chief keeps progressing nicely. He is getting more and more savvy with these birds and his natural ability is really coming through. He is hunting with the team more and more and is starting to back theother dogs on point. He is much more aware of whats going on this year. I couldn't be happier with him
taking a lunch break
Chiefs retrieving is progressing. I've come up with a game plan that involves using his natural competitiveness with Hazel. It really has made all the difference. He is now getting more fired up about retrieving. Hazel is money with retrieving. If she's on the ground and we knock a bird down it's pretty much guaranteed that it's in the bag. But if she's not around the rest of our pack are pretty weak retrievers comparatively. I'm hoping that with a little work and praise I can bring out more desire to retrieve in Chief. I don't think it will take a whole lot of work to get there but he does need some encouragement. Retrieving grouse is difficult especially for a young dog. They hardly ever see the fall of the bird so they have to have that desire to go find it and hopefully bring it back to us.  I really love a nice retriever.

Using this competition method has really worked for Chief and I've see a big improvement while training in just the past week. He is not only retrieving the dokkens bumpers I throw in the yard he is doing it with vigor and enthusiasm. This is huge because usually he will just jog over to the bumper sloppily pick it up by the head or tail and just run around the yard with it. Now he is sprinting over to it, picking it up properly and sprinting back to me and delivering it to hand. Huge difference in a week. I guess retrieving a wild bird last weekend on his own really had a positive effect on him. It's fun to watch a young dog progress like that.

Chief is one of those dogs that if He feels like it's his idea he will do whatever you ask of him. But if he feels pressured it really slows him down. Life is just playtime to this kid. I could take a lesson from him with my attitude.

 Blue Grouse In The Bag
A pair of young Ruffed Grouse.
I've only been to a few areas so far here locally but so far it appears that we've had an excellent hatch of birds this year. The action has been pretty consistent and the dogs are getting a good workout. Great experience for a young dog like Chief. He's been in pretty much every circumstances you could hope to create and he's handling it all better than could be expected for a young dog. Finding birds, pointing, backing, and retrieving downed birds. I couldn't ask for more.
A tired brace of bird dogs taking a break in the shade.
nothing like a deep moose wallow to cool down in

Hope everyone else is enjoying the season. The weather here in Utah is finally starting to cool. The leaves are in their full Autumn glory and it's an amazing time of year. I am so blessed. Some days I just look at these mountains and can't believe what I'm seeing. These pictures from the iPhone just don't do them justice. All while hunting over these beautiful animals. I can't wait to get out again.

Good Hunting, everyone!

Brett


Searching the flats on the way back to the truck


Friday, September 14, 2012

SEPTEMBER BLUES


MALE BLUE GROUSE IN FULL STRUT.   photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Upland Utah Is Back. It's been a long time since I've posted. It's been one crazy summer.

After 13 years working for the same company I've made a career switch. The new company I work for is an amazing, young, growing company. The owners are great people and the opportunity was too great to pass up. It's just what I've been searching for. I'm very happy with this new job and the best part is it's only 5 minutes from my home. I've been commuting about 2 hours a day the last 10 years. Having work so close to home has been awesome. It's been crazy busy and I've had no time to even think about this blog but things are calming down and I'm finally feeling like I'm getting on top of the pile of work we have. Just in time because hunting season is here!

With the busy summer we haven't been as active as I would of liked but we have done some camping and the family took some vacations so not all was lost. 

The dogs are doing good but are not in the kind of shape I would like to see them in but we're working on it and we will work our way back into shape this month. We have to... grouse season has started and September is all about the Blues…. grouse that is.

We've been out a couple times and it appears that the Blues (I can't get used to calling them Dusky Grouse) have had a good population bump. Last year we were struggling to see any but so far I've had pretty good success. We've been hunting the edges of young aspen stands near the top of the ridges.  It seems to be working. 

Blue Grouse are fun birds, especially with dogs but they're not the most challenging game bird. There have be times hiking during the summer that I've found them walking right off the side of the trail. Birds were acting no wilder than a barnyard chicken. You could kill them with a rock if you wanted. But, put dogs on the ground and they act pretty wiley. They are a lot of fun with pointing dogs. Early in the season they tend to hold for points pretty well. As the season progresses they get more jumpy. Usually they travel in family groups ranging from 2 to about 8 birds. When one Blue comes up you better get ready for some more shooting. 

Blue grouse have a fantastic flush. It can be as fantastic an eruption as any ruffed grouse or rooster pheasant. In my experience they usually are found on a slope and fly downhill, quickly gaining speed to heavy cover. Shots are usually fast and furious and the birds are rarely alone so reload quickly. If your lucky enough to catch them on flat ground they will usually just fly into the nearest cover that they are usually not far from. So, there is good opportunities for repeat flushes if they don't take cover high in the trees. 

 In my opinion they are beautiful birds, especially the males. Slate blue mottled with brown tones. Dark tails with a band of repeated blue on the tip of their tail feathers. Orange to yellow eyebrows on the the more mature males. Adults can get as large as any pheasant you'll find. And the terrain where you hunt them is just gorgeous. They are found in the High Rockies, Sierras to the coastal Pacific Northwest up the coast to Alaska. 

Me and the hounds with an early season Blue (Dusky) Grouse

Blue grouse hunting is about having fun. It's early in the season and there is no pressure. It's about getting the dogs out and getting a good run in the beautiful mountains we have here in the West. Its just nice to be out in it.  I Love it. 




Georgia Pellegrini has a great recipe for blue grouse. It works for other grouse species  and pheasants too.  It can be found here:


Delicious.  Good stuff all over her site.



I've tried a bunch of different recipes from a few different chefs and most turn out great. But, my favorite way to prepare game birds is still just a simple pan fry in olive oil. Let the meat age in your refrigerator for a week or so. Salt and pepper and a quick fry with your favorite beverage and a side of whatever you got. That recipe works for me every time.