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Spinone Newsletter

GETTING HIGH WITH MOUNTAIN GROUSE
Tony Arduino
/ Categories: SpinoneNews, Hunting

GETTING HIGH WITH MOUNTAIN GROUSE

Mat Hughey

On Sunday 9.8.19 Nicholas Diamonds, Sir Winston, Gus and myself headed up to the higher elevations of Roosevelt National Forest looking to open up the 2019 Upland Tour with a bang. Blue/Dusky Grouse would be our quarry, and our success with this species on the Front Range has not been good! A lot of miles and foot after foot of elevation gained and lost with precious few feathers to show for our efforts. Hens have been shot, or a young of the year - but never that big old male cock-bird that I always see other legitimate grouse hunters harvesting. The large body, the distinctive yellow comb above each eye and the difficult terrain in which they live have made this a sought-after rite of passage goal for me since I first started bird hunting.

The morning was perfect - sunny with blue skies and just enough chill in the air to let you know that you're at elevation and that summer will soon pass. Both dogs were working well as we set off near timberline, and every direction I looked was providing the picture-perfect vistas that we hunters never take for granted. One of those views was so beautiful that I decided to reach for my camera phone to snap a picture of Sir Winston cruising through a high alpine meadow...

 I noticed Winston change directions and get very birdy immediately.  He motored towards a stand of trees atop the meadow and as soon as his head poked in he froze. 'He's on point!' I was thinking, but it was no flat-land prairie point. Up a very steep grade, he was frozen with his head cocked to one side, as 4 and 5 seconds ticked by. I had flicked the safety off my 20g Franchi as opposed to readying the camera phone and was ready for what came next. After a few more seconds passed there was the thunderous clap of 3 large grouse flushing. "GROUSE!!!" I yelled to Nick, somewhere above me and to my left, but out of sight. The grouse were also out of sight, as the flush on the far side of the timber blocked my view completely. Then rising above the trees, moving from my left to right was a very large grouse flying to escape Winston, with nothing but the blue sky behind him! My first shot of the 2019 season rang true, and I saw him react midair as his backside momentarily shifted forward - but he kept flying. A second pull sent more nickel-plated lead in his direction, and I was sure I saw a poof of feathers just as he cleared the edge of the meadow and disappeared...

I called Nick and the dogs over and the search began but was futile. After 15 mins or so of searching, we were ready to give up. Nick pointed out my two shells on the forest floor, so I recreated in my mind where he flushed, and where I last saw him. I imagined a straight line into the forest using those two points for reference and told Nick that I was going to take Winston for one more search and walk along that imaginary line for about two hundred yards. To stoke my optimism, it appeared that we had been searching in the wrong immediate area. I was walking along this line, about 100yds in and Winston pulled up... he cut me off and did a curve point right around a small stand of trees and right back to my direction. This gorgeous and flashy point was all business though - there in between us lying dead on the ground was the biggest grouse I've ever seen! A long wait was finally over!

I am planning on roasting the bird whole and will pluck and brine it once it's done 'hanging' in the fridge...

This was certainly a definitive moment for me, and one of Sir Winston's signature days under the gun. So many years ago, this is why I got a Spinone Italiano - I wanted a true sporting dog that could work the mountains with me. He always enjoys the alpine hunting so much, you can tell he's home.

What a perfect day it was...

**Another thing I've noticed is that Mountain hunting doesn't beat up the dog halfway as bad as the plains do during pheasant season.**

 

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