North Woods Grouse - Both Barrels & a Bear Slider

VikingsGuy

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As I was leaving home to head up to our cabin to meet the group, my wife was dismayed that I was going hunting with 6 complete strangers. To which I said, I may be a stranger to them but they all know each other well (so I assumed). When @BrentD arrived first it quickly became clear he didn't know anyone on the list either. And then as each arrived - @Hunting Wife (+husband), @wllm1313 and @Wildabeast, it became clear none of us had met anyone of the others before. And with @Ben Lamb's arrival slightly delayed it began to take on a bit of an Agatha Christy opening chapter feel - six hunters, each invited to a remote cabin in the woods, but by whom and for what purpose . . . But the tension was relieved when @Ben Lamb arrived and it became clear he had not brought fava beans or a nice chianti . . . .

It definitely raised the bar on our traditional exceedingly casual approach to grouse hunting - which can be summed up by my son (Mossberg in hand) and I walking any random two-track we stumble across provided it did not have a non-trespass sign and that my son "felt lucky about it", while dining on leftover pizza in the evenings.

In contrast, this trip had fancy English and German doubles, plenty of ONX usage to set a course of action and assure no corner crossing ;), and a range of game-meals - from bear bbq, to squirrel on the grill, to venison lasagna, to pheasant enchiladas and famous skillet elk nachos. Upon sharing this new grouse cultural experience with my son, he made it clear the bar has been raised for our future grouse hunts. Now I just need to find him a nice English SxS . . . .

As an aside to the food successes - on the first evening I figured we would keep it simple and grill burgers . . . until I noticed a dirty but empty plate on the counter. And it dawned on me, that was the plate of raw burger patties I had set down for a moment to take care of some other matter. This realization resulted in some uncle Larry-esque cursing on my part. Our oldest lab is quite known for her counter surfing and I had let my guard down. So we shared munchies, some grouse appetizers (thanks to @BrentD's prowess) and just filled in the lost calories with various beer options (porters and stouts for me thank you).

@BrentD and his pup, Gus, definitely showed us how it is done - both from a cool gun perspective and how to actually fill a limit of grouse. But I did get one as the clock began to expire on the trip. This bird was shot right at @wllm1313's picture of the flooded deadfall above the day after the picture was taken. (And yes, the lab in the pic is the offending counter-surfer Dakotah).

It was a blast having the group up. Thanks to @Ben Lamb for instigating this. Much fun was had. The fact that 7 strangers had this good a time is another small testament to the great HuntTalk community built by @Big Fin!

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Gerald Martin

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Jul 3, 2009
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Well done gentlemen and lady! Speaking from experience these kinds of hunts are a wonderful adventure.

Thanks for sharing the story.
 

BirdManMike

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Oct 9, 2019
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I like the coloration on the more easterly ruffed grouse with the red in the tails and dark bodies. The ruffed grouse in the west are all grey-tailed with less brown a body.

Looks fun, guys.
 

crock239

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Nicely done and with good story-telling to boot! Sounds like a good time. Thanks for sharing
 

VikingsGuy

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I like the coloration on the more easterly ruffed grouse with the red in the tails and dark bodies. The ruffed grouse in the west are all grey-tailed with less brown a body.

Looks fun, guys.
We have a mix on the north shore. Mostly the deep brown, but some lighter. @BrentD did get a least one of the grayish tail feather variety.
 

TheGreek

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Apr 14, 2017
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Chicago
Looks like a great time. Pretty jealous. I Can’t wait to be in the northwoods chasing grouse in a few weeks with some good friends. I’d love to see some more photos and details about the SxS’ people hunted with.
 

Jbotto

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Big Horn Basin, WY
Oh man this brings back memories of hunting grouse during the few years I spent at VCC in Ely, MN. Sounds like a fun time!
 

cedahm

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Sep 22, 2015
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Colorado
Thanks all for the report and the elegant descriptions. What a fun time, I am green (maybe mottled brown given the quarry) with envy.

In the pre-forum “listserv” days, we called these get togethers conclaves - or ‘claves for short - and some of those remain some of my best memories.

is there a waiting list for ‘22?
 
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Wildabeast

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NC / UT / WY
For some reason, I only took one pic while at grouse camp. Given that I spent 60 hours driving, though, I took several of me and the pup cruising through some wonderful American scenery in WY, SD, and MN.

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I nearly got my second buck antelope of the year, as one decided to step right out in front of my car as I was driving through the northeast corner of WY. It was dusk at that point, and over the next 2 hours I saw upwards of 50 deer standing along the road - a couple of really nice muley bucks and one nice whitetail buck. Looked like a good unit to burn some points on.

Arriving at camp after 30 hours of straight through driving, my priorities were (1) introduce myself to @VikingsGuy and @wllm1313 who greeted me as I pulled in, and (2) get a beer out of the cooler. The three of us enjoyed some Moab Brewing double IPA’s and waited for the others to arrive or return from their day of hunting.

The next morning, I was lucky to be paired with our gracious host and the guy with all of the inside knowledge on local honey holes (or so I thought), @VikingsGuy. Our morning hunt was uneventful as the dogs were working out the kinks of a long off season. We heard a few grouse bust behind us, but never saw a bird. After a 2 mile sludge up and old logging road, we returned to the truck to go find another spot. A short drive down the road, and I spot a grouse standing in the road on my side. I point it out to my chauffeur, who pulls over and says “go shoot it!”. Not one to question a local, I jump out of the truck, get my gun out of the truck bed, load it approach the fearless critter who seems to have no intention of flying away. #GroundPound #1.

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Not an old English double, but I sure do like that Franchi semi auto.

That ended up being our only bird for the day, but the time spent with @VikingsGuy and his dogs was the real reward.

The next morning, @BrentD drew the short straw and had to endure a day with the guy with the modern gun and foofoo dog. Whereas I assumed @VikingsGuy knew all the local honey holes, @BrentD had done his homework! His OnX had about as many pins on it as that road grouse I shot at 20 yds had BB’s in it! Hitting an old logging road that had produced grouse the previous day, we come upon another road grouse. At least this time we were walking vs driving. Another dead grouse at 20 yds. It was a pretty active day jumping grouse. We missed as many as we shot, but it was tons of fun. We did come upon another road grouse late in the day, and I was determined to shoot one on the wing. Brent and the dogs were in the truck, so I approached the fearless bird, and approached, and approached... waiting for it to take flight. It finally did, and flew straight into the thicket and I had a clean miss. Brent’s first comment when he pulled up in the truck “why the hell didn’t you shoot that bird when he was on the ground.” 🤷‍♂️

Unfortunately, the timing for this trip had it sandwiched between a work trip to NC and a new home purchase closing in UT - both of which were added to the schedule long after this hunt was planned. So after 2 days of hunting and some incredible food and fellowship, Wasatch and I had to hit the road back home.

Some might question 60 hrs of driving for 2 days of grouse hunting, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I actually enjoy the road time, and it was even more enjoyable with my new pup along for the ride. Despite predictions of mass murder in the Northwoods, I met and became friends with a great group of seriously talented hunters (and cooks!). @VikingsGuy, those Korean bbq bear sliders were amazing. @BrentD, I ate a lot of squirrel as a kid growing up in Appalachia, and was really looking forward to that step back in time to my childhood - you did not disappoint. @Hunting Wife, I hate that I had to leave before the MASSIVE iron pan nachos, but I understand plans are already being made for next year. Hopefully you can do an encore.
 

Hunting Wife

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Almost North Dakota, not quite Canada
I suppose it’s my turn. I was somewhat surprised to get a message from Mr. @Ben Lamb about a HT grouse hunt in the north woods of Minnesota. Neither @HuntingHusband or I had never been to northern MN, but had always wanted to see the country, so we decided to take our chances meeting Internet strangers. I briefly rethought the decision when they sent me this “selfie”:

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Yes, these seem like just the kind of people from the Internet I should drive across two states to meet. Despite my better judgement, I still agreed to go. I mean, I do love to eat ruffed grouse.

Finally, September arrived and we made the drive from Montana to Minnesota. We opted to camp, and the setting did not disappoint.

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We met @VikingsGuy and @BrentD upon arrival, and enjoyed a laid back evening, aside from Dakota eating the burgers 🤣. I also thought this was some sort of annual affair and we would be the “new guys”, so to speak. It was interesting to be a part of a completely new gathering where no one had met previously, and I think a good time was had by all. We certainly did not want for food!

Day one was rainy, so we went out to get a feel for the country and see what we could find. We know ruffed grouse from Montana, but the habitat was somewhat new so exploring was great fun. Saw lots of wet grouse on the road, but I was reluctant to start ground sluicing birds lest the others think I was a heathen. Did legit get one, so I was happy. Went back to the cabin and enjoyed @VikingsGuy ’s delicious bear sliders and some conversation with the newly arrived folks.

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Day two, we again met for breakfast then hit the road to hunt some of the pins we had dropped the day before. The dog hasn’t done a ton of ruffed grouse work, but she was figuring it out, though most flushes were only heard rather than seen in the thick brush. The fall colors were gorgeous, and we put in about 10 miles in the autumn leaves to come up with three birds.

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It was fun to be able to take both color phases. We only see the gray in Montana. I’ve only ever seen brown in British Columbia until now.

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Much of the between-days are a blur. @Wildabeast fed us a phenomenal venison lasagna, and we sat back with drinks in hand and watched @BrentD and @Ben Lamb give @wllm1313 the hard sell on fancy double guns. We celebrated our various successes and enjoyed the camaraderie one does when in the company of other hunters.

Unfortunately, folks started to head back to real life much too soon. @HuntingHusband and I made our last day count, and finished with 5 birds. I gave them all one good attempt to flush but several declined and thus were ground pounded. This is the way.

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Overall, this was a great diversion from the busy season at work, and refreshing to see new country and meet new people. And the food…sorry but you guys who left early missed out.

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@BrentD made phenomenal pheasant skillet enchiladas to go with elk nachos. I will absolutely make a nacho encore on HT Grouse Hunt 2.0 - Sharptail Invasion. Thanks again to @VikingsGuy for hosting. Hoping we can perhaps return the favor in 2022.
 

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HuntingHusband

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Apr 1, 2016
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I feel like an honest voice needs to be brought to this story.

Now, when @Hunting Wife came to me months ago and suggested we go drive to woods of northern MN to meet 5 internet guys for a ‘grouse hunt’ a few things ran through my head. My first thought was, ‘yep she’s finally had enough of me and this is my demise.’ Once she ‘assured’ me that wasn’t the case, my next thought was, ‘I have to socialize with new people!?!’ She was to capture a picture of that moment.
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But grouse hunting in MN has alway been on my bucket list, so, against my better judgment, I agreed.

Fast forwarding to the beginning of the trip, my thoughts kept drifting back to the thought of being the subject of a M. Night Shyamalan movie and who they might cast to play me. I was hoping for Brad Pitt but in my mind knew it would probably be someone like Michael Cera.

To be continued…
 

noharleyyet

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TEXAS
Enjoyable thread of fine fellowship, classy weapons, culinary skills, and birding veritas....
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MNElkNut

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Jan 27, 2012
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Minnesota
Love the different descriptions of the hunt!

Big fan of modern autos myself so it is refreshing to see pictures of something other than relics from the past! Although it would be handy to have one of those doubles if I happen to lose my canoe paddle. :oops:
 

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