Blog: Midwest & The Rest

Photography, experiences, and essays about conservation, restoration, ecology, and all things nature in the Midwest and the rest of the world!

Gun Dogs and Bird Guns

Trekked up to Hibbing, Minnesota for my first grouse trip with Scott and his two dogs. Both are wirehaired pointing griffons and brothers, Huck and Finn. Scott lives for upland hunting and actively is introducing new upland hunters to the ropes; I am his fifth mentee of the season. What follows is an excerpt from my daily journal:

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“Finnie is the elder and has the white hair to show for it. He knows what to look for and can get staunch on point, whilst Huck backs and is eager to chase after his older brother.

Huck, Scott, and Finn. Here mid-hunt, Scott is helping remove packed snow from Finn’s paws.

Huck, Scott, and Finn. Here mid-hunt, Scott is helping remove packed snow from Finn’s paws.

Dogs all squared away, geared up, and soon put boots to the snow covered trails. Walked open paths and through thick brush finding few tracks and droppings, and fewer grouse. Had dad’s Remington 870 Magnum 12 gauge and it weighs more than it looks.

Collar time for the doogans.

Collar time for the doogans.

Huck waiting to explore the grouse woods.

Huck waiting to explore the grouse woods.

Good luck kiss and pep talk for Finn before the hunt begins.

Good luck kiss and pep talk for Finn before the hunt begins.

Grouse tracks.

Grouse tracks.

Huck galloping, following Finn along the path.

Huck galloping, following Finn along the path.

Scott describing the next plan of attack to the dogs and me.

Scott describing the next plan of attack to the dogs and me.

Traveled roughly 4.5 miles in 3.75 hours, quite fair for conditions, new terrain, and following dogs. Got back to truck around 16:00 and reversed ‘gear up’ sequence. Began driving back to Hibbing.

Beardcicles all around.

Beardcicles all around.

But wait! On the right side of the road I spotted a grouse leave a low branch from an aspen and land confidently on the snow. Scott slowed to a gradual stop, this way we did not spook the bird and it allowed me space to quickly gear up before getting in range. Moved steady and slow, heart quickening with each step, no dogs leading the way.

Found the grouse where I last saw it! And another grouse in accompaniment! Whilst moving to get a closer shot, one grouse decided to leave, but the other remained fixed. Gun up, creeped in closer, and took aim. Safety off and took a deep breath. Knew instantly that my shot was true. Immediately looked to Scott who was waiting, watching from the truck with the dogs. He shouted as did I and he released the pups to join me. Finn got on the bird and brought it to me, but would not drop it. No luck for Scott either. We’re sure he was a little upset and dejected that I went after the grouse on my own and this was his redemption; all day of hard work getting on tracks and sniffing out birds only to be left behind in the eleventh and final hour. His hesitancy seemed reasonable.

First and surely not final grouse. Picture credit: Scott Kinnane

First and surely not final grouse. Picture credit: Scott Kinnane

Weightless in hand. Picture credit: Scott Kinnane.

Weightless in hand. Picture credit: Scott Kinnane.

Deep in thought and deeper in emotion. Picture credit: Scott Kinnane.

Deep in thought and deeper in emotion. Picture credit: Scott Kinnane.

Held bird in my hands and lap all the way home as we shared some genuine talks. Both emotional, especially me since I was after this for so long…had this life path in mind since I began working for Jed and the DNR. Knowing that Leopold’s kin, Scott as mentor and friend, and others all led me to this moment gives me such joy.

All for tonight. We are all gassed.

-M-”