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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Grouse Season

Sept. 1 might mean the end of summer but it signals the beginning of grouse season, which is where I’ll be by the time you read this.
Hunting season already started for bear hunters, but I don’t hunt bears. Once upon a time I shot a bear. It was an accident. I was cleaning my gun. The meat was tougher than grandma’s army boot. It seemed to grow while you chewed it.
The bear hide was in prime shape though, until it got shot. Then it had more holes in it than one of my fish stories.
I tried to tan the bear hide with the Indian cure using a mash of brains, urine and liver, but tanning a hide is a lot like writing a column. It’s a disgusting chore and I ran out of brains at the end.
Still I thought a bear hide would make a nice throw rug for Momma until she complained about the grease stains and how it set off her allergies.
I decided to stick to grouse hunting after that.
Grouse is one of the finest flavored birds there is. There are many fine recipes for grouse but they all call for the same thing, a grouse.
My all-time favorite way to get a grouse would be to hunt with England’s’ Royal Family on their 50,000 acre Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
They don’t road hunt for grouse at Balmoral.  No, you stand on a ridge top with a picnic basket full of shells, a couple of shotguns and a flunky to load them.  Below on the moors the peasants are driving the grouse uphill.
You blaze away while the dog handlers fetch the birds. This type of grouse hunting is not without its hazards. The Queen Mother was once hit by a falling grouse. It broke her collarbone.    
Still there are many times while standing on a distant peak of the Olympics I have watched a flock of grouse glide down into a far canyon without giving me a shot and wished I had some peasants to drive the birds back up the draw. 
Instead you have to walk the grouse down. This can wear out your shoes.
I used to think the best way to hunt grouse was on horseback but I was just a kid at the time and didn’t know any better.  I had a hunting horse, trained to do whatever he wanted.
Like any 2 year old, that horse wanted to run. You had to get on him first. The horse was not crazy about the idea.
About the time you got one foot in the stirrup he would begin spinning and hopping while trying to bite and kick. 
Once you got on the hunting horse you had to hang on and keep low to the saddle, which was tough to do while holding a rifle.
We covered ground though. Every now and then a grouse would flush beneath the pounding hooves. That put the pedal to the metal as far as the colt was concerned. By the time you got him stopped we could be in the next county.
Turning the horse around meant we were heading for the barn and there was no stopping him. 
It was your tough luck if he saw a coyote. That horse loved to chase coyotes and jump logs. 
He once even jumped over the hood of a Mustang convertible that was parked in the wrong place. 
I’ve often wondered what the two people, who were in the back seat at the time, must have been thinking.
Didn’t they know it was grouse season?

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