A November Day Spent Ruffed Grouse Hunting in Northern Michigan
Silence greeted me as the truck door opened. No vehicles in the distance, not a drop of wind and nothing more than the unknown of what the day may bring to consume my head. Looking through the seemingly lifeless and still woods before me, I swear I could already hear Yeti’s bell as I pictured him zig zagging back and forth through the aspens. It’s a classic November day in the woods of Northern Michigan. Steel grey skies and a crisp 38-degrees. To some this may seem like dreary weather, but not Yeti. His whimpers grow louder from the truck as the tail gate drops and his bell jingles while I rummage through his dog box.
Finally turning him loose, I imagine grouse already fleeing the scene as the bolt to my Weatherby slam shut with a shell, echoing throughout the dead air. We pushed down a logging road, Yeti working on my left side zipping in and out of a cutting. Suddenly, a bird flushes wild to our right side and the morning silence is broken as a I pull the trigger far behind a fast-moving grouse. If only Yeti had been working on the right side instead, we’d have bagged that bird I think as I curse to myself. If only I hadn’t missed.
The logging road eventually splits, and we gamble on the trail to the left that runs between hardwoods and a young cutting. At this point Yeti is running full speed, anxiously trying to catch scent of another bird. Several hundred yards pass underneath our feet as we turn down a ridge into the hardwoods. Suddenly, a loud crashing of sticks and leaves erupt below as something makes its escape due to our presence. A few more steps and I notice the soft bark of a beach-wood tree is advertising scars left behind from the claws of a black bear. A humbling reminder that we're not the only predators that roam these woods.
At the bottom of the ridge lay a blown down oak from a series of storms that hit the area back in August. Half way down the ridge Yeti starts to make game towards the blow down and comes to a screeching halt with a quivering tail pointing towards the 12-o'clock hour. This was serious, something was taking cover in the mangled mess of fallen limbs and branches in front of us.
Picking up my pace down the ridge I catch up with Yeti and circle out in front of him, jumping on a fallen limb trying to flush out what’s hidden in the oak. Nothing happens but Yeti remains staunch, confident that something is hidden within the clumps of brown leaves. As I take a step back, a grouse explodes from a pile of leaves into the air crossing a mere inches in front of me. Once again, the morning silence is broken by a thundering shot from my 12 gauge. This time the bird tumbles to the ground as I swing through the shot.