Charles and I were back in the Nebraska Sandhills for sharptailed grouse and prairie chicken opener on Saturday, September 18th.  We arrived to our first special spot about 10:30 AM to a windy, chilly and misty morning.   Due to the wind, the grouse were absent in the valleys and were only present in the high choppy dunes.  Our first flush was only three grouse who popped up out of range, which told us the area had probably been worked over.  Sure enough, we spotted the tracks of our most hated nemesis, the ATV, shortly thereafter.  Yet we were undeterred and continued to work this high dunefield.

Charles and the dogs made it up and over the top of the ridge before I had a chance to witness the first grouse of the season being taken.  According to Charles, both dogs locked on point, he flushed and shot the bird.  Sam quickly retrieved.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Charles, Sam and the first grouse of the year

We continued working this dunefield for another couple of hours, but were only getting one or two birds up at 50-100 yard ranges before the dogs could even get a lock on them.  Blasted ATV’s.  So we moved deeper into our zone where the truck tracks ended and we knew we had the place to ourselves.

The second dunefield we worked on was much more productive.  We busted up a coyote.  Charles has been reading up on the European version of the versatile hunting dog, where they hunt foxes with these dogs, so he wanted to see what would happen if he sicked Sam on the coyote.  Luckily, we were at the peak of a high dune so we could watch Sam chase the thing for about a mile into the valley.  Charles headed down into the valley with Sue to make sure Sam didn’t get himself lost.  As I was hollering and waving my blaze orange hat to get Sam off of the coyote, I heard the music of “blllrrr, bbblllrr, bbbllrr” as a flock of 10-15 grouse flushed about 30 yards behind me.

Once we were all back together, we headed towards where I thought I saw the flock land.  I was walking alone and had a great shot at a 15 yard flush of a singleton, but my lack of practice came shining through and I totally missed it.  We worked our way back towards the truck and came into another flock of 10-15 birds at 20 yards.  Charles shot a double and once again I croaked.  Each dog had a bird in their mouth…I probably should have had my camera instead of my gun!

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons

Charles rounds out his limit of grouse for the day with Sam and Sue on retrieve

We were headed back to town by 3 PM, just in time for Charles to cook up some sweet and sour grouse over rice for supper!

I definitely have my grouse hunting homework cut out for me before next year: get into shape and get to the trap and skeet range!