By Frank Jezioro – Director, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – -(Ammoland.com)- Monday, January the 2, and the day New Year’s is celebrated by many throughout the state.
I had talked to two of my grouse hunting buddies the night before. The plan was to check the weather about 7 a.m. and make a decision about going grouse hunting that day.
I had already made my decision the night before. If the wind didn’t blow the dog off its feet and if the snow wasn’t over my knees I was going.
So, as planned, I checked the weather and made the calls. First response was that it was blowing pretty hard and when he was younger he would have gone. Second call brought the response that it was supposed to be nice the next weekend.
According to the weather channel, the wind was supposed to die down some around noon and the snow wasn’t really to start until about 5 p.m. or so. By the time I did a few things around the house, cleaned the kennel, got my hunting stuff laid out, it was noon. I loaded Snoopy, our young English pointer, and headed out to Preston County. I had hunted there a little before deer season and felt we had a good chance to find a bird or two before the snow started in earnest later in the afternoon.
As I drove east, the ground was covered with about an inch of snow on the higher slopes. Soon I was turning up the dirt road toward the top of the mountain where I wanted to hunt. The top of these mountains are laced with grapevines and dotted with autumn olive. In addition, there was plenty of sumac. All in all, there was sufficient food and cover for a mid-winter hunt. Snoopy was eager to go and finally I had the little bell fastened around her neck. I stuffed a few 28 gauge shells in my vest and dropped two in the AYA double.
The snow was picking up a little as we headed into the heaver cover. I decided to follow a little logging road through the woods as the road was lined with greenbrier, sumac and old slashing from the logging operation that went through there about five or six years ago. We hadn’t gone more than 100 yards or so when Snoopy really got busy. She knew there was a grouse there somewhere but just couldn’t pin down the scent swirling around in the wind. She was on the left side of the old road and I was concentrating on the logs and tree tops in front of her when the grouse went on the right side of the road. By the time I turned and located the bird it was about out of range and diving over the mountain.
I told Snoopy she was a good dog and that it was hard to pin these old birds when the scent was swirling around like that. Soon we crossed the old road and headed around the hill. By now the snow was coming pretty good and actually impacting visibility some. We were working toward a corner where the autumn olive was thick and interwoven with blackberry canes and greenbrier. Above all of it stood stag horn sumac. The heads of the plants were full and scarlet red. I could see song birds scurrying around ahead of us as they flew from the sound of Snoopy’s bell. One florescent red Cardinal really stood out against the snowy background. Snoopy was about 50 yards ahead of me and, just as she entered the tangle, she froze on an intense point. I moved toward her and, when I was about 10 feet from her, the snow-covered weeds under the sumac exploded with the thunder of grouse wings. The bird came out low and then started to hook to the right. I swung the gun, but was behind it when I fired the first barrel. The grouse continued on across the old road and this time I was just ahead of its beak when I pulled the trigger. The 1 oz. load of 7 ½s centered the grouse and it smacked into the hillside. Snoopy raced to the bird, scooped it up and raced back to my side. By now the snow was really starting to come down. We took a few minutes to get a picture or two and headed back for the truck.
Three grouse flushed and one in the bag after two hours of hunting made for a very satisfying afternoon.
As January moves on there will normally be days of snow and of sunshine. There will be cold and there will be warm afternoons. The wind will blow and it will be calm. The point is, there is a lot of good hunting and there is no more pretty time to be out than when we have a light covering of snow.
If you don’t hunt, it is still a nice time to be out even if you simply go for a walk or a hike.
The alternative is to be a couch potato and sit in front of the TV watching the Outdoor Channel. Me, I prefer to be out there doing it instead sitting around and talking about it.