Kicking Off the Partridge & Grouse Hunting Season

February 18, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Partridge and grouse hunting season kicked off with a bang.....well a few more actually

Partridge and grouse hunting season kicked off with a bang.....well a few more actually

“I can’t wait for pheasant season,” my buddy commented as he boated his twelfth 10-inch walleye of the evening. “I can,” I replied as I swept the hook into another of the lake’s small denizens. “What I used to consider the preseason is now the regular season,” I stated as I slipped my undersized fish back into the choppy evening waters.

I spent most of August praying for September and for my shot to get better with each round of clay targets. Thousands of dummy retrieves with the dog got him geared up for bird season – any bird season. Waiting for the “big opener” just wasn’t going to happen, sure, I included pheasant opener in the countdown, but it was grouse hunting opener I had been longing for.

Game and Fish surveys, reports from local farmers, and what I observed on the grouse and partridge opener this weekend confirmed that this in-between season isn’t one to waste in waiting for the next one.

Opener success

If anything, a stellar opening hunt has me convinced that grouse are not just a preseason bird. Walking the dew-soaked CRP along the cut alfalfa fields of northern Barnes County on Saturday produced large covies of sharptail grouse as well as some surprisingly accurate shooting. The birds pounded their wings and gurgled their way into flight as the dog gave chase. The excitement of a mass flush was what I had been counting down to since July 9.

The day of grouse hunting ended early.

The day of grouse hunting ended early.

Within an hour of setting foot in the field on opening day, I had taken my three birds. It was by far the fastest and most accurate limit I have ever shot and the first limit of sharpies in my brief hunting career. The limit wasn’t as important as how I got there; on three-of-four shooting, including a double of two birds with two consecutive shots, also another first.

I walked the next two hours, sans shotgun, watching the dog work, encouraging the rest of the party, and feeling the burn of the off season in my hamstrings. We ended the day with six birds, content in our efforts and the experience.

Shooting streak snapped

On Sunday the group piled into the truck and headed back to the fields, this time we were the first people on the spot, and the birds were there to greet us. As we walked into the wind a single sharptail sprung from the grass. My friend toppled it as another got up, which I sighted on and sent tumbling. Its impact raised another bird immediately which I shot, going two-for-two to start the day with another double.

The birds, just coming into their adult plumage flushed all around us one by one. There was no flock mentality of these juvenile grouse. They held tight like hen pheasants, and as the dog retrieved our birds we were caught off guard again and again by five or six more that exploded from the silver field.

From the first walk of the day, the group had five birds, but I would not take another one. Seemingly bulletproof grouse sprung up 15 to 20 yards ahead of me. The familiar BAM!-chchick-BAM!-chchick-BAM!-expletive pattern of seasons past took hold of my gun, as my dog looked at me bewildered after three excellent flushes. I apologized to him profusely and he seemed to accept. With three more birds, my more accurate friends got their limits, most likely first times for them too. Though the day didn’t end as accurately as the one before it, I was just as happy to finally spend two days in the field, walking behind my dog and beside friends and family.

I think to myself, there’s only 30 more days of this ahead before pheasant season opens. As the temperatures cool, and 85 degree highs fall to 45 degrees, I might get a little more primed for that season’s opener. But with the abundance of grouse and partridge in the area, there is no time to waste in what has become another prime season…in our outdoors.


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