I had one of my grouse hunting buddies ask me the other day if I golfed. I replied that I had tried it a couple times but that after drinking more Stroh’s than apparently deemed fit by the course ranger, and getting the golf cart stuck in the water hazard, the country club decided that golf wasn’t for me. He then recommended that I take up another hobby before the cops showed up. My friend went on to tell me how much fun it was, that if I had the right guys showing me how to go about it the proper way, that I would really enjoy it. He mentioned that he and another friend were taking a weekend trip up north to hit up a few popular courses and Stroh’s would most surely be involved, and if I wanted to tag along there was room. The first thing that entered my mind was to run out to the pro shop and buy a set of clubs, one of those fancy pink shirts Tiger Woods wears, and probably a slick new hat just to tie things together. Upon arriving at the sporting goods store and looking around, I found that they had Winchester AA target loads on sale. Abort mission- I have pre-season training to do.
As more of a nut job than a casual grouse hunter, I take an approach to the summer “off season” more like spring training for baseball. In Northern Michigan, the return of the glorious timber-doodle marks the first day of training camp. The weather is cool, the leaves are still off, and best of all- no hunters in your favorite spot driving your blood pressure up. It does the soul good to nod your hat to the first biddy flushed off a point after a long cold winter. Your dogs will appreciate being cut loose in the bramble again and it will help to run off some of that cabin fever “Ol’ Wink” exhibited when he chewed the leg off of your new coffee table. During the nesting period when dogs aren’t allowed in the grouse woods is a great time to spend cleaning your favorite double, breaking in your new grouse boots, or going through the pockets of your old hunting vest. (If you’re anything like me you will be dressed in full gear, swinging on imaginary grouse, and debating on whether or not to finish off that half eaten snickers bar you found until you wear out a set of snap caps or your wife catches you and gives you a look assuring you that your sanity is in question.) In mid-summer when the quiet period is over, I immediately, despite the heat and dense foliage, resume training on wild birds. (Make sure and bring plenty of water and insect repellent.) August mornings find me out kicking the tires on a few spots I passed on the way to my usual coverts, but didn’t want to waste the precious moments during season on a “maybe next year” stand of aspen. This is also a good time to call up your drinking, (excuse me, I mean hunting) buddies and discuss the upcoming season at the local watering hole. Long nights spent debating the intricacies of “who is going to bring what groceries?” or “who is hunting which spot on the woodcock opener?” are much needed to ensure order when people start showing up at grouse camp. Yes, now that I think about it, summer is a busy time for us old “bird doggers”, but alas, the days are getting shorter. It won’t be long until the dense green forests of July give way to that splendid October gold.