Two birds, two shots, and a good start to the season

ruffed grouse and 20 ga. Remington 870

I made my first trip of the 2013 hunting season today and had a fair amount of success.

The area I was hunting is a large tract of state-owned land in Downeast Maine that is dotted with numerous lakes and ponds and is traversed by an extensive network of abandoned logging roads. Stands of young poplar trees are common in the area, meaning there is an ample food supply for the local ruffed grouse population. The area offers both amazing scenery (especially during autumn when the leaves turn various shades of red, orange, and yellow) and an abundance of game.

Maine lake in fall

I shot the first grouse of the day only a few minutes into the hunt. The bird dropped from a spruce tree bordering the abandoned road I was walking and I pulled the trigger of my 20 gauge just as it hit the ground. Not a bad start. I shot my second bird about an hour and a half later as it darted from a tangle of underbrush. The bird paused for a split second as it entered a stand of pines and I seized the opportunity to put a little more meat in the freezer.

Hunting grouse this early in October is inherently challenging, especially when one is hunting without the help of a dog. While the leaves have begun to change color, they are still thick on the trees and on the plants that make up the underbrush. Such conditions offer grouse optimal concealment. Many birds take flight when they are well out visual range and I’m guessing that many more birds simply hold tight, unseen in the brush, until I pass by.

Maine woods 1

So far, it seems that I made the right call by using loads pushing #4 shot rather than the #6 of #7.5 shot I typically use. The larger, heavier #4 pellets seem to be thwarting the light brush that is inevitably always between me and the game better than smaller shot sizes.