Friday, October 08, 2010

scarce on the ground

We've been out half a dozen times this grouse season, with one flush (three birds) to show for it. We've found dust baths, feathers, droppings, and miles and miles of country, but can't seem to come into contact with the birds. One of the things I love about hunting blue grouse is that you do get to work for them. Down in NM, they seem to frequent high mountain meadows and parks (think 9,000 feet or so), usually in areas where there are spruce and aspen both. For me, at least, a good grouse spot is one in which I find birds one out of three times I hunt it. Some places that look like good habitat never produce birds. Other places will only provide birds occasionally. So far, we've hit most of my "good" places and many of the "worth trying" spots.

Of course, even if a spot if full of grouse, you won't necessarily find them. The birds will lay low if they can and let you walk by without a flush. Also, the country is big- no way to completely work an area that might hold birds (at least, not with a flushing dog)- so you might pass them by. As it is, this year I'm not certain if it is a good year for the birds or if populations or low. I'm guessing low, but I'm not certain.

As the season is nearing an end, we're going to make a trip up north and take a long hike up a mountain that has usually had birds on it. I don't think I've gone through a grouse season skunked and would prefer to keep that the case.

In the meantime, scenery and other photos.

First, because while it may be the law in Colorado, it's just a strong suggestion in New Mexico (sort of like traffic signals), some fall color, which isn't in full swing yet:

A late-blooming wood rose:

Merriam's turkeys. If we were turkey hunting, we'd have been in good shape this year.

Big ol' vulture sitting up on a ridge. I don't know if he had a full belly, or if the lack of wind made it too much work to fly, or if something he'd eaten was disagreeing with him, but he allowed us to get pretty close and, fortunately, I found him before the dog did. The Chessie though he needed retrieving, and that wouldn't have been a pretty scene:

The fall has been fine. Warm, our last trip was the first one cool and damp enough for the dog to have a good day working, and lovely. We've seen elk, deer, and the aforementioned turkeys and heard elk bugling as well. Now all we need is to get into a few more birds.


danontherock said...

Its great to get out though isn't it?

I walked 8 hours Wednesday and the dog pointed once and 1 covey of 12 ptarmigan flushed out of range. They were the only birds I saw that day. I tried to follow them up. I was still glad to get out but an empty game bag feels heavy at the end of the day sometime. Have a great fall


mdmnm said...

Hey Dan,

It certainly is! 8 hours for one covey is a long day. Your fall looks to have been going well, too- love the video you've put up.


Pete said...

Mike, it's been a similar season for us, too. Four days afield in both the Jemez and Pecos (9000'-10400') with a relentless Brittany and only one grouse feather to show for it. Food sources, along with the turkeys, seem plentiful. Maybe El Nino and the prolonged winter really put a damper on their reproduction this year?

Thanks for your update,

mdmnm said...

Since posting, we've added another couple of days out and still didn't run into the birds. Seems like a low population year, alright. I've noted the cyclical nature of grouse populations before, but haven't had this hard a season.