First off I would like to start by saying that I was really excited about today until I read that post by Burke about 1st hunt/early season. That made me feel a tad guilty but here is the story.
Many years ago in Utah, at the young age of 15 I had just finished taking a hunter's safety course and my step dad took my stepbrother and I out for a "sunday drive" grouse hunt. He was a road hunter for birds (liked his beer). As we rounded a corner about 3/4 the way through our drive in the woods, I spot a fat sage grouse. My stepbrother and I were in the bed of the truck. I tap on the glass, he stops and I do exactly what I had just been taught NOT to do in the safety course. I stand up in the bed of the truck and shoot that grouse with a borrowed .410 while he is still on the ground. My first game kill ever. I was happy yet ashamed cuz I knew it shouldn't have gone down that way. Never shot another grouse in Utah.
Fast forward 22 years. I am now a father of 5, 36 years old and I am eager to get back into birds again. I get my first "owned" shotgun last Christmas. A Benelli Nova 12 ga. I buy a book about upland birds by a certain author who you might see here on occasion (Hiya Jim!). Read it cover to cover and get super excited. But being as it was January I had to wait til this fall for grouse. I did go for ptarmies in Jan/feb 3 times but never got one, only saw 2 and they were not reachable.
So I was really waiting for the season. I didnt go season opener but a few friends went out and didn't see any birds. Aug 19th was my b-day and I decided I wanted to celebrate it this weekend with a trip to the woods with my Benelli. I get up this morning and head out where I had seen a ruffie this last spring. I don the gamebird vest, load my #6's and head out solo. I have a dog but she's a malamute, not really the bird dog type so she stays home. About 1 1/2 miles in I hear a fluttering a feathers and quickly turn to the left to see a sprucie bursting up from the ground up to the left and away... I bring up the barrel and boom... miss. Boom... bird falls. My heart is a racing and I wanna jump up n down. My first grouse the right way! I pick up the sprucie and admire it for probably 5 minutes, lol. I gently place it in my pouch and head on down the trail. I walk another mile and a half and I am thinkin... this is just a gorgeous day, so quiet and peaceful, just as I hear multiple flutters. I throw the barrel up and catch another spruce first shot, boom, I glance a little further to the right and see a 2nd and boom. The other 2-3 fly off up into the trees. I see the feathers floating to the ground and I look up and thank the big guy. What a day this is, three grouse to hand. I walk a bit farther another 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile and it starts to get boggy so I flip around and work my way back. I come back to the spot that I saw the group and I tighten up my grip just as I come around to the right I see another spruce sitting there in the middle of the trail. It looks right at me as I bring up my barrel. I wait... he's looking at me but not moving. He's prob 30 yards in front of me just sitting there. I wait about 30 seconds, tho it felt like 5 minutes. Neither of us is budging. I want him to fly but being totally new at this I froze, with thick trees on both sides of the trail I decide if he's not gonna fly I will just take him on the ground. I again feel a little ashamed as I know I should have probably just taken a few more steps forward and he would have flown. I just didn't want him to run into the woods and flush in there where I didn't have a shot. Anyway, I take him, admire him, and place him in the vest. 4 birds on the day. I unloaded the Nova and hung it over the shoulder and walked 3 1/2 miles back to the truck.
I learned a few things on this first grouse hunt as an adult.
#1 I "CAN" hit a bird in the air....what a rush.
#2 I need new boots. My feet were killing me after the roughly 8 miles I walked today.
#3 From now on I will not be firing if its not in the air. I feel alot more sportsmanlike and alot less guilty when I do.
#4 After reading Burke's post and the several replies, I should wait til September and let the groups separate to offer a better chance to the birds.
Hopefully I don't get too torn apart by the readers for taking one on the ground but I wanted to tell the whole story. It was still one of the best days of my hunting life.