Partridge Hunting

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Joined: 06/03/2010

Partridge Hunting
            I don’t remember exactly when I saw my first partridge but it was sometime in my childhood after we had settled in the Upper Michigan town where I would spend the majority of my life. I was in the third grade when we settled into a big old two-story house on the edge of town. The town wasn’t that big to start with and the outskirts of town were pretty well rustic with streets that simply ended in a dirt path or just disappeared in the middle of a block because a house was in the way.
            When I wasn’t otherwise preoccupied I was wandering the neighborhood with my homemade bow and arrows or later, my trusty Daisy B-B gun. There were farm fields and hardwood forest along with swamps and dense stands of old tamarack and hemlock smattered with cedar that were so dark inside they blocked out the sun. I would wander through these outlands chasing lions and tigers or buffalo and elk. There wasn’t an animal native to the Americas or Africa that I didn’t pursue as I roamed about making up my own fun as I went.
            Along with all the big game I also chased up rabbits or squirrels and then one day, that startling bird that puts fear into grown bird hunters as well as small boys, the ruffed grouse! The thunder of wings exploding from cover where nothing had been a second before can unnerve even the hardiest of lads and I was no exception, but I was also fascinated once I got over my initial shock and vowed to learn all I could about this bird that frustrated so many.
            The ruffed grouse is a wondrous bird that fits perfectly into the woodlands of the Midwest and Eastern United States. It is a crafty bird that uses stealth on the ground to avoid danger and when that fails it uses its powerful wings to blast it into the air startling its attackers. It is a challenge to the hunter as it is often flushes in dense cover where branches and tree trunks cover it as it flies from the gun. Even when it is seen on the ground prior to flushing it still has the ability to disrupt a hunter’s nerve and cause many a missed shot.
            In the spring the male drums its wings to attract a mate and the sound fills the woods. It is great to listen to and I never tire of hearing that sound. Later, if you are lucky, sometimes you can happen across a hen with her brood in early summer. The little ones are colored to blend in with the surrounding foliage and will perch on a branch or twig keeping perfectly still to avoid detection. The hen will act as if she has a broken wing and try to lead you away from the little ones but if you get too close she will flush and land a little way off.
            As a youngster I tried ambushing partridge when I had my B-B gun but that worked about as well as spitting into the wind! I didn’t get to really know partridge until I got my first shotgun and then I also learned humility and frustration. That bird can drive a hunter nuts if he isn’t careful! I once kept track of a box of shotgun shells one fall and I had five partridge in the freezer and an empty box of shells. That’s what makes partridge both fun and exasperating, the high percentage of misses! I suppose there are some really good wingshooters who could do a lot better but I wouldn’t bet my life’s savings on it.
            One of the most rewarding events is to get a double on partridge. Usually the first bird startles the hunter and he shoots several shots at that one and then is either empty, if using a double gun, or too busy trying to stuff more shells in the pump when the second bird flies and no shots are made. But every once in a while, if all goes right and luck is with you, a bird will flush and you drop it as the second bird starts to rise and you swing to that one and it falls to your shot. That makes all the misses worthwhile.
            Over all the years I have hunted partridge I never tired of the challenge or the wonderful times spent tramping around in the woods chasing the wily grouse. Woodcock are supposed to be on par with grouse for a challenging hunt but I never had the chance to do any woodcock hunting since they are very scarce around these parts. If they are more challenging then I surely do admire a hunter who has mastered them because I don’t know many hunters who have mastered partridge hunting.