The day really started the night before, that’s how it usually goes when it comes to hunting. I had one day off and I wanted to get a good day worth of grouse hunting. My wife was all for it and I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me up. I had just come home from work and I made sure I had everything set for the next day. We just moved to a new apartment and boxes were everywhere. Tracking down my upland gear was easy, my orange vest and ammo had made a home in my truck and my shotgun was the only thing I was missing to complete the needed gear.
The morning came with an early start. I wanted to catch the sunrise up in the mountains. I wanted the jump on the grouse. This was to be my last grouse hunt before duck season. I had seen a few promising spots and I wanted to be there. The sunrise met me as I was getting to the top of the canyon. My mind went to how soon my sunrises will come with shivers and anticipation, sitting on a marsh chair. This time I was still in my truck with the heater on. I was about thirty minutes away from the spot I was planning on hunting. I had already been here a couple of times before and had no luck. But that day I was even more determined.
I got to the first spot and knew just where I was going. I hiked straight to where I had seen the most signs of birds. This meant going straight up a hill and doing some bushwhacking. The wet year we’ve had made everything grow more. As I got to the top of the ridge I came out of some fog that had been hanging low. Frost was on everything and my boots looked like I had been walking through snow. The air was crisp but I was determined to find a grouse.
Looking around I was surrounded by Aspen. There were random patches of sage brush and other mountain flowers but my target species like the aspen. I looked at my map on OnXmaps and found my direction of travel. I decided to zigzag through the Aspen. I was in the right area already and was expecting a flush at any moment. It took me a while to find a game trail so bush whacking continued to be the way to go. Once I was in the trees, I could hear the leaves rustling, even though I had my earplugs in. The one thing I couldn’t feel was the wind hitting my face. I’ve learned that grouse aren’t fans of the cold and so if you can feel the wind, it’s not thick enough.
I kept pushing through. This time I went deeper than I had gone before. I made to the spot that had lots of signs of grouse but I was a couple hours earlier than the last time I came through there. Either way, I saw no grouse. I kept moving on, I found a game trail and that made moving about easier. Eventually, I came across a herd of deer. I imagine it’s the same herd I ran into last time but this time I swear there were more of them. As the deer moved around I looked for flushing birds. I had been out for about an hour and it was about time that I see some life. One deer, in particular, got curious about me and slowly walked towards me. I sat still and let this young deer be curious. It only came about ten yards away and then continued up the hill.
I was almost to the end of this patch of Aspens I was hiking through. I could see a big clearing ahead of me and there was nothing else to be seen beyond that. I meandered my way up the hill and came to the top of another ridge. I had wrapped around to the top of this big patch of Aspens. For some reason, there were only single pine trees poking through. I had to make a new plan. I decided to make my way back to the truck and backtrack. I hit a couple of the “hot” spots again and found nothing. The nice thing is I still had the whole day ahead of me. It was almost noon so I had some decisions to make and some time to kill.
As I made my way back to my truck, I was thinking of other places to go. I had a buddy tell me of some other spots to go to on Mt. Nebo but that was a couple of hours away. Right as I got to my truck, I heard a noise and saw a herd of Elk coming through a patch of Aspens. With that herd, I saw a big Bull Elk in the middle of all the cows. It was cool seeing it. I hadn’t seen much more than those deer I had seen earlier. It reminded me that hunting is more of a complete experience than just searching for one animal.
I sat down on the tailgate of my truck and started texting my buddy. Meanwhile, I warmed up some freeze-dried scrambled eggs. That Jetboil really makes life easier when you’re out in the mountains or camping. Talking to my buddy he told me to come by and say hi and he would line me up with some other spots to go. Once I finished eating, I decided to take the scenic route down the mountain. I did have time to kill and it was fall, I wanted to take some time and just enjoy the mountain going through its transition into fall and then winter. I pulled over at one point and grabbed some leaves to show my wife since she didn’t get to go hunting with me.
The second part of the hunt took me to a whole new territory. I made my way up Mt. Nebo. If you haven’t been to Mt. Nebo, you are missing some beautiful sights. Especially in the fall. My friend had given me a few spots to go grouse hunting. The first one I came to had a bunch of hikers around it. I decided to pass on that spot and move on to the next. This second spot was more secluded. I found a trail and started hiking it. This spot was right on a ridge. My buddy told me that the grouse like to hang out up on this ridge and just to walk all over it. I started on the trail that walked right over the top of the ridge. I saw some grouse droppings and signs that grouse did like hanging out on that ridge. I was super excited to find a grouse. I continued going down the trail until it started to go steeply down the hill. One thing that Mt. Nebo is known for is how steep the country is.
I went down the hill a little ways and then decided I would just circle around this ridgeline. I walked along some pines and walked in a big circle along both sides of the ridge. One side had pines and the other was just Aspens. Either way, my walking was unsuccessful. I had my hopes up but it seems that this year, grouse hunting was just not in the cards. At least a successful grouse hunt wasn’t in the cards. I did get my whole day of hunting in. That was the goal and I managed to see the mountains in transition. Hunting does give that as a gift no matter what. There really is no losing when spending time in the mountains.
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