A Father and Son Hunt, Through a Daughter’s Eyes
This story comes to us from David Dewald out of Mitchell, SD.
Saturday morning dawned a crisp and cold 40 degrees. We received rain Friday and a small storm passed through during the night. Not the best way to start Grouse hunting. By 7:00 we were on the road heading towards the Dakota Plains, a golden sea of wheat and grasslands waited for us. With clouds blocking out the morning sun and nothing drying off, it was sure to be a challenge to locate the ever elusive Grouse. Today’s hunt was going to be difficult, of that we were sure. We were banking on the fact that Tator, my Dad’s hunting dog would scrounge up some Grouse for supper that night.
As we passed through the grasslands it was clear we should have gotten an earlier start. Every mile was covered with Grouse hunters, shooting game birds. The first location that we drove into was a muddy back road, if you could call it that. There were hunters to the West and the South, as far as we could see; no one had walked the North section. We walked a good mile or mile and a half before we saw hunters heading back to their truck from the Northwest. This section had clearly been worked. So we headed back to load up in the truck. Once we were back on the gravel road, my brother Daniel, who was acting as our navigator, took about an hour to find a location that did not appear to have been worked. We started out on the South corner and walked the section opposite to the other hunters. Tator picked up a scent but our hopes were short lived when we realized it must have been to a bird that had previously been flushed up. After walking 3/4 s of a mile and not seeing anything, I headed back to retrieve the truck so I could pick the guys up at the other end.
Once we loaded up and took a good look around, the field beside the one we just walked was wheat and across the road was nothing but waist high grassland habitat. A great feeding spot for Grouse, at least Dad hoped so. Daniel drove down to the North end of the section and we piled out. Dad decided that since it appeared there had only been one guy walking, there was no way he would have walked that entire mile or mile and a half area. The name of the game would be to decide where the guy had in fact been walking at. Standing at that fence line and looking out over a golden sea of wheat stubble in the sun was mesmerizing. It was probable the hunter had not walked the quarter to the North. The first mile was on a slight incline where it flattened out and then sharply went back uphill for about another half mile. With the wind at our back, a disadvantage, we set out on our trek with the dog sweeping side to side trying to pick up a scent. At the bottom of the slight incline, we paused to water the dog and catch our breath. This was really disheartening; we hadn’t seen a single Grouse all day. We had just an hour left to fill two limits before we had to head back home for a prior engagement, today was not looking good. Lucky for us we live 2 hours away and would be back the following weekend.
Sitting with the sun warming us, we decided to try the steep hill directly in front of us. This would be the deciding factor if we had game to take home. The grass dry, sun shining directly down, and the wind at our back on this side of the hill, we were rolling the dice and looking for that lucky roll. Tired and thirsty we start up the hill talking about the day’s events and areas we could try the following weekend. A quarter of the way uphill, Tator literally stumbled into a covey of at least a dozen birds, they went up and were gliding away immediately. The guys got off a couple shots and hit nothing. Daniel zero, Dad zero. Frustrated with the dog and their lack of preparation we stood there for a couple moments, not realizing that the dog was still ahead of us sweeping side to side. We didn’t go more than 10 feet when Tator cut across another covey. This time with more skill, two birds were dropped from the sky. Daniel two, Dad zero. Dad was definitely feeling depressed that he hadn’t dropped at least one bird. At least the birds appeared to have landed on the back side of the hill, at this point we were not sure what we would find. Spread out as we topped the hill, we didn’t hesitate to descend it. Fifteen feet in front of us Tator gave a hard point, having picked the scent off the breeze. The guys crept up and Tator flushed the game. One bird dropped, Daniel limit, Dad zero. We were out of time and had to start heading back. You could tell that Dad was really disappointed about not shooting any game. Daniel and I start walking to the truck. Dad decides to sweep through the ravine and go up the backside of the other hill to the West; it really wasn’t out of the way, just not the most direct route.
As we climbed back up the hill and crossed the fence we heard a gun go off twice. My cell phone rings, it’s Dad, he shot a double. Just as we reach the truck we hear two more gunshots in the distance. He got his limit, and not to soon either. We were ready to head for home. The ride home was definitely going to be more pleasant with the guys scores even. It was a great hunt with a double shot and two limits filled. We headed for home looking forward to the next weekends hunt.