I remember many years ago meeting someone who referred to ruffed grouse as “ruffled grouse” to which I quipped, “I’ve know a few grouse to be ruffled.” I was thinking of this moment on September 20, 2015, day two of the small game season in Eastern Ontario. I got up at 0700, had breakfast and made ready for a morning hunt for ruffed grouse and hares with my friend and hunting buddy, Jason Quinn. The weather was near perfect for an early season hunt in the uplands; it was sunny and cool, about 11 degrees Celsius, with a light northwest wind. Hera was excited when she saw me bring up my upland hunting gear. I brought my Winchester 20 gauge double barrel (side-by-side) for the morning hunt. The first time I brought it into the field following a repair to the stock. Jason Spencer, a local gunsmith I turn to for maintenance and repairs to my guns, skillfully replaced a piece of the stock that got knocked out the season before.
I got to Jason’s house shortly before 0800 and when he put his gun, gear and dog Nos on board, we got underway. It is about a one hour drive from his house to the property near Spencerville we hunted this morning. We stopped to grab coffee and fuel en route. The morning’s hunting expedition had a second objective. We combined an upland hunt over our dogs with preseason scouting for deer season, checking on two trail cams Jason set up earlier in the year and to add two new ones I purchased. Also, we were looking for a new location for my deer stand. Its current location is on a ridge in a patch of crown land. It is a great location, save for the fact a group of deer hunters has a camp on the same patch of crown land and we were getting in the way of each other at times in hunting season. Our aim this morning was to find a site on the private property to which we have access for hunting.
We got to the property shortly after 0900 and set out with the dogs, walking a familiar trail. I was pleased to find the ground nice and moist with pools of water in places. This bodes well for the woodcock season that opens a little later in the season. The dogs took to the covers, enthusiastically quartering and searching for game. We arrived at the spot where Jason placed the trail cams and he checked to see what, if anything, was caught on camera.
The cameras captured a cavalcade of animals, birds and people. Bucks, does, fawns, turkeys dusting, hares, a coyote, raccoons, roaming dogs from the neighbour’s property, trespassers and the owners of property were caught on camera. The deer and turkeys interested us most. Deer were seen moving through the area day and night. It was good to see there are deer moving through the property.
Once we were finished with the trail cams, we moved on with the dogs, continuing the morning hunt. As we neared the swamp at a corner of the property we bumped a woodcock. Woodcock season opens later in the week, so we watched as it made a hasty exit. A couple of moments later we bumped a Wilson’s snipe closer to the swamp. We watched as it made itself scarce too. I hope this is a taste of the season to come.
We swept through the patch of cover that leads to where Jason’s deer stand is located. This patch of cover often holds a grouse or two. Though the dogs swept the cover, there were no points and no wild flushes. We checked on Jason’s deer stand, finding it in order and continued to the stand of pines that marks the border of the property and the crown land on which my deer stand sits. We looked over the area and found a suitable spot to relocate my stand, putting it firmly on the property to which we have permission to hunt. It is a patch of lowland where the pines, hardwoods and meadow meet, an edge where I saw deer crossing in seasons past.
Jason set up a one of our two unused trail cams to watch the area and see if any deer come and go between now and the opening of the rifle season in November. I feel much better that my deer stand will be firmly on private property and hopefully well away from the hunters and their camp back on the crown land next to it. The new site puts me in a quarter of the area where Jason, his wife Fran and our hunting buddy Omer have their stands placed. We have the area well covered now, which should put us in good stead for one of us to bag a deer this season.
We set up the remaining trail cam to watch an area between Fran’s and Omer’s stands where deer passed in previous seasons. Once this was done, we worked our way back to another corner of the property hoping to turn up a grouse. We heard a grouse drumming somewhere in the distance, but there were no points or wild flushes. When we arrived back at the car it was close to 12:00. Though we did not turn up any grouse or hares, the dogs had a good run, we checked on trail cams already in place, found a new site for my deer stand and set up two more trail cams. It was a good start to the season.