Thursday, January 11, 2024


 It was the end of Autunm and winter was on the way, but it still took a while to get things put away. The effort was made to keep fly fishing for as long as possible with a late season outing for muskie, and an even later steelhead trip. But finally the rods were slid into their tubes, the boats stored under cover, motors winterized with the thought of staying ahead of the cold and snow; and the shotgun was uncased.

I turns out there was really no hurry. Winter didn’t come. Well, that is, not at its usual time. By Christmas we’d only received a couple of short-lived dustings of snow, and we’d enjoyed one of the longest, and warmest snow-free grouse hunting seasons I’ve ever experienced. And the grouse numbers were up, way up. Social media was bombed with dead grouse proudly lined up on tailgates by about anyone who could lift a shotgun. 

Back in 1970 F. Phillips Williamson put together an anthology for Amwell Press, mostly about duck hunting. Introducing one of the chapters he wrote about guns, “... the one gun still being manufactured that will operate, day in day out, in rain, sleet, snow, dust and salt is the Browning Auto 5, known for years as the Browning Automatic. The Remington Model 11, now long since discontinued, was the only autoloading shotgun that could match it for reliability.” Of course, since then a lot of newer tech and systems have been built into newer autoloaders, but if they are really better is an arguable statement. For some time I sort of snubbed the automatic loading shotgun, except for waterfowl, where shooting heavy loads from the Auto 5 produced little recoil thanks to its operating system.  

A little over a year ago Grandpa’s old Remington Model 11 was dug out and brought out to the gun club. I’ve talked about this gun before, and how I could feel the good vibes shooting this old gun that’s been in the family since 1940. These days I’m mostly a grouse and woodcock hunter and that old 16 gauge is far from the classic grouse gun, but I had choke tubes installed in the full chokebore barrel, and it suddenly became a versatile upland shooter. This past season it’s the only gun I used hunting.  

It's not unusual to see other wildlife when we're out in the woods. One interesting afternoon I was moving down an old trail and came face to face with a moose. In the seconds that followed I tried to remember how close it was to the rutting season, and considered this moose might be looking for trouble. Fortunately, I got a hold of Gabbi before she saw it and snapped a quick photo as we retreated. 

I’m not a young man and I don’t hunt from light to dawn anymore. My setter, Gabbi, isn’t so young either, so though we hunted many days, our hunting consisted of basically working a cover or two with a break in between. This past fall, it seemed enough. I love eating ruffed grouse and I can’t think of any wild game that’s better, but I don’t hunt for food. If I did, I’d likely hunt differently. Besides, we get our groceries at the store and so far, we’ve never gone hungry. Still, those tender grouse breasts, grilled quickly over coals make my mouth water just thinking about them. Our last hunt was a day before the season ended, December 30. Gabbi and I took a short walk through some woods near home. We moved six grouse, four she pointed and two wild flushes in just over an hour. I was offered three reasonable shots, and I was satisfied. 

The snow did come, finally. It started four days ago with a light, drizzly falling that made roads and walkways slippery. It hasn’t stopped yet but last night the temps dropped and we woke to six inches of the fluffy stuff. When I go out to plow the driveway it’ll be a foot deep. If it stops now. Tomorrow is predicted to be below zero temperatures. It was bound to come – I guess winter has arrived.