I have been blessed in my life with a great father. He has provided well for the family and has instilled a great passion for the outdoors. He is well liked by many people who have met him and enjoys the outdoors as much as he can.
This story is somewhat funny but has a bit of a sad ending. We have permission to hunt deer with the rifle on some private land in Connecticut. As a rule, this honey hole fills up our freezer each season and we have some wonderful hunts together.This spot is a crossroads for deer and other wildlife. One time I had a bobcat walk under my treestand and it appeared to want to climb up into the tree, but I will save that for another posting.
Dad and I parked in the farmer's yard and walked down through the pasture to the edge of the woodlot. The woodlot is a large patch of mountain laurel with oak interspersed through the area. Deer naturally funnel down from the hills into this refuge. While we were going to our stand we noticed something. Dad has trouble hearing due to working with sheet metal all his life. The incessant hammering in the days when no one wore any sort of auditory protection took a toll on his ability to hear. I've been lucky in this regard as my career may involve some yelling from time to time but that is about it. So I have a pretty good sense of hearing.
I heard something walking through the leaves. It was early but I could not discern what it was. I knew it wasn't a deer but something else. Soon I spotted the source of the noise. It was a ruffed grouse. This grouse was not what you could call a normal grouse. This grouse would follow my father to his stand and basically harass him for the whole length of his hunt. The little grouse would follow my Dad to his ladder stand and back. But that is not the end of it. This bird would then walk around the base of his stand and for a lack of a better term, make purring sounds. It was very chicken like and rather interesting to see. After a short period of time,Mr. Grouse would then hop from branch to branch and sit near Dad's head. The grouse would basically purr in his ear to no end. It was rather comical but I think it got on his nerves after a while. For some reason the grouse did not allow me to get as close as Dad. A few times Mr. Grouse would land on Dad's shoulder or head. It really startled him and Dad worried about Mr. Grouse poking him in the eye. I know this story sounds almost unbelievable but see for yourself.
Here is Mr. Grouse walking back with Dad from a morning's hunt. I would laugh quite a bit watching the little grouse escorting Dad out of the patch making little grouse noises. Each time we went out he would tell me basically the same story. Mr. Grouse would follow him in to the stand and he'd have about fifteen minutes of peace. Then Mr. Grouse would fly up and sit on hsi arm , shoulder or head like a parrot. Mr. Grouse would come close to me but he never got within three feet of me. I took a number of photos and to prove how close he got here is one of the grouse on a branch next to Dad's head.
That season was very good to us. I was able to fill my firearm deer tags and add much needed venison to our freezers. Unfortunately Dad had some difficulty. It seemed that nothing went by Dad's stands with the exception of Mr. Grouse.
Sadly, Mr. Grouse did not make it past Christmas of that year. Each Holiday season we approach the farmer who graciously lets us hunt on his land and we offer gifts to the family. Usually a bottle of cheer for him and a homemade gift for his wife. We told them about Mr. Grouse. He said that he knew of the bird because his grandchildren saw it. They would watch the bird follow them and his grandson would actually hold it like it was a pet of some kind. Unfortunately, the family dog finished off Mr. Grouse.
In a strange way I was a little heartbroken. I grew fond of the bird and that is ironic since I have hunted these birds for many years but I have never seen one in that acted this way. I suppose that with this bird's behavior, survival was very limited at best. It did not seem to have a sense of danger that most ruffed grouse have. It seemed to be a flaw of some type that was eventually it's downfall. Still, I did feel sorry for Mr. Grouse.
Since then I have not seen any more grouse nor have I had experiences like that. Maybe one day I will have another experience such as we had with Mr. Grouse. As I sit here, I'll raise a glass to Mr.Grouse. You will be missed.