The Second-Annual Fall Odyssey continues as we turn our attention to birds and a little DIY cohoe fishing.
Dateline Soldotna, August 29, 2018
With Peter and Becca headed back to the lower 48, I turned at least some of my attention from fishing and hiking to bird hunting. Certainly, the much cooler temps (high 30’s) that greeted me as I stumbled out of Gypsy to let the dogs out this morning were more conducive to hunting than fishing – at least in my book… Given that, I wasted no time loading up the dogs and my hunting gear and headed out to hopefully locate some spruce grouse – the only north American grouse I had yet to harvest.
Now in truth, killing a spruce grouse is not supposed to be a difficult task. Most Alaskans consider them to be the original “fool hen,” to be shot on the ground with a 22 or out of a tree once they’ve flushed. Pretty much the same status as blue grouse have with big game hunters in Wyoming. But my bird-hunting buddies and I have long-since found that blue grouse in Wyoming can be very sporty when hunted with a dog and I was hoping this might be the case for the spruce grouse in AK. And did I mention it was the only north american grouse I had yet to harvest?
So this morning we headed off to hunt these grouse in a manner pretty much foreign to the locals, i.e., on foot, following pointing dogs, and actually shooting them flying. And we found that the birds behaved much the same as our blue grouse back home. With the dog pointing, the birds would flush and try to “get out of Dodge,” about as often as they would fly up into the closest tree. One notable difference here is that the cover is waaaay thicker than the areas we hunt blues at home. So getting more than a glimpse of a flushing spruce grouse was no easy task. We did manage to connect with a couple though, so I’m pleased to say that the excursion was a success. The dogs found and pointed birds. I was able to walk at least some of them up. And birds were taken on the wing. It was a great time and I can tell you that the body language from Dory and Timber was clearly saying, “Finally! This is what we came for!”
As I say, great morning. But the day was yet young when I returned to camp, and had the birds cleaned and resting in a wet brine in the cooler. Hmmm, what to do? Well this is the Kenai Peninsula and it is salmon season so…
So Ann and I decided that a picnic lunch at riverside and a bit of fishing were in order. Off we went without a real plan in mind but eventually settling on a relatively small creek south of Soldotna which we had heard typically gets a pretty decent silver run. After a quick meal, I set off with not much of an idea as to how to approach the stream but knowing that its hard to go wrong with pink when targeting silvers. And I did manage to hook and land a nice buck silver that was just turning rose-colored but had a lot of fight in him. Lacking a net, I had to tire him out pretty well before sliding him onto the gravel at the river’s edge. A great capstone to a great day in the Alaskan outdoors!
Back at Gypsy, I prepared the spruce grouse two ways. The younger bird I marinated for a short time in Italian dressing and grilled it over a hot fire. The mature bird got the bacon-wrapped treatment with rosemary, oregano, and pepper for a nice herbal kick. Both were fine table fare. Can’t wait to collect more!