After the trial the temperatures really began to heat up where we were staying. Mornings were cool enough to hunt for an hour or two but the rest of the day we spent hunkered down, trying to stay cool and keep the dogs comfortable. Although the OR does have air conditioning, we carry a portable generator that cannot carry the heavy AC load. Staying at an RV park would provide an electrical plug-in to run it but if you have ever seen them, they are pretty much just trailer parks and that's not what our adventures are about. So instead we headed to one of the many mountains that can be seen in the distance from the prairie.
We chose to follow a lead we were given to find dusky and ruffed grouse, which are both referred to as mountain grouse in MT. It was a 30+ miles drive in on a small dirt road that at times had us wondering if we had made a good decision. We were headed for a small piece of public land that was sandwiched inside of a 150,000 acre private ranch whose enterprise focuses on elk hunting as well as cattle and gravel excavation. We camped in solitude in a long valley at nearly 5000' elevation with Douglas fir and ponderosa pines on the mountainsides. We woke in the morning to the sound of elk bugling echoing down the valley.
Although we had previously seen photos of dusky grouse being pointed in nice gentle pine meadows, we found them on steep hillsides in thick, rocky stands of aspen. Not very conducive to photos. We had also been told that the grouse out here were unaccustomed to being hunted and would flush slowly and unwillingly. Not. Storm had the first point and I could clearly see her standing steady, but as soon as I took steps around a clump of saplings the bird flushed giving me only glimpses of feathers. Bird, coming your way! I yelled to Mike and boom, in a single shot Mike had his first dusky grouse.
Over the next two days we climbed up and down the mountainside and were successful with a modest number of ruffed and dusky grouse. But we knew that rain was forecast for the next day and that we had better get out of that valley while we were able. The grouse were so delicious that we decided to head to a national forest located the other side of the mountain in the hopes of finding more. There was a booming thunderstorm hanging on top of the mountain as we approached that cleared as we got to the top.
It was beautiful up there but a lack of aspen cover, elk hunters pouring in (archery season opened the next day) and mud everywhere made us change our mind. So back to the prairie and solitude.
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