Here we are again in December and I have few more great memories to share. I always look forward to the end of the summer for couple reasons. College football season starts and with that comes time to chase some birds. This year was quite hectic but I made sure there was enough time to get out and bird hunt.
Bird hunting for me is not only the number of birds you end up with in your vest but it’s an opportunity to roam through steep and sometime very snowy mountains of western Wyoming.
This year was no different.
My first hunt was beautiful crisp early October morning. The high ridge trails had first dusting of snow on the ground. The snow, brown mountain grass, dark green conifers and perfectly clear blue sky.
I spend most of the summer hiking these ridges so I had an idea where the birds could be. The ruffed grouse like to hang out high in groups of two or threes early in the season. As season progresses and winter closes in they move to lower elevations and spread out, mostly you only see one bird at a time.
Their high elevation “hideouts” are high ridge trails filled with gravel right bellow the conifers. They eat gravel for digestion and flee into the tall conifers for safety. Their lower elevation habitat consist of creek bottoms thick with willows, aspen groves and hillsides with snowberry bushes.
Equipped with this knowledge and 28 or 20 gauge shotgun, depending on the conditions I headed out.
It is a lot of work to get high enough to spot any grouse in the early season, sometime thousand vertical feet or more. Then it’s walking and more walking, following the gravel trail anywhere there are trees.
The places I found grouse are so remote, at times the birds even did not want to fly for lack of predator or hunting pressure. That changed as soon as we started getting more snow and I’ve hunted out most of my known grouse habitat. Heavy snow makes most animals more desperate to get additional calories, coyotes and foxes included. Once the grouse is shot at they also become more difficult to approach. With that said I had couple great days where I filled my limit of three birds.
Once the snow became foot or more deep I stopped seeing any birds up high. I changed the plan and started working them mostly on the valley floor. Not having to gain elevation did not make it any easier. Walking in deep snow, we got three or more feet of snow in second half of November, and moving through extremely thick willows was challenging in it’s own way. There was more than one occasion where I found myself completely covered with snow after falling and laughing hysterically. Luckily nobody’s seen me.
Grouse hunting in western Wyoming is not what other upland bird hunters would call a hunt. It’s a long walk/hike with a shotgun and few(and I mean few shells). The birds are very smart. They have to be to survive. The snow got up to thighs deep at times yet you see grouse walking right on top of it. To get a shot in that situation is almost impossible.
When there isn’t any snow you either catching your breath or wiping your eyeglasses because they’re covered with sweat so shots are challenging again. Why do I do it? Because it’s so much fun. And they also taste like the best “chicken” you’ll ever have.
I recently return from another coaching trip in Israel. As many of my readers know I am a big supporter of the state of Israel and its people. So when opportunity came to help with their hockey program I jumped on it. It has gone so well I was recently asked to be their national team’s head coach. I could not not accept this honor. I ended it up being the head coach for the U-18,U-20 and their adult national teams.
I have worked with Israeli youths last couple of summers and went back for the tryouts and training in early December.
I’ve also been coaching high schools kids in United States while traveling to Israel and back. These experiences has given me brand new prospective.
If the youths are our future we (the United States) should be little concern. The difference in attention span, the ability to focus, determination, work ethic etc. between the American kids and their Israeli counterparts is quite obvious. This is not matter of talent or physical abilities. This is a matter of life skills. The Israeli kids come on top in all those categories except talent. And this is not the kids’ fault it’s just symptom of our self centered, materialistic society. Parents, teachers and coaches are not in it for the children anymore. Their “likes” on social media, their “life fulfillment” or their “life goals” are far more important to them than creating the proper environment for our children to learn what is important in life.
I don’t want the United States to have to face existential threats daily for our youths to learn what is important in life but we need to do better.
The United States in America won’t be the greatest country for long.
Lastly, something I thought about while reading the most interesting book about the historical events in Czechoslovakia during the last hundred plus years.
IF YOU RELY ON GOVERNMENT TO HELP YOU TO LIVE FULFILLED LIFE, YOU’ll NEVER HAVE FULFILLING LIFE