Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hunting around Clinton

This year the Kelly Lake area was closed after the fires. There were warnings of depleted wildlife. That didn't affect the rest of the Clinton Area. When I stayed at the Circle H Lodge with Bill Mewhort I shot my first moose in this area. Since I've been back several times, shooting a bear one year but mostly shooting grouse. The truth is I love the country. It's true cowboy land with the famous Gang Ranch nearby. This year I had my Honda CRF 230 and was looking forward to cruising the countless back country roads where the scenery is some of the finest in the world.
I stayed at the Caribou Lodge in Clinton this year though in the past I've more often camped. Caribou Lodge was great rooms, service and the restaurant served hardy breakfast at 7 am. I was gone before then after I'd come to terms with that first morning of cold cold.
I'd anticipated cold but it was 15 below the first morning, so I decided to have breakfast, a reconnoitre with my truck before taking out the motorcycle.
When I later took the motorcycle I dressed up really warm and got out on the highway doing 100 km to the logging road turn off about 10 minutes north. My face froze. The tears in my eyes froze on my lashes. My body was unprepared for this blast of terror cold. The first grouse I saw when I hit the logging road wasn't frozen like me. I was an icycle. I couldn't see. When I stopped my glasses fogged. Dismounting I could hardly move. The Mossberg 30-30 gun strap caught on my helmut. I couldn't move my fingers. By the time I was able to lift the rifle the grouse had walked away in disgust. Going 40 k on the logging roads was better.
In Clinton the next day I'd get a scarf, later a balaclava, and some mittens. I'd double up on long johns and undershorts and by trial and error got myself warm enough to really enjoy riding about the back country. Only trouble then was shooting the grouse. They were everywhere.
I had only the open sight 30-30 and was trying to shoot off their heads. I missed a half dozen shots and another half dozen birds took off before I could get the rifle loaded and up to my shoulder. I was shooting up cans with great accuracy and could have shot the birds in the body no trouble only with a 30-30 there would only have been feathers.
When I took my truck out I carried my 22 rifle which had a scope and I had no trouble shooting the birds in the head with that. I think part of it was that with the 22 I wasn't afraid of shooting lower.Still at least a dozen or more birds got away. Hunting with a shot gun I'd have got them all but what fun would that have been and I certainly prefer eatting grouse without worrying about biting on pellets.
There was a moose cow and her calf but only young spike fork male moose were open season. I enjoyed seeing the calf running after mother. There were alot of cattle in the back woods too and the young were always so earnest.
I saw a black bear too but it was too close to the main highway to hunt.
The one buck I saw waited just long enough for me to line up a shot before anticipating my bullet and jumping aside. It was gone in the woods after that. The image of the 'one that got away' haunted me there after. Still, if I was with a guide, that would have counted as a shot and I was certainly thankful to have had the opportunity, not that I didn't kick myself every which way for not getting the shot away a moment sooner.
It was all in all a great grouse hunt and came home with 9 birds ready for the pan or pot. I always remember too that every part of a hunt is what others go out for and just that. There's the scenery and photography. There's the mountain hiking. There's the 4 wheel driving. There's the back country off road motorcycling. There's the target practice. There's the incredible wildlife. And every once in a while there's even something shot that ends up delicious to eat. Grouse hunting always reminds me too of my dad and older brother and uncles out on the prairies hunting prairie chicken when I was a kid. Just missed the dog. The only thing that makes bird hunting more fun is the infectious enjoyment of a dog. Clinto is fabulous cowboy country and just being there is a joy all it's own.

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