Smoky Mountains Grouse: Day 2

March 2, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

We figured we hit a good number of lower areas on day 1 – lower meaning wetter. Still more than 2,000 feet. Day 1 was good, but not great. So on day 2 we decided to get high.

Go high.

Brendan had found some cuts on Google Earth that looked really good, but they were on the tops of mountains. So we had to think about it:

> On day 1 we found birds near water, though just one spot, and on the way in to being hunting we’d seen that the lake level was down. That seemed to indicate that water was important.

> On the other hand, we hunted two or three areas after the first spot on day 1, all were wet and we never got on more birds.

So we decided to go high and see what we could find.

Low water big-time.


Long Walk Up

We heard from a forester that many of the forest roads had been closed weeks before due to snow and ice. We hoped that since it all had long since melted the forest roads were open. If not, we knew we had at least a 2 mile one-way walk in to where we wanted to hunt. No big deal, we’ve done that before and then some.

Only problem was we never used Google Earth to compare the elevation of the gate on the road to where we wanted to hunt. That was painfully apparent only when we got to the gate, parked the truck and proceeded to hoof it 2 miles in at a 45-degree angle most of the time.

We covered 2+ miles and over 1,000 feet in elevation – just to get in to start hunting! A heck of a start to the day, but not terrible by any means. It was still early and we were fired up, especially after we came across this sign:


That was great, and encouraging, but unfortunately the sign didn’t come with a treasure map with a big X over the best grouse habitat in that enormous country.

Grape Hill

After a couple forays into some rhodie jungles, we eventually stumbled onto what looked like amazing grouse habitat. AMAZING in all caps. Yep, that good.

Like everything we hunted that day it was a 45-degree slope – literally, maybe steeper – with lots of slash/blowdowns and the most grapevines we’ve ever seen in one place. A few desiccated grape clusters lay on the ground, but the vines man – just incredible.

Plus the slope had some young trees, some ferns (indicating moisture), was bisected by a road going across-slope, and at the bottom was yet another rhodie creek valley.

We thought we were going to get on birds in a big way. And you know what happens when you think that….

Birdy for sure...and steep! (Click to see bigger.)

We started hunting roughly in the middle of the slope, slanting across and down to one edge of the cut. Result: No birds.

We were so confident that we’d put up birds we were actually a bit discouraged. So based on our experience from day 1, we decided to push straight down to the river valley. Not only was there water down there, but we figured any bird we’d flush would fly straight downhill. We like those shots!

We walked and slid about 30 yards down when Brendan said, “I think I just heard one drumming.”

Ding, ding, ding!

For us that’s a red flag – means there’s a bird around. If you’re a grouse hunter you know that sometimes almost anything can sound like a grouse flushing – branches coming off your pack, the deep sound of a rock or log moving under your feet – but not a grouse drumming.

At that point we were on high alert – and suddenly a bird flushed right in front of Brendan, straight down the slope. Jay waited to hear a bang or two, but didn’t. So when the bird got far enough out in front of Brendan he fired off two shots.

We’re still not sure if Steve got the bird on camera, but if he did, that was the only thing we got. The bird kept winging down to the rhodies. We looked for it out of a sense of duty, but Jay knew he hadn’t shot it – and was beginning to wonder if he needed a 10ga with #10 shot to get a pellet anywhere near a dang bird.

Jay asked Brendan what happened, Brendan said he never saw the bird. Incredible!

Even more incredible was that was the only grouse we saw that day.

Four Woodies

We hunted back up the hillside, got on a trail, followed it deeper into the woods and came across another hillside which we again salivated over. Great habitat, but a little different.

This hillside also looked huge, but ended up running in a V shape from the trail down to some pines on the right and a rhodie valley on the left. In other words, it was more huntable for two people.

About halfway down the hill Brendan yelled, “Bird!” then “Woodcock!” No shot because woodies weren’t in season.

Our cameraman Steve was with Jay at the time and went over to Brendan to try and get a reflush on camera. Right about then, Jay saw a huge woodcock with its tail up doing the jerky walk (how else can we describe it?) about 10 yards in front of him. He called Steve back over, but sure enough, before Steve could get close the bird flushed.

Jay said it was pretty tough not to throw the gun up and shoot, just out of reflex.

We reflushed that bird to try to get make it famous, then let it go and ended up flushing two or three more woodcock on that hill. Of course the one we got right on top of with the camera absolutely wouldn’t fly. Jay ended up chasing it around a tree and it finally halfheartedly flew off. He almost caught it with his hands!

The woodies provided some action, and it was sure enough better than seeing no birds at all…but no grouse. We did find four sets of grouse poo, and Jay kicked and poked every cranny of about a 100-yard stretch of steep hill around there to try and flush at least one bird, but zip.

This was fresh – a little darker than what we're used to seeing (click to see bigger).

At that point the day was pretty much over. Honestly, we were shot. Even Steve, who makes his living as an outdoor cameraman and stays in great shape, was getting glassy-eyed.

(Came to find out later that Brendan mistakenly brought decaf coffee. That didn’t help!)

We knew we had a mostly downhill walk out, though steep, so we had that going for us. Yet only one grouse on the day really surprised us. The habitat was gorgeous, so maybe it was the dryness, maybe it was the time of year, we honestly don’t know.

But we knew we’d be headed to the day 1 spot for our short hunting time on day 3. And since we were supposed to have a dog (and another hunter) with us, we were real curious to see what the pooch could put up.

Category: 2010-11 reports, Hunt reports, Ruffed Grouse, TN

Comments (3)

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  1. Djloder says:

    Get youself a dog and you dont have to worry about the the other guy. Can’t wait for Sep. in Mn.

  2. admin says:

    Brendan has a pup, not old enough yet, I (Jay) am in process of researching one…or two. Having said that, the point was to have a local hunter with his dog, not just any dog. Should’ve said that in the post….

  3. Djloder says:

    Sorry didn’t mean to come off like that, enjoy your hunting and I love the stories. Look at an Epagneul Breton aka a French Brittany and you won’t be sorry.

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