Northwest NEWS

September 21, 1998


Advice for bird hunting; watch out for my buddy Eric

And forget about setting the alarm

   by Andrew Walgamott
   So, the editor asked me to do a story about hunting after I told her of a recent successful grouse stalk.
   At first I balked; no way was I going to point out for the general public my hot grouse spots-all two of them.
   But there were other considerations. I had used no special hunting techniques or tactics in bagging the two ruffies, as ruffed grouse are sometimes called.
   As most grouse hunters know, the best way to find the tasty chicken-sized bird is to drive logging roads until you spot one. Most wild birds will fly off when they see your vehicle, but grouse seem immobilized with curiosity and fear at the sight of you, giving you plenty of time to turn down the stereo, take a sip of coffee, step out of the vehicle, load your gun then casually shoot over the hood of your truck.
   And I didn't have much to tell about any special weapons, type of bird shot, trick shots, dogs, camouflage, decoys, scents, calls or performing any superstitious rites that ensure a grouse dinner, either.
   Grouse hunting merely requires a hunting license, gun, and a knowledge of where they frequent. Hint: blue and spruce grouse are up high on mountain roads, ruffies can be found lower down.
   But the more I pondered the assignment, the more I realized there were two pieces of advice that I should give.
   Number 1: don't go hunting with my buddy Eric-he's bad luck, or more precisely, no luck at all.
   His full name is Eric Christopher Bell, and in cop-talk he's a 26-year-old white male, 6-feet tall, 180 pounds with short brown hair who wears glasses. He was last seen driving a green Ford Ranger.
   He's an avid bird hunter, but the truth is, his lack of luck rubs off like some sort of 24-hour flu. If you see him, scatter.
   Take the morning of Sept. 7. I was scheduled (yes, scheduled) to hunt with him from 7:30 a.m. to noon in the hills behind Duvall. We saw one grouse which surprised us both; it got away.
   The rest of the morning we bounced around on logging roads in a desperate, high speed bid to bag a single lowly grouse for his stew pot.
   The day before, in separate rigs, I had seen seven grouse and shot two while he and his fiancee only saw chipmunks and a mouse on the same roads east of Stevens Pass.
   Those aren't the lone incidents of luckless hunting with Eric.
   Last year, after much cajoling from him, I took up duck hunting.
   There were many mornings waking at extremely dark hours, stumbling out to his awaiting pickup, driving to some cold bog, slogging for what seemed like miles through grass, mud, water or along dirt roads, setting up decoys in the dark, then waiting anxiously for ducks to magically appear at the hour known as "shooting light."
   For the most part, we would watch the sun rise, or as least it would get light enough to make out how grey the clouds were. Occasionally he would toot on his duck call. It sounded like a never-before known species of waterfowl laughing.
   Now, duck hunting takes a lot more skill than grouse. But the pattern holds. I recall we shot three ducks of assorted brands between the two of us the eight or so times we went out together last season.
   Which brings me to my second piece of advice: waking up early is stupid. You're better off getting a good night's sleep.
   My style of duck hunting is to get up around 8 a.m., watch the news, drink at least a pot of coffee (to sharpen your reflexes), and wander out around 9:30.
   I blasted what's known as a "triple" near Monroe one foggy morning using this method. My longtime duck hunting purist wake-up-at-4 a.m. buddies are still stunned by that story.
   But, in fact, after a great deal of research, but mainly groggy mornings, I recommend getting to the forest or field late.
   The facts bear me out.
   Now, this advice probably runs counter to everything you've ever heard or read. But let me tell you, the early bird was a far-sighted work-aholic whose haste caught up with him one day when he plucked a DDT-altered leech in the darkness, ate it and grew a third wing out of his back.
   So, let's review: watch out for Eric. He's a menace to your luck. But if you follow my advice, and hunt the middle of the day, you should have no problem avoiding him.