Grouse hunting in our family has always been a time to connect, to get outdoors together and about spending time together as a family.The inevitable grouse dinner at the end is just an added bonus to a day well spent together. While those who don't hunt might not understand the logic behind that sentence, those who do or have come from hunting families will understand immediately.
Grouse hunting is a long-standing, cherished tradition in our family. I can't remember the first time that I went with my Dad but I certainly remember the last time I grouse hunted, way back in my twenties. Alas, the duties of motherhood have many a female hunter putting her pastimes away to the side once she has taken on the role of Mother, more so than most men I know.
I am no exception. The last time I hunted grouse was when I was dating Mike. Marriage, children, careers, everything else took precedence and my fishing and hunting hobbies were shoved to the back burner.
Now that my children are bigger and my time has been freed up, I am having the most wonderful year indulging in long forgotten pastimes.
This was the first time in over a decade that the three of us siblings got out together for a few weekends of hunting.
The ruffed grouse is the single most cherished delicacy in our foraging family. The best way I can describe their taste is an earthy, woodsy chicken. Once you try them, chicken will forever pale in comparison to their rich depth of flavour.
The only wild food that comes close to the love we have for Ruffed Grouse is the Morel Mushroom.
They are also all breast meat, as you will see when I start cooking up some grouse recipes for you later on this Fall ,adding to the reason they are such a treasured meal.
We've had a fairly successful few weekends of grouse hunting, to our delight, resulting in some lovely late night dinners.
I'd like to pretend that my sister and I aren't that competitive however that isn't the case. Old habits die hard, we just simply are a little bit more polite about it. She doesn't punch me (much) any more when I best her and I don't yell at her (much) when she annoys me as she inevitably does at some point.
She's the middle child. That sums it up.
(She'll punch me this weekend just for typing that, wait and see).
It is a testament to my Dad's patience and skills, however, that all his children love going out together and participating in the pastimes that he took such great pleasure in teaching us. We all have inherited his love for the outdoors and Nature. With that too comes the years of gun safety and obeying the laws first and foremost drilled into our brains by him. Always making sure you know where your shot is going. Always assume your gun is loaded. Respecting nature and picking up our garbage and empty shotgun shells. (You don't want to know how many times we've picked up empty shells from other hunters. How hard is it to get your dang shell off the ground?)
So you know those Hollywood hunters on TV and movies who are all cockeyed and crazy with their shotguns? Camo and drinking?
Yah. Kinda not really what hunting is about with our family, nor any others that I know, for that matter. No wonder hunters get a bad rap.
We come prepared, with ice packs and coolers. The grouse are field dressed right where you shoot them, feeding the scavengers that eagerly await the treats you leave behind.
The birds are plucked, cleaned, washed and packed into the coolers, ready to be eaten for dinner that night. My plucking skill are getting better by the bird but sadly I am still not matching the skills I had when I was twelve years old. I'll get there.
The largest part of the joy is getting outdoors and exploring. Fall is my favorite time of year, crisp mornings and warm afternoon, fall mushrooms popping up all over the place, just waiting to be discovered.
I do believe this mushroom is what my Grandma used to call an Orange Top. Since my myocological skills aren't that sharp I am not sure of its real name. I am sure, however, that this mushroom with the sponge covered gills is what we used to eat as kids. My guess is a Bolete of some sort.
There's a reason that hunting is called hunting and not finding. A lot of our days were spent exploring while looking for grouse. Lots of sunrises. Deer, fox and rabbits galore.
I remember how huge and gorgeous this province really is. When you get way back into those oil roads that are the only way to get into some of the back bush, you soon realize how much wild Alberta has. You forget, living your city life, what awaits you just a few hours away.
I don't know if we will have the chance to get out again this year, but I am so glad that we managed to get in three weekends together and I have a couple of grouse in my freezer for later.
My sister and I are duck hunting in Manitoba in two weeks, so stay tuned for all the posts that will be coming up!