Adventures with Allie by John
After a mere 3,000 miles in the car from Florida to NW Colorado, Allie finally got what she's been waiting for all year. As our target was almost placed on the endangered species list last year due to habitat loss (not over hunting), Allie reckoned I pack her bags and drive her into the great unknown to chase down one of the Wild West's most iconic birds, the Greater Sage Grouse. Little did she know, the arid and dry terrain of Colorado's high plains desert vastly differed from her home in the humid Florida tropics.
After a week in the blistering heat and countless miles over some of the country's most unforgiving terrain, I was about ready to call it quits for the both of us. We hadn't seen a single bird yet and we were starting to think there was a reason these birds might be listed after all.
On the penultimate day of the season, after being broken and beaten by 12 miles of thick sage mountain and prickly pear bushes, we decided to slip in to the local Gun & Pawn shop before retiring to our luxurious temporary dwelling for what we hoped would be the last night. They were advertising duck stamps at the door and we figured those sounded like a better alternative to the hell we'd just been through.
After the unmistakable "you're not from here" look and a few snide comments about how rough our appearance was, the shop keep asked us where we were from what we'd been hunting for today. My response shocked him, but he was clearly more impressed than bewildered. Bird hunters are always a nice change of pace from the regular elk, mule deer and pronghorn crowd they get in these parts. I inquired as to where I might be able to find some birds and to my dismay, he rattled off the exact same BLM and State trust lands I'd been hunting all week. Overhearing the conversation, the customer to my left asked if I was going to be around in the morning and when I replied yes, he promptly wrote down his information and address and told me to meet him at 8 am for some grouse hunting.
When I arrived in the morning he tossed me the keys to his Polaris and described some loose property boundaries as well as some spots he'd been seeing the grouse over last few days. When I got to the first grassy knoll I saw them...dozens of the giant turkey looking birds were unmistakable in the CRP field. I parked the side by side, grabbed my side by side, and let Allie do what she does best. We chased the birds for the rest of the morning and filled our limit before the sun began to bake us.
Though private land hunts and UTV rides are not a preferred method of harvest, sometimes you gotta take what you can get. With the week we'd had leading up, Allie still felt we earned it.
Next week we start on blue grouse and ptarmigan.