We were out on the Allegheny Front with the bird dogs on a cold December morning. The firearm buck season was over and it was time for us to check out a couple of places where we had jumped grouse during the deer season.
As we parked and got out to get the dogs ready, I could hear the distant bawling of a hound. It was obvious that this was part of a pack of dogs since every dog has its own distinct voice. The owner of a dog can pick out his dog from the rest of the pack by its voice.
The dogs were headed away, deep into the valley where the North Branch of the Potomac runs. I chuckled to myself thinking, “Old bear, if you can just make it to the river you are home free.” Past experience told me that bears jumped in this area make a bee-line for the river and the safety of the Maryland shore.
Snoopy, our 3-year-old English pointer, was whining and eager to get going after the long rest during the deer season. Once we had a few shells, the dog collars and bells in place, we cut them loose.
Not 50 yards into the grape and greenbrier tangle and I heard a grouse flush wild. The birds are often a little jumpy if the area has been hunted hard during the deer season. What happens is, those deer hunters going through the tangles will jump the birds, maybe two or three times a day, making them nervous for a while.
We continued around the mountain for about 200 yards when Snoopy drew up into a hard point. She was looking toward the lip of the flat we were on, suggesting that the bird was in position to flush out over the mountain and sail off into safety if missed.
I quickly moved toward the edge of the mountain while Rick moved toward the pointing dog. Just as I suspected, the bird flushed, made a little half circle and started to sail over the mountain.
I was ready, had a good clear shot and caught the grouse with a load of 7 ½s, sending it tumbling. As I broke the gun, another grouse roared out from just over the edge offering no shot.
As we sat there admiring the grouse and telling Snoopy what a great dog she was going to be, we heard the excited yelps and squalls of a pair of beagles.
The little hounds were driving a rabbit in the old abandoned field across from where we had parked the truck.
We sat there for a few minutes just enjoying the music of the dogs. The music was interrupted with the sharp crack of a small gauge shotgun, probably a 20 gauge from the sound. Just as quick as it had started the voice of the beagles fell silent.
And this was a sample of what all goes on during December.
This year, the muzzleloader season for deer coincided with the opening of the firearm bear season.
The bear season will basically run for the entire month. During December, we will have the opportunity to hunt grouse, rabbits, and squirrels as well a bear.
So, if you are a small game hunter or a big game hunter, your choices are varied and many during this month of December. Normally the weather will provide several good days to be out in the great outdoors. It is a good time to get off of the couch and get out into the fields and woods with a favorite dog and/or a favorite hunting buddy.
Frank Jezioro is the director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and a veteran outdoor writer.