Oh, the decisions get tough this time of year.
Take the one regarding next Tuesday. I just got a great offer from my old pal – although not as old as I am – Keith Wintersteen for a combination hunt-fish trip on Tuesday, Sept. 1, the opening of the South Dakota dove season.
We’ve done it before, mixing bass fishing and dove hunting and crappie fishing and dove hunting and trout fishing and dove hunting in ways that probably weren’t Field & Stream quality but made us mighty happy.
People might ask: Who takes a canoe on a dove-hunting trip? We do. Jon boat? We have. Fly rods? Oh, yeah.
And lunch? Oh, yeah, lots of lunch, with plenty of Snickers.
I’ve caught bass on the dove opener with Wintersteen. I’ve also caught trout. And one walleye, as I recall. Wintersteen will swear to it, in testimony that’s only mildly impeachable before a jury of our outdoor peers.
And, I’ve already got Tuesday off, so I’m ready – except for the scheduling conflict.
See, I’m already scheduled to be in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming, hunting ruffed grouse next Tuesday. And there’s another good friend involved, although she’s not so old.
Rosie is only four, which translates into late 20s in that odd dog-human aging calculation we humans want, for some reason, to use. And she needs this ruffed grouse hunt worse than I do.
She’s been revved up and ready to go, as only an ADHD-inclined springer spaniel can be, since we finished our shotgun business late last winter on a pheasant preserve near Philip. And the real rigors of her regular upland-bird hunts ended a couple months earlier along with the South Dakota pheasant season on the first Sunday of January.
A walk or two and some hard-charging dummy retrieves most days since haven’t been nearly enough, for her.
So, ruffed grouse — better be heads up.
I’m pretty much done hunting prairie grouse. Love the birds and where you hunt them. But years ago I lost the urge to kill and cook them, mostly because I came to find them not nearly so tasty as I did earlier in life. Not so with ruffed grouse. They are simply delicious. And hunting them gives me and the dog a chance to hike the high ground and explore aspen groves during a beautiful time of the year.
We don’t do much damage. Last year I shot one. The year before four. The year before that three. And that’s after a lot of foot travel without even seeing one — but seeing plenty else.
The limited ruffy population on South Dakota’s side of the Black Hills won’t get pressure from us, obviously, until after the state grouse season opens the third Saturday of September.
In Wyoming, the ruffed grouse hunt opens Sept. 1 (God blesss the Cowboy state!). So, I’ll be sending another $100, more or less, Wyoming’s way here in the next couple of days, to add a 2015 non-resident small-game license to the 2015 nonresident Wyoming fishing license already in my billfold.
So far in 2015, I’ve fished Wyoming streams – let me count – uh, once? Maybe it was twice.
So, given that the nonresident fishing permit is also about a hundred dollars, mostly more, an inquiring mind could wonder if I’ve been getting my money’s worth.
And given our scheduled projects around the house, the increasing obligations to the live-in grandson and his activities and our jobs, the same question could be asked about the small-game license. (Although my wife, bless her heart, declines to ask it)
What if I only cross the line once or twice to hunt ruffed grouse? Worth it?
Well, sure, I think so.
It’s possible I’ll get in a number of ruffed grouse hunts in Wyoming, and maybe add some flyfishing, too.
Either way, I’ve always believed that fee and permit and license money paid to wildlife and parks agencies — here in South Dakota and across the state line — is some of the best money I spend all year.
It’s good for wildlife, good for parks, good for me.
No matter how many days afield I have each year to prove it.