I worked 30 years as a full-time reporter for The Daily Independent and The Daily Times, twenty-five of them with The Daily Independent. During those years I have freelanced the weekly outdoors column – for 50 years now – drawing a separate paycheck for the columns apart from my salary as a reporter.
My daily reporting duties, covering anything and everything, took precedence. I covered two murder trials in Greenup in which the convicted killer got the death sentence.
But it was my adventures and misadventure in the outdoors that I have most enjoyed. Hunting deer, turkey, and rabbits and fishing for bass, muskie and crappie.
My fondest memories of outdoor adventures revolve around hunts for a beautifully feathered bird about the size of a chicken that is referred to as the King of the Wild. He asks no quarter and gives none. You stay out of my way, Man, and I’ll stay out of yours.
The ruffed grouse, we’re talking about. He’s quick, cunning, elusive. If you put one in your game bag you’re as happy as you were on the first night of your honeymoon.
In my younger and more vigorous days I rambled up one ridge and down another, plowing through underbrush, briar patches and honeysuckle vines. I had grouse startle me by roaring out from beneath my feet and other times running through the brush and taking flight outside gun range. Always he will try to put a tree between him and the hunter.
I’ve bagged a few; missed aplenty.
WHAT ABOUT BETSEY?
My friends Winford Porter and his son, Jeff, experienced an unusual and unexplainable situation with a grouse. Both have dusted the feathers on their share of ruffed grouse over the years.
This event happened about five years ago. As I recall they were deer hunting in a remote section of woods in northeastern Kentucky. They were a mile from the nearest road. There were no active farms within that distance.
“We’ve hunted the woods of Kentucky all our lives and we never saw a grouse behave as this one did,” said Jeff.
I’ve known Winford and Jeff for years. And their story is true. Never think that they would try to fool us with a pen-raised bird.
Jeff said the first time he heard of the grouse was on another hunt with a friend.
“He told me that a grouse had followed him out of the woods,” Jeff laughed as he repeated what his hunting companion had told him.
“But he’s from up North and I didn’t think he knew what he was talking about.”
But then came the hunt that he and Winford had.
“It’s not every day a guy gets to hold a grouse in his arms,” Jeff said.
They noticed the grouse out at a distance. Instead of flying away, it was coming toward them. It came right up to them and Jeff was able to reach down and pick it up.
It did not seem to be seeking food but – hold on now – fellowship.
He handed it to Winford, who cradled it on his lap. He laughed as he petted it like a kitten.
They shooed it away as the time came for them to climb on their four-wheeler and head for home. Jeff shot some pictures with his smart phone.
“I warned it to keep a sharp eye out for coyotes, hawks and owls,” said Winford, who was still finding it hard to believe that he had held a wild grouse in his arms.
The following spring, when Winford and Jeff were turkey hunting, up to their calling blind came the grouse. Right up to them, as if it was glad to.see them again.
Winford name her Betsey.
The story has a sad ending. This time, as they drove off for home on their side-by-side gour-wheeler, the grouse followed them – flying along ahead of them, then flying ahead again when they reached he position.
Winford has the canvass window zipped up halfway The grouse flew up and tried to come in through the window. She struck the canvass and fell to the ground. And under the wheel.
“I don’t believe Betsey suffered at all, and I’m thankful for that,” Winford said. It was probably just a period of time until she fell prey to a predator.”
Reach G. SAM PIATT at email@example.com or (606) 932-3619.