Late grouse opener this year. It’s like torment. I know…It’s only 10 days later, but it’s killing me. Leaves are turning or turned depending on where you are, the air is getting brisk, and I’m still hunting squirrels like I was in September. The one upside to this whole ordeal is that I’ve logged more hours in the woods on scouting missions than ever before. I’ve sadly had to leave my four legged companion home to languish. He can’t turn the hunt switch off and just walk with me yet. Maybe some day, but it really makes no sense to him to be looking at grouse cover and heeling calmly by my side. Unless he’s covering ground ahead of me looking for birds, there is no other reason to be in the woods in his mind. Setter owners…chime in on this one. Is it normal? I’d give this dog a D- when it comes to companion points. But I digress. I took a long hike back to a spot I’d discovered on Google Earth. I had done a cursory recon several weeks ago, and marked it as a place of interest for further exploration. It’s a little bit of a hike to get to the most likely grouse holding spots, but it seemed like a good prospect. I was not disappointed. After the 2+ mile hike down the winding log road I came to a clearcut intended for handicapped hunters. The Forest Service in a well thought out move made several of these clearcuts on an access road blocked by a gate to keep the “Joe Sixpack’s” of Virginia from driving the road. There are several wheelchair blinds and overall a very nice arrangement for handicapped hunters. The added bonus for me is the edges of these clearcuts are littered with the remains of trees pushed out of the way and broken up every 40 or so yards by bulldozer width paths. As soon as I was saying to myself “this looks grousey” a bird erupted into the air. In the next hundred yards, 3 more went up. I like it. If I opt to walk the entire 3 miles, I marked 6-8 likely coverts. I’ll be back to this spot. Another added bonus is it’s really only a few miles from some of my proven grounds should they not pay off or in the rare event that I actually hit a bird or two and decide to let them regroup unpressured for the rest of the season. This Saturday marks the start of 2013-14 grouse. I can’t wait. I ordered a new e-collar to replace my ebay special I’ve used from the beginning. I figured it’s time to be able to really send a message when I need to and from a distance at that. There’s a SportDog 2500 on the way to me. Review to follow.