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Surviving to tell the tales from the hawthorns

I don’t know many things for certain, but I do know that if I were a balloon animal, I’d steer clear of hawthorns. Let that sink in, because it’s probably the most important nugget of wisdom this column will reveal.

The unfortunate part is that there is no hunting season on balloon animals. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Worse still, ruffed grouse and woodcock love to congregate in hawthorn patches when their haw-apples are in season. As a result, I find myself in and around the hawthorns more often than I’d like. And that is why I can honestly report to you that the pursuit of ruffed grouse and woodcock is the most dangerous hunting sport.

I know. You’re probably thinking there are many other hunting sports that are far more dangerous. Lion, tiger, hippo, wild boar and elephant hunting immediately come to mind, I imagine. But that’s only because you have never been charged by an angry hawthorn bush.

Trust me. If you had, you’d understand what terror is truly about.

Those who have a weak stomach and get queasy should probably skip the following paragraph. I only include it to drive home the point.

Here it is. I know a guy who had a $600 set of stylish grouse hunting clothes bought for him by his wife torn to shreds after spending only half a day in the hawthorns – it took that long to extricate him. That poor sap was so entangled in those hawthorns that he couldn’t raise his gun up to shoot any of the three woodcock he flushed, even though they took off in sequence and flew over an open field with not a tree in the way. Instead he had to watch his hunting buddy drop all three.

It traumatized him so much that he won’t hunt with me anymore.

Now do you see what I mean?

Hawthorns, if you ask me, are half the reason why we hear so many cougar reports. Some unsuspecting hiker sees a grouse hunter who has just emerged from the hawthorns and naturally assumes that the hunter was mauled by one or more big cats. It’s an easy mistake to make.

The good news for grouse hunters is that hawthorns serve a purpose, other than merely holding grouse. For instance, they provide a way to measure the judgment of a prospective hunting partner.

If that person says, “Why don’t I go through the hawthorns while you wait on the edges for whatever flies out,” they have incredibly bad judgment – and you need to keep that person around for as many hunts as possible.

Conversely, hawthorns can also reveal if a hunter will be incompatible with you. Your first clue is when they say, “Why don’t you go through the hawthorns while I wait on the edges for whatever flies out.”

That’s the kind of selfish hunter you don’t need around.

Despite all this, the reward for hunting in and around hawthorns is usually a grouse or woodcock dinner, which are among the finest wild game birds you can eat. And that’s why every year hundred of hunters don’t mind turning themselves into human sprinklers, if only for a while.

In fact, my former hunting partner wears his hawthorn-inflicted scars like a badge of honour. He says they are the mark of a true upland bird hunter and are a proof of true bravery.

Despite all this courage, he still won’t talk about the $600 set of hunting clothes he ruined while his wife is around. That is, apparently, too thorny an issue.

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