The Grouse from Hell
by Kay Ingle
I was winter traveling with a friend,
exploring the high Sierras in California, when we
decided to pull over for the night and camp at this
lovely site. We had set up our tent, staked my two
Vizsla's on long 20-foot chains and, while I
continued to lay out all the equipment, my friend
started to work cooking dinner. Everything was going
well until this Grouse appeared on the edge of our
I was grateful the bird was downwind
of the dogs and its movement had not yet attracted
their attention. So, I spent a few moments subtly
trying to shoo the darn bird away. But, as luck would
have it, the stupid bird continued to casually stroll
into the campsite.
By this time, I was envisioning this
poor bird being ripped to pieces by the dogs and the
campsite destroyed as they chased it. As it got
closer, walking right toward the dogs, I gave up
subtlety and ran toward it yelling and waving my
arms. Of course, the dogs noticed my antics and
started looking around to see what had me so excited.
My friend laughed thinking I was just
clowning around -- at least until the friendly bird
jumped up on the picnic table where she was cooking.
My friend's eyes widened as she caught sight of the
bird and the frozen dogs looking in shock at the
Grouse. From that point on, everything seemed to go
into slow motion. The dogs started running for the
picnic table, I started running for the dogs, and the
darn bird just sat there looking at my friend waiting
for dinner to be served.
One of the dogs made a flying leap
for the bird and at that point the poor bird finally
realized it had better make a dash for it.
Unfortunately it half flew, half ran around my
friend, who was still standing behind the stove
cooking. The dogs, having 20 feet of leash in which
to pursue, followed the bird as it hopped down from
the table, ran behind my friends feet and out into
the woods. Of course the dogs did the same thing,
over the table, behind my friend, getting a few feet
toward the woods when the leash held. They jerked to
a stop and as the leash tightened and my friend's
feet were swept right out from under her.
She landed flat out on her back with
both dogs wrapping her up in their leashes still
straining after the bird. Fortunately she wasn't
hurt, but from the look in her eye and her
vocabulary, I wasn't sure what was going to be for
dinner: roasted Grouse or roasted Vizslas!
The whole time we camped at this
site, the "Grouse From Hell", as we
affectionately called it, would return on the
periphery to visit and drive the dogs wild. While
speaking with some campers who frequent the place we
found out later the bird was one that campers had fed
all summer, from when it was a baby. When its family
migrated to lower fields, it stuck around hoping for
free handouts during the winter.