Memories Of Georgia Grouse
A look back on times in the mountains when dogs and grouse mattered most to men like Arthur Truelove and Herb McClure.
My credits for my being a grouse hunter are owed to a great grouse hunter who was the late Arthur (Fats) Truelove, of Gainesville. Many of you reading this story knew Arthur personally, or you may have known about Arthur’s grouse hunting days.
Arthur Truelove taught me the essentials of grouse hunting, turkey hunting and deer hunting when I was 16 years of age in 1956. Arthur already had nine seasons of grouse hunting before he took me under his guidance. Arthur had many seasons of quail shooting before he hunted grouse.
Arthur and I both relied on hard-hunting grouse dogs for our success. Without good dogs, our grouse hunting would have certainly been hampered. Arthur and I both required dogs that would hunt up the steep mountainsides above the creeks and logging roads. Arthur knew that grouse tend to feed during the day upon the hillsides for grapes, acorns and whatever else they could eat. It takes dogs with plenty of get-up in them to hunt those mountainsides.
The dogs were taught hand signals to guide them where we wanted them to hunt, and that required us taking them to those places ourselves, until they learned where we wanted them to hunt. No loud talking was ever allowed, which helped prevent wild flushes.
Arthur’s last dog, named Dot, even started making low barking yelps when a wild flush grouse did occur. Arthur killed many of those wild flushing grouse by getting a quicker-start on shooting, thanks to Dot’s barks.
Arthur taught me to always go to a dog’s points—no matter what! Late one afternoon when Arthur and I had encountered a hard day’s hunt, with no grouse in our game bags, Dot became pointed way up high on the mountainside above the logging road where we were walking.
Arthur asked me, “Herb, would you like to go up there and shoot at whatever she has pointed.”
I, being tired and hot for the day, declined.
Arthur said, “Herb, you should always go to a dog when it is pointed, because you owe it to the dog and it keeps them honest.”
Away went Arthur climbing up that steep mountainside to where Dot was on point. When nearing Dot, three grouse flushed, all going around the mountainside the same way. Bang, bang, bang went Arthur’s old model 11, and the three grouse went tumbling down. I stood there in the logging road flabbergasted and amazed at how smooth and easy Arthur’s triple had been made. A minute before, Arthur had not killed a grouse all day, and now he had his limit.
I learned from Arthur to hunt grouse when the weather was very cold. Arthur had a theory that a grouse would sit tighter to any kind of disturbance on the very coldest of days, rather than when it was hot, or even just warm.
These theories are from a man who averaged killing more than 50 grouse every season, and in his best seasons more than 100 grouse—three different times he did that.
Arthur also shot hi-power shells in 12 gauge, which were loaded in 7 1/2 or 9 size shot. His theory again, the small shot could better penetrate through leaves, vines and limbs because of the higher shot count, which produced a thicker pattern.
Arthur, as I have been telling, was in a class above all other shooters that I ever observed shooting grouse. He was brought up shooting live birds from his early boyhood, in a family that realized more income from the quail they shot and then sold than from the cotton they grew. Therefore, growing up in his family, he became a super good snap-shooter on flushing birds. Snap-shooting is much quicker than the skeet-shooting way that I learned, with its swing and follow-through style.
What few grouse shooters I have been acquainted with never told about making any triples themselves when shooting grouse. I realize, too, in today’s world, most grouse shooters now shoot over/under guns, with only two shots. I never made a triple on grouse either, even when I did shoot a semi-auto gun.
However, the following account was related to me about Arthur making a triple by a friend who had hunted with Arthur.
Denver Davis, born and reared up on Coopers Creek in Fannin County, the heart of Georgia’s olden-days grouse country. Denver was a checking station clerk for the Blue Ridge WMA. His brother, William (Will) Davis was a game technician in the mountains for the old Game & Fish Commission. Denver, seeing the many grouse that Arthur usually checked out at the check stations where he worked, asked Arthur to take him and his brother Will grouse hunting sometime, which Arthur did.
Denver told the story like this.
“Dot, came to a point in an open area where all three of us could approach Dot together. Arthur had already hand signaled for us to come on up front quickly. That’s when three grouse exploded. Two of them flushed to our left, and one going to our right. Bang, bang and then bang a third time went Arthur’s gun. The two that went to the left turned flips first, and then the one going to the right turned flips, too.”
Denver also told, “I never knew anyone could shoot like that. I never even got my hammer cocked, much less shoot, before those three grouse were flopping on the ground, even though they flew in different directions.”
Yes, I too observed Arthur making many, many doubles and a few other triples in the 13 seasons that we hunted grouse together. When Dot died in 1969, Arthur retired from grouse hunting and never wanted to hunt grouse anymore. Arthur and I continued to hunt wild turkeys and deer together for many more years, but his glorious days of grouse hunting were over.
After Arthur’s retirement from grouse hunting, I was given a young female setter dog by another friend, the late J. D. Davis, of Gainesville. She was sired by a national field champion, “Flaming Star,” that belonged to Guy Stancill Sr., also of Gainesville. Her name was Star, too.
• • •
Although, Arthur could show me many great places to find grouse and many other things about grouse hunting, there was one thing though he could not do for me, and that was improve my wing shooting. Arthur’s theory about shooting was, one can only learn how to shoot by shooting.
At that time of my life in the early 70s, I was a buyer and manager of a large volume sporting-goods department in Gainesville. Actually, being a sporting-goods person has been my life-long occupation since 1964. Up until then I had worked with the Georgia Game & Fish Commission, an ideal job for an outdoor person. However, I quit and left them because I was spending most of my time working in middle and south Georgia on lakes. I always considered myself as a mountain person, who liked to trout fish, grouse hunt, and hunt native mountain wild turkeys.
However, Arthur and I deer hunted middle Georgia’s big deer.
I also joined the Cherokee Gun Club in Gainesville back then and began shooting skeet at the old Buck-horn shooting range, hoping to improve my grouse shooting. I started reloading shotgun shells as I was able to purchase reloading supplies at the cost to the business were I was buying sporting-goods. I was able to load 12-gauge shells for .95 cents a box of 25. At that cost price, I did some shooting, and thank goodness my grouse shooting was improved, too.
Arthur told me about him making a shooting-straight one time. This was before I hunted with him. He told me about killing 12 grouse straight, without missing a shot, in one season. To me, this was some good shooting. I even made this statement to him when he finished relating his story to me, I said, “Bet no one will ever beat your straight of 12 kills with no misses.”
This year, I read a story in the local Gainesville newspaper about a prominent, elderly, 93-year-old lady who had passed-away. She was being quoted about her many accomplishments during her lifetime for big society. At the end of her story she said, “Well, if you have done some things that were true, you should be allowed to brag a little, if you choose.” Referring back to that lady’s quote, I will say, I, too, have a little bragging I want to do!
13 With No Misses
My dog Star and I had become a good hunting team by the mid 70s, the same way as Dot and Arthur were during their grouse hunting days. The Georgia grouse season of 1976-77 was my pinnacle season of shooting grouse. I reached a total of 25 kills during the last week of that season.
Driving home after my hunt was over for the day, and thinking about the prior two hunts, I knew I had got my limit of three grouse each of those past two hunts. Those two hunts and today’s hunt made nine grouse killed the last three times I had gone hunting. Then, it occurred to me, the last seven of those nine grouse had been killed without missing a shot, which I had not realized until then! I was astonished!
I went to Arthur Truelove’s home on my way back that evening, and I told him what I had done. He was delighted, and he shared with me in my joy of shooting those seven grouse. Arthur seemed really proud for me, and he encouraged me to go back the next day.
“While you are in a shooting groove and making your shots count, keep on going and shooting, because the season’s end is near, with only three days left.” Then he said, too, “Don’t dwell on making a miss, just keep on shooting like you are doing and let your instincts do your shooting.”
Taking his advice, I did not go to work anymore that season but went hunting everyday instead. The next day’s hunt only produced two grouse. However, I made the only shot I had and that grouse became the eighth grouse in my streak. Arthur was already at my home when I got there. Arthur wanting to know where I had hunted and all about the hunt. I told him how hard it had been and about my hunting at one of his favorite places—Gilreath and Williams creeks down in Gaddistown, below Cooper’s Gap. But, where were the grouse? Thankfully, I killed the only grouse I had a shot at, which was a wild flush.
The next morning, I decided to go Towns County, and it was cold with snow falling and already on the ground. The trees and ground were white.
Grouse Numbers 9 And 10
The snow was no problem for my CJ-5 Jeep with its 4-wheel drive. I went to Mill Creek and hunted till midday, but it was like the day before, no grouse found. I only found a fresh shed deer antler for my time being spent there. After lunch, Star and I went to High Shoals Creek nearby for another hunt. After an hour or so hunting there, Star pointed and I went to her, causing two grouse to flush out of the rhododendrons, both going the same way, straight-away. Instinctively, I covered the leading grouse and saw it fold up at the shot. Then I covered the other grouse just before it was about to enter a larger wall of more rhododendrons, and I shot it, too. Man-o-man! Making this double made the 10th grouse without missing! When Star had finished retrieving both grouse, I quit hunting right then and went home. OVERJOYED!
Although, I got home early, Arthur was already there visiting with the folks. When showing Arthur the two new grouse and telling him about all the snow and how hard the day’s hunt had been, that’s when Arthur took off his cap and said, “I have thought about you all day and was wishing you good luck. I’m going to take off my cap to you for what you have already done, and if you keep shooting like you have for the past few days, I believe you will go ahead of my straight tomorrow.”
Then he put out his hand and shaking my hand saying, “Herb, a little luck thrown never hurts most things.”
I was back in Towns County by 8:30 the next morning, the last day of grouse season. Turning up Soapstone Creek road toward Jack’s Gap, then driving up to Henson Creek, where I wanted to hunt. There was a truck already parked there, and I started to drive on away. However, I noticed a man splitting wood down below the truck. Then on a second thought, I decided to pull in and ask him about hunting. He said (in his mountain dialect): “Goes ahead and hunts, just hopes yous can kill’s one.”He also said, “I’s never coulds kills them things when flying, because they’s scares the dickens out of me. The only grouses I’s evers killed were by slipping-up on’s thems, when thumping on a log, and then’s shooting it’s head-off with mys rifle.”
With that, I left the man and started up the snow-covered logging road toward Henson Gap.
The Logging Road
Going around a curve just out of sight from where the mountain man was working, Star locked on point. Before I could even summarize the situation there, a grouse flushed going across the logging road from my left to my right, and when I shot, it folded up and fell on the other side of the logging road. After Star had retrieved this grouse and I had finished putting the grouse into my hunting vest, I noticed Star was acting GROUSE-EEE. She was tracking and working her way up a steep bluff. Then she held her head up and was following her nose till she locked-down on point. She had gone at least 50 yards up above me and the logging road. Going to her, I was making a lot of noise crunching in the frozen snow, loud from the freeze the night before. Also, my slipping and sliding was bad as I made my way up toward Star. Two grouse flushed coming straight at me, down the mountainside. I threw up and covered the one in front, and when I shot, it almost hit me falling at my boots. The other grouse flew on past me going straight-away down toward the road below, I wheeled-around and shot it going straight-away.
Talking about luck! Numbers 11, 12 and 13 without a missed shot.
That day’s hunt lasted only 15 minutes, compared to all day the previous two.
There were three doubles made in my shooting-straight of 13 grouse killed.
Back at the jeep, the wood-splitting mountain man came over to where I was parked, muttering in his mountain dialect.
“Whys are you’s quitting so quick?” he asked. “I heared yourselfs shooting, and nows heres you are coming back.”
Without saying a word to him, I started taking the three grouse out of my vest and arranging them and my gun for a photo in front of a stump. The mountain man just shook his head back and forth, muttering again and again in his mountain dialect.
“Nevers seeded nothings likes this before.”
My reply back to him was, “A little luck got thrown in, and it doesn’t hurt most things.”
Biding the man farewell, I left without explaining anything else.
All things must come to an end sooner or later. I was looking forward to next year’s grouse season, with much anticipation and enthusiasm hoping to keep my straight building.
However, on the next year’s opening day, I missed the first four grouse I shot at, before finally killing one.
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