I hiked about 7 miles today through some pretty rugged country and unfortunately, didn't flush a single grouse. I left my house at 5:45 and headed west out to the Frederick Watershed. The Watershed is one of Maryland's Cooperative Wilderness Management Areas, open to the public to hunt in, and a hotspot for mountainbiking. I spent a lot of time freeriding this area back in 2003 & 2004. When I pulled in at 7:00, dawn was breaking and I was the only one in the parking lot. I headed down a familiar trail and then ducked into the woods to parallel it for a while. There was plenty of cover and I had my thumb on the safety waiting for that explosive burst, grouse are notorious for. I was thinking to myself, any minute now a pair of grouse are going to burst into flight... but no dice.
The weather forecast had called for rain, and by 9:30, the morning sun had been obscured by some ominous cloud cover but alas it never did rain. My stomach was growling and I wished I had tried to eat something before I left, but I never have an appetite early in the morning. I was feeling pretty knackered from the rocky terrain and constant ups and downs. (The Watershed is quite hilly, just take a look at the topo map!) After another hour of seeing only the occasional grey squirrel, I decided to pack it up and head in to town for breakfast at a great diner I know. On the way back to the Jeep I found a neat deer skull with a six point rack!
After a couple of eggs, bacon and toast I felt refreshed and drove to another area of the park, one that I was not familiar with. The topographical map showed flat terrain in a little area and then a long spine which descended over two miles. This time the brush was thicker; more dense. It was rough going, but I thought for sure I'd flush a few birds. Again; no luck! The terrain was getting more and more rocky. Soon I found myself stepping from boulder to boulder. Then I saw small caves. I thought, awesome let's check out these caves! But when I got to them, a very uneasy feeling came over me. Frederick is known for it's black bears. Here I was, right on top of these caves, and surrounded by very dense brush. My scent was blowing downwind to the caves. I decided to hightail it out of there. I carried my gun in one hand, by the barrel-break and made steady progress away from there. I stopped only once to avoid walking smack-dab into an enormous orange and yellow spider. I nearly shot the thing; yikes! It was about the size of a fifty cent piece. Turns out, this spider is a Marbled Orb Weaver and is completely harmless to humans - Gave me the heebie jeebies though; I'll tell you that.
Though I'm tired and my hips are sore (My hips always get sore when I hike) I had a great time in the woods. I got to carry the new Fox Sterlingworth 12 gauge my father gifted to me and it felt great in my hands. I couldn't leave without firing it, so I set up a couple couple of old Pepsi bottles I found in the brush. After shattering the bottles I broke the gun open, pulled the spent shells and lifted them to my nose. That smell brings back some great memories! I'm looking forward to going back, but hopefully, I'll see some birds next time.