Whatchagot-Grouse

Those Beautiful Hills

…the prairie grouse (sharp-tailed grouse & prairie chickens) that inhabit the short-grass areas of the sandhills have several defenses against the human hunter…one is their good eyesight that allows them to see danger coming from afar – another is their mottled browns & off-white feathers that allow them to become dang-near invisible to the shotgun carrying predator as they make their living in the clump grasses…as if these two adaptations weren’t enough these sandhill birds have a very sinister desire to “off” us hunters by living in vast expanses of very un-flat terrain that is covered in sandburs & prickly pear…you may think my statement is a little extreme but that would just prove that you have never chased these feathered-boogers across miles of short-grassed, sand dunes only to see a family flock of sharpies jump 20 yards beyond your gun’s reach and appear to land ‘just over the hill‘ – which spurs you to walk several more hills of sand so that your trusty pointer can lock up hard on 1 ornate box turtle and exactly zero grouse…

…to celebrate opening weekend of the Prairie Grouse season I headed towards Valentine chasing the promise of grouse and good weather with my former College Adviser and two other grouse-nuts…we set-up base camp at Big Alkali Wildlife Area and had lots of fun telling stories and reliving past hunts…we ate some wonderful food and did our best to stay warm on the chilly, wet mornings of our hunt…though, the grouse were scarce and the shots few we had an amazing time – and surprisingly saw very few other hunters, even on the public access areas…we did manage to put enough sharpies in the game-pouch for a decent meal and plenty of memories to help start the season and perhaps provide some fodder for campfires yet to come…

Success

…Dr. Jim Pease, my former college prof, was in charge of cooking the grouse and I wanted to watch his technique so that I could add another recipe to my file – prairie grouse are sometimes given a bad name as table-fare, but I think this is mainly due to the fact that even ice cream wouldn’t be as popular if you had to walk several miles over rough terrain to secure it…so I watched Jim work his magic on the skinned-out birds as he readied them for the pot…he started  by placing garden-fresh tomatoes and peppers around the grouse as they lay in the cast-iron dutch oven…he then sprinkled onion flakes, garlic salt and several other spices on them…just as the dutch oven was being placed over the fire I asked Jim what he called his grouse recipe – his reply was “Whatchagot Grousecause you take whatcha-got in camp and put it in the pot with the grouse”…worked for me! – it was delicious…

Whatchagot Grouse

hershy

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