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blizzard warnings - 13:52 , 03 October 2013

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07 September 2002 - 00:02

first harvest

After running the last classification route on Wednesday, it was time to check the wing barrels I had put up to collect grouse wings.

Believe it or not, the first barrel had wings!

Six of 'em.

Some years these barrels have gone almost the entire three-month blue grouse season without gathering a single wing. The harvest is that light.

And here I've got six wings to read already.

My first harvest checks of the fall.

Didn't even bring a bag along, since I wasn't expecting to collect anything so early.

So, six wings. Two bag limits. With no bag to guarantee the wings wouldn't blow out (and you can't put smelly, bloody dead things in a cab with heelers... not if you want the smelly, bloody dead things to last more than 46 seconds), decided to read the wings right there.

With the rig blocking half this remote intersection of roads.

Had an adult hen, a yearling hen, three female chicks, and a male chick.

Determining sex for blue grouse isn't that hard.

The wing on the left, which is mostly brown with large blotches of color, is female. The one on the right, with almost a grey color and finely vermiculated colors, is male.

Telling age isn't that hard either, once you know what to look for.

If you look at only the last couple outermost flight feathers (towards the middle of the pic here), the adult feathers on the right are rounded at the tips. The juvenile feathers of the chick, on the left, are pointed.

There are a few other feathers and traits you can look at, but that's the gist of it.

The high number of female wings in the barrel isn't a concern. That's normal for blue grouse. Unlike most other wild creatures, this species of bird migrates up in the winter. Up to the highest, windblown ridge tops, where they feed on spruce needles and other plants.

And the males migrate first.

So by now, most of the male grouse are up high, far from where most hunters are willing to hike. And why bother, when there are so many hens and chicks still down low?

But my first harvest checks of the year.

Fall is here.

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