THE GREAT OUTDOORS: A wild adventure with a tame grouse

Doug Domedion says "DB" was a nature photographer's dream.  

This is an old adventure tale from my past with a wild grouse that I named Drummer Boy. In the early 2000s, I spent a lot of time at my cabin in Allegany County. I had put up a nice cabin on the end of a seasonal dead-end road on 60-odd acres of great deer habitat. So, let's head out to the cabin and see what I discovered on one of my trips there.

• • •

Having just arrived at the cabin, my first concern was to get my stuff unloaded from the van. As I headed to the vehicle for a second load, there it was, standing 25 feet away acting like it owned the place. I was shocked because in my past experiences with this creature it had been shy and its manner of departure was explosive. Now it just strutted around the driveway slowly, watching me.

Carefully moving towards the van, I retrieved my camera with hope of getting a good photo. Suddenly the grouse walked over and jumped up on a log near the ditch. In such poor light conditions, I'd have to use slow shutter speed and that meant this grouse would have to stand perfectly still. “Fat chance of that,” I thought, expecting him to explode away any second. However, he just stood there perfectly still, and allowed me to get several good pictures before he slowly walked across the lane.

This became regular behavior every time I visited camp. On many other occasions he did the same thing, acting like he owned the place and never getting excited. One day I was mowing across the lane with the brush hog and there he stood on the edge of the field watching me mow for about 10 minutes. Sometimes I had to go straight towards him and then turn, and he never moved. He seemed to be interested in the noise the ATV was making.

After that encounter, I didn't see him for a few weeks, but then while riding my ATV in the woods a brown movement to the right caught my eye. There he was again walking towards me, about 15 feet from the ATV. He slowly walked in front of me and just stood there watching.

After a short visit I said goodbye and continued on with my scouting activities. About 100 yards away I spotted the buck rubs that I was hoping to locate. Turning around to head back to the cabin, I saw that grouse again! He had followed me and was just standing there watching me.

Well, Drummer Boy, or DB for short, was getting tamer every time I saw him. He started showing up on the front porch of my cabin, by the sliding glass door, when I did not come out early enough to greet him.

After deer season I spent a great deal of time at camp cutting firewood, liberating oak trees and pruning my “wild” apple trees. The more time I spent there, the more DB hung around. He would show up about 10 minutes after I pulled in with the van. One time I back-tracked him in the snow and found where he actually flew from a tree, way over in the ravine, to an open spot across the road, and then ran over to the cabin.

When DB started “drumming” on the bank across from the driveway, I placed an old locust fence post for him to get up on; grouse like to get up on a log, a stump or a rock to do their drumming. This gave me a good chance to photograph him in action, because I could turn the post to position him at an angle that looked best. He posed beautifully for me and I got many good pictures. As he got more used to me I was able to sit or lay on the bank and he would come over and stand by me. I admit it: I spent way too much time "playing" with DB versus working to get pictures of him. He would follow me over to where I was cutting firewood or pruning apple trees; he seemed to be under foot all the time but never really got in my way.

It wasn’t long before DB started thinking it would be fun to be up by me on the ladder when I was pruning. He would fly up and sit among the branches that I was working on. Then he started jumping up on my shoulder as I worked on the ladder. From there he decided it would be fun to pull my hat off and peck at my bald head. Sometimes he would fly up from the ground directly onto my head. To be honest, he got to be a pain in the butt! It is a wonder I never fell off the ladder, as he startled me many times with his sudden appearance on my head or shoulder.

Tune in next week to learn more about one man's crazy relationship with a wild grouse.

Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or .

Trending Video

Recommended for you