LAST WEEKEND, A funny thing happened to me on the way to the turkey woods.

Looking to find a foolish gobbler walking along the same logging road that another walked last spring, his last walk, I ran into some ruffed grouse instead.

I should mention that ruffed grouse go by more than one name. You can call them by their scientific moniker of bonasa umbellus, ruffed grouse or partridge, as so many call them or like Mr. President of the Old Duck Hunters Association Inc. called them, pa’tridge.

I prefer calling them as Hizzoner did, pa’tridge. By whatever name, they have forever been a large consternation for me.

In my early days, I hunted them a lot. My dad, a stickler for obeying all game laws, had one exception for me. Though the law said a child could not hunt without an adult accompanying him until the age of 16, I was allowed to hunt pa’tridges by myself when I turned 12.

The only stipulations were that I had to hunt within a 1-square-mile area around our house and I could not hunt with any other children.

Fancy that, will you. Sending a 12-year-old out in the woods all by his lonesome with a 20 gauge in hand. What would all the snowflakes of today’s world have to say about that? More than likely they’d want to send my parents to prison for life for such a dastardly offense.

Seriously, it was a different day and age. From the age of 6, I wandered near and far in the woods with my brothers and cousins. We might be gone all afternoon without any adult supervision, but you could bet when it came time for supper, we would be home on time.

We also learned about respect and the proper handling of guns, and a ton of woods lore from our dads and uncles at a very early age. That said, my parents had no worries when I got home from a day at the Sayner Graded School around 3:30 p.m., dashed into the house for a quick change of clothes and in minutes, was in the woods behind the house, shotgun in hand.

Amazingly enough, I sometimes, not often, but sometimes, came home with a pa’tridge in my game pocket. People were more in shock over that than they were over the fact that I was out hunting on my own.

Until I was in my 30s, I was a fairly serious pa’tridge hunter. Ducks were my first love, but when my dad was at work, hunting pa’tridge from the house was my best and only option. By the time I was 16 and legal age for solo hunting, I pretty much knew every inch of the woods for more than a mile radius from the house.

Though serious during those years, I was never a good pa’tridge hunter. Oh, I was as good as anyone at finding birds, but when it came to accurate shooting, I many times more than not came up wanting.

I used the excuse then that my poor shooting was simply a result of only having vision in one eye, hence no depth perception. I still miss more than I hit today so that’s still my story and I’m sticking to it.

And now, back to the story I started out to tell. A funny thing happened on the way to the turkey woods. This summer has been phenomenal for seeing turkeys, broods of hens and poults as well as mature toms. More than once, we’ve had broods in and along our driveway sunny afternoons hunting grasshoppers in tall grass.

I’ve been doing a lot of scouting on old logging roads, snowmobile trails and the like. On a couple of scouting trips, I found turkey tracks on the same sandy stretch of logging road where I shot a gobbler in April. Good enough once, I figured, good enough for a second try.

Before I got to the spot where my spring gobbler met his fate, a pa’tridge interrupted my plans. Flushing from a mixture of hazel brush and scrub balsam, it quickly angled into heavy cover, offering no shot. Suddenly, pa’tridges were on my mind.

A little farther down the grade, another bird jumped. Flying straight down the logging road ahead of me, a round of No. 71⁄2 brought him down about 30 yards out. He was a beauty, a big, mature cock with a long, full tail. Suddenly, I was a pa’tridge hunter again.

Turkeys were shoved to the back of my mind for the time being. Another hour or so of slow walking produced one more flush. That bird gave me an even easier shot than the first, but par for my usual course, I missed. As Bob Uecker would say, I was “just a little bit outside.”

My hunt ended with only one bird in hand, but considering it was the first I’ve shot in five years, it was very satisfying. So much so that the next morning, I walked about 3 more miles in another place where I figured I might find birds. I found one and it offered no shot.

So now, I’ve had my pa’tridge fix. I’ll take another crack or two at them before the season ends, but they’ll take a back seat for now.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, it is now just six days until Old Blackie, the truck, Gordie, the intrepid yellow lab and I head west for North Dakota and duck and goose heaven. 

I can’t wait.