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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/242

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RUFFED GROUSE.

On the ground, where the Ruffed Grouse spends a large portion of its time, its motions are peculiarly graceful. It walks with an elevated firm step, opening its beautiful tail gently and with a well-marked jet, holding erect its head, the feathers of which are frequently raised, as are the velvety tufts of its neck. It poises its body on one foot for several seconds at a time, and utters a soft cluck, which in itself implies a degree of confidence in the bird that its tout ensemble is deserving of the notice of any bystander. Should the bird discover that it is observed, its step immediately changes to a rapid run, its head is lowered, the tail is more widely spread, and if no convenient hiding-place is at hand, it immediately takes flight with as much of the whirring sound as it can produce, as if to prove to the observer, that, when on wing, it cares as little about him as the deer pretends to do, when, on being started by the hound, he makes several lofty bounds, and erects his tail to the breeze. Should the Grouse, however, run into a thicket, or even over a place where many dried leaves lie on the ground, it suddenly stops, squats, and remains close until the danger is over, or until it is forced by a dog or the sportsman himself to rise against its wish.

The shooting of Grouse of this species is precarious, and at times very difficult, on account of the nature of the places which they usually prefer. Should, for instance, a covey of these birds be raised from amongst Laurels (Kalmia latifolia) or the largest species of Bay (Rhododendron maximum), these shrubs so intercept the view of them, that, unless the sportsman proves quite an adept in the difficult art of pulling the trigger of his gun at the proper moment, and quickly, his first chance is lost, and the next is very uncertain. I say still more uncertain, because at this putting up of the birds, they generally rise higher over the bushes, flying in a straight course, whereas at the second start, they often fly among the laurels, and rise above them in a circuitous manner, when to follow them along the barrel of the gun is considerably more difficult. Sometimes, when these birds are found on the sides of a steep hill, the moment they start, they dive towards the foot of the declivity, take a turn, and fly off in a direction so different from the one expected, that unless the sportsman is aware of the trick, he may not see them again that day. The young birds often prove equally difficult to be obtained, for as they are raised from amongst the closely tangled laurels, they only fly a few yards, and again drop among them. A smart cur-dog generally proves the best kind on these occasions; for no sooner does he start a covey of Ruffed Grouse