Bath County Virginia is a very special place to me and my family. Beautiful mountain views, gorgeous trout streams and plenty of game make for an adventure that I look forward to every year. My father has been making the trip for over fifty years to hunt grouse and turkey. Over the years close bonds have been made with friends and family in this very special area of the Allegheny’s.
Each year my father plans a three week trip with Roy Gutshaw who is from Bath County. Roy is a straight shooting country wise individual who will keep you on your toes with a sharp intellect and a wealth of knowledge in a plethora of topics from tapping maple trees for sweet syrup to how to find water in a drought. Being a very successful owner of a real state firm, Roy, spends quite a bit of time in the woods looking at properties and keeping tabs of the local game population. His keen woodsman ship and accommodating nature makes for a great trip year after year.
I had planned to hunt with my dad, Roy and my brother Greg four five days. We stay at Roy’s wife Karen’s family farm that overlooks the town of Monterey. This is a classic piece of highland property with steep slopes, huge maples and the ever difficult to negotiate laurel thickets that are common in the area. Good populations of grouse, deer and the occasional turkey roam the farm.
Two years previously I was sitting in my climber at the top of the ridge on the east side of the property when I heard a rustling coming up the ridge behind me. As I slowly turned around I was surprised to see a lone grouse walking behind me at about 10 yards. Just as I was about to turn around and draw my Matthews I caught more movement off to the right. Four gobblers were making their way on the same track as the grouse that for the moment had been erased from my radar as I focused on the lead turkey. They were headed for a break in the fence which I had ranged at 28 yards a couple hours earlier. I kept one eye on the turkeys and the other on the tree clutter to allow for an opportunity to draw. I drew just as all four birds walked behind some brush and readied myself for the shot. The gobbler stepped out right next to the fence post as I steadied the pin on his wing butt and then released. To say that all hell broke loose would be an understatement. The grouse who was still standing behind me and the three gobblers took off in all four directions as my bird flopped on the ground.
What a solid evening.
This year found me huffing up and down the same hills in search of birds. One afternoon Roy, dad, and I hunted a new piece of property that Roy had recently purchased. It consisted of long oak ridges and thick creek bottoms. I let my german shorthair Gracie out of her kennel and we took off after some grouse. As we walked through the first piece of cover Gracie got very birdy and I told Roy to get ready. The grouse broke cover about fifty yards in front of us and proceeded to put about a hundred trees between us as only a grouse can. Grouse 1. Hunters 0. We kept walking up the ridge and to the left. As I walked I commented to Roy that he had quite a bit of recent turkey scratching in the area and about a hundred yards later Gracie found the culprits. Gracie had crested a rise and ran right into a flock of thirteen turkeys. As you might have guessed they didn’t stick around and scattered in all directions. Now a busted up flock of turkeys in the fall is a good thing if you have a turkey call because they will want to regroup in a hurry which can mean a hunter could call a lonesome bird right in their lap. I had conveniently left my turkey vest and calls in the truck about five minutes away. Not wanting to make the score grouse 1, turkey 1, and hunter 0 I ran like hell back to the truck. Dad was standing by the truck and asked what happened and with little air left in my lungs from my recent sprint race I said, “turkeys”. He said what are you doing here? I said “turkey calls”. He said “you’ll probably need those”. It always amazes me when the obvious is stated. I ran back to where the birds had been busted up and set out a decoy. After 20 minutes of soft calling I finally heard an answer and he was close. I had just enough time to swing my Benelli around to my right and get ready when he crested the hill. Grouse 1, turkey 0 and hunter 1.
The next morning we decided to hunt an area about 10 miles from Monterey down 220. It is a beautiful piece of property with lots of cover and lots of grouse. The terrain is steep and very physically demanding. I have never been sheep hunting but I would guess a day spent chasing grouse up and down nearly vertical slopes filled with laurel is just about as painful. We found lots of grapes and a few birds. It seemed like they just were not in the area yet but through diligence we did manage to take a few birds. Gracie was excellent and had one particularly beautiful point on a big ruff. Too bad I was not up to the task and gave him a two barrel salute as he sped down the mountain and out of sight. Burning legs, briars, and thick cover followed by a brief glimpse of whirling wings. That’s grouse hunting in the Allegheny mountains.
The rest of the trip was spent chasing grouse, looking for turkeys and spending time with some very good people. Bath County is a special place to me that is filled with beauty and countless memories. I look forward to next year and more adventures. Thank you, Roy and Karen.