Story and photos by Dennis Money
Whether you call them partridge or ruffed grouse, everyone who has ever hunted them knows how difficult they can be. They are elusive to be sure, and their startling takeoffs will wake you up and get your heart racing. So it was several years ago that I was surprised at a unique change in one partridge’s personality.
It happened one fall day as I was driving my four-wheeler in a forested area of my property on the west side of Canandaigua Lake. Suddenly, a partridge started running alongside my four-wheeler at a distance of about 8 feet. When I stopped, so did he, but eventually he became a bit more aggressive. The next time I stopped, he jumped up on the front end of the four-wheeler and stared at me! Well, that may have been “cute” initially, but when I decided to head home he decided to fly up and hit me in the head with his little feet!
Granted, a bird weighing 20 ounces is not going to instill fear or major bodily damage, but it was still an experience I was not expecting. Little did I know that this was just the start of many years of terrific experiences with a partridge I finally called “Pierre.”
So why did I choose Pierre the
Partridge versus George the Grouse? Well, Pierre seemed to roll off the lips easier. George the Grouse just seemed too gruff.
Pierre had a home territory of about 10 acres. You never saw him outside of certain boundaries that I was able to define by his actions. By this, I meant he would come to an edge of his turf with me and would not go a step further. He knew his comfort zone and so we always had a pretty good idea where we would find him.
One day I was in a tree stand during bow season. I saw Pierre approaching the stand and suddenly he ran into a thicket of brambles. Within a minute a red fox sauntered by. What did he hear or sense to make him seek shelter? Birds, except for vultures, don’t have a great sense of smell, but somehow he knew of the danger. After the fox was gone, Pierre came back out of his hideaway.
A couple of years ago, when I was selling Christmas trees, Pierre decided to be the star of the show. He would hide under a Douglas Fir and when prospective buyers came by, he would rush out and surprise them. He untied their shoe laces with his beak, and intimidated the kids and the adults. Pierre was a major hit with anyone who came across his bold personality.
My favorite memory of Pierre happened one day when I was again in a tree stand during bow season for deer. I heard a rustle in the leaves and suddenly Pierre flew up to the stand and then stood on my bow which was resting on a board. I could not believe what I was seeing.
I last saw Pierre in March this year, but I fear he has gone to partridge heaven since then. He has left anyone who encountered his brash personality with many happy memories. It is doubtful we will ever encounter another one like him. Wildlife creatures are beautiful. Enjoy them.