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Black Grouse Hunting.

Black grouse lek is a fantastic sight. Here is a little something from April 2015 issue of Russian Hunting Magazine. Photos by Sergei Utkin (click here for more). Text is from the same lek hunting story by Nikolai Vlasov as in the capercailzie post before (translated into English by me).

(c) Sergei Utkin

The black cocks kept evading us, and, with the crack of the dawn, again and again we went to the endless marshes in search of them. At last, we were lucky to find not one but two leks, a kilometer from each other. We watched them from afar – the lyre-shaped tails, the snow-white feathers under them, the bubbling and the “choof-shee” mating song. When a hen came over, the lek increased the tempo. Needless to say, next morning saw us shivering with cold in the middle of the marsh. A white grouse called twenty meters away, a crane clunged, then a large flock landed noisily nearby and about twenty black cocks began their “choof-shee” around us. The center of the lek, with the leader, was right near our blind. Pretenders kept trying to push the leader out of the middle, but he wasn’t a leader for nothing, and they all had to show their white feathers, legging it laughably over the water-covered moss. We watched the action spell-bound, and didn’t even notice the sunrise. Soon after that our inner hunters woke up and won over our inner observers. We got one bird apiece – and so I met my birthday.

(c) Sergei Utkin

The thing about the leks here is that tomorrow the number of cocks will be also twenty – the birds we shot would be replaced by the spare males which weren’t admitted before.

(c) Sergei Utkin

Next morning I decided to check out the other lek. Obviously, it had never been hunted – there was no sign of blinds, except mine, which I put up in the middle. The morning weather was nice enough, a bit cold, about 5 C below zero, but windless. The sky was full with the noise and whistle of the winds of migrating waterfowl – mostly ducks, sometimes geese. A white grouse sat nearby, and prepared to crow. I could see him well, his brown head, red eyebrows, white wings and all. He put his head up and gave his cry – and right after that the black cocks landed. They stared in surprise at the new object – my blind- but the leader called, and the mating ritual began. My shot rolled over two fighting birds, but the others did not stop their song and fight. They would back away from each other, jump at one place for a while, and then rush on the opponent.

(c) Sergei Utkin

I decided to leave them alone and walked off, but as soon as I was out of sight the lek came to life again, with 21 cocks doing their mating dance as if they hadn’t just lost two of their comrades.

(c) Sergei Utkin, Nikolai Vlasov, Russian Hunting Magazine.
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