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The first grouse bagged of the trip came as a surprise, bursting from behind the hunters, but it made the mistake of flying straight down the trail for an easy shot. Submitted by Erin Shoberg

Open Season: Tough to beat a Minnesota ruffed grouse hunt

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As my dog and I rounded the bend, the birch-laded woods appeared to part like intricately painted cardboard props in a Shakespearian play. A stick- and leaf-strewn path popped into view that almost looked too perfect; too serene.

Late afternoon sunlight filtered through yellow leaves to cast a daylily glow under the pockmarked canopy. The ground mirrored that which hung overhead, as I crunched through a growing carpet of golden leaf litter.

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