Sunday, February 8, 2015

Camp Grouse

    Camp Grouse is a dream perched on a knoll. Around this knoll the land rises, creating a nearly empty valley, where a stream constantly serenades and a breeze funnels regularly between the hills. Clouds of warblers swarm the trees in June and dragon flies patrol the yard on August evenings. Grouse drum in the woods come March and the forest becomes a riot of color come September. During the winter months there is a pristine silence, as the snowy world sleeps before repeating the cycles.
Dreams of spring.

    About the time the snow disappears and the streams swell, dreams turn to trout fishing. The mighty river, a mile or so away, holds larger trout, but the small stream down the hill from Camp Grouse is full of native brook trout. Every spring the brook is different, with the snow’s runoff carving a new course and recently fallen trees always crisscrossing the stream. The new logjams and undercut stream banks will create deep dark holes where the brook trout will hide. Hopefully, a few will be coaxed out to fry in bacon fat for breakfast.
Dreams at the vice.
    Upstairs at Camp Grouse, inside the big pine desk, is everything imaginable to tie trout flies. Books on patterns and trout sit atop that desk, and the hours slide away there, tying and dreaming. It really is as much fun as fishing.
    Hiking books and maps, stored in the bookcase by the stairs, help plan our short expeditions. When the weather is nice during the summer months, our daily hikes keep both the dogs and us in shape, and so far we haven’t run out of new places to explore.
    In stormy weather, or even with the morning coffee while waiting for the sun to climb higher, there is usually a jigsaw puzzle in the works on a card table beside the sliding glass doors. Bookshelves are filled with hunting and fishing lore, along with favorite novels and books on New England history. Upstairs a guitar waits to be picked. A rainy day certainly isn’t a hardship.
Friends helping.
    As September winds down clay targets are launched from the deck to be turned to dust as they sail out over the alders at the bottom of the knoll. Come the first of October the dogs will lead us into the vibrant fall foliage, their bells ringing and enthusiasm never wavering.
    And when the leaves drop and the bird hunting is at its best, friends shuffle through Camp Grouse, and all of us hunt until our legs hurt. There are so many coverts that we never get to them all. Memories are made and stories are told while tired dogs sleep in front of the heater.
Dogs warming.
    And all too soon winter blankets the land again as the world readies itself for spring again.

A place to dream. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


    My mind keeps wandering to next bird season and the places that I want to hunt. There’s one spot, where the logging road has gone to hell, that I‘m betting few people will walk in to. Along the washed out road it’s pretty good bird country, and then a loop can be made up an old tote road through open hardwoods to long abandoned fields.
     A hunt through those fields and then to the east will lead into a cutting that, if hunted through, will lead back to the truck. It will make one of those all day hunts where you tuck a sandwich in your pocket, a bottle of water in the game pouch, and a snack for the dog. There’s always little trickles for the dog to drink out of up in that country.
     Right now, outside the window the snow is swirling and the forecast is bleak. Those chilly mornings of last fall, when the cold bit into our fingers, are nothing compared to what’s going on now. Up in grouse country the nights have been dropping far below zero, and even the days are far too cold for the gloves I like to shoot in. Hopefully the grouse have insulating snow to burrow into and enough food to supply the calories they need.
     From that same washed-out logging road it’s possible to hunt downhill around a big cutting, then follow a stream back up the valley. It would make another one of those all day hunts and cover a big chunk of wild wilderness.
    Some of my daydreams get stuck in the coverts that produced so well. This past fall the bird numbers had plummeted, but a couple of places shined. One that is out in the middle of nowhere keeps drawing me back. From the pavement it’s well over a half hour drive, maybe more than that next year the way the road has been deteriorating.

   It is thick cover on a steep slope, with a huge clearcut further up. I can hear the bells, even see the dogs. My pulse picks up when my mind's eye spots the dog on point. The smells, they are there too. And then the bird flushes….