Thursday, May 21, 2015

Even Grouseless Days….

    The drive in is about nine miles over a small mountain and, after crossing a timber bridge, it is then either left further into the wilderness, or to the right and another nine or ten miles back out to a different paved road.  We went left.
About another six miles up the road I parked in the same spot as a month and a half earlier.  The woods looked more open, with the weeds squashed down by snow that had come and gone.  With the stark naked trees not holding a leaf, the mountains across the valley looked much closer.
    Alders, half again a man’s height, covered an old logging yard there.  Behind them the land climbed gradually with lofty hardwoods and dark old spruce trees.  Across the road young fir trees huddled together like cliques in a school  yard, each separated by open expanses of bent or flattened weeds and grass.  Scattered maples and poplar sprouts remained upright, obviously unfazed by the earlier snow.
    Chara, my German wirehair pointer, pranced a few steps from the truck and locked up on point, her nose aimed directly into the alders.  Hurrying shells into my gun, a partridge burst upward and disappeared into the boughs of spruce trees.
    We hunted behind the alders, more or less parallel with the road, and then crossed to the lower side, drifting between the clusters of fir trees.  About the sixth clump Chara’s hind end went into over-drive and then she froze, pointing into a tangle of green needles and gray trunks.   In the dark shadows a boulder poked out of the earth, nothing more. Walking around the left side of the trees, the partridge thundered out of the right, a sound unseen.
    The scenario was played out again, and then again.  Two hunters might have shot some birds.
    Chara slowed and then pointed into a cluster of limby firs. Bright green moss muffled my footsteps.  A partridge that looked the size of a turkey launched under my nose.  Reflexes brought the gun to the shoulder and a finger slapped the trigger, just as the bird ducked around a yellow birch trunk. I’m sure the tree survived. 
I swear Chara struggled to contain a laugh.
    A bird flushed wild from a thicket of raspberries, and another was pointed on the way back to the truck, but both escaped unscathed.
Unloading the gun and putting it into the truck, I congratulated myself on the valiant conservation effort and the breeding stock that I had left behind.  Chara looked quite proud of herself, as she should with about a half dozen successful points. 
    Another spot further up the road deserved the same treatment.  There, the thick new growth of a fifteen year old clearcut covered the hillside.  Chara plunged in and I followed as best I could along wet and lumpy skid trails.  We didn’t find any birds and, if we had, shooting would have been impossible in that thicket.  Eventually our course brought us back out to the logging road about a half mile from the truck. 
    We dropped to the lower side and worked back between the road and a roaring mountain stream.  Nearing the truck Chara’s hind end went into overdrive and, with her nose scouring the ground, she obviously followed a traveling grouse.  The trail went through thick grass, under clusters of young fir, beneath a blown down dead fir tree, directly over the top of an automobile-sized boulder, across a log, back into a cluster of waist-high fir trees, and then into raspberries that contained claws like a bobcat. Chara looked determined and her optimism flared.
    About fifty feet ahead of us, at the edge of the logging road, old Mr. Partridge decided he had enough of those two cahoots following him and took off over the road, to never be seen.
   It was a fitting time to end another memory filled day.