Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tween Seasons

    The snow went, but never quite all the way. On the north sides of the hills and hidden in the shadows of the softwood stands it lingered for what seemed like eternity. Bare fields waited for the robins and on walks in the woods the dogs searched for woodcock. Early in the mornings and late in the day grouse drummed in the woods above the house.
     In a drainage ditch next to a logging road, which leads into an enormous wilderness valley, a woodcock fluttered up in front of the pup’s nose. It was the first of the year and the first of the young dog’s life!
    Spring would come after all. On the way home a hundred robins rested in a pasture that hadn’t yet greened. For the next couple weeks the girls would hunt hard.
    One day a sudden snow blanketed the garden, then left as fast as it came. Down by the brook, in the murky shade of spruce and firs, frozen puddles refused to leave and refrigerated air. Across the stream a grouse drummed a challenge to the one on the hill. The water was cold and high and trout fishing would wait. At night the coyotes howled.
    On a sunny afternoon walk, well up on a hill in a deserted field, a stand of maples no bigger than my wrist beckoned. Coaxing the dogs over, the seven year old wirehair locked up on point where the grass met the young trees. Rushing ahead with her camera, my daughter hoped to spot the woodcock in front of the dog, but the bird spiraled up from beneath her feet, leaving its nest behind. Three eggs waited for her return. The dogs would spend less time in the woods for the next few months.
    Now it’s early May. The grouse still drum. Streams are still too cold and a quarter of the way through the month snow mixes with a cold downpour. It’s time to train the pup and get the garden ready for warmer days.
   And wait.

More on Canine Health…

    The controversial subject of spaying/neutering and the harmful side effects has been more in the news lately. Here’s another good read.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spring is Here

Maggie running back after flushing the woodcock.
    A cool wind blew from the east under a blotchy gray sky. Small mountains to the east showed the scars of logging and patches of white lingered near the tops of the highest. The two older wirehairs dashed ahead, familiar with the old logging road, having walked it dozens of times over the years, both hunting and just to be outdoors.                 
    Maggie, our twelve week old pup, stayed closer, walking in the drainage ditch and fascinated by the flowing water as only a puppy can be.
    Up from under her nose tweetered a woodcock, the first one seen this year!
A new beaver pond flooded the road.
    Maggie dashed back to sit by our feet and watch the bird fly away.
    After hoots of laughter and praise for the pup, we carried on. Further down the hill a grouse flushed wild, twisting like a calendar painting through the barren poplar and birch. Life felt pretty good.
    Further on, up in a cutting, Chara, the older wirehair soon to turn fifteen, pointed with Colby backing, but no bird was found, yet was still a delight to see.
    Later, almost back to the truck, Chara shuffled around inside a thicket of alders. Pause, snort and sniff, pause, point, shuffle and sniffle…no style, but with determination, and up went a woodcock. That made two!!!

Lounging at Camp Grouse while listening to the grouse drumming.
    On the way back to Camp Grouse, the sun poked through the clouds and the subject of a beer came up. Later, sitting on the deck, we clicked the necks of two bottles together in a toast to spring, and almost immediately the season’s first drumming from a grouse drifted down the hill.