Sunday, November 1, 2015


    Little is good about hunting grouse in the driving rain. Even dressed in the best foul weather gear, the thick cover, which grouse love, gets heavy with water to make walking difficult. Soon, struggling hunters soak through from perspiration, no matter what the maker of the rain gear promises. And it is possible to sweat profusely while your hands freeze, if the temperature is close to freezing.
    Seeking shelter, the grouse sit tight among the boughs of softwood trees. The rain flushes away scent, making the dog’s work nearly impossible. In the country we hunt, the puddles form quickly making the ground a soft sponge. Grouse hiding in the branches of spruce and fir trees are mighty hard to find.

   The best thing about hunting grouse in the rain is a bowl of chowder or chili at the diner down the road. Or maybe it’s the dram of amber liquid back in the camp at the end of the day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Secret Place

In the shadows of the softwoods a small stream twists though the valley. On the east side of the narrow basin a four year old clearcut promises young buds, plenty of cover, and abundant seeds and fruit for grouse and song birds.  To the west a slightly older cutting provides shelter for nesting birds, with a forest so dense that marauding goshawks would have a difficult time weaving through the pole-sized young stems.
The song of the water is constant.
During a hot day, in a bird season a few years ago, that little ravine provided an abundance of partridge. The weather had been unusually warm for days and elsewhere the grouse hid in places the dogs could not find. Blown down firs and spruce slowed the hunt and clothes heavy with perspiration stuck to the skin to make walking a chore. The oldest German wirehair shared that special spot that day. Thundering wings wiped away the heat, lightened the sticky clothes, and provided a path through the fallen crisscrossed logs.
That cold tumbling brook is narrow enough to leap across in several places, yet deep enough to hide colorful brook trout that live amongst the shadows of spruce and fir roots. During hot summer weather the shade provides relief and the water cools the air. Tiny trout flies worked through the watery shadows can catch tiny wild brookies, but the canyons and caverns between the roots will break off the fine leaders required to fool them.
It’s a hidden place, visited by few. Sometimes, on a hot day summer day, I’ll let the dogs splash about to their heart’s content in the shadows of those softwoods. And if it is hot enough, one larger pool, with a bottom of fine gravel, is inviting enough to tempt me too.
But it’s October and it has been warm, so it’s time to visit that secret place again where the grouse like to stay cool.