About two years ago I hunted up a hill toward a covert that I’d discovered only two or three years before. Mixed softwoods and young hardwoods cloaked the lower slope of the hill, but then the forest turned to hardwoods, primarily sugar maples with a few young beech mixed in, with almost no understory, creating what almost felt like a park. To the east the land sloped down into softwoods and eventually a stream, but up ahead I knew a small knoll, covered with pole-size spruce and fir, always contained grouse.
That small bump in the topography was always something of a puzzle. Beyond it a few young softwoods mixed with a smattering of young hardwoods, but nothing that I would have ever considered a food source for ruffed grouse. Yet for several years this spot always produced birds and an abundance of memories.
On the last hunt there the previous fall, a friend and I saw that a porcupine had chewed on dozens of trees. Up the hill to the west a small sugar shack sat waiting for spring, and when you stood next to it there wasn’t an un-chewed tree to be seen.
But on that hunt two years ago, I noticed something didn’t look quite right when I looked through the maples on the hill. The sky was different or something. And then I realized the forest ended about where that small knoll rose, and beyond a large clearcut opened up exposing the sky.
My first reaction was disappointment. Walking out into the cutting I could look to the west and see the ridgeline. It looked like the opening in the forest might be as large as a hundred acres. Almost no slash was left behind, which made for easy walking, but already root sprouts were knee-high and young raspberries poked through the ground.
I realized that soon the new growth would be taller than I and providing cover for grouse and woodcock. The covert that I remembered was past its time and soon would have faded away, but the new cutting meant rejuvenation.
Later that fall I hunted the far side of that cutting, working to the west and up to the ridge. Near the height of the land and among some spruce the dogs found partridge and I killed one. The cycle had already started.