Monday, August 29, 2011

Shangri La

It was three seasons ago, before our pup Colby joined our clan, that we discovered Shangri La.  The first part of the day Don Pouliot and I hunted woodcock cover that we’d been poking through together for over thirty-five years, and it was full of memories and one woodcock.  Then we hunted a spot just down the river and found loads of flight birds.  It seemed every few steps Chara pointed another woodcock, but I was on a royal missing streak.  The way things were going, it didn’t look like I’d ever reach my limit, which meant I could hunt forever and I tried to tell myself that was a good thing.  By the time we left there we already had a full day’s fun and a couple of woodcock.
Don suggested trying to find a place he’d hunted before, deep in the national forest.  The drive there wasn’t long and we tucked the truck into the parking place that he remembered.  The hike in was down an old skid road that skirted the edge of a cutting and a ledge, and then went through some very rugged country along more mature timber to our east.  I remember thinking it looked like an easy place to get turned around in, and I was glad to have Don as company.  He’s easily the best woodsman I know.
Where the land flattened out we turned to the right and toward the river.  The trees weren’t large, maybe as big around as my thigh, mostly hardwoods with small scattered stands of fir and spruce.  In places the ground was wet and we had to make detours, but the going was more or less flat. 
Chara started to find woodcock in clusters, sometimes walking only a few steps between points.  Often she would point and then, on the flush and shot, another would take off or sometimes even two.  I had never seen so many woodcock.
My missing streak continued, but when Chara pointed a partridge next to a small clearing, I killed it easily.  Well, at least Don saw the bird fall. The way my luck had been going, I felt I had missed, but Chara found the bird belly-up in the leaves.
We hunted along the river, loosing count of birds pointed and shots fired.  Unlikely as it seemed, we met other hunters working up the river towards us, so we altered our course away from the water and inland.  Later that day, while driving out of the forest, we spotted their parked car and could tell that they had waded the river downstream to hunt back up toward us.
My shooting problem was firing too fast while the birds were still way too close.  I knew that and I tried to slow things down…focus on the bird, take a deep breath, and then raise the gun to shoot.  Nothing seemed to work.  I finally shot a woodcock, but hit the bird when it was so near that the shot charge carried away the bird’s head.
We worked back around toward the cutting and into a stand of softwoods, where a pair of partridge flushed almost under my feet and behind an old fallen tree trunk.  They roared off low over the ground and with a lucky crossing shot to my right I added another to my game bag.
When we found the old logging road we traipsed uphill and back to my truck.  My legs were beyond weary and actually hurt, but day had certainly been worth it.  Chara pointed more birds in the previous couple of hours than she did sometimes in a whole week.  I will never forget it. 
That day we had worked our way far enough from our camp that the drive back would take almost an hour, and on the way I mentioned that we needed to stop to pick up a few things at the grocery store.  Don asked if we were going to shop at the big store on the right side of the highway, or the smaller store on the left.  I remember telling him that I didn’t think my legs could do the bigger store.

It is all so true...

I don’t remember where I saw this, so won’t take any credit any of it, but it’s so true….
You might be a grouse hunter if:
you're still looking for a "lighter" shotgun
your truck has a lot of scratches on it
nobody knows where you hunt
your wife has the GPS coordinates & instructions for "Search and Rescue"
your hero is a man named Llewellin
you've NEVER EVER spoiled a bird dog
obviously you know what "ruffed" means
you own a 28 gauge
you shoot with both eyes wide open
you've ever successfully pulled off a "shot from the hip"
the floor board of your truck is covered with empties
the dashboard has 2 left-handed gloves
there's a bottle of Ibuprofen in the glove box
your legs lock up in the middle of the night
you're on the lookout for a "lighter" pair of boots
your key rack has a whistle hanging on it
your hands don't heal up till Easter
you like a dog with "ticks"
you don't mind being alone
your favorite pants have never been washed
nobody poses when you take a "snapshot"
you're not a "meat hunter"
you miss a lot
you don't care that you miss a lot
you've got tail feathers on the wall
you know how to tell the sex of a woodcock
you've been "turned around" but NEVER lost
you know how to use a compass
you think strip mines look kinda nice
Autumn Olive is your favorite tree
your dog box is in the back of your truck year-round
your dog rides in the cab with you
at least one of your kids has ridden in the dog box
your hat falls off a lot
your dog can "hunt dead" for a lost glove
you don't like summer vacations
your idea of a "get away" is Grand Junction, Tennessee
you can say "King Ruff" & "Thunder King" with a straight face
you've ever traded a deer rifle in on a shotgun
you keep pictures of your dog at the office (or in your wallet)
you can't wait for the leaves to fall
you like to walk logging roads
you don't wear fleece
you hate windy days
the forearms of your favorite shirt are tattered
you keep finding feathers on the floor
you've ever slept on the couch with a setter pup
you find dog hair in your cereal
you walk the golf course just to get in shape for hunting season
your dogs wear "jingle bells" on Christmas
and you're tired of hearing, "You hunt what??"

If anyone knows the author I’d love to give them credit.

Turkeys in the Yard

We are guests at another home for the next few weeks, which is a story I won’t go into at the moment, and it’s a beautiful home on a knoll close enough to the ocean to almost always hear the sea.  This morning, early, Sally went out with our three dogs to take them for a walk.  My mind was in a Sporting Classics magazine while I sipped coffee.
                Right after the screen door shut with a click, I heard “Whoa”.  That got my attention.  Through the window to my left I could see mom turkey with five young.
                Mom looked nervous.  The pheasant-sized young were oblivious.
                The screen door opened and Sally led the pack back in. 
                How cool is that?