The fist snow usually isn’t a hard or driving snow, more likely drifting flakes that accumulate slowly, or maybe even melt as they touch the ground. Sometimes it is silent, the soft flakes absorbing all other sound in the woods, but more often the flakes are harder and bounce off still clinging leaves, creating a sound like millions of tiny bells.
Clothing is adjusted to keep the flakes off of one’s neck, maybe gloves come out if they aren’t already on. The dogs hunt just they did as before the snow started and I often wonder if they even notice it. But later, when the hunting is done for the year and the snow is deep, they will prance and play in the stuff, caught up in wonder just as we are.
Sometimes the partridge disappear with the arrival of the first snow, yet other times they seem to sense an urgency and come out looking for that last good meal before winter covers everything over. Lingering woodcock will wander to the bare ground under a nearby softwood tree, or maybe the soft wet ground along a stream that melts the freshly fallen snow. Even the dogs know this and look for them there in accumulating new snow.
Yet the snow reminds us that winter is coming and soon our hunting will be done. Later, when the snow gets too deep for the dogs to work, the guns will get a final cleaning and be tucked away in their safe. In the meantime we must collect memories to savor through the dark winter nights.