Sunday, December 11, 2011

Back to The Valley

     The drive in is about nine miles over a small mountain, and the after crossing the river it is either left further into the wilderness, or to the right and another nine or ten miles back out to the a different paved road.  We went left.
     About another six miles up the road I parked in the same place that I did back the end of October.  The woods looked more open, with the weeds squashed down by snow that had come and gone.  Every tree was stark naked, not a leaf remained anywhere except on the ground.
     Alders, twice as tall as I, cover an old logging yard there.  Behind them the land climbs gradually upward with lofty hardwoods growing among old spruce and fir.  Across the road young fir trees huddle together like cliques in a school yard, each separated by open expanses of bent or flattened weeds and grass.  Scattered maples and poplar sprouts remained upright, obviously unfazed by the earlier snow.
     Chara pranced a few steps from the truck and locked up on point, staring into the alders.  Hurrying shells into my gun, I slid by her and a partridge disappeared into the limbs of fir trees.
     We hunted behind the alders, more or less parallel with the road, and then crossed to the lower side, drifting between the clusters of fir trees.  About the sixth clump Chara’s hind end went into over-drive and then she froze, pointing into a tangle of green needles and gray trunks.   In the shadows I saw a boulder poking out of the earth, and as I committed to walk around the left side of the trees the partridge burst out of the right, a sound unseen.
     The scenario was played out again, and then again.  Two hunters might have shot some birds.
     Chara pointed into another cluster of firs, older ones this time, and I approached silently across bright green moss.  A partridge that looked the size of a turkey exploded almost at my feet.  Reflexes brought my gun to my shouleder, but as I slapped the trigger the bird ducked around a yellow birch trunk, which collected most of the shot.  I swear Chara struggled to control a laugh.
     A ways further a bird flushed wild from a thicket of raspberries, and another was pointed on the way back to the truck, but both escaped unscathed.
     Unloading my gun and putting it into the truck, I congratulated myself on the valiant conservation effort and the breeding stock that I have left behind.  Chara looked quite proud of herself, as she should with about a half dozen successful points. 
     Another spot further up the road deserved the same treatment.  There the thick new growth of a fifteen year old clearcut covered the hillside above the road.  Chara plunged in and I followed as best I could along wet and lumpy skid trails.  We didn’t find any birds and, if we had, I doubt shooting would have been possible in that thicket.  Eventually our course brought us back out to the logging road about a half mile from the truck. 
     We dropped to the lower side and worked back between the road and a roaring mountain stream.  Nearing the truck Chara’s hind end went into overdrive and, with her nose scouring the ground, she obviously followed a traveling grouse.  The trail went through thick grass, under clusters of young fir, beneath a blown down dead fir tree, directly over the top of a moss-covered boulder, across a log, back into a stand of little fir trees, and then into some raspberries that had claws like a bobcat.

     About fifty feet ahead of us, at the edge of the logging road, old Mr. Partridge decided he had enough and burst up and over the road, to never be seen again.
It was time to call it a day.

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