Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Grouse Camp is Open

    Last Friday Sally and I made the trek up to our North Country camp to open the place for the summer. Back in March, we opened the place up for a weekend, but it was too early then to leave the water on.  Now the place is ready for use.
Bear damage to camp
    Since our last visit, a bear in a sour mood decided to take a swipe at our place, removing a couple of saucer sized chunks out of the siding on back of the place and then biting a hunk out of the corner boards.  He was a tall sucker, because the bite on the corner is well over the top of my head.
    Right off the dogs bumped a family of grouse at the edge of the back yard.  The young were about the size of adults and flew easily up into the trees. For a few minutes it seemed there were grouse everywhere, which is a very good thing!
    My daughter, Tami, was visiting with her boyfriend, Chris, so we did some hiking to get ourselves in shape, as well as the dogs.  The dogs have been around long enough to know hiking from hunting, so they mostly pay attention to us rather than search for birds, but they still found a few grouse along the trails.
At the falls
    One day we did a two mile hike to falls in the nearby river, where we ate lunch on the granite ledges, soaked up some sun, and I bothered a few fish. The terrain was rugged enough, both coming and going, to wear us all down a bit, including the dogs, who I’m sure went three times as far as the rest of us. Did I mention they found a few grouse along the way?
    Below our camp, on the last day of our stay, I fished the stream that forms the west boundary of our property.  A dry spring made for low water, and the winter runoff had moved the streams course, eliminating one of my favorite fishing spots, but creating a long run under a grassy bank.
    The brook trout were suckers for a green wooly bugger fished along that run and in the pockets behind some submerged logs, and one even fell for one of my red tag coachman dries. Two of the largest trout came home for breakfast.
    So after trout and eggs the next morning, we packed things up, I put Thompson’s Water-seal on the deck, and then we left. On the way, we stopped a few miles to the south to visit for a short while with a longtime bird hunter, whose days in the woods are unfortunately all behind him now. One of the first things he asked was if we had seen any young birds.   

Monday, June 11, 2012

Opening up Grouse Camp

    Every spring it is the same thing, I make plans to fish as the ice comes out of the lakes and the landlocked salmon come up the streams, chasing the smelt. Or maybe I’ll fish the ponds as the ice fades away and the brookies are on top. And every year it’s the same old thing, I’m too busy with work.
    We live in a tourist destination, Martha’s Vineyard, and when the days get nice down in the cities, the summer homeowners start to remember all the things they wanted to have done before the next vacation season.  So the phone starts to ring, of which I am usually quite glad after waddling through the winter, and I get very busy, too busy.
    But this coming weekend we are finally sneaking away to Grouse Camp to open it up for the summer.  My daughter is visiting with her boyfriend, so there will be a lot of catching up to do, and hiking and puzzles and watching the warblers (there will be tons of them) from the deck.
    And at some point, I’ll sneak down to the trout stream below our place and wade into the water. There will be fish, none of them very big, but all nice brookies, and maybe I’ll bump a woodcock along the banks. It has happened often.
     And I bet I hear grouse drumming more than once.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Between Seasons

Photo by Dennis Swett

     It’s raining up north. I watch the weather forecasts for up there as closely as where we live, maybe more so. At least the young grouse and woodcock of the year should be big enough to generate their own body heat and have honest-to-goodness feathers, rather than just down. Hopefully, almost all of them will survive.
     Often, I find myself looking at USGS Aerial images on my Android phone, and none of them are of where we live, but rather the country I’ll hunt come fall. I’d love to be up there right now trout fishing, so I could listen for the drumming birds, but my work has me trapped down here in the flat lands.  Life could be much worse though, there are two bird dogs sleeping in the den with me, both dreaming with their legs twitching. I wish they could tell me about their dreams later.
     Periodically, I open the gun safe and take out my favorite double, shoulder it a few times, remind myself to go shooting more often, and then put it away. I dig out the list of things to bring hunting, just to double check it, maybe add or subtract something, and then put it away. The new little trout and bird knife that I got for Christmas will get a few strokes on an Arkansas stone. It’s always good to be ready ahead of time.
Drumming grouse,
photo by Dennis Swett
     Daily I walk the dogs. I find it easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. The dogs enjoy it as much as I do, and I love to watch them work the fields and woods. Every once in a while they point a turkey, which always creates a good story and usually a laugh. Maybe once or twice a year they’ll find a woodcock out back, but sadly there are no ruffed grouse here.
     How many days did you say it was until bird season?