It has been raining almost since we arrived here on Friday. On the way up we drove in rain most of the way and the rain caught up soon after our arrival. Since then it has rained almost constantly, a light soaking rain, sometimes more of a mist, but relentless. It is Monday as I write this, the first day of the bird season.
After watching the rain for three hours, I started late, leaving the house about nine, driving to the dump first and then up a bumpy road into old farm country on a hill, to walk down the snowmobile trail that has been a favorite. At first I felt cold and wished I’d worn gloves and cursed the weather royally.
Just beyond the dip in the tail, where the old mountain ash stands off to the left, Chara pointed into a softwood thicket on the right side, Colby honored like a champ. The trees were about the diameter of my wrist and barely far enough apart to pass between. I scurried up there just in time to see old Mister Grouse fleeing down the hill on foot. My attempt to head him off proved useless and the dogs never found the bird again.
Further down the road the two dogs pointed a grouse on the left side of the road, again in a softwood thicket. At least that chunk of forest I could enter standing erect, and the bird did offer a glimpse of a shot, but my first barrel went over and my second one shattered the branches beneath where he had been. If another hunter had been in the tote road that bird might have been dead, for that was his chosen escape route.
Down the road near the big field, where there are alders on the sides, the dogs became birdy. Chara locked up on a point, but I couldn’t produce a bird. Finally I coaxed them on, only to have the bird flush behind me. I threw some lead after it, mostly to entertain the dogs.
We hunted off toward a stand of limby spruce where I’d found birds in lousy weather before, but when we got there they had been cut and only an opening in the forest existed where it used to be a stand of fat field grown spruce. It must have been an annoying chore to limb those threes! The branches were so low to the ground a man would have had to do some limbing just to get near the trunk to cut them down.
I led the dogs to the northeast corner of the field to hunt an area that had been a favorite, but the last time I’d hunted it I thought it was going past its prime. Loggers had been in there within the past year and punched some holes in the forest, which is the best thing for the grouse and I was glad to see it. We found two in there, one of which my girls pointed, but the bird flushed through a thicket that offered no shot. About then I was sweating profusely and wishing I’d worn less clothes, and, in spite of the rain, I had my shirt unbuttoned to my navel.
We hunted back down the slope into a softwood cutting. It looked like great grouse cover there and almost immediately Chara went into overdrive tracing scent. The area had been cut long enough ago that the young trees are tight together in clusters about ten feet tall, with maple and birch poking up in between. I would push through one softwood thicket as Chara went under another and around and around we went, until finally she stopped on point. It took more than a minute to find her and then I had to plan an approach. I circled the fir thicket she hid in, but nothing came out. I waded in and a woodcock went straight up through the branches and out of sight. Stuck inside that tight cluster of trees there was never any point in even trying to mount the gun.
By that time we were running late, why I ever promised to be back for lunch I do not know, so I herded the dogs back to the trail. Just beyond that dip again, Chara got birdy as all hell on the right hand side, but off to the left I heard a partridge take off for the a different zip code. Apparently the bird was taking no chances.
We were three minutes late getting back for lunch.