The morning started out cold, the first one with sparkling white frost in a long time. In the valleys, thick fog might have hid most of the landscape, but the freezing mist that collected on the trees created a fairyland of white shapes.
|The sun was finally hitting the ground.|
Up in the mountains though, the sun tried to creep over the treetops, but hadn’t quite succeeded yet. The gravel logging road we followed gradually went up the hill, and at an old yard a giant yellow birch had fallen across, blocking further access except for those traveling on foot. From there on golden grasses laced with frost covered the road and our steps fell silently, the only sound being the ringing of the dogs' bells.
Where a small stream crossed, Chara, the older German wirehaired pointer, insisted on poking through a patch of alders. Wet ground made following her difficult, so I waited in the road. The younger wirehair, Colby, dashed about the woods on the upper side of the road, where maples, birch, and scattered fir grew on drier land. Neither of their bells ever slowed or stopped.
Up the road a bit, sunlight slipped in through a hole in the forest and lit a small area of ground on the low side. Chara stopped and pointed hard at the rubble that had been pushed up ages ago when the road was shaped. Colby froze when she saw her, standing almost a hundred feet up the road.
I hurried in and the bird burst into the air to escape down the hill, disappearing into the spruce and firs. We followed into the softwood trees and the bird re-flushed far ahead and almost out of sight. Nosing around further in, Chara did point another grouse, but it flushed far out of range as I approached.
|Colby with an early morning grouse.|
The damp ground squished with every step and sucked at our feet, so we fought our way back up to the road and continued up the slope. In another sunny stretch on the upper side Colby started to do the I-got-bird-scent-dance and soon locked up, looking very intense. Two birds flew on my approach and only one of them flew away, the other offering a foolishly easy shot for a ruffed grouse. Colby loves to bring a bird to hand.
Eventually the road brought us to another old logging yard, much like a small field on the side of the hill. Up on a high banking, where the sun warmed the ground, Chara pointed, her white coat looking bright in the sunlight.
When I climbed up onto the banking a big snowshoe hare dashed off, and I scolded Chara. Usually she ignores those oversized rabbits. And then a grouse exploded into the air about six feet behind me and to my left, flying along the side of the yard and offering an easy shot…if only I had been ready.
Fortunately, Chara forgives me my transgressions easily and we hunted on. The dogs were searching for birds, and I was looking for more of those spots where the sun warmed the ground.