Monday, March 25, 2013

Grouse Country, March

     We drove up to grouse camp last week, arriving along with a foot of fluffy new snow. It didn’t look like much snow had been in the woods before that last foot fell, and the new stuff was almost a pleasure to shovel, it was so light.
    Our usual routine is to hike with the dogs, so that is what we did, finding places that were plowed or packed. In some places the snow in the woods was deep enough that the dogs only made short forays into the pucker brush, but in others they hunted as if it were for real. Twice while we were out we spied grouse sitting in poplar trees to feed.
     Back at the house the books called to me. There are still several by George Bird Evans that remain unread. Last fall I lucked into a half dozen of his books from an old friend, so I savored two of them along with a daub or two of single malt. Then I re-read Guy De LA Valdene’s Making Game: An Essay on Woodcock. What a fascinating character he is. Old Shooting Sportsman and Gray’s Sporting Journal magazines are piled all over the place, so they constantly distracted me. One afternoon Nick Karas book Brook Trout held my attention for hours, so it isn’t always about bird hunting. I even thought about tying trout flies at one point, but thinking about it was as far as I got.
     The last afternoon I snuck out with the dogs to walk down to the stream below the house. It’s decent grouse country, and deer sometimes yard in the softwoods along the stream if the snow is deep. The snow wasn’t deep though and the dogs thought it was a treat to hunt. Stream banks softened with bright-white rounded snow banks are always beautiful and the water sounded the same as in the summertime. On the way back we worked closer to the hill and the hardwoods, and the younger wirehair worked herself into a frenzy over scent. And then a grouse exploded out of the upper limbs of a craggy old white cedar. Both dogs stopped to watch her leave, and then went back to hunting with their hind ends in overdrive.
     All too soon it was time to head back home to where life’s mundane tasks waited. Driving down through the mountains and trying to do the math in my head, I came up with 191 days until grouse season.