|Colby, wondering why I can't keep up.|
The six inches of snow began to look more like eight. It hadn’t slowed the dogs, but with every step down the abandoned logging road I reminded myself how much more work it would be on the way back up. The forest looked like a fairy land, with snow stuck to the trees and still coming down. A half mile down the hill lay the covert that always has birds.
Where the thick softwoods opened up, near a trickle of a stream, a grouse exploded off to the left, unseen. Juno’s bell rang nearby, and obviously the young shorthair had bumped the bird. Yet the thunder of wings was still music to this hunter’s ears. Colby hunted doggedly off to the right.
|A frosted alder swamp.|
The first weekend in December can bring anything to the north woods, from bare ground to abundant snow. I had driven north under the premise of checking on the contractor doing work at Camp Grouse, but of course brought a shotgun and my girls.
Where the road dipped into a hollow and crossed a stream the dogs’ bells jingled off of either side. I stopped to listen. My two girls couldn’t have been happier, dashing back to check on me and then diving off into the woods again, and neither could I.
A short way further on a grouse exploded from a thicket only ten feet away, leaving but a glimpse.
|Snow silenced bell.|
The snow continued to fall, drowning most sounds and muffling the dog’s bells. Down the road a piece, Colby stopped beneath a fir tree and looked up. Approaching, a grouse sailed away down a steep slope into the safety of a dense softwood swamp.
Where the road met an alder thicket the dogs both got birdy, but none were found. Colby kept glancing up into the fir trees, but the pup still hadn’t figured out that grouse sometimes sit among the branches.
|Red twig dogwood among the alders.|
In the alder patch a moose had been feeding on red twig dogwood and, looking at the tracks in the snow, it had been there only minutes before our arrival. The creature’s scent must have lingered, because both dogs looked about apprehensively.
By then my legs felt like lead and the falling snow had turned to sleet. The dogs hadn’t slowed, but the deep snow had to have been work for them too. We turned around and started back.
It is nice to know those birds will be there in the spring to breed.
|Colby hunting the edges.|
|With tired legs, almost out of the woods.|
|Tired girls in front of the heater, back at Camp Grouse|