It happened a couple of years ago, we were about twelve miles in the woods, two or three from where we had parked the truck, trying to find our way to a particular lake using old logging roads and snowmobile trails. The three dogs were with us, Chara, the oldest German wirehaired pointer trotting not far ahead, Colby, our youngster GWP staying maybe a hundred yards ahead, and Bella, our crazy Vizsla bouncing around somewhere between the two.
The dogs knew we weren’t hunting but hiking, so mostly they stayed on the trail and only made occasional short forays into the trees.
After walking almost an hour over a ridge on hot sunny logging roads, we had dropped down into a valley, where a narrow snowmobile trail took off to the east through thick hardwoods. The dense understory on both sides and abundant foliage overhead made it feel like a tunnel.
Near a stream, Chara trotted off to the left and stopped twenty feet from the path. I stopped too, thinking grouse.
Bella noticed Chara standing still and galloped in. Her usual routine was to bolt toward Chara but then to circle around to pin the bird between the two of them. Instead, she stopped almost beside Chara.
The two of them stared into the woods, not in what I would call a bird dog’s point, but with heads held high as if trying to see.
And then about thirty feet beyond the dogs the bushes shook and something large moved. My first thought was “deer”, because that is what it would have been back home. But I didn’t see a deer and the critter only moved a few feet. What I did catch was a glimpse of something dark, and then I lost sight of it among the moving undergrowth.
We could hear something not far away moan like an infant. And then toenails scratched on bark. The two dogs never moved. Our third dog, Colby, came trotting back and I stopped her with a “whoa”.
I said, “This way girls,” and the dogs agreeably turned so we could hurry on our way.