Monday, August 27, 2018

Late August

October still seems a long ways off. Hot muggy weather makes each day pass slowly. Maggie, our youngest wirehair, spends much of each day in a cool depression dug into the earth beneath the deck. Colby, our older wire, doesn’t seem to mind the heat at all and sleeps in the driveway.
The best parts of each day are the cool hours in the morning before the sun climbs high and as the heat fades when the late sun disappears over the distant hills.
After dinner each day, we walk the hundred yards from our home to the vegetable garden to see how things have progressed. The dogs love the routine and Maggie usually runs big sweeps around the field, as if on patrol, while Colby will stay back near the house, as if guarding it in our absence. It is a routine we all enjoy. Lately, apples dropped from a wild tree have been tossed for retrieving.
But tonight, as Maggie trotted along the edge of the field, she was jerked to a stop as if tethered to a snubbed leash. I hurried over and walked into the woods ahead of her point. A woodcock tweetered upward and away thirty feet beyond her nose.
Isn’t life grand?

Monday, August 20, 2018


Hot weather and humidity, it is not a favorite time of the year. Outside chores are grueling and the dogs spend their days in cool holes dug beneath the deck. Grasshoppers and crickets ratchet their hot weather songs, sometimes unbelievably loud. Haze turns distant hillsides a bluish gray. Thunderstorms that promise short periods of cooler temperatures slip by to the north or south and never fulfill their possibilities.
Trips to the lakes cool us off and the dogs enjoy retrieving from the cold water. Early mornings are the time to get things done. By noontime it is best to hide in the shade or slip back up to the lakes. Ice cream beckons. We try to remember our plight is nowhere near as bad as for those living further to the south.
But the spring was dry and the weather favorable for broods of grouse, so life is good. Without looking for grouse we find them along the roads and they explode next to hiking trails on early morning walks. Friends ask about the upcoming grouse season and I answer, “Optimistic.”
But I do that every year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


This is from my journal, seven years ago...

My oldest German wirehair, Chara, was ten this summer.  When I stroke her whiskers back I notice cloudiness in her eyes that wasn’t there before.  Her spirit is still strong, maybe stronger than mine, but she is quite content to curl up on a rug and wait for something to happen.  Yet on walks she still hunts for mice and points song birds for her own entertainment, and physically she is still strong.    With the excitement of a pup, she runs for the back door at the sound of the bell on her hunting collar.  Chara’s colors are white and liver, so the new white hairs aren’t as noticeable as if she were darker, but I do see white flecks where solid liver used to be.  Age catches us all.
Pointing as a pup.
          Inside her head are ten seasons of experience, starting with her first season when she pointed quail at five months of age.  I don’t remember if she retrieved them, but I killed several quail over her points that first fall.  The following season we hunted woodcock and ruffed grouse, and I can remember every detail of her first wild bird, a woodcock shot in Randolph, New Hampshire, at the end of a very long day afield.
So many days in a duck blind.
          I remember her first duck hunt and how she retrieved a mallard as if she’d done it a hundred times before.  And the first pheasant she pointed, in a field of low cut grass, where I was so convinced that she was false pointing that I never even raised my gun when the big squawking cock finally flew.
          Last season was her best ever, pointing grouse after grouse, almost never bumping a bird.  Certain days stick in my mind and I hope they always will.  Pointing side by side with our younger dog, she never looked better.  With tremendous luck I killed the first partridge of the season, on opening day, while the two dogs pointed shoulder to shoulder.  The retrieve was a bit contentious and they each somehow ended up with a wing, but remembering it makes me smile. 
          So I have to wonder how much longer Chara will hunt.  This season looks like a sure thing, which is good because the bird numbers are up.  Our two year old German wirehaired pointer, Colby, learns much hunting with Chara and hopefully will continue to absorb the older dog’s wisdom.  At times Chara appears impatient with the younger dog, but more often seems oblivious to the youngster’s presence.  Colby honors easily, almost never interrupting one of Chara’s points, obviously respecting the older dog’s rank.  TA few times last season Colby pointed partridge on her own, along with dozens of woodcock, none of which I’m not sure would have happened without Chara’s example.
          Now Chara dreams on the rug by my feet.  I see her feet twitch and hear muffled barks or chirps, and sometimes even a low growl.  I wonder if she recalls the same events I do, and, if so, what her favorite memories are. 
          Chara will remain top dog until the day she is done, and I plan to make certain she knows it.  We have a long history together.

Chara lived on to hunt fifteen seasons, what a time we had.    

Forever in the grouse woods.