Yeah, so here we are again. Time flew but it seemed like a long wait, anyway. Looked for grouse, and found some, in the second spot we tried. The first spot was too high and dry to hold the forest chickens, and – after a rough initial hike tripping up through some awful Medusa-head-covered mini-boulders, serenaded by mini-twirps ripping around on souped-up ATVs at a campsite below me – I remembered that the only time I’d seen grouse in this spot was in the winter. D’oh! Still, Angus found a covey of Hungarian partridge in the high grass on the ridge top, and Peat displayed what’s now become his trademark honoring of Angus – just a beautiful thing to behold, especially from such a live-wire of a dog.
So we drove down the canyon to a creek I knew had water and, probably, grouse. Within 5 minutes the dogs busted an impressive flock of wild turkeys which must have boggled Peat’s tiny mind because their awkward aviating boggled my tiny mind, especially when they landed at the tops of spindly trees. 15 more minutes and I’d shot two ruffed grouse. Surely I could limit out in another half-hour. But two hours later it was still the deuce. Then a rock-solid point by Peat along the creek, backed nicely (and unusually) by Angus: I crept up and readied. Both dogs posed at the edge of a small cliff above the creek, and looked straight down at the water. Losing patience but not wanting (thankfully) to jump, Angus found a way down to the water, triggering a spectacular burst of birds that initially appeared to be the biggest covey of grouse I’d ever witnessed but – when my tiny, slow brain caught up with the spectacle – registered as chukar. Numerous waves of chukar, whose mid-day thirst-slaking Angus interrupted, departed, numbering in the several-dozen. I’d hiked up this creek many times before, but had never seen these birds in the water. Predictions for a good chukar season appear accurate.
A few minutes later, another sizeable covey flew past us higher up the hill. Then Angus busted a big ruffed grouse and I managed to drop it in the dense foliage along the creek. I wondered if either dog saw it fall. A few seconds later, Peat burst up onto the trail with the large bird and brought it right to me. Good dog, happy man.
When I got back I was tired. I checked my GPS and found I’d hiked a mile more than my longest hunt last year. And for grouse. Don’t get me wrong: I’m very grateful for these delicious birds. But eagerness can lead to over-indulgence. All three of us are sore today. And I’m grateful to feel the slight remorse after a successful hunt, which I noticed was missing as I drove home yesterday. It made me slightly sad to think I’d become desensitized. If that does happen, I’ll have to think about putting away the gun. I hope not, at least for a while. After all, these dogs would never forgive me, and I’d miss that thing you only get when hunting.