Bob and I stood there at the bottom of the mountain for a couple of minutes looking up the steep ridge and up to a rocky outcropping high up on the ridgetop. We scanned the terrain for obvious paths made by animals. These paths usually prove to be the easier route up to the place in the rocks where we hope to find some chukar. Bob hollered at Peat and Angus to go find some birds, and our dogs, just like wild animals, naturally followed these old paths. We followed the dogs.
I headed up the rocky game path with my head down, lifting one foot front in front of the other, and I’d count twenty steps before allowing myself to catch my breath for a second, and then I’d dizzily look around to see if the dogs were onto birds.
Game paths are habits of the landscape. Some are straight, some are meandering, some cross through creek beds lined with hawthorns and aspen trees, and a few have dead ends. We have been beckoned by and followed many hundreds of miles of these ancient paths chukar hunting the past few years and have followed ghostly footprints left in the snow, mud, and dew. We have stopped to examine tracks of elk, deer, rabbits, mice, snakes, turkeys, coyotes, chukar, cougar, wolves, and our own dogs’ paw prints.
Humans are animals too and we make tracks in the icy snow and slippery mud. Our footprints and scent are now obvious to the next traveler. Walking on these paths veining the earth makes us feel human, they make us feel more connected with nature. There are beautiful things we will never see unless we walk on these paths.
6 Replies to “Old Paths”
Amen Leslie. Thank all of those animals for showing us the way. Other wise most of us would have to stay on the flat lands. Each year I have depended on game trails more and more.
Larry, yes those animals know best especially on those steep side hill traverses.
I do have to admit that the only time I fell hard this year where I rolled down the mountain was because of a muddy game trail. Hard packed ice or slippery mud on game trails are the only times of avoid them.
Bob and I are hiking further every year, we depend on them more and more too. Thanks for your comment.
Another great post Leslie!
Thank you Sam.
A post on a chukar blog that doesn’t show a bunch of dead chukars? What is this world coming too?
And I like it. Keep ’em coming.
I spend a lot of time in the summer hiking into remote lakes without trails. A lot of times I approach the lake from high on some ridge. I look things over, pick a route, and head down. It is interesting how often an animal trail is already there. They know the best routes.
I was born and raised in Portland, so the Deschutes RIver canyon was the closest (and once damn good) chukar hunting. Back in about 1990 Iwas hunting a favorite area and noticed a bunch of animal trails that I did not remember seeing before. Over the course of several hunts I was confused to see these trails in some seriously steep areas. Were the deer suddenly taking to steep areas? Then I found out that the bighorn sheep reintroduced further north had migrated south to where I was hunting. No wonder the trails lead to what seemed to me to be impossibly steep cliffs for deer.
Larry, thanks for noticing the lack of dead birds on my post. If people want to see piles of dead chukar they can go to Instagram or another chukar hunting blog to get their fix. We rarely take photos of our dead birds. I personally hate photos of dead chukar and tailgate shots although we have been known to post a few on here over the years.
On one of our Oregon hunting trips this year, I noticed game trails up a steep cliff side made by bighorn sheep. Although tempting it’s best to stay clear. Peat had no problem navigating them although I was cringing while watching him from afar.
We’ve ended up at the bottom of so many draws and creek bottoms trying to figure out how to get to the other side through the thick brush. Follow a game trail, it’ll usually end up taking you to safe passage to the other side even though you might have to crawl on your hands and knees in order to do so.