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.