The 25th of January, 2009, last day of
So it was that we found ourselves at the covert called Broken Rib, crashing through thick stands of 20’ pines for porcupine meadow. Winter sun overhead, 20 degrees, crusted snow. The two pups knew their business and hunted independently. Once at the meadow we tracked the line of white pine that rims the lower edge: Lilly and I upslope; Dean and Mauser down slope. Occasional seeps create breaks of barberries and laurel through the pines, about the only place where I could see Dean, only 20 yards down slope.
At the first seep Lilly began a series of points that pulled me further and further upslope, away from the pine barrier. Four points and nothing. Old scent? Just then I heard two shots from Dean. Four grouse had flushed from the pines and his second shot brought a fountain of feathers but no bird. We followed the flight path of the wounded bird, crossing a creek, cutting through pines and eventually emerging onto a laurel covered talus slope. Roughly eighty yards from where it had flushed, the grouse was found running on the ground. Dean grabbed it. We celebrated briefly, then pushed on.
Dean, Mauser, grouse
Back at the lower end of porcupine meadow more grouse flushed from in front of Dean. I heard and saw nothing. Then, a bird flushed wild from the pines. I allowed a lapse in judgment, taking two pot shots even though Lilly had not been part of the transaction. The red gods did not approve of my poor judgment.
We pushed on, still only half an hour into the hunt. Then, not 30 feet from where Lilly had her first encounter with a porcupine, Lilly went on point. I snapped a photo then walked into the pines. Nothing. Lilly ran past me and pointed again, feet away from the log where I had pulled dozens of quills from her jowls on New Year’s day. I walked past her and heard grouse flush on Dean’s side of the copse: one; two; three. A bird emerged overhead. I brought the gun up hard, and, to my relief, the bird dropped to earth, full of lead ballast. Thus spake the Parker!
Spawn of Artemis executes a perfect point
What ensued was a bazaar period of parallel activity, i.e., pandemonium. Lilly had broken at the flush and anticipating the trajectory of the birds flight was blind to its fall. As I called her back for the retrieve, I became aware of barking from Deans direction. Lilly stumbled upon the bird, then completed the worst retrieve of her brief career. I hadn’t worked with her on retrieving since early fall and she played with the bird before reluctantly delivering it to hand. I was elated – point, flush, shot, bird, retrieve! Only then did I hear Dean’s shouts of desperation. I cut short the celebration with Lilly and went to investigate.
While I had been focused on grouse, Mauser, the 6 month old GSP, had discovered the thrill of mauling Grandpa Porcupine, who waddled just yards from where Lilly had earlier made his acquaintance. After initially recoiling, the versatile hunting dog was clearly getting ready for retribution when Dean stepped in, noting that Grandpa P now sported very few quills on his back, thanks to two young GSPs. Things were under control by the time I arrived with Lilly on leash, although Mauser’s jowls and leg were bristling with quills. By the time I was able to photograph the scene Dean had removed many of the quills. We pulled the remaining quills and the pup seemed none the worse for wear. Onward Ho!
No more grouse were encountered, to my recollection, but we finished the hunt in high spirits. I do remember a joyous feeling as the bird in my game pouch bounced rhythmically against my back. The 2008 season now closed, I’m looking forward to 2009.
Now that's what it's all about!