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October 2, 2012

Woodcock hunting season begins

Wells, Me.---The years change and we get older, but the flow of nature seems to be unending. Although we are hunting with the offspring of dogs gone by and we ourselves are getting slower, some of the covers we hunt have been there our whole lifetime, welcoming us back each year like old friends waiting to pick up a conversation that simply continues.

Memories of days gone by mingle with the reality of the moment, sometimes merging as we round a familiar bend in the brook or slip over a knoll that has always had the apple tree. And, the woodcock and grouse that burst up from the alders are surely descendants of the same birds we hunted here thirty years ago. Thoughts of the past come easily now.

Magic running through alders, head down and nostrils flaring, trying to suck up every scintilla of scent the moist earth below had to offer. His brother, Pirate, a blur of white off to the left as he too coursed through the Maine woods, trying to snuffle up a migrating woodcock. There is nothing like watching two young English Setters strut their stuff on the opening day of upland bird season, even when the woods is wet and the earth under foot sopping with the drizzling rain.

Although the dwellings along the main road to the north have changed from a few farms to a plethora of new homes, the woods along the brook have remained remarkably the same. It is the resting place for thousands of woodcock that flood through here both on their way north in the early spring and on their way south in the fall.

Pirate wheeled around the end of a small trickle that flowed out of a plateau of hardwoods and came to a skidding halt. He froze into a classic setter point, his whole body trembling in anticipation. As his nostrils filled with the sent of the hiding bird, he turned his head toward a clump of grass near a knob of alders. His tail slowly rose from straight out behind him to straight up in the air. His frame was stock still, but he just couldn’t control all of his muscles. They twitched like they wee getting a thousand tiny shocks a second.

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