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Maine memories that will last forever

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    The scenery in Maine was breathtaking, and provided the perfect scenic backdrop for some great grouse hunting. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published November 09. 2019 01:30AM

I couldn’t remember driving so long without a protest from the peanut gallery, but all the dogs were zonked out in their crates. We’d been after grouse for six days in northwestern Maine. It was their turn to sleep and rest, while they left me alone to untangle the long road home.

After about 11 hours, I was turning onto my driveway, but ready in a heartbeat to turn around and go back. The weather had been challenging and I’d missed a lot of birds. But encapsulated in those days were some moments that although fleeting, created memories that I know will last forever.

I stayed at a place called Bosebuck Mountain Camps, where the hosts Mike and Wendy through incredibly hard work behind the scenes manage to create a very comfortable experience for their guests. I remember the first day, coming back around four p.m., cold, wet, exhausted and seeing the wood stove smoke rising from the chimney of my cabin.

My young dog Homer had been in on the first grouse on the trip. We had walked up a discontinued logging road, where the culverts had been removed (to make it impassable by vehicle) creating deep ditches. The dwindling path had grown in thickly on both sides but surrounded by fairly open timber

Near the top, Homer slowed into what I call his panther walk. His normal gait is a hell-for-leather dash, usually with both ears inside out as he pounds the ground. Earlier, he had busted a grouse just as we started up the trail, and the disappointment was plain in his reaction to that as our eyes met. I didn’t say anything, and he’d continued at a reasonable pace.

I saw him start the panther walk so I stopped and started thinking about shooting lanes. On point Homer was much higher in terrain than I was. The grouse flushed seemingly straight up and when it cleared the surrounding treetops, I shot it. As it fell from that, it drifted over a ravine and went to the ground somewhere over the next ridge.

The only thing Homer saw was the direction I shot. At my happy command Dead Bird Fetch he jetted out, first searching hard the length of the ravine. He popped out without the bird, looked at me, and it was as if he had reoriented himself. From there he ran in a line to where I’d seen the bird drop from sight; he went over the ridge and disappeared from sight.

He was gone so long I had just had the thought that I should call him, and he appeared. His eyes were mere slits of happiness above his muzzle, where he held the grouse. I slipped the bird into my vest and happily we started back down the mountain. It was misty and cold; we were both elated.

Homer’s father Jamie had a tougher time. He got into a leg-hold trap early, yelping in surprise, but fortunately I was able to easily release him unharmed. Just a few minutes later he seemed to slam into a gorgeous point, but it wasn’t a point – he was in a stare down with a moose. It was a “small” moose – if there is such a thing – about a 300 pounder. They stared at each other until I started yelling, and the moose turned and walked away from us.

But after those two things, although Jamie was hunting there was an element of apprehension to his movements. His tail wasn’t happily batting back and forth as he ran, and he checked in often, coming back to me – not himself. Soon he seemed to forget about his experiences and started to range out nicely.

The grouse he pointed was under the overhanging boughs of a young black spruce tree. I knew from prior misses that if I walked closer, the grouse would flush out behind the tree, leaving me no shot through the thick evergreens. So, we all just stood still, seemingly for a long time. Then the grouse actually walked out into the open, looking for just a flash of time at me and Jamie before it flew, rising almost gently, not blasting out as they usually do. I dropped it and Jamie made the retrieve.

It was a great week with grouse flushes and contacts every day, despite rough weather, lots of rain and one day with tree-snapping wind. It was a ruffed grouse hunt without “ruffing” it, and I highly recommend Bosebuck for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and sightseeing in Maine.

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