Sportsman’s Corner: Solitude

  • Laney and Dinah, the columnist’s French Brittany bird dogs. submitted photo

Published: 10/10/2019 9:39:18 PM
Modified: 10/10/2019 9:39:07 PM

This tome is being written Monday at the Chateaugay Public Library in Chateaugay, New York. This morning, there was the constant pitter-patter of raindrops on the metal roof of the hunting camp which will be home for Dinah and Laney, my two intrepid French Brittany bird dogs, and me for a while as we begin our adventures chasing woodcock and grouse. Since bird hunting in the rain is not something that is undertaken unless absolutely necessary, we were not out of bed until well after the crack of dawn.

I suppose that my life must closely resemble that which was chronicled by fellow writer Henry David Thoreau as he lived in a cabin on land owned by his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. One has to assume that he also arose and then had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (with 2% milk), an Activia yogurt (mixed berry), and an oats and honey Kind bar.

Or maybe not. In reality, the dogs and I had driven to camp Friday and then I joined my host, Bruce Bennett and his wife, Deb, for dinner at the Hollywood Restaurant. We were up at a gentleman’s hour Saturday and were greeted by a cover of frost on the Silverado, complements of the 30-degree temperature. The first order of business was to drive to Bruce’s lake house and pick up my Decot Hy-Wyd shooting glasses. After 14 years, it seemed like a visit to the optometrist was in order and a new Rx was sent to Decot. They have been and are still clearly the leader in shooting glasses. They repaired my old frame and I had ordered a new frame and lenses. They have a number of new combinations and I chose the Hunting package. It contains the best three tints for hunters including a Gold Lite Medium #2 (yellow), a V-Lite Rose Lite Medium #1, and Bronze #2, which is the best contrast color to see game against a natural background. That gives great optics for bird hunting, clay shooting and deer hunting as well. Now we were ready for some hunting!

A “warm up” around the cabin for each dog resulted in four woodcock flushes and one bird was slipped into the L L. Bean vest. We then loaded up into the new Ruff Tuff dog kennels and headed to a cover in Chateaugay. That cover produced six grouse flushes and two woodcock were found but the undergrowth is still problematic and even walking in on solid points there was not an opportunity for a shot other than a fleeting “Hail Mary” as the woodcock disappeared into the leaves. It quickly warmed into the ‘50’s, however, and we took a break to head to Walmart to get provisions during the heat of the day. By 3 in the afternoon things had cooled and we were able to complete our three-woodcock limit in a half hour. Dinner at Donovan’s in Malone with Bruce, Deb and fellow bird hunter Bill Krazinsky was perfect and Bill picked up the tab!

After attending mass Sunday, it was after 9:30 when we finally got hunting. The prime cover we hunted, which was cut a couple years ago and since has become a large aspen stand, was very productive as Dinah had 12 finds and Laney six. Unfortunately, most birds flushed unseen from the thick cover but one did collide with a load of Federal 8 ½ shot.

Back at camp, Bruce was putting up firewood with Deb and so I pitched in and got a little exercise. It was clear that the dark clouds and strong winds harkened a change in the weather and so the dogs and I got in another hunt up the road from camp. That foray resulted in two woodcock, which completed our daily limit, and the first grouse of the season. An outstanding two days to begin my hunting season!

Every year, the huntsmen who guide for the Ruffed Grouse Society receive a gift item in appreciation of their volunteering their time and their dogs’ time. Two years ago, it was a very nice Game Hyde hunting jacket but the sleeves are too long for my short arms. Bruce mentioned that the Amish neighbor of one of his hunting properties had shortened his and so I drove over to see if she would sew mine. It was like a trip back in time as the Amish do not use electricity and their tractors are horses. She, and a passel of identically dressed kids, were digging potatoes when we arrived and she agreed to do the job for me. My contacts, including teaching a hunter education class for the Amish community last winter, with the numerous Amish in the area around the hunting camp impress me with the simple life they are dedicated to and how hard they work as farmers. They are successful living off the land and it is notable how they thrive in this modern world.

Today the rain may lift later on and if it does we will do some hunting. If not, sitting around at the camp doing nothing is not the worst alternative and certainly Thoreau-like.

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