Winter 2016 Feature Story: Winter Walks

By on October 6, 2016

Story by Joseph Sands

An excerpt from Winter Walks…It’s raining. But we’re hunting grouse anyway, a golden retriever and I, walking down an old logging road that has become a seasonal stream. Tire ruts transformed into riffles, runs and pools; water overflows into grassy meadows and thick salal and sword fern patches beneath the cedars. My boots are soaked through, and I’m wet thigh-high from pushing through the saturated brush. Chloe’s paws are muddy, too. She’s soaked all over. The temperature has been falling for the past half hour, and our breath is visible. I blow on my fingertips as Chloe works the cover in front of me. She gets birdy and charges a salal patch where, I presume, a ruffed grouse is sitting. The problem with this is the 40-foot Douglas fir standing between me and the patch of salal. I make a break for the other side and touch off a shot as the bird slices into the trees. I blow through my hands and watch my breath disappear with the grouse.

A lot of late winter grouse hunts end this way. Western Oregon grouse season runs to the end of January. The woods are dark gray and quiet. The madness of September bird hunting is gone, as are black-tailed deer general rifle season crowds. The environment is no longer suitable for the casual bird hunter. This time of year Chloe and I walk for miles, finding, flushing and occasionally killing ruffed grouse and maybe a few mountain quail. We work together, gauging each other’s speed and location. I try to put her into placdes where birds are; she tries to find them and flush them.

I like to hunt these places alone.

Read the rest of the story in the Winter 2016 Issue of Upland Almanac.

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