Dawn on the first day of deer season. The cracking reports of high caliber rifles, some of them sounding more apt for buffalo or urban warfare, can be heard in the valley below. We gratefully stand on the ridge high above as dawn light strikes the far side. We are at 8000′ in mixed blue and ruffed grouse habitat, but blues are on the brain and at the top of the priority list. Hank clearly has a bug up his ass, and I suppose I do too. He’s ranging far – too far – and I’m letting it get to me a little too much, probably symptomatic of other things in the back of my mind that I’m trying to sort out.
Eventually, I remember that he is young and in his first season, that an occasional day like this is to be expected, that it would probably be best to just call it and head home. There are days when you just know it’s just not going to come together, and it’s best to listen to that. As we make our way back down the hillside, still several hundred feet above the truck, I break the action, unload and give a whistle. Wait. Another.
Hank hasn’t been seen for several minutes, which means he could easily be in the next county. I’m getting pissed. And then getting pissed at myself for getting pissed. Eventually, he comes charging in on my right at mach speed, scaring the crap out of a random blue that happened to have been holding in the brush nearby. The bird lofts right in front of me, the easiest passing shot in the world. I raise my now unloaded gun, swing through and say, “BAM” out loud. Hank looks at up at me like I’m insane, and takes off barking like the piss and vinegar pup that he is. It will be the last blue we lay eyes on this season.