Nothing like a nature walk with four-legged friends
A gentle wind carries golden leaves down around you as you wend your way down a leaf-strewn path into another upland day somewhere beyond here.
How many autumns have you visited this spot and reveled in the quiet of it’s softly changing beauty? How many favored dogs have led the way to the secrets held beneath the alders and broomstick birch trees?
Some of those favorite dogs have passed to the uplands of another dimension while one remains, gray of muzzle, mostly deaf of ear but still gifted with a nose designed to catch the wafting of bird scent.
Slightly unsure of himself and devoid of his once younger brashness, he checks back often to make sure neither of you have lost our way.
Aging hands no longer grasp the heft of a solid 12 gauge, but enjoy the delightful wand like lightness of a thin, straight gripped 28 gauge that now balances sweetly between those same aging hands.
The worn upland bird hunter’s coat now holds shells quite a bit smaller than the old 12’s that once weighed the coat down over younger shoulders. Any weight saved at this stage of the aging game is well appreciated to lighten the load and extend the footsteps along the path from here to there.
In truth the lithe shotgun is brought along more for the ambiance of it’s presence in these golden woods rather than an implement of harvest. Okay, okay – maybe a bird to justify the dog’s graying enthusiasm for the sport he was bred for and loves so much.
The grouse and woodcock that inhabit this corner of a previous time are mostly youngsters keen on survival and the propagation of their species going forward to ensure survival.
The role they play in autumn’s ritual game between man, dog and bird is ageless and the value they represent in their place here beneath the maples, hemlocks and sumacs is priceless.
Take away the grouse and woodcock and what is left but the naked woods and empty sighing of the wind. The place they fill in the mosaic of upland hunting is the reason to be here and walk this old tote road to somewhere no longer used.
The road turns and drops down before rising up again as you follow the dog’s lead out ahead as he skirts the edges and checks out the ground beneath a scabby apple tree.
Many spots along the way hold an aura of old familiar places, of olden times when superhighways and modern machines were yet to be thought of.
Names like John Deere and Allis Chalmers led the way to back pastures and out of the way fields filled with that year’s crop of pumpkins or squash.
Abandoned pasture overgrowth and regenerative fields have always been a great spot for the bird dog to use his investigative talents and see what secrets live within the old growth deeper back from where you stand.
Granite posts and iron rails mark the boundaries of an old family burial plot that always seems to be just a little quieter and deserving of respect for the hard workers that now rest beneath the soil they once tilled.
The dog walks around the outline of this special spot, as does the hunter before whispering a prayer of peace and continuing on his way beside the dog. Encounters of this nature always seems to bring on thoughtful pondering of what the other times were like and how hard life must’ve been for these calloused workers of a new country.
Back along the tote road the leaves seem thicker beneath your boots and the wind now holds a late afternoon chill that wasn’t present just a couple of hours ago.
Shadows stretch deeper into the covey around you and the dog has developed a slight limp from overeagerness at the start of the time here along the tote road of another day long past.
It’s autumn in New Hampshire – a great time to get out and enjoy what the natural world and the new hunting season offer. Best of thundering wing beats and moments of golden light to brighten your own special spot up ahead.
Gordon Lewis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.