Monday, July 14, 2008

Preseason Grouse Scouting

Veterans will easily recognize the spot on the left side of the road
but dead center in the photo as a grouse. Cold Duck's meager budget
last year suggested a 16 ga. SxS over a telephoto lens.
When Cousin Richard mentioned he was heading to his camp in the southern Adirondacks to perform some minor maintenance, I promptly volunteered for a 4-day weekend’s worth. After we spent two days porch painting, rug laying and wood cutting, the womenfolk generously granted us Saturday morning to head out on a random scoot scouting for grouse.

We found some birds near a fire tower and carefully marked the location in the deLorme. In case you’re interested, the spot is precisely 100 miles northeast of Syracuse. Don’t shoot ‘em all if you get there first.

Our nephew Patrick D. arrived in camp Friday night, and tossed in with Rick and me on Saturday. Pat will be a senior at RPI this Fall, but he’s eagerly picking up woodcraft, too. The grouse – we call them “partridge” in the Adirondacks – in the lead photo was the first he’d seen, so we tried to get a closer look, but the bird hot footed into the scrub and disappeared when we tried to sneak out of the Jeep.

On our way back to camp, we ran into some likely looking water that Rick wanted to try. The tea coloring is typical of Adirondack trout streams.

Cousin Richard bumping a huge stonefly downstream
Since we were all heading home on Sunday morning, we dedicated the rest of Saturday to celebrating a successful camp. Dolly Parton-esque chicken breasts were the featured item, fatted calves being in short supply, while tasty bowls left over from the last 3 nights’ feasts filled in all the gaps on the table. What with a few cold beers down at the lake in the afternoon, a crisp gin and tonic or so at cocktail time, and plenty of Pinot Grigio to wash down supper, we were right happy campers when it came time for a roaring fire and just a wee dram or two.

Patrick is a talented student and a hard worker. I’m not surprised that he was offered a great job in his “co-op” year at school. Since he’s just turned 21, he was waiting his chance to take his place alongside us old folks, and, with a few well-earned bucks in his pocket, more than happy to share the bottle of Black Bush he’d picked up. As the shadows lengthened and the fire burned down, the yarns and their deliveries got cranked way up. Along about midnight (I am told), I gave everyone a crooked smile and tacked unsteadily toward my bunk.

Great camp smells like percolating coffee and bacon on the griddle bounced me from bed around 7 on Sunday morning. All the veterans were up and bustling, either helping with breakfast, or packing the cars for departure, or in Rick’s case, rigging another fly rod to fish a favorite river on his drive home. Everyone was accounted for except Patrick.

It certainly had been an instructive trip for Pat. He’d seen partridge, and the gnarlies where they like to hang out. He’d learned the difference between a stonefly dead drifted down and an AuSable Wulff fished dry up. He’d paddled a kayak, split wood, and spun yarns admirably. And, after he finally left the pitching deck of his bunk, he gathered powerful empirical evidence about when to say “when.”

Rick and I are looking forward to the pleasure of Pat’s company when partridge open in northern NY on September 20.

All that's left is hair of the dog.