After many years, I was back in my good spot. Walking the trails discovered back in the 90's, when 40 to 50 flush days were common in this part of Wisconsin. The urge to re-walk old ground is strong. As I age, the push to go back to the good, remembered areas grows. Invariably, they aren't as I remember them, probably because the dogs aren't the same, or, most likely, neither am I.
This day, my friend and I had a nice sojourn through the forest. It was warm, headed to 75 degrees, and we chose a trail that crossed a road in the Chequamegon National Forest. At first, I regaled Josh with tales of past dogs and adventures in the area, and finally, adventures on this very trail. Pearl was working left and right of the trail, usually out of sight, as the trail was on a small ridge and the forest dropped off on either side. The alert on the GPS beeped and interrupted my reverie. The GPS showed her 30 yards off to the right side, holding tight. I looked at the brush piled up on the side of the trail, and moved up and down the path until I found a way through. Stepping up on the berm, I looked through the brush, down to the woods, and caught a glimpse of Pearl's brown body, head, and tail. She was taut. Taking another step down the berm onto the woods' floor, I reached for an alder branch to steady myself, just as a Ruffed Grouse flushed ten feet in front of me. He headed deeper into the woods, his escape route already planned. My experience indicated I had a half second, or less, to put a load of shot in the air. After that, the bird would be around a tree, over a rock, down a drop off. I didn't meet that requirement as I chased the bird with a load of 28 ga. 7 1/2's, and the boy was gone to safety. Pearl rolled in looking for directions to the dead bird, and I had to give her the bad news. She took the information stoically, gave me a withering glare, then turned her back on me and ran back in to the woods.