DUSTY’S NUB

On the backside of my favorite blue grouse covert that I christened, “Grouseketeer Ridge,” is an open hill above the timberline where blue grouse are often found in the sagebrush and berry bushes hunting grasshoppers, ants, and other insects.  It is consistently a great place to find birds.

Scott Johnson, Mason, Cole and Tommy make their way across Dusty’s Nub back in 2010.

I call this particular part of the ridge, “Dusty’s Nub,” after my knuckleheaded, accident prone, English Pointer, Tantry Bogus Dusty, or “Dusty Boy,” as I called him.  For those interested, I wrote a story about Dusty, “Perfect Memories of an Imperfect Dog,” which was first published on Upland Equations at the following link.  This story will be featured in my forthcoming bird-hunting book, Roadside Revelations: Tales of Bird Dogs, Family & Other Upland Equations.

Dusty was one lovable knuckle head.

I named this area Dusty’s Nub for a few reasons.  First, Dusty had this freakishly huge growth on his chest that I thought was cancerous.  Come to find out from the vet across the street, it was just an abnormally huge nipple, or nub, which was a relief given Dusty’s susceptibility to illness and injury.  The second meaning of nub comes from my family.  When my oldest nephew Josh was little, he had a speech impediment and he would pronounce the word Love as Nub.  Of course, my puerile brothers and I had a field day with that one.  For example,  I remember Josh saying: “I don’t want no chup o nub!”  Have fun figuring that one out!

Anyway, I thought the name, Dusty’s Nub was appropriate for this spot because it happens to be the place where I witnessed Dusty, who was typically a knuckleheaded, bird bustin’ nuisance, perform his very best bird work.  Of this experience, I wrote:

The following year, 2007, however, Dusty gave me his most memorable retrieve. That September morning, my dogs and I hunted this old logging road at the top of a mountain pass, which covert we now call “Grouseketeer Ridge.”  When we came to the end of the road, we continued hunting across the ridge.  As we stepped out of the timber into a sagebrush and snowberry covered hillside, Dusty struck a nice point.  As I approached, the blue grouse got up so low as it flew downhill that I let it fly unscathed (because I did not want to shoot Dusty) until it was at the extreme edge of my shooting capacity.  As the bird hooked to my left, I swung the gun ridiculously far ahead of it and threw out a Hail Mary.  To my utter astonishment, the bird was marginally hit and I watched it careen down in a wooded draw over seventy yards below us. 

I made my way down to where the wing-tipped bird had landed, but Dusty and Sunny made it down well before me.  When I got to the scene, I witnessed Dusty, like a fox in a hen house, chasing down the fluttering, running blue grouse. 

“Get that bird, Dusty!” I hollered in excitement. 

Dusty did not disappoint and retrieved the big blue grouse to hand.  Not only was that Dusty’s best retrieve, but it also happens to be the best retrieve I have ever witnessed.  Maybe Dusty was just an infamous underachiever.  Who knows?

Heck of a morning for sure!  So I named this spot to commemorate Dusty and his moment of glory.  We lost Dusty the day after Christmas, 2008.  Although he was nowhere near perfect, he had a nice personality and in spite of all his faults, I loved him.  I still miss him.

Yesterday afternoon, my brother Jake and I hunted Grouseketeer Ridge.  On the backside of the ridge, I pointed out this special area and told Jake that I had dubbed it , Dusty’s Nub.  I then proceeded to tell him the story of the morning long ago when Dusty uncharacteristically showed his true potential.  Jake smiled as I related the tale and he remembered Dusty’s shenanigans.

“Maybe Dusty will show us some nub today!” I said to Jake as we dropped off the hilltop towards the tree line.

Only minutes later, my three year old Brittany, Misty, as if possessed with the ghost of Bustin’  Dusty, barreled through a covey of blue grouse, which presented me a quick snap shot that I unbelievably made.  As before, the bird dropped into the thick, dark timber below us.

Excited, Misty and I quickly dropped down into the timber but did not readily see the grouse.  There was one solitary feather drifting lazily down.

“Dead bird Misty, fetch it up!” I commanded.

Speedy Misty ranged over most of the area without showing much interest.  I started to lose hope that we would find the bird, but then Misty came to the downhill end of a fallen pine tree.  Suddenly her body language intensified and she crept catlike up the fallen tree close to my position.  Misty then unmistakably located the source of the scent and then lunged and picked up the fallen grouse.  It was by far her best retrieve ever.

These big dusky birds in September are by far and away my favorite bird to hunt.

“All right Misty!” I hollered in excitement. “Good girl!”

Andy shows off Misty’s awesome find!

As the incident transpired, I could not help but reflect back on Dusty and his feat that morning years ago not far from where we stood and all of the striking parallels with this experience.  It was as if Dusty was there with us for a few seconds.  Thanks for the nub, Dusty Boy!

Dusty, I love and miss you buddy!

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