My wife had a birthday this week and with it being hunting season, I couldn’t help but recollect an experience I had eight years ago while bird hunting on my wife’s birthday. I’m sure you will agree that’s a risky proposition any way you slice it!
In early September of 2005, I set out the morning of my wife’s birthday to get in a hunt before spending the rest of the day with her. As my pointer, Dusty, was recovering from ACL surgery, it was just my French Brittany, Sunny Girl and I. The weather was heavily overcast and the air had that distinct muggy feeling that rain was imminent. I was driving Baby Blue, my trust Ford Escort fishing and hunting wagon, and we drove to one of my long-standing coverts, Grouse Springs east of Bone, Idaho.
As I drove into my regular parking place, I was a little nervous about getting out of there. I specifically recall thinking to myself: If It starts to rain, I’ll need to get out of here quickly because I’m not sure Blue will make it back up that steep hill we came in on.
Grouse springs is a series of wooded draws and sage brush benches leading up to a pine covered ridge. We typically look for ruffed grouse down low and blue grouse up top, but we have occasionally found blues while hunting the lower quakie draws. It’s a beautiful, productive covert, which I visit a few times a year.
Sunny and I did the typical loop checking each wooded draw starting with the Overlooked covert, then over the sage brush bench to Grouse Springs, the biggest of the wooded draws, and finally down a draw we now call “Grouse Alley,” but back then I called it “Viet-Freakin’-Nam” because some areas are jungle thick. Sunny and I did not move one single bird through the whole loop.
By the time we hit the cattle pond at the bottom of Grouse Alley, the bottom fell out of the lowering skies and it started to dump, not rain, but snow, with a vengeance. Of course, I was concerned about getting out of there safely, but I still wanted to hunt my way out even though we were getting soaked by the heavy, wet snow. I guess I am one of those who have no sense to come in out of the rain.
Sunny and I hiked over the sage covered bench and dropped back down into Grouse Springs in the blinding blizzard. To my utter surprise, a big covey of five ruffed grouse flushed off the open, snow-covered hillside toward the springs. I shot numerous times, but in my astonishment and haste, I missed. When I went in for the reflush on a bird I marked down, I missed again. I was so flabbergasted and desperate, I just couldn’t shoot straight! I never could shoot that Remington Semi-Auto well. So I blew my only opportunities of the day. I remember being so disappointed in myself. Every miss back then was a blow to my fragile ego. And to make matters worse, I didn’t know if I was going to get out of there because of the weather.
When I finally made it back to the car, I was soaked. I fired up Blue and turned around and nervously gunned it up the steep slippery slope. With its front wheel drive, Blue chugged it up the hill, over the deep ruts and pot holes back to the more solid road on Skyline Ridge with no problems.
However, as we headed down towards Tex Creek, although the snow had stopped falling, the wet roads turned into some of the sloppiest gumbo crap I have ever driven on. I followed in the tracks of someone who had slid all over the road. Heck, one false move and I could have easily slid off myself. Pretty soon, I caught up with some sheepherders towing their wagons who, with the treacherous road conditions, just stopped in the middle of the road and would go no further. I don’t blame them.
I had no choice but to stop. I thought to myself: Serves you right for going hunting on Kristin’s birthday! I felt this urgency to get home to be with my wife. In fact, all she wanted for her birthday was for me to bake her a cake, which I had agreed to do.
I talked with the sheepherders for a while and assessed the situation. There was barely enough room for Blue to pass on their lefthand side, but because of the grading of the road, the road slanted down toward the ditch. So, at best, it was a sketchy proposition.
Desperate men in hard circumstances do desperate things so I decided to go for it. With the gumbo mud caked on my tires inches thick, I spun and slid on the road, but old reliable Blue pulled me straight, trudged forward past the trucks and sheep wagons, and safely the rest of the way to pavement.
I made it home without anymore ado and baked my wife a German Chocolate Cake, which she enjoyed. I often think of that crazy hunt, the blizzard in September, and the harrowing roads, but I’ve never taken the time to write this story down until now. Since then, I always think twice about hunting on my wife’s birthday. Eight years later, we are still happily married. She must love me to put up with such shenanigans!