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It’s the smells that hit you first.

As pretty as it gets in NE Oregon

As pretty as it gets in NE Oregon

For a desert rat, the rank, thick, clinging organic odors of an early season ruffed grouse hunt in the forest assault the nostrils. It takes a little getting used to. Same for Buddy, I’ll bet. His nose is slightly longer than mine, so maybe even more so.

Okay, okay, on to the hunt … but more on the olfactory experience later.

It was hot, dry, and they were wild, wild birds. Great tracking by Buddy … sussing out trails that ruffies had used earlier that day but had long abandoned for the branches above. He was in fine form, head high and working what little breeze there was, covering a lot of ground, hunting to the front and leaving no leaf unturned. He delivered a few flash points on old scent, and thank goodness he ignored the dead porcupine!

Everything you’ve read about ruffs using trees and brush to block any sane hunter’s shots was true today. The stream running through our little canyon kept Buddy cool enough; it was his owner who felt the heat (so to speak), as birds got up left and right just out of range. Or out of sight. Or both. One right-left crosser was at little risk from a go-to-Hell shot. As I reloaded (of course), the rest of that covey got up well within range. Permission to chuckle granted.

The deep woods, bearing the scars of logging from half a century ago but healing well, were worth the visit even if we didn’t make meat.

Also on the plus side:

–          Lots of birds, and big family groups – up to six in a bunch.

–          Elk hunters get ready for a strong season in northeast Oregon – tons of sign and fresh beds that were constantly distracting my hunting partner’s nose.

–          Berries galore! Now, help me ID them.

–          I found my Leatherman tool.

–          Everything worked, from the new Tri-Tronics collar to the Irish Setter boots (put to the test crossing that stream a couple dozen times), to the GPS and vest. Shotgun barrel must be bent, though.

As a shakedown cruise, a great day. And I’m reminded that we do call it hunting, not shooting.

Now about those smells:

So, what kind of berry is this?

So, what kind of berry is this?

–          Elk. Close. Musky.

–          Mint, at every stream crossing.

–          Fir and pine … turpentine in its natural form.

–          That close, organic, not-quite-identifiable smell of plant life that has been crushed under your boot sole.

–          The musty, dusty, almost-Christmas odor of rhododendrons.

They wake all the senses and make me a better hunter. You?

Okay, so win yourself a chance at a pair of Irish Setter boots: Tell me where you hunt in your Irish Setters … or where you would hunt if you won a pair! I’ll pick a winner at random every week from entries here and callers to my radio show. Make your comments below, and good luck.

See you down the road,

Scott

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