After months of working seven days per week in the kennel, I was granted a generous sabbatical and, of course, I made good use of my time off! Kaia and Peck and I have spent 6 of the last 8 weeks hunting in the mountains of the Kettle Range in Eastern Washington.
Our family owns a cabin near beautiful Lake Curlew where we set up our base camp. I left the cabin each morning with the dogs and a shotgun and high hopes. I returned each afternoon with new experiences and stories that I will try to share with you here. I don’t want this to turn into a hunting blog, so I’ll keep the talk of carnage to a minimum, but be aware that some birds were harmed in the making of this blog. If you could ask my dogs they would tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, neither would I!
I won’t make any more attempts to probe the ethical foundations of hunting or the psychological motivations behind the sport. We’ll leave those perusals to others better suited to such rumination. Let it suffice to say that for Kaia, Peck and myself we are a team of predators and this is just what we do.
One factor that made this year different was the recent loss of my beloved companion and hunting partner, Vee. She was too old and crippled up to do much hunting last season, yet her absence was felt time and again. Kaia found herself in a new position with the absence of her canine mentor and the addition of her pup, Peck, to our team.
I am a year older and I’m discovering subtle changes and soreness in joints and tendons I didn’t even know I had. On more than one occasion, I stood on top of some mountain or ridge and looked out across the Kettle Range while a recently killed grouse cooled in my game vest and the dogs whined for me to give up my reverie and continue the hunt. I gazed across the vast expanse of mountains and timber and was humbled by the insignificance of my life when viewed against the enormity of this magnificent land.
The dogs have little tolerance for this kind of human navel-gazing and philosophical hogwash. At such times Kaia would circle back to where I stood and she would look at me quizzically, cocking her head to one side, and then whining with impatience. Peck took a more direct approach. His tactic for getting me moving consisted of running toward me at full speed and leaping into the air high enough to plant a wet slobbery kiss on my ear or nose. I’m sure most of you know how hard it is to maintain a reverent state of mind with a dog’s slobber all over your face.
So, over the hill we went, down the other side, into a new drainage where every bush held the possibility of birds: blue grouse on the benches and ridges, ruffed grouse in the brushy draws and alder bottoms. Over the days and weeks we saw deer, bears, moose and bighorn sheep in addition to the grouse we hunted. Whenever I became distracted by the surrounding beauty, my hunting partners would drag me back to the present, the “here and now” of dog world.
Speaking of “here and now”, Kaia just came over to my desk and administered a righteous “nose bonk” to remind me that it’s only about 42 minutes until suppertime! I guess that gives me time to post a couple of our hunting pics before I get on with my real mission here in life.