Uncle Charlie Tales

................stories about upland game birds, bird dogs, and shotguns but mostly about the man who loves all three

A Grouse Hunter Is Born

“Surely you’re joking,” I shouted into the phone.

“Nope,” came back the voice, “I’m dead serious. I figure I’ll be at your place by 4:30 in the morning. Be ready to go.”

And that was it. Uncle Charlie was going to be here at 4:30 in the morning and he expected me to go grouse hunting with him up in North Georgia.

It was all my fault. I should have known better. All my talk about grouse hunting hadn’t even phased him until I gave him that book for Christmas. It was about hunting upland game birds all over America and by the summer its pages were dog eared from constant turning.

He had informed me earlier in the fall that since he was getting up in age he needed to do something big before he retired. I remember thinking to myself at the time “I thought you were already retired. You haven’t done any public work since 1946.” Anyway, what he’d been thinking about was taking some trips to various parts of the country to hunt all the different kinds of game birds. He said he sort of looked at it as a grand slam finale to a lifetime of quail hunting.

I had told him I thought it was a grand idea and had promptly forgot about it until now. Determined to focus on the positive I thought that maybe this was the best thing that could have happened. One day in the mountains of North Georgia hunting up and down those ridges and maybe not even seeing a grouse ought to get this nonsense out of his system.

Sure enough at 4:30 the next morning the doorbell rang and when I opened the door, there he stood.

“Mawning,” was all he said.

I got my gun, the thermos and the lunches and we went out to his old Suburban where Mack was still doing what most sensible dogs and men were doing at this hour. Sleeping. We had agreed the night before on the phone that Mack was the only dog that needed to make this exploratory hunt.

I always have to drive when we’re together so that plus my black coffee kept me awake while Uncle Charlie joined Mack. We pulled off the pavement about 8 o’clock onto the dirt road that runs through Cohutta National Forest and both of them woke up.

“Well, we made good time,” he said after consulting his watch. Mack was now standing on the back seat, tail wagging while he attended to licking my ear.

We always go where he plans to go so pretty soon we were parking by this little stream that he had marked on his map. We opened our doors and got out and started stretching and yawning and scratching and other things that men do when cooped up in a car for several hours.

I slammed my door and two grouse flushed by the stream and nearly took off Uncle Charlie’s hat as they flew upstream. Mack got so excited he mistook Uncle Charlie’s leg for a tree and Uncle Charlie was so excited he didn’t even notice.

We fumbled guns and shells out of the truck with him muttering “hot damn” over and over again. I knew instinctively it was all over. No quail hunter can stand that close to a flushing ruffed grouse, much less a pair of them, and not get hooked for life.

You guessed it. There were birds all up and down that little valley. I was the second dog and assigned the task of going up and down the ridges while he walked by the stream. Mack performed like a veteran grouser and Uncle Charlie killed his limit.

He offered to drive home and I let him. On the trip home, I out snored Mack until we got close to Atlanta and he shook me awake. I couldn’t believe the next thing out of his mouth.

“I’ve been thinking about those Hungarian Partridges out west,” he informed me. “We’ll go after them next fall and then maybe on up to Alaska after those, uh, what do you call ‘em?”

“Ptarmigans.” I sighed and turned my aching body back toward the window.

Table of Contents
Next Story

2 Comments:

Anonymous Mike Atwell said...

Jim:

I am hooked! Can't wait for another installment. You have a flair for story-telling. With some fleshing out of the characters, I can see a great book on this premis. Growing up in rural Texas surrounded by character I can really identify with this.

Keep it up.

Mike Atwell

7:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

3:05 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home