If I could write the script for the perfect fall morning in the grouse woods of New England, this would be it. It was the middle of October in Vermont, and we were blessed with a bluebird sky overhead and a warm sunshine that slowly baked off the crisp fall air as it tightly clung to the sweet aroma of damp and decaying leaf litter underfoot. It was the type of morning that being in, you just knew something special was going to happen. It was ideal hunting weather for myself and my covert cohort Zach Gauthier, and optimal scenting conditions for Remi, his year-and-a-half-old German shorthaired pointer.
Our cover of choice for the day was a well-managed and manicured 700-acre tract of state land that provided all the essential accommodations for grouse and woodcock. The property boasts of abandoned apple orchards, overgrown farm fields, and the ever-iconic stone walls—the quintessential New England upland hunting dream scene. The barren patch cuts of a decade ago now teem with young alder and aspen growth with a lush understory of bracken ferns and hawthorns.
We made the most of the morning and bumped into several resident ruffed grouse and wayfaring woodcock, managing to bag one mature ruff, and leaving behind plenty of seed for next year’s stock. We traipsed through the area and worked the patch cuts, swampy edges, and alder bottoms. As we climbed up onto a ridge, it happened.
Gunner Effect 2022 Grand Prize Winner | Photo by Chris Ingram
I turned around to find Zach and Remi caught in the perfect photographic moment. It was one of those rare occurrences when the stars aligned, and everything appeared as if it was meant to be. The soft, golden rays of the rising sun shimmered through the amber and auburn canopy to endearingly illuminate Zach and Remi. It was almost as if the universe and its elements themselves melded together to celebrate and admire this cherished moment between a man and his gun dog.
It turns out this candid capture started from a quick tick check as we made our way between cuts. Was Remi displaying her gratitude for his removal of the unpleasant pests? Or was this synchronous snapshot a mere glimpse of the inseparable, indescribable bond that is shared between a hunter and their dog?
Gunner Effect 2022 Submission | Photo by Chris Ingram
The perfect day in the uplands (at least for me) is never a bang-up, banner day with full limits and heavy vests. I don’t much care for those days anyway. I prefer to ramble about the uplands with the occasional bird contact and happily welcome the misses that grant me more time to appreciate these fleeting moments afield. Birds will always be a bonus, and I’m sure you can agree, that time spent with good company and devout bird dogs is the real measure of our successes. It’s not about the birds, but rather these snapshots and memories are what we are truly chasing and looking to add to the memory bag.
We all know these moments well. We live them nearly every single day. It’s up to us to recognize and embrace them as they’re happening, adding them to the memory bank while we still can. If we’re lucky, many of these moments will be repeatable, but many will float away from us like a feather in the wind if not carefully collected, stored, shared and retold.
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