This fall, summer won't end. The heat and drought have even made an impact at 8,000 feet and higher. It has been 80 degrees on the prairie and about 70 at timberline, which are both at least ten degrees higher than normal. It is nearly impossible to carry enough water for one dog, let alone two. The elk wallows are only mud, the creeks down to just a trickle.
But, the birds are still up there. It was nearly a hopper-free summer, so the blues are focusing on berries and greens. As a result, they are feeding in the woods more often than in high-elevation clearings. It makes for sporty dog work and more difficult shooting.
As of last weekend, we were still moving plenty of dusky (I still prefer blue) grouse. It appears that they had a great hatch, as the broods we found were large. Another nice bonus is the good number of ruffed grouse we are also seeing at the lower elevations. Since ruffs are included in the daily bag limit, most of them had to be left alone, as we climbed back down the mountain with our three blues in our vest. Regardless, it was good training for the dogs and nice to see the "partridge" doing well.
As the calendar turns to October 1st and the upcoming pheasant opener this weekend, I am now saying goodbye to the beloved blue grouse and the beautiful country they inhabit. It is bittersweet, as I will miss the wonderful bird, but also look forward to the autumn that remains.