Checked green and red wool jackets pass through the woods, their colors & patterns as much a sign of fall as the leaves covering the ground. The ground is littered with oranges, browns and reds, and the occasional patch of green grass poking above the thick layer of leaves. Only a few leaves still cling to the branches. Between the skeletal trees I look for grouse. The woods behind Red Quill are an ideal habitat for grouse and woodcock and I have been flushing them all month.
The leaves rustle beneath my feet as I move slowly through the woods keeping my head up and my gun bent over the crook of my elbow. I think about the time as a kid that climbed my favorite tree behind our house, for no other reason than to be outside, and listened to my father move slowly down through the field to the edge of the woods. He stood beneath me unaware that I was there, scanning the field for deer. When he began to move on I whispered, “Hey Papa!” and he looked around laughing and joking that the hunter was being hunted. I thought about that now, wondering how many birds were watching me pass by.
Fall is harvest season— time to harvest the last of the veggies from the garden, game from the woods, and firewood from the trees. I stand and listen to the sounds of fall: the rhythmic chop of an ax splitting wood and the “thunk” of stacking it, the swooshing of a rake against leaves, the far off boom of a gun shot, and the dry tinkle of leaves hitting the ground as they fall. I head back to camp and wonder if it will be cold enough to start a fire in the wood stove tonight and if I will be lucky enough to eat a partridge.