Thursday, July 2, 2015


SETTER TALES AND MALLARD CURLS: Haunted In The Snow: The snow was falling steady when my dog, Bo locked up at the edge where sage became wheat lava fields of northern Utah stubble. I...

Haunted In The Snow

The snow was falling steady when my dog, Bo locked up at the edge where sage became wheat
lava fields of northern Utah
stubble. I hustled to try to get to the point but before I got there huns erupted like hornets from a hive rushing to defend their home, faded away, and disappeared into the dense snowfall. Bo gave chase as he did but soon returned. With my heart hanging low at the missed opportunity we struggled off the direction in which they flew. As we worked our way in the silent snow fall under the shadow of the steep lava rock covered hills an eerie feeling came over me. You know the one that is as if you are being watched? I paid it little attention as my mind was set on finding those little gray buggers that seem to consistently elude me. Just as I started thinking I wonder if I have gone too far I heard them flush from behind me. UGH!!! You tricky little devils I thought in frustration as I watched them again disappear into the blinding snow. “Bo, what the heck is wrong with you” I said out loud. “you sure missed those”. He just gave me his cocky “I know everything” look and went off about to prove himself. Again we went off in the direction to which they flew. This time we had a light breeze in our favor. Sweating and weaving our way through the lava boulders in the deep snow that feeling came over me again. I stopped and looked around but there was nothing but lava and snow to be seen. The silence was deafening, and was only broken by the crunch of my boots breaking through the under layer of snow. Creepy I thought as I noticed Bo had stopped in front of a boulder off to my right. There they are I thought as I picked up my step. This time I got close enough and they were not quite so organized. This was to be one of those moments in bird hunting when everything comes together. A small group flushed to the right my gun flew to my shoulder and shattered that creepy silence as I was able to connect with each barrel. I broke my gun open to reload as another small group escaped to the left and then bent right. As I got my gun closed a late flusher screeched as he flushed I was able to get him. Bo did his best to bring in the dead birds, one to hand, and then another until they were all picked up. My heart was beating heavy and fast in my chest from all of the excitement as I placed the last one carefully in my game bag. “That is why huns are so much fun” I said to my faithful brittany as he looked up at me with enthusiasm.

It would be dark soon, and though I wanted to go after that broken covey I knew I had better get back. It was still snowing hard. So I started on my way back to the truck.

I was in a pretty good mood now so my step was a little quicker than it had been. Suddenly I had that stupid, someone is watching me feeling again. I was kind of mad that my imagination would kill my bird buzz like that. The fact that day was turning to dusk made the feeling even worse. I was contemplating this feeling when I saw a bird track in the snow. It was larger than a hun track. It could have been a sharptail or perhaps even a hen pheasant, but I followed it for a few and two other sets joined the first. Out of curiosity I carefully stayed on those tracks. They were getting hard to see in the fading light when they split up. I stayed on one set feeling really weird-ed out for some reason. The track went under a patch of sage brush that was too thick to walk through so I walked around to the other side to see where it would have come out, but there were no tracks exiting. When I got back to where I had last seen the tracks and looked under the brush to see where they were going I saw something very strange. It was a rock but there was something very peculiar about it. I bent over and stuck my head out to look closer with that weird feeling stronger than ever. I was really feeling a bit spooked when that dang bird flushed from about two feet away from me and giggled away. My heart jumped out of my chest, I just about swallowed my tongue, and almost sat down in the snow as I lost my balance. Sharptail, I thought as I tried to keep my bowels from releasing. I had to laugh at my reaction and that got me feeling a little better about things when that rock caught my attention again. I couldn’t look away. I set my gun against the brush and crawled under the brush through the snow to get a better look. There was something carved in that rock. It was partially covered in snow and ice and I struggled to get it turned over, but I somehow managed to drag it out to where I could look at it. Time stood still as I removed the snow and tried to wrap my head around what I was looking at. The rock was about the size of a Volleyball jagged but round with a flat side. On the flat side was a carving of what looked to be a buffalo, and some other stuff that had broken off so I couldn’t tell what it was. It was beautiful, but the feeling of being watched was so strong now I that I was getting kind of scared. Shaking a little bit I sat in the snow studying this beautiful piece of art that had probably never been seen by a white man before. It was getting dark, and I was cold but I could not leave it. I just stared at it. Where did it come from? I looked up at the towering lava rock mountain above me. It must have been up there. I bet it came down in one of the earthquakes that I have heard about in the early 1900's or perhaps an even earlier event I thought. At that time the whole thing hit me in the chest like a religious awakening of some kind.
I had hunted this ground for most of my life like it was my own, but I realized at that moment that it is much much bigger than me. I am not the first man to hunt this land, nor will I be the last. This has been going on in some form for as long as time has been. I hope it continues on for as long as time is. I am not the first man to stand in awe at the beauty of nature before my eyes and wish to record it. Someone had loved hunting buffalo and had loved the animal enough that he had taken the time to carve out this scene in the side of a cave, or the wall of a cliff to honor it. Maybe for the same reasons we take pictures, or artists like Ross Young paint hunting scenes today. I can not accurately describe the feelings that washed over me, but they were undeniable and nearly paralyzing.
I was wet and cold, and it was very dark when I finally got the courage to walk away. I set the rock face down under some brush, and marked it well in a place where I was sure I could visit it again. I made my way back to the truck. The creepy feeling was gone and I was feeling more awe struck than anything. The rock consumed my thoughts for weeks after, and changed the way I look at the natural world around me, but it was never to be seen again. It snowed several feet soon after that and I would not make it back until the next fall. I went to where I had marked it I looked everywhere but couldn’t find it. It has been more than 20 years now and I still look for it once in a while, but I haven’t seen it since. Maybe someone else found it. Maybe the brush grew around it. I'm just not sure, but I am grateful for the incredible experience on that snowy evening.