September 1, 2018 – SKUNKED

When my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. this morning, I still hadn’t decided where to go for the first day of Montana’s upland bird season.  (Everything except pheasant opened today.)  There’s a spot west of town that I’ve always thought looked like promising ruffed grouse habitat. I was also tempted to make for the area where I kept running into blue grouse during the past few weeks.  And my friend Ralph has gotten me hooked on snipe hunting, and has been kind enough to show me where to go.  So that was my short list of potential quarry and destinations.  But it wasn’t till I’d loaded up my dog and gear, and three guns (because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to carry today), turned the key in the ignition and started to drive, that I realized I was heading to my favorite sharptail spot.This is a place I’ve kept to myself for years – the most secret of secret spots.  I go there about three or four times each season, and I have never once failed to find birds.  As I drove, I thought about the shartpail dinner I was going to enjoy later.  Would I grill the breasts rare over charcoal with an apricot glaze?  Yes, that sounded perfect.  Maybe throw an ear of sweet corn and some asparagus on the grill as well, have a pint of Blackfoot IPA, and call it dinner.  When I arrived at my secret spot, the habitat looked absolutely perfect, but in four hours of crisscrossing the prairie, Edo didn’t get remotely birdy once.  To add insult to injury, as we were walking back to the car, my nostrils filled with the overwhelming, nauseating smell of skunk, and I thought Edo had been sprayed.  It took me a while to realize that I had been the victim: Mephitis mephitis must have zapped me as I waded through some thigh high grass along a creek bank.  Minutes later, a little bunch of pronghorn loped past casually, so close that I imagined I could hear their breathing.  Someone with an even livelier imagination might think that they were hunting gods in disguise, mocking me for my hubris.