DOGS FIRST
The Upland Almanac|Spring 2021
Smarter persons would have stayed home in harsh conditions, but among the fanatic grousers I partnered with, no one had the temerity to stay indoors when Saturdays or Sundays were the only times many of us could head out to the woods after a week of work.
Bob DeMott

Ohio’s ruffed grouse season was five months long and allowed a three-bird-per day limit, so hunting the shortened days of January and February in the teeth of winter could be punishing. And yet, heading out into the worst weather seemed preferable to sitting idle on the couch watching a sports event on television.

Bad weather wasn’t always the norm in a southeastern Ohio winter, but when it did occur, it was memorable. Deep-freeze conditions were often excessive: bone-chilling cold, of course, and at other times heavy wet snow, or worst of all, sleet and ice that sheathed everything and made both seeing and walking difficult and even dangerous in our precipitous up-and-down hill country of the Hocking River Valley.

I recall days of below-zero temperatures, days of unremittingly harsh winds, days of blizzard whiteouts and days of ice storms severe enough that walking itself was a chore and a burden, made even clumsier by the overstuffed and often inadequate winter gear we wore to keep us dry and warm. Best of all, through thick and thin, the dogs hunted like champs. At different eras, all the dogs of our group – English pointers, English setters, golden retrievers and Labs, springer spaniels, Brittanys, Gordon setters – thought the woods owed them something after a five-day layoff, and they were out to exact their portions of recompense.

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