Spent Shells: Camp Bonasa by Ron Ellis

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From the time we leave it each October, until we return the following season, I think about going “up north” to hunt grouse and woodcock out of “Camp Bonasa,” which is what we christened our good friend’s house where we stay. The “camp” is a comfortable lakeside cottage, one of two that have housed us, with all the amenities aging grouse hunters require, and so we are not really roughing it, nor have we ever, really. This country we have been going to each autumn for the past twenty-five years is for us a land of peaceful wonder that owns very big pieces of our hearts. And we are all grateful to have been guests for so many years.


 When away from “Camp Bonasa” I think often about the grouse—both brown and gray ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) call this place home—and about how the woodcock, on their long, annual flights toward southern warmth have always stopped to rest in the covers along the gin-clear brooks that thread through this land. Even in the off years—there are never really any bad years, just some are sweeter than others—we always seem to find enough grouse and woodcock for the dogs to worry, as they lead us further into the covers, some of which we know quite well and still others that we have yet to explore. While we’ve been lost a time or two, or “turned around” as we like to say, it is through our seemingly pointless wanderings—driving backcountry gravel roads looking for cutover areas, at just the right age for grouse, and marshy areas that might hold woodcock—that we have discovered new coverts: places we can mark on our “secret” maps, places with cryptic names like “Triple Kill,” “Buck Rub,” “Waterfall,” and “Two Bird.”

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