A Partridge in a Grapevine Tree

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Joined: 06/03/2010

A Partridge in a Grapevine Tree
                There is a mystical place just a few acres from where I live. It is a small clearing surrounded by woods and underbrush so it is hard to find unless you know the way in and out of that area. I discovered this place and the “Grapevine Tree” one day when I was scouting a place to deer hunt that fall. I live in a small country home surrounded by hundreds of acres of forested land; most of which is privately owned and you need permission to hunt on it. I was well acquainted with the absentee owner of the land hiding the Grapevine Tree and had permission to hunt in return for checking his land to insure no unintended firewood cutting or logging occurred there.
                The old, mostly-dead elm tree that stands in the center of the clearing is huge and the underbrush has been kept at bay by an enormous grapevine that covers the tree from top to bottom. I have no idea whether this is a wild vine or if it escaped from the old farmstead that once stood on the property. Although the tree is old and weathered and looks as if it would crack apart and fall to the ground, the vine seems to hold it together and was loaded with grapes that attracted wildlife from all around the area when I first saw it. Deer sign was everywhere and the smaller animal sign was abundant as well. Birds loved the grapes and would flock to the vine like bees to honey. I was scouting for deer but I took particular interest in the abundance of ruffed grouse, or partridge as we refer to them in the U.P. The first time I stumbled onto the huge vine several “pats” burst out of it and flew in all directions startling me to no end! Grouse do that to people, especially would be bird hunters. I knew that this place would be a prime hunting spot that should be good for a bird or two every time I hunted there.
                The only problem with this hidden spot was that it was so hard to get to with the dense underbrush and tree cover that surrounded the clearing under the old elm that any birds in the vicinity would be gone well before I could get a clear shot. My stalking skills would be sorely tested if I was going to sneak up on the grouse feeding off the vine and have any chance of getting a shot at any of them. I figured I could sneak in, flush a bird or two and shoot before they could get far. I was wrong!
                That first fall season after the discovery drove me almost to despair as day after day I tried unsuccessfully to bag a bird from the grapevine tree. No matter how quiet or how slow I walked the birds would flush on the opposite side of the tree or in the dense brush around the small opening and my shots, if I even got any, were way off the mark as the birds sailed away. I know they were chuckling as they flew and it was humiliating!  I finally gave up on my “Garden of Bird Eden” and concentrated on the deer bowhunting season. Naturally, I saw numerous partridge when I stalked for deer!
                From that first season at the grapevine tree I eventually learned to hunt around the area but never right at the tree site itself. The tree and its attendant grapevine were the magnet that drew in the game but that was also what protected that same game from intrusions from hunters like me. Sometimes even a wondrous place can be too much of a good thing and I suspect the grapevine tree was just that. I usually flushed a few birds in the woods around the tree but I hunted the area rather sparingly because I wanted to enjoy the place for what it was, a haven for the forest critters and a safe place from hunters like me. I know that sounds funny for a dedicated bird hunter but the place seems to inspire that attitude in me.
                I suppose if bagging the birds there would have been easy I would have hunted them until they were all gone and there wouldn’t have been anything magic anymore. That’s a lesson that is hard to learn but well worth learning in the long run. The last time I went to the tree a lone partridge sat up in the vine and watched me as I approached.  I figured it would flush but it didn’t. I watched it as it looked down on me and then I realized that it was all part of the aura of that place and I should leave it as I found it. I walked away from the partridge in the Grapevine Tree.