By David Cowardin
Duluth Outdoors Editor
After the 2012 presidential election, there are only so many things a man can do to come back down to earth. Hunting grouse is one of them.
“Think of it as hiking with a gun,” my friend Luke said.
You see, I’ve never been hunting. Ever. So Luke was showing me how simple it really is.
“It’s really just an excuse to get out into the woods,” he said as he stopped to rub some pine needles between his fingers, telling me how much sweeter they smells after a rain.
We were about 30 miles north on Rice Lake Road, hiking around a small lake listening for the heavy thump of a grouse. The sky was gray and everything was wet: the sweet smell of pine was strong.
We made simple decisions. Like which way to turn when the trail came to a fork, or walking in the middle of tire tracks so we wouldn’t slip and fall. Sometimes we talked about work and travel. Sometimes we were quiet. We reduced the crazy post-election world to nothing. We were out of reception, hiking with a gun.
After a while we came upon an old hunting shack. A sorry excuse for a deer stand dangled from a nearby tree, an old cover of a snowblower was used as a fire grate and an American flag bent down from a pole like a wet flower waiting for a rejuvenating wind. The shack was empty expect for a few bottles of Windsor, motor oil and nude magazines. We didn’t know the people who owned the shack, but we knew their type. People like us, looking to reduce the busy world to it’s raw elements: liquor, nude women and a whiff of nationality.
We made a few more simple decisions, talked about the progression of life and expectations of society, stopped briefly to listen for a bird hiding behind a mess of branches, shot without a clear target, picked up a few dead shells left behind by other hunters and forgot who was president. Because the only governance in the deep north woods are the raw elements of life. The trees, the water, the birds and the sky.
I plucked a few pine needles on our walk back to the car, rubbed them between my fingers and thought about how easy it would be to enter the woods and never come back. To build a shack and tell it my secrets. To be president.