September has begun with a flurry of activities here in Butte Montana. The beginning of classes, a mining communities summit, home chores before winter sets in, and a few last camping trips. Saturday I was able to get out in the hills for a day of bird hunting (blue grouse, ruffed grouse, and Wilson's snipe).
Here's two panorama views of the valley from the high Forest Service road where we parked to hunt the first spot. The top view is the south end of the valley and the bottom the north (note the heavy fog/cloud bank). The red trees are lodgepole pines killed by bark beetles. It's still a gorgeous place to hike with a great view to the Pintler Wilderness, even if you don't bring home a blue grouse for the table:
Heading up to a steep ridge where the whitebark pines grow, not a half-mile from the truck, RTD walked up on a big blond bedded bull elk. Just 35 yards away from me in dense "dog hair" pines, the bull stood up slowly as RTD came over for a sniff, and I was worried he might horn or kick her. I shouted at her (she's deaf as a post), thinking that would put the bull to flight. Instead, the big 5X5 (at least; he had double browtines) stood for half a minute before ambling away. Here's the best photo I could muster. You can see how thick these wooded slopes are where I do most of my elk hunting. This bull is only 40 or 50 yards away at this point, and you can barely see him!
Angling further up the hill, we came to a boggy opening and this fresh elk wallow:
To the top and around the ridge and back down, never flushed a grouse. Blame it on a very wet, cold spring when the snow laid deep along this ridge until late-June.
Down in the broad creek valley, RTD and I made another hunt. Given the 20-some degree F mornings, I was surprised the Pleated Gentians (Gentiana affinis) are still blooming:
There was lots of grouse food, including Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) berries:
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus):
And Wild Rose (Rosa sp.):
There is usually a ruffed grouse or two along the edges of the aspen stands, but not this day. Fortunately, we did put up some Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata) in the boggy areas along the beaver ponds. Along with their eastern cousin the Woodcock, I find them the tastiest bird I know:
Well, it is the harvest moon, so time to pick the Hops (Humulus lupulus) for beer brewing. Here's the trellis in the yard. Despite the cold wet spring, they did pretty well once they got going this year:
Here's a close up of the cones. You know they're ready to pick when the edges are tinged with brown:
But watch out! Until I've been into them for an hour or so, I never seem to remember just how irritating the bines (with a "b") and their natural essential oils are to my skin. Maybe that's because of its membership in the Cannabacea family, and the otherwise pleasant feelings that hops harvesting induces! I've heard some people smoke it, too. Hope it doesn't do this to the lungs:
Well, a good day done and waiting for the big event. Looking east from my front porch, here's the harvest moon rising over Butte's east ridge (Continental Divide) with the Lexington Mine headframe (aka "gallows frame") on the left and St. Lawrence church under the moon: