Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Early Wet Snow

Snow on high bush
      Gray skies dribbled wet snow, which mixed with the soggy ground. The weeds that still stood readily soaked clothes. The dogs didn’t mind any of it. They were happy to hunt and loved the conditions.
      It was the last stretch before we turned the woods over to the rifle hunters and their search for deer. The morning temperatures had been down around or below freezing and the days were noticeably shorter than a few weeks ago. The hills bordering our valley looked soft, almost like supple gray fur.
      The grouse had scattered, the family groups broken up by hunters, human or otherwise. Woodcock were still around and a lucky hunter could find flight birds in numbers, or none. Soon they would all be gone. Depending on the year, grouse might be around apple trees or mountain ash or high bush cranberries. This year every fruit bearing tree produced massive crops, so the birds were scattered.
      With the season winding down we decided to spend the morning in a favorite old covert. The cover has changed from alders to poplar to mature poplar, but it was still a favorite covert that always has birds. A few ancient apple trees hid in the mix, always hinting of grouse..
The ground was soggy everywhere..
      The ground was soaked and almost immediately a woodcock fled ahead of one of the dogs. Down the hill we hunted and then turned northward when the ground turned to bog. On small hummocks covered with young maples each of the dogs pointed a woodcock. When Maggie points Colby always honors, I wish the opposite were also true. Some easy shots were miffed, but during the next hour two connected.
Colby pointing a woodcock hiding in a nasty thicket.
      Working our way back by a couple of old  apple trees another woodcock was found, but no grouse. Often they are there, but not that day. Near the truck bird scent aroused Colby’s interest, but after some serious tail wagging she abandoned it. Maggie trotted over and snapped onto point. On second thought, Colby decided to honor.
      It was a thicket impossible walk into. Kicking against the side, the woodcock almost smacked me in the face on the way by, then wove its way downhill through the trees.          
      Two shots never touched a feather.
      With clothes soaked it was time to leave. The dogs slept on the drive home while I sipped coffee.
      The bird season is just too short.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Two Inches of Snow

The cover looks so different with the leaves
gone and snow on the ground.

     Temperatures dip into the teens at night. Snow cloaks the ground and distant hills can be seen between the gray trunks of bare trees. Winter is sneaking into the woods and the world is changing.
    Our favorite coverts on the hillsides are empty. Woodcock are nowhere to be found. Most of the old apple trees have shed their apples, but a few trees still cling to their fruit. In the cuttings high bush cranberries glow red and can be spotted from a distance. Mountain ash that were so easy to spot a month ago seemed to have disappeared.
Sometimes the birds are hard
to find.
     Bucks have rubbed the bark off of small trees. Deer and moose tracks crisscross the snow. Turned up leaves and soil mark scrapes where testosterone charged males attempt to attract the opposite sex. It is a different world than a month ago.
     Down in the stream bottoms, where softwood trees edge the cuttings, grouse will be found. Often the dogs will point with confused looks, uncertain of where the grouse are, only to have the grouse launch from a tree, sometimes from unbelievably high. Occasionally birds will be pointed on the ground, but most of the birds have seen a hunter or two and will try to sneak away. The savvy dog will learn to deal with the runners, cautiously pinning them rather than flushing the wary birds.

Maggie pointing a ruffed grouse.