Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Slow Season

    After a slow start the 2016 bird season improved slightly, if only because we finally received some much needed rain and the woods returned to something near normal.            
    The usually abundant streams that dried up in August again had water in them. And the late arriving cooler temperatures helped both the dogs and hunters stay comfortable.
    Finding grouse remained difficult, but woodcock were easier. We never found a bumper flight, but the numbers were average. Luck has a lot to do with hitting a memorable flights of woodcock. There was that day in the National Forrest a few years ago where we flushed more woodcock in a hour than we do some seasons. I am sure it will happen again, but not this year as the shooting season has closed and there are ten inches of snow on the ground.
    Even well into November a few grouse could be found hanging around apple trees that still had fruit. Usually by then the fruit is gone and so have the grouse, but in spite of the drought there was a bumper crop of small apples. Hunting the clear cuts took lots of walking between birds. Deer hunting in late November with several inches of snow on the ground I have yet to see a grouse track of flush a bird.
   During fifteen years of keeping records, this was the slowest year yet. Let’s hope for better numbers next year.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Tough Year

Taking a break on a hot day.
    This year has been warmer than normal and extremely dry, and where are the grouse?  
    So far the bird season has been frustrating. Early on a few grouse were found around apple trees, perhaps for the moisture in the fruit, but many of the usual coverts are empty or nearly so. Our daily average has been the lowest in years.
    A great number of the little streams that usually wind down the hillsides dried up. In the past woodcock could often be found in the moist ground along them. Alder flats that are usually wet and muddy became easy walking. In spite of the lack of rain the apple trees had a bumper crop of fruit, and blueberries, raspberries, highbush cranberries did the same. Did the abundant fruit cause the birds to scatter?
    The spring weather wasn’t unusually wet or cold, so I expected good brood numbers. Wet cold weather right after hatching can wipe out much of a year’s young grouse. The entire year has been unusually dry, and since the spring particularly so.
The usual wet lowlands were just low.
    But the weather has turned now and the migrating woodcock have showed up. The grouse are still sketchy and hard to find, yet we keep trying. Almost all of the leaves have dropped and it is a great time to be in the woods. When a bird goes up at least we can see it.
   We’ll keep trying and perhaps figure out these grouse yet.