Friday, July 26, 2013


It is raining outside. A long stretch of unbearably hot weather has come to an end. I truly hope summer’s backbone is broken.
The rain has been steady, not the rumbling downpour of a summer thunderstorm, but rather the light steady rain that often comes in the fall. My German wirehairs are asleep at my feet, they must notice the change in the weather. I put on long pants after cleaning up from work, the first time in weeks.
Sometime during every day I think about bird hunting. The dogs are always under my feet and come to hang out in my cabinet shop most days, so they are a constant reminder. On our morning and evening walks they point rabbits and then watch them run away as I approach. One of these days, as we get into fall, it might be a woodcock rising and then I will be very excited too.

Another Rabbit!
    For now I sit in my office and watch the rain, surrounded by books. The gun safe is open, so the doubles can keep me company.  I’ll have to count the days again until October first.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Shared grouse country is a treasure.
It was something that I read in Gene Hill’s Shotgunner’s Handbook that got me to thinking about bird hunting manners. It is seldom spoken about, unless introducing a youngster to the sport, or even an oldster I guess, but manners are extremely important.
Gun safety is at the top of the list, keeping track of where that muzzle is pointed. The way grouse explode into the air and reflexes take over, it is easy to imagine horrible things happening.  Most of my hunting used to be done alone, and much still is, which eliminates that concern.
Game hogs can’t be tolerated, but with the wily grouse of today it is almost impossible to be a game hog. I guess it is more of an attitude thing. Hunting is about a lot more than the number of birds killed.
Guests hunting with me are always encouraged to take most of the shots. I’m not sure if that is me being gracious or maybe me trying to hide my so-so shooting. Enthusiastic newcomers are fun to watch, even if the ruffed grouse is usually long gone by the time the trigger is pulled. Seasoned hunters, who actually kill birds with some regularity, are like watching magicians.
Woodcock pinned
Most of us could not imagine hunting without a dog, and I’m sure our opinions of our own dogs are like those of our children, a bit tainted. Never ever should a hunter make a negative comment about someone else’s dog, and please leave the directing of the dog to its owner. If you are not sure of the proper protocol around another person’s dog, ask.
On occasion, in a large alder flat or grouse thicket and when we’ve been gunning over two dogs or more, I’ll tell the trusted friend to split off and take my older dog along. The oldest girl is what I call bullet-proof, with good habits so well ingrained that I know she’ll be fine, no matter what is said to her. Besides, she’s basically a whore and will hunt for anybody.
Training together
I love dogs and enjoy the pandemonium of hunting over multiples. I’m sure a lot of people think this is insane, and I don’t claim that it puts more birds in the bag. I guarantee it is never boring though and what person’s heart doesn’t flutter at the sight of three or more dogs pointing simultaneously.
In the field most of them seem to get along and tend to business, but it certainly is more fun if they all honor each other’s points. Occasionally, some dogs, often who’ve spent their lives hunting in preserves, are clueless out in the big northern forests. Most will put it all together in short order though, particularly if they are hunting alongside experienced dogs, but, if after a day or two they still haven’t, I don’t know if they ever will.
The right friend can add a lot of pleasure
to a day afield.
And definitely, to avoid the biggest faux pas of all, you must assume that when someone takes you to one of their favorite coverts it is not yours to share unless the privilege is specifically granted. And, quite frankly, I’ve never heard of that happening. Productive grouse cover is just too precious and hard to come by to casually spread around. Sleeping with another’s spouse will get you into no more trouble than stealing their coverts—it is that serious.
So a gun shot a little too close to me or my dogs, a frantic attitude about bagging birds, an unruly dog, or a shotgun’s muzzle that wanders casually all over the place—any one of those can take the fun out of my day and you need not be hunting with me again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hot Weather

It has been really hot, so hot that when I am outside there seems to be bacon sizzling somewhere. At least my mind hears it, if only my nose could find the aroma.
Early morning walks, out back behind the house, are still possible, but by eight o’clock the woodland strolls are out of the question. They are not fun for me and the dogs suffer in the heat. Back at the house the dogs dig for cool soil to lay on, and I can’t blame them, but we try very hard to discourage it. Parts of the yard are starting to look like the No Man’s Land of World War I, all pot holes and bones. Taking the dogs down to one of the ponds is tempting and sometimes we get there, but other times the dogs and I just hunker down.
If I can avoid the persistent chores on the “to-do list” I’ll read, which is easily my favorite pastime in hot weather. Find me shade and a good book and I’m quite content while I wait for fall.
I just re-read Gene Hill’s book Shotgunner’s Notebook and enjoyed it immensely. I’m not sure if I learned anything new, but it brought a lot of things back that maybe had been filed in the foggy recesses of my brain. Some of the reviews of that book haven’t been the kindest because it was different than his other books, but you can still hear Gene’s voice and read his humor, plus learn something along the way.
I’ll have to rout around my bookshelves now to find something else to read. Or, while it’s really hot, it might be a good time to take my guns out, haul them down to my workbench in the cool basement, and give them a good cleaning, at least until the sun goes down.