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.


  1. I've enjoyed reading your blog since stumbling upon it in my search for grouse hunting information. Any advice for a complete novice?

    1. Peter, Now that's a tough one. It would help if I knew more about you...have you hunted before? Do you have a dog? How at home are you in the woods? What part of the country are you in?

      There's a lot that can be learned from books. The L. L. Bean book Upland Bird Hunting Handbook by Tom Huggler is a good place to start, and then there are the classics like New England Grouse Shooting by William Harnden Foster, which is out of print but still available from places like Join the Ruffed Grouse Society so you will get their magazine, which is a wealth of information on both hunting and the bird.

      Of course the best place to start is to find a bird hunter that will take you under his wing. That might be hard to do, those upland coverts are hard earned and hesitantly shared. You might meet hunters at Ruffed Grouse Society events or bird dog events such as the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. They are out there, but just not too numerous.

      Fire away if you have more questions....

  2. In order: Yes, but not much. I do, but she's a rescue gsp, so I don't know that she'll ever hunt. I grew up in the sticks of upstate NY, so I'm comfortable in the woods. I currently reside in RI, so I would have to travel to another NE state for grouse (but not woodcock).
    I've already requested New England Grouse Shooting from the library and contacted my somewhat local NAVHDA group. I guess I'm on the right track at least.
    I've encountered the same reticence in waterfowlers, so I know how tough it can be to find a mentor.
    I can think of one question right now: if you were heading to a new are that you were unfamiliar with, what would be your first step in identifying good habitat?
    Thanks for taking the time to respond and I'll shoot you some questions when I know what to ask!

  3. Peter, Go easy with that dog, she/he may be perfect. More dogs are ruined by inexperienced hunters/trainers than anything else. I'm sure you will find NAVHDA people who are willing to help you. Be very careful introducing the dog to gun fire. A gunshy dog is almost impossible to cure, and the condition is almost always man made. I have friends that have great dogs which have been rescue dogs.

    If you can find woodcock locally, they are perfect for introducing young dog to birds. I'm sure that some nest in RI and are there all year, and more will migrate through in the fall. If you have trouble finding woodcock pigeons are easy to come by. I keep homers that I buy cheap on line, mostly culls from breeders that have too many. A release trap from someone like Lion Country Supply does the trick. You don't need a fancy electric one, a simple trap with a string release is all I've ever used.

    How far are you willing to travel to find grouse? Northern New England has great bird country. Vermont's North East Kingdom, New Hampshire's North Country, and Maine's Great North Woods all have lots of logging, and the best grouse hunting is around old clear cuts. Cuttings from a year or two old to twenty years old are the best, preferably with young hardwoods coming up, but you also need a few softwood trees nearby. It doesn't take many, but the softwoods provide shelter in rain or cold. A stream or water source is helpful, but in much of Northern New England water seems to be everywhere. The birds also need gravel for their crop, so logging roads and stream beds can provide that.

    Pick an area and spend some time looking at Google Earth. By looking at the various dates that Google Earth offers you can get an idea on how old clear cuts are. Google Earth also shows logging roads well.

    Have you heard the joke...what's the best kind of tree for grouse??? The one on the back of a logging truck.

    I have a GPS app on my phone called Back Country Navigator that I can download aerial photos of everywhere on. I find myself looking for grouse cover all the time on the thing. It's a great app and I highly recommend it. For a few bucks your phone will do everything that a fancy GPS will do, and do it better, because most GPS units don't download aerial photos. It also works where there is no cell phone service.

    So I guess if I were starting blind, I'd pick a spot up north that didn't look too populated, and then start to explore it with Google Earth. And when you think you have it figured out a bit, drive up there and start walking. Grouse are earned with shoe leather.

    Good luck, and keep in touch.

    1. Peter, Here's an interesting read...

      Look on for a copy, the prices they have are down at the moment. I paid almost a hundred bucks for my copy. It's a book you'll enjoy reading over and over again.