Sunday, November 23, 2014


Our pup Juno.
     It was going to be the last hunt of our two week trip and, with four pairs of pleading eyes, none of the girls could be left in the truck. Bell collars were slipped over four necks and down the hill we started.
     Anyone who claims to be able to keep track of four dogs in the northern ruffed grouse country is delusional. Sometimes one would be in sight, sometimes two, maybe once in a while three, but seldom four. The last time I’d heard bells ringing like that it was the dancing Hare Krishna people in Harvard Square.
     The young shorthair, Juno, bumped a woodcock.
     Georgia, the older shorthair pointed another woodcock, but then busted it as her younger half-sister came charging up.
     The two wirehairs worked closer to the edge of the logging road, looking very businesslike.
     Juno crossed into alders on the road’s far side. A startled grouse rocketed back across the logging road.
Colby on point
     Through fence post sized poplars we worked. Down near the bottom, where an edge created by a snowmobile trail cut off our course, the younger wirehair, Colby, locked up on point. Soon Chara, my time tested wire hunting her fourteenth season, joined her, backing from fifteen feet away.
     That woodcock ended up in the bag.
     A second grouse zipped across the road.
Georgia on a woodcock
The turmoil continued, bells ringing everywhere, but it was a dry stretch with no birds. Following a grassy logging road down a slope, I spotted three people coming our direction.
     In ten years of hunting the north woods, I have never bumped into anyone actually out hunting in the woods. Never ever.
     One of the three was tightly holding the collar of his German shorthair pointer, obviously wondering “What the hell is all that racket?”
     Feeling a bit of a fool, I called the dogs in. I mean, who the heck hunts ruffed grouse with four bird dogs at once? We sounded like a bunch of dancing gypsies.
    Then I recognized the man holding the shorthair’s collar. He said, “Jerry, you need to get a sled for all these dogs.”
     It was Tom, a great guy and a guide from Tall Timber Lodge. He introduced the two sports with him and we chatted for a while. The dogs all got to know each other. I still felt a bit silly for the commotion we’d been making out there in that grouse covert. After several minutes, I wished them well and we went on our way.
     Through some great cover we found nothing, but then my girls all came barreling out to the logging road to race ahead of me, except Chara, whose racing days now happen in slow motion now. About fifteen feet in front of me, she slowed, turned her head to the left, and locked up like a statue. The other three dogs had flown right by that spot. It was a variation of the tortoise and hare story.
Chara, pointing a woodcock.
     Entering the weeds, a woodcock popped up and disappeared immediately into a cluster of softwoods. My shot was in vain.
     We continued on, which brought on more of the same…clanging bells, fleeing birds, and dashing dogs, with an occasional point, which once or twice contained multiple dogs frozen simultaneously. Several times I just stopped to laugh. It was a hunt that will be remembered for a long time.
     Pandemonium can be fun.


  1. How can you turn down the look in a pleading dogs eyes. It sounds like the dogs had great fun and I'm sure you did too. Thanks for taking us along.


  2. I can barely keep track of one, even with the help of a bell and a satellite. A friend of mine used to run four dogs and he claimed when they hit the woods the grouse would hold pretty tight from all the commotion going on, they didn't know where to fly. Sounds more like work than hunting to me.