Grouse numbers were down, way down, to the lowest flush/hour rate since I’ve been keeping records. Woodcock numbers were up some, but averaged together the total was still well below the norm.
Probably many of the year’s young died from pneumonia, caused by the previous cold wet May. The hens, determined to perpetuate the species, nested a second time. Many of the grouse that we shot were very small, obviously not full grown.
Good friends who’ve been regulars came up from the Vineyard, while some others who’ve been regulars couldn’t make it and were missed. Peter Corbin, the sporting artist (www.petercorbin.com), made a return trip and brought Jim Kline for two days of gunning. The best hour of those two days was the last, where the dogs did some excellent work and we moved seven grouse.
|Georgia, pointing a woodcock|
Georgia, our borrowed sweetheart shorthair, had another spectacular season. She was the first to point and pointed as many grouse as any of the other dogs. For a dog that lives among non-hunters and comes up to hunt with us each fall, she’s a rock star with impeccable manners. It’s all in her breeding, because nobody has ever done any real bird work with her.
Colby, the youngest of our wirehairs, was as reliable as ever, hunting diligently within a comfortable range. Her canine cruciate ligament problems of the past are a distant memory.
Chara, my older wirehair, hunted an hour or so most days, and even took a day or two off, it being her fourteenth season. She solidly pointed three grouse, and I took some great pictures of her, but never managed to kill a grouse over her. I lost count of how many woodcock she pointed.
|Chara, hard on a grouse|
Our youngster, Juno, pointed grouse several times. How long she would be steady was always an iffy thing, but she did great for only a little over a year old. For reasons that I’ll probably never understand, she seemed to point grouse more readily than woodcock, and I would have expected the opposite. She bumped dozens of woodcock.
The first day all four dogs were put out at once to burn off steam, after the long five hour drive north. Clanging bells and dashing dogs created pandemonium, and it was impossible to keep track of everyone. Then Georgia went missing, but the new e-collar with the pager function found her. She was only fifty feet away, on the far side of a spruce, solidly pointing a grouse.
Every year there’s some bad weather during our two week trip, usually a couple of days of rain, and most years there’s enough snow to turn the ground white at some point, but it never stays. This year we only saw a few flakes, but almost every day either rain or mist soaked everything, and the cloud cover never wanted to go away. Only on the last day did blue sky poke through the clouds.
Yet there were friends, dogs, birds in the bag, loads of laughs, and dozens of memories, with new country explored and fresh stories to tell. What more could one want? It was a very good year.
|Barrel bands on a long-gone farmer's rock pile.|
|Juno bringing me a woodcock.|
|Juno, soaking up the sun.|
|Georgia and Juno, next to the heater.|
|Colby, nailing a woodcock|
|Heading toward next year....|