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.

Monday, October 24, 2016


A point during training.
     Nothing matches the magic of having a new pup in the house. Old dogs create comfort, new dogs bring wonder. The pup’s excitement and curiosity generate the same in us. Every trip afield becomes an adventure.
     There is laughter sprinkled with frustration, but most of the latter is usually brought on by our own unreasonable expectations. The difference between flustered and amused is attitude.
A woodcock point.
     Hopefully, the pup is trying its hardest to do what we want…but it’s just so hard to stand still when that bird is four feet from the nose!  I constantly remind myself that a bumped bird is a learning experience, and hopefully the young dog is smart enough to put it all together
     An older experienced dog is a great teacher and the pup will learn much. Of course, it is important to teach the younger dog to honor the older dog’s point, then hunt them together as much as you can.
     So this is our autumn to teach a pup, but Maggie seems to be teaching herself. On her own she knows to stay close in thick cover yet ranges further where the country is open, always quartering nicely to search every corner. Somehow she learned we are all part of the team, for she checks back often to know where I am. If only my shooting were better the process would cement in her mind quicker.
     When she comes upon the older dog pointing the brakes are applied. When she finds bird scent on her own Maggie’s hind end wiggles in overdrive until the bird is pinpointed. Now we are working on patience to just hold that point longer.
I walk ahead of Maggie pointing a woodcock.
     I am certain most of our success comes from good breeding, for that the credit goes to Ripsnorter Kennel in Ohio. Maggie’s manners were taught early and she loves to please.  
     Life is looking pretty good.