Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Squatter's Cover

A pulled muscle in my back kept me out of my coverts for several days, but feeling a little better I headed for the hugh, briery, steep Squatter's cover.
This cover has years ahead of it before it matures out of being good grouse cover.The basic for the name. The local forester told me a man had to be removed by the state police from this "house" on recently acquired state game lands.

Emma working along a small spring seep. We moved 2 grouse with no points today in about 2 hours before a cold drizzle drove us to the truck.

Looking tired, wet and torn from the briers, Emma will be raring to go tomorrow and so will I..

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My last two trips afield have been as quiet as my first. Last Friday Emma and I hunted the Oregon Rd covers. Nice looking cover void of birds.

Perhaps the work of a bored logger making a nice chair for deer season???
Their teasing us :(.

Monday we headed due south close to the Mason-Dixon line to hunt some clearcuts that had the deer fences recently removed.

Not even any tracks here.

Swung by an old cemetery that I hadn't visited for a few years. Most of the stones are fading fast with many just small markers perhaps of infants.

Nancy Collins lived a remarkably long life in these unforgiving ridges.

At first I thought fox tracks but the way they traveled over quite a number of fallen logs made me think that they may have been made by a fisher, whose numbers are growing quickly in my area. Just what the grouse need another predator.

Why a bear would be out roaming around now I don't know , but they were just hours old. That's Emma's track on the right.

Emma and I are heading out again today, hoping that Diana the hunting goddess will eventually smile upon us.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Cold Quiet Day

Emma and I entered one of my southeastern covers around 10:00 with the temp hovering at 21 degrees. Many of the clearcuts on state forest land are surrounded by an 8 foot tall fence to keep the deer out while the young saplings have a chance to grow. The fence had recently been taken down around this cut and we hunted the edge following a trail that encircled the cut with Emma hunting in the thick saplings with occasional circles through laurel thickets and downed logs scattered in the open woods. One log begged to be a backdrop for an Elin photo. About an hour later we were back at the truck without seeing or hearing any sign of a grouse.We traveled down the forest road to another more mature cut where several springs ago my nephew and I had moved 6 grouse on a training run. An old stone wall along the lower edge of the cut made a nice trail to follow.

Emma stopping in to offer encouragement before continuing her quest.

Suddenly there they were. Sign that we were not alone on this mountainside.

The tracks led up into this tangle of rock and saplings and although we hunted with renewed vigor the bird had vanished.

A snow squall swept in as we struggled back up the mountain toward the truck. Soon Elin's barrels were covered with a coating of snow and I wondered how many times in the last 97 years in her native Swedish covers she had been carried through weather just like this and I had to smile at myself for having such thoughts as my mind wandered just as my feet wandered slowly back to the warmth of the truck.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Like a thirst that couldn't be quenched I just "had to have" a top-lever Husqvarna shotgun. One day a tip from an internet "friend" steered me to Gunbroker and "Elin". She's a Model 51 Husky built in 1913 with steel barrels. The top-lever, back action hammer design makes her a joy to carry and shoot. Her barrels have already been to Mike Orlen's and been opened to .003 & .010 making her my late-season grouse gun, at least that's the reason I used to talk myself into getting her :).

The 1/2 inch hard rubber pad that brings her lop to my liking.

The Greener cross-bolt locking system.

Hattie says "you did good Dad".

The snows of the last week will keep me out of my grouse filled northern coverts so I'll be carrying her tomorrow into my southeastern coverts that I haven't hunted yet this year but hopefully will hold a grouse or two for me and Emma and Elin.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Last Day

Today was the last day of our early grouse season and Emma and I headed north to hunt the strip mines. A slight wind, cold with a skiff of snow it seemed like a perfect day to grouse hunt. A few minutes after we left the truck Emma proved me right and went into a beautiful high headed point. As I moved in I heard but didn't see a grouse flush from grape tangles lower on the ridge. At the sound of the flush Emma moved several yards down the ridge and another grouse took off from the same area. Suddenly Emma goes on point again and I assume that she's pointing the scent of the second bird. I make my way down the ridge toward her and a third bird rises from the tangles and I throw a right barrel shot after it with no effect. A downed bird would have made a perfect scene but I was still very happy with Emma's bird work. We hunted the slippery, tangled ridge slope for several hours but were rewarded with only two wild flushes.

Emma checking in.
What every Allegheny Mountain grouse hunter seeks, a cluster of wild grapes. Grouse just have to be nearby.
A couple pics of the cover we hunted.

We then traveled several miles to the "old orange gate" cover. A place which we've hunted twice with birds moved both times. It didn't disappoint us this time either. After a slow start I heard Emma's beeper go on point mode near the end of the cover. As I worked my way toward her I saw a grouse flying straight at me. Since I didn't know if she had bumped it or if it had flushed on its own I stood and watched it glide by. A little while later as we worked our way toward the truck I saw Emma go on point in open birch woods. She slowly turned her head as she searched for stronger scent, then slowly started trailing down through the woods. Suddenly I saw the grouse take off silently 25 or 30 yards below her giving me no chance for a shot. By now the wind had increased, daylight was fading and the truck appeared around a bend in the road. So I end my early grouse season with no grouse kills for Emma, but with her making good progress today with her grouse contacts. I'm still hopeful that with more exposure to birds she'll mature into a grouse dog.
My late grouse season starts Dec 13. If deep snow doesn't keep us from our covers we'll continue Emma's education............stay tuned :) .

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Hunt with Matt & Abby

I got an email from fellow blogger Matt Ortiz of An Upland Odyssey fame that he and his wife would be in my area over the Thanksgiving Day holidays. We set a date and watched the dismal weather forecast hoping for a break and we got it. Today turned in to a sunny mild day with only slight winds, not the quickly dropping temps and high winds that the forecasters were calling for. Sadly I don't have any "hotspots" here in southcentral Pa. but took Matt and Abby to a handy game lands with plenty of clearcuts to hunt. As we were hunting through the second clearcut I heard Matt's 16 ga Ithaca Long Range bark twice and then saw a grouse boring down at me from Matt's side of the clearcut. I left the bird glide by me and then gave it the "two shot" salute as it continued on its way. At the end of the cut Matt related how Abby had done a good job flushing the grouse from the greenbrier and had stayed steady to flush and shot. A couple of clearcuts later I again heard Matt shoot. Once again Abby had done her job but Matt missed on a grouse that flushed low and stayed low on its escape route. We hunted through a half dozen more clearcuts but the birds eluded us. Here's Matt and Abby taking a short break in some open timber between the clearcuts.We ended our hunt with only the two birds flushed but with a new friendship started. Matt proved to be a enjoyable fellow to hunt with and hopefully we'll be able to share some woods time again some day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Never Lost....Sometimes Confused

After several days with Emma still bumping grouse I decided to take Hattie and hunt my northern most covers, mostly ageing strip mines. The first cover produced 5 grouse with Hattie pointing 2. The first point was in a small tangle of grapevine. Although I approached "ready for the bird" he had his escape route well planned and stayed low to the ground and was over a small rise before I could shoot. The other grouse she found was in some mature pines. I saw her slowly creeping forward, a sign to me that the grouse was running. I was walking along a gaswell road and Hattie was working parallel to the road so I hasten my step in the hopes that the bird may just flush across the road. Seconds later I saw but never heard the bird crossing the road. The little Leige double leapt to my shoulder and I fired two shots as the bird disappeared into the pines on the other side of the road. We searched thoroughly but my shots had missed their mark and that bird was safe for another day.
We then moved to another cover consisting of several stripmine benches and gaswell roads running parallel with each other. Nice looking cover of aspen and pine but we found nothing. At the end of the cover I swung around and started back to the truck keeping a gaswell road to my right with (I thought) another one still above me on my left. By now a fog had moved in and it was misting a light rain. The cover turned nasty with lots of fallen pines and open patches of thick blackberry briers. In this cover I heard 3 grouse flush in front of us with no points. At this point in the story I should mention that I had bought a Bushnell BackTrack before season and had used it several times to find my was back to the truck. It's a simple device to use and it had proved to be reliable. The problem on this hunt was that I had neglected to set it at the truck so it wasn't going to lead me back to the truck, which was no big deal (I thought) because of the gaswell roads all leading back to the road that I was parked on. As I waded through the briers and downed trees I kept angling to my left to hit the gaswell road that I thought should be just above me. I struggled on now knowing that I had "misplaced" that gaswell road. I still felt I was moving in the right direction to come out on the road that I had parked on so I kept moving in that direction. Finally I came out on a paved road with orange pylons sitting down the middle of it. Then I realized that I had missed the dirt road that I was parked on and had come out on the road that I had turned off of to get to the cover. So Hattie and I had about a 1/2 mile walk back to the truck. When I had crossed the gaswell road it had been the last one and I had wander basically in the right direction but not directly back to the truck. The lesson here is of course to always set the BackTrack before leaving the truck no matter how simple the cover is. Now this cover has a name "The Lost Benches" cover.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Woodcock Season Flown Away

With 3 days left in the woodcock season I headed north to hunt along a small river that I've been eyeing all fall. The cover just screamed WOODCOCK !!!I love finding old apple trees in mid-fall with apples still hanging on. Old survivor trees handing out their bounty sparingly.

Emma says there's birds in here for sure, but after hours of brushing pounding without a sniff of a woodcock we went home empty-handed.

The next day Hattie and Caleb were my huntmates. We hit a local cover that often holds a few birds.

Caleb and his 16 ga. Uggie sxs surveying the cover.

Hattie found the birds, but they proved hard to approach. Here's Caleb going in to a point.

Caleb going in on another point. Hattie found 6 woodcock that day but they were runners, flushing out ahead of her points. Caleb only got one chance at a bird and didn't connect.

The last day drawed my to Lake Raystown, the largest lake in Pa. It has some excellent looking covers, but I've never been able to "hit the flights" and only move an occasional bird.

This beautiful cover proved to be empty.

It's a shame the woodcock can't read.

So this years woodcock season ended quietly. With only a few birds bagged some may say it was a disappointing season, but I hunt as much for the experiences as for the full game bags and I have many memories to remind me of this wonderful time of year.
Now the dogs and I will put our "grouse faces" on. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thin Shooting

Hattie and I hunted a new covert that looked like a woodcock hotspot. We found only 2 woodcock with one presenting me with a shot. Collett the little Liege side by side's right barrel did it's job well. Pa's woodcock season ends this week. With warm weather forcasted for all week it looks like I will be missing the woocock flights again this year.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Introducing........ Collett

Once in a great while a gun deal will come along that you just can't refuse. "Collett" was such a deal. Owned by Mark Larson whose moniker is UncleDanFan on the board he had found this little Belgium guild gun a year or more ago and had "cleaned her up" and posted pics on the board. I was immediately in awe of the gun and had joked with Mark about letting me have first chance when he decided to "move it along" but never thought I would ever have that chance. Suddenly last week I got an email from Mark. He had lost his camera while hunting and had decided to part with the little Belgium as a way of getting a new camera. The price he quoted was more than fair and a money order was send straight away. Two days ago she appeared at my door and today was her first hunt. The grouse didn't cooperate as usual but Hattie did have several woodcock points. I was able to get a shot at this bird and the cylinder bored right barrel brought her down.As I mentioned earlier she's a Belgium guild gun. A guild gun is a gun built by a number of different gunsmiths each having their own special skill. For example the stock was built by one person, the barrels by another, and the action by another. Built in the 1880's with 30 inch damascus barrels choked cylinder & cylinder and weighing 6 lbs. 3 ozs. She's a wand to carry and today ,at least, a deadly wand.

At the end of the hunt, a tired Hattie with her bird.

Just shut the door and let me sleep :).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Today started with an hour hunt along a small river looking for woodcock that weren't there. Next was an hour hunt through nice looking aspen in a stripmine that was barren of birds. Then we spent 2 hours hunting another stripmine with a mixture of pine & autumn olive. The birds, grouse, were there but Emma couldn't handle them bumping 4 with a couple of wild flushes thrown in. As the day was fading we tried one last spot, a wet patch of aspen,alders and misc. trees that I had never hunted before. Just out of the truck Emma goes on point and I walk up a woodcock that falls at my shot.
Emma's smile matched mine.
The little 16 ga. Belgium Bayard. The right cylinder bored barrel loaded with # 8 1/2 shot in a 2 1/2 inch roll crimped shell did the trick.