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.