Monday, December 26, 2011

A Grouse for Copper and Elin

My second season has been a quiet one with only several wild flushes to show for my wanderings. Today I headed to a southern covert close to the Maryland border with Copper to try our luck. Multiflora rose, blackberry briers and autumn olive cover much of the mountain side.

With the wet weather we've had this fall the springs and seeps were running full.

This covert has some stone fence rows that would rival New England covers.

Coppers beeper suddenly switches to point mode and I see her "cat walking" after a running grouse. I move to circle around her as fast as I can manage in the steep and rocky terrain and she locks up on point with a multiflora rose bush between us. As I take a step toward the bush a grouse flushes straight for my head. I duck, turn and fire the right barrel and then the left as the grouse sails down the mountainside and see the bird cartwheel down with a broken wing. Copper sees the grouse fall and catches it as it flutters down the steep slope.

Elin, my 16 ga. Husqvarna hammergun with the first bird I've taken with her.

Copper poses happily with her bird.

We had several wild flushes and one more point that I couldn't reach in time for a shot, but the day goes down as a success with a burning memory of Coppers point and my killing shot.

Friday, November 25, 2011

SHHHH............Dont' Tell the Wife

After the wife left for work I grabbed Emma and headed for Warrior Ridge, an hour long hunt over easy terrain to test out my healing back muscles. Just a couple of minutes out of the truck Emma points under this leaning tree. I took the wrong approach and a woodcock flew out staying low and not offering me a shot, but it was a good start.Pa. has extended the woodcock season this year and the coverts are a little more open without the leaves to interfere and the birds were there.

The next woodcock flushed in front of me and got a free pass. Minutes later Emma started to make game, pointing several times but not able to pin point the woodcock. She suddenly did a 180 and bumped the bird.

She hunted beautifully for me today. Diving under some cover............

and bursting out of other cover.

As we neared the truck she went on point at a large downed oak tree with briers growing up through a maze of branches. I circled around the treetop, stomped on some of the limbs and even threw a small limb into the center to try to flush whatever held Emma's interest. Finally I climbed into the center of the tangle. Suddenly out of the leaves just a couple of feet from me flushed a woodcock just missing my right shoulder. I turned, left the bird get a little distance on me and promptly missed with both barrels. This was were the bird was squatted down.

Although disappointed with my shooting I still had a smile on my face as I made my way back to the truck. I had found some birds, Emma had worked the cover to my satisfaction, and my back didn't feel too bad. I might just have to go for a little hunt tomorrow.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Afraid my Season's Over

No the dogs are fine, it's me who has "went down". Woke up Sat. with a sore knee and a backache. Didn't surprise me as I've been out hunting for 10 of the last 14 days so decided to just take it easy on Sat. as I still have a weeks vacation to use. Sat. evening I went to lift a bag of horse feed and felt a stabbing pain in my back. I instantly knew what it was "back spasms". I was crippled this summer for two weeks with back spasms and know what they are. Pain pills and rest are the only solutions that the Doc's have so now I'm hobbling around the house feeling sorry for the dogs and myself. The best I can hope for is to get better by Thanksgiving Day so I can hunt that Thurs, Fri, and Sat, before Deer Season. I had coverts lined up to hunt this week that now will go unhunted till next year. But the worst thing is the experiences that Emma will miss due to my body breaking down. ERRRR........ and I'm not even old (well not that old)yet.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Copper's Day Afield

Emma was looking pretty worn this morning so I took Copper for a short woodcock hunt. Her hips won't take too long a hunt any more, but we had a nice time afield with several points on woodcock and one grouse point. I only got a chance at one of the woodcock and had to drop both hammers but I was able to down the bird for her.

As usual she found and mouthed the bird and made me crawl into the thicket to retrieve it myself, but am glad I was able to shot a bird over her point to add to the memories we've made over the years.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Long Time Coming

I started the week up north in a new to me stripmine that yielded only one wild flush. Tuesday I tried a new covert near home that held several woodcock, but Emma was enable to handle them, bumping 2 birds and I flushed a third one. Not a good start to a new covert but it's one that I'll visit again. Wednesday proved to be a big day for us. It didn't start out that way. The first cover we hit was full of woodcock, too many for Emma to handle that early in the morning and she merrily bumped several birds in her excited state. We then moved to another cover that sometimes holds a woodcock or two. It consists of old wet fields growing back in crabapples and hawthorns.

Plenty of fruit for the wildlife.

Emma pointed one woodcock that ran out and flushed and I missed a long shot on it. Soon she pointed again and as I walked in a grouse flushed across in front of me. I focused on the bird, mounted Colette and dropped the right hammer, and the bird dropped to the ground stone dead. It was Emma's first grouse and I was ecstatic. She finished off her performance with a nice retrieve.

Posing is serious business.

Back at the truck, let me hold it one more time Dad.

Arriving home I had one tired puppy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Exploring new Coverts

Friday Emma and I spent the day exploring some new coverts. This cover consisted of old goldenrod fields growing back in saplings and spruce with a stream running through it.

As I walked the edge of the stream I remembered to look for muskrat holes in the thick goldenrod. A good way to break a leg. Sure enough I found several.

Finally the stream steered us into a wall of impenetrable alders and we had to turn back to the truck.

As we approached the truck Emma suddenly went on point. I moved in for the flush but no bird materialized. Emma broke point and started working scent furiously and I knew we had a running bird. Ahead of her I saw the woodcock flush and it winged its way past me for an easy shot that I passed on, figuring that Emma would learn nothing by my shooting a bird that she hadn't pointed solidly. Just one bird in this nice looking cover but on the right day I'm sure it could be full of woodcock.

We moved to another spot that featured a beautiful hollow full of aspen saplings that cried out "Woodcock". Today they weren't there.

But it did lead us to a huge strip mine growing back in nice looking cover. Emma had two empty points and later I hear a grouse flush in the vicinity that she was hunting in.

The temperature was heating up so we headed back to the truck. Along side some standing water I saw movement in the grass that turned out to be this fellow, sunning itself before winter drove it underground.

So ended today's hunt with no birds bagged but with new several coverts to hunt in the future. I'll catch up on work around the house this weekend and be back in the woods next week.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making the most of the Opportunities

Today I headed up north to my J & K covert a mountain that had been strip mined some years ago. Most of it is open fields with spruce and locust growing back but along some of the edges there are patches of aspen along side drainage ponds. It was in one of these patches of aspen that Emma went on a solid point and held while I walked up a woodcock that fell to my right barrel shot. Emma made the find and retrieve and I started to pose Colette the little hammergun and the bird for a photo when suddenly Emma's beeper went on point mode not 50 yards behind me. As I fumbled to put the camera back in it's case, reload my right
barrel and scrambled up the rocky slope to when she stood on point, Emma remained pointing staunchly. I moved in and flushed another woodcock that dropped to my right barrel shot, with Emma again making the find and retrieve. Two points, two shots and hits, and two retrieves in less that 2 minutes. Here's Emma making the retrieve on the second bird.

Emma's smile matched my own.

From the top of the mountain looking down at the little patch of aspen where it all came together.

We hunted another couple of hours through nice sapling cover that failed to produce any birds.

By lunchtime the temps were pushing 60 degrees and I called it a day. With the low grouse numbers Emma may never make a grouse dog but today she showed me that she had the woodcock figured out as she made the most of the opportunties presented to her and I drove home a happy man.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday & Wednesday Hunts

Tuesday found Emma and I in some lovely cover, an old railroad bed lined with crabapple and autumn olive. Beautiful cover for grouse and woodcock neither of which were found.

Hunted through some old fields of goldenrod bordered by large Norway spruce without success.

Hunted through an area of huge boulders. Here was a crack in the rock big enough for a man or bear to crawl in.

Here's a prescribed burn area. It's purpose is to suppress the faster growing birch and maple to give the oak,which is not bothered by the fire, a chance to survive.

A colorful fungi I spotted on an old log.

I know most people shoot them on sight, but my setters pay no attention to them so I let this one go on his slow plodding way.

Two wild grouse flushes were all the action Emma and I could find on this day.

Wednesday I had several appointments to keep and didn't get into the woods until noon with Hattie. We hunted Warrior Ridge looking for woodcock. We found only one near the end of the hunt sitting tight in thick saplings. I pushed my way in to flush the bird and took a poor right barrel try at it to no avail. The weatherman is calling for bluebird weather for the next several days with temps near 60 and little chance of rain. Not the kind of weather to get the woodcock moving, but we'll be out there wandering the coverts because that's what we love to do.