Saturday, December 27, 2014

More Late Season Adventures

My last several trips afield have been disappointing. Emma and I tried a new area high up on Snake Spring Mountain. It contained several of clear cuts.

And a nice scattering of pines, crabapple, hawthorn, acorn and barberry.

The seeming perfect blend of food and cover didn't help as Emma and I left the mountain without moving a single bird.
The next day Thicket and I wandered through the clear cut that borders the Back40. Although Thicket did a good job of hunting the cover we ended another hunt birdless.

Back at the truck she posed for pics.

                                                        She got bored while I tried to take a "selfie".
Yesterday in an attempt to change our luck Emma and I headed north to try some new coverts.
It worked.
We hunted a ridge that borders the Brady covert. It had been timbered with a select cut over this summer and large tree tops lay randomly with the dried leaves still clinging to the branches making for nice cover.

We had 2 wild flushes in the first 1/2 hour. Then we swung through some heavy 2nd growth cover without any luck and made another pass along the lower side of the ridge. Emma pointed a grouse in a tree top but she relocated before I could get close and the grouse flushed without a shot. A short while later she pointed again and the bird held till I got there. It proved to be a tough shot through the tree top and although I threw both barrels at it this bird too escaped unharmed. We made it back to the truck without any more contacts but I was very happy with 4 birds moved in 2 hours and Emma finally holding a point long enough for me to get a shot.
We drove about 1/2 mile to another site where they had timbered in the same fashion a couple of years ago. I hunted out a gas well road that ran along the top of a ridge while Emma worked the sides.  At a large clearing where the loggers had loaded the timber on to their trucks Emma when on point at the edge of a large brierpatch.
No self-respecting grouse would be caught in cover this open, but I've doubted my dogs too often and ended up with "egg on my face" not to walk in ready for a flush. As I kicked my way through the briers expecting a rabbit to run out a hen pheasant took to the air. Their legal game in this part of Pa and the season is in so I dropped the right hammer on The Twigg and a load of 7/8 ozs of # 8 shot proved enough to drop the bird like a stone. I'm breaking in a new pair of goatskin hunting gloves and I fumbled with the camera and missed video taping the retrieve so here's some pics of bird and gun.

The road led down into the hollow so I turned and started toward the truck through nice looking cover.

Soon after entering the cover I heard Emma's beeper sound once followed by a flush of a grouse. Half way up the hollow I heard Emma's beeper again and hurried toward her. I found her in a clearing pointing toward a tree top on her right. I changed my route and swung around a pine tree to put the bird between Emma and myself. As I moved in I saw Emma slowly turn her head to her right and freeze. I was too far along on my new route to doubleback so I pressed on through the brush and angled more Emma's direction. Suddenly a grouse flushed off to her right. I emptied both barrels at it but it flew on unscathed. Looking back if I had stayed on my original path I would have had a nice shot at the bird, but that's the way it sometimes goes when you pursue the wily grouse.
We made it back to the truck with no more bird contacts, although I did see a nice 8 point buck jump up from a tree top and trot stiff legged up the ridge stopping once to look back to see just what had interrupted his nap.
We finished up the day with 6 grouse and 1 pheasant moved in 3 hours. Emma had given me chances at birds over 3 lovely points and I had connected on one.
To my way of thinking it had been a Grand Day.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hook Mountain Hunt

Emma and I hunted the wickedly steep Hook Mountain covert on Wed. Actually part of the cover is a flat  mountain top but I usually find the birds holding onto the steep hollows that lead up to the top.

It was well over an hour before we moved a grouse that flushed from this open patch of birch. What it was doing there I don't know except maybe moving between feeding grounds.  Emma wasn't near it and I doubt it would have held for a point in that open cover.
We followed the bird as it had flown in the direction of the truck. As I was climbing a steep hollow I heard a noise and saw a grouse flushing from a patch of mountain laurel, probably the same bird that we flushed earlier.
 Emma had hunted as hard as you would want a dog to hunt but all she had to show for it was a scratched nose.
We rested on Thurs. as I had taken a fall in one of the steep hollows and twisted my knee but we're heading out this morning to try a new covert I found this summer on Snake Spring Mountain. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Late Season-Day One

Emma and I headed north Monday morning to hunt the Bottomless Hollow covert. I had hunted part way down this covert in the early season and although I didn't move any grouse it looked like good cover. It's part of a huge reclaimed strip  mine with dirt roads leading to gas wells and also benches to hunt. After two empty points Emma finally found a grouse but it only held for a few seconds and flushed before I could get to her. A 3 hour hunt over about 3 miles of cover and one grouse. Not the way I had hoped to start the late season. The Tek 1.0 worked flawlessly both in keeping track of Emma and leading me back to the truck. Sorry no pics I seemed to have lost them somewhere on my computer :(.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tek 1.0 Update

Well the Sport Dog Tek 1.0 had to be sent back for a new replacement unit last week. I hadn't been able to get the compass to work and called Gun Dog Supply, the company who I had bought it from. They said no problem they would send me a new one and to send the defective one back free of charge. They seem like a good place to order your dog supplies from. I got the new unit in 3 days and it is working as it should. The grouse season comes back in next Monday for 6 weeks here in Pa. and the weather looks promising so I'll be putting the Tek to work tracking Emma or Thicket and also using the GPS to backtrack my way back to the truck. I'll let you know how it holds up.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Just Some Thicket Pics

5 1/2 months old and so serious looking.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Germplasm  Resources Information Network is a web server providing germplasm (a collection of genetic resources of an organism) information about plants, animals, microbes and invertebrates. It's the internet part of the National Genetic Resources Program who's goal is to acquire, characterize, preserve, document, and distribute germplasm of  all lifeforms important for food and agriculture production.

As you have probably figured out I got the above explanation from their website. It's run by the United States Department of Agriculture. It's a massive program most of which is "way over my head" but I learned from various fruit related message boards that you can request scion wood from their malus "apple" department. They have an orchard in Geneva NY that maintains over 8,000 varieties of apple trees for breeding purposes. Many of the apple varieties are inedible crabapples valuable for their disease resistant genetics that can be used in breeding new varieties of apples with disease resistant traits. What originally sparked my interest in GRIN was learning of their collection of apple trees from Kazakhstan. In the 1990's scientists from the USDA traveled there to collect scion wood from the wild apple malus sieversii which through genetic testing was determined to be the "mother" of all domestic apples. The thought of growing apple trees from scions gathered in the birthplace of the domestic apple here in my Allegheny Mountains orchards seemed it fit right into my thoughts on growing rare heirloom apples and disease resistant wildlife apples so I've spent months on their website learning the characteristics of these rare apples.

I also found some late season crabapples that should make wonderful wildlife food during the winter months.

Along with these apples I also will be ordering scion wood from various nurseries and individuals of other rare apple varieties. These will be grafted onto the 75 rootstocks I have ordered and also onto the numerous wild apple trees that are growing here on the farm. My  grafting will start in April right after Thicket and I have enjoyed chasing the migrating woodcock as they make their was through my coverts.  Yes it's going to be a busy spring............and I can't wait !!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Graham Covert

Emma and I headed north to the Graham Covert on Wednesday.  It's located in a huge tract of land recently purchased by the Pa. Game Commission. Much of it is reclaimed strip mines with benches  and dirt roads leading to gas wells to hunt along, making for some easy hunting, unless Emma finds a bird on the next bench down which can result in having to slide down a near vertical bank on your butt.

With Emma knowing the covert she was running big as we began the hunt. I was walking along an old road "playing" with the new Tek 1.0 tracking collar noting that she was 172 yards out in front when I noticed an especially nice looking tangle of grapevines just off the road down a short steep bank. Usually I would have called Emma in and have her hunt a piece of cover that looked that good, but knowing that she was that far out I decided, on a whim, to check it out myself. This was out of character for me because some years ago I had made the decision to shot only pointed birds and had been letting birds that I had walked up fly away without trying a shot, but this piece of cover  whispered "grouse here" to me and I couldn't resist. As I slid down the bank a grouse flushed from the tangle, just as I thought it would. When my feet reached level ground I laid a thumb on the right hammer and stepped closer and suddenly another grouse erupted from the cover. Call it purely instinctive shooting or dumb luck but I pulled the hammer back as Colette the little 16 ga. Belgium hammergun leapt to my shoulder. A millisecond after pulling the front trigger the 7/8 oz. load of #8's caught up to the bird and I watched it tumble to the ground.  I stood there one part of me feeling regret for shooting a walked up grouse but another part of me feeling proud for making a fine shot.

I called Emma in and let her make the retrieve.
Although we hunted for several more hours these two birds were all that we could find in this lovely cover.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Tek 1.0 Tracking Collar

There as a time in my hunting career when I thought that I would never own a tracking collar. To my way of thinking they were useful only to people with large running dogs, dogs that were out of touch with their masters for much of the hunt, definitely not my style. This fall's hunting season has changed my way of thinking. On more occasions that I would care to admit although I've been able to hear Emma's beeper collar sounding off on point mode I've been unable to determine in which direction she was on point in. My hearing loss is something that will only get worse with age so I decided to investigate the Garmin Astro and the Sport Dog Tek 1.0 the two leading brands of tracking collars. After learning about all the settings and things that you can and cannot do with each one I decided for what I needed a collar for , locating the dog, that the Sport Dog Tek 1.0 was the best choice for me.

Although the Garmin was a well liked and proven collar I believed it had too many settings that I simply would not need. The Tek 1.0 has a nice "clean" screen with no clutter.  The screen shows a  + which is your position and a  ^  which shows where your dog is located and depending on how the  ^  is pointing if the dog is coming toward you or going away. When the dog is on point or treed (in the case of hound hunters) the  ^  becomes a dot and the transmitter vibrates  It also shows the yardage or mileage of the dogs position. These collars were designed with the hound hunter (bear, coon, lion, etc.) in mind therefore the measurement in miles, something I hope I'll never need to know.
The Tek also allows you to mark the location of your truck and will "lead" you back to it at the end of the hunt. I've only had this unit for a couple of days and have used it once on Emma and once on Thicket so I'm still learning about it, but it seems to be what I was looking for. In Thicket's case after not hearing her bell for a little while I checked on her and found out that she was 241 yards away and moving away for me. I took off in her direction at a fast pace thinking that she had taken off on a deer. After about 50 yards I stopped and started calling her name and blowing the whistle. You can imagine my relief when the screen showed that she had changed directions and was heading back to me. Whether she was on a deer or just lost I don't know but I do know that without the tracking collar I may have lost her for quite a while.
So I'll now add another collar the my dogs neck on every hunt and have the peace of mind of knowing  where they are at all times.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Memorable Morning Along Piney Creek

With the Polar Vortex making headlines with it's blast of arctic air sweeping across the nation I knew the woodcock would soon be but a distant memory, so Emma and I headed for Piney Creek to see if any woodcock were still there.

The 'cock were there and Emma was at the top of her game but my shooting left something to be desired, and I missed the first bird she pointed then missed a chance for a double on a rare for me double flush on her next point.

I finally settled down and The Twigg and I got in step and brought down the next two birds that Emma found.
My last chance for a 3rd bird and a limit was foiled by a bird who made a very impressive "corkscrew" move around a vine covered tree and was gone before I could drop a hammer.  It had been a memorable morning along Piney Creek and I felt a pang of regret knowing that it would soon all end and the birds would be gone to their southern resting grounds.