My first stop was at the Vampire covert named after the road it's located along. A part of it is being logged off along the side of a moist ridge in the hopes of regenerating the scattered hawthorn and apple trees located there into woodcock habitat. It will probably take at least 5 or 10 years for it to become suitable woodcock habitat and hopefully I'll still be following a setter if and when this piece of land starts to attract some birds.
The area that Emma and I were headed to was a long walk in to large fields with islands of cover consisting of aspen, hawthorn, locust, and goldenrod that usually attracted some woodcock.
This area is also stocked with pheasant and I thought that I would hunt it before the pheasant season started so that I would have the covert to myself. What I didn't figure on was the area being loaded with newly stocked pheasant which turned my steady woodcock dog into a out of control pheasant flusher!!! The game commission must have dumped out several crates of birds in the last day or two cause there were pheasants standing around everywhere tempting Emma into flushing and chasing cackling cockbirds all over the cover.
It was noon by the time I had rounded up Emma and got back to the truck so after a quick sandwich I headed to a recent aspen cut that a forester had told me about. His directions were a little vague but I finally found the cut at the bottom of a steep ridge that was covered with loose rock hidden under newly fallen leaves making for a rough walk. What the forester had failed to mention was that they had left the big aspen trees lay where they fell making for an impenetrable mass of fallen timber, young aspen, and blackberry tangles. Emma and I made an effort to penetrate the forbidding cover but it proved too much for us and we gave up and headed back up the ridge to the truck.
It was now midafternoon and I was tired and disappointed with the days efforts. I figured I had about an hours worth of walking left in these old tired legs of mine and the ride home would take me past a reclaimed strip mine that several game commission biologists had told me that at times held some woodcock. My idea of woodcock cover is the classic stream bottom with hawthorn, goldenrod and a scattering of apple trees not a windswept grassy strip mine with its scattering of red pine and stunted locust trees but I figured I'd give it a half-hearted try and walked back an old mining road with Emma hunting the sparse cover. I walk for a half hour daydreaming about where I would hunt next week and then turned and began to retrace my steps. As I neared the truck I heard Emma's beeper far off in the distance. It took me awhile to find her due to the wind noise but I finally located her pointing in a thin line of locust. As I walked in front of her a woodcock lifted and flew away low dodging my right barrel shot but dropping to my left one.
Emma letting me know she found our bird.
Bring it in.
Laying down with our bird. Letting me know that she too was tired.