Sunday, December 27, 2015

This is Crazy

December 27 and the bees are not only flying in and out of the hive, some of them are finding pollen somewhere to bring back



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Brandon Covert

Thicket and I head once again to the Brandon Covert. I've moved grouse there on 2 other occasions this year and this trip proved to be no different. Sadly the birds were grouped together and I walked into them shortly after the start of the hunt. I'm positive I heard 4 birds flush and there could have easily been more. Thicket hunted the cover eagerly but we just couldn't find any of the birds for a reflush. I did find the remnants of a grouse. By the signs a victim of a hawk or owl.

And this small buck who wasn't going to waste.



Here's a poor quality video of Thicket checking back in after one of her 200 yard casts.
video

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Wed. & Fri. Hunts

On Wednesday Thicket and I hunted the Prince covert. Earlier in the season we moved 4 grouse in this covert, but this time the covert held no grouse that we could find even though we hunted it thoroughly. Still hoping to find some birds for Thicket I looked at my map and saw an X where I had marked a recent clearcut several years ago on a scouting mission.




It's a huge cut located on the side of a steep ridge and although the Game Commission had taken down the  deer fence that had enclosed it when I had first found it, the cover was still extremely  thick. We hunted the perimeter of the cut, as I often do to get a "feel" for the cover, hoping to find a grouse along the edge but we found nothing although in a covert of that immense size there had to be some birds somewhere in it's depths. So we called it a day knowing that we would be back in years to come to give it another try.

On Fri. Emma and I headed north to the Graham covert, one that we have been hunting for a number of years and usually shared a bird or two with us. It's an immense reclaimed strip mine with spruce plantings and a mostly black birch forest running along the edge of it.






Emma gave me a lovely point at the edge of the strip mine cover and I just knew that the grouse was hiding in a small group of spruce directly in front of her. As I walked in focused on the spruce the grouse erupted 40 or 50 feet below the spruce and escaped down the ridge without me getting off a shot.  Later she gave me two points that held no birds although she was sure that the birds were there and I had to spend time kicking the cover in front of her to convince her that the birds had gone out before we arrived.
 Part way through the hunt I saw Emma running toward me with something white in her mouth. She's retrieved several "interesting" things to me in the past but this was the first time that she brought me a buck scrotum obviously from a recent "gutpile".

She was very pleased with herself and I thanked her and told her what a good girl she was before she would resume hunting. It's the little things that our dogs do for us that makes them special :).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I Held Beauty in my Hand Today

Emma and I headed north to hunt some of my Clearfield county coverts. The first stop was the Tree Top covert a small but steep ridge covered with the fallen tree tops from a recent logging venture.
                                                                                                                                                              
There was a strong wind blowing so scenting conditions were far from ideal but 10 minutes into the hunt Emma goes on point above me on the ridge. She's pointing downhill into a tree top and I had to make several detours in my struggle to reach her, but both she and the bird held tight. The bird flushed up the ridge and The Twigg, the little 16 gauge Belgium hammer gun, and I were in harmony and the bird dropped with a right barrel shot. The bird had fallen deep into a tree top and Emma struggled to retrieve it, finally getting a hold of it just as I reached her. To my surprise it turned out to be a beautiful chocolate phase bird.



It has been longer that I care to admit since I've killed a grouse over a point and I sat on a log and savored the moment until Emma came and reminded me that the hunt had just begun.  We finished hunting the ridge with one empty point, no doubt a bird who lifted before I was within hearing range.

The next stop was at the Pheasant Ridge covert also a tree top littered cover. A small stream wandered down through the hollow which held many boggy spots.


Although Emma hunted diligently we found no birds in this cover.
 
The last stop was the Clover Run Covert. A huge clearcut growing back in mostly birch with scattered clumps of beech.


 
It was in one of these beech clumps that Emma with on point again, but this grouse didn't hold long and I heard it flush out on the other side of the beech as I made my way in. Emma had one more point that proved to be empty even though she was sure the bird was still there, letting me walk all around in front of her while she still held the point.
 
Two grouse pointed, one shot at and hit. It may not seem like much to some people but it was a Glorious Day for Emma and I.
 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Late Season Begins

Thicket and I headed north to try a covert that Emma and I had hunted in the early season. That day we had moved only one grouse but the cover looked good and deserved another try.


 
 
I flushed two grouse in this covert and watched Thicket slowly track another grouse, but she got too close and the bird flushed. I was still pleased as it was a good lesson for her and hopefully she will realize that she can not pressure a grouse like she can a woodcock.
 
It was hot and sunny today and the covert held little water.  Thicket did find a little spring and made the most of it.
 
 
I came across a producing Chestnut tree with a number of husks laying about.

 
 
Sadly the dreaded orange fungus of the Chestnut Blight was growing on it's trunk, a sure sign of it's impending death.
 
 
Thicket was running big yesterday with 200-300 yard casts partly from the 2 week layoff because of deer season and partly because at 1 1/2 years old she's in her "teenage" years. I feel certain that as she matures she'll "rein in" her casts  but for now the Tek tracking collar is a tremendous asset in keeping track of her.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The #5 Crabapple

There are a number of wild apples and crabapples growing around the perimeter of the Home Orchard. I've numbered them so that I can keep a record of what they produce, their bloom time, and how long they hold their fruit. The most promising of these wildings is the #5 crabapple. For the last several years it's limbs have been bent with small yellow crabs that hang on well into the winter.
 
 
 
I'll be grafting several pieces of scion wood from this tree onto B118 rootstock this spring to produce trees for the wildlife in the Back40.

The Last Week of the Early Season

My luck ran poor on the last week of the early season. The woodcock had mostly disappeared, as they are prone to do, with a few flushing at my feet and the dogs finding none. The scattered grouse that we found were either also flushing for me or were distant sounds as we hunted through the coverts. Even so it was a good season with many good memories of my hunts with Emma and Thicket. Now we get a 2 week rest as the deer season kicks in and then, weather permitting, another 6 weeks to search for the elusive grouse.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Church Hill & Prince Coverts

Thicket and I headed up to the Church Hill Covert yesterday in hopes that the northern winds that we had gotten the night before had blown in some more woodcock. Instead the winds must have blown the woodcock that were there out. We hunted hard both over ground that Emma and I had hunted and tried some new ground but could not find any woodcock.





This patch of cover screamed woodcock but they weren't there this day.



Still hoping to get Thicket into some birds, we headed for the Prince Covert.  As I weaved my way through the cover a grouse flushed 50 feet to my left. Thicket appeared from behind me and pointed were the bird had been.

We hunted the rest of the cover and moved into the adjoining reclaimed strip mine cover with Thicket reached out 300 yards or more several times in an attempt to find game but to no avail.  Thicket finds a little water hole after one of her big casts.  


With only one more week of woodcock and early grouse season left I wonder where it has gone. Family commitments take up much of next week with only two free days to hunt. I'll be giving each girl one more hunt for the little gypsy birds before we have to call it over for this year. Two weeks of deer season will give us time to rest up and dream of the late grouse season.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Church Hill Covert

Emma and I hunted the Church Hill Covert  yesterday. It's mostly reclaimed strip mines totaling over 7,000 acres. I've hunted parts of in over the past few years and last year a rabbit hunter gave me directions to an area where he had jumped woodcock.





 
I'm used to hunting woodcock in thick creek bottoms and find it hard to believe that they use cover this open, but Emma pointed 5 woodcock, I had shots at 3, and was only able to drop 1 a nice hen, who when cleaned, had a nice layer of fat on her breast. In cover like this there's no nice mossy logs to get a photo op.
 
The first bird she pointed which I missed was in ridiculously open cover under this tree, but there was a stiff wind blowing and I felt like I was making figure 8's in the air with my barrels as I tried to focus on the bird as it made it's escape.
 
Here's Emma on point in fairly open cover. This bird ran and flushed out ahead of us not giving me a chance for a shot.
 

We came to a large beaver pond. I started around one side and didn't realize that Emma had taken to the other side until I heard her beeper sounding. I tried to circle above the pond , then realized it was much larger than I thought and had to backtrack to cross the stream at the dam. She held the point for several minutes but as I made my way to her the bird must have flushed as her beeper went silent and she appeared checking back in with me.

We later came to another pond. Emma pointed a woodcock that I missed and then went on point almost before I could reload my gun. As I walked in thinking another woodcock a grouse erupted and used some pine trees to cause me to miss, but it was nice to see Emma handle a grouse, a bird she's always had trouble pointing.

As we made our way back to the truck I gazed out over the landscape at all the cover and knew I'd have to return soon.