Friday, December 30, 2016

Frugality Covert

Thicket and I hunted the Frugality covert this week.  Surrounded by a deer fence erected by the Pa Game Commission, it had been partially clear cut 10+ years ago and this summer the rest of the trees were removed.

It has a nice amount of aspen with maple, locust, and sumac scattered through it, and also some grapevines and greenbrier.

Thicket had one point about 80 yards away. I fought my way through the saplings, but as I drew near her beeper went silent and I found her hunting furiously in circles. Although I didn't see or hear a flush I have to believe she had a grouse pointed, but it flushed as I approached her.  Here she is cooling off in a mud puddle as the day warmed up.

 We tried two more covers, the first one was past its prime growing back mostly in Black Birch and the second was an old logging road running along some pine and apple tree cover. Neither spot held any birds so we called it a day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Missed Opportunity

A combination of various aches and pains and icy mountain roads have kept me out of my grouse coverts this second season.  I finally ventured out last week with Thicket to two of my southern coverts. We tried the clear cut along the Heifer Lick trail but had no luck.

We then moved a couple of miles to Bennett Ridge a small covert with a mix of hawthorn and aspen. Although Thicket hunted hard we didn't find any birds here either.

Yesterday Emma and I headed north in the hope that we could find some ice free roads to reach a few of our coverts. The road leading to the Gorman covert was a thick sheet of ice, but we were able to get to the Yoder covert.  A thick fog and high wind had for a rough hunt. We tried the steep ridge with its tree top cover. Emma had one empty point that got my heart pounding but the bird must have  flushed before I reached her.

We hunted over the top of the ridge and dropped down onto a gas well road.

Suddenly Emma's beeper sounded off on the ridge above me. I found her pointing into a downed pine and as I approached a grouse flushed giving me an open shot. I threw both loads of 7 1/2 shot at it but it winged away unharmed. I felt the wave of disappointment as you watch a bird fly away that you should have gotten, but I also felt the pride of the fine work that Emma had done, finding the bird and holding the point until I arrived.  It proved to be the only bird we found today as we returned to the truck cold, wet, tired but satisfied that although my gamebag was empty we had tried our best and this day the bird had won.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

End of Season

My last two trips afield have been fruitless as far as finding woodcock, but I realize that even as it starts in mid October the woodcock season is a fleeting thing.  Emma and I had a banner year, at least in my mind, but Thicket is still a work in progress. I still have hope that she will come around and accept woodcock as a bird worth pointing. In a few short months the 'cock will be returning north and we'll be pursuing them with the camera. For now we have a two week resting period as deer season runs it's course, then we'll be off to the grouse coverts with the hope of finding a few birds that will hold for a point.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Their on the Move.

Hunted Shawnee Creek with Emma yesterday and found a good number of woodcock.  The first bird gave me an open easy shot and I felt a twinge of guilt for shooting an obviously tired migrant bird. As the hunt progressed I soon changed my mind.

I walked into two birds in open cover and just after they flushed Emma checked in and hit the scent. I took several pics of her as she held point until the scent faded away.

Her next several points proved that not all the birds in the cover today were tired, as these birds twisted and dodged their way between the saplings giving me no chance for a shot.  I finally got a chance at a bird and dropped it with the left barrel.
The next bird we found broke my string of kills at 7 birds in a row as I missed a long but open chance with both barrels.  We found one more bird under a pine that used the cover to it's advantage offering me no chance for a shot. By now my legs were telling me that it was time to head toward the truck. With some difficulty I got Emma swung around and we called it a day knowing there were more birds resting in the cover but more than satisfied with the days results.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Step in the Right Direction.

Took Thicket to the Piney Creek covert yesterday. We didn't find any birds until we reached the far end of the cover. She went on point several times as she worked a running woodcock. The bird finally flushed keeping low and I missed with both barrels, but was very happy to see Thicket showing interest in woodcock. As I stood there praising her she kept working the scent and another woodcock took flight with me standing there with any empty gun. She gave chase to this bird and I saw her bump it again in the distance. Although we didn't find any more birds I was very pleased with her showing an interest in woodcock scent. I'm hoping we've "turned the corner" and she has accepted woodcock as the reason for us being in the woods.  Unfortunately the woodcock season ends at the end of this week and most of the birds seem to have passed through my coverts. After deer season  we will be hitting my grouse coverts for as long as the weather lets us.

On the way to Piney Creek I saw this sitting in a field just off the road on a road killed deer carcass.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

This weeks hunts

On Monday Emma and I hunted the Church Hill covert for the second time. This time the woodcock were scarce with Emma only finding 2 birds. I dropped one with my 16 gauge Husqvarna and missed the other one who was pointed in heavy cover.
Emma with the retrieve.
The 16 gauge Model 51 Husqvarna.  I bought this gun 5 or 6 years ago and after several misses and crippled birds I let it "migrate" to the back of the gun safe as my 2 Belgium guns seemed to fit me better. I pulled it out a few days ago to use again and have been shooting it extremely well having shot at 6 woodcock and dropping 5 using 6 shells.
On Tuesday Thicket and I hunted the Harrier Hawk covert. Although we hunted it hard no birds were found. We then moved to a new area that looked like it might hold some grouse. We only found one grouse and it flew out of a tree ahead of us.

We did find a nice bear print in the mud.
On Wednesday Emma and I headed for Shawnee Creek. Although we found only 3 'cock in the covert it was about as perfect a day as I could ever hope for.  The hunt started off slow with the 1st half of the cover holding no birds, but as we crossed the creek and started back on the far side of the creek Emma when on point in some hawthorns.

The bird towered through an opening in the haws and the little Husky's right barrel turned the bird into a puff of feathers and I watched it fall and hang up in a hawthorn.

Regrettably I centered the bird too well and it proved to be too shot up to be edible.
We moved on up the creek bottom with renewed vigor.  This area was a farm at one time and I sometimes find a reminder.
The final resting place of a Wood turtle.
I made a nice right barreled shot on the next bird and Emma posed
  proudly with it.
I was still stuffing this bird in my gamebag when Emma's beeper goes on point mode. I find her 50 yards away.
The bird gives me a straight away shot through the trees that requires me to fire both barrels to drop it.  One large female, one smaller male, and the little Husky.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Last Weeks Hunts

I tried a new covert last Tuesday that was recommended to me as being a good woodcock covert. Although Emma hunted hard we didn't find any woodcock. We did move 3 grouse, two of which Emma pointed but both flushed ahead of her as I walked in offering me no shot.

Wednesday I took Thicket to the Doll's Head covert. We first hunted the strip mine cover above the Dolls Head but found no woodcock.

We moved down into the Doll's Head and Thicket went on point outside a row of alders and then left it.  I called her back and urged her into the cover and saw a woodcock fly out the other side. Later on I flushed a woodcock. As we completed the circle Thicket went on point again. She held for several seconds and then began to search of scent and I saw a woodcock flush in the distance, probably a running bird. We found no more birds but her last contact gave me a glimmer of hope that she just maybe getting interested in woodcock.
On Thursday Emma and I traveled north to the Stone Valley area. Last year I had two wonderful hunts here. Sadly this day Emma only found one woodcock in heavy cover and it flushed as I walked in offering me no shot.

I received an email from my friend Russell saying that he was free on Friday for a hunt. With my poor record of finding birds this week I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get him into some birds. I decided to show him the Piney Creek covert and warned him of it's thorny nature. Happily Piney Creek produced. We moved 15 or more birds with most being pointed by Emma. Some offered no shot in the thick cover, some were simply missed by the gunners, but we were both able to kill a woodcock over an Emma point and had a memorable hunt.

With two weeks left in the season and the weather still being unseasonably warm I doubt if the main body of woodcock have traveled through yet and hope to enjoy several more fine hunts.