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.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

My Last Couple of Hunts

Took Thicket for a short hunt on Thursday morning with the temperature in the 60's. We hunted the Piney Creek covert. Moved 3 woodcock in an hour but Thicket showed no signs of wanting to point them.  Only time will tell if she makes it as a woodcock dog. I have heard from people who have had dogs who would point grouse and pheasants but ignore woodcock.  I'm not ready to give up on her  but with Emma being 9 years old and with woodcock now being the primary bird I hunt, getting a new pup in a couple of years is becoming a possibility.

Emma and I headed to my northern most coverts on Friday. First stop was the Muth covert with it's picturesque aspen-golden rod cover.

A scattering of old apple trees add to it's charm.


The birds were there but unfortunately my shooting slump continues with me missing the first two woodcock Emma pointed. The next couple of birds she points flush without giving me a chance to shoot. Then near the end of the cover she points another 'cock and I drop it with the left barrel. It falls into a tangle of treetops and briers and I know it will be a hard bird to retrieve. I wade into the tangle, calling Emma in to hunt for the fallen bird.  As I get to the spot where I think the bird fell, Emma goes on point again 30 feet off to my right. I slip one of my shooting gloves over a branch to mark the spot of fall and crawl out of the tangle and circle Emma to flush this new bird. The 'cock gives me a fine open straight way shot and I drop it with the right barrel. It falls just in front of a large elm tree but as we search for the bird it seems to have vanished. After several minutes I start to get that feeling of despair of losing a downed bird when suddenly Emma points dead right it front of me and there lays the woodcock, it's perfect camouflage pattern blending in perfectly with the vegetation.
With one downed bird found I work my way back into the treetop in search of the first bird. Emma crawls under the large limbs and quickly finds the other bird. I heap praise on Emma for being such a "good girl" and feel an immense satisfaction with two  birds in my game pocket.
Emma poising with her birds.
With my "bloodlust" satisfied and wanting to hunt another covert I turn for the truck. Emma finds two more birds on the way back but I make no attempt at shooting them.
My next stop was the 555 covert. It's a long walk in on a wet tramroad. I've hunted this cover several times now but have only moved a couple of grouse near the beginning of the old road.
The road ends at a nice stand of aspen and goldenrod. Although not as thick as the Muth covert I think it should hold some woodcock, but like my other trips here it was empty of birds.

On the walk back up the tramroad Emma finds a woodcock in some goldenrod and maple saplings, but I misjudge where the bird is and as I walk in it flushes out behind me offering me no shot.
So ended our hunt for the day with both of us pleasantly tired and satisfied with the outcome.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Exploring some new Coverts

Emma and I hunted some new coverts yesterday. The first stop was located along a busy highway but showed signs of new growth aspen that were to good looking to pass up. Once in the covert much of the aspen turned out to be white birch with mostly swampy moss covered ground with a good growth of teaberry plants. It looked like good grouse cover but we found nothing.

Our next stop lead us up a logging road to several immense clear cuts. Emma gave me  a half-hearted point and then moved deeper into the cut, just as I saw a grouse flush out far head of her. This cut was just too thick with treetops and blackberry briers to be able to get through so we tried the cut on the opposite side of the road. It was more open but was still tough walking and I soon decided to abandon this cover.

The next cover was on a reclaimed strip mine. Most of this cover was too thin to hold birds, but Emma did point one woodcock in the thickest part. Like most of the birds this year it chose to flush from one side of a pine as I walked in from the other side offering me no shot.
The last spot we tried was along the edge the of the strip mine. It was mostly long rows of mature pine and birch with some goldenrod. I walked up one woodcock in this cover.

Although no birds were shot at and only a few were found I considered it a good day as I got to see some cover that I had been wondering about for some time and now I know their potential.