“Good luck in all weathers” the message the author Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote in my copy of his book Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This book is a memoir of the author detailing his evolution as a hunter from his experiences gunning marshes on the Ottawa River and gunning for upland game birds in the Ottawa Valley. I had the pleasure of meeting him at his home in Rockliffe Park on afternoon when I was seventeen years old. Sunday morning, October 20th was cool and blustery. Omer was supposed to join me in the field for some upland gunning, but texted me early in the morning, bowing out as he was not feeling well. I was tempted to stay in bed, hearing the wind outside my bedroom window, but “Good luck in all weathers” sprang to mind. That and the need to get out with Hera as it is her first season and she needs every chance to get into the field. So I got out of bed and off we went for a morning grouse and woodcock hunt.
We arrived at the cover at Paden Road shortly after 8:00 am. The wind had died down considerably. We set out, sweeping through a familiar patch of cover that can be counted on to attract migrating woodcock and the odd grouse. It had rained over night and the cover was nice and wet with puddles and ponds topped up; the woodcock cover was the best I had seen in many season. In spite of this, no birds were turned up. We made our way along a forest trail to an apple tree at a crossroads where we met up with a pair of hunters: one was carrying a shotgun, the other a crossbow. They told me they had put up a grouse and were hoping (the crossbowman) to turn up a deer. Hera and I continued along a trail that sometimes holds grouse in the hedgerows. No birds were flushed.
We moved on to a pocket of cover that is typically a hot spot for woodcock. Again, the cover was in the best shape I have seen in many seasons, but still, no birds were flushed. We continued the hunt, moving along the trail to a more thick patch of cover that I have found over the years holds both grouse and woodcock. I had been avoiding this patch of cover hitherto as I thought Hera was too inexperienced. It is important to set up a new dog in training to succeed. Before long Hera locked up on point. As I was walking up her point, she started searching again, eventually locking up on point again. This time she was staunch. I walked up her point and flushed a woodcock, her first point on a woodcock! A poplar bow blocked my swing and the bird escaped unharmed, much to my chagrin, but I was well pleased that she pointed her first woodcock.
We made our way back to the trail where we started and swept through a hedgerow adjacent to a stand of pines. No birds were flushed. For old times sake we swept through a familiar hedgerow in a meadow across from where I parked. No birds were flushed. I took her along a trail leading to a spot I have not bothered hunting in a couple of seasons. She pointed a grouse in a thick stand of cedars. The bird flushed and offered me a straight away shot in the open. Ah, I thought, another grouse in the bag as I raised my Winchester 20 gauge side by side, but as the saying goes, “pride goeth before a fall” and I missed most spectacularly with both barrels.
As we made our way back to the car, I took her through one last pocket of cover, which I found in top condition for woodcock hunting. She got birdy and there was a bumped or wild flush of a woodcock. I clumsily raised the gun and fired haphazardly, one shot, the second shot misfired. I think the old Winchester is about ready for retirement. A new 20 gauge over and under is on my shopping list for next season. As we moved on a hare bolted in the cover before me. This time I took my time and killed it cleanly with a single shot. I scooped up the dead hare and put in my game pocket before Hera made her way back to me. I want her to focus on birds while she is still in training and not get into the habit of chasing hares. We made our way back to the car without turning up any more game. It was about 11:15 am when we wrapped up the morning hunt. It was a great morning afield. Hera is proving to be a very keen and competent little huntress.
Posted by Geoffrey