I got out this morning, the eve of duck season 2014, for an upland hunt with my hunting buddy Jason. We brought our dogs–Hera, my Brittany and Nos, Jason’s German Wirehaired Pointer. I picked up Jason and Nos at 7:00 AM and we were on our way to the Marlborough Forest, to a cover I call Lester’s Square. We arrived just before 8:00 AM and noticed on the way in one of a group of hunters we see in the forest, notorious for shouting at their dogs. True to form, we heard him shouting at his dog as we got underway. It was unseasonably warm and mosquitoes were out in force. Thankfully, Jason brought insect repellant.
We walked a familiar trail and headed away from the hunter who was shouting at his dog in the distance. We heard three rapid gun shots a while later. He was likely firing in desperation. The cover is still very thick as the leaves are still on the trees. As we neared a deer stand, constructed of wood and burlap, a grouse flushed wildly. The dogs were hunting eagerly, but there were no points until about 40 minutes into the hunt. Hera tracked a running grouse and when it flushed, Jason dumped it cleanly with one shot as it broke the cover. Nos retrieved the downed bird: our first upland game bird in the bag this season.
We moved on to another patch of cover, a stand of birch, poplar and assorted shrubs, that usually holds woodcock and grouse. As I made my way through the right side of the cover, Nos got birdy and locked up on point. I walked up the point and a woodcock flushed. It headed in Jason’s direction and did not offer me much of a shot so I called out “cock up!” Jason fired both barrels and missed. We continued our sweep through the cover and a short time later Hera locked up on point. I asked Jason to walk up the point while I caught the action on camera. He quickly made his way to Hera and a woodcock flushed. He dumped it cleanly with his second barrel. Hera made the retrieve.
We walked to an old beaver pond at the end of the cover so the dogs could cool off in the water. The woodcock covers are fair to good this season. There is water in much of the cover and the ground is damp in most places. I think we can anticipate appreciable numbers of birds during the Autumn migration.
We walked on to an edge that often holds grouse and hares. There is a patch of wetland where I expect to find woodcock. I took Hera and walked through while Jason waited on the outer edge. Three grouse flushed wildly. Jason saw the second bird, but otherwise they were sight unseen. We were nearly 2 hours into the hunt and the temperature soared. We made our way back to the car, sweeping through a patch of cedar that is known to hold woodcock, but there were no more points of flushes. When we got back to the car we concluded the hunt. It was about 10:20 AM. In the two hours we were afield this morning we flushed 5 grouse and 2 woodcock. Both dogs pointed and retrieved downed birds. It was a great hunt this morning.