Monthly Archives: October 2014

The best laid plans of mice and men

What was planned as a training session to get Hera staunch on point became a comedy of errors. I drove out to Banin Farms with the plan to work her on pigeons with the help of the proprietor Edmund Hassett. The appointment was at 9:00 am on October 23rd. I arrived and found Edmund had pheasants, four of them, ready for our training session. I appreciate Edmund is under a great deal of stress. His wife Vera is recovering from a stroke she suffered four weeks ago, so I did not mention the misunderstanding and we got on with the training session.

I put Hera on the 30′ check cord I made for her training and off we went. The plan was to let Hera find the birds and when she locked up on point, Edmund would take hold of the check cord and hold her on point while I walked up and walked around the bird before flushing it. Unfortunately, things went off the rails from the get go. The first bird jumped up, flushing wildly, before Hera got near it. I shot it and it went down in a glide into a wooded area. As we made our way to track the downed pheasant we walked up where the second bird was planted only to find this bird had already hightailed it. Hera did a great job tracking and retrieving the first bird, a lively cripple.

Moving onto the third bird, it flushed as Hera stumbled over it. I shot it and Hera Maggie made the retrieve. We moved onto the fourth bird and again, she stumbled across it, flushing it before she locked up on point. It was shot and retrieved also.

I asked Edmund if I could try pigeons, as was my original plan, and he retrieved three pigeons for me. He could not help me with Hera’s training with the pigeons, but showed me how to plant them. I planted the pigeons and let Hera go after them on the check cord. Things went from bad to worse. I quickly found Hera does not recognize pigeons as game birds. She ran through the field where the birds were planted, eventually stumbling across them and treating them as she does other non-game species, such as mice and voles, as something to pick up. I rescued the pigeons (keeping Hera from devouring them), setting them free so they could return to the loft.

On the way home I took Hera to Lester’s Square in the Marlborough Forest for a quick sweep. She flash pointed a few old scents, but no birds were found. My hopes of starting her on the road to being staunch on point today were dashed, but the effort will continue.


The terrible twos


IMG_1508IMG_1504Hera is my fourth Brittany. She turned two years old earlier this month. I am reminded as this current hunting season progresses that you cannot expect too much too soon with a young gun dog in training. Hera was my little prodigy in her first season; she pointed and retrieved ruffed grouse and woodcock for me as a one year old puppy. None of the three dogs before her were doing this at her age. I was so impressed and happy, I expected more of the same in this season. However, for whatever reason, Hera is finding and pointing birds, mostly woodcock, locking up on point, then breaking point and pouncing as I make my way to walk up her point. She pounces when I am several yards from her and the bird. This ensures the bird flushes without the chance for a shot, which defeats the purpose of Hera and I out hunting together. She does not understand she is hunting for me.

The past three days, in the latter part of the woodcock season–migrating woodcock are generally found in this part of eastern Ontario through October–we are getting into birds, only to have this frustrating pattern of point, break point and flush, play itself out again and again. This is so frustrating. What am I to do about this situation? How can I remedy it? I am going to schedule training sessions for Hera and myself at a pheasant hunting preserve I used with the previous dogs in their training. It is Banin Upland Game Farm, about an hour’s drive from where I live. The owners of the preserve took a hiatus from their upland game bird hunting enterprise a couple of years ago, but are happily back in business in the present. I will spend some time with Hera, working her on a check cord with pigeons to get her to remain staunch on point.

Hera the huntress

Got out with Hera today to the Marlborough Forest. It was cool, about 5 degrees C and a little windy. We started the hunt at Lester’s Square at 8:40 am. I brought my Browning 12 gauge over and under this morning as my Winchester 20 gauge side by side has a small piece of the butt stock chipped. I have no idea how that happened. The over and under has 26 in. barrels and is choked skeet and skeet. I bought this gun in a private sale when I was sixteen and it is a fine upland gun. We made our way through a patch of cover that often holds grouse and in minutes Hera flash pointed a running grouse in a stand of cedars. The bird flushed wildly, unseen, not a bad start to the morning. Continue reading

Marlborough man no more?


Thursday, October 2nd I got out to the Marlborough Forest with Hera in hopes of intercepting some migrating woodcock. We arrived at Lester’s Square, my preferred cover for woodcock, shortly after 8:00 am. A coyote ran across the forest road as we drove in. It was much cooler this morning than the previous Saturday when the heat and humidity was stifling. We had the cover to ourselves, also. We made our way through the cover, checking areas that I consistently found woodcock over the years, but we turned up up none in the first two. Finally, Hera locked up on point in a stand of birch and poplar. I walked up the point, but the bird made good its escape, putting a tree between me and itself. No shot was fired.

Moving on to a stand of mature hardwood where a grouse or two can be found, there was a wild flush. I heard the grouse take off, followed by the “putt, putt, putt” sound of a clucking grouse. Backtracking to the cover where Hera pointed the woodcock, she bumped a woodcock, possibly the same one she pointed earlier. It made good its escape. We gave the cover a thorough sweep and no more birds were found. Although, I saw a grouse at the edge of the forest road as we were driving out to Roger Stevens Road. The grouse scurried into a woodlot that was posted “no trespassing” so I let it be.

As the morning wore on the temperature rose, but I decided to try another patch of cover, Cowan’s Corner, in hopes of turning up birds. It was late in the morning when we set out at Cowan’s Corner and it was at the entrance of the forest road I first noticed the sign with an illustration of a hunter aiming a gun with a line crossed through it. I stopped to read the print under the sign and it states that there is a ban on the discharge of firearms in the Marlborough Forest, except for lawful hunting. There are a couple of sand pits in the forest I know of where people go to sight in their rifles and to shoot clay targets. One of these sand pits is strewn with litter left behind. I think this is what the regulation is intended to address; however, I cannot help wondering if this is just an incremental step toward banning hunting in the Marlborough Forest altogether.

The sweep of Cowan’s Corner turned up two woodcock, one of which Hera pointed. I fired haphazardly and missed most spectacularly. At 1:00 pm it was uncomfortably warm so I called it a day and we headed home. I hope we turn up more birds as the season progresses.