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.
We moved to a stand of cover, a lowland bog with birch and various shrubs, that usually holds a woodcock or two during the migration. No birds were found this morning. As we pressed on through a stand of pines and cedars, two grouse flushed wildly. I caught only a fleeting glimpse as they made good their escape. We moved through the edge of the cover, next to the meadow and no more birds were found. We crossed the meadow to sweep through an edge, one of my woodcock hotspots, and it did not disappoint. Hera quickly locked up on point and when I walked up her point a woodcock flushed. I dumped it cleanly with my first barrel, my first kill of the day and of the season. Hera found the downed bird and stood over it. I picked it up, praised her and we moved on. Before long she was on point again. This time the bird flushed, putting foliage between me and it. I fired, missing cleanly. Almost immediately, Hera was on point again. I walked up her point and this time found the mark. It was about 9:37 am.
We walked the rest of the edge to a beaver pond where Hera cooled off. She was hunting hard. We retraced our route along the edge where it bends, leading to another patch of cover. Hera got very birdy and pointed another woodcock. It was dumped cleanly with my first barrel. As we moved on and crossed a forest trail I heard the sound of wheelers approaching. I stopped to watch as they approached and to my surprise it was two Environment Canada Wildlife Officers, a man and a woman. I unloaded my shotgun and took my Outdoors Card and Migratory Game Bird Hunting Permit out of my wallet for them. We chatted about hunting and I showed them the three woodcock I shot. I noted how nice it is that even though the three of us were armed they can approach me not at gunpoint ordering me to “drop the gun, put your hands in the air!” There is no need for panic when you see a hunter carrying a shotgun in a forest during hunting season. Before we parted company, one of them, Justin Cooke, gave me his card, asking if I see any evidence of law breaking to give him a call.
Hera and I continued on our way, checking out a promising patch of cover, a nice bog at the edge of a swath of pines. No birds were found. We walked along the forest road on which we drove in and Hera locked up on point off the road along an old rail fence. I walked up the point, trying to approach from in front of her and off went a grouse. I shot at it as it flew into a stand of cedars and missed cleanly. It is unusual for a grouse to hold so tightly for a dog in the Marlborough. Wild flushes are for more common, so this was rather exciting.
We swept through one more patch of cover, a swampy meadow bordering on a stand of cedars. No birds were found, but Hera put up a hare. I shot at the hare, missing spectacularly. We made our way back to the car, packed up and moved on to Cowan’s Corner. As we drove along the forest road I saw a grouse scurry from the edge of the road into the thicket at a patch of cover where I saw a turkey and a coyote on previous hunts. When I reached Cowan’s Corner, I noticed the “no shooting,” sign was gone and the litter removed from the sandpit used for target practice. By the time we set out for a sweep of a patch of cover next to a beaver pond managed by Ducks Unlimited Canada, the wind picked up and a light rain was falling. Hera made a great point on a woodcock, but it flushed from the other side of the cedar it was hiding under. It did not offer a shot. I was straining to hear her bell over the wind so I called it a day. It was 12:55 pm. Five woodcock, five grouse and one bunny were seen. Shot at four of the woodcock, got three. Shot at one of the grouse, missed. Shot at the bunny, missed. It was a great morning hunt.