At least once every hunting season I suffer a misadventure, usually nothing major, but inconvenient for sure. This season’s misadventure was getting turned around in a patch of cedars I sweep for woodcock every season. I always make a point of taking a compass bearing before leaving forest roads and trails so I know which direction takes me back to the road or trail. While out with Hera Friday morning gunning for grouse and woodcock I took her into the familiar patch of cedars, secure in the knowledge we swept this patch of cover many times before without incident. It was mid-morning as we made our way; I was hopeful she would find and point woodcock hidden in the cedar bog. No birds were found and as we pressed on through the cedars we did not come to the landmark (a trail blazed by hunters many seasons past) I rely on to get us back to the forest road from which we entered the cover. No matter, I thought, I’ll find and follow the bearing with my compass that takes us back to the forest road.
We followed the bearing only to get into much denser and unfamiliar cover. However, I had an ace in the hole. My hunting buddy Jason recently showed me the maps app on my cellphone. I am really a traditionalist by nature. I prefer the old fashioned ways in hunting and orienteering (hence my reliance on a compass), but find there are advantages in using new technologies. I checked the maps app on my cellphone and found in short order where I was relative to the nearest forest road. I had to cross thick cover and skirt a pond to find my way out to the road, but I must admit the maps app was a godsend. Getting back on a forest road was great, but I was not sure which road it was and which direction to take to get back to where I parked my SUV. I set off on which I thought was the right direction (and proved the right direction) and before long met a man and boy who were out hunting.
We paused to say hello and discuss our morning’s hunting. My impression is they were grandfather and grandson, the grandson at fifteen experiencing his first season carrying his own gun. The grandfather, a seasoned grouse and woodcock hunter, observed that the woodcock coverts are not wet enough this season in the Marlborough Forest. I am inclined to agree. He added that people are getting into lots of birds east of Ottawa in Prescott and Russell. I told him I was trying to find my way back to my car and not sure which road I was on. Though he meant well, he offered me directions that sent my on a wild goose chase. We had “failure to communicate” as it were as he does not know the forest roads as well as he thought. In short, he pointed me in the wrong direction and as I walked away from where I parked, Hera bumped a woodcock in the cover next to the road. A short time later a woodcock flushed wildly (possibly the same bird) flying straight away from me well out of range.
As I walked on and Hera quartered through the cover on either side of the road we came across the promising patch of grouse cover shown in the photo at the start of the diary entry. This is great I thought, we will come back and hunt this spot on a future hunt. By then I realized something was not right. We had not wandered this far off course when we entered the cedar bog. I stopped and took another look at the maps app on my cellphone and with a little trial and error adjusted the the scale of the map so I could see the forest roads relative to the township roads surrounding the forest. This way I finally found exactly where we were and which direction to take to get back to where I parked. It was a fair hike back to the SUV and when we got there we met up with the grandfather and his grandson again. “I guess I set you off in the wrong direction” he said sheepishly. I told him not to worry, that we saw a couple of woodcock and found a new patch of cover to hunt. I liked that he is mentoring his grandson in upland gunning. It is great to see young people take up hunting.
I did not get any birds that morning and getting turned around in a familiar patch of cover was no joy, but finding a new spot to explore in the Marlborough Forest proved to be the silver lining in an otherwise cloudy day.
Posted by Geoffrey