Welcome, Maggie Mae, to the thrill of grouse and woodcock hunting

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Mike and his German Shorthaired Pointer Maggie Mae on her first hunt of the 2017 season.

The heatwave continues as the small game and upland bird seasons get underway. It was Sunday morning, September 24, 2017, the day after the opening of duck season, and the temperature is expected to reach 40 C again. I arranged to meet with another of my new hunting buddies, Mike, who is training his first gun dog. He is the proud owner of a 17 month old German Shorthaired Pointer named Maggie Mae, Maggie being her working name. I met Mike last season while out running Hera and after chatting he and I became hunting buddies. Maggie was still a puppy last season, too young to join us in the field and not gun conditioned at that point. It was really too hot to stay out for very long with the dogs, but we thought we could at least introduce Maggie to Hera and let them get acquainted on a grouse hunt. Woodcock season opens on the 25th of September this season. The objective for this morning was to run the dogs together after grouse on the property near Spencerville where I also hunt deer with three friends. Mike is a seasoned deer hunter and I took the opportunity to show him the areas I hunt deer with my friends. We had a good, albeit brief, morning afield with the dogs on this all too hot day.

I got to Mike’s house in Greely, a rural community just outside Ottawa, shortly after 7:00 am. It was only on the drive to his house that I realized I forgot to pack my insect repellent. I visited the property in Spencerville the weekend before with Jason, another of my hunting buddies, and found it infested with mosquitoes. Thankfully, Mike had some Deep Woods Off handy and trust me, we needed it! Mike put Maggie on board his truck and we were quickly on our way.  We arrived at the property at about 8:30 am and donned the insect repellent while Hera and Maggie met for the first time since last year. They got on just fine. Hera knew we were going hunting and having Maggie along was no trouble at all. I carry a spare cowbell in my kit and just as well this time as Mike did not have one for Maggie. He put the bell on Maggie’s collar and she was fine with it, so off we went hoping to get into some grouse.

I was armed with my Franchi Instinct SL o/u in 20 gauge, choked skeet and skeet. This was the first time out with it since I had it altered by Jason Spencer, gunsmith and proprietor of Gunco, I rely upon for firearm maintenance. I had difficulty with the safety catch last season; it was much stickier than the tang safeties I am accustomed to on my other double barrelled guns. The sticky safety catch saved the life of a number of otherwise doomed woodcock the season before. I am so happy that issue is resolved.


My Franchi Instinct SL and the problem safety catch.

We made our way along a trail bordering a stand of cover, a mix of aspen, birch and a few pines, that often holds grouse. Hera and Maggie ran well together. I took Hera off the trail, deeper into the cover while Mike and Maggie continued on the trail. As I reached the end of the patch of cover, where it meets a thick stand of mature pines, I met Mike and Maggie on the trail. It was then that Hera locked up on point on a clump of aspen at the edge of the pines. I walked into the pines to get in front of Hera to walk up the point and a grouse flushed. Mike was in position on the trail to make the shot: the grouse flushed and flew away from me and in front of Mike. He fired twice and thought he might have winged it. We took Hera and Maggie and followed up the shot, but they found no sign of the bird. I think it was a miss.

We continued along the trail and minutes later Hera locked up on point again. Mike walked up the point and another grouse flushed. He got one shot away and missed. Early season grouse are a challenging target even over a pointing dog. We moved on and in short order Hera was on point. This time I walked up the point and flushed a woodcock. I watched as it made good its escape. Season did not open till the next day. Three points and flushes in the first half hour in the field was great, especially on such an unseasonably warm day. By then, the dogs were getting very hot, so Mike and I led them to the edge of the swamp that borders the property. The dogs cooled off in the water and we watched as a couple of flocks of wood ducks circled the swamp in the distance.

As we continued the hunt, Mike pointed out ample deer sign (trails and hoof prints) in the vicinity of where my friends and I have our ladder stands in place. I found quite to my liking. We took the dogs through a patch of grouse cover that leads to where Jason’s stand is located. No birds were found, but the dogs got to cool off in the swamp once more as Jason’s stand overlooks an edge of the swamp. Mike commented that the stand is in a good spot, noticing hoof prints where the deer came to paw at the ground where Jason and I put a mineral salt block last year. I told him Jason and I will return to set out another mineral salt block just as soon as there is a frost and the mosquito plague is behind us.

We moved on to check out my stand and swept the edge where a meadow and a stand of hardwoods meet. A mourning dove flushed as Hera hunted the cover and moments later she bumped a woodcock that flew past Mike and I out in the open. It was far too hot to be out and Hera was struggling with the heat. We reached my stand and Mike pointed out a deer trail and some large hoof prints. This pleased me no end.

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Mike and Maggie examining a deer trail by my stand.

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Hoof print left behind by a deer passing by my deer stand.

On our way out we passed by my buddy Omer’s stand that looks out over the meadow. Immediately, Mike found intersecting trails in the grass in front of Omer’s stand and we followed one of the trails to the pines from which deer pass through as they make their way across the property. If this were not exciting enough, Mike found two deer beds adjacent to Omer’s stand in a little depression in the ground. I am sure my friends will find this welcome news.

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Deer bed next to Omer’s ladder stand.

The temperature was uncomfortably hot by then; it was 10:00 am and not just the dogs were suffering. Mika and I were sweating like no tomorrow, so much so that the effects of the insect repellent wore off. We needed repeated applications to keep the mosquitoes at bay. We got back to the vehicles at 10:30 am, put the dogs on board and turned on the ac full blast. The forecast called for the heatwave to break by the 28th of September. I hope so as I plan to take the 28th-29th of September off to get afield with Hera. Woodcock season comes and goes so quickly every year and I aim to get out as often as I can. Despite the dreadful heat and the mosquitoes this morning, I think Mike and I succeeded in reaching our objective this morning and also got in some valuable scouting for deer season. It was a good morning afield and I look forward to getting out again with Hera with Mike and Maggie along in pursuit of grouse and woodcock this season.

Posted by Geoffrey


3 thoughts on “Welcome, Maggie Mae, to the thrill of grouse and woodcock hunting

  1. Michel Lecavalier

    Hey Geoffrey. I remember how excited I was when I found a deer bed and trail by my buddies stand. I’ve had 2 cameras set since July and we’ve had many does visite and one buck now. He’s got his doe tag so I called shot gun on the buck…no pun intended.

    I’ve been planing on hitting Marlborough tomorrow, but this heat wave is crazy. Maybe if I get there early enough.


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