Got out today for an upland hunt with my friend Jason for the first time since his daughter Rose was born three years ago. I find my hunting buddies often have far less time for hunting once they become family men so it was great to get back in the field with Jason. I asked Jason the evening before if he would join me on a hunt for grouse and woodcock at the farm near Spencerville. He told me he had to be back by 1:00 pm as his wife Fran had plans. I reminded him that the it generally takes about two hours to sweep the grouse and woodcock cover on the farm so if we were in the field by 8:00 am we should have ample time for a morning hunt and get back to Ottawa in time. It is about an hour’s drive from Ottawa to the farm. Jason agreed to the plan and added that he wanted to bring the sacks of corn and mineral salt blocks along to set out by our deer stands and scout out a new location for his wife Fran’s ladder stand. We hunt deer on the farm during rifle season in November. This meant taking out his ATV so we could carry the sacks of corn and mineral salt blocks back into where our ladder stands are located. It was an ambitious agenda, but feasible if we timed it right.
I met Jason at his house shortly before 7:00 am and quickly moved my gun and gear into his truck. I put Hera in a crate in the back of Jason’s truck and she went in without any trouble. Hera is used to riding in the back of my SUV behind a barrier. Jason’s dog, Nos was already on board and champing at the bit. It was a great morning for an early season upland hunt: it was 7 C and there was no wind. We arrived at the farm in good time, not long after 8:00 am and quickly got underway. Nos and Hera run and hunt well together. We took the dogs along the same route I took Hera the day before. Hera and I got into several woodcock and one grouse on this hunt. This time no birds were found in the first patch of cover we swept. I did not mind, it was great having Jason back in the field with me. We took a moment to discuss our choice of shotguns for the hunt. I carried my Franchi Instinct SL o/u in 20 gauge with 26 in. barrels. I had it choked skeet and skeet. Jason had his Beretta SV19 Perennia III o/u in 12 gauge with 26 in. barrels, also choked skeet and skeet. A very open choke is advisable when you are gunning woodcock and grouse. Most shots are at 20 yards or less.
As we continued the hunt an unwelcome drama erupted when Nos got agitated, barking and yelping at a tree next to an old fence. Jason and I recognized this behaviour in Nos and immediately we feared there must be a porcupine. Jason asked me to call Nos and hold him while he investigated. I called Hera too and steered her away from the scene. Sure enough, Jason found a porcupine up in the tree. As distasteful as it is for us, we chose to shoot the porcupine because of the threat it posed to our dogs.
We left the porcupine carcass for the coyotes that inhabit the property and took the dogs away from the scene. Hera finally locked up on point in a dense patch of cover next to the swamp. I walked up her point, making my way through the dense foliage and she was staunch this time. A woodcock flushed and made good its escape. I did not see it, but Jason caught a glimpse as it broke cover, too far for him to shoot.
As we continued the hunt we came up to the spot we had in mind to relocate Fran’s ladder stand. It is a stand of pines overlooking a meadow. There are deer trails leading into the pines from the meadow. The trails were clearly visible in the snow during the winter months and are still visible now in late September. We looked over the site and selected a tree where we will install Fran’s ladder stand the next time we come to the farm, likely next weekend.
As we neared the end of our loop across the property, Nos got birdy in a stand of aspen. Jason and I walked up the point, but there was no flush. However, a short distance beyond a grouse flushed wildly. Jason fired and missed, but directed my attention to the direction the bird flew. I saw it and hastily got a shot away, missing spectacularly. Jason noted the spot it landed and we followed up the shot. I paused to reload my gun and bade Jason to go on ahead. The bird flushed a second time, only this time it made a fatal error when it flew into view across the trail. This time Jason found the mark. This flurry of action was most satisfying. It brought out the best in hunting for us: the camaraderie, sportsmanship and fair chase. We worked together, in tandem, taking turns in chasing down and successfully bagging the bird on the wing.
We returned to Jason’s truck and crated the dogs before setting out on his ATV to put the corn and mineral salt licks by our ladder stands. The ATV is an asset for this kind of work as carrying heavy sacks of corn and the mineral salt licks would be time consuming and at my age very difficult. En route to our ladder stands, we stopped and left half a sack of corn in front of the spot we will move Fran’s ladder stand the next time we are out.
We emptied the remaining half sack of corn at Jason’s ladder stand together with the mineral salt lick before moving on to mine.
We were back at the truck and loaded the ATV and its trailer onto the trailer Jason uses to transport them in good time. We were on the road back to Ottawa shortly after 11:00 am. On the way home we stopped at the Old Co-Op in North Gower to purchase three more sacks of corn for future use. It was a great day afield for us and we succeeded in reaching our objectives in killing two birds with one stone.
Posted by Geoffrey