I made my first kill of the 2018 woodcock season late this morning. I was hunting in the Marlborough Forest at the patch of cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. I shot a woodcock over Hera’s point. I downed the bird with the second barrel of my Franchi Instinct SL in 20 gauge. We are two weeks into the 2018 Fall hunting seasons, and the weather is much improved. Still, conditions in my preferred hunting grounds are the driest I ever saw in all my years of hunting. I hope we get significant rainfall before mid-October. It took a lot of walking this morning, but Hera and I got into birds. I enjoy watching Hera working the covers we hunt for birds; watching her work the covers leaves me wondering at times if I trained her as a hunting dog or if it is she who taught me as a hunting dog owner. Continue reading
It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about the whereabouts of your hunting buddies when a game bird flushes and offers you a shot. I am strict about hunter etiquette and safety in the field, and my perfect record on hunter safety is a testament to my adherence to hunter etiquette and safety. The fact that carelessness is an issue in hunting came to mind on a weekend grouse and woodcock hunt with Hera, my six-year-old Brittany. My hunting buddy Nick and his ten-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, Cocotte, accompanied Hera and me on our weekend grouse and woodcock hunt. We got into birds: four woodcock and several grouse, but succeeded in spectacularly missing when we got shots away at flushing birds. Continue reading
“Good luck in all weathers,” Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote to me when he signed my copy of his memoir “Gunning for Upland Birds and Wildfowl.” I met him at his home in Rockliffe Park where he lived in the 1970s. His memoir is an account of his experiences hunting upland game birds and waterfowl in the Ottawa Valley and Quebec. Weather indeed is a significant factor in hunting. Weather conditions determine whether it is safe or worth to go hunting. Yes, the weather is but one of the factors that play into the vagaries of fortune in hunting, but I learned over the years what a significant role weather plays in successful hunting. Weather conditions over the summer of 2018 made for a rocky start to my upland season this year. Continue reading
Imagine my dismay this morning when I saw the weather forecast this morning after I got up to take Hera out after grouse and woodcock. Rain and high winds with even higher gusts and unseasonably warm temperatures were forecast for this Sunday morning. This is not good weather upland gunning. I arranged to go hunting with Mike and his eighteen month German Shorthaired Pointer Maggie this morning. I half expected Mike to text and cancel, but he was there waiting at our meeting place, the Old Co-op in North Gower, at 7:40 AM when I drove up. It rained heavily as I put Hera in the car and loaded my gear, but by the time I met up with Mike the rain stopped. The high and gusting winds continued unabated and I knew this would be an issue. High winds make grouse skittish and also make it difficult to keep track of your dog. The sound of the gusting wind drowns out the sound of the cowbell on the dog’s collar. I anticipated this hunt would be more of an armed run than anything else you never know what fortune brings.
William McClure was a friend and mentor to me starting when I first spoke to him in 1987 until his death in 2013. Bill was a Brittany enthusiast and former breeder of the breed. He helped me find the breeder from whom I purchased my first dog, Christie, and shared his experience in training Brittanies for hunting with me when I trained Brittanies of my own. As this hunting season progresses and I take to the field with Hera, my fourth Brittany, I hear Bill’s voice, his warning against taking my dogs to hunting preserves to shoot pen raised chukar and pheasant. Bill warned me that pen raised birds are often not strong fliers and easy for the dog to catch. This, he warned, gives them the idea that they can catch wild birds too which is the last thing you want. I chose not to heed his warning at the time as I knew that hunters commonly visit hunting preserves with their dogs without issue. I took my first three Brittanies, Christie, Maggie and Juno to hunting preserves and never had a problem. In fact the photo at the head of this blog features me with my beloved Juno at the end of her first hunt on a preserve. Still, I wonder now if I should have heeded his warning, given that Hera is breaking point on woodcock, bumping the birds rather than waiting for me to walk up the point. Continue reading
Hera turns five next month and by and large is a seasoned hunting dog in her prime. I remember how impressed I was with her when she pointed grouse and woodcock in her first season in 2013 when she was barely a year old. The other three Brittanies who came before her did not make their first points on wild birds until they were in their second seasons and closer to two years old. Hera started her career as a hunting dog on a firm foundation, but in her second season she took to breaking point and bumping birds before I could walk them up. This proved frustrating for me, but I was patient with her and over time I got her back to remaining staunch on point. She was fine in her third season and her performance last season was superb. She remains staunch on point on woodcock she finds in the fields I run her every day through the year. Typically, she finds woodcock in these fields early in spring. They are migrants returning from their wintering grounds. Imagine my dismay that now, in her fifth season, she experienced a relapse and took to breaking point again.
Got out for the second time this week with Hera to chase some grouse and woodcock. This time it was a solo hunt, just Hera and me on our own. I set out for the farm near Spencerville shortly after 7:00 am, but had to double back when I realized I left my phone at home. After retrieving my phone we were on our way and arrived at the farm at about 8:30 am. The temperature was 5 C and there was no wind. It looked like a good day in the field was in store for us. My enthusiasm soared when seconds into the hunt Hera locked up on point. It was at the edge of a trail in a dense stand of aspen and evergreens. I searched for a way through the cover to approach Hera head on, thinking it might be a grouse. I pushed through the cover and a woodcock flushed, climbing through the brush to the right of me very close. I turned as quickly as I could and got off a shot, missing spectacularly. It was a challenging shot so I took it in stride, buoyed by the fact that Hera found and pointed a bird so quickly. However, what followed left me bewildered and a little dismayed.