Hera and I with a brace of woodcock after a morning hunt in the Marlborough Forest.
I took Hera grouse and woodcock hunting solo in the MarlboroughForest this morning. It was mild, though on the warm side, at about 15 degrees C and the skies overcast. A light rain fell. I started at the cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. We started our hunt at 8:45 am. Minutes into the hunt, Hera pointed a woodcock. I walked up her point, and the bird flushed. I fired once, missing spectacularly. Hera looked as though she lacked enthusiasm for hunting. She was not as lively as I remember from past seasons. She turns seven next month; she is not that old, and she is in good shape. I wondered if it was a lack of enthusiasm or maybe that she is seasoned enough that she knows to pace herself. We spent an hour sweeping Schäfer’s Wood, and no more birds were found. What I noticed as we hunted the cover is that we, for the first time in a long time we had the grouse and woodcock covers to ourselves. Continue reading →
Akber and his son Abbas at Schäfer’s Wood after a morning of upland gunning in the Marlborough Forest.
“Hunt the edges,” wrote Shirley E. Woods Jr. in his memoir Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This is sound advice if you want to get into grouse and woodcock while out hunting. In fact, I learned over the many seasons I hunted grouse and woodcock it is the premise on which successful upland gunning is founded. An edge is where two different types of wildlife habitat meet. Where three or more types of wildlife habitat meet is called a corner. These are the areas to hunt when you want to get into birds whether you hunt over a dog or not. I had this thought in mind Sunday morning, November 6th, the day before the opening of deer season, when I drove to pick up Akber, one of my newer hunting buddies, and his son Abbas who is ten years old. One of the pleasures of hunting for me is mentoring new hunters, sharing with them what I learned over the years and most importantly, guiding them to becoming safe and ethical hunters. Akber and I became hunting buddies three seasons ago if memory serves and this year his son Abbas expressed interest in coming along. I accompanied my father and uncle in the field when I was nine years old and enjoyed myself so I welcomed the opportunity to introduce Abbas to join us in the field. Continue reading →
Woodcock season opened the 25th of September this year, the day Mika and I returned from our holiday in England. The next day, the 26th of September, I took Hera on her first hunt. She is almost one year old and been in training up to this date. My hunting buddy Jason Quinn and his dog Nos, a German Wirehaired Pointer, joined us for Hera’s first hunt. We left Ottawa after work for the Marlborough Forest, driving to a patch of cover I call Lester’s Square. This is a spot in the forest that can be counted on to attract woodcock during their Autumn migration, especially when the terrain is nice and wet. We arrived at about 4:00 pm and set out. On the drive out I noticed the water levels in the marshes and beaver ponds along the way were higher, which I found encouraging. Sure enough, the cover at Lester’s Square was nice and boggy. It should make for a good season.
Hera and Nos run well together, they quarter through the cover with enthusiasm. We made our way anticipating points and flushes, but woodcock proved scarce. We had two ruffed grouse flush wildly and unseen in thick brush. Ruffed grouse in the Marlborough Forest have adapted to being hunted every Autumn, making them very challenging game. As we were well into our sweep of the cover, Nos pointed a woodcock. Nos remained steady to wing and shot and the bird was dumped cleanly in view of Hera by Jason, using his new Beretta over and under. We let Hera examine the downed woodcock and continued the hunt, though no more birds were seen. The woodcock migration likely has not started yet. We will return to hunt Lester’s Square as the season progresses in hopes of intercepting some of the migrants. It was a good first hunt for Hera and I look forward to taking to the field with her anew very soon.