“Good luck in all weathers” the message the author Shirley E. Woods Jr. wrote in my copy of his book Gunning for upland birds and wildfowl. This book is a memoir of the author detailing his evolution as a hunter from his experiences gunning marshes on the Ottawa River and gunning for upland game birds in the Ottawa Valley. I had the pleasure of meeting him at his home in Rockliffe Park on afternoon when I was seventeen years old. Sunday morning, October 20th was cool and blustery. Omer was supposed to join me in the field for some upland gunning, but texted me early in the morning, bowing out as he was not feeling well. I was tempted to stay in bed, hearing the wind outside my bedroom window, but “Good luck in all weathers” sprang to mind. That and the need to get out with Hera as it is her first season and she needs every chance to get into the field. So I got out of bed and off we went for a morning grouse and woodcock hunt. Continue reading
The day started off with a duck hunt on the Castor River with my hunting buddy Jason and his dog Nos. The duck hunt proved a bust; it is too soon after opening day for the northern birds to be moving through. We sat on the edge of the river and watched the sun rise, packing up early enough that I could get into the field with Hera for a late morning, early afternoon hunt for grouse and woodcock. It was blustery and rain was in the forecast. I hoped the rain would hold off long enough for us. I arrived at Lester’s Square at about 11:00 am and we set out.
I found a new trail in the cover I sweep which led to a pair of permanent deer stands. The trail led to another patch of the cover I hunt and along the way three grouse flushed wildly. I put Hera on the spots they had flushed and she checked the area thoroughly. She had pointed a grouse, her first, the day before and was very determined to find the birds. The rain had started, a light rain that was not too bad. I swept through some promising woodcock cover, but no birds were found. I took Hera toward a spot my buddies Jason and Nicolas and their dogs Nos and Cocotte had gotten into grouse the day before. A grouse flushed wildly from some cedars at the edge of a stand of birch. I made a snap shot and the no. 6 shot from my Browning 12 gauge over and under with 26″ barrels, choked skeet and skeet found the mark with one shot. I knew I got the bird when Hera emerged from the cedars with the dead bird in her jaws.
She proudly carried the bird around for a bit, before giving it up to me. I heaped praise on her. It was a proud and happy moment for the two of us. That she pointed a bird the day before is impressive as the grouse here in Eastern Ontario have adapted to hunting pressure over the generations in being so very skittish they rarely hold for a pointing dog, even the most seasoned dog. Wild flushes are common and bumped birds especially so with a young dog like Hera. I got my first grouse over her on the eve of her first birthday. Not long after the rain started falling in earnest, so we started back to the car. Along the way there were two more grouse flushes, but still no woodcock. We wrapped the hunt at about 2:00 pm. She is coming along nicely in her training as a gun dog. I look forward to our next hunt.
Posted by Geoffrey
Got out to Lester’s Square in the Marlborough Forest with my Brittany Hera and my buddy Jason Quinn with his German Wirehaired Pointer Nos on a fine Sunday morning, September 29th. We were on the road at 7:00 am as it is about an hour’s drive from Centretown Ottawa, where we live, to the hunting ground we chose for this outing. It was sunny and calm when we set out, a bit warmer than usual for this time of year, so we chose a cover that holds ponds and puddles in which the dogs could cool off. As we drove up to our desired spot, we discovered we had company. This is to be expected in public hunting grounds and we are happy to share the area with fellow hunters. I am acquainted with the group we saw and heard during the hunt. I have come across them in seasons past. They are hard to miss as you can hear them shouting at their dogs in Arabic and amongst themselves. We just made a point of keeping clear of them, so as not to interfere with their hunt, and to enjoy our own.
No birds were flushed in our sweep of Lester’s Square, though the conditions in the woodcock cover are the best I have seen in the past few years. The bogs are nice and wet and the earth soft enough for the migrating woodcock to probe for the earthworms that make up their diet. I think we are just ahead of the migration. We will return to hunt the cover at Lester’s Square as often as we can through October in hopes of intercepting a few migrating woodcock. Hera and Nos run well together and Hera has really taken to hunting with great enthusiasm. She turns one year old in the first week of October and is coming along nicely in her training.
We made our way to another patch of cover in the forest we call Paden. It is with some trepidation that we bring Nos there as a couple of years ago during a training run he attacked and killed a porcupine, suffering grievous injury in the process. I remember speeding back to Ottawa to the emergency veterinary clinic where Nos was sedated and in surgery for hours, having hundreds of quills removed from his face and mouth. We avoided the area where the attack took place and in the course of the hunt turned up one woodcock in a pocket of cover I expected to find birds. The woodcock was bumped by Nos and Jason dumped it cleanly with his new Beretta over and under. By then it was almost noon and the temperature had risen to 25 degrees C. The wind was picking up also, so we called it a day. Hera had a good morning afield, running and hunting hard. I cannot wait to get back in to the field with her.
Posted by Geoffrey
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.
Posted by Geoffrey
Christie was my first gun dog. I brought her home on April 16, 1994 when she was between six and seven weeks old. She passed away on May 19, 2004. Her life came to an untimely end due to cancer. Her death was a devastating loss for me. Letting her go was difficult, but now I treasure my memories of our time together. She lives on in my memories, one of which I noted in my diary many years ago and will share with you here.
I remember fondly one magical day afield with Christie on October 14, 2000. I had planned to go afield that morning with Christie and Glenn Lester, one of my hunting buddies. It was raining when I woke up, and Glenn called to bow out because of the rain. Undaunted, I took Christie and we set off to a patch of cover in the Marlborough Forest I call Twins. By the time we arrived at Twins, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. We arrived at about 8:00 AM. It was a Saturday morning. The temperature would climb to about 18 degrees C by mid-morning.
Christie and I set out on what would prove to be a most memorable hunt for woodcock. Christie locked up on point in minutes. I walked up the point and flushed a woodcock. It offered a fairly easy shot, but I managed to miss cleanly to Christie’s chagrin. No matter, it turned out, because Christie quickly pointed another woodcock. This time I did not miss. We moved on through the cover, working our way through the first of a series of meadows and through some pines. By the time we reached the second meadow, I had four woodcock in the bag, all shot over Christie’s points. This was exciting. We continued through the cover, working our way through the lowland bogs with aspen, alder, birch and hawthorn. There were more than thirty woodcock flushes that morning, most of which were over Christie’s points. By the time we completed our sweep of the cover at about 12:00 PM, I had seven woodcock in the bag. This is just one short of the daily limit of eight birds. I thought about stopping at one more cover on the way home to get the bird number eight, but decided that knowing I could do this was sufficient.
I will love Christie forever. May she rest in peace.
Posted by Geoffrey