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 →
James with the woodcock he shot on his first woodcock hunt.
The 2019 upland game, small game and woodcock seasons opened in Eastern Ontario this morning. The weather was near perfect for the opening day of these seasons. The sky was clear, the winds were minimal, and the temperature was hovering at about 10 degrees C. I set out for the farm near Spencerville with my new hunting buddy James and Hera, my Brittany, shortly before 7:00 am. It is about an hour’s drive from my house in Centretown Ottawa to the farm. James and I arranged to meet Mike, another of my hunting buddies, at the farm for 8:00 am. Though James is not new to hunting–having hunted small game with his buddies in Cornwall in previous seasons–this would be his first woodcock hunt. It would be his first hunt over a bird dog also. We stopped at a Tim Hortons on the way–I have to have my morning cup of Joe–and arrived at the farm in good time. Mike came with his dog, Maggie, a German Shorthaired Pointer, not long after James and I got there. We started our hunt not long after 8:00 am, eager to see what fortune would bring. Continue reading →
My morning run with Hera was interrupted when we had a second run-in with a priggish twat and her unruly husky. The winter before last Hera and I first ran up against this annoying woman and her husky. She keeps her dog leashed and it barks and pulls on the leash whenever it sees another dog. The first time I stood in the field across from a friend’s house with Hera while I waited on my friend and her dog to join us for a morning run. As the woman and her dog passed by on the road in front of my friend’s house the dog barked and pulled on the leash. Hera stood calmly by my side, taking no notice. The woman asked if I was not going to move on with my dog. I told her no that I was waiting for a friend. The woman complained her dog pulling on the leash aggravated a back injury she suffered. I told her I was sorry to hear that. She demanded that I leash Hera. I said to her to “just go.”
This morning Hera and I enjoyed a nice, long run as the weather is warm and sunny today. We walked with my friend Andrée and her poodle Oliver during the first part of the run. As Hera and I made a second pass in the meadow in front of Andrée’s house, I saw the woman and her husky in the distance. I did not know it was her at first–there is more than one husky owner in the area. Still, Hera and I chose a course I hoped would keep us from running into the woman and her dog. Unfortunately, we met up with her and the dog down by the river. The dog barked and pulled on the leash as before and the woman asked, more demanded, that I call my dog. She muttered about her sore back again then demanded that I leash Hera. I said to her calmly, “you look after your dog, and I’ll look after mine.” The woman took her dog in one direction and Hera, and I continued on our way.
I wonder where people like this woman get such an exaggerated sense of entitlement. I had run-ins with difficult people over the years when I am out with my dogs. Hera is my fourth Brittany, and I have a fifth Brittany (a new pup) coming in July. I learned over the years that it is better to keep calm while you stand your ground in dealing with people like the woman who confronted us this morning. Although I am better prepared for such confrontations these days, such encounters are still unpleasant and unwelcome. I hope Hera and I do not have a third meeting with this woman and her unruly dog.
Hera cooling off in a beaver pond on a warm September morning.
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 →
Mike and Maggie Mae on opening day of grouse season 2018.
“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 →
Hera pointed a woodcock on the open ground and I missed cleanly with both barrels.
I took Hera into the field this morning. We started out in the Marlborough Forest at the patch of cover I call Lester’s Square. It was cool this morning, just a few degrees above 0 C and there was a light wind, lighter than was forecast, though it gusted at times. I noticed puddles on the forest road as I drove in, a welcome sign. The recent rainfall was heavy enough to leave puddles and I hoped the woodcock covers would be damper than they were at the start of the season. We had the cover to ourselves for the first time in a long time. This was often the case in years gone by when I hunted there with my first dog, Christie, back in the late 1990s. I know my way around Lester’s Square very well these days as I hunted there many seasons before. Still, I am always careful to take a bearing with my compass so I know which way is out. Even in the Marlborough Forest where civilization is half a block away, it is all too easy to get turned around and find yourself walking in circles in the brush. I arrived a little later than usual, closer to 9:00 AM, and set out with Hera to see what fortune would bring us this morning.