Tag Archives: pointing dog

Upland gunning over a recalcitrant little Brittany

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Hera chewing on a bone she found at Schäfer’s Wood.

It is the end of October and the 2016 woodcock season is winding down. The forecast was for light rain, but virtually no wind this morning when I set out with Hera for the Marlborough Forest. We got away a little later than usual as I slept in a bit. We arrived at Cowan’s Corner close to 9:00 am. I hoped there might still be a few birds in the cover, left over from the great shoot we had the previous Monday afternoon. It snowed on Thursday and there were remnants of this on the ground as we approached the forest. It was overcast, but not raining when I set out with Hera at Cowan’s Corner for what turned out not her best day in the field. She locked up on point very quickly only to jump the gun and bump the bird before I could walk up her point. I bumped a second bird in short order, it flushed unseen. Hera was back in form when she pointed the third bird we found at Cowan’s Corner. It was in thick cover so I was well pleased when I flushed it over her point and got it with my second barrel. Hera made a good retrieve and we moved on.

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Butter fingers makes for the luckiest woodcock in the Ottawa Valley

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American woodcock

I got out with Hera yesterday afternoon for an impromptu grouse and woodcock hunt in the Marlborough Forest. Our destination was the patch of cover newly christened “Schäfer’s Wood,” the same patch of cover in which we started the season last Sunday. I opted for this patch of cover as there is a beaver pond nearby: a spot where Hera could cool off after hunting hard in the cover. We were on the road shortly before 4:00 pm and thankfully, traffic was light. I noted with enthusiasm mallards and wood ducks resting on pools of swamp water in the forest next to Roger Stevens Drive. I look forward to getting out for some duck hunting over the Thanksgiving Weekend. Nice to see there are ducks in the region. It was sunny, warm and the wind was light. The wind died down as evening set in. We arrived at Schäfer’s Wood shortly before 5:00 pm. This gave us just over two hours of hunting until the end of legal shooting time at approximately 7:20 pm. It was a brief, but very memorable hunt.

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Cock up!

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Grouse and woodcock taken over Hera’s points on Opening Day of Woodcock season 2016.

Cock up! This is the cry that goes out during a driven grouse shoot in England when the beaters flush a woodcock. This was in the back of my mind as I got out with Hera this morning for the opening of woodcock season 2016 hoping we would turn up some birds. We were on the road shortly after 0700 bound for the Marlborough Forest. The weather was near perfect for upland gunning: sunny, cool (hovering near 0 degrees C) and virtually no wind. This was my first hunt with the new Franchi Instinct SL o/u in 20 gauge I acquired in August. I have it choked with skeet and skeet tubes as most shots at grouse and woodcock are at close range. I stopped for a coffee and apple fritter en route and remembered as we drove along Prince of Wales Drive I forgot to bring water for us to drink. I stopped at an Ultramar station and bought a bottle. I expected the forest would be drier than I would like, given the drought we endured over the summer months. We had some rainfall in the weeks leading up to our hunt this morning and I tried to remain optimistic, but feared the lowland bogs that hold woodcock would be dry. As we neared the forest, my fears were justified. Two of the streams that cross Roger Stevens Road were dry. A patch of swampland at the edge of the forest still held water, but it was much lower than usual. Undaunted, I pressed on and as it turned out, Hera and I had a good morning in the field.

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Vera and the three bears

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My second dog Maggie pointing a chukar at Banin Upland Game Farm.

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Wing and shot with Maggie on a chukar at Banin Upland Game Farm.

Over the past several years as the opening of a new hunting season drew near and anticipation grew in me and my dogs, I liked to go to Banin Upland Game Farm to gun for pen raised chukar and pheasant to whet our appetite for wild birds. The proprietors of Banin Upland Game Farm and Fionavar Kennels, Ed and Vera, breed Springer Spaniels for use as gun dogs. Banin Upland Game Farm is set up for dog training and I spent time training all of my dogs there. In fact, the header photo for the blog shows me posing with Juno, my third dog, after her first hunt at Banin Upland Game Farm. Juno was my third dog and sadly, I lost her in 2012. She was felled by cancer at four years of age, just as she was coming into her prime as a gun dog. Tragic as it was, life goes on and now as the 2016 season draws near, I thought it would be fun to take my current dog, Hera, to Banin Upland Game Farm in pursuit of some chukar. I called earlier this week and Vera answered the telephone. She recognized me right away and we chatted briefly, getting caught up on what is new for both of us. I asked if she had birds in stock and her reply took me by surprise.

She told me they had birds in the spring, but since then bears, yes multiple bears, turned up and broke into the pens to get at the feed for the birds. In fact, she told me bears are brazenly continuing to raid the pens and out buildings on the farm in search of food. She told me because of the problem of nuisance bears, they are not stocking chukar and pheasants for now. She added that she has hunters lined up to deal with the bears and once this is taken care of they will probably have birds again. I immediately thought of my hunting buddy Jason Quinn. He shot a bear during the spring season. I wondered if he might be interested in party hunting for bear at Banin Upland Game Farm with me in the fall season. I contacted him and raised the subject, but the demands of work and family life are too pronounced for him to take part this time. In addition, I must confess that bear hunting really does not interest me that much. Given the opportunity, I might give it a try, but I do not plan on going out of my way to take up bear hunting.

I hope the hunters Vera has lined up take care of the problem of nuisance bears on the property in short order and Banin Upland Game Farm will be up and running with chukar and pheasant in stock later this season. I really hope to take Hera to chase some chukar and pheasant later this season in continuing the tradition that started when I took my first dog, Christie, to Banin Game Farm back in the 1990s.

Posted by Geoffrey

Who me?

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Barred owl roosting on a telephone wire in Centretown Ottawa.

It is April 17th 2016 and winter is finally behind us. Saturday evening I noticed a small crowd of people standing on the sidewalk in front of the house. I wondered what they were doing there and when Mika and I left to go out for supper I saw why. A barred owl saw fit to roost on a telephone wire across the street. I quickly retrieved my camera and got some nice photos of the bird.

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Jason posing with Nos and Hera in the field.

This weekend Jason and I took the dogs out to the property near Spencerville to check on the trail cameras we set up along deer runs we are watching. Before setting out Sunday morning at 0700, however, I made the final payment for the john boat, trailer, outboard motor, gas can and oars I bought from Jason. Now I am the proud owner of two duck boats. The john boat is better suited for some of the rivers and marshes I gun for ducks and geese than my boat with the v-hull. Omer, another of my hunting buddies, will help me construct a blind frame so we can turn the john boat into a floating blind like my other boat.

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Hera tracking a woodcock in the thicket.

We arrived at the property shortly after 0800 and found Peter, our host, at home. We stopped by to check in and let him know what we were up to. He was happy to see us and we set out with the dogs who were eager to get into the field. As we entered the thicket, Nos (Jason’s dog), turned up a woodcock almost immediately. We pressed on an moments later my three year old Brittany, Hera, pointed a woodcock in the thicket. I walked up her point and off went the bird. In all, five woodcock were found and flushed by the dogs this morning. In addition, one grouse was bumped and we heard two drumming in the wood.

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Jason checking a trail camera on a deer trail.

We have trail cameras set up along deer trails watching for deer movement on the property throughout the year. Last season we put out corn and molasses in hopes of attracting deer during the muzzle loader season, but no deer showed. What we found on the trail cameras this morning confirmed what we surmised about deer movement during the rifle and muzzle loading seasons. The corn and molasses were left largely undisturbed until the end of the year. A few deer stopped by to feed in December, but only well after dark. Through the winter months several deer, mainly does but a six point buck also, came to feed. The deer are not stupid. They are adept at survival and know each year when hunters enter the area it is time to hide out in the swampy areas by day and come to feed after dark. We are happy the corn and molasses we left was consumed by the deer over the winter months when food is scarce. We will return at the end of the month to leave salt mineral blocks in place of the corn and molasses. With any luck this will attract deer through the spring and summer months and on into the fall hunting season. We shall see.

Posted by Geoffrey

Third time’s the charm

Woodcock shot over Hera's point October 14, 2015.

Woodcock shot over Hera’s point October 14, 2015.

This is Hera’s third season in the field and she is coming along nicely in her training as a gun dog. I documented the difficulties I had last season in the diary entry The terrible twos. In her second season, Hera manifested the symptoms of the “terrible twos” in breaking point and bumping birds before I walked up the point. She experienced a couple relapses of this behaviour at the start of this season, but today she made three staunch points on woodcock. I walked up each point and she held as we got the birds in a squeeze play. I got a shot away at the first bird she pointed and missed spectacularly. The second bird flushed under a tall cedar tree and did not offer a shot. Hera pointed the the third bird close to where the second bird was found in a mix of aspen, cedar and alder. This time I dumped it cleanly with my first barrel.

What I look for in woodcock cover in the Marlborough Forest.

What I look for in woodcock cover in the Marlborough Forest.

Conditions in the woodcock coverts this season are not the best. Though the ground is not dry and hard; neither is it damp enough for the woodcock to easily probe for earthworms. I am not seeing the telltale splotches of woodcock droppings in the coverts. Hera finds and points many old scents each day we are hunting, which tells me woodcock are moving in, but not staying long. This is what I find in the Marlborough Forest and on the property I hunt near Spencerville. We are getting into birds most days afield, but not in numbers I experience when conditions are better. However, the birds we found this season were exactly where I expected they would be. She is getting the experience she needs to develop as a gun dog and I am patient with her, though it is frustrating when she stumbles onto birds, bumping them before she scents and points them. I remember this happening on occasion with the three dogs I hunted before Hera. It is an occupational hazard for pointing dogs.

Hera hunting in the Marlborough Forest October 14, 2015.

Hera hunting in the Marlborough Forest October 14, 2015.

We will take to the field each day the rest of this week and with any luck will get into more birds. There is one spot in the Marlborough Forest I hunted in seasons past, but it is now part of the Rideau Trail. As I drive past the spot on my way to another part of the forest I remember hunting a particular patch of cedars there with my first two dogs. These days I leave the area to the non-hunting users of the forest, e.g., the bird watchers, hikers and cross country runners who frequent the area. Hunters are not the only ones using the Marlborough Forest and it is important that we extend courtesy to the non-hunting users of the forest. There is another patch of cover I want to explore as we head into the field tomorrow morning. I am hopeful we will turn up more birds, but whether we do or not, Hera and I will enjoy our morning afield.

Posted by Geoffrey

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Woodcock taken with my 20 gauge Winchester double.

Woodcock taken over Hera’s point with my 20 gauge Winchester side-by-side.

As a new hunting season approaches I look forward to setting out on  grouse and woodcock hunts with my dog Hera. As I look to the season ahead I remember the first grouse I shot 41 years ago in Limerick Forest. I was out with my dad and as we drove along one of the forest roads a grouse ran out in front of us. We stopped and got out of the white Volkswagen van he drove in those days. I was carrying my first shotgun, a Savage hammerless 16 gauge single shot with a 28 in. barrel and full choke. The grouse ran off the road and escaped, but my dad and I found there was a covey of birds. As we swept the cover there were multiple flushes with the birds flushing unseen. This was both exciting and frustrating for me, but my chance came when finally a grouse flushed and offered me a shot in a gap between a couple of fir trees. I mounted my gun and fired, a snap shot just like I read in the CIL guide to upland gunning. My dad heard the shot and asked if it was me. I replied it was me and walked up to the gap between the trees and there on the ground was my grouse. I sure was excited and cried out repeatedly “Dad, I got a grouse!” What I remember most about shooting my first grouse was the feeling of triumph and touch of sorrow I experienced when I retrieved the dead bird. Continue reading