I took Hera and Stella hunting in the Marlborough Forest this morning. We started our hunt at about 8:50 am at the cover I call Schäfer’s Wood. The last time I hunted Schäfer’s Wood earlier in the season–with Hera alone–I noticed that Hera showed little enthusiasm. I let Hera and Stella out of the Jeep and off we went in pursuit of grouse and woodcock. Hera quickly lost interest, and in short order, we were back at the Jeep. I do not know what to make of her antipathy to hunting at Schäfer’s Wood. My best guess is that her bird dog’s intuition informed her that the cover is not worth her time. “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink,” goes the adage. I put the dogs back on board and drove them to the cover I call Lester’s Square. When I arrived a Lester’s Square a short time later, I heard shots in the distance. “Ah,” I thought, “we have company–even on a Monday morning.” No matter, there is room enough for everyone. Continue reading
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
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
Yesterday I took delivery of my 2017 Jeep Patriot High Altitude. I traded in my aging Tucson for the newer vehicle. Just before I left to pick up the new vehicle I checked Facebook and found a message from one of my hunting buddies, Nick, whom I had not seen for three years as he was posted to the Canadian Consulate in New York City all this time. He is back in Ottawa now and contacted me, asking if we could go hunting this morning. I was happy to hear he still has his dog, Cocotte, a German Shorthaired Pointer who is nine years old now. I met Nick at a dog park when Cocotte was a puppy, the same age as my beloved Juno. Cocotte is Nick’s first hunting dog while Juno was my third so I offered to help with her training. We trained our puppies together and hunted them successfully as they grew into young gun dogs until my Juno was felled by cancer at four years old. I happily agreed to take them hunting, they were the first passengers in my new wheels.
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.
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.
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.