The Annual Trip "Out East"

It was that time of the year again, my annual hunting adventure with Jo-Ann Moody and her excellently trained springer spaniels in Belfast, Maine, and it certainly did not disappoint. Along with me again was client and friend Paul O'Neill, who invited me on this excursion for the first time six years ago, and the trip to Belfast is eagerly anticipated by us each season.

This year's weather conditions were quite different from what we've had traditionally, as this coastal area had its first "sticking snow" of the year on the night we got in to town. While several inches of snow may signal misplaced footsteps and snow sliding down your back, it has it's good points as well. Snow means a much stealthier approach to extremely wary grouse, and perhaps helps hold those grouse a bit tighter than they normally would.

I have read that the first snow is particularly alarming for young grouse, as they have never seen this natural phenomenon before, and don't really know what to do with it. This effect has proved itself to be true in some of my hunts in northern NH and Vermont (usually that sticking snow happens in late October though), as several of my best days ever have been under these circumstances.

Our first morning of hunting was good, as we moved 11 grouse in around three hours, and one grouse made the mistake of taking a low dash right-to-left across an opening in front of me. With one in the bag, and feeling quite full of myself, I had to shoot at a few others that were either out of range or simply succeeded in placing a tree between us. Yes, some good Maine timber suffered the scars of my errant shooting eye that day ...

Day two brought better conditions, with temps in the upper thirties, but the snow still hanging on the mountain and while we moved 5 grouse in the morning, the afternoon hunt saw more action. We had 7 grouse fly before us that afternoon: whether off the ground or out of trees, but the common denominator is that they were absolute rockets. Paul made two nice shots on fleeing grouse on day two, and Jo-Ann's veteran of the grouse woods, Bonnie, helped locate and bring them back. One of the more amazing aspects of hunting with Jo-Ann is her uncanny ability to predict the locations of grouse in her coverts, as well as their likely escape routes, making it seem as though she is the master of her coverts and the habits of the birds inhabiting them.

My reflexes were too slow this day, though one of them should have been mine. The millisecond of a chance that he gave me just wasn't enough time!