Still, we had good dog work from all three shorthairs, but Brian’s best chance was probably twenty minutes in to our hunt when an escaping grouse flushed across the trail in front of him, only to fly on unscathed. The highlight of the hunt was a great woodcock point by Rudy, but the bird eluded us when he finally did flush, presenting no chance for a shot. The same thing happened a few hours later when Greta staunchly pointed another woodcock, only for it to flush, you guessed it, the wrong way. Monty also put in some good work near the end of our day, but Brian didn’t have any chances on the four grouse that we moved in the cover. It was a tough way to end our NH season, but we had a good time anyway, and got plenty of exercise in.
The Vermont leg of our guiding season opens for the next two weeks, which will be good - it’s always great exploring some new areas and getting reacquainted with our old covers as well. Rifle season in Vermont doesn’t open for another two weeks, so we’ll have the woods to ourselves for a little while. The weather should be turning colder too - all the better to hunt grouse in!
Krystal Coombs and her springers Phoenix and Levi were my unfortunate victims for the first two days, and with those days being the NH Youth Deer Hunting weekend, we were forced to change some of our hunting spots on the fly. Phoenix and Levi were great hunters, with plenty of energy and lots of drive for chasing grouse and woodcock. They are out of Jo Ann Moody’s kennel in Maine, renowned for their skill in hunting the often skittish birds found over there. Krystal and Jo Ann have done lots of work with their dogs, emphasizing calm, quiet partnerships in the woods (close working, no bells, beepers, whistles, and little human voice noise), while letting the dogs do what they do best. These dogs didn’t just search for birds - they scoured the woods in their search for prey. While we had a bit of a slow first day, the second morning brought twenty bird contacts (15 grouse, 5 woodcock), and while many of them gave good opportunities, none were bagged - Krystal is a practitioner of the “L.D.R.” - Long Distance Release. All in all, we moved 38 birds in the two days, most of which were flushed by Levi and Phoenix. Levi’s picture sums up the two days: tired, but content.
On the third day, Tom and Cam Lee returned for a day of grouse and woodcock chasing with their field springer spaniel Winnie. We had two great days together last year as young Cam turned in the highlight of my season in shooting his first grouse ever on the wing (he actually took two!). It took a little longer this time to get the action started, but being an experienced upland hunter from Nova Scotia, Tom made a good shot to bag the first grouse of the morning. Unfortunately, we didn’t see many birds in the first cover, but Winnie hunted hard with good pattern and enthusiasm.
We then got into some woodcock and grouse in the next cover, which would turn out to be the most productive of the day, and Tom took another grouse and woodcock, and Cam made a great shot on a fleeing timberdoodle. While Rudy had a couple of points, the woodcock were quite edgy, and not in the mood to sit for points. Total, the guys took three grouse and two woodcock for the day, with Cam bagging a partridge near the end of our hunt together. Not bad, for only contacting fourteen birds for the day (7 grouse, 7 woodcock).