25 October 2009
Late October is great for hunting grouse. Not only are the temperatures nice and cool, great for exerting yourself nearly to cardiac arrest in the woods, but there are no leaves blocking us from actually seeing the objects of our desires. The good hunting continued with Harry, Matt and Pete, a father and two sons that have lots of upland hunting experience. They're geographically spread out, but they still get together for waterfowl excursions on occasion. The upland hunts are tougher to schedule now, so I was glad that we could get out together. Now they've been up here before several times but had devoted themselves to hunting for woodcock mostly, so our first day of hunting revolved around seeking grouse. We didn't see a lot of grouse that day (12), but both Matt and Pete had many good chances at birds, which is not always the case as we all know.
We had some excellent dog work from Pete's shorthair Shane, while Rudy and Greta both had moments of bird dawg bliss. The points were impressive, and the boys hooked up on four of their shots. The next day we got more into the flight woodcock and in a mere four hours we put up 15 timberdoodles and two more grouse. One of those grouse came very close to meeting his maker after an incredible point from Rudy, but he sailed away to safety - the culprit of the errant shot will remain nameless ... Four of the woodcock made it to the rear vest pocket, so Matt and Pete had four grouse and four woodcock to show for their two hunts. Harry did a great job of keeping up with all of us, but made the crucial upland bird hunting mistake when he had a woodcock fly right in front of him down the trail. You see, Harry was midway through the telling of a hunting tale to me, and was essentially unprepared when that bird got up. By the time I nudged him to let him know there was a bird begging for his attention, it was too late. I'm sure the woodcock is appreciative of Harry's generosity, and is probably slurping down an earthworm in Harry's honor as I type this. Just kidding Harry! The grouse and woodcock gods smiled upon this group and granted our intrepid hunters some momentary success, and we give a heartfelt "thank you" to them for this.
What a hunt this turned out to be! Tom from Nova Scotia wanted to take his twelve year old son Cam on his first grouse hunt. We were also accompanied by Tom's wife Leslie and springer spaniel Winnie and things couldn't have worked out better, at least on the first day. We put up a lot of birds that first day - 21 grouse and a woodcock flew before our eyes, and while the guys were shutout that morning, they turned things around in a big way with the afternoon hunt (must've been the minestrone soup!). Using my 28 gauge SxS, Cam made a wonderful left to right crossing shot on a beautiful male grouse, his first ever, and it was quite a proud moment for Tom and Leslie. We kept onward and in a short while Tom had his first NH grouse of 2009. Near the end of day one, we also hunted an old apple orchard, a frequent haunt of bonasa umbellus. Once again, Cam put me to shame with another fantastic wing shot on a grouse and before we knew it, he had harvested two grouse on the wing in his first day of grouse hunting - quite an accomplishment.
Now, this was truly a wonderful thing to behold for all of us, but the young grasshopper may have become spoiled with this amount of success in merely his first day. We all know that what the grouse gods giveth, they must surely take away (and usually it's the very next day). While we saw even more birds the next day - 16 grouse and 11 woodcock - very few flew Cam's way, and he began to learn the hard way that harvesting two grouse in a day is the exception and not the rule! Once again, the dog work was exceptional - Rudy was his usual steady self and Winnie really did fantastic, doing the springer spaniel breed proud. In any event, I had a great time hunting with Tom, Cam, Leslie and Winnie and an even better time watching young Cam start on his path of grouse hunting.