The Nose Knows!

The Vermont part of our guiding season began with a bang last Saturday morning, as returning client Paul O’Neill and I moved grouse after grouse in one of our favorite covers. The pace was astonishing, and Rudy was in top form as he had great points on several birds, and made great tracks on several others that would not sit for his points.
Paul’s effort connected with one of those fleeing grouse, providing Paul with his first grouse bagged in Vermont (Paul’s taken birds in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Maine to my knowledge). We ended up moving around 16 grouse, 1 woodcock and 1 moose (fleeing Rudy and myself) that morning, making for a very memorable day already. Unfortunately, this would be the highlight of our three days together.

Perhaps the funniest moment I’ve ever seen occured that first morning. Rudy was in top form, covering both sides of the road we were on with great energy and intensity, so when I sent him in to cover near a cluster of spruce trees, he leaped eagerly toward the cover. Well, that is until he missed his mark and landed face first in the remnants of a small mud bog next to the spruce trees.
He seemed momentarily motionless while his head was stuck in the mud - Olympic judges would have give it a “10” (the French judge may have given it a “6”). He emerged like the swamp thing, and it took him a while to collect himself.

The afternoon of that first day saw a cold front come in, bringing snow and wind, and by the end of that afternoon, the snow was sticking in the high country. The weather also affected the birds - they hunkered down and though we were hunting some good looking spruce cover, we weren’t locating the numbers of birds as in the morning. Greta still turned in a great point that afternoon, but it only yielded a tough shot for Paul - no dice. Though tired and worn down, we were pretty happy with 17 grouse and 1 woodcock moved on Day One.

It snowed all night and Day Two saw three inches of crunchy snow on the ground and a very fresh breeze in our faces. Monty got the work in the morning and did pretty well, even flash pointing a grouse in a thicket of spruce, but scenting conditions were tough overall for the little guy. We moved 6 grouse and 1 woodcock that morning, but there were really no good shots for Paul. You know how it is - either you’re fighting through the maple and poplar saplings looking for a likely avenue for escaping birds, or you’re wading through a thick spruce and fir forest, getting snow dumped down your neck - it’s not easy getting a good shot. I love grouse hunting! The afternoon session saw thicker spruce cover, and we moved 7 grouse that afternoon. Rudy had great points on three of the grouse, but the thick cover prevented good shots for Paul. Unfortunately,
“Tom’s Grouse Hunting Death March” took it’s first victim of the season, as Paul’s knee started acting up, and, as luck would have it, the last two grouse of the day flushed alongside the trail on our way out, with me holding Paul’s empty gun. That right there says it all.

Day Three actually turned out to be Day Four (we took a day off to help Paul’s ailing knee), and the weather had improved some. No snow, no rain, but still cold and the birds were not very cooperative. In the morning cover, we pushed only one grouse where I had seen nine a month before. Very strange, but that’s how hunting is sometimes. We got a scare when Rudy started sneezing repeatedly with blood coming from his nose. On closer examination, he had part of a branch lodged in his nostril, so the doggie first aid kit that I carry sprang in to action. Tweezers cured the problem and within moments the bleeding stopped - it must have worked because Rudy turned in a beautiful point to end our day a few hours later. He plays through the pain ... Six grouse were kicked around in the afternoon with both Rudy and Monty running, but Day Three turned out to be my first single digit day of the season - only 7 grouse flushed in six hours of hunting - ouch! Thankfully, Paul’s knee held up all day, so we had a great time out there. Remember, a slow day in the woods is still better than almost anything else.