The Irony of It All


What is a grouse doing on the railing of my deck, you may ask? That is what I was wondering as well, and this actually happened late last October when I had returned from a day of guiding.

While I was busy unpacking the truck and getting the dogs fed after our travails that day, my wife secretly was taking a picture from inside of my abode of this grouse seemingly taunting us from the safety of the deck.

Knowing the angst that it would cause me, Karen had the good sense to not actually
show me the picture however, until after my guiding season was done. Thanks, honey.


December 13 Grouse Hunting Report

Sunday morning in New Hampshire's uplands - spectacular.
Simply spectacular weather today in the uplands of Pittsburg New Hampshire - mid 40's, sunny and little to no wind. We have been spoiled this fall with some glorious late season weather, allowing us to pursue and harass ruffed grouse in to the middle of December (usually by this point the dogs are enjoying some well earned couch time, and I'm getting the shovel warmed up and watching football).

Perhaps the best thing about grouse hunting is how different the hunting can be from day to day, leading to great challenges
(as if we need any more challenges to hunting grouse). Yesterday had its moments of hot action - Monty had two grouse pointed within ten minutes of leaving the truck, and pointed several others through the course of our three hours of hunting after that. But, he also blundered in to a sizable covey of birds (anywhere from 4 - 7 grouse - there were a lot of flushes) near the edge of an evergreen swamp, and creeped on a couple of birds as well. I'm not sure if it is the lack of snow or that the birds have been pressured more than normal in this area, but most of them were not holding well for points, even when Monty did his job correctly.

A healthy pile of grouse droppings was as close as we got to one of them yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, we hunted an area that we had hit just two days before and had done very well in (we had moved many grouse, but had not shot any of them). Bode did a nice job of patterning and hunted hard, but pointed three grouse (a single and a pair) and bumped another, none of which offered themselves up for a shot from my client. In total, we moved somewhere around 16 grouse yesterday, but none of them were brought to the vest, and not one shot was taken.

Today turned out to be a little different. Rudy was first out of the truck and the old man
(Rudy is now 9, and while he doesn't have the same stamina or style he once did, his nose is still very good) did pretty well. We moved approximately 8 grouse in two hours of hunting (three pairs and at least two singles), and Rudy was responsible for pointing five of them. He moves slowly now and hunts probably twenty to thirty yards ahead, allowing me to view when he's settling in to a point. We were in challenging cover this morning - a series of hillside cuts that always seem to produce grouse. It takes some effort to get there, which explains why it usually holds birds.

Rudy's hard earned grouse from this morning.
Over the years I have been fortunate to witness hundreds of points, from many different dogs. It is the most exciting aspect of grouse hunting for me, and something that leaves me in wonder every time it happens. One of the pairs that Rudy pointed in one of those hillside cuts produced a fast flushing grouse that decided to fly out and down the logging trail in front of me, for some reason. It was another illustration that we harvest grouse when they make a mistake - if they made the right choice every time they make an escape, we probably would kill very few birds. This one made a mistake …

Bode did well in another cut this morning, pointing one grouse that I just couldn't get close enough to, and then we jumped two others a little while later. We moved 11 grouse that we know of this morning, and got a shot at a few of them, quite different from yesterday.

Looks like we have rain the next two days and then finally some snow coming in on Friday - the end of the season is upon us, and my hips and knees are probably thankful …


Late Season Grouse Hunting

Dawkins, my client's red setter, had a couple of good days of finding grouse and holding staunchly on his points
Amazing weather lately here in northern New Hampshire, and all over the northeast - very mild, and perfect for grouse hunting. While our winter snowmobiling enthusiasts are justifiably worried about the start of the season for riding Pittsburg's trails (officially open on 12/15), we have been able to get out there this week to chase birds and the long range forecast looks favorable for doing so for at least the next week.

There is a smattering of snow in the higher elevations in Pittsburg, but really not too much (maybe 2" - 3"). We have been hunting lower elevations over the past three days and have seen little to no snow, but a fair amount of grouse. It is really not too much different from what we found earlier in the season - some of the birds have been holding well for points, while some have been running on us and getting out and away as fast as they can. In other words, it's grouse hunting …

While we have seen some of the birds in the same haunts where we found them earlier this season, there have been a couple of differences in these late season birds. We have been
finding more birds in thicker spruce cover in general, as they have mostly been avoiding the exclusive hardwood areas. We have also been seeing multiple birds as well - groups of two, three and four birds together have been common, with the high point being a cluster of six grouse that Monty and I discovered last weekend. Sorry that this is not earth shattering information - just make sure you're ready if you blunder in to one bird, because there just might be another one behind it …

Dawkins with one of his best grouse points from yesterday.
We've had some very good dog work these last few days. My client from the first two days had two good setters that worked ahead of us - an english setter named Maggie and a red setter named Dawkins. Both gave maximum effort and each had great points on our north country grouse, none of which fell to my client's gun. Monty also had a very good afternoon on Wednesday, where he pointed all four grouse that he encountered.

Monty's typical pose when he hunts - he's a good one and seems to be getting better.
Today was the warmest day of the week (nearly 50 degrees), and we found a fair amount of birds in the morning with the help of Monty. We moved nine grouse early on, and he pointed four of them - none of which offered great chances unfortunately. They're in the thick stuff after all, and the sight lines are mighty tough. The afternoon was slower for Bode, but he gave everything he had and managed to point two of the three grouse that we encountered. One of them was especially staunch, but the grouse gave us the slip, as we have come to expect at times this season.

Our guiding season ends tomorrow, but it's been a great season for us with lots of excitement - we have a bit over ten months until it all starts again …

Dispatch from Maine

Anne with a Frye Mountain grouse
Yes, even I get to hunt sometimes! After getting snowed out last year, we went back to central Maine to hunt with Jo-Ann Moody and her fine springer spaniels this year. As usual, we have been assaulting the grouse population of Frye Mountain, a state forest that is managed in cooperation with the Ruffed Grouse Society. With a combination of cover of a variety of ages, as well as "strips" that dissect oodles of wild apple and crabapple trees, it is managed exclusively for the benefit of grouse, as well as a variety of other animals (the whitetail deer hunting must be pretty good here, as we have seen many good buck scrapes).

Banded grouse from Frye Mountain

The weather was really cold yesterday morning
(20 degrees at the start, and we don't think it ever made it up to 30 degrees), so we were anxious to get moving, in part to stay as warm as possible. We were hunting with Jo-Ann's springer Anne, and she did a fine job of hunting hard and close and finding birds. We were in to some birds relatively quickly and one of the grouse made the mistake of flying in to my shot pattern (further reinforcing my belief that most birds are killed because they make a mistake, not because of my shooting ability). Anne tracked it down and retrieved it to Jo-Ann, making my trip east a success almost immediately.

Paul & Jo-Ann Moody with a 2015 grouse

We hunted the mountain for the remainder of the morning, moving eight grouse total. Moving to one of Jo-Ann's private covers, we found at least as many grouse in the afternoon. The cover was mostly thick, but Anne gave it her all and ended up flushing a low escaping grouse that Paul connected with - a nice shot that ended up being our final bird contacted for the day.

Pepper takes a break

Today's hunting turned out much differently - fewer grouse seen, but several more heard, at times distantly heard, so they knew what the game was. At least it was a bit warmer today, and much more comfortable for hunting. Jo-Ann's springer Pepper gave great effort as well and got in to some birds, but they were on the run and out of sight for much of the day.

The antenna on an unfortunate grouse - the antenna helps biologists track their movements.
You may have noticed the band on my grouse pictured above, as well as the pictures of an antenna and transmitter that was on a grouse shot yesterday by another hunter on the mountain. The Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department does a lot of research on their grouse population here on the mountain, tracking movements of birds to gain a better understanding of their cover needs.

That brown sack near the grouse's chest is the GPS unit that tells biologists where the bird has been and where he might be headed.
It seems to be working, as there were good numbers of birds this year, but be advised about these birds - they are the wariest, wiliest, and most challenging birds that I've ever hunted. They flush unexpectedly, in all directions and they often go out way (80 yards) ahead of us. In short, they're tough birds and holding one in your hand is somewhat of a trophy - I love it.

We have some bad weather moving in tonight and continuing tomorrow - we'll be out in it, along with those grouse.

November 7 Bird Hunting Report

Monty and Spencer, enjoying the end of another great day in the uplands.
After two days of extraordinarily warm weather on Thursday and Friday, it began to cool off on Saturday, and with the NH muzzleloader season for deer in full swing, we shifted to some of our favorite coverts in Vermont.

Hunting with my client Parker and his excellent Brittany Rocky, as well as Parker's brother Spencer (who is new to grouse hunting), we were hoping that the cooler weather would get the birds moving a bit. Having grown up in Iowa, both Parker and Spencer have lots of upland bird hunting experience, and it was apparent early on that Rocky is a natural to the grouse woods. Not only is he very responsive to Parker's commands, but he quarters beautifully and hunts at gun range.

The best was yet to come however, as he began to find, and staunchly point, grouse after grouse. We found most of our birds on the evergreen edge of a cedar swamp (perhaps the birds were still staying cool from the day before), and the action was pretty hot for a while. Unfortunately, grouse don't offer themselves up for decent shots in such cover, and only one fell to one of my client's guns. In four hours, we contacted somewhere around 14 grouse and a woodcock, and quite a few were pointed by Rocky.

Now that's a grouse hunt!
Monty got the call for the afternoon cover, and he seemed to pick up where Rocky left off. Lots of points, and relocating points on moving grouse, and the fellas had quite an afternoon, taking three grouse and two woodcock (Spencer took his first grouse and woodcock). Two of the grouse and one of the woodcock were taken over points from Monty - the others made the fatal mistake of not getting away fast enough in front of Parker and Spencer.

We hunted until the end of the day to take advantage of as much of the vanishing sunlight as we could. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 grouse and 3 woodcock contacted, it was one of our best days of the season, and we get to do it again today before taking some time off from the woods for the NH and Vermont deer hunting seasons. Hopefully we don't get too much snow too soon this year …

"Et tu, Brute?"

Matt connected on a nice grouse shot today - thanks, Monty!
It's pretty good when everything works out as scripted, and we were fortunate to have that exact situation happen this morning while grouse hunting in Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

  • We had a great point not too far ahead of us by Monty;
  • My client was able to get to the dog and in to shooting position quickly;
  • The grouse held unusually well for the point;
  • When the bird went up, Matt made a nice shot to bring the bird down.

We had a great morning of grouse hunting, and in just two hours we contacted eight grouse, at least six of which were pointed by Monty.
Another of Monty's great days in the grouse woods
Working methodically and slowly (maybe he's finally wearing out this season), he pinned several of the birds, and two of them gave Matt excellent chances (he connected on one).

While we didn't see any other bird hunters out there this morning, we have seen some muzzleloading deer hunters (or their vehicles) out there in the last few days. Make sure you and your dogs are wearing plenty of blaze orange right now and don't forget that the
rifle deer season begins next week on Wednesday, 11/11 - it will be a good time to take a couple of weeks off from the grouse woods.

We concluded our morning by taking Matt's 7 month old pointer, Brutus, out for a training run in the grouse woods. Armed with the training pistol, we led Brutus through the cover, and he did a great job of boldly attacking some heavy cover for the first time.
Brutus hunted with confidence, and even bumped a grouse that we saw at the last moment. He had no reaction to the firing of the starter's pistol, and then went back to searching for birds.

In a short time, Brutus definitely looked "birdy", and his gate slowed dramatically.
When a grouse launched out of a nearby clump of short spruce trees, Matt was positively giddy with the realization that he may have a possible bird hunter and hunting buddy on his hands. We saw the light flicker in Brutus, and it was exciting to watch him encounter his first two grouse - we may have another member in our hunting party next year …

Some Friendly Advice

Being aware of your surroundings helps in grouse hunting. Seeing this pile of grouse droppings may trigger you to get your gun ready for some action ...
In my eight years of guiding clients for upland birds, I have been fortunate to observe various hunting styles in the pursuit of grouse and woodcock. My observations have led me to draw some conclusions on which methods are most effective in bringing grouse and woodcock to our game vests. With still two thirds of the season left to go, you can improve your chances of successful days afield if you heed my friendly advice.

My thoughts are given below, in list form,
illustrating the most common reasons why our hunts are unsuccessful. Names have been omitted, and remember that this post is written only as a helpful reminder …

The Top 5 Reasons Upland Birds Escape Our Grasp

1. You're Not Watching the Dog

There is probably no other form of upland bird hunting that relies on the olfactory abilities of a dog more than grouse and woodcock hunting. They are the stars of the show, and without them, our day in the woods is inevitably an exercise in futility. Keeping at least one of your eyes on a hard working canine is important to harvesting a bird, as an experienced grouse hunting dog will give some signs that he's on game and these clues can help us get ready for the expected flush.
When the dog looks like he's on to something, follow him - he knows what he's doing!

Of course, this is where the advice of a guide
("I think he's getting birdy …") comes in handy, which in turn leads to #2 on our list …

2. You're Not Carrying Your Shotgun in a "Ready" Position

I can tell after ten minutes in the woods if we stand a chance of harvesting a grouse when observing the carry of a hunter's firearm. If the gun is not at port arms when grouse hunting
(held upright, two hands, across one's body), and instead is carried one handed, either down or slung over a shoulder, there is a high likelihood that we will not be successful that day in taking a grouse. Grouse are wild birds - they usually do not sit tight for points, and they often flush wildly when we get close to them. The average hunter thinks that he can snap off a shot from one of those lazy gun positions when a grouse wildly flushes - it's simply impossible for it to be done, and I have seen many a grouse fly away unscathed when a shot could have been taken from a ready position. Remember that your first chance on a grouse is your best chance, and you might not get another one all day!

This advice does not necessarily apply to hunting woodcock, which are much more likely to sit tight for a point - they are the "gentleman's bird", unlike the wary grouse. Still, it's a good habit to carry one's shotgun the right way.

3. You're Not Physically Ready for a Day in the Uplands

It's a grind out there, believe me, and it helps for your body to be ready to enjoy successive days in the grouse woods. We do a lot of walking, and if you're trying to find those out of the way places for more hospitable grouse, you're going to be walking even more. A couple of months before the season, start doing some form of cardiovascular exercise to get yourself ready. While any form of exertion will help you, hiking is the best thing you can do to get ready to go over hill and dale in search of woodcock and grouse.
As a guide, I love being able to pursue birds where I think we may see more of them - we will be greatly limited if we have to walk logging roads all day because the grouse woods are too tough!

4. You Don't Navigate the Woods Properly

Yes, it can be awfully thick out in the grouse woods, and just getting around is an art in itself, but there are ways that we can make it easier on ourselves and hopefully have a more successful hunt. If there's a lane or path through the cover, take it - it's a long day out there, so we might as well take the easiest path possible through the woods, not only to lessen our fatigue, but also to keep us in a shooting position should we have a wild flush. If you're constantly walking behind trees all day, you'll have no shot at an escaping grouse. At those times when we have a dog on point, try to get to the dog in as short a time as possible, and put yourself in a good position where your visibility will be best. In other words, don't stop in a part of the woods where you can't mount and swing your shotgun - it will be another grouse that has escaped your efforts.

5. You Haven't Shot Any Clays Prior to the Season

Practice makes perfect, and while nothing can properly get you ready to take shots at grouse and woodcock, shooting some clay pigeons can help. Practice shots from all angles, high and low, in order to simulate the variety of wing shots that grouse give us. If possible, shoot "low gun" in order to practice your gun mount - at a minimum, it will help you get your shotgun up in a timely manner, which can be the difference in a successful or frustrating day in the uplands.
This one is my biggest bugaboo, and my most common excuse for missing birds and earning the neverending ire of my bird dogs and hunting partners!

There are other reasons that I haven't mentioned (improper footwear or gear, lack of observational skills while in the woods, making too much noise, etc.) out of fear of coming off as just another grouse hunting curmudgeon. Oh well …

October 30 Bird Hunting Report

One of Monty's many points on October 30.
Good weather today, though blustery at times, for ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting in northern New Hampshire. After a few days off to recharge my batteries (in all honesty, Monty and Bode were ready for a little down time too) and let my feet recover, we were back out there for the tail end of our guiding season. It will be a busy ten days coming up …

Missing a couple of days in the woods at this time of year gives me the feeling that I'm starting all over again, and have a lot of catching up to do. Thankfully, this is what the dogs are for, and Monty did a fantastic job this morning of easing my mind by finding some birds. While he had several good grouse points, only one offered a really good chance, and was cleanly missed by my client.

No escape for this one, but it took us longer to find him.
We moved eight grouse this morning with the help of Monty, but it was on the multitude of woodcock (yes, they're still around and next week's weather looks mild, so maybe they will stay longer than usual) that Monty really showed his ability. Many stylish and intense points brought four woodcock to the game vest, and lots of other chances for my hunters. One of the woodcock even managed to get tangled in some branches on its way down after being taken over one of Monty's points - yes, we recovered him.

Bode finished off our afternoon by moving 5 - 6 grouse and a woodcock in two hours of work. He once again hunted close and had a couple of short points on escaping grouse. He'll get many more chances to prove himself this season. We had a good day - somewhere around 13 - 14 grouse and just as many woodcock that we contacted - hopefully we can have some more days like this in the week ahead.

Rainy Day Grouse Hunting

The weather took a turn for the worse today, with some rain showers moving through Pittsburg, NH. We were fortunate however to have mostly clear skies for most of our hunt, and the moist conditions, along with the cooler temps and windy conditions, provided excellent scenting for both dogs.

Monty points a grouse that offered Matt no chance at a shot
Monty had a good morning, pointing two woodcock and several grouse. Only one woodcock ended up in the game vest, and the chances on the grouse were tough ones. They have an excellent ability to flush in a direction that offers little or no chance to make a good shot on them - that's grouse hunting, and that's what makes it a great challenge. We moved 6 grouse and 2 woodcock in the morning, and had put on quite a few miles in doing so …

Bode had his best day locating and pointing grouse today
Bode got the call in the afternoon and had a great one. He provided my client with many opportunities on grouse and woodcock, and had his best session on grouse this season. Trying to use the wind direction to our advantage, Bode pointed 7 grouse (all separate points) and 1 woodcock, and most of the birds went up very close. Unfortunately, only one woodcock ended up in Matt's vest, as the grouse employed their best evasive tactics to great effect. The education of Bode continues, but he is making great strides right now every day that we're out.

Bode's final grouse point of the day - it went out low and offered no shot
We moved 17 grouse and 6 woodcock today in the blustery conditions, and perhaps the wet leaves allowed us to get a bit closer than usual. The excellent dog work that we had also played a big part in this too.

More updates to come later this week!

Educating Bode ...

Bode had what looked like a solid point, but nothing was there. Probably a grouse that saw us coming and wandered away.
It was a cold one today for grouse hunting in northern Vermont - mid 20's at the start (peaked out in the mid 30's), with a brisk wind. Bode was first up, which has been a rarity this year. Most of the time, Monty or Rudy lead off our days of hunting, but Bode deserved a shot at fresh bird scent in cold conditions. He had done so well on woodcock earlier this week, and we were hopeful that he could bring his new found knowledge to the world of grouse.

He didn't disappoint - too much. While Bode hunted with great enthusiam
(yes, he has plenty of prey drive), and with nearly perfect patterning and range, he was unable to point any of the eight grouse we moved in the first two hours of the morning session. However, he did show "birdiness", or that knowledge that something was present. This alone prepared my clients to be ready for an imminent grouse flush, and Randy connected on one bird that made a bad mistake. Our work continues, and Bode is very close to being a good grouse pointer.

The makings of a great morning: hot coffee, zucchini bread, and a ruffed grouse!
Monty took us home in the afternoon and had a solid, but unfulfilling session. In three hours of hunting, he would find three grouse and a woodcock, but all eluded my clients. Monty had spectacular points on two of the grouse as well as the woodcock, but there's a reason why this is called "upland bird hunting" and not "shooting" - grouse and woodcock are truly wild, and they make us earn every one of them.

October 22 Bird Hunting Report

A bird in the hand is worth ...
More good work from the dogs over the past two days, but we have been working for our grouse and woodcock sightings, that is for sure. Yesterday, the grouse woods were pretty noisy, like we were walking on corn flakes - no, we weren't sneaking up on any birds. Still, we had some close sightings and a few chances here and there on grouse, but the dogs definitely struggled with the birds.

This cover looked great, but we never located birds - they are rarely where they should be!
A few theories on this: it was warmer and a bit more breezy than we've had lately, making for tougher scenting conditions for the dogs. We also never know how much attention from other hunters an area has had that we hunt - we may see tracks and empty shot shells here and there. Of course, the sure tip off is seeing feathers from a careless hunter - never dress your birds where you hunt, as you're advertising to others that it's a spot worthy of their energy …

This woodcock posed for us, and wasn't harmed

Today was better, though the morning was slow for us. We managed to only flush a wary grouse twice (we think) and Monty had two great points on woodcock, one of which allowed us to take a picture up close and personal.

Rudy had a day to remember in the grouse covers. At nine, he's a proven grouse hunter.

The afternoon turned out to be much better, as Rudy was a machine in slowly working, and then pointing, grouse after grouse. We would move a total of fourteen this afternoon, and Rudy had a major part in six or seven of those. Two made it in to the back of my vest, thanks to Rudy and Paul's steady shooting.

Looks like good weather the next two days and some unsettled weather coming for us on Sunday - more updates to come!

October 20 Bird Hunting Report

Monty on woodcock point on 10/20. This one was about five feet from him.
Changing weather conditions for grouse and woodcock hunting these past two days of the bird hunting season. Though both days were quite different from each other, they were both good days for hunting with a good amount of action.

Yesterday was pretty cold
(right around 20 degrees when we started), reminding us of hunting in late November and December, but we went undeterred. The morning was good, and we had some close points from Rudy on woodcock, as well as some close contacts with grouse in Vermont coverts. Unfortunately, none of these birds offered much of a chance for my clients, but it certainly seemed as though the grouse were on the move in search of food because of the cold temperatures.

That's Bode in that mess, pointing the walking woodcock
The afternoon saw a lot of contact with woodcock (7 of them to be exact), and Bode did a good job in pointing three of them. He also bumped a couple too, but maybe that lightbulb in his head is flickering in to the "on" position. The most humorous moment on one of his points was when we witnessed a woodcock calmly walking away from the danger (yes, woodcock do it too at times!) and flushing behind a screen of thick evergreens - he got away.

Monty with a styish grouse point. This one went out well ahead of us.
This morning in New Hampshire was one of the best of our season, and while Monty at times appeared to need some remedial training (bumping a few grouse), he also showed that he can be pretty good at times too. He had quite a few grouse points (8??), as well as three rock solid woodcock points. While most of the grouse were singles, Monty pointed a pair, and then we got in to a group of six birds, that flushed out one at a time - exciting stuff.

It was a lot slower in the afternoon
(3 grouse, 1 woodcock moved, no shots), but that could have been attributed to the front coming in. It was very blustery and we expect some rain in the next two days. Temps have risen twenty degrees from yesterday, but scenting conditions are still good. Another cold front is coming this weekend, but not as cold as Sunday and Monday were thankfully.

Snowy Sunday Grouse Hunting

Cold one today grouse hunting in northern Pittsburg, NH. Looking for grouse in this weather seems pretty straight forward - get in to the thick stuff (pictured), like evergreens, and they should be there …

Unfortunately, we didn't move any birds in two hours of hunting today, though Bode did his best looking for them. It was a taste of what comes with late season grouse hunting - lots of walking, but when you find birds, the action can get pretty hot.

Better weather coming this week and hopefully, we'll be moving some grouse and woodcock as a result.

October 17 Bird Hunting Report

One grouse and three woodcock from New Hampshire's uplands
In just a week, our grouse hunting season in northern New Hampshire has gone from the early season in to it's mid-season, when the scenting conditions are at their finest and the shooting is much improved too. The reason is that we lost a lot of leaves this week that were clogging our vision of fleeing grouse and woodcock, and now, it seems that we actually have a chance at hitting something out there.

We had our best day of the season on Thursday (36 birds moved), as the recent cold front started moving in. We were lucky to have sunny skies that day (after a day of rain on Wednesday), and colder temperatures, which seemed to get the grouse moving in search of food. We had a fantastic morning that day, moving a dozen grouse and as many woodcock in three action filled hours - Chris connected on a grouse and filled his woodcock limit by 11 AM. Monty did a nice job on the woodcock, and had at least three solid grouse points, but he also had trouble with some of the grouse too.

This grouse fell to Chris's 28 gauge
We then hunted our old apple orchard covers in the afternoon with Bode, and he seemed to really struggle with the incredibly wary grouse that inhabit these covers. In three spots, we moved fourteen fast moving grouse, all of which managed to escape my client's gun. Sometimes they flushed on their own, and at other times Bode was in the midst of them, watching them fly merrily away. The education of this young bird dog continues …

Today was cold and blustery, and was our first day with snow flurries - nothing accumulated, but it still stings when hitting your face. The great action that we had kept us warm though -
Monty really did a fine job this morning, pointing three of the four grouse that he encountered, and eight or nine of the woodcock as well. His first point (5 minutes from the truck) was on what turned out to be a crippled woodcock, winged probably the day before. After recovering that bird, he pointed in to a thick stand of spruce - wth my client moving in one side, and Monty on the other, things looked pretty good for another bird in the vest, but it was not to be. Flying out low, the grouse escaped between myself and the dog, and Leighton had no shot. Great point nonetheless.

Bode worked admirably in the afternoon, but we didn't find anything, as the weather worsened. We'll be back out there all week, which should be a good one with woodcock flights presumably moving through and the grouse on the search for food and territories.

More updates to follow …

October 14 Bird Hunting Report

Monty nails a woodcock on Tuesday
What a variety of weather that we have had for prowling the grouse woods this week! Monday was the hottest day of the season, and at 75 degrees and sunny, it felt like a better day to chase the white ball around a golf course than chase grouse through the woods.

However tough it was for us, it was much harder for the dogs, and Monty, Rudy and Bode all ended up in a pond of some sort at some point that day - total submersion in cold water is the best way for a dog to cool off when it's really hot out. I also carried lots of water for the dogs, and we took frequent breaks to let them recover. Needless to say, it was a tough day for hunting grouse and woodcock, and there weren't many good opportunities for shooting at them either.

Tuesday brought a slight cool down, and cloud cover gave us a much needed break from the temperatures. While we had some great work by Rudy and Monty, in particular on some of the woodcock that we encountered, the grouse gave us very few chances to get a
"good" shot off (which begs the question, "is there really such a thing as a good grouse shot?"). Bode came out smoking late in the afternoon, and his overexuberance wasn't thought too highly of by the five grouse he moved in the final hour of the hunt. The key word is "moved", not "pointed" - yes, he was pretty wild on Tuesday.

Hoping for redemption, Bode hunted in the rain Wednesday morning, and acquitted himself quite well. He hunted hard, but under control and had a nice point on a woodcock in heavy alders. This one would get away, but not the second one, and he managed to retrieve the timberdoodle to me, until spitting it out
(apparently woodcock doesn't taste that great, even to a two year old German Shorthair).

We then hunted some of our traditional apple tree covers as the temperature plummeted. We moved six grouse in a couple of these "food covers", but none offered Chris any kind of a shot, except for one bird that decided a kamikaze attack was a better idea than flying away from us. While the shooter did everything right
(let the bird go by you, reposition your feet and take your time aiming at the target), the bird still eluded us.

You've probably heard the saying that
grouse hunters walk one mile for each grouse flushed, walk three miles for each grouse shot at, and walk ten miles for each grouse bagged - well, we've been putting this maxim to the test this season. So far, this has been a season where you want to have some really comfortable boots …

The grouse contacts haven't been as numerous this season as we've had in the past, and those that we have contacted seem awfully cagey. They have been under a lot of hunting pressure these first two weeks of the season, so perhaps they will settle down as the pressure subsides. Is this the bottom of grouse numbers? We hope so! Foliage continues to be somewhat of an issue - although we've had some of it drop in the last week, there's still too darn much of it. We have snow on the way this weekend, so we should lose some more of that leafy cover - that should help the shooting percentages, right?

One More Time

Took Greta out for the first time this season, just for a short jaunt on our resident grouse in Vermont. Greta is now 13 years old, and hasn't been part of the guiding operation for several years, but I wanted to see her hunt again. While her nose is still very good, her hearing is nearly gone, as are her legs - she has advanced arthritis, so she struggles to get around. She's no longer the graceful hunter that she once was - in fact, she doesn't run at all anymore. It's much more of a "waddle" that she uses, so the cover would have to be correspondingly short and sweet, to accommodate her physical condition.

I am fortunate to live in an area that I know very well, so I can pick and choose where to take Greta, and because we have limited time out there, the choice covert always involves birds that are close at hand, not far from the truck. We were lucky today, as we contacted a group of four grouse literally one hundred feet from the truck.

No, Greta didn't go on point, but her pace quickened, as did the speed of her wiggling tail, indicators that something was in the area. Just after recognizing this, a group of four grouse exploded in to the air, and my 28 gauge managed to bring down the last escaping grouse, on the second shot. We'll have a few more times out there this fall, but it was great to see her work again on a beautiful day like this.

October 2 Bird Hunting Report

So, what's been happening up here in northern New Hampshire these first two days of our grouse and woodcock hunting season? For one thing, we have had great weather - starting out in the 30's early, and topping out in the low 50's during the day - great hunting conditions for us and the dogs, considering how warm it was last week.

Both of these first two days, we have moved more woodcock than grouse, in fact, many more. Yesterday, we had a great morning in contacting two grouse (one of which Monty pointed), and approximately ten woodcock (he pointed the vast majority of these birds). Yesterday afternoon saw Rudy (5 grouse points and 2 woodcock points) and Bode (1 woodcock point) contact nine grouse and five woodcock between them. Unfortunately for my hunters, most of the shots were very tough ones, as the birds were able to get in to thick screening foliage cover almost instantly - none made it to the game pouch. The day's total was eleven grouse and fifteen woodcock contacts - not bad for opening day.

Today was even more lopsided - we moved eight grouse and anywhere from twenty-one to twenty-five woodcock throughout the day. Most of the woodcock were found this morning, in just one cover, and some of the woodcock were acting pretty funny … as in flying very short distances … like they were very tired … from migrating!

Seems early to me, but maybe the cold front from Canada is pushing some down to us already. In any event, they were amazingly adept at putting screening vegetation between themselves and my hunters, allowing them to escape. We even moved a few grouse in this cover, and Monty had quite a morning. We would go on to move four grouse and a lone woodcock in the afternoon, working roadsides. Rudy had a nice point on one of the grouse, and Bode his best effort today - a beautifully staunch point on a grouse in heavy cover … alas, no shot.


Observations ...

Just a hint of color up here at the moment, as our foliage has been unusually slow starting in the north country. Too warm and dry over the past month, but … there's a change underway, and it looks like the good weather is coming tonight. Lots of rain forecasted over night, and more to come this weekend, but the most important part of the change will be in the temperatures: ranging from 30's in the morning to mid 50's during the day. In other words, perfect weather for hunting grouse and woodcock.

We got a head start on the grouse season by
hunting in northern Vermont both mornings last weekend. As in New Hampshire, the foliage hasn't gone through much of a transformation there either, so our bird contacts were mostly relegated to hearing them, instead of actually glimpsing them.

While Bode seemingly did his best to prove to me that my training these last two years has been all for naught, he did manage to find quite a few birds on Saturday (2 grouse and 8 woodcock). The problem was that he had trouble in the all important
"pointing" category - in all honesty, there was no breeze pushing the scent in his direction, and the temps were rising sharply by the time we left the woods. He did work hard and close however, so it wasn't complete failure by any means.

Monty did quite well on Sunday, but only managed to move 3 grouse in our time out there. One was pointed brilliantly in heavily shadowed cover - when I arrived on the scene, the bird flew out a good fifty yards downhill from me. Yes, they are already up to some of their tricks …

In the meantime, the boots are prepared, new socks have been purchased, and the GPS and collar are functioning properly. Some new coverts have been located
(hopefully they produce!), and I have been gobbling down grouse and woodcock hunting literature ravenously (Frank Woolner may be the most informative and witty writer that I have read).

The season starts in New Hampshire on Thursday - it feels like the night before Christmas …