The 2015 season is upon us and after two weekends of pounding the woods, I have yet to bag a grouse. I hunted the opening weekend with my dad and his two shorthairs Gemma, and his six month old pup, Ruby. I of course had Stella and Surly so we had plenty of dog power for the weekend.
Our anticipation to hit the woods was high but we got beat to the first cover. We decided to scout out some new areas and put the two seasoned dogs down. We had a couple of bird contacts early but failed to connect.
Next up was Surly and Ruby; they hit the woods hard. It didn’t take long and Surly was locked up as confirmed on my new Garmin Alpha system. I worked my way towards him and he held steady for me to walk in and flush. A woodcock whistled up and I covered the bird with my 16 gauge Fox and pulled the trigger. I connected on my first bird for the 2015 season.
We worked our way back out to the trail and Ruby was in the woods working a bird. She was on point when a woodcock flushed out and flew down the trail. My dad swung on the bird and just like that, we were both on the board.
We took a break for lunch and continued searching for new covers. We all battled the hot temperatures and the thick and dry woods. We ended the day with me bagging three woodcock and my dad one short of his limit.
Back at camp, we grilled up the days take and shared them with our hunting party.
Sunday morning we hit the cover that we weren’t able to explore on Saturday morning. Due to the warm temperatures we were only going to hunt until lunch. I put both of my dogs down and my dad put Gemma down. We weren’t ten minutes from the truck when Surly went on point 130 yards off the trail. I worked up quite the sweat getting to him and was surprised he was still holding point when I finally got to him. I stepped in front of him and a woodcock flushed. I swung on the bird but shot under it as the bird was still gaining elevation. As I reacquired my target, I slid my finger to the back trigger and squeezed. I couldn’t tell if I had connected and marked the area I thought the bird would be. We searched for a minute or so and couldn’t find it. Thankfully Stella heard the shot and came over. She does a great job searching for dead birds. She worked the cover for a minute or so and pointed the dead bird. Upon command, she retrieved it to hand. I was thankful for her prowess and the great teamwork of the dogs.
We continued through the cover. Surly locked up on point a couple of times but all I heard was the all too familiar sound of beating wings through the forest. We made it to a clearing and sat down to cool off, hydrate, and discuss our plans for the rest of the morning. We decided to split up so my dad could get back to the truck to run Ruby and I could continue on further into the covert.
I was busting brush and was following a little creek when a grouse flushed up into a tree. I circled around in order to get a clear shooting lane, awaiting the grouse to flush. He was sitting up high in a big aspen with nowhere to go. I had a clear shooting lane and then the crafty bird made his move. He flushed straight up through the canopy of the tree and I didn’t see him again until he was over 50 yards away. The grouse is nicknamed “The King” for a reason and he’ll never cease to surprise you.
We continued through the cover and Stella locked up about 40 yards off to my side. I walked in on her and a woodcock shot up. I swung on the bird and connected on my first shot and Stella made a nice retrieve to hand.
We hunted on but the sun was hot and the cover was dry, tough hunting conditions for even the best conditioned dogs. We worked our way back to the truck when Surly locked up on point. Stella came in and backed him and I circled around to the right. By the time I saw the bird, it was already 20 yards out and flying just above the undergrowth. I fired off two shots but didn’t connect. As much as I wanted to bag the bird for myself, I felt worse for the dogs that had hunted hard all morning and handled this bird perfectly.
The second weekend my friend Kevin joined me for the hunt. I was excited to hit the woods in the morning. The temperature was a bit cooler and the ground was wet and the fog was thick in the woods. It seemed like a magical morning. Surly was the first to lock up on point. We worked in on him and a woodcock shot up. Shots were fired and the bird continued to fly. We continued down the trail when a bird flushed out; Kevin made a nice shot on this bird.
We continued on and busted a lot of brush. The dogs put up a lot of birds and unfortunately, most of them were bumped. We did have good dog work on a few birds. The best was when Stella went on point and Surly worked his way in and honored. I came up on their right trying to circle around when a grouse flushed out of a tree 20 yards to my right. I swung right on the bird but wasn’t able to get a shot off. Then the forest floor erupted with three grouse going all different directions. I swung left but couldn’t catch up with the bird that went left so I swung back to the right but never caught up with that bird. Thinking back on it, I was overcome with the covey flush and was out of position when they flushed. I should have never diverted my attention to the first bird that flushed as the dogs were telling me exactly where the birds were.
Sunday was a better outing. The dogs were pinning down woodcock and we had a great shoot. Each bird was taken over point. We were more than halfway through the covert when we realized that we each only had three shells left. Luckily, I was able to connect the next pointed woodcock and secured my limit of woodcock. Kevin got the go ahead for the next pointed birds. He had a few more opportunities but didn’t get off a shot at a couple birds and missed another. I shot off my last two shells at a wild flushed grouse and missed. We both walked the last few hundred yards to the truck with a total of five woodcock, empty guns and full hearts.
Over the first two weekends we experienced warm temperatures, thick woods, battled mosquitoes, pointed birds, bumped birds, poor scenting conditions, poor shooting and plenty of good laughs and memories. The leaves are already changing color and soon the leaves and temperatures will drop and the real hunting will begin.
I’m preparing for a week of hunting Sharpies on the prairie. Hopefully I’ll have some great pictures and stories to share with you when I return!