Breakthroughs In The October Grouse Woods

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Well, it’s absolutely safe to say that October kicked off with a BANG, pun intended, especially for this half of the Northwoods’R crew. Last weekend, I spent a total of three days in the woods, two of them in the far Northern reaches of Minnesota with a good friend of mine and one of them in my usual stomping grounds closer to Duluth. During the three-day period I flushed over 35 grouse and 22 woodcock and I was fortunate enough to bag a few of each to ensure some tasty meals the following week!

Last weekend was a breakthrough for myself and those around me on a few different levels. For me, it was the first time all season I had really got into some Timberdoodles. If it is at all possible for someone to forget how much fun hunting those birds can be I was certainly reminded otherwise this past weekend. We located and worked a handful of prime patches of cover which resulted in some fantastic wingshooting and a lot of excitement for the hunters, both two-legged and four-legged!

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Another breakthrough came for my buddy’s one and a half-year old Spinone Italiano. As she began her sophomore season in the grouse woods she of course had raised expectations over her puppy season, however one never knows what to expect with a young dog. Well on this weekend, this young dog most definitely exceeded the expectations of her handler and hunting partners. When all was said and done she racked up a total of six points and a number of retrieves. Five of the points came on Woodcock which she has very much begun to figure out. She held very steady to flush and gave us as the hunters a lot of indication that we were approaching a productive point. The cherry on top came when the young Spinone eased up around a corner on an old logging road. Working with the wind, she half-circled back around the corner to turn the breeze into her favor and locked up solid in a rigid point.  It only took a few steps into the brush by us before the bird had enough. Out from under a tangle of stems came a thundering old Ruff presenting a horrible shot opportunity to my friend and a fantastic opportunity for me. Unfortunately for us I did not have a gun at the time as we had just returned from working on a deer stand! Needless to say the grouse survived and both my buddy and I felt terrible that we couldn’t drop a bird on his dog’s first solid point over a Ruff!

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The third and final breakthrough of the weekend came when I returned home from up North and took my now four-month old English Setter pup out into the woods for the day. So far this season I’ve taken it easy on the pup and let him run the trails only hopping into the brush when a sight, sound, or scent pulled him into it. Now that he has grown accustomed to the landscape, grown in size, and the woods have started to thin, I decided it was time to get him into the cover and hopefully onto some more birds! The first piece of cover we worked turned out to be all we needed and I believe helped to light a fire in the young Setter. We set off into a beautifully diverse patch of Aspen thickly covering a long ridge which gently slopes out of an Alder bottom. There might be some better patches of cover out there, but I haven’t hunted many. During the next hour my little Setter pup and I put up five woodcock and two grouse which was apparently all Hartley needed to convince him that hunting was fun! After the first grouse went up and was almost immediately followed by a woodcock, Hartley went on a rampage through the woods like I’d never seen before. He threw is body into the brush, over the logs and just about anywhere else he could get to, fueled of course by what could only be described as an instinctual drive to hunt birds. We hunted a bit more that day without as much success but that was all I needed to see from the little pup, a day well spent in the October grouse woods.

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I hope that October has been treating all of you as well as the Northwoods’R crew. Garrett and I are excitedly preparing for our week-long road trip across Northern Minnesota coming up later this month. More to come on that, but for now, get out there and enjoy the beauty of fall. Happy wingshooting to you!

Northwoods’R:  NL

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