As I mentioned in my 2013 Grouse Season in Review post, this was my most memorable hunt of the season. It was a cool, rainy, October day in the woods and I was hunting out of my favorite base camp, the shack. We had a few spots picked out and we started off the day knowing we were going to get wet. Previously, my dad and I had been driving 10-20 minutes to some of our favorite coverts for most of the season so we decided to hunt a couple of areas within a few miles of the shack. My plan was to walk trails and only venture off when a dog was on point in an attempt to avoid getting wet. This mentality only lasted a short while until we got to some good cover.
We started down an old logging road that is a bit mature for grouse and woodcock, but before I reached the young aspen that Stella was hunting, she was on point. Every time her beeper goes off my heart skips a beat. She had done her job and now it was my time to step to the plate and hold up my end of the bargain. I could tell by the cover that we were in that Stella had a woodcock pinned. My heart rate had increased and I had adrenaline running through my veins as I approached Stella to flush the woodcock. The woodcock burst into flight and I was able to connect on the crossing shot. It was only when I was walking back to the trail that I realized I was soaked from the waist down.
We continued hunting the cover and my dad was able to connect on a couple of woodcock over his shorthair, Gemma. I on the other hand had missed a couple of shots and was getting fairly frustrated.
We had three woodcock and one grouse in the bag when we decided to hit another covert which also happens to be where I sit during the deer season. We made it part way back when Stella locked up on point. A woodcock flushed and I stared in amazement that it kept flying as I once again failed to connect. I started thinking about the mechanics of my shot and trying to figure out why I was missing shots that I had made earlier in the day. Stella’s beeper went off shortly after and I kept envisioning myself connecting on the shot. I was expecting another woodcock when a grouse erupted from the cover and I scrambled to catch up to it. Once again, I failed to connect and was down on myself for missing on such a great opportunity on a grouse.
I didn’t let my frustration get the best of me as we continued on through the brush. As we neared the end of the covert I saw Stella come to an abrupt stop. I told myself not to think about the shot to come. Two woodcock flushed simultaneously, one ahead to the right and the other veered to the left. Stella stood staunch as I shot the bird on the right. I saw that I had connected and immediately swung left to find the other. As the bead at the end of my shotgun covered the woodcock, I pulled the trigger. Confident that I had made both shots, I stood there with my gun broke open as Stella went for the retrieve. She brought the first bird back to hand and I sent her on a line for the second one. She worked a bit as I stood patiently waiting for her to do what she has been trained to do. Stella proudly brought the second bird back to hand as I knelt down to praise her for a job well done, but she was off in search of the next bird already. She wasn’t able to comprehend what had just happened. How could she know that just seconds before, we successfully harvested a true double on woodcock? I stood there a minute to reflect on the accomplishment and store it away in my memory. I made my way back to Dad to share what had happened. We snapped a couple of pictures and decided to head back to the truck as the sun was setting.
It’s hunts like this that are burned into my memory and keep me coming back time after time. For me, they seem to be better when I am able to share the experience with my dad, who’s my friend, who introduced me to the sport and taught me the values of hunting.