Monday, August 24, 2015

Twin Moose recollections

Twin Moose Bird Camp, 2014.  Old men laughed, young men soaked it all in, dogs licked ..whatever they could reach. A grand time had by all.

Here's to future camps, and one more fall in the woods.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

PA Grouse Hunt - Jan 2, 201

Uncles Rich and Andy made the southern migration to the land of no grouse. Took them to our best coverts. Enjoyed the views and the camaraderie.

Clayton and uncle Andy, scaling the hardscrabble ridge top. Great place for porcupines (1 located under a slab of stone) and rattlesnakes.

Clayton was in heaven. No harm stopping for a photo when there are no grouse to be seen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NY Deer Season 2014 - Opening Weekend

Opening Day
Saturday dawned snowing on a couple inches of snow, low 20s and not too windy.  Pretty nice conditions.  I was sitting in a ladder stand down the hill in the woods below the house at the upper end of an 80-yard long x 40 yard wide glade. Angela was sitting in the "driveway stand". The shooting started about half an hour before the season starting time, and stayed at a fairly fast pace for a few hours -- the sound of freedom and the hope of larder-stocking echoing across the hills.
  Angela got a nice doe right off the bat with a nicely placed neck shot at 30 yards.  I saw a doe early on, but it was about 10 minutes before legal time so I didn't even raise my gun.  Right about sunrise I heard -- almost felt -- a grouse fly in and land overhead in either my tree or an adjacent one. Half an hour later, a doe approached the glade through the woods on the left.  Its trajectory would bring it in front of my stand at about 60 yards.  It stopped while still in the thick stuff, and I knew it was just a matter of time before it would offer me a killing shot.  But what did I know?  After a few minutes, the doe turned sharply left and sauntered away down the hill and soon out of sight, and my grouse took this opportunity to depart its perch as well.  Twenty or thirty minutes later a deer that I think was probably the same individual ran back up the hill, turned, and disappeared the along the same reverse path. And that was it for my 3-hour morning sit.
In the afternoon, Collin joined me in the driveway stand. The stand was probably designed for one large butt, and we were able to fit snuggly into the seat side by each.  We started our vigil about 3:00, and I was just hoping Collin's patience would last until sunset.  Snacking on apples and conversing in whispers, 45 minutes passed quickly. I was surprised then to see a doe appear along the power line 200 yards up the driveway, and I was quickly disappointed when it turned away and departed from view into the dense conifers. But within seconds a buck materialized where the doe had been.  He began to follow her trail, so I blatted loudly to stop him.  He obliged and then turned broadside, and paused long enough to allow a shot behind the shoulder.  At the shot he ran in a short circle, ultimately dropping out of sight but within about ten yards from where he was standing when I shot.  We took our time walking to find our buck.  Collin was an enthusiastic assistant, holding a leg out of the way while I worked the knife, paying attention while we traced the GI tract and identifying some of the organs himself, and making sure we retrieved the heart from the pile. Collin was a happy camper, and that evening his brother was a little envious, calling dibs on the next deer hunting opportunity.
Day 2
The next morning I sat in a different stand, at the south end of the property. I don't encourage the boys to join me on early morning hunts, as the fun level tends not to be to everyone's liking, so the bears snored on this morning.  The shooting activity this day was high again.  After about an hour and a half, five does approached from the south.  They stopped behind a heavy screen of boles and branches 70 yards distant.  After the group surveyed the woods ahead for a minute or two, they broke into a run and came into clear view and shooting range.  Again I had to blat, the first of which was not heard, so I blatted louder and they all stopped.  The lead doe seemed largest, so I lined up the cross-hairs behind the shoulder and squeezed a bullet toward her lungs.  At the shot she sprinted 80 yards out of sight, but I was confident of the shot when I heard a crash from her direction.   After confirming that she was dead, I went to the house and breakfasted with the boys, and we returned with sled, knife and string.  Nolan and Collin back-tracked the blood trail to where the doe had stood when she was shot, then returned and held legs out of the way while I operated and gave lessons in field dressing and ungulate anatomy.  However, I've got to say by now they know the names of most of the parts. They were happy that my shot missed the heart, and we put it in the sled along with the deer... and the kidneys, which Nolan wants to try.  Hmmm. Anyway, we were all pretty satisfied to hang a 2nd deer in the barn, and just in time to go to Collin's soccer game.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

CLAYTON. The making of a.......... grouser

Took Clayton to Twin Moose. He was the only boy in a camp full of (over educated) men.  He relished in the weekend.

Thanks to Uncles Keith, Bill, Josh and Rich for mentoring him in the ways of life. Of poker: "it doesn't work if you bluff every hand" (Stedman, 2014).

Big Twin Moose Pond, with Uncle Keith. A life altering experience: connecting the labor and engineering of a little rodent with this incredible ecosystem. Moments after this photo was taken he turned to me, "this is the best hunt.... ever."

With his trophy: a perfect walking stick, ramrod straight, bark stripped by beaver.

 Draped in oversized, hand-me-down hunting vest (with lots of pockets for collecting rocks, leaves and other treasures), he fought a myriad of distractions and wet feet to keep up.

Summiting the highest point on Mnt. Clayton, with Uncle Rich goading him on (walking stick to right). Only minutes after flushing our first grouse of the day.

Bellying up to the bar at Big Moose Station. Life is good.

At Canoga Creek Conservancy, on the way to Twin Moose. Earning himself the radio handle, "Squirrel."

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

2014 Grouse Camp -- Twin Moose ADKs

We had a great time at Twin Moose!  In camp we had Clayton, Pete, Bill S., KGT, Rich, and Josh.  We were pretty short on dogs, with Lilly and Maya getting all of the work (and Brant guarding the camp mostly). Despite over 35 flushes before the close of camp on Monday night (and about a dozen more throughout the week while deer hunting after), we were unable to kill any grouse.  We did, however, have a great time together, and I felt immense joy about the camp being full of great old friends.

 On the last day, Josh and I went out for a leisurely stroll with guns, with Brant.  We worked up a rabbit and as I shot it, a grouse flushed from over head.  So went Grouse Camp at Twin Moose.  We established that there is indeed a healthy grouse population right on the property, and certainly on the many thousands of acres adjacent.

I hope other grousers will post pics...

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Artemis gone

Goodbye Artemis.  You left too soon. Thanks for that last retrieve.  I had no idea.

Love Always,


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye

It's always difficult saying goodbye, but it was time to say goodbye to Meg.  She was one month shy of turning 16!  She had a good life, but with her age and congestive heart failure, she was a bloated skeleton of herself and was only kept going with a cocktail of drugs.  And, even the cocktail wasn't really working anymore.  She no longer had a quality of life.  It was a heart wrenching decision, but the right one.

Lots of tears were shed!  She was a good pup, and will be missed and remembered.  I'm certain she's now running and playing with her old playmates (Sage, Willie, and Thor).

Rest In Peace Sweet Meg!!  May 22, 1998 - April 21, 2014


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

End of an Era

Filson Soy Wax. Soy Wax. A quick look at the can of oil wax Filson supplied 20 years ago with my Double Tin Hunting Coat shows the following ingredients: Rendered black bear fat, asphalt sealer, artificial flavor. Filson Soy Wax ingredient list? Organic soy essence, hipster tears, natural fragrance.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Friday, October 18, 2013

Never Cared Much for Retrievin'

Artemis, my aging GSP, never cared much for retrieving. Never really had to, I guess.  A few times I greatly regretted not insisting on this more, but those were generally fleeting pangs; Artemis hunts dead pretty well.
Today I decided to work a woodcock hunt into my Friday schedule, to honor old Spy (over whom I think I shot my first woodcock, in Maine... or maybe that was Butch...), and to tune up "Miss" for a week in the ADKs. It was a full moon, and it had been windy so maybe there'd be birds in my favorite coverts, I thought. I enjoyed the sound of the laptop closing, signalling the end of the week and a clean break for the woods. We headed for the Finger Lakes National Forest.

Miss was excited to be out, and it was windy, so I opted for two bells, each with a different tone, which has been working well for me. She was on birds quickly and I missed two in the first five minutes. I called Miss to heel and we took a little time out together.  Miss seemed to understand the little exercise, and didn't push to move or whine. She just relaxed, her nose opening and closing like bellows, but otherwise still. I soaked in the wet smeary fall colors, the mosaic of landscapes on the ridge, and cloudscapes in the sky. I breathed deeply the poignant aromas of wet autumn leaves mixed with a little pine. I admired the familiar lines of my LC Smith 20 gauge, which was a key to a door I thought permanently closed, but opened by Josh who encouraged me to just give shooting left-handed a try ( a massive turning point in my life, but that story is for another day). I recalled other friends, too, that I shared many memorable hunts with in these woods. I smiled at my good fortune, a gesture not lost on Miss, who perked up.  "Find a bird," I said enthusiastically, having firmly pressed the reset button.

She hunted flawlessly, pointing and holding woodcock among the head-high dogwoods. There were two in the bag in the span of 5 minutes, and a third fell from a group of three Miss pointed in a rose thicket. A dramatic turnaround and exhilarating flurry of upland bird hunting at its finest. I was thrilled, each time I saw the bird fold and Artemis follow up, locating and worrying the bird a bit before looking  up to be sure I saw her mark of the downed quarry.

After picking up the third bird and placing it gingerly in my shooting vest's game pouch, I thought it would be nice to get a good picture. There was a pond very near, with a barbed wire fence around it, which I thought would do nicely for an October sporting photo. The shot would take advantage of the pond in the background, and I could use the wire to hang the birds rather than the more typical placed-on-the-ground shot. I emptied my gun, set it securely against the fence, and reached in my pouch for a woodcock. I felt around  and found one, pulled it out and brought my other hand to it, to admire it again before hanging it and thus transforming it from quarry to food in my possession. I looked at it for a moment and vaguely wished I knew how to sex and age woodcock, when the bird fluttered and flew away, landing with a splash in the middle of the pond!

Every hunter has experienced that perfect moment that turns imperfect. The fantastic buck that eludes easy recovery, plaguing the hunter with all manner of self-doubt and anxiety. The great shot on a first drake Canvasback that lands in the cattails, besting the trusty retriever. But a woodcock escaping the game bag and splashing down in the middle of a pond?

I looked at Miss, who came when I called her, but had missed the drama. I looked at her the way a coach looks at his kicker who hasn't made one all year, but is needed now, to win the big game. I think my dog deeply resented me looking at her that way, judging by her facial expression. Or, she was thinking "this kind of thing only happens to the most idiotic of orange-clad men."

Artemis never cared much for retrievin' , but her number was called to make a play. I brought her to the water's edge. She smelled the bird and worked the bank a little. The bird fluttered and splashed a bit, drawing the dog's attention. She looked back at me. Sheepishly, I said "Miss, get the bird," while pointing out over the water. She walked to the water's edge, stepped slowly but confidently in, swam to the bird and retrieved like she was a duck dog doing a boring drill. All I could muster at first when she dropped the exhausted bird in my hand was "thank you.... good girl." But she already knew that.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spidey was a Grouse Dog

Bonasa Northern Spy, Sept 6, 1997 - Oct 11, 2013
Last Friday Spy breathed his last.  I saw it coming, and dug a hole for him a couple days earlier.  He went to the earth in the side yard on a pleasant October morning with a couple grouse tail feathers and a 20 gauge shot shell. That evening after playing catch and shagging grounders and flies, Nolan and I stood over Spidey's grave and I told a few stories, and a bit after sunset a woodcock came in low over the field and set down on the lawn about 20 yards away.  It seemed fitting.

Spy was the last of his litter; Kate went before him a few years ago.  He was okay on woodcock, but he seemed to really enjoy finding grouse.  He was certainly more fleet of feet than either Kate or their dad Butch.  Rather than trail birds, he seemed to pin a higher proportion of them than did Butch.  I remember the first pointed grouse that I killed over Spy, his first season when he was a year old.  It was an October afternoon at Frye Mountain WMA in Maine.  The bird held very tight and I was expecting a woodcock. When it rocketed out I downed it with one shot from my 20 gauge SKB SxS; that was also the first shot I had taken on grouse with that gun, which I had picked up that summer. That gun and dog combination was together for 13 seasons.

Spy split bird dog duties with Butch for 4 years. In the era Before Kids, they got plenty of time on the ground.

Spy on woodcock, rookie season 1998 -- see the birdy?

Old dog on woodcock (bottom center).  Same old ATS Basic Beeper!

Spy's retrieves of upland birds were memorable... because they were relatively few, and usually were tough cripples brought back alive.  He pointed dead more often than not.

Ducks were different -- he had no problem retrieving them until ice-up.  Not very stylish, but he liked fetching them.
Rich and Spy, northern Maine 2008.
I don't recall the first woodcock I killed over Spy, but I vividly remember his last.  Three years ago, when Spy was 13, I'd hunt him up to a couple hours a day and Brody (1.5 yrs at the time) would get the lion's share of time.  We were in Minnesota and I was guiding a gentleman from PA.  Spy pointed this woodcock 3 or 4 times and each time we either didn't get a shot or missed.  It was getting late and the dog was getting tired. FINALLY, my guy from PA kills the bird, and I'm jumping around cheering, it was such a relief and I was so grateful.  So I leash Spy and lead him -- or more accurately, he leads me -- out toward the truck.  I've got my shotgun (same 20 ga SKB) over my shoulder, Spy tugging on the leash pulling me through the brush and saplings. He suddenly stops and I just about trip over him, and a moment later up flies a grouse.  My shotgun comes forward off my shoulder, butt-stock to cheek and shoulder, and pop -- drops the grouse.
Good old Spidey.  He was a grouse dog. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

In the Sunflower Field

An awesome afternoon of dove hunting.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Pathwalker's October Dance Card . . .

. . . is filling up.  Hurry and send a check to RGS for $850 if you want to be part of Andy's Oct. 2-5 grouse camp.

Hunting News

Ruffed Grouse Society to 

Host 2013 Upland Bird 

Hunt in Northern Maine

New ruffed grouse society logo
Following an extremely successful hunt last fall, the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) has once again chosen Northern Maine for its second annual grouse and woodcock hunt. Held out of the New EnglandOutdoorCenter, Fire Road 20D, Millinocket, Maine on October 2-5, 2013, the guided hunt is limited to ten hunters.
According to RGS regional director Tripp Way, registration is $850 per gun and  consist of a “Meet and Greet” reception party on Wednesday at 7 p.m., three breakfasts, two field lunches and two dinners — which includes a lobster or steak repast Friday evening. Hunting hours will run from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Lodging will be at The Twin Pines Cabins, which has a spectacular view of MillinocketLake and Mt.Katahdin.
“Wednesday’s meet and greet will provide information on the terrain, followed by a Q&A session with RGS regional biologist Andy Weik,” Way said, adding that hunters are encouraged to bring their own dog or they can hunt with huntsmen’s dogs.
A 50-percent deposit is required by September 21, 2013, with remaining payment due prior too, or at the event. All major credit cards accepted and, with the exception of a $100 cancellation fee, refunds will be provided before September 27, 2013.
For more information and/or registration contact Mark Gray at 207-299-4172. Way can be reached at 607-743-0760; Weik at 607-793-4832.
Reservation forms can also be downloaded from the Internet at:
Logo courtesy Ruffed Grouse Society
Sounds like a good time!