Tuesday, October 30, 2012

30-minute epic

Sunday afternoon, misty, foggy, Sandy on the way. Nolan's been plugged into the d!@#$% I Pad.
Must... Get... Kid... OUTSIDE! 

I offer a walk in the woods to check on our deer stands --- naaah. I offer to take away the Ipad until further notice if he doesn't get his boots on and meet me at the door --- whi-i-i-i-i-ining. How about we get Brody and look for a bird? -- Okay. (... ev-er-y-one's a win-nah!)

Okay then.  A bell & beeper, vest and shotgun, and a bit o' orange, and out the door.

Up past the barn to the red maples where we've found woodcock in prior seasons. Brody finds old scent - stop and go, searching.  Stopping long enough to activate the beeper, but no woodcock this time.  

He hunts farther down the maple stand, and bumps into a woodcock and gives chase to the edge of the big woods.  I give him a little "what-for" and we resume the hunt down the hill along the edge of the old field, to the other old field edge below the house.  Nolan and I scoot along, keeping pace while Brody works in and out of the woods, making bell music as he rolls along.  

Pretty soon he stops in the woods near the trail where Richie Feller and Angela dragged a deer out last fall.  Nolan and I follow this other music, SportDOG's bobwhite electronica, to the source -- Brody on point.

Nolan stays tight behind me as I walk wide around the dog and come in for the flush.  A timberdoodle whistles high for the sky, my gun barks, and the red gods smile. The bird plummets while feathers float softly to the ground as we walk toward Brody and the retrieve. The off-season retrieve training has been paying off, as last year he would've more likely mouthed the bird whereas now he's retrieving to hand.  Woodcock, at least -- still more work to do for consistency on grouse. I take the bird from Brody, and Nolan takes it from me to inspect and carry. Nolan is impressed with the shot, and I disguise my relief. With any luck, we won't find another bird.

But we do.  Brody works farther along the woods/field interface and into a little popple peninsula that juts into the field. This spot has held both woodcock and grouse in the past.  Into the aspen goes the dog, and out runs a deer -- a good-size one, but I couldn't tell whether it sported antlers or not. Ahead, bobwhite beeps are interspersed with tinkerbells, and Nolan and I follow Brody into the aspens. We approach Brody on point, and a woodcock lifts off out ahead, and glides across the field and down into the woods from which we just came. No shot. 

We continue on as before, working into the north breeze, and after we take just a few steps Brody's on point again. This time he's in the edge of the field pointing down into the woods to our left.  As we walk over a little knoll, Nolan get's a good look at the dog and we stop to admire the scene and discuss strategy. And the plan is a simple one -- I walk just inside the woods as Nolan trails along at the field edge. 

Our plan works to a tee, as the woodcock flushes away north down the field edge, with Nolan getting the perfect view.  My first shot misses behind to the right, but the 2nd barrel centers the bird and it falls. We wait as Brody goes for the retrieve, finds the bird, and brings it with speed right back to hand. Nolan, of course, is all proud of his dog, and full of questions about shooting -- were the shots hard? which one was harder? why'd you miss? 

We agree that two woodcock are enough today, no need to hunt further. We walk up the field to the house to get into dry clothes and warm up by the woodstove.  Our little hunt couldn't have turned out better, and I bet Nolan will remember it long after he's forgotten whatever game he was playing on the Ipad. The hunt will be re-lived at Thanksgiving when we eat these birds (prepared according to Pete's interpretation of March Woodcock). Oh, and Nolan's been jonesing to go turkey hunting next spring down in PA (thankyou PGC for the Under 12 Mentored Hunt Program!).  Time to look into youth sized shotguns... but that's another story.

Brody, Nolan, and two timberdoodles

Sunday, October 21, 2012

UP Odyssey

Quite a thing, the Odyssey: constant motion, movement.  A kaleidoscope of images: Spike's Keg o Nails in Grayling, the Sugar Bowl in Gaylord, the road bird in the Pigeon River, the Jolly Roger, the Trout River Tavern, innumerable mom 'n pop motels, lovely Sam in Munising, the Seney Plains and Mr. Clark, the Veneer Dome in Marquette--and the 70 mile loop road nearby where we drove 8 hrs and were never out of sight of popple--Bergland's Bar near Lake Gogebic, and their annual grouse tournament ('bonus to the FIRST team that brings in their 10 bird limit').  Indian Jail and the bird at dusk.  And more and more.

What a great place, the UP.  long lonely roads, small towns still limping along, and more grouse cover than a dedicated grouser could thrash in a lifetime.  And plenty of birds.

Affixing the pirate flag in the snow near Bergland, Lake Gogebic.  Proudly it flew, and a a covert name--Jolly Roger--near Kenneth MI, born.

A contemplative moment on Kate's Mountain.  Precise location unknown, unrevealed.  Jim and a Lab...who'd a thunk it.

A hot and tired--but very happy--pal in "Sweaty Dog" near the Lost Woodcock Highway.  Josh's gun strikes again!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Grouse Odyssey 2012

Rich promises a write-up (as in "Right . . . yup"), so here's a couple of pics from last week's Odyssey.

Here's Phoebe with her sire Bandit on the left and littermate Daisy in the middle.
That's littermate Daisy, not illiterate Daisy

Here's our pirate flag.  Rich will explain.
Long may she wave

Here's Rich still working and not following through on his God-given right to relax on his God-given right to enjoy a weekend/vacation.  We cured him of that with good old-fashioned ridicule. 
Rich not relaxing

Here's Rich in Munising, MI.  After he relaxed.
Rich relaxing.  Feel better now Dude?

I think that's about it for photos right now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Miles and miles of grassland!

Successful South Dakota chicken hunt.
Been looking at Josh's mug for long enough.  Time for some killin pics!

Was recently invited to give a seminar in the Department of Natural Resource Management at South Dakota State University.  The invitation also include 2 days of field sampling in the national grasslands.

After my seminar, we loaded up the dogs and the rest of the hunting party and headed for Pierre.  My guide was Dr. Brian Graeb (pictured above), SDSU Fisheries Ecologist, as well as Llewellyn Setter nut.  Brian runs Setters Slough Kennel and has 10+ setters.  He brought 5 setters with him for our trip to Fort Pierre National Grasslands.  Good thing, since temps were warm for our 2 days of hunting.  First day I nearly went down with heat exhaustion.  Temp at noon was nearly 85.  Saw a few birds, mostly sharptails, at a distance.  Had a couple long pokes, but nothing fell.

Second day we found birds on the edge of a couple standing sunflower fields.  Dr. KC Jensen was the first to put birds on the ground, bagging 2 young Prairie Chickens.  Then I was able to add a Prairie Chicken and a Sharptail to my game pouch.  My first PC in hand.  As you can see from the above, there is A LOT of ground to cover!  Spectacular country.  Even with the hot weather, Brian's dogs did a real nice job covering the prairie.

We definitely need to find a way to arrange a Grouse Camp in central South Dakota one of these years.  I know I'll get back there sometime soon!

Look forward to seeing pics from those of you gathering in Maine for Grouse Camp.  I'll be in Portland for the TWS conference.  Definitely going to have a chat with TWS execs about the timing of this conference.  I think its mid Oct the next couple years as well.  Ridiculous.

Anyway...Happy Hunting!!