It’s sort of a long running joke between Tony and me that we are driving by more good cover than we actually hunt and train in. So far this summer we’ve found three new covers. One was by chance as we found a number of birds in a cut as we passed through it to go in to an old farm out in the middle of the woods. When we got back to the truck the dogs crossed the road and found even more birds — suddenly we had a whole new cover. We now regularly find woodcock on the lower parts of it and one time we moved three broods of grouse as explored up into the cut. The other new cover is one that Tommy told us about awhile ago, but we just hadn’t made the effort to go to it. A couple of other places we tried this summer didn’t work out. There are three things that seem to be essential to finding productive cover at this time of year. The most important is that the cut have the right age class of new growth. Poplar regeneration is traditionally what the biologists talk about but I think that is in part because much of the research is done in the Upper Midwest where large clear cuts often come back almost exclusively in poplar. Here we’re finding that the birds are in a variety of hardwood whips that can be a lot bigger than you might expect. Many of the cuts we’re now working were selective cut and now have larger trees in islands of new growth. The ground in these islands is almost clean of growth due to the density of the canopy. Some of these cuts are relatively dry and look great but don’t have many birds in them. It’s when you find seeps, puddles, and small brooks that we find the majority of the birds — both grouse and woodcock. Probably the most important aspect of these cuts is that they were “chipper jobs.” That means they took out the whole trees and chipped them on the landing leaving almost no slash in the woods. Cuts where they leave the slash in the woods are downright dangerous to run a dog in and you can barely walk through them without breaking an ankle. If you can find a cut with these three aspects you will most likely find birds.
Yesterday we worked in two places that are some of our “got to” covers when we’re training and the third was a new area that turned out to be a possible winner. LJ and Frankie ran in one of the known sweet spots with Frankie finding 5 woodcock and LJ 2 with a couple of backs. We then went on to another cover just down the road and Jack and the Little Thudster ran together. Tony made a bit of a wrong turn and got out of the best of the cover but Thuddy still found 2 woodcock and 2 grouse. I think Jack knew exactly where to go as he was soon picking birds off one right after another having 8 woodcock finds and I walked up another one. After two braces we had 18 woodcock and 2 grouse. Not a bad start to the morning.
When it was time to run Trip and Bee we decided to check another spot that we had just hit the edge of last fall when we were hunting. We moved a couple grouse but really didn’t start getting into the good stuff until it was time to head back to the truck. This time we went straight into the section we thought might be productive. Again we got separated but when we joined up deep in the cover Bee and Trip had carded the same tallies — 3 woodcock and a brood of grouse with around 6 grouse in each brood. Then Bee busted a grouse right in front of us that came out right at me, went over my head, and then flew straight down the skidder trail I was standing in. It seems like they never do that during the season. So the total for the “new” cover was 6 woodcock and 13 grouse for a morning total of 24 woodcock and 15 grouse. The new cover fit the description above to a “T” with open skidder trails surrounding islands of new growth with wet spots in many of the islands. I’m sure glad I have a blank gun that shoots 209 primers because I’ve almost finished second tray of 100 primers this summer. I think I better buy some more shells for this fall.