The Ups and Downs

Tony and Big Thudd getting the Little Thudster ready to go Sunday morning.

Here in Northern New Hampshire there are primarily two kinds of cover — those that go down hill and those that go up.  Sunday morning we started out with two downhill covers followed by an uphill one.  It’s sort of like the Robert Frost poem “Fire and Ice” in which he debates the merits of the world ending in either fire or ice and comes to the conclusion that either way the outcome is the same.  So, it is with covers, if you start out and go downhill you’re going have to regain that elevation to get back to the truck.  If you start out climbing up you know you’re going to get to hunt down on the way back.

The other ups and downs of wild bird training in the summer are the birds themselves.  They move around depending on the rain, temperature, humidity, wind (or lack there of), food sources, and other variables that are almost impossible to figure.  Friday we found birds in great abundance — Sunday it was quite a bit tougher.  We met at the church at 6:00 (we did not attend services as they don’t start until about 10:00) and headed out to one of our prime training covers with Tony and I and Big Thud who was up to see the progress Ribgy and Little Thuddy were making at Camp Stokely.  Rigby was first up and ran with Trip.  It felt warmer than the 53 degrees on the temperature readout in the truck and the air was very still and heavy and would remain so for the first couple hours.  Rigby struck first with pair of grouse followed shortly by Trip bust part of a brood as she relocated to pin them in fairly open ground. Rigby came in and pointed some of the stragglers for her second find of the morning.  There were 9 grouse in that brood to give us 11 and we had hardly been down 10 minutes.  And that was it until nearly the end of the hour when both dogs had a little trouble handling separate woodcock as the humidity increased and there was no ground water around for the dogs to drink.
The Little Thudster was next up and got to go by himself.  He ran well hunting hard and covering lots of ground with his quick feet and desire to run through the woods full-bore with reckless abandon.  Most of the older dogs learn to throttle back just a little bit in the thick stuff but it sure is fun to watch the young ones give it up for the team.  The dead air made it tough though as the little guy had some trouble getting dialed in on two different grouse that ended in stop-to-flushes.  He did have a real nice find on a woodcock before his hour was up.  That gave us 13 grouse and three woodcock with three dogs still in the truck to be worked.  
The third brace was uphill with Trash and LJ running like it was flat.  By this time the air was moving slightly and the sun had broken through the morning haze which seemed to improve scenting conditions although LJ moved up and bumped his first woodcock (and paid the price).  Tony and I kept getting separated as the dogs went on point in opposite directions but after a slow start this brace was a bit of a shoot out.  Lj had six woodcock finds and Trash had two grouse finds (one with 3 birds the other with 2) and a number of woodcock.  On one find I was making my way to LJ when Trash came flying in and slammed into point just in front of me.  I took another step and a woodcock got up.  When she broke LJ moved then styled back up as he had a different bird.  When I flushed his he went with it and then pointed a third one in the group.  I walked up another one in the same area.   By the time we went back down the hill the count for the morning was 18 grouse and 15 woodcock.
The last dog on the truck was Ginger III who is still getting her sea legs when it comes to grouse and woodcock.  So, she got to run in a spot where we know the birds lay right along the edge of the gravel road.  She flash pointed and bumped the first woodcock while we were still standing by the trucks.  Down the road aways she did the same on another one.  Tim and I were standing out on the road and the bird came flying towards us and landed in the bushes in front of us.  As G-III hunted her way towards us she found another one and chased it right towards us.  Tim tracked it with his imaginary shotgun and then turned just in time to see and probably feel the wingbeat of the bird that had landed in front of us.  He literally ducked out of the way to avoid being impaled by that long beak.  It was the best laugh I’d had in a long time.  G-III ended her short run with a grouse contact. To give us a morning total of 19 grouse and 18 woodcock.  It wasn’t a repeat of Friday but it was a darn good morning where all six dogs had good opportunities on wild birds.  
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