At 6:09 this morning we broke away the first brace in Red Barn. At the end of the fourth brace we had moved 25 woodcock and 1 grouse. All the dogs on the trucks had birds this morning. Maggie and Trash had the first brace and the first two birds within 30 seconds of the breakaway. Maggie had three independent finds and three or four backs as both dogs hunted hard. Trash had the only grouse of the morning. That was followed by Pete and Thuddy. Thuddy had two woodcock finds and Pete backed on one of them. Annie and Missile ran next and upped the count from 9 and 1 to 14 and 1. Angus and Lucy swapped finds in the final brace as we moved an additional 11 woodcock. Not bad for a couple of old men and a bunch of bird dogs in July.
It will get even better as we progress into and through August as the grouse become more and more available. Check the post “There Back” from August 4, 2012 to see what I’m talking about.
Yesterday’s crew also did well and I had trouble keeping track of all the birds. We started with Max and Trash. Max had two nice woodcock finds and Trash had a woodcock and a grouse. Trip and Angus swapped finds as we came down off the mountain as each pointed a few woodcock and Trip had a brood of quail size grouse (I saw at least four grouse but not the hen). Then Thuddy had a couple of woodcock while Jagger had a big break through as he actually pointed a two of the three woodcock he found. Up to this point he’s been running great but busting his birds. When you can show a young dogs a lot of wild birds you can let it learn from its mistakes. Jagger is just over a year and is making good progress. Brandy was back from her two week home visit and got to run after the older dogs. She’s fearless in the cover and was rewarded with her own woodcock find. After the bird flushed and she was running around in the scent I fired over her for the first time. Introducing her to the bell took a little doing as I’ve posted earlier and wanted to wait for the right time to introduce gunfire. She never even slowed down at the shot. To the best of my recollection the final bird count for the morning was 15 woodcock and 5 grouse.
We all want grouse dogs and most consider woodcock as a secondary objective so I thought it might be good to say a little bit about how important the long-beaks are to developing good wild bird dogs. Most importantly we can almost always count on them being somewhere near where we found them the last time we worked a cover. The cover Pete ran in on Saturday morning is always good for a half dozen woodcock finds and occasionally more (like the other morning when we had 13 woodcock). There are usually some grouse but they are less predictable and in smaller numbers unless you run into broods (Saturday he had 2 finds on a brood of five, a single, and a brood of four). As the summer progresses the grouse will start moving into areas with new food sources (Saturday and Sunday’s broods were in the raspberries). By the end of August the numbers will likely shift as we will continue to find more and more grouse. But the dogs are learning to stay in the cover and hunt as they are rewarded by their woodcock finds.