It’s almost 9:30 in the morning and I’m still lounging around drinking coffee and catching up with the Internet. This is only the second day off I’ve had this month and it felt good to watch the sunrise out the bedroom window and not be getting supplies ready for the day and loading dogs in the dark. That’s not to say I won’t take the puppies (Jonathan and Molly) out before the rain rolls in but the big dogs are ready for a few days off. As of yesterday, we have flushed 223 more birds (grouse and woodcock) in front of the dogs this year than last. I attribute this to two things, first it has been a very good woodcock season so far and more importantly the young dogs that Timmy and I run when I’m guiding have all come on strong. Bog Brook Rigby is a seasoned veteran that at 8 can still put down a strong hour+ and just seems to manufacture grouse. In just the last three days I have flushed 26 grouse in front of her. Maggie, the foster dog, is 6 or 7, and is also an accomplished bird finder who was our woodcock pro the last couple years but has really improved on grouse this year. The rest of the dogs we’ve used on the guide string are all our young field trial dogs. Wild Apple Samantha and Wild Apple Calvados are both first year shooting dogs and won’t be three until this winter. Wild Apple Polka Dot is just a derby but in her second season has shown potential to be a great grouse and woodcock dog. Then there’s Wild Apple Spot On who is the epitome of what I want to compete with at the highest levels of the cover dog world, he is truly a protege in the woods. He’s not two yet and is the most broke dog on the string. He is totally unflappable whether there’s grouse right under his nose or a whole brood of them. He can still get a little rough at times. Yesterday he had one of only three woodcock finds for the day at 255 yards (half that would have been fine with me) as yesterday was a very tough bird day and our first day with fewer than 20 birds flushed when we’ve hunted a full day. Then, on the way back to the truck as I had him on the lead, he pointed a pair of grouse on the road bank. Could have shot them both but I wasn’t carrying a gun and the hunters were waiting down the road while I went and got the truck. We won’t make that mistake again.
The weather has cooperated as well. I think I’ve only hunted one day where the weather was so bad we sat in the truck at times waiting for the rain to let up. That day we only flushed 24 birds. but we made up for it the next day as we flushed 56 birds in front of the dogs and another 11 grouse were seen on the roads. That just goes to show that the birds are always here that they just aren’t always where we expect them to be. We hunted one cover this week, where we had 6 woodcock and 1 grouse. On the two of the best days in that same cover we had 16 grouse and 11 woodcock and earlier we had 22 woodcock and 1 grouse. The 22 woodcock day my client had to stop halfway through the cover and go back for more shells. Another time in that cover we went back to the truck and switched out the clients dogs — combined they had 4 grouse and 22 woodcock. At the same time, one area we’ve hunted in the past and had strong numbers of birds for summer training was pretty tough going in October. I know the grouse are still there somewhere and I expect they’ll be back when we get some bad weather in November.
Things change up in November, we tend to think of it as “New Cover Month” as we explore a lot of new spots trying to add new covers to our list especially as some of our covers are starting to mature and are not producing the birds we’ve seen in the past. Keeping up with the need for early successional forest for the birds is a major part of our success. The very productive cover mentioned above was new addition this year. Hopefully, we can add a few more like it for next year.
Speaking of next year, many of our returning hunting clients have already started booking with us and we will fill up fast. October is way too short to fill all the demand. We hope to add a second guide next year but still don’t expect to accommodate everyone. If you’re thinking of booking with us, sooner rather than later would be the way to go.