Other than ten days off for deer season and a bad cold, I have been in the woods every day since October first except for two days. It’s been a tough but enjoyable fall. All but two of the hunting parties we took out this year were returning customers that I have hunted with before. The two new pairs of hunters have already signed up for next year meaning we’re pretty much booked for 2017. This year may have been one of the toughest grouse years we’ve had in a long time. Our grouse flushes for the season (269) are down by 45% over the same time last year and our woodcock flushes are down by at least that much. The flights never came through in big numbers and it was just one of those years when they came in small bunches all season and considering the weather there may still be woodcock to our north. Although the last woodcock I saw was out at Kilkenny during the Grand National Grouse Championship the first week in November. This past weekend it was just Timmy and I hunted and we got a late start Saturday but still managed to move 15 grouse which is a good number this year. Sunday morning we only hunted for a few hours on the morning before the rain settled in. By the time we quit for lunch we were into double digits again. Seven of the birds on Sunday were in a cover we never hunted before. I’ll be sure to work dogs in there this summer and probably decide to add it to the rotation for next fall. this time of year, when we don’t have clients along we are often trying new covers as you can never have enough.
In the early half of the season the drought continued to affect the scenting conditions and we often saw temperatures pushing into the low 70s. Definitely roll up your sleeves type weather.
Some of our hunters are also are training customers and it’s always good to see the dogs I’ve worked in the summer again in October and November. Lexi, Dove, and Dottie setter all made it up this fall. Tim’s dogs Wild Apple Calvados (Brandy) and Wild Apple Polka Dot spend the fall with me and are regulars on the guide string. In addition, Wild Apple Spot On, Wild Apple Samantha, Wild Apple Jonathan, and Wild Apple Molly McGee were regulars on the truck this fall. Even with the lower flush rates these dogs kept it interesting for all of us.
We also took time off from hunting to attend and participate in the Grand National Grouse that ran the year in the Kilkenny Region of the White Mountain National Forest. Scott and Tammy Chaffee made the trip out from Michigan to run a bunch of dogs and Bob Little came down from New Brunswick to run his Mazey Mae dog. In addition to those house guests, Bob and Diane Wheelock rented Meghan and Jason’s “camp” next door to us. It made for a fun time at the trial and around the table. Both Brandy and Spot put down strong ground performances and Brandy was the only dog to point a bird on the first day. Unfortunately it was a woodcock which isn’t a lot of help when you’re trying to win the National Grouse Championship. Spot drew a tough course which he handled as well as any dog could but on his one scouted stand I was unable to put a bird up for him. I also ran Wynot Whitney for Steve Forrest who was bow hunting in the Midwest. Whitney also had a good race but failed to connect on a bird. I scouted all of Scott and Tammy’s dogs and thought a couple of them were in the mix but they were ultimately beat by dogs I didn’t see go.