Scouting

The weather forecast for this morning was rain and drizzle with high humidity.  Not exactly prime conditions for getting much accomplished in the bird field so Tony and I did some exploring.  We live where there are fairly extensive tracts of privately owned industrial forest that is open for hunting and other recreational activities.  Over the years we tried many different spots in an attempt to expand our inventory of good bird covers both for training and hunting.  Obviously we are always looking for early successional forest areas that have the appropriate species and stem densities for grouse and woodcock.  Sometimes these covers overlap for the two species others are more suited for one or the other.  The problem with early successional forest is that it grows rapidly and its capacity to hold birds grows for awhile and them begins to diminish as the trees fill in and mature opening the understory for again and other predators.  What was our honey hole “money” cover a couple years ago is already on the down side.  With that in mind we are always looking for hew covers that are just reaching good holding capacity.

In addition to the qualities mentioned for the trees there are a couple other aspects to the cover that are also important.  It can’t be too steep (which rules out a lot of mountainsides) and it has to have been harvested in such a way that the skidder trails and the strips of trees are clean enough for the dogs to run through without getting too banged up.  It’s a constant search that goes on from spring through summer training season and into the fall when new spots have to prove their worth before they are added to the regular rotation.
This morning the wildlife was fairly active as we cruised the back logging roads looking for cuts that are reaching that optimal age.  Tony spotted a grouse as we were a few miles down the road and we stopped and watch as four of her chicks followed her across the road.  There were likely more that had gone across before we spotted her but we drove on without disturbing them further.  The chicks were still quite small but seemed to fly well as the crossed the road.  Lots of song birds were along the roads and we also spotted a couple of hares sporting their summer brown coats.  On one road we walked down two cedar waxwings were picking wild strawberries out of the road.  One of the most promising spots we saw this morning had a mud puddle that was covered with woodcock borings and splash.   just before we got to it at the end of a spur road I saw a big bear run down the road in front of us and then jump into the woods and disappear.  After we had scout the spot and found the borings we headed out and the bear popped out in the road again giving us a full view of his rather ample size.
The most amazing event of the morning was when we popped into a side road only to see that it was gated.  When I looked down the road there were two woodcock right on the edge.  The rest of the family was probably nearby.  One of the birds ducked back into the cover while the other one strutted around in the road and let us get quite close before it fluttered up and into the woods.  It never got more then chest high indicating it was a young bird.  It’s beak look long so our assumption is that it is a recently hatched female.  We think of woodcock as being active at night and at either end of the day.  This was around 10:30 this morning.  
Finally, we stopped at one more piece of cover and walked in a little bit to check it out.  It looked even better then the Bear Cover and we will definitely be back sometime in the next couple months of training to see what we can find for birds.  It usually takes a couple of tries to find the sweet spots in some of these really big cuts, but after 27 years of doing this together Tony and I can usually decode a spot relatively quickly.

There are two woodcock just on the edge of the road and probably more in the bushes.
This one strutted around in the road for a couple minutes while Tony and I watched.  From it’s size and beak length we’re pretty sure it was a female born this year.

Tomorrow we’re going to make our first foray into one of our prime training covers.  I hauled my tractor down their three times in the last week and Tony and various other friends have put in some hard days with weedwackers and brush saws.  It looks like it’s time to get back in the woods/

Also got a report from Katie that she was out for a walk today between appointments and was attacked by the hen grouse pictured below.

Attack grouse that was most likely trying to distract Katie away from her chicks.

Posted in Current News.

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