Last Wednesday Ginger and I pointed the car north right about the time the sun was peeking over the horizon. With a steaming cup of coffee, a cooler full of groceries, and an amped up puppy I headed to grouse camp where for five days my good friend Bryan, and I would chase grouse, woodcock, and bunnies. As usual we'd be hunting with the same cast of characters who make the trip to hunt with us. Of course, sometimes we make the trip to hunt with them.
Our grouse camp has been a tradition for about 12 years now, but has changed in form slightly over the years. When we started organizing the camp most of us lived in Massachusetts, so making the trip to Coos county, New Hampshire twice a season was easy. As job transfers, and promotions found a few relocating to NYC and Pa it became time to rethink the location of camp. For a few years we made the trip to Pa, but that wasn't working out too good for everyone. We ended up finding a location in western NY where the bird numbers were good, and the driving time reasonable for everyone.
This year, however, things didn't shape up as we'd wanted them to, so Bryan and I, decided to salvage the season by booking a cabin in Coos county again. Of course invitations were sent out, and soon it was realized that we'd gone from no camp, back to our original camp up north. The differences didn't end there. A couple members could make it due to family and work commitments. There were dog issues, too. Most of the dogs of the earlier camps were either retired, or passed on. This left us with an elderly GSP, Lula, a middle aged Chessie, Pogue, and a young Lab, Ruby. Yes, my Springer Pup, Ginger, made the trip, but she wouldn't hunt; she's not ready yet.
There are a lot of ways to measure success when it comes to hunting, and grouse hunting is no exception. It's also rare that you meet someone at a camp that doesn't wish they'd killed a few more grouse, so it's hard to measure along the birds killed scale. So how is the success measured?
Here's how I see it; The company was exceptional. To be able to share a camp with like minded, ethical sportsman, who have become good friends over the years is hard to beat.
Like always, we all pride ourselves in our abilities in the kitchen. Grilled woodcock, pulled pork, T-bone steaks, and beef stew are just a few of the culinary delights we feasted on. Followed each evening by a dram of scotch, or a glass wine was the cherry atop the Sundae.
Dog work, too, provided some great entertainment. Pogue, unfortunately came up lame early and was left to rest, but Ruby and Lula both put on a show. Lula has a rather metered gate, and isn't very fast, but proved to be methodical. At past camps she had always found herself beaten to the birds. Without faster legs in camp this year she was pointing grouse and woodcock right out of the box. Seeing a weekend pheasant dog perform like this for us was a joy. And Ruby, whose been trained strictly as a duck dog hit her stride in the uplands. Once a species was kicked up, and shot over her, she took in the info needed to track em down, and put em in front of the gun. Yet another grand performance.
The weather held out pretty good, too. We got some rain in the mornings, but by the time we were ready to hit the woods it had usually passed. The Temp held in the high 40's, and low 50's, and the overcast sky kept the sun from blinding anyone as they swung on a bird.
The area of the county we were staying in being known for it's grouse population, mean that the other cabins were almost always occupied by other bird hunters, and the occasional moose hunter. This year was no exception, but in the mornings when everyone let their dogs out, rather than seeing pointers, setters, and GSPs running around the lawn, it was all spaniels. A contingent from the Patriot Sporting Spaniel Club, in New Hampshire happened to be there the same time we were. Incidentally, the Secretary of the club, who I'd been having an e-mail exchange with about membership just the week before, was in the cabin next to our. By the time we left I'd met 7 members of the club, and 15 spaniels.
There is one thing I learned I need to work on for future grouse camps. My video skills are lacking, and I didn't manage the camera as well as I could have. Sorry. Not much video to share with you all. but here are a couple. One is of the All Seasons Outdoor "pro staffers" getting ready to get in the woods. The other is Bryan showing off a nice grouse he scratched down.
The hardest thing about grouse camp is waiting for it to get here. I'm not going to have to wait too long, as I'm headed back up, solo this time, to hit the woods for 4 more days. But then the waiting begins, and as Ginger progresses in her training I'm sure it'll seem like the time until next grouse camp is crawling by. Fortunately I have local grouse and woodcock to chase, as well as ducks, and deer. But it's the grouse that makes the blood course through my veins.