Sometimes it all comes together nicely. Like it has this fall. A young dog, some good friends, and a series of fortunate events meant writing got pushed to the back burner, and hunt moved to the front. And in moving it to the front burner I also turned up the heat, and kept it at a rolling boil for as long as I could. Now, however, I've begin to wrap up my grouse hunting season. It's not over, and I fully expect to spend a few more days in the woods with Ginger, but no more multi-day, no more camps.
I've been very fortunate this season, and went to 5 grouse camps for about 30 days in camp. With this being Ginger's first season 30 days in grouse camp is immersion learning, and she learned quickly having been given the opportunity to flush a few hundred grouse, a boat load of woodcock, and even a few hares. Naturally I was the week link in the process, my shooting suffering greatly. While I shot a few birds, and hares I should have pocketed double what I brought home. The sting of missing made worse by the fact that many of the misses absolute softball flushes, in the open, with few trees to intercept shot string, or obscure vision. None the less, my shooting percentage was high enough that Ginger was allowed to learn her trade, and begin to excel at it.
Both Ginger and I learned a lot this season. Ginger about hunting, and grouse behavior, and me about dog training. Ginger learned that the flush of a low flying grouse was much more exciting than the wind up toy like flush of a woodcock, and with that I learned that steadying a young spaniel on grouse wouldn't be as easy as I'd thought it'd be. So again it was off the the races, and back to a little dog training. As fate would have it, a little refresher yard work, and a little whistle work was all it took to her squared away.
Our travels took us to 2 camps in northern New Hampshire. The first camp with GW which I wrote about last month, and the second, a week long camp with BK and his Lab, Ruby, where we managed to put a dent in the local woodcock population. At one point BK and I found ourselves each with a limit of woodcock in about 30 minutes, and having to round up Ginger to hunt dead for 3 woodcock on the ground at the same time.
After a brief respite from hunting to attend some required training at work I was ready to go again when November rolled around. First Ginger and I made the long drive to Pennsylvania for our annual grouse camp with the ASO pro staff and some friends. While the area of Pa we hunted wasn't the best grouse cover, with 8 guys, 4 dogs, 3 bottles of whisk(e)y, and a huge fire place in the camp, we still had a great time. This, of course, goes without saying as anytime we get this crew together we have a great time.
Ginger and I soon found ourselves in the great north woods, thanks to the extreme generosity of some friends who allowed me open door privileges at their camp. It was then that I took a bit of time to do some refresher yard work with Ginger that quickly resulted in having a dog steady on not only woodcock, but ruffed grouse too. The open door policy of the camp gave me nine more days up north, and allowed me the opportunity to enjoy the company of some new people and dogs. More often than not dogs out numbered people in camp, and their variety was stunning. I was able to spoil and tease 3 English Setters, 2 Red Setters, 2 French Brits, 2 English pointers, 1 German Shorthaired Pointer, and a Lab. And as much fun as that was, sharing a beverage with their owners was equally enjoyable.
Ginger and I will be spending a day in the woods later this week. While we've got good grouse cover within driving distance of the house we know that it will pale in comparison to the camps we've had the pleasure to attend. But we'll make the most of it.
**A special thanks to Tim, Ted, Al, and Russ for letting me take over their grouse camp.