Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One Season Ends, Another Begins

     Sometimes it all seems to be happening at once, and the beginning of this month was one of those times. GW was off for a week of trout fishing in the Rangeley area, BB was in Arizona on an Elk hunt, and my father, like always, was in a tree stand with his bow. It was a good time to be an outdoorsman, and Ginger and I were up north for an early season cast-n-blast.

     October 5th I pointed the car north, and headed up to my regular haunts to chase some early birds, and trout. In New Hampshire Grouse trout season closes on Columbus day, and Grouse season opens on the 1st, so I thought this would be the year I got after them both. Of course things don't always happen the way we'd like them to, and an emergency room visit, and several suture in the chest, for Ginger meant I'd have to call an audible. My cast-n-blast was renamed, and my trip north was now a 5 day cast-n-scout. No problem. I've had some ideas, and wanted to take a look at a few areas, so taking some time out to do some casual walking would pose no problem. Besides, there isn't much better than taking a nice walk in an area as beautiful as the great north woods.

     The weather didn't cooperate, and I ended up spending a bit more time in camp reading that I'd anticipated, but when the sun was shining I made the most of it. I hit the river twice, and thoroughly enjoyed it despite never landing a fish. I was a bit unprepared for the increased water level, and can only blame myself. None the less, I was fishing in the fall, and my waders didn't leak. In fact, I enjoyed my time on the river so much that I'm planning to make a trip to the Westfield river later this month.

     I learned an interesting, and somewhat disturbing tid-bit about the area. I bumped into a friend, Eddie, who shoot at the same skeet club. Eddie is an older gentleman I've known for some years now, and who I have always known to be humble, down-to-earth, a knowledgeable outdoorsman, and one who is not prone to exaggeration. Eddie swears he saw a wolf, and knowing Eddie, I am prone to believe him. Of course Eddie's wolf tale piqued my interest, so I approached Gary, an accomplished big game hunter, and Owner of Spruce Cone cabins, and inquired about wolves in the area. After a lengthy conversation with Gary it seems that wolves, though widely seen, are not new, having been several times over the last 5 years. And get this; Gary knows of a reliable Mountain Lion sighting, too. But I didn't follow up on that. I will be looking into the wolf issue more in the future.

     The grouse and woodcock hunting proved to be exciting, and if the flush rate I experienced hold it should be a super season. Ginger being on the mend, I only put her on the ground twice, in cover I knew to be easy going, for short runs. We kept it short, and never strayed very far from the car, but I chose correctly; Ginger flushing 41 birds, in about 3 1/2 hours of hunting over 2 days. She put up 15 grouse, and 26 woodcock, of which I killed 6 birds. On day one I killed the only grouse I got a shot at, and a limit of woodcock. On day two I added a brace of woodcock to the mix. I was especially excited to get into good woodcock numbers, as I think they are the tastiest bird out there, and in the last few years I haven't gotten into them like as much as I would have liked to.

     Hopefully our streak continues, and the flush rate stays high. I've come to expect a flush rate of about 4 grouse an hour, with an even better rate in good years, though I will admit that there are time when I have walked for an hour without a flush, before stumbling into a honey hole with 10 flushes in an hour to save the average. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens. But we won't be waiting very long; Ginger and I are off for a 10 day stint in grouse camp tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Trials, and.......

     With summer behind us, and opening day upon us hopes and expectations are high. I like to think of all the dog days of testing, and trialling as nothing more than preseason preparation, and while I enjoy them greatly, I am never as excited before an event as I am the final lead up to the grouse season. This season is no different.

     The build up began in August when I brought home a new Browning 20g over-under to accompany me in the woods. I've been shooting a 20g side-by-side, which I like a lot, but it's got 26 " barrels which I find too whippy. Not having a 28' barrelled 20g, nor an over-under 20g I figured I'd fill that hole in the gun safe. I'm glad I did, too, as I've been shooting this gun to pretty good effect at skeet.

     The build up to the season continued when a couple of weeks ago I ran Ginger in the Patriot Sporting Spaniel Club's fall springer trial in North Conway New Hampshire. Spending the weekend in New Hampshire, watching lots of good spaniels flushing and retrieving, and conversing with other club members, many of which I see regularly in grouse camp was quite enjoyable. The trial proved to be a bit of a milestone, too. While Ginger has been doing well in the hunt test arena, trials have been difficult. As such I entered with the humble goal of being seen by both judges. In this way we were successful, but a third series was not to be had. Ginger was a bit sloppy in our first series, and despite Ginger making a fantastic retrieve of a running, fighting bird in the second series, I was the one who was sloppy. Still it was fun, and I look forward to attending this trial again next year. Unfortunately, in a very un-journalistic way I failed to make note of the winners, and thus can not report them here.
Ginger and I getting ready for our second series.

A participant gives his dog it's final instructions before casting it on.

A steady dog honoring it's brace mate.

     Moving closer towards opening day I assessed my schedule, and began adding days away. This year a promotional exam at work, for which I have been studying for, as well as a family obligation and a wedding will keep me from taking to the woods in November, and the beginning of December, so finding a way to spend a lot of time away in October became all that much more important. My one week in grouse camp was stretched out to 10 days, and I added a 5 day cast n blast, for which I will be departing in just a few days. Life with dogs, especially those stuck in high gear, can present you with trails of another sort, and that's what happened on Sunday night when we found it nesseccary to rush Ginger to the animal ER. Somehow Ginger managed to impale herself on something while playing in the yard and presented with a large, deep, penetration in her chest. Though initially the injury looked devastating, by the next morning, with fresh stitches and a drain tube, Ginger seemed to be well on her way to recovery and is back to herself.  Despite bouncing around here at home like nothing happened, she will be on light duty for our first trip north. Rather than  cast n blast, it'll be a cast n scout. Until Ginger has had ample time for her wound to heal she shall be restricted in her upland duties. Rather than hunt in our traditional manner, I will hike some trails, and explore some new territory, hoping to get shots at road birds, Ginger at heel until needed for the odd retrieve. She may not like the arrangement, but she is needed, and we will still have 10 more days in the great north woods for her to do her thing.