Like always, Ginger and I have been preparing for our annual grouse camp up north. I seldom seriously hunt the upland before the second half of October. I've found that the weather is often still quite warm and both man and dog get worn out too quickly. Coupled with the leafy canopy still being thick, making shooting tough, I elect to take a couple more weeks to get ready. Those two extra weeks pay off in other ways. The beginning of October is a great time to fine tune a deer hunting set up. I've got a ground blind and a tree stand to put in. I know generally where they will go, but now is a great time to really pin point their location. As the archery deer season opens while I'm away at grouse camp, these stand sites will get to sit undisturbed for a couple of weeks, and end up blending in to the surroundings. And truth be told, I don't even plan on sitting in my tree stand until the fire arms deer season.
Other preparations have included lots of skeet shooting, but that is nothing new. Unfortunately since my wrist surgery this past winter my shooting has suffered. Sort of anyway. Over all my scores at skeet have dropped, not that I was any good, but I've figured out how to shoot a couple of stations that had plagued me. That said, I am a grouse hunter not a skeet shooter, and I shoot enough, and break enough clays to feel like even with falling skeet scores my performance in the uplands will be improved. I also have had second thoughts about selling my Beretta side-by-side. Seems I was making some common SxS shooting mistakes. Earlier this summer I picked up a copy of Fieldsports Magazine which had an article entitled Fit For Purpose by Simon Ward which highlighted the differences between O/U and SxS guns, the differences between them, and common mistakes shooters make. After reading the article I grabbed my SxS and mounted it a few times using a new hand hold on the fore end and barrels, and the difference was instantly noticeable. The gun no longer felt too short, and I was no longer seeing rib. Of course I was keen to try shooting the gun this way, and what,...wow. After a slow start on station 1 that had me thinking maybe there was nothing to this article I proceeded to smash clays, finishing the round with only 2 more misses, one miss at station 4, and then missing low 8. I even went clean on stations 2, and 6, which have been my worst stations. So, it looks like the SxS will be making another trip to grouse camp.
Our pre-season prep also saw us trying our hand at field trialling Ginger, once again. We did things a bit differently this time. The Central Virginia Spaniel Field Trial Club, after having had their spring Springer trial cancelled due to snow earlier this year, held their Springer trial in Conway NH the day before our club, Patriot Sporting Spaniel Club, held their Springer trial. We decided to enter Ginger in the Open All- Ages stakes of both trials, however, we wouldn't be handling her in the Virginia trial. Rather, Steve Church, the pro we train with regularly would handle her in the Virginia trial, and I would handle her in the Patriot club trial. I was proud of my little girl, and at the end of the day she had made it all the way through to judgment. She had a great day, but 4 other dogs had exceptional days, so a placement was not to be had. The next day I handled her through 2 series in the Patriot club trial, but despite some good work, and some smoking hot bird finds, she has gotten a little loose in the flush, and we didn't get invited to the 3rd series. Still, she had run 5 series in 2 days, only having come out of her heat cycle the previous Wednesday. I was happy, and proud. The field trial placements can be seen here. Videos of Ginger's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd series in the Va club trial, and a video of her 2nd series in the Patriot club trial can be seen on our YouTube channel, here.