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Unread 10-23-2022, 02:09 PM   #11
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Keith Doty
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Great pics. As the owner of generations of labs I know the pups gotta go along and particularly the first season or two will provide pride, frustration, hilarity and probably some scary moments along with memories that last a lifetime. My avatar is "Smoker"s first real solo hunt, just me and the dog. Got all the above in a single morning!
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Unread 10-24-2022, 09:21 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Keith Doty View Post
Great pics. As the owner of generations of labs I know the pups gotta go along and particularly the first season or two will provide pride, frustration, hilarity and probably some scary moments along with memories that last a lifetime. My avatar is "Smoker"s first real solo hunt, just me and the dog. Got all the above in a single morning!
Keith, you are so right about the "pleasures" of having a puppy along. It certainly cuts into your hunting time, not to mention your sleeping time but it also adds to your great memories of what I'm sure will be a special dog -- as all of them are in their own way.

You get to cherish the little things, like teaching the pup to drink from a bottle...which will come in handy on hunts in the future.

So much to do!
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Unread 10-24-2022, 09:40 AM   #13
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Well, we have completed week 1 of our hunt, and although not much to show in the way of game for the larder, we have had lots of bird contact and good, hard miles for our hearts.

This has been a remarkable year for the number of times we've gotten birds up without a chance for a shot...or at least a good one. As I noted, we have started coming up later in the season to avoid more hunters. That has certainly been the case, but I see a marked skittishness in the birds. Often, the dog will point, and before I can get up with the dog, the bird will flush far out ahead. We've also had lots of "brood points" where there are multiple birds at a point (6 birds from a point yesterday!). As grouse do, they flush when the want, and when you don't want. Frustrating, but all part of the hunt.

So, this past week our flush rate was 3.8 birds/hour. When you think that most of our hunting comes on trails that we must walk out and back (essentially hunting over ground just traveled), one could really double that flush rate. The birds are here this year, they're just not playing nice. Actually, except for not shooting well (44% on grouse, 25% on woodcock), this has been a great hunt.

Today will be an off day as dangerous winds and rain are in the forecast. A trip to town is in order.

Here are some photos from late in the week, including some that I hope reveal the nature of the Northwoods hunt, from its beauty to the exhilaration of walking in on a dog on point (assuming you can get to the dog!).
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Unread 10-24-2022, 05:14 PM   #14
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Garry, after hunting grouse all over the eastern states I suspect the skittishness may be due to lack of overhead cover. Read that as lack of leaves in your case. I have always found the birds to be more cooperative when there is some leaf cover.
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Unread 10-24-2022, 05:50 PM   #15
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I think beeper collars on dogs have taught the birds that it's not a good sound, and they ought to get out of town
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Unread 10-24-2022, 08:59 PM   #16
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I don't use a beeper, they are still skittish.
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Unread 10-25-2022, 09:59 AM   #17
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We took yesterday off -- 45 mph winds and falling trees will keep me out of the timber (and without a chain saw, off the back roads). As for the skittishness of grouse, I'm sure there is something to the idea that grouse can learn from past experience. Gary, I also believe that thinning cover can make grouse more wary, but, like you mention, if they have some security of cover, like blowdowns or grapevine tangles, they will often hold tighter, even later in the year. As far as beepers go, it certainly seems plausible that birds can learn to associate that sound with danger, but I know enough science to not let my empirical observations set a rule for all.

I run my dogs with beepers in the Northwoods to keep a closer watch on them and, like wearing a bell in bear country, to let the wolves know we're in the area (and hopefully, for them to leave it!). We had a wolf come after one of our dogs in a clearcut some years back, and I've been spooked by that encounter ever since. I actually shot at the wolf to stop its advance. A 28 gauge load of 8s through an open choke and the very large wolf did not even slow or blink (this was at about 45 yards). I thought I was up for a close range shot when it just stopped, gave us a dirty look, and casually strolled off. My 70 pound Gordon would have been carried off by that very, very large wolf. I've read all the reports on wolves and dogs in the north country, and I know there is low risk for bird dogs, but when you have a close encounter, you sometimes have a hard time letting that experience go. There's that empirical knowledge thing again.

I'll still say that later in the season, there are a host of circumstances that cause grouse to be more skittish -- hunting pressure, thinning cover, beepers(?), etc. I know that Burton Spiller wrote that birds became more skittish during low periods of the cycle. I guess the idea is that many of the birds encountered then were not birds of the year and had more experience with hunters. Who know?! I do know that they are skittish now, and that the fact that they are is what hunting them is about, and I'm not about to let some skittish birds keep me from enjoying myself...or my dogs to not love what they are doing.

I hope everyone else's birds are not so skittish, and that you all shoot better than I do.(I'm pretty sure you do anyway.) And, I hope you get as much enjoyment out of the hunt.
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"'I promise you,' he said, 'on my word of honor, I won't die on the opening of the bird season.'" -- Robert Ruark (from The Old Man and the Boy)
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Unread 10-26-2022, 10:48 AM   #18
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Thanks for sharing the pictures. Gorgeous barrel on that Parker.
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Unread 10-27-2022, 10:02 AM   #19
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Days of contrasting weather -- one with spitting snow and heavy cloud cover, the other with cloud filled, sunny skies. Both without much wind -- just the way we like it. We flushed broods again on both days, and, again, because of the way they flushed, we have no shots. We get some nice points by Aspen, and are able to take some birds on the follow-up. I've hunted here so much, and thought about the ways of Northwoods grouse so long, that sometimes I can predict if a bird might hold long enough for me to get to the point. To reassert Gary's point about overhead cover and skittishness, when we find some blowdowns where a grouse might "burrow" down and hold, we generally can get close enough to get a flush within range. I haven't, however, figured out how to not have a tree in the way of a shot, and many has suffered a load of 8s over the years.

We have found more woodcock this year than in the recent past. It is a bit wetter, and there are more coverts that are damp...and thick -- just the way the 'cock like it. Our flush rates on grouse remain good. Our shot chances remain poor.

Keys to photos:

1. This was a follow-up bird from a "brood flush" of 4 birds. Aspen trailed him for well over 50 yards, and he flushed far out. I wing-tipped him and Aspen continued the trail to run him down (thus the lack of tail feathers). For me, this is more satisfying that taking a limit of birds. It's not how many, it's how...at least for me at this point in my shooting life.

2. We visit coverts so often that we get to know some of the trees in them. This oak has appeared in many photos over the years, as it always puts on a display of rich color. There is almost always a grouse nearby, and such was the cast again this year. Alas, this bird was in a tree and flushed wild. Sometimes they play dirty.

3. One day I'll have the presence of mind to check my watch to see what my heart rate is when I get a point like this along an open road. The anticipation is almost overwhelming, as I'm sure those of you who hunt over pointing dogs know well.

4. I have a good (non-hunting) friend whose father was a hunter and had bird dogs. She always laughs when we show her photos like this. "It's like Papa's photos." She always says, "I have seen lots of dog butts in lots of old pictures!" I always smile and continue to cherish a good dog on point picture (a.k.a. A dog butt picture).

5. Driving over Caldwell Brook we had to stop and get a picture. It's scenes like this that fill out the day.

6. Mr. Leopold's "Red Lanterns" were not red when our visit began, but have lit up the trail in the last couple of days. They are at the best when the air is damp and the sky cloudy.

7. A brace of 'cock -- my self-imposed limit -- makes for a great day, especially when taken over points with a 118 year old Parker.

8. Sometimes nature will stop you to look. Late yesterday as we were heading back to the truck, the sun was like a spot light in the pine woods.
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Unread 10-27-2022, 11:55 AM   #20
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Thanks for sharing your Great pictures Garry, always enjoyed!!
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