Here’s what’s happened so far in my ruffed grouse and woodcock hunting season.
One dog ran into an electric fence three times within two minutes. Fortunately it wasn’t live. He bounded into it, bounced back out of it. Looked at me confused, then charged it again. This time he stumbled with one foot caught in the lowest wire. Then he backed away, ran to his left and charged right into it again. I worry about his IQ.
My other dog dragged me through what seemed like 20 miles of thick dogwood and buckthorn – the kind that grabs ankles, wrenches knees and makes my arms look like I had a cat fight…with a cat. After he pointed and tracked, pointed and tracked, a bunny raced through the underbrush in front of me. I bellowed “Rabbit, bad!” cursing my allegedly experienced bird dog. Then a lovely plump woodcock zoomed out of the tangle in front of the dog.
I spent two hours in the most magnificent, storybook gorgeous grouse cover I could imagine. Apple trees, ferns, dogwood, thick cedar trees and maples, young birches and raspberries. Blow downs for cover, open lanes for landing. Even a perfect, moist streambed meandering through. Two hours. Not a bird.
Never have so many chipmunks materialized in one region, however. Understandably no one knows where they come from or where they go, but there’s a shockingly large population this fall. Probably due to global warming.
The one grouse I got so far was beautiful, a gray female whose center tail feather had just a shimmer of russet brown to it. Carefully labeled with the date – and the dog who pointed it – it will wait in the freezer for another grouse to complete a dinner for two.
So far this season I have shot maples, dogwood, alders, black locust, sumac, oaks, cedars, beechnut trees and hemlocks. I’ve shot air, mist, leaves, rain, saplings, bark and inadvertently one abandoned squirrel’s nest.
My young dog taught me one of those “trust your dog” lessons when I didn’t believe he really had a bird under his nose. The older dog proves to me again and again that we hunt as a team, our communication fine-tuned over the years. Both dogs have told me that we need to hunt more than a couple of hours after work each day and that it’s okay if I run out of 7½ shot – 6’s will be just fine.
Nancy Anisfield, an outdoor photographer/writer, sporting dog enthusiast and bird hunter, serves on Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s National Board of Directors. She resides in Hinesburg, Vermont.