Last week this writer did a little upland hunting with Andrew Sawyer, who is married to my niece Kristine. Three years ago we traveled to Alabama for their nuptials and I learned that Andrew was an avid hunter. Two years ago Andrew and Kristine came north to visit possible hospitals to do their residency (both are now doctors doing internships) and Andrew did some deer hunting during the shotgun season.
This trip came during the bird season and the plan was to do a day of grouse/woodcock hunting and then hunt sea ducks. Unfortunately, a glitch and then heavy seas put the kibosh on that so we ended up doing another day of bird hunting, this time locally. On most years, the woodcock are long gone by Veterans Day but this year the flights are late. We ran into birds in almost every cover and had our woodcock limit by the time we stopped at Johnson’s Farm for lunch.
At the next table was bird hunting legend Dick Stone, who I remember when he was a fixture at Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area every Saturday. He was also an outstanding trap shooter. Dick had great bird dogs and hunted hard. He reminded me of one Saturday when his dog went on a solid point as we were driving past his favorite spot.
When the discussion turned to pheasants he noted that he had received a tip that there were some cock pheasants strolling around a nearby cover and that got Andrew’s attention. We gave the place a try but only moved woodcock but found enough of them to decide to return there the next morning, before Andrew’s flight back to Alabama. Our hunts were what I refer to as a “gentleman’s hunt”. When guiding the well-heeled clients at the five-star Hungry Trout Restaurant in New York, I meet the “sports” at about 8:30 when they finish breakfast and we drive an hour north to the covers we hunt. We break at noon and usually finish early with a limit of woodcock.
What, besides the hours, really makes it a gentleman’s hunt is the way we hunt. When using Dinah, she casts about in the coverts and locks up on point with the beeper telling us she is on a bird. We then interrupt our walk and chat and move in to flush and try to get off a good shot in what is usually thick cover. Then we go back to walking the paths and trails until the beeper summons us again. That is a gentleman’s hunt.
That suited Andrew well and we limited out on woodcock the first two days and then, returning to the cover Dick had suggested, also had Dinah point five ring neck pheasants and two left the woods in Andrew’s game bag. My poor shooting, and an encounter with another group of hunters that made a safe shot impossible, prevented me from sharing the harvest but we had great fun.
It appears likely that we will be hearing the pitter patter of small feet around the house next February. I put a deposit on a French Brittany pup from a breeder in Illinois whose philosophy, breeding line, and training methods are exactly what I am looking for. There are two litters to choose from and with a little luck there will be a black and white female left when it comes my turn to pick.
My post-season gear picks for upland hunting are the SportDog beeper collar, which has proven to be dependable and really lasts a long time between charges and the Mud River dog kennel cover, which keeps Dinah warm and dry and has really gear storage. Mud River’s parent company Boyt also makes my new gear bag, which is extremely well made and holds a ton of gear when we travel to New York. The Danner Grouse boots and L.L. Bean hunting shirt also proved to be the best for the tough miles logged and the Bob Allen shooting gloves my daughter Jillian got me for Christmas are perfect.
A tip of the cap to Millard Chase who arrowed not one but two two-hundred pound plus rack bucks. He puts in a lot of effort scouting and earned those deer by putting in the time. The rut is certainly getting the bucks moving and bow hunters are now seeing rutting activity in most places as the bucks chase does and mark territory.
The woodcock are not the only migrants arriving as waterfowl, particularly mallard ducks and Canada geese, are also showing up in numbers. It is a bit later than usual but should provide good opportunities for a while for waterfowlers.
Have a great Thanksgiving and get ready for the shotgun deer season which opens the Monday after Turkey Day.