Sportsman’s Corner: The Last Hurrah?

Published: 11/15/2019 9:40:26 PM
Modified: 11/15/2019 9:40:13 PM

Veterans Day is usually observed on Nov. 11 each year. However, when Nov. 11 falls on a Sunday, then Veterans Day is observed on the following Monday and if the 11th falls on a Saturday, Veterans Day is usually observed on the preceding Friday. No matter when Veterans Day falls, this writer has for years traveled to the Berkshire County bird covers that my friend and mentor Gig Darey and I hunted. Most years, the woodcock migration was history here in the North Quabbin Region but invariably the southern Berkshires would still have woodcock in covers that were wet. Those wet seeps are places where woodcock can find the things they need, earthworms in particular, as they head south.

Recently, breakthroughs in miniaturization of monitoring devices have made it possible to attach radio transmitters to woodcock, one of the smallest gamebirds. American woodcock are bigger and plumper than a killdeer and slightly smaller than a pigeon. They are 10 to 12 inches long and weigh 4 to 10 ounces with a wingspan of 16 to 18 inches. For the past two years, this monitoring has provided a better look at the migration of this interesting bird. The Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society, through the generosity of its members and donors have been proudly supporting the most cutting edge woodcock migration research via the Eastern Woodcock Migration Research Cooperative (EWMRC). You can go online and look at the data, some of it almost real time and see what is being learned about these fascination migrants that have evolved from a shorebird.

Gig always insisted that the birds he pursued in the Berkshires were different from those in the rest of Massachusetts and he seems to have been correct. There are indications that birds from eastern Canada and those from Quebec and Ontario are different in their migration patterns. Regardless, it was always good to extend my season with an hour’s drive west and although there was a delay due to some things that had to be attended to, the dogs and I arrived late morning to some familiar covers. The presence of others did not allow access to the first-choice cover, but the second choice yielded one point by Dinah and a flush with no shot. We relocated to a public area and moved three woodcock and were able to bag two. For this excursion, both dogs were run together. Running a single dog extends my “dog power” and also is less hectic as keeping track of two perpetual motion machines can be overwhelming. They both really worked well and it a shame that the season is ending as it really is fun to watch them search and lock up on point. Dinah had two producing points and Laney made both retrieves. Teamwork at its best!

We will give it another try this weekend just to see if there is any late migration and there is always hope that we may find a grouse (AKA partridge) lurking in the coverts but it may just be canine aerobics and human cardio time. It seems from unofficial reports that bow hunters are seeing deer and the Veterans Day peak of rutting activity is on schedule.

The high point of my bird hunting season was definitely last week when Dr. Andrew Sawyer, who is married to my niece Kristine, made a return visit to New York in pursuit of his first grouse. Two years ago, he came north and had a great time hunting woodcock, but the grouse evaded him. He flew in Monday and Tuesday we were out at it and had a point right off that produced a woodcock that Andrew dropped with his first shot from the Ruger 20 gauge that he shoots quite well. A second point produced the same result and we were off to a great start. Things slowed down as we moved through covers, but he limited out and I added a timberdoodle as well. We moved three grouse but had no good shots.

Thursday found us out again and we moved two grouse early and each missed. That was followed by two solid woodcock points that resulted in birds in the bag as we headed back to the truck. A grouse flushed loudly from an evergreen and Andrew tumbled the bird and we both celebrated his first ruffed grouse. Laney completed the retrieve and we were off to enjoy lunch at the cabin with a lot to be happy about. We had six woodcock points that day and downed all six birds and the grouse. Andrew bought dinner that night at Donovan’s in Malone and it was a perfect day!

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