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2016 Grouse and Woodcock Hunt

We are recently home from our annual Wisconsin Grouse and Woodcock hunt.

Woodcock Moon? Stopped for the night in North Dakota
Woodcock Moon? Stopped for the night on the way in North Dakota.

Grouse numbers were still spotty in the region we hunt, but up a little from last year and maybe a bit more consistent. Not so many covers where you didn’t see any or maybe only saw a couple, and we had some very good hunts once we figured out which areas were better. Woodcock were somewhat scarce compared to what we’re used to. We mainly targeted grouse though, so didn’t spend a lot of time in the  young regrowth and alders that are best for Woodcock.

River has 2 grouse in this point, but the went out from the wrong side of the road!
River has 2 grouse, but they went out from behind- both of them on the wrong side of the road! No shots fired.

This year we are having some of the “Terrible Twos” with the younger dogs. Some good performances, but also some hunts with teenagers who are a little too full of themselves. One minute it’s a nice point on a grouse, the next it’s too much excitement and a bumped bird. It’s typical for a dog that was impressing everyone at 8 months with amazing abilities to find and point birds to turn into something of a handful at two years of age. You can either wait it out, knowing that maturity will come, or you can give in and work more on training. They are showing good talent though, and we’re happy with how they are progressing.

Blaze in camp- one of the "Terrible Twos".
Blaze in camp- one of the “Terrible Twos”.

As usual we were very bad about taking photos of hunts, but did manage to take the camera out a little near the end of the trip. Hard to leave the gun behind!

Lisa and River

We had a funny, pseudo scary thing happen on the last hunt with River, at least it was scary for River. He crossed a brook coming back to us in kind of a deep spot that had a steep bank below a hill we were on. He couldn’t get up the bank and panicked. All River had to do to get out of it was turn upstream and walk out in shallow water a couple feet away, but he wanted to come straight to us. Took one of us walking down there for him to figure it out. Wish we had a video of that, but we were too busy laughing at the big, supposedly macho boy crying like a baby. BIG relief when he saw the way out.

Iris with a grouse she retrieved out of a swamp.
Iris with a grouse she retrieved out of a swamp.Iris is a little less afflicted with the Terrible Twos than some of the others- she went through it more last year.

Last hunt of the trip was with Doc in a cover that produced both Grouse and Woodcock a few days earlier.  This time it was all Woodcock except for one wild flush from a Grouse, and we had some fun with videos.

Pointing a Woodcock

It is not unusual for dogs to perform differently on Woodcock than they do on other birds. Pointing or working with a lower head, or hunting more slowly are common. With Doc it’s a lower tail on point, and sometimes a crouching point.

Doc is an example of just waiting out the teenage problems. He had some obedience training, but like most of our dogs that’s about it. His performance developed naturally. In this video Lisa walks in to the front of Doc’s point, and when no bird goes out she moves ahead in case it’s a Grouse. Doc decides to relocate, and re-establishes point closer to the bird. A dog that can re-establish without losing control or bumping the bird is especially valuable on running birds. In this case, with an easy bird like a tight sitting Woodcock, it’s just Doc showing Lisa she’s going the wrong way:-) Of course for the camera it’s a miss. Good excuse though- was a hard spot to get in and flush the bird.

This time a hit!

Doc eventually did retrieve the bird- he’s a little slow to pick up a Woodcock sometimes, but not before the camera battery died. Figures. We finally got a bird falling over a point in a video- something else was bound to go wrong. Maybe next time we’ll get the whole thing.

No Muskies this year to fill in on rainy days, but this pike decided to take the fly.
No Muskies to fill in on rainy days this year, but this pike decided to take the fly.

All in all a great trip that we wish could last a lot longer. Looking forward to Chukars next, and then Kansas Bobwhites.

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