Usually, our spring scouting in the north country takes place in April - by then, the snows of winter have mostly melted, enough for the dogs and I to get around the grouse woods without too much trouble. Well, spring came early this year (it seemed as though winter never really came), making for an extra couple of weeks of work for the dogs and escaping the winter doldrums for me.
Monty and Bode took me through a patch of woods in Vermont that we hadn't explored yet, so I had no idea of what to expect, nor expectations either. The "boys" were pretty fired up to be hitting the woods again, and running together to boot. Those of you that hunt with me know that I prefer to run one dog at a time - just too much to focus on when you have more than one dog on the ground, and today was a prefect example of that, at least early on.
Within five minutes from the truck, Bode, showing great energy at being in the woods, bounded in to some heavy cover on my left as I was watching Monty on my right. Shortly thereafter a great flapping of wings and clucking ensued - yes, Bode must have thought he had the grand daddy of all grouse in his sights. Three to four turkeys exploded in to the air in all directions, with Bode in hot pursuit. C'est la vie!
It got better fortunately, at least briefly. Monty and Bode had the point pictured above on a tight sitting grouse in heavy edge cover. The dogs held well, and so did the bird - long enough for me to walk up and flush it. It offered one of those tough but very makeable shots at tree height down the trail in front of me. My grouse hunter's eye dreamt of a bird fluttering down, hit by my shot string through the waning foliage of late October or early November. However, you know how dreams sometimes go …
Over the next 45 minutes, we would move seven more grouse, just walking along the snow and ice covered trail. There were two pairs, which both held surprisingly tight, and several more singles. All of the birds were located in the thick evergreen edge cover, and while the dogs were birdy on nearly all of them, they did not perform nearly as well as they did on that first one. Perhaps too many birds too soon? Maybe - they also had a competition going on (or at least Bode was trying to compete with Monty - fat chance), further confirming my belief that the dogs are best run alone.