Monty got out there first this morning and had a couple of nice points on two woodcock that he contacted, but had trouble with the grouse. A small brood of two or three got away as he got a little too close. In fact, the two "broods" that we encountered today were both small (2 or 3 each), but that has been balanced by a couple of large broods that we saw last week, so who knows how the season will be.
Bode was next and worked very hard and under control - he had a beautiful point his one woodcock, but while he was birdy just prior to breaking in to a grouse brood, he just couldn't stop himself. Scenting conditions weren't great, but we always hope for better when we're out there.
Some of the early berries (raspberries and choke cherries) are out now, so there are many more food sources out there for the grouse. More to come soon.
We checked out some of our favorite haunts in Vermont and were rewarded with a few birds. Bode was first up on Wednesday morning and he managed to stop to flush on a couple of single grouse and a wild flushing woodcock, then he bumbled in to a brood of grouse later on. The brood was large I would say - 7 to 8 birds. After the first two flew, he received a quick "whoa", and he held his ground as the others flew off as I made my way to him. A couple of them came mighty close to hitting him in the head, but he remained rock solid. Good exposure for him in nearly two hours of running - about 10 or 11 birds.
Rudy ran for about 1.5 hours on Thursday morning, and he picked up where he left off last year. First, he pointed, relocated, and then pointed again a running grouse that ended up flushing downhill from us. Then he stuck a grouse beautifully in a patch of shady evergreens - really nice work. He finished his run off with a point on a brood of grouse (different from the day before), with the hen pulling the broken wing routine. I came in calmly and led him out by his collar so that he would not further disturb this family unit.
What do bird numbers look like for this fall? After last year, I have decided to take myself out of the prediction game. Bird seasons are what we make of them - seeing more birds usually means more effort needs to be made. More research and scouting for new covers, more training of our dogs and ourselves, and more boots on the ground. I believe that the latest predictions from Upland Almanac for New Hampshire and Vermont are for "fair to good grouse hunting" up here for the 2015 autumn.
We shall see … and I can't wait.