Susan, I and the dogs have had a long but rewarding hunting season. Here’s a run-down on our adventures.
It all began with a departure from New Hampshire, on September 19th, for Plentywood, Montana. Plentywood is a 39 hour drive from our home. We take three days to make the drive. The most exciting element for Susan and me was having our five-month-old German shorthair puppy along for the trip. The pup was in addition to the “old man”, eleven-year old Dillon and Susan’s five-year-old Dena Dream.
There are three upland birds in Northeast Montana…the sharptail grouse, Hungarian partridge and the ringneck pheasant. Only the sharptail grouse and the Hun are legal game in September. We like the sharptail because it stays still for the point longer than the Hun or the pheasant. Unfortunately, rather soon after our arrival, we were hearing stories about a severe shortage of sharptail grouse this year.
Also unfortunately, of the six days we had planned to hunt, the first three delivered pouring rain and the fourth day gave us a wind so strong one could barely keep their balance. That left us with only two reasonable hunting days. As we had heard, sharptail numbers in this part of Montana were definitely down from previous years. The dogs, however, did get plenty of work on Huns and pheasants. In fact, Cordie, the five-month-old pup, gave us her first solid point on a big old rooster. Susan and I were thrilled.
Despite the long drive for New Englanders, Montana should be on the upland hunter’s bucket list. It’s beautiful country and the people are genuine and welcoming.
We arrive home from Montana on October 1st. That gave us one week to unload the truck, unpack our bags and then re-pack and re-load the truck for grouse and woodcock hunting in Northern Maine.
Our first destination in Maine was Bowlin Camps near Patten. This was our first trip to Bowlin Camps. Upon our arrival, we received a hearty welcome from owner Tom Scala. Tom and his wife, Linda, are on-site owners who take great pride in their property.
Bowlin Camps is a first-rate property. The cabins are clean and comfortable. Bowlin is an American plan lodge so meals are taken at the main lodge. Lois, the cook, never failed to deliver a fine meal at both breakfast and dinner. An excellent packed lunch was provided daily. Management of the lodge is under the capable hands of Dave Jacobsen.
There are miles and miles of logging roads within a short distance of the lodge. And, you very seldom see another hunter. Our first evening at dinner, we were excited to hear from a Pennsylvania couple that they had 17 grouse flushes on that day.
Susan and I (and the dogs) did not have a 17 grouse flush day. We soon learned that, in general, grouse numbers are down this year in Northern Maine. We experienced five to six flushes per day at Bowlin Camps. Not bragging numbers but certainly enough to keep us excited. I am happy to report that of the birds we shot, they came from broke points by Susan’s Dena Dream. She stayed steady to the flush, shot and drop and then delivered to hand. Good work Dena. Summarizing Bowlin, this is an excellent destination for the upland hunter, fisherman and family vacationer. Check them out at www.bowlincamps.com.
After enjoying the wonderful hospitality of Bowlin Camps, the team departed for Allagash, Maine. This was our fifth consecutive year at Allagash Guide Service. Allagash is certainly a small Maine village that time has forgotten. And, I say that in a very positive manner. We heard the same chatter in Allagash as we experienced the previous week at Bowlin Camps. Grouse numbers are down.
We lost one day to rain in Allagash but that gave us four decent days. In the Allagash area, we again experienced five to six grouse flushes per day although we did have eight flushes one day. I should mention that we only count a flush if there is dog work involved. We don’t count road birds as flushes.
Overall, we were very happy with our September and October. Our puppy was immersed in both prairie work and northern woods work and she just turned six months old. After traveling 7000 miles in 45 days, we’re all safe and sound and snuggling up for the winter.
Paul Fuller has been an outdoor communicator since 1971. In addition to writing this column, Paul is host of the Bird Dogs Afield TV show. Paul may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org