Early Season Grouse Report
Since last month’s column, Susan, the dogs, and I have taken two short bird hunting trips. Here’s a brief report on each.
Our first hunting trip of the season, September 23-27, was to K/O’s Mountain River Lodge (www.ko-riverlodge.com) in Deep River, Ontario, Canada. Mountain River Lodge is primarily a fishing and bear hunting camp. I believe we were their first-ever grouse hunters. Terry Carlin, the camp owner, gave us maps which helped us find decent grouse cover. Guides for non-residents are not required in Ontario.
We divided the covers into two destinations. The first destination was more mature forest with small coverts averaging maybe fifteen acres. The covers were near streams and consisted of thick alder runs. The first day we had several finds and flushes; however, the foliage was very thick and we were only able to get off one quick shot…and it was a miss.
A quick note about this first set of coverts. A mini-tornado went through the area the day before we arrived. Numerous trees were down across the access roads to this hunting area. However, a group of ATV enthusiasts had come in and cleared most of the back roads of downed trees and debris. Without their chainsaw work, we would have never been able to access the area.
We returned to the same area the second day, however, it rained all day and we only had one find. The third day we went to an entirely new area. We really liked this area. There was a very nice mix of early hardwood growth and pine. We had eight flushes in front of dog work in this area. With another day to explore, I’m sure we would have discovered new ways to hunt these coverts.
Here’s a short story about my 2 ½-year old Cordie. We were in a nice stand of popple when Cordie’s bell became much quieter. I worked my way toward her when I discovered she had gone down into a deep ravine. She was working a running grouse. She would track a few yards and then point. She would then relocate, track and point. I was actually hoping the bird would flush because I didn’t not want to go down into that ravine. On the third point, she remained steady. After a few minutes, I knew I had to go down and help her…she had the bird pinned. So, I slid on my butt, about 15 feet, into the ravine. It was extremely thick but I finally saw her orange skid plate through the brush. She had now been on point for a good five minutes. When I got within 20 feet of Cordie, the bird busted out with a great deal of noise; but I couldn’t see a feather and didn’t shoot. I was very proud of Cordie and told her so, however, I never want to climb out of a ravine like that again.
Susan and I have hunted grouse in Ontario seven times and have enjoyed all of our trips. Give it a try some time.
Our second short trip was to Sturtevant Pond Camps in Wilson Mills, Maine. Our main purpose was to see a group of friends who were staying at the camp but also hunt some very familiar grouse coverts. This again was only a three-day hunt. These camps are on the Maine-New Hampshire border but we hunt mostly New Hampshire when staying at Sturtevant Pond Camps. Although it’s been a few years since we’ve hunted this area, both Susan and I feel bird numbers are up this year. We had seven or eight flushes in front of the dogs each morning. The afternoons were spent searching for new coverts…which we never found. In the afternoons, we also visited with other hunters. One had 28 grouse flushes two days earlier, another had 21 woodcock flushes in a huge alder run and a young couple we met had shot six birds the day before. All signs of good bird numbers.
In the three days we were hunting from Sturtevant Pond Camps, we heard of three dogs being lost. We believe that all three were found, however, it points out the dangers of running dogs in the big woods. Susan and I encourage everyone to use a GPS collar system on your dog. It can save a great deal of heartache.
We’re off for our next hunt in just a few days. We’ll report on that trip in our next column.
Copyright 2018 Paul Fuller