After spending two weeks in British Columbia chasing moose and black bear, then coming home just in time to judge a field trial in New York, followed by a trip to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to compete in a field trial, the time had come for some local bird hunting over the dogs. The weather had been cold, windy and a bit snowy for mid-October which means the woodcock must have begun the migration. The Minnesota pheasant opener seemed like a good day to chase some woodcock and grouse; apparently the rest of the Minnesota population felt the same for there was a lot of people that seemed to have discovered my "secret" spot.
With the added volume of people, I was going to have to be savvier about where the cockers and I hunted.
It was just about noon when we found a small river with some scattered brush and new poplar growth. It was on a logged-off section and was not real thick, but could hold a woodcock or two. And if nothing else, at least I could get a dog stretched from the two-hour drive.
Yasmin leaped from the truck with her signature "snort" then she bounced off my chest - much as a teenager uses a skate board ramp to flip around on. It is her way of saying, "Hey! Pay me some attention." I uncased the 20-gauge Browning Citori and we were ready to go.
We walked only fifty yards into the woodlot when a woodcock cleared the eight-foot high poplar growth. I was not really prepared for this - nor was Yasmin. However, after two shots, I dropped the bird and Yasmin made the retrieve. We walked no more than twenty yards and flushed another that took one shot. The cocker and I walked just twenty more yards when a third woodcock above the short canopy fell with a single shot from the Citori.
My first day of hunting back in my home state of Minnesota lead to three birds in twenty-five minutes, four shells and a cocker that was spot on flushing and recovering a limit of woodcock. What to do next? Grab another cocker, Edge, and find some grouse.
The grouse proved to be a bit harder to find. Edge flushed another ten woodcock, which was great practice for his steadiness, before we found our first grouse. I missed the bird but the flush was a start. Edge and I moved to different locations. Soon we found ourselves in a hot spot for grouse where I shot half a box of shells... with no downed birds. The count included a crossing left to right shot where a tree stunned my swing, a left to right coming into me shot where a tree received most of my load of #6 shot and the rest were just misses.
It was getting late in the day. I wanted to hit a pheasant haunt on the way home. Since Edge had not had a retrieve all day, I felt he deserved one if we could find a rooster. We hit the fields at a hidden pheasant haunt and luckily found that one elusive rooster. Edge got his retrieve. I did not get the tri-fecta. But who can complain when spending a day in the woods and fields with a good spaniel or two that do their job of finding the birds and retrieving what is shot? Not me...
Go enjoy some time in a field with a spaniel today,
Roettger Ridge Kennels
Co-Author of Urban Gun Dogs
My next article for the next Spaniel Journal will be the tribulations of educating a southern boy on what grouse and woodcock hunting is about.