|What a Grouse Season!
2011 produced the most Grouse we've seen in the Rangeley area in the last
seven years. Large family groups were found foraging on a bumper crop of
Beechnuts, Mountain Ash and most other soft mast crops which presented
multiple opportunities for our dogs and hunters alike.
This was a great season to be starting a young dog as plenty of first year birds
held tight and really got the puppies going. I had the privilege of training a
young French Brittany named Carl for his owner, Jack Stoker of Flint,
Michigan. Carl really started to put it together on Woodcock during spring
training and was ready to make the most of the Fall Hunting season. His
relentless application was rewarded daily with multiple finds on Grouse and
plenty of chances to hunt dead.
Our finished dogs, Joy and Dan really carried the mail and made a bunch of
memories for us. We retired our ten year old Brittany, Jack this season as the
arthritis in his shoulder caused him too much pain even though he was still
willing. Late one Saturday afternoon at the end of the second week, I took
him out for one last short hunt with Bill Brundage from Troy, NY. We hunted
a hillside that was loaded with Mountain Ash. I had Bill positioned at the
bottom of the hill as Jack and I moved across the slope. Jack pointed into a
blow down. As I moved up, the grouse flushed down across the hill and gave
Bill a very fast crossing shot. I saw Bill swing his sweet English twelve gauge
double and crumple the bird. Jack and I went down and Jack picked it up and
we made our way back up the hill. Fifty yards along the ridge had Jack
standing like a statue. I moved above him and another Grouse exploded and
predictably flew down the hill at full speed. Bill was feeling it and his smooth
swing folded the bird which was a big mature cock bird. After Jack located the
bird, I presented it to Bill and started to make my way back up the slope when
he said, “Let's call it a day. I want to savor the sight of those birds blasting off
the hill. Jack's last hunt has given me a wonderful memory to cherish.”
On Tuesday of the third week, I was guiding Carl and Debbie Johnson, and we
were into the birds. Carl shot both his limit of Grouse and Woodcock and both
the dog work and shooting were superb. Carl shot his last Grouse late in the
day and we made our way back to the rig as the shadows got long. The feeling
of satisfaction and pride that goes along with the camaraderie and
sportsmanship seemed to overwhelm me. Our last guest of the season was
long time hunting companion, Weaver Barksdale from Tennessee. Weaver
and I started out on Wednesday morning and put down in some five year old
maple whips high on a steep clear cut. The Woodcock weren't in there big
time but we had some fancy shooting on the low flying birds. After lunch we
moved into some mixed growth. My Pointer Danny, locked up on a Grouse
that didn't give us a chance and then a Woodcock that threw us a knuckleball.
We moved into a Beech grove where Danny pointed hard and a Grouse blew
out giving Weaver a hard right to left chance. The bird was out there almost
30 yards when Weaver's 20 gauge Fox spoke with authority and the bird folded
with a broken wing. As soon as I released Dan to find the bird, another one
got up behind me and I saw a pile of feathers as Weaver shot. Danny caught
up to the first bird about 20 yards from where it went down. I expected to find
the second one where it dropped, but Dan came up with it about 30 yards into
the chopping. Once again, I felt privileged to be there when a classy dog points
the King of the Game Birds as it's harvested with a classic little gun which finds
its target in skilled hands.
A New England outdoor author named Frank Woolner once wrote that it's not
the number of birds you kill that matters, it's the ones you remember. Well,
this season we both made a lot of memories and shot a bunch of birds. The
Rangeley Region can produce a phenomenal number of birds given the right
nesting conditions in the spring. Last year we had a great hatch. If we have
good conditions next season with the amount of birds that will winter over, it
could be one of those banner years. I sure hope so!
The only drawback to the season was that last Fall was unseasonably warm
with just a couple of mild frosts during the entire month of October. This had
a negative effect on both the movement of the Woodcock and the Grouse
activity. The leaves stubbornly held on until mid way through the second week
of the season which caused a lot of problems hitting the elusive Grouse.
Hunting out of Grant's Kennebago Camps just couldn't be better. It provides
rustic yet elegant lodging and dining in a spectacular setting. Very comfortable
cabins on the shores of Kennebago Lake and sumptuous meals are served in a
dining room filled with fellow bird hunters, making for some very special times.
If you’ve thought about coming up to Maine to hunt Grouse this should be a
good year to give it a try. I have one or two openings and my friend Steve
Smith could guide a couple of parties. If you have your own dog and would
like to come up to Grants and hunt on your own we’ll show you where to
hunt and help you as much as we can. If either of these options are of interest
please give me a call and I can fill you in on the details. I’m looking forward to
sharing this special time of year in a great place with both some old hunting
pals and new Grouse hunters.
|The month of October is devoted to
guiding Grouse and Woodcock hunters
at Grant's Camps on Kennebago Lake
near Rangeley, Maine.