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Rough weather cuts into successful bird camp

Rough weather cuts into successful bird camp Rough weather cuts into successful bird camp

On the third Sunday of this month, a couple hundred yards down the first trail I walked, I came across the first scrape I encountered this year. Maybe it’s a bit late, but not much. It’s usually about this time, give or take a few days, that I run into that first scrape. It wasn’t a big scrape and it wasn’t very clean, but it was a scrape.

I doubt we spooked the buck off the scrape. We were way late for that first cover of the first official day of grouse camp. I saw no scrapes the day before while running a friend’s dogs, which had been cooped up in dog crates traveling from Philadelphia, Penn. And we weren’t really worried about scrapes or the rut. Grouse and woodcock pointed by well-trained dogs; good friends and laughs; good food and drink — those are the things our camp is about.

My partner and I didn’t move a single bird in that first covert. Across the road his son and our friend from Philly, Fuess, moved some birds and bagged a woodcock. We were hunting about 40 minutes from the camp and decided to just head back, get settled in and hunt the late afternoon. We all encountered birds and bagged some on the next couple of coverts around camp. The others hunters we met at the cabin also bagged some.

Monday was another stellar day in the coverts. We moved grouse and woodcock in every covert we entered, although my partner and I moved all our birds out of fir stands and bagged no birds in the morning. You kill upland gamebirds with your feet. The more ground you cover, the more birds you encounter, and eventually, you will be offered a quality opportunity.

My partner Clyde connected twice in the first covert of the afternoon after a scouting drive to rest my worn out knees. He connected again in the last covert of the day. I fired off a couple volleys of Hail Mary’s which drew no feathers.

Back at camp, the others did well too. Nothing to write home to mom about for grouse numbers, but a whole lot better than the last many years. And we were seeing some woodcock flights.

The forecast for the week changed a bit. The predicted temps dropped and what was supposed to be snow/rain mix turning to rain was now predicted as snow with accumulation. Instead of coming through late in the afternoon on Tuesday, it started by noon. We found and bagged some birds Tuesday morning. We hit the first covert as early as we dared on a two mile loop where we didn’t encounter a single bird until the last quarter mile when we moved four woodcock. By noon we had hit four coverts and moved over 12 grouse and about 16 woodcock. The fine snow started falling before we entered the last covert, a 20-minute hunt. By the time we made it back to camp the snow was already accumulating. The dogs were dry when we put them up, and the snow was falling hard enough that we couldn’t see very far outside the window. We were supposed to get about two to three inches, but by 4 p.m., we already had over four. Out hunting for the rest of the week had been changed.

Wednesday morning had snow and slush falling off of trees. We waited until about 11 to head out and found extremely moist woods. We found some woodcock but moved no grouse.

Thursday morning the birds were still in trees and again by noon the wet snow fell so hard that we had to hole up. It never did let up. We hoped that the birds would move and head back to the ground Friday morning. They didn’t. We found a few straggling woodcock.

We hunted hard until we had to pull the pin and head for home. In a camp over 20 years old, we hunted through the most challenging weather conditions we had ever seen. The camp would have been pretty successful game bag-wise if the weather would have avoided us.

We hunted hard, the dogs ran well, we found birds, laughed hard, ate like kings, and slept hard. It’s always a highlight of the year for all of us. And we believe it or not much of the planning for next year’s camp is already done.