One last hunt, on the last day of the season. It started with one old dog, and one young, full of promise. It finished with only a young dog, now matured into a seasoned pro. Another fall with spectacular highlights and an occasional downer. No two seasons are quite the same, as 2016 proved.
Observations from my boots on the ground
The season started unseasonably warm. The previous month of August was reported the warmest on record around the world. I kept waiting for the first frost to knock down the leaves and weeds, offering clear visibility of my dogs and game to shoot. I waited. And waited. And waited. Even the first weekend of November, sitting on my deerstand, recorded temps in the 70’s. Remarkable. It makes for tough hunting, hard on dogs to find scent and hard to get off trail into the thickness.
A Season of Woodcock
This was the year of woodcock in my neck of the woods. Right from the start, I had great flush numbers. No waiting for the flight birds this year, my covers were full of the little fellows. I hunted some new covers and likely many birds were native Minnesotans. Still it was remarkable numbers of birds. Usually the flight coming in is abrupt- one day the covers are empty, the next they are full of woodcock. This year I couldn’t tell when the flight even came in, I had good birds all season long.
A Ruffed Grouse Puzzle
Ruffed Grouse on the other hand, were not as populous as I expected. One observation is that they weren’t along the trails as much as usual. And with the warm fall, we spend more time on trail than other years. Overall, though bird flushes weren’t as numerous, birds in the bag were greater than my usual shooting obtains. Perhaps it is the result of more time on the skeet range, or it is the result of more cross-trail flushes from a springer than my Brittany provides. Either way I’m happy with our bag.
A Season of Winter
December, the last month of the season, brought the heartbreak of Maggie’s passing. I took some time off from the hunt, it just didn’t feel right getting back out there. Thirteen years is a long time to share the hunt with a dog. A few months ago in October, Maggie was still hunting it up, slower than usual but still making game. Now it’s just me and Levi, and we got out later that month. We had a nice hunt in the snow and moved a few birds.
One season ends, and another begins.
By Joel Schnell
Posted January 7, 2017.
Joel Schnell is publisher of www.ruffedgrouseminnesota.com
He can be reached at info[at]ruffedgrouseminnesota.com