Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Good Day Woodcocking

Except for a brief but glorious sunny period of about an hour, today was about as cold and damp as yesterday. The pup and I went 400 yards to the end of the street to hunt woodcock around 3:30 p.m.

This is the same field in which my old American Water Spaniel and I learned together about woodcock back in 1994. The dogwood, hawthorn and arrowwood has been growing in severely. I did not hunt the old guy there at all in the last two years as I thought it too severe for him. But since the pup is full of energy and I, for a variety of reasons, want to hunt this field, we ranged slightly outside our old killing grounds and found, much to my surprise and delight, cover that looked just like that which greeted us 11 years ago.

The recent wet wind from the north must be working its magic. I saw 8 birds in just over 80 minutes. Some of them were instantly invisible behind towering dogwood bushes still 60% in leaf. Two of them, though, just skimmed the tops of the bushes as the pup boosted them, offering snap shots. It is great fun to watch him - he's 13 months old - literally figure out where the woodcock are and aren't. When the season opened, he was still chasing around in the grass, probably because of his training on pheasants. Now he scoots through the heart of the bushes, right where my old veteran would have gone. The pup does not "flash point," though, as the AWS did, so this whole thing is happening much faster than it used to. Coupled with me being an old pensioner, I fear I'll be wasting lots of shells over time.

Not today, though, as I went a crisp 2 for 2. I'm using the Rizzini "New Englander" in 20 ga wearing .000" and .005" tubes. In a move to simplify my inventory of shotshells, my only 20 ga load is Remington's STS Target Load in #8 lead. This load is universally available, has quality components as it is a target load, and features a very slick plastic hull, literally, which feeds well in autoloaders and pumps. I only use it as a target buster and small, close bird killer, roles for which its high antimony content shot is well suited.

The weather man is forecasting happier weather for the weekend, so the pup might have his first whack at grouse then. I am thinking of a treasured but smallish spot where we might also find a duck or two. I'll take the camera just in case.