Friday, November 07, 2008

A Falls Of Woodcock

"Bean" the American Water Spaniel and I brought our first woodcock home from Corky’s Covert on October 10, 1994. Over time, we really came to love that ground. Not only was it a magnet for flight birds; but it also had the cool feature of a clear if distant view of Niagara Falls. As time marched on, the dogwood cover changed as did land use by resident neighbors. It's probably needless to say that neither of these developments improved the hunting. Sadly, we haven’t chased woodcock at Corky's for several years now.

So when my friend Jim S. recently invited Gordie and me to hunt woodcock on land near Corky’s, we were delighted. We visited the property behind Walt’s house around 3 p. m. in the final week of the 2008 season. I immediately recognized the cover that I’d learned to love almost 15 years earlier. Much of the dogwood was only waist to head high, offering the luxury of a second shot at birds whiffed with the first barrel.

The Niagara Falls Skyline From Walt’s
Not that the birds were easy, mind. We burned through some powder before we, ahem, warmed up our gun mounting techniques. But the woodcock were in, and Gordie had a ball rousting them up for us into the crisp blue sky.

One bird that we saluted flew over a barbed wire perimeter and came down inside in a small dogwood patch. Jim knew where a hole in the fence might get us an opportunity to reflush this possibly nicked bird. Moments later, we passed several large concrete slabs covering the ground. I asked Jim, and he confirmed the nature of these slabs: we were hunting on the grounds of an old Nike base. For those too young to remember, Nikes were a system of defensive missiles buried in communities here and there in the 1950’s and 60’s. If you’d like, you can read a bit about that history here. I enjoyed the irony of happily hunting wild birds in an attractive covert on the site of a Cold War icon.

Jim In Long Shadows At The Perimeter
Did Ike Like Nikes? Absolutely!
Cold War High Tech
It’s always terrific to find a cover that is a cracker jack replacement for one that’s been lost. Now that woodcock season has ended, I’ll scout it thoroughly over the snowy season to be ready to walk up the best spots come next October.

Jim is throwing a small dinner party tonight, featuring woodcock we’ve shot and the backstrap of a deer he arrowed. I got off easy, and only have to bring the wine. It sounds like a good time!

Gordie Clearly Relishing 3 Yummy Woodcock

Saturday morning addendum:

When I guessed that we'd have "a good time" Friday, I grossly underestimated the excellent table that Jim and Laurie would set for us last night. Read the menu and drool:
  • jalapeno and banana peppers sauteed with prosciutto, Parmesan and aromatics and served with chunks of bread;
  • sauteed chopped woodcock heart and liver over croutons warmed in a skillet of garlic butter;
  • plucked and roasted woodcock, done rare;
  • backstrap and other cuts of venison, done rare. Cherries in a thin glaze, for spooning over the venison, simmered in a pan nearby;
  • diced goose breast in a cream sauce, served over spaetzle;
  • green salad featuring raspberries and grapefruit;
  • big, dry red wine;
  • pumpkin tarts under whipped cream; and
  • Zaya, a 12 year old rum from Trinidad, served neat in Irish crystal.
I'm eager to let Gordie help Jim get some mallards and a pheasant or two, maybe even a rabbit. Whatever Jim wants. I can't wait to taste what surprises he'll cook up next time.