Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Beautiful Day For Chasing Mid-Season Woodcock

I decided to stay home and hunt woodcock today rather than drive 95 miles southeasterly to hunt grouse. Late yesterday afternoon, a tornado warning was issued for grouse country, and I guessed that, tornado or not (it was “not”), the grouse might be a bit skittish this morning.
We enjoyed breakfast under a cloudless blue sky. A fresh southwest breeze waved the branches of trees still wearing more than a leaf or two. Gordie and I headed out at half past one and arrived at this field 5 minutes later.
Image Hosted by

I’m obviously not much of a photographer, but this snap gives a sense of the redbush meadows where I’ve been chasing woodcock since 1994. The dogwoods that were knee to waist high then are now 10 to 15 feet high. The immaculately maintained snow sled lanes running through them then are now overgrown and rutted badly from ATVs. Successful shooting over Gordie is a lot more difficult than it was over Bean, my curmudgeonly American Water Spaniel.
Still, there’s something to say for being into birds in 5 minutes, even if the sharp sticks poking at my eyes get thicker every year. And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m delighted to hunt in places where I have some history.
We had good luck today. I shot 4 times at 6 birds that gave us 7 flushes. I convinced a brace of woodcock to accept my invitation to tomorrow’s dinner. The sun was beaming down so brightly when I photographed today’s first bird that my orange vest bled to yellow in the photo. The Prince of Wales grip on my 20 gauge Cole Custom has been a delight both when carrying and shooting.
Image Hosted by
I decided to try one more spot, the field at the end of my street. If my Big Field Covert is growing up, then my End of Street Covert is almost completely overgrown. The first time I walked into this field in 1994, the pines in the snap below were about 8 feet tall. The area within 30 yards radius of those pines was a genuine hotspot. These pines are more than 40 feet tall today, and I got torn up when I dithered into the now-gone hotspot around them two years ago.
Image Hosted by
When I saw those pines today, it reminded me of an anecdote I’d read concerning Sam Snead. Balls, Sticks & Stuff tells the story nicely:.
“There's a story often told about an elderly Sam Snead, playing at Augusta National in a practice round prior to the Masters.  He was playing with a much younger player who could really crank the ball out there off the tee.
Most of the way around, the younger player asked Snead for advice on how to play the tricky Augusta National course and Snead was more than happy to oblige, his Southern hospitality ingrained in the mountains of Virginia was too reflexive not to do so.
As the two stood on the 13th tee, a par-five dogleg left around tall Georgia pines and Rae's Creek, Snead offered this peace of advice.  ‘You know, when I was your age, I used to just take a driver and hit it high up and over those trees.’  The younger player had the honor, so he addressed the ball with his driver, took a mighty cut, and the ball sailed into the trees, hitting the pines only about halfway up their trunks.
The younger player looked bewildered and Snead followed-up.  ‘Of course, when I was your age, those trees were much shorter.’"
I’ll have to snooker Patrick like that the next time he and I chase birds at the end of the street.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

My 20 Gauge Beretta Cole Custom With Prince Of Wales Grip

Crank up the volume and fire up this Johnny Cash classic. Then scroll down to read why, just like John, "I'll have the only one there is around."
I started messing around with O/Us in 1994. The first one I handled was a 20 gauge field grade Citori. I liked the gun generally, and very much liked its rounded semi-pistol grip. For some reason, I didn’t buy one, and I don’t remember exactly what I bought instead. But it didn’t stay in the safe long, and its sale started a long and expensive education in shotgun swapping.
Since then, I’ve learned that the Citori’s grip is one of several that’re promiscuously designated as “Prince of Wales" grips. I’ve done a bit of homework on the subject, and blogged the results in Cold Duck in January, 2009. Quite a few gunners are apparently interested in the “PoW grip” as it’s sometimes abbreviated. The little netspy that tells me who is googling what parts of Cold Duck reveals that the PoW article gets pinged more than any other. Well, except for this, which is a hotly queried question from Cheyenne through Cape Town to Calcutta. Go figure. No, really.
When I saw a lovely Woodward-style PoW grip pictured on a Rich Cole Custom Beretta, I was absolutely smitten. So in June I traveled to Cole’s shop in Harpswell, ME to get measured for a 20 gauge 686. I’m delighted to introduce the little beauty that Rich has built for me.
Image Hosted by
The snap above shows why this Cole Beretta is a “Custom.” The PoW grip, black receiver with gold lettering, “field” forearm and black recoil pad that I’d specified are clearly visible. If I say so myself, the walnut ain’t bad looking, either.
The tactile sensation of this PoW grip is sinfully delicious! Very nice work, Rich.
Image Hosted by
The snap above very clearly highlights the PoW grip.

Image Hosted by
The snap above shows Gordie wondering why he’s making faces for the camera while there’s still daylight left on woodcock's opening day.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The 2010 Woodcock Opener In Western NY

Dismal morning rains set me to working on my HoneyDo List. But by the time I’d cleared the dishes from a light lunch, only spotty light showers remained. Gordie and I jumped into the car at 1:30, and 10 minutes later I was locked and loaded and he was quartering across a long-familiar trail. He flushed the first bird of the season maybe 3 minutes later. He reflushed it 2 minutes later, and reflushed it again after another 2 minutes.
We had a ball. In about an hour and a quarter, Gordie flushed 4 different birds a total of 7 times. Fifteen years ago, I’d have had a 50-50 chance of bringing home a limit over young Bean with such a flush count. But this covert has gotten really thick over time.  Today I didn’t get to pull the trigger once.
Tomorrow I may try the same spot - I was, as usual, the only hunter afield - or another spot even closer to home. The weather is expected to clear. We’ll have a ball again, for sure. If Artemis is willing, I’ll get to reward his hard work with a taste of feathers.