October 5, 2001
The phone rang at 8:30PM last night. It was Jerry, he's home. Thank God. Truly a member of the unsung heroes of this country. A true Patriot, a True American, a God Dam Hero. So glad he's home. He was more astonished at Max's story than he was of his own. It's nice to know Bin laden's days are numbered, as is a lot of those fools.
Now for today's story. I drop Gabby off at school at 7:20AM and zip up to Sanford ME. It's amazing how close we are to Maine. It's obvious that we need to get both licenses.
I pull up to George's Brother-in-law's (Billy) house at 8:00AM. We greet one another and immediately head off back down Sam Allen road. I'm following them in my jeep. With nary a 1/4 of a mile under our belt we sneak off into a very public dirt road. Turns out it's the same road that Max and I hunted last December. Actually, Max was just tagging along. You remember that hunt. The coyote and the Big Buck story. Any ways George is going very deep into these woods. Both my mirrors have snapped back and George's Explorer has hit bottom twice that I could see. Man this is sketchy at best. Turns out neither one has been back in there for 4 years. And these are my guides?
Finally we stop because we can't go any further. "Is this the spot?" I ask looking for good bird cover. I don't see any. "Yea, I guess." George answers. "You guess?" I think to myself. "I was looking for a clearing and we may have driven by it. "We did, it's back there about a mile. I hunted there with my son last year." I point out to him. "Well, let's see what we run into." I say as we unload and get our gear in order. I give a brief course on pointing dogs because neither one has ever hunted with a pointing dog before. George speaks up after my simple instructions. "I checked the rules and we're allowed 4 birds a piece". "Yea well, that's wishful thinking at best. I really don't see good cover and quite frankly, each of us getting 4 birds a piece by 11:00AM is nearly impossible." George has to leave by 11:00. "Let's try for one at a time." I say.
Off we go into the unknown. It's too dry and too wide open the first 300 yards or so. Both of these guys are dressed like it's mid-November. Not me. T-shirt, light weight vest, my light brush busters, I'm dressed for speed and hot weather. Both of them start heating up and it's not long before they start sweating. We finally come into what looks like good bird cover and I speak up. "This looks better." I say, and just as I do I spot Gunny get birdy and stop. Before I can say anything a Big Grouse gets up. I can't see it at first and then about 40-50 yards away I get a window. The bird is perfectly silhouetted against the morning sky. I fire twice and keeping with tradition I miss. A bunch of leaves fall but the bird keeps going. "Did you get him Ralph?" George yells.
"Nope." I answer, but I think I know where he went. The image of that bird was beautiful. It was that typical side view that we've seen so many times before in drawings and paintings. The classic Grouse flight. Just to appease myself I do a thorough search, just in case. I did not find anything. We continue the hunt, and end up finding good cover with good food source but it's just too dam hot. The heat makes for bad scenting conditions. The poor dogs are heating up. Despite the lack of bird contact both George and Billy are fascinated by the dogs and how they work. The heat takes it's toll on George and so does the clock. Before you know it it's time to stop. We had two unproductive points that turned up nothing, but overall these to Mainers were impressed with Gunny and Scout and can't wait to do it again.
Back at Billys we drink a cup of Coffee and George takes me to another spot on Rte 4. Pointing out an old tote road I drive in as George drives off. It's now 11:30AM and it is hot. We hunt for two hours and don't find anything but a couple of errant chipmunks. I run into two business men who are out for a daily stroll. "We jump Partridge in here all the time. We jumped two yesterday." They say. "Really? Where?" I ask. "Right there". they point to this little bend in the trail. Although I did not find a bird in there, I did make a mental note that this is worth coming back for.
Time to head home. Or rather to Dover. Howie said last night that they'll more than likely stock Dover today. Howie was right again. I pulled up and there was only 3 vehicles. And one of the vehicles was a guy without a dog. It's 2:30 and just as I let the dogs loose I hear a cackle in the cornfield nest to the parking lot. Both dogs look over at me as if to say"You heard that didn't you?." I smiled and said "Yes I did boys. Yes I did." We get to the cornfield and Gunny heads into the standing corn. Then...Gunny's beeper goes off. A few seconds pass and then a Big Rooster gets up and I nail it with one shot. He drops about 10 feet from me.Flapping around on the ground I grab the bird and quickly dispatch it. "That was quick." I say to both dogs. Now circling around the cornfield Scout gets real birdy over by the head high sumac. Suddenly Scout's beeper is going off! I rush over thinking the young dog has a pheasant. But no. It's a Woodcock! Gunny comes up and honors Scout's point. And what am I doing? Watching in amazement with a camera in my hand NOT taking pictures. Are you kidding me? Scout's first Woodie point of the season and I blew it. The tiny bird gets up whirring off into woodie land. I congratulate Scout and we move down the corn rows. Then it happens again. Scout or Gunny gets birdy, real birdy and then suddenly another Big Rooster gets up cackling. I aim and shoot once and the bird drops. Two shots two birds. How is it that I see 6 birds yesterday and only get one? While today I'm two for two with one shot each. Crazy. As I head back to the parking lot I see another car or two but still not bad. I'm thinking about the morning. Tomorrow is opening day for Woodcock. It's suppose to rain...but who cares.
This is New England and starting tomorrow we can shoot all three of our favorite birds.
So there you have it. On Day 3 of the 2001 season, we have 5 birds in the freezer. That's a bird a day. Anyone free this weekend? Speak up if you are.
May the Grouse, Pheasant and now Woodcock be with you.