Wild Apple Kennel and Guide Service

Wild Apple Kennel and Guide Service
The 2007 Grand National Grouse Champion, Winner 2008 Northern New England Woodcock Championship, Winner 2010 Lake States Grouse Championship, Runner-up 2011 Northeast Grouse and Woodcock Championship, Winner 2011 International Amateur Woodcock Championship, Winner 2012 Southern New England Woodcock Championship

Wild Apple Kennel Training Blog

This blog will try to present a running account of the training and field trialing season for the pointers of Wild Apple Kennel. NOW ACCEPTING BOOKINGS FOR THE 2015 GROUSE AND WOODCOCK SEASON WITH WILD APPLE KENNEL GUIDE SERVICE! PHONE NUMBERS 603-449-3419 OR CELL 603-381-8763.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Perfect Hunting Weather

The Windmills were partially obscured by the low grey sky.
Finally a perfect fall day for bird hunting.  The temperature hovered in the mid-40s, the sky was angry gray clouds hanging on the mountain tops and it spit snow off and on.  We pulled into our first cover followed by a game warden who did a quick license check.  We told him we were grouse hunting as most of the woodcock were gone.  We found a number of grouse but the late flights of male woodcock were around in pretty good numbers.  G III ran in the first cover and didn't get anything pointed but we did hear a couple of grouse flush.  

Then we ran Jack.  It was interesting as we ran him a rather dense clearcut where the new growth is only 8 to 10 feet tall and quite dense.  The birds just wouldn't fly and ran like devils.  On a couple of the birds Jack pointed it took as many as five relocations to finally get them pinned and then they flushed low not really offering anything in the way of decent shots.  The grouse kept taking us deeper and deeper into the cut and when we finally check the GPS to see where we were we had slipped over a ridge and were 989 yards from the truck.  Along the way back we finally found a dumb grouse and killed it.  We also found a couple of woodcock one of which Tony shot.  By the time we got back to the truck Jack had 7 grouse finds and the 2 woodcock.  Trash was next out of the truck and she had a couple more woodcock finds and I knocked one down for her.  It was finally LJ turn and we put him down in what we have decided to call the dumb grouse cover.  It's the same place we ran Trash on Thursday and had that tight sitting grouse that Tommy shot for her.  LJ started out with a nonproductive then went on to point five woodcock and we killed 3 of them.  It really isn't fair when they are laying in the pole timber on wet hillsides.  LJ's last find was really exciting as I saw him turn into the birds and stop.  When we got to him a grouse blew out above and behind him, but he didn't move.  Then he put his head down into the raspberries and a grouse came boiling out.  I rushed the first shot and without Tommy to back me up and Tony on the wrong side of me and the dog, I bore down and made the second shot count at about 30 yards.  The picture below shows the day's birds.  Big Thudd and the elusive Kathy are on route as I write this.  The woodcock have been filleted and will be pan seared then I'll make a bourbon reduction sauce and serve them for appetizers.

I got disturbing word from the GM of the Stokely Grouse Camp.  The Great Carnoski departed last week to prepare for the hurricane down in the flat lands of Massachusetts.  Since the hurricane missed Massachusetts and he has not reported back to camp he is in jeopardy of being cut from the team for the rest of the season.
We shot two grouse and five woodcock today.  All the woodcock were males which means they are the late flight birds.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Three Dog Day

Those of you old enough to remember the band "Three Dog Night" probably get the pun intended in today's title.  FOr the rest of you today I needed some time this afternoon to run a few errands so we only ran three dogs -- Little Thuddy, LJ, and Frankie.  Since it was a half day we only moved 16 grouse and one woodcock.  The Little Thudster was first out of the box in the 100 Bird Cover.  We had hoped that since the southerly winds from Sandy had finally abated we would find a few flight birds.  Turned out the 100 Bird Cover only had one Woodcock which the Thudster pointed and we killed.  Tony thought I shot it but I fessed up -- it was already pretty well on the way to dead when I pulled the trigger and puffed it.  Although there was only one woodcock we had two grouse flush wild on us and Little Thuddy nailed a third.  It came out of a fur tree directly over my head and I was only able to give it a one gun salute as it flew away unscathed.

LJ was next up in the Dead Tree Cover and had a really good run.  He pointed the first grouse within 150 yards of the truck and we went on to move a dozen.  These birds have been shot at before and were getting up well out range, behind the dog, and/or running before they flushed on the second or third relocation.  These tough birds are frustrating from a shooting stand point but great learning experiences for a young like LJ who will be 18 months old this weekend.  There was one dumb one that he slammed into point on.  It tried to escape on foot and came right towards me -- then did a u-turn and ran back in front of the dog in clear view of me and the dog.  It was about 25 feet away from the dog when I swatted it -- I wouldn't have done that with Jack or any of our other broke dogs but for a youngster it only increases the fire.

Frankie looks better every time down and today ran in the Secret Cover.  He's starting to reach out again to the end of bell range with almost the same foot speed he had before his crash and the animation that makes him so exciting to watch.  He nailed a grouse about 75 yards from us but the bird flushed when we were still 30 yards away and neither Tony nor I saw it.  Frankie did and chased it with enthusiasm.  We heard another bird go well out in front of both us and Frankie and that was it for the day.  Although now that the errands are done, we might take Trip out for a run.  Last night she pointed two grouse on the Home Course at the end of the day.


Ran Trip up in the Orchard and we moved four grouse and a woodcock.  I hope the woodcock had not bought a round trip ticket south because Dummer was the end of the line.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Post Sandy Grouse Hunting

Fortunately we missed Sandy here in the North Country.  We got some wind and have a few trees down around the Home Cover but nothing serious.  I hope the rest of you are safe and weathered the storm.  We took Monday and Tuesday off and Wednesdays I teach so today was the first time I've been out since Sunday.  Tommy took Tony and I to some new spots and we had a very good day.  We ran five dogs and everyone had at least two good pieces of grouse work.  On many of the finds we had multiple birds.  We ended up with a total of 27 grouse and one woodcock moved.  The woodcock was a big hen and we got into one spot where there was a lot of splash where a small group of flight birds had probably spent last night.  I would imagine there are still birds to our North but this time of the season they don't hang around for very long.  Our major flight activity is past.

We had one really dumb grouse today.  Most of the birds flushed well out of gun range and more than one circled up behind the dog before flushing.  The dumb one was pointed by Trash in open hardwoods.  When we went in front of her and nothing got up Tony tapped her on the head and she moved up about four steps and locked up again.  Tony and I were both thinking woodcock when a grouse that had been hunkered down at the base of a tree exploded out and went right to left.  I was behind it but still managed to knock a few feathers off.  Before I caught up with the second barrel Tommy folded it.  Trash is one of those birds who likes to mark the dead birds and was on it in a flash. However, she doesn't quite have the retrieve part of things down yet and tried to sneak away with the bird.

More grouse hunting tomorrow and then Big Thudd will be back up for the weekend.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Making Grouse Dogs

It's been a busy three days.  Tommy and I hunted on Friday as the temperatures climbed into the low 70s which is very unusual for October in Northern New Hampshire.  We started off with Wild Apple Jack in a cover that we hadn't been to this season and it showed just how different this year is.  In a normal year this cover is good for double digit grouse numbers as it has been managed and is just loaded with food sources.  But like most of the Norther Forest grouse habitat there is very little mast crop this year -- very few apples, almost no high-bush cranberries, no beechnuts, no mountain ash berries, there's acorns but this the very end of the oaks range and there are only isolated pockets of oak. So, the cover we ran first thing Friday morning is not easy to get to.  It's behind a locked gate on a road that is starting to grow in.  We moved about a half dozen grouse and two woodcock and Tommy got one of each and we didn't get much in the way of shots at the other birds.  Jack will be nine this winter and showed on Friday that he is still the penultimate grouse dog.  He had all the birds accurately pointed and held them for us sometimes having to move up as we were going to him to stay in contact with running birds and ultimately pinning them.  He did the same exact thing on Sunday morning  when I was hunting with Tony and Big Thudd.  The cover I ran him in on Sunday  had been hit a couple of times by Tony with limited results but it is a cover where Jack always seems to dig out some birds.  He found seven grouse and a woodcock with one grouse flushing on its own.  On Friday we also ran Veronica, LJ, and Trip.  Veronica and Trip got the short end of the draw with covers that looked good but didn't hold any birds.  LJ drew one of our few oak covers and had a stop to flush on a grouse before we even had shells in our guns.  He then went on to dig out two grouse in tough conditions.  The oak stand showed the signs of bears feeding heavily on the acorns.

Friday afternoon Thudd and his friends Dave and Sherry from Michigan showed up for the evening hunt on the Home Cover.  They had been out with Tony for the day and moved a lot of grouse and shot a few.  Thudd cut Rigby loose and then a couple of the house grouse were in the cranberries and they blew out before she could get them pointed.  She went on to have four woodcock and a couple more grouse finds and we had to cut back through the woods to the house as it was getting late and none of us brought a headlamp -- although there may be one somewhere in the twenty pounds of gear Thudd has stuffed into his hunting vest.  After the hunt it was steaks and libations.  Saturday morning Dave wanted to hunt till noon and then head home for Michigan.  We did a hunt with Thuddy where we moved 8 grouse and a woodcock.  Then we took Dave's Brittany across the river to a cover that has been fairly productive but we only moved two grouse and three woodcock.  It was getting warm and time was short so I ran LJ in cover along the power line and he went birdless in tough scenting conditions.  After seeing Dave and Sherry off, Thuddy and I head north for lunch and a little cover scouting.  About 3:30 it had cooled down into the mid-60s and we ran Trip and Rigby in one of the spots we had scouted.  We walked up a grouse with Trip and like the cover we saw.  We then cut Rigby loose and moved a half dozen grouse and a woodcock.

Sunday it was Tony, Thudd, and I with a whole truck load of dogs.  We each had two -- Tony had Frankie and Trash, Thudd had Rigby and the Little Thudd, and I had Jack and LJ.  Running six dogs one at a time, and all of them except Frankie ran for at least an hour, makes for a very full day.  It also means that we are hopefully move a lot of birds.  As it turned out we moved about 30 grouse and a few woodcock.

But here's the point I wanted to make.  On various message boards you often see threads about "what makes a grouse dog?" In my mind they are genetics, shoe leather, and most important grouse.  Four of the dogs on the truck yesterday are under two years of age -- fall derbies --  Little Thuddy, Trash and LJ all had multiple opportunities on grouse yesterday.  Frankie is still on limited duty and got a short run in cover that didn't have any birds yesterday.  But the other three all had 6 or more grouse contacts each and LJ dug out a couple of woodcock as well.  Some they pointed, some ran away from them, some got bumped but it was all invaluable experience for these young dogs.  All three have seen hundreds of wild birds in their short lives and they are learning.  The most important thing they have learned is where to find them.  All of these dogs are allowed to range out to the front in search of birds. Some want a grouse dog that stays close -- within gun range -- what they really should have is a spaniel.  Dogs that are allowed to range out are likely to find more grouse and get to them before the grouse spooks from the human noise.  It is not unusual for these young dogs to find birds at over 100 yards away and hold them until we get there.  Every bird is a learning experience and they have the great luck of having been born when we've had two good grouse years in a row.  The lack of mast crop this fall may have an impact on next spring's brood size.  However, with the number of birds around at the end of October we should still have a good population of nesting birds next spring and we will be able to finish this crop of derbies and get the new puppies we're expecting a jump start on becoming great grouse dogs.