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.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bonus Days!

In the 26 years I've bird hunting here in Northern New Hampshire, I have always considered any days we could run dogs in December as bonus days.  The earliest we've been shut of the woods was one year when it snowed about 10" on Veteran's Day and we didn't see bare ground again until well after the middle of April.  That was a long winter.  Another year it was well below zero every morning from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It's not that you can't find birds in the snow it's just that usually get a crust on early snow that is really hard on the dogs.  Other years we've been on bare ground right to the end of December.  Looking ahead at the 10 day forecast we've got both snow and cold coming our way next week. This week Tony I hunted Sunday, Wednesday, and today (Thursday).  Each day has been better then the previous one with relatively mild temperatures for the time of year which means above freezing.  Sunday and yesterday were both in the mid-30s and today the temperature topped out at 41.  All three days have been overcast and relatively calm giving the grouse a sense of security that they dog have on bluebird days or in the wind.  Number have been good but the birds that have survived to this point in the season are pretty well educated and usually flush far out ahead of the dog and rarely provide good shots.  That said, it's always exciting to hear the thunder of grouse.

Today, called for rain late in the afternoon and we only put three dogs on the truck.  All three dogs got into birds, but Wild Apple Samantha gave me the best shooting opportunities and I manage to knock down two for her.  Both were over staunch points where I was able to flush the birds before she broke.  Both times Tony was in perfect position but the birds flew my way.

Last year I was able to get a picture of Tony with a nice string of bucks.  This year the best we could do was find a meat pole with only a couple little bucks.

The deer Tony "claimed" last year.

This year's he could only find two! ;-)

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Perfect Cranberry Day

One of the most interesting aspects of grouse hunting is where you find them at different times during the season or even during the different hours of the day.  The first and last hunts of a day are usually the best for grouse as they feed before and after a night's roosting in a fir stand.  As the weather gets colder they have to feed more and can be caught out at just about anytime if you know where to hunt.  In early October we often find them in the raspberry canes that choke the old skid trails in many of the cuts we hunt.  This year we had a great mast crop and there was a two week period in the middle of October where the grouse were almost exclusively to be found where there were mature beech trees mixed in fairly recent regeneration.  We don't have too many old farm covers but you can also catch the birds concentrated in the apples once they ripen and begin falling.  After fruits and nuts,  it was winter ferns and cinquefoil along with some birds that had alder catkins and even raspberry buds in their crops.  As the season progressed the birds moved into the high bush cranberries and could be caught in them late in the day.  Here at the kennel you can usually see 3 or 4 grouse at either end of the day in a row of cranberry bushes I left on the edge of the lawn to the south of the house.  In the morning they arrive in the pre-sunrise light and fill their crops with berries then fly back into the softwood stand behind the house.  At night they are there just before sunset and on at least one occasion when we flushed them with a dog, they came back to finish eating within a few minutes.

Yesterday was a perfect Cranberry Day.  The first cover we hunted had no cranberries and we were only able to move three grouse, two of which came out of trees high over our heads.  The second cover had birds in it a couple weeks ago but was empty of grouse Sunday.  The third cover had cranberries in it and produced 8 grouse a bunch of five and then a bunch of three.  The last cover had cranberries but at first we didn't find any grouse.  After we got back to the truck we went a little further down the road, Sam jumped into the cover then locked up.  That's when all Hell broke loose and eventually six grouse flew out of an area with cranberries.  Heartened by that we went a little further down the road where the same scenario was repeated with another half-dozen grouse coming up one at a time in different directions in cover so thick you could hardly swing a gun.  One finally made a fatal error and gave me a shot.  The bird was hit pretty solidly and flew about fifty yard before dropping.  I had it marked and Sam came in and pointed the dead bird before I got to it.  Not a bad day, 23 grouse on the first of December with snow on the ground and a high temperature of about 35.  After that Tony and I made a list of the covers we have that have high bush cranberries in them.  A couple we haven't even been in this year, but we'll probably try them this week.

A couple of conclusions we can draw from this: one there are still a lot of birds around as we head into the winter, and 2, they should be in very good condition considering the mast crop this year.  The scientific literature suggests that in years of good mast crops the hens produce more eggs the following spring.  You can't have broods of 10 or 12 if the hens only lay 7 or 8 eggs which we believe was part of the reason for the decrease in birds this year over the last two.  that and a cold, wet spring combined for very low brood size.  Tony has already started whining about how we need to have a good nesting season to get back on track with our grouse numbers.  He thinks it works.