We miss Maine. New York has been better than I thought it would be, but after our roadtrip this past weekend we got the hankerings to go back. Whether we can act on those hankerings is another thing altogether.
So we drove up through western MA and met up with Rich and Ella, and Mike, Cedar and Kyler, up in Bernardston, MA for an afternoon of dog training. It was mostly successful. I don't know that the dogs learned anything new, but they did have fun. Here's a nice pic of Cedar pointing a chukar... what may not be obvious is that Cedar is a relatively big (63lb), darker Vizsla from lines out in Iowa. He's a beautiful boy and, at five years old, a big sweetheart. His sister, Kyler, is a half-sister to Jozsi. She is a petite firecracker (43lbs) who was taking no guff from either of our two boys... although she seemed to be flirting with Momo half the time.
We spent the night with Mike and Kim -- and Rich came over for dinner, as well. It was a five Vizsla house for several hours! They all had a great time together -- and our two certainly slept like babies. On Sunday morning, we scooted over to Hedgerow Hunt Club for the 2nd Annual VCCNE Pheasant Hunt -- mostly to meet other members and support the club's activities. As has been mentioned before, the folks at VCCNE have been very friendly and supportive towards us and we appreciate being part of that group.
My impression was that the 'hunt' was mostly for club members who'd maybe done a few hunt tests, were thinking about starting hunting, or simply wanted to give their dog some exposure to other birds besides bird-field quail. Essentially, each dog and handler got led out into one of two areas and then had either an hour or two pheasant and a chukar... whichever came first. And the hunt areas had a nice mixture of taller grasses and smaller pines for the birds to hunker down in. I took Momo and despite some evasive avian manouveurs, we were out for a swift 33mins! Stephanie's husband, Mannie, had gone out with us to show us the field -- and got to witness Momo's point on the chukar (and my successful pirouetting shot). When we wandered back in he said 'You couldn't get anything else to pop up?' I guess they couldn't hear my two other shots. I told them I just didn't want everyone eating all the donuts.
Anyways, thanks to Stephanie Gutierrez for putting together another nice event. It was a shame we had to bug out quickly so we could get to Rangeley before nightfall.
This pic was taken with my phone and shows us coming around Height of Land on Route 17N, looking down onto Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Beautiful. And a surprisingly good picture. (I'm not going to post the picture of the large moose we came upon driving the same way back this afternoon. While this one is nice and clear, the moose picture looks more like a Bigfoot or Nessie picture from 1970.)
It's always nice to see Dudley and Susan -- and Lida, their GSP. They are also looking after their son's Golden, Baxter, while he is in London for a year. Needless to say after several hours of cavorting, all four of them slept well.
Momo and I had come on a mission though. I haven't seen more than two grouse in a single day in lower New York State, and those were clearly yearlings who didn't deserve to get shot at in the final weeks of last year's season. However, Maine is rumored to have more than two grouse. The first two spots Dudley and I tried seemed to underline the mythical nature of the ruffed grouse. A single wild flush. After lunch, though, we tried a third spot on the west side of Mooselookmeguntic and found a nice pocket of them -- although all single birds.
The box-score for the two hours we were out in the afternoon was: 4 wild flushes, 5 productive points, 1 Hail Mary shot for psychological purposes, and no birds. In much the same way that there seems to be an exponential step from planted, bird-field birds to stocked birds in wildlife areas, there is a mammoth step to actual wild birds. Momo and I have experienced it with woodcock. But thinking that a pointing dog will give you anything other than a second's warning on a ruffed grouse or that it will fly in any kind of direction to give you a straight shot is hubris. Now I know why folks will refer to them as the King of the Forest. In most cases, all we got was a flash of grey and the occasional glimpse of a tail-fan before it turned a corner and left you ga ga. For his first real exposure to grouse, Momo did really well. Here he is looking pensive.
We did have a lovely dinner here. I'll admit surprise that there is a restaurant serving good quality, Southwestern food in Rangeley -- but it was tasty, relatively inexpensive, and they had Dogfish Head 60Minute IPA on draft! If you're in the area, check them out. I think it's a relatively new business and they deserve to stick around.
Momo and I went back this morning to see if we could find anything. As opposed to the afternoon before, the weather was now cool, misting rain, and blustery. We'd had four flushes as we decided to head back, but nipped down a skidder trail that Dudley and I had avoided the day before. Momo got a point into some dense, mostly evergreens -- and I sent him in. He stopped again and a bird flushed up through the tall 30' trees. It sat on a branch. And so being a sportsmanly type and I sent Momo in again and whooped loudly. The bird lifted off and I took him down cleanly. It might not have been the most challenging of shots, but seeing Momo's excitement at the bird on the ground after hours of chasing shadows was worth it. The box-score for today was therefore: 2 wild flushes, 3 productive points, and 1 grouse in hand.
Here's a self-timer shot off the back of my truck. Sorry it's a little dark. But you get a sense of the weather and the bird. If it was just a yearling it must have been from the early hatch -- and we'll find out what it was eating when we clean it. In the meantime, Momo is now a grouse-dog. Bravo, Momo!
Incidentally, if the weather is around or below freezing and and/or the cover is really rough, Momo does wear a special chest protector vest. Maybe a 3/4 sleeve vest doesn't look too virile to some folks, but even in our limited experience, the sleeves really save their armpits and upper legs from all the sharp nasties that lives in the woods.