Welcome back, everyone! We've been out of internet connectivity for the last three days -- doing our part to host Momo + Jozsi's First Annual Invitational Grouse Camp in Rangeley, ME. We had invited our good friend, Bob, and his Llewellin setter, Belle, and Dennis and his sleek GSP hunting machine, Sally, to come along. This was their first time to western Maine and the realm of the late-season Forest King, bonasa umbellus, the ruffed grouse.
The moody picture of Momo is a good indicator of our experience. The very short summary of the three days is as follows: birds were both seen and heard flushing, all three dogs you would have expected had at least one visible productive point, everyone shot their guns, no significant impact was made on the ruffed grouse population of the north woods. Dennis claimed the only bird of the three days on the first afternoon -- and Sally can now officially be called a grouse-dog.
It drizzled on and off the first day, it snowed lightly the second day, and the sun was out for about 3hrs on the third day. In the hot-spot Momo and I found last year, it definitely seemed as though there were less birds than the year before -- and those that were there were much deeper in the woods. I don't remember how many birds the other two guys saw (we would often start out together and then pick a path each to work), but in the two four-hour chunks the boys and I spent in this same spot the box score was 10 wild flushes, 1 productive point, and 0 birds. I can only say that I had one great opportunity, fired both barrels, and whiffed.
While I wouldn't claim that Momo is a great grouse dog -- because he simply hasn't had the experience -- and Jozsi just barely got initiated in this particular game -- the numbers would suggest that there were less birds and those that were there were huddled under evergreens to try and stay dry and were not putting out much scent. With the exception of the first three birds and the final bird we saw (that were sunning to dry out), everything else was in deep cover and flushing at any proximate sound. Last year I suspected that the birds were really sensitive to noise and chose to run my two boys without bells -- nevertheless, and including the one productive point Momo was able to establish, all the grouse that flushed flushed on some kind of noise (me crashing through the trees, me calling to Jozsi, etc.). As ever, we got a learning lesson from the mighty pah'tridge.
But we did have fun together -- and while we might try and go earlier in the year next year to try and find more less-experienced birds, hopefully this was the first of many M+J's Invitational Grouse Camps.
In other performance news: we did run Jozsi in the Nutmeg GSP Club field trial at Flaherty last Sunday on the way up to Maine. This time there was an Amateur Derby stake -- and because the Derby dogs aren't required to honor their bracemate should the occasion arise, he was the last of the 7 dogs and so ran alone. On the one hand, not having a bracemate may let the dog concentrate more on his handler, but on the other having a bracemate may fuel the dog's competitive spirit. In any case, Jozsi ran like a madman -- and while I would have liked him to have stayed a little more steady-through-the-shot, he had three nice quail finds along the course and a stop-to-flush on a pheasant. Our Regal Vizsla puzzler is 'Find the pointing vizsla in this picture.' This was his first point on the course and he is in there: I can find his nose, erect tail, and one raised leg. But this is a good illustration of the joys of running vizslas in fall foliage.
To cut to the chase, though: he won! We now have another blue ribbon and a nice horse-brass to add to our collection.