Archery season opens today and I am really looking forward to getting in my stand to deer hunt today. However, grouse season also opens and I will finally get to hunt with my young pointer and see if all my work training Brandy the last few months has paid off.
She needs wild birds and actual hunting. Hopefully everything falls into place and she understands what her instincts are telling her.
Brandy is still learning, however, and unfortunately there are not that many grouse this year. Poor weather conditions during the nesting period has resulted in low brood counts this year and the abundance of mast will have what grouse we do have, spread out and difficult to find. The DNR is predicting flush rates of less than one per hour. That is not good news for a bird dog that needs to hunt, but hopefully the woodcock will have a heavy migration flight when that season opens later this week. These are great birds for a young pointer, they hold very well and when they are encountered there are usually more around, which should give a young dog plenty of exposure to wild birds, and with a little luck, maybe I can knock a few of these fast little fliers out of the air for her.
So far, we have found a few grouse when out running some of my hunting areas, but only about one or two at a time. Some birds she handles very well and locks up on point and others she stumbles into, flushing the grouse before she has a chance to point. Some of this is inexperience and some from pen-raised quail, while great for training, they do not react like wild birds and especially grouse, which I think will sometimes flush just to scare me and get my heart racing. That is part of the fun of bird hunting - being able to locate a flushing bird as it takes flight and calm your nerves enough to make a good shot. It is one of the most exciting aspects of bird hunting.
Pen raised birds will let a dog walk up on them closer than a wild bird ever would, which results in the dog cat-walking or creeping up on the bird once it's nose has found it. So that's what we have been working on, being steady on point and locking up as soon as she gets that scent so I can move into position to flush the bird for a shot.
Of course a lot of this creeping is just youth and inexperience, combine that with the incredible prey drive of this pup and sometimes the excitement gets the best of her. She also over runs her nose sometimes and bumps birds when we are in cover and not finding many birds. She also tends to start running big and fast searching for birds with her nose when she hits that scent cone, she is just moving to fast to stop before she gets to close and the bird flushes. Once we get in the woods and I shoot a few birds that she points, I think she will figure out what she needs to do.
Whatever happens I look forward to get out and watch how she handles wild birds while actually hunting. Watching a well-trained pointer work birds is delightful, the intensity when on point is amazing, muscles tight and statuesque pointing in the direction of the bird. I just hope when it happens I can hit the bird.
Since this is her first real hunting season, I don't expect her to be perfect and I have a feeling I may not get to shoot many birds (you should only shoot over a pointer when they point and hold the bird). But we'll see what happens and maybe soon I will have a story of Brandy's first successful hunt.