The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 3, 2012

Don Steese column: Success at the cabin

By Don Steese
For The Daily Item

— We made it up to the cabin for the senior/junior antlerless deer season and had a bit of success, in a couple of different ways.

I think I saw a total of three deer, but in all honesty I was more interested in getting my dogs into some grouse and woodcock. We’d hunt deer for a bit in the morning and for a couple hours in the late afternoon, and the rest of the time we’d run the dogs.

My old shorthair had a field day with the woodcock one afternoon. I think she pointed 10 in about an hour or so. One time she was on point right in front of my buddy and a woodcock got up right behind her. My pal said she turned her head to watch the bird fly but went right back to pointing the one that remained right in front of her nose. We only took a couple birds, not so much because we’re conservationists but more because we’re lousy shots.

I know bird dog owners who won’t hunt woodcock, or so they say, because they think they’re too easy. They must be hunting a different strain of woodcock than the ones I hunt. Granted they’re not as hard to hit as a ruffed grouse, but in the kind of cover we hunt they can be plenty challenging, especially for an unskilled wingshot like myself.

The only thing I don’t like about woodcock is that they’ll allow a pointing dog to get pretty close. I won’t hunt my young setter on woodcock until she’s got some more experience on grouse. My old dog got so close to a couple birds last weekend that she actually sat down on point, something she’s never done. I’m convinced she did that simply because she was so close to these birds. Fortunately she’ll adjust when we’re after ruffed grouse or prairie birds. Try to get close to a ruffie, sharptail, or hun and they’re gone!

I have a friend and his son coming up from Maryland this weekend to chase some birds. I hunt with these guys on Maryland’s eastern shore during their late woodcock hunt in mid January, and they come up to the Pennsylvania Wilds each year to give our Keystone State birds a whirl. They’re pretty serious bird hunters so by the time you read this we should be up to our armpits in grouse and woodcock ... or not.

Right about noon on last day of the recent senior deer season I’m sneaking through the hollow back toward our camp thinking more about a nice lunch and some grouse and woodcock hunting than deer hunting when I hear a nearby shot. The sound came from the direction of our cabin and I’m fairly sure it was my buddy. He’d already missed one deer on this trip so if it was him I was pretty sure he wouldn’t do a repeat performance. I was right on both counts. It was him and he didn’t miss.

He scored at our favorite spot. Right smack dab in front of our cabin. Over the years we’ve killed more deer within sight of our cabin than we have in all the other places we hunt combined. I wonder why we ever leave?

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