My fellow Woodcock hunters start preparing following the "Ruffed Grouse Society Woodcock Migration" map where members post they are seeing migrating Woodcock. The dog’s exercise program consists of basic yard work drills and moving into some pigeons work from launchers to steady the dogs for the upcoming bird excitement. The weekends are spent with our shotguns heading to the range for shooting skeet, preparing for the fast flying Woodcock that will soon be busting from the thick cover. Our nights are spent on social media talking back and forth to the hunting community about hunting woodcock like giddy school girls about the latest gossip and searching websites for our favourite pipe tobacco, and liquor for the upcoming magical date of December 15 –January 28.
Weeks before the season begins, I spend my days at work daydreaming, always to find myself looking out the window with my head tilted slightly sideways and eyes glazed over longing to hear my Espagneul Breton’s woodland bell as she is running through a “HONEY HOLE” Woodcock cover. The only way to explain my excitement that follows the bell while the dogs are cutting the cover is like a child on Christmas Eve waiting to hear Santa’s sleigh bells, anticipating the gifts he brings. Visual images flash through my mind with an extensive detail of hunts from the past and how the hunts will play out this coming season.
Finally, the day arrives for the first outing; we pray for protection and release the dogs. We hunt along larger river basins and floodplain areas where cane breaks and overhead growth of river privet are abundant. By mid-morning, we have covered enough ground from the morning hunt, earning a quick field lunch consisting of Smoked Venison sausage harvested from the earlier deer season. Soon after lunch, a looming smell of smoke from my pipe burning pinches of Molto Dolce tobacco fills the fresh winter air setting the stage for our evening hunt. We quickly walk along behind our dogs, rejuvenated from a small break, consciously waiting to hear the dog’s bell stop and someone to say, “Point!” Hearing those words, along with the silence of the bell, makes your heart race uncontrollably.
That’s what keeps us coming back, year after year, and makes the preparation for the upcoming Woodcock season seem worthwhile. At that moment, you look around for your hunting partners, and dog’s position, finding yourself deep in thick, green briar infested cut overs where the birds hold so tight you can sometimes see them on the ground. After the flush shot and retrieve, you realise a group of men and dogs before you have traditionally paved the way for remarkable bird hunts and we will forever be waiting on the Woodcock.
Joshua K. Legg
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