My cousin and I just got back from an 8 day road trip that took us from Lancaster County to Allagash, Maine and back to Centre County, PA before finally coming home yesterday. Last Saturday the 15th, we loaded the truck with dogs and gear and hit the road around 9:30 PM to avoid NYC and Boston traffic. We stopped at LL Bean in Freeport, ME on the way up to stretch our legs and do some shopping. We finally rolled into grouse camp at 12:45 PM Sunday. Got settled in, grabbed dinner and hit the bed early. Monday morning we woke up to a nice blueberry pancake breakfast and headed into the North Maine woods with our guide and his GSP and my cousin's springer. The first cover we hit was a spruce plantation that had dense trees about 15 feet tall. We immediately got a point from the GSP and it turned out to be a woodcock. I put it down on the first shot from the 28. The dog made a nice find and retrieve in that dense cover. We proceeded to flush several woodcock in these shorter pines and I ended up with another one in the bag. We started to transition into a mature evergreen stand and started finding grouse. I missed a couple easy ones and elected not to shoot the 2 I saw on the ground. We left that cover with 18 woodcock flushes and 6 grouse flushes. Moved about 3/4 mile down the road and hinted an old creekbottom. Started really moving the grouse in this cover. We ended up with another 10 flushes and one kill. Ate lunch and hit one final cover which was an old logging road. Had 2 more grouse flushes and misses and a couple unproductive points. A great start to the hunt with 18 grouse flushes and 17 woodcock flushes.
Day 2 started off cloudy and cold with rain threatening. We were on our own today, so we looked at the map and decided to hit an old farm along the river. Took my lab, Murphy, off the truck first as we intended to switch off dogs as we switched covers to keep them fresher longer. About a mile into the walk, Murphy finally got birdy in a stand of dense pines. He ran in and we heard the grouse flush. Went the other way, but he was still going nuts in the pines and out pops another bird. This time it came right over the old skidder road right toward me and I put him down with the 28. My first grouse over my dog! It was a beautiful mature bird with a long tail and thick ruffs. I had hit him in the head and when I picked him up he started doing the death flap and I lost my grip, ended up grabbing his tail and pulled out all the feathers! No!
but I was still so excited for my dog. He'd flushed a couple grouse here in PA over the years but I never connected. He proceeded to flush 8 more birds on that walk which all resulted in misses. We headed back to the truck and hit another cover with the springer. This was a mature spruce stand with some berry bushes and blowdowns at ground level. We started flushing woodcock pretty good. I knocked one down and put it in the bag, then knocked down a second that we couldn't come up with. By this time it was raining pretty good. We got Murphy back out to try and find the downed bird, but to no avail. I can only assume the rain may have washed away its scent as it legged it into the swamp. We never put that bird up again. Moved across the road and started flushing more grouse along with the woodcock. My cousin ended up shooting 2 grouse that our dogs flushed up into trees and he shot one woodcock. I ended up missing a snowshoe hare. 17 grouse flushes and 18 woodcock flushes on the day.
Day 3 was in theory a much nicer day but we had a hard time moving birds. Went to a similar old farm with thornberry bushes and mature pines. Flushed 7 grouse and 7 woodcock. Only ended up with one woodcock in the bag.
Day 4 we went back to hitting creek bottoms. I should have limited out on grouse this day but I did some POOR shooting. We flushed 13 grouse and no woodcock. My cousin bagged one grouse and it was flying this time! The weather for the next two days called for torrential downpours and with the relatively low grouse numbers we made the executive decision to cut our losses and head back to his cabin near State College in time for PA pheasant opener. It was probably a good call. We met up with his son and a couple of his sons friends and my lab, Murphy, pulled off another great hunt. We flushed 15 birds and put 12 in the bag for 6 hunters by noon. The worst mistake we made was then hitting a local grouse cover. After being spoiled in Maine, we covered a lot of ground in Centre County and only had 4 wild flushes, no shots. My dog ended up with about a million deer ticks on him, something there was none of in Maine. I'm still pulling ticks off him 2 days later. All in all a great road trip totalling 59 grouse flushes,47 woodcock flushes, and 15 pheasant flushes in 5 days of hunting. Back to the grind tomorrow.