I have been receiving requests for a report from Bird Camp 2009 so I had better get to it!
“Camp” was wonderful this year. A month in the great North Woods is pure heaven to me. Those of you that love bird hunting and love remoteness know what I am talking about. We find the fact that towns are few and far between very convenient! 🙂 We find the fact that there is no television–or no cable–a wonderful and very welcome thing missing! To be able to fall asleep at night and hear nothing (and I mean nothing) except the occasional coyotes howling and the wind blowing very relaxing.
Now, you should know that we call this camp, but we are not camping at all–it is “camp” for the dogs because the whole purpose of the trip is to get them into as many wild birds as possible. We stay in a quaint farm house set on 100 acres of fields and woods with millions of acres of National Forest not far away. There are few luxuries we actually do without at this camp. Our heat is by wood in the wood-stoves in the parlors and kitchen and there is no cable–or even antenna television, but there is actually a television with a vcr and dvd player. I am able to get an internet connection so that I can still work and most of the time this is via my cell phone. The upcoming trip will be more of the “roughing it” type of living because we will be sleeping in the back of the truck most of the time, but this bird camp is quite comfortable.
We arrived in the Great North Woods with the leaves at the peak of their beauty. We had excellent company, dog work, food, and the weather really wasn’t too bad–most of the time. We did have lots of rain, snow, and temperatures ranging from the mid-60s all the way down to 12 on several crispy nights.
A dog in this camp will mature quite a lot on a trip like this. They adapted well to living in the dog trailers. Their boxes are nice and roomy and lined with plenty of cushy, comfy, warm straw. We started out with cedar strips this year but by the second week were picking up straw. It doesn’t smell as nice as the cedar, but worked better for this trip.
We took plenty of water from home to get the dogs through the first week to ten days. We find taking our own water helps tremendously to ward off too much digestive upset. On nice days (dry days) if we were not hunting for a period of time, the dogs get to spend time on the chain gang. We hunted as many dogs as we could as much as we could.
Puppies even made the trip and they were a blast! They got to see their first birds and got to have their first experiences in the woods and fields. Everyone loves to play with the pups at camp. While we taking a break from hunting and having some lunch the puppies get out and get to rip and tear and maybe have a blast with a timberdoodle. 🙂
We were very fortunate to not have needed the local vet for anything again this year. Besides the normal wear and tear, bloody tails, tongues, and an occasional tick, we were blessed to not have any major injuries.
The dogs get extra food as needed to keep their energy levels and weight maintained while on this month-long trip. We bring a lot of food with us to keep these beauties healthy and their tummies full!
All the dogs did quite well and there is nothing like ruffed grouse and woodcock to get a dog started. A young dog must become very wise, quite quickly if he is to get to play this game! There is always something to work on, but these dogs got to see more wild birds in a month than they would otherwise get in an entire season most anywhere else. We feel this is critical to a young dog and this is why we try with all we have to make sure this trip happens every year. And, the good Lord willing, we will do it again next year–and for even longer. We are planning a two-month-long camp for 2010! 🙂
One thing about hunting the North Woods, a dog will get introduced to many experiences in a very short time period. He will get just about every type of weather, cover situations, and many different scents and scenting conditions. This offers a magnitude of opportunities to a young dog and certainly doesn’t hurt the seasoned dog either.
The trip always seems to be too short and we don’t always accomplish everything we wanted with every dog but all-in-all, we gave it our all and all the dogs got a lot of time on the ground. They all had tons of bird contacts. All had wonderful experiences and there wasn’t one that didn’t have opportunities. Every dog did excellent and we can hardly believe we are so blessed to have such an excellent string of dogs in our kennel. We are proud–and humble at the same time.
The hunting and shooting conditions changed tremendously by the last week of camp and we left the North Woods with barely a leaf left on the trees; the ferns, berries, and most undergrowth was either brown and dead or completely gone, although it didn’t stop the bird-action. I had just as many opportunities on birds the last day as I did the first. It was very hard to leave. I left kicking and screaming. 🙂 After all, the dogs were still raring to go and I don’t believe they cared to leave just as much as I didn’t! The game was still plentiful (they have nothing to fear with my declining shooting ability). The dogs seemed to love our new routine and schedule and certainly loved getting to hunt every single day!
We returned to our rolling hills of Pennsylvania, but left our hearts in the North Woods. We will dream of plentiful grouse and timberdoodle and of the freedom to roam millions of beautiful Federal forest acres. Until then, we will tromp around our own wonderful State Game Lands searching high and low for a few and with the hope of the possibility of quick trip to the mid-west in the next few weeks to be return in time for Addison and Maddie’s litter arrivals.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention the importance of a few things weighing heavy of my mind. First, it is so important that we support the efforts of organizations such as the Ruffed Grouse Society, Quail Forever, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, etc. Without this groups and their efforts to maintain and create new habitat, we will not have the opportunities for hunting upland game that we do.
Second, something I saw this year bothered me very much and that was litter in the public hunting areas. You know, we are very fortunate to have access to State, Federal, and CRP lands to hunt–for most of us, where else would you get to hunt? And to carelessly leave our trash laying around these places is flat-out repulsive and ridiculous. Please make an effort to clean up after yourselves–I know your mothers taught you better than that! And, if you do see other’s trash laying around, would it really hurt you to pick it up?
Okay, I am done venting! The trip brings a lot of new topics to discuss as well and I will be doing that over the next few months. Things like our favorite gear, comforts, and necessities of traveling. Also, we bumped into quite a few hunters that had lost dogs–and I personally, for the first time ever, lost a young dog for a few hours–and that brings up a very good topic for discussion. Other topics will be on some training tips, traveling tips, and more. Stay tuned… OH–and also, I have received a few updates and photos from puppy folks and can’t wait to share the pictures and comments. Don’t forget that you can post comments and photos here, as well. Please feel free to share your experiences, photos, and comments!
Here are a few pictures from “camp” although I didn’t get to carry the camera very often because it was a very damp year.