We really missed most of the woodcock flight last spring, we did time up one evening well, but that was about it. Determined not to miss it this year we began early and didn’t wait for the majority of the snow to melt, we just went south. The past weekend was a bust as far a woodcock was concerned. To much snow in areas we could access so we turned around and headed home with a stop to scout an area that would hold woodcock sans snow, but also possibly have some wild pheasant lurking. One of which we did find.
After a few days of temperatures in the 50s paired with a couple nights that didn’t drop below freezing, the snow was about gone in areas the sun readily hits. Another plus was turning the clocks forward to get that extra hour of daylight after work. I loaded Annie and Pop and headed out to a local place that woodcock seem to make a pit-stop at or even take up residence. Pop was pulled and belled first. The two priorities for him are getting into woodcock, and beginning to handle a little better. Getting into birds didn’t appear to happen all though I honestly can’t say for sure that he didn’t bump one, he gets out there pretty good. As far as handling goes, Mr. Edison’s preferred medium had to be used for convincing Pop a time or two to turn the direction I was heading. He was hearing but disregarding. Zap. He didn’t shorten much but did seem to get the message, he began responding to hard calls for a change of course.
It was 10 seconds into his run we encountered our first woodcock for 2014, not ten yards from the parking lot. Pop never heard, saw or smelled a feather, he was 70 yards down the old lane still creating separation after being “let out of the gate” a few seconds earlier. I’d had my camera on him while he tore away when that unmistakable wing-whistle started its familiar tune. It lifted out of a fencerow right beside me. I spun and hoped the continuous autofocus wouldn’t have fits with the tree branches in front and behind the bird. (It did okay as it wasn’t a disaster but sure didn’t shine.) Hopefully the first of many this spring. Pop got about a half-hour in before we loaded up and went down the road to put Annie down.
On our way through, we got behind another truck (tailgate down) that had a familiar looking double-doored grey box in the bed. They pulled over to let me pass which I wasted no time in doing, I mean after all, they could’ve been heading to “my” spot. This was Annie’s first run since she broke her tail mid-December. I think it’s safe to say the bones has healed completely, it’s a complete non-issue now thankfully. A critical piece of advice came in an email from Lloyd Murray (Long Gone Setters and coincidently Annie’s breeder), about watching for any hint of possible infection whether the skin was ever broken or not. Upon one (daily) inspection I noticed a yellowy-green scape on the breaks swollen lump and got a prescription from the vet over the phone. That seemed to really turn the tables on it and expedite it healing.
We hit some really, really nice pockets of cover yet no amount of expectant-anticipation of a woodcocks presence came to fruition. She’d finished her run birdless, muddy and as fulfilled as ever despite the lack of birds, it’s been a long three months of limitation for her. It’s good to have her back in the thick of things.