Though brown and dying, the ferns were as tall as my waist making it almost impossible to see Seamus. His bell was the way I knew where he was except when we hit a patch of clearing or clump of pines with depressed grass where deer had been laying.
It was the silence of the bell that got my attention and had me walking to where I heard it last. Usually, the bird would flush before I found him in a statuesque state, but this time there was no flush. I got within ten feet before I saw him frozen, nose pointing at a spot of matted grass and ferns next to a downed log by a pine. I was approaching from his right, slightly ahead, making my way toward where the spot that held his attention.
Woodcock sometimes make a whistling sound as they lift off like a helicopter, but not this time. A muted sound of wings grasping for air and a small bird with a long bill made his presence known …but only momentarily. He never got more than two feet over the ferns, turned sharp right and disappeared behind the pine. By the time I shouldered the 20 ga., he was out of sight.
This was the story at least twelve more times this morning; the ten year old Britt working like he was three. It was all I could do to try and be there when the bell went silent.
We covered about two miles of great bird cover and, though not the majority, some wound up in my game pocket. It was a good hunt that could only have been better if the ferns were down along with more leaves …and my shooting was better.
Seamus had to be called off (tricked really) to make him stop hunting. When finally I got him close enough to touch, I saw he was bleeding from his muzzle. We had gone through a patch berries with thorny stalks. While they slowed down my walking as they grabbed my legs, Seamus bulled his way through and found another bird.
The Woodcock were definitely in and Seamus had a ball.