Yesterday afternoon as I pounded on my keyboard, I was reminded of a William Wordsworth poem, The World is too much with us.
"The world is too much with us; late and soon . . .
Little we see in Nature that is ours . . .
The winds that will be howling at all hours, . . . "
Most of the time Green Day, Roger Clyne&The Peacemakers, or Weezer are the poets reverberating in my head, but Minnesota's howling winds brought me Wordsworth on this day. It could only mean one thing - the woodcock had arrived and I needed to be amongst the alders listening for their flushing whistle.
It was already 4:10 in the afternoon, but the pull was too strong. I had to try to get to the woods for even the shortest of walks before sunset.
I hit the send button on half-done drafts, shut down my computer, and quietly slipped out of the office when no one was looking. I made it home in a record eight minutes, grabbed my shotgun, blaze orange vest, and loaded up the pup into the truck kennel. Pointing north, I raced against the setting September sun.
At 5:45p.m. I arrived at my state forest destination and slipped the SportDOG collar onto my shorthair pup, Trammell. I had one hour.
What followed in that hour was magical. Trammell hit the ground with her nose sniffing the wind. A grouse flushed wildly just 50 steps from my parked truck. Then it was on. Trammell disappeared into the alders. The SportDOG's hawk-screeching beeper collar went off. I approached through the tangle following the hawk-screech as quickly as I could. I parted sixty-seven alders to find Trammell locked in point as solid as a statue. The American timberdoodle, or woodcock, rose toward the canopy as my scattergun reached out and brought it back before it could escape into the burnt orange sky.
No sooner had I slipped the needle-nosed bird into my game vest than Trammell was locked up on point again. In sixty minutes, I flushed fourteen woodcock and two grouse with Trammell locking down eleven of those timberdoodles with magnificently solid points. I wasn't able to find shots on the grouse through the autumn leaves, but the state-limit three timberdoodles had found their way to my vest.
Wordsworth's whispers were true; the cool temps and winds from the north had begun the migration of autumn. Ducks were in the air, geese were honking into the wind, and the woodcock flight had landed in Minnesota.
The author's note: one need not be named Gregor, be versed in English poetry, carry an Italian made over/under, hunt behind a classy pointing dog, or wear knickers and tweed to hunt woodcock. Average, everyday, bird hunters and their pooches can find great fun in the grouse woods during the woodcock flight.