Women and their dogs hit the woods for grouse, woodcock

Women and their dogs hit the woods for grouse, woodcock

KOOCHICHING COUNTY, Minn. (MCT) - Boozer went on point first. The 4-year-old English setter looked stylish, his eyes locked on something his nose told him was there.

Then Scout, his littermate, came in from the other direction and honored Boozer's point with one of her own.

Somewhere between them, it was likely that a woodcock squatted in the fallen leaves. Pat Pollard of Grand Rapids, Minn., and Tracy Lee of Lake Bluff, Ill., approached the dogs slowly. Each held a 20-gauge double barrel at the ready.

This scene - the dense aspen, the golden leaves, the damp air, the dogs on point - this is what Lee and her long-time hunting partner, Scotty Searle of Lake Forest, Ill., live for. This is why they come north for two weeks each fall to hunt with their old friend Pollard. This is why they drive 10 hours from Chicago in the two Suburbans with the seven dogs in portable kennels.

"This is like Christmas for us," Searle said.


Lee and Searle have been making the trip for at least a dozen years, since they met at the National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt, a Ruffed Grouse Society fundraising event held in Grand Rapids for 26 years. They both had Labs then. Lee, 45, had grown up hunting ducks at her grandfather's duck camp in Stuttgart, Ark. Searle, 51, had grown up hunting and fishing across the country with her mother and father.


Quickly, the two women came to love grouse and woodcock hunting in the north woods. But they could see they would need English setters, a pointing breed that many consider the ultimate grouse and woodcock dog. So, they bought setters. Two became six, and at least a couple of others have come and gone.

Pollard has, for many years, coordinated the "huntsmen" who accompany two-hunter teams into selected parcels for the National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt. This year's hunt concluded Friday. A former surveyor, Pollard knows Itasca County like a plat book. Since the early 1990s, he has spent at least a week each fall hunting with Searle and Lee, purely for fun.

"He's like a brother," Searle said.

He's like a brother who owns plat books for seven counties and keeps track of every logging cut in several of those counties. Which is to say, he knows where to find grouse and woodcock.


Pollard owns no hunting dogs, but Searle and Lee are happy to share. Now, with Boozer and Scout on point, Pollard and Lee move in to flush the bird. The dogs' beeper collars, set to sound at regular intervals when they're still, send cool electronic sound waves through the October afternoon.

Without warning, a woodcock leaps into flight. Then - surprise - another. Pollard downs the first. Lee swings her double-barrel, and the second bird falls. The dogs scurry to sniff up the dead birds.

Searle and Lee came north Sept. 25 to hunt with Pollard. After close to three weeks here hunting grouse and woodcock, they'll head home for six days. Then it's 10 days in northern Wisconsin for more grouse hunting, four days in Kansas in November for quail and five days near Stuttgart, Ark., in January for duck hunting. Searle will throw in a Thanksgiving trip for grouse in northern Michigan and a December duck and goose hunt in Maryland.


"They like to hunt," Pollard said.

Lee is married, and her husband, Peter, joins her each year at the National Grouse and Woodcock Hunt. Searle is not married.

Of all their hunting, grouse and woodcock in the north woods remains the strongest draw, both women say.

"It's the whole package - the colors, the time of year, the friends," Lee said. "I love that you're walking, the remoteness of where you are."

Searle, too, speaks of the friends she's made through grouse hunting.

But clearly, something else is at work here, too. It's the dogs.

"There's no purpose to doing it if you don't have a dog, in my opinion," Searle said.

They hunted Shades, Lee's 8-year-old setter, and Belle, Searle's 4-year-old, in the morning. These were the varsity dogs. They hunted beautifully, weaving through the popples in intersecting arcs, cowbells clanking, beepers sounding when the dogs pointed. Setters don't run through the popple so much as they glide or float. They're not always in sight, but they're never out of cowbell range. When the beep signals a point, the hunters move quickly in that direction, swimming and pawing through dense stands of aspen.

The hunters took three woodcock in the morning. For the day, they would flush just three grouse but close to 30 woodcock.

As is their custom, the three hunters broke for a picnic at midday, despite the damp, cool day. Out of the Suburbans came canvas chairs, two folding tables, breadboards, crackers, sausage, sharp Cheddar, dried apricots and more.

"We have a picnic almost every day," Searle said.

They worked the less seasoned dogs in the afternoon, picking up six more woodcock for a three-person limit. Pollard hadn't taken 20 steps into the cover when he wild-flushed the first woodcock and shot it. The rest came off the noses of Scout or Boozer. When Boozer was born four years ago, he was the last pup in a big litter, and conventional methods didn't bring him around after birth.

"We had heard that if you put whiskey on their tongue, it can help," said Lee, who was monitoring the birthing. "We got some Jack Daniels and put a drop on his tongue and he started barking."

Boozer it was.

It is, of course, somewhat unusual that two women have forged such a friendship around dogs and hunting. Some of their friends back home don't understand hunting, much less the passion for it that Searle and Lee feel.

"They don't get it," Searle said.

"I come home, and they say, 'Did you catch anything?' " Lee said.

She shrugged. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that they get to Grand Rapids with their dogs each fall to hunt with Pollard.

"Yeah," Searle said. "This is what we like."

(c) 2007, Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.).

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

Game & Fish Digital Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Here's a look at some of coyote hunting rifles and shot gun featured in this summer's Game & Fish 2018 Gear Guide magazine. Stories

Gear Reviews: New Coyote Hunting Rifles, Shotguns

Game & Fish Online Staff - September 07, 2018

Here's a look at some of coyote hunting rifles and shot gun featured in this summer's Game &...

How a humble Virginia hunter bagged the biggest non-typical whitetail a bowhunter has ever seen. Whitetail

The Story Behind Brewster's World-Record Buck

Lynn Burkhead - October 17, 2019

How a humble Virginia hunter bagged the biggest non-typical whitetail a bowhunter has ever...

Once considered a denizen of the Western wilds, the coyote has learned to adapt to human Stories

Coyotes In Suburbia

Stephen D. Carpenteri - November 30, 2016

Once considered a denizen of the Western wilds, the coyote has learned to adapt to human

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick species. Conservation & Politics

Tick Talk: What You Need to Know Pre-Hunt

Patrick Durkin - May 14, 2020

Midwestern turkey hunters and others are hitting the woods. So are a variety of harmful tick...

See More Stories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now