Woodcock hunting is something my best Friend Curt & I always enjoy in the Fall. Nothing quite like a nice Fall morning, hiking with `ol Jake up around the Delaware Water Gap, hoping to kick up a few of the migratory game-birds as they begin their trek south.
After chatting on the phone the past week, we both agreed, although it hadn`t been all that cold the last few days, the two recent cold fronts, ought get the Woodcock moving. So plans were made to head up north…… into Sussex County on Saturday morning. I never even set my alarm as I knew Curt would call very early to confirm that we were still on. At 7am my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “What are you still in bed?” —- Haha! I said, “Yea, I figured you`d be my alarm, calling a little late aren`t ya?” — Curt, “My damn clock thinks daylight savings time ends today instead of tomorrow and set-back an hour this morning!! –
We both laughed like hell and agreed to meet at our usual spot, the Quick Chek at 8:30.
Now most Woodcock also known as the “Timberdoodle”, start to migrate from the north(Canada) in October, with the major push from mid-October to early November. After migrating south in Autumn, most Woodcock spend the Winter in the Gulf Coast and southeastern Atlantic Coast states. The core of the wintering range centers on Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Then the birds head north again in February. Most have returned to the northern breeding range by mid-March to mid-April.
After about a forty-five minute drive north, we were entering the Delaware Water Gap area. As we made our way through Peter`s Valley, a black creature darted across the road in front of Curt`s truck. A Black squirrel…… but with a white tipped-tail! Never in my life had I seen a Black squirrel with that unique white-tip!
Awesome way to start our morning.
For our first spot of the day, Curt pulled into an old logging road that was barely accessible. He knew the area very well and had actually missed a grouse up here the week before. After hooking up the GPS collar to Jake we were on our way up the hill. It was only a matter of minutes, that Jake had the first Woodcock of the day pointed! Curt was much closer to the dog and tried closing in quickly. Unfortunately, it`s rather thick cover up there and you don`t always have much of a shot, as was in this case. The bird flushed and actually flew behind Curt and didn`t offer a shot. We continued to work our way up the hillside, through the thick cover. Really looked like ideal Woodcock habitat and even for that elusive New Jersey Grouse. We used to see quite a few Grouse up in this area years ago. As a matter of fact, the last Grouse I ever shot in Jersey was up in this general area, on Thanksgiving morning about ten or twelve years ago.
After hunting for about two hours we hadn`t had another “point” from Jake nor did we bump any Woodcock. Curt figured that it just hadn`t been really cold enough to get them moving yet.
We worked our way around what appeared to be a really grown up field from years gone by. Lots a wild roses and young sapling trees everywhere. Shortly I heard “Bird!” as Curt flushed a Grouse! Never came my way nor did he even have a shot. “Damn it…. a Grouse” I said as we kept walking.
Hiking into another section, Curt said, “Long before I brought you up here, this spot that we`re walking into, was loaded with Woodcock years ago” – “Well maybe we`ll find a bird or two” I replied. Shortly after getting into the thick brush, the GPS beeped…… Jake was on point, but a good ways away. Now one thing about `ol Jake, while he doesn`t always hunt close to us, he certainly holds point on a bird forever! Once again, Curt was closer to him, as I circled for an opening on some higher ground. In a matter of moments, the bird flushed and Curt`s over-and-under 20Gauge Berretta cracked, but he missed the fast, darting Woodcock.
After a quick follow-up, Jake went on point quickly and shortly thereafter, we bagged our first of the season Jersey Woodcock. While there isn`t a lot of meat on these small game-birds, I do find them to be quite tasty!
As the mid-morning sun turned into the afternoon, we decided to take a break, pull a lot of ticks off of us and go grab some lunch. We usually stop in the Layton General store but Curt went another route and we ended up on 206 a few miles north at the Hainesville General Store. A really neat old store filled with amazing antiques and kinds of wonderful, homemade goodies.
After lunch we headed back out to the woods….(hell after those delicious cheesesteak sandwiches and homemade fries, I was ready for a nap!) –
Needless to say we didn`t find anymore “Timberdoodles” as we hunted `till about 4pm and decided to call it a day. Ohhhhhhh…… I almost forgot. Even though I didn`t have a lot of opportunity to shoot much cool hunting footage, I did manage to put together this short clip and you can see that `ol 1959 20gauge Browning A5 that I use in action. I also used some new editing software for this clip…….Seems a lot clearer than some I`ve shot in the past. Hope you like like it!
And while we only managed to bring home one woodcock, it was just a fine Fall day to be up north in the Great Outdoors of New Jersey with Curt and Jake.
On our way out of the Gap, we had an added treat…….. a Bobcat bounded across the road in front of Curt`s truck! Another awesome site to see as this was the second Bobcat that we had seen in the last two years up there.