When Jay Robinson began hunting birds seriously, he remembers the feeling he got when a dog went on point, the bird flushed … and he missed a shot.
“I used to be a lot different,” Robinson said on Thursday, taking time out during a day-long hunt in some of his favorite coverts.
“If I missed a bird, I’d get mad. I felt like I had to get a limit every time out,” he said.
Robinson said his dad, legendary Maine guide Wilmot “Wiggie” Robinson, often chided him on his behavior, and on his habit of charging through covers.
“I’d be right up there with the dog,” he said on Thursday, chuckling softly.
That’s the way it used to be. That’s not the way it is any more.
And Jay Robinson wouldn’t have it any other way.
Time has a way of changing men, you see. Robinson wasn’t immune to its passage.
Some men mature as the years slip past. Others mellow. And many eventually realize that the journey is just as important as the destination.
“Now, I just love to watch the dogs work,” Robinson said. “I don’t care if I get a bird at all.”
Time was, the Woodviille man spent much of October guiding others, and relishing their triumphs.
When Robinson realized that he was spending his favorite time of year watching others do what he loved to do, he took a step back and reevaluated.
He’ll spend next week guiding one of his father’s former friends and sports. But the rest of October is his.
And Sadie’s. And Katie’s.
Make sure you don’t forget them.
Sadie is Jay Robinson’s 9-year-old English pointer. Katie is older, and used to work in front of Jay’s dad.
When Wiggie Robinson died two summers ago, Katie kept doing what she was good at, for another (although familiar) master.
Her best years are behind her, but Katie still knows her way around a covert.
So, too, does Sadie.
For several enjoyable hours on Thursday, Robinson followed the dogs through areas he has hunted for years.
A couple dozen birds were bumped, or pointed, or flushed.
A few shotgun shells were sacrificed to the cause.
And not a feather was touched.
It was one of those days, we decided afterward.
One of those days that might have frustrated a younger Jay Robinson. One of those days that may have left him wondering why his luck hadn’t been better.
This time, however, it was nothing of the sort.
Instead, it was one of those days when both of us couldn’t stop talking about how good our luck had been. How many birds we’d seen. How great the weather had been. How well the dogs had worked.
And how much fun we’d had.
Yes, we could have shot better. No, we didn’t take any birds home.
But it was one of those days. And both of us were pretty pleased about that.
The grouse chronicles
I didn’t start the week out with a plan to write all three columns about birds, but that’s exactly what has happened.
As it turns out, readers had a couple of bird stories to tell as well.
First, let’s hear from Karen Morrison of Winn, who checked in with a harrowing tale of a wayward grouse.
“Let me tell you about this past Sunday morning,” Morrison wrote. “About 10:15 my husband and I were sitting in the living room of our home in Winn ,watching fishing or hunting on TV, having breakfast ,when I hear this God-awful crash, bang, boom noise coming from our spare bedroom.
“I thought at first one of my cats probably got in the room by mistake and knocked over the lamp,” she wrote. “I only wish that that was it.”
Instead, Morrison opened the door to find a large hole in her double-pane window.
“I hollered at my husband, that some kid must have shot the window out with a pellet gun,” Morrison wrote. “He came running in, glass everywhere, all over the bed, floor, everything. He went over to the window and said, “We have a large partridge that decided to come in for a visit.’”
The bird was alive, but dazed and scared, Morrison wrote. The couple discussed their options before deciding to send the grouse back the way it had come.
“I said, ‘Well if he lived com-ing through the window, then put him back out through it and let’s see if he lives,’” she wrote. “So he put on gloves and dropped the partridge back out through the hole that he came in through and the stunned bird remained there for 20 minutes, then left.
“We have apple trees , and pear trees all around our property and house. I have never given any thought about a partridge flying in through a window, but I guess the moral of the story should be never have the head of the bed sitting under a window. If someone would have been in bed they would have gotten hurt very badly.”
Thanks for the report, Karen.
Next up is Larry Ferrell from Newport, an avid hunter who spends a lot of time in the Maine woods.
Ferrell read a column I wrote about my attempt at road hunting, and had some tips … and a hunting report.
“Read your article about Stud Mill Road,” Ferrell wrote. “You are driving the wrong road.
“I just got back from a four-day, three-night trip up to WMD #1 in the area where the Big Black joins the St. John river off Estcourt Road (See map 61 in the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer),” he wrote. “In three days driving around we saw between 35 and 40 birds. There are lots of really nice campgrounds on both rivers (They will be full of moose hunters next week). That is how I found the good bird hunting two years ago when I went up for my moose.
“We drove the side logging roads and walked some of the hardwoods,” Ferrell continued. “As a 65-year-old disabled veteran, it does not bother my conscience any more to road hunt for partridge.
“We saw 13 birds, shot five the first day and saw four moose. We saw 16 birds, shot three the second day and saw three moose (one really nice shootable bull) and one black bear,” Ferrell wrote. “ The third day we saw over a dozen birds, shot three and quit shooting for the trip.”
Ferrell said his trip was a bit more costly than he’d have liked, but the tradeoff is the solitude you can only find in spots that are well off the beaten path.
“Of course the gas for this type of trip is way beyond expensive,” he wrote. “But other hunters up there are few and far between. The North Maine Woods access and camping fees are not too cheap any more either. I consider hunting and camping up there about as close to paradise as you can get.”
Thanks for the e-mails, and for sharing your tales.