LoBank is a wonderful place on the Ausable RIver, and Dale was an exemplary host for the week that I was there. Unfortunately the weather was less than wonderful. But we got out for a day or two of woodcock and grouse in the Michigan woods. I had never been to this type of cover, and Ted had never hunted woodcock. But his cover dog side came to the front, and he ran the cover with his littermate Lu like he had been doing it all his life. Very cool.
Here is Ted pointing a woodcock in typical Michigan cover - thick stuff! (photo by Dale Hernden)
I flushed the woodcock Ted is pointing above, but did not have a clear shot... later Dale told me that, "If you can see the bird, that's a clear shot!" Lesson learned.
Dale also invited me to attend the Michigan Woodcock Championship - a premier cover dog trial. Since I had never been to a cover dog trial I was excited to have a chance to attend, and Dale had a dog running under the whistle of Scott Chaffee, an accomplished cover dog trainer and handler.
The trial was held at Gladwin, MI. These are grounds set aside by the state of Michigan specifically for field trials and no hunting or other use is allowed. Amazing to a Westerner who is used to scraping for trial grounds. This is a very classy set-up, and the Michigan trialers are very fortunate to have these grounds, which includes an excellent club house and camping area.
The Gladwin grounds were an example of what is possible when the state and sportsmen can co-operate.
Dale's young pointer, "Al", was running in the 5th brace and I was able to walk a couple braces and scout Dale's dog for handler Scott Chaffee. There were many birds on the course, and grouse and/or woodcock were pointed in almost every brace. The handlers had an almost uncanny knack of knowing when and where the dog (not visible in the thick cover) were on point, and went straight to their dogs. Also very cool.
Dale introduced me to a number of people, including Wayne Fruchey, Bryan Wood, Mark and Scott Foreman, Scott Chaffee, and others who exceeded my ability to remember all their names. A terrific and hospitable group of people! I thank all who made me welcome at the trial. A fine group of sportsmen.
I hope to sample some of the fishing in the beautiful AuSable River that Dale shared with me, and to reciprocate his hospitality in the near future. Thank you, Dale!