Every year I begin my bird-hunting season with a trip to New Brunswick. Woodcock season opens on September 15, which gives me a jump-start on the U.S. bird season. As most bird hunters know, there are three main flyways for the timberdoodles, one of which is along the Atlantic Seaboard. These are the birds we hunt, with some of them being native birds and others coming down from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Habitat is important for these birds, and you’ll find some of the biggest and most perfect coverts you’ll ever see. You’ll find 10-20 foot stands of alders and gray birches along with old farm fields and seeps. There are also white birch, poplar, and pines.
If you go to New Brunswick on October 1 you can hunt grouse, too. Grouse live in many of the same woodcock coverts, but you’ll also find them on classic hillsides that are loaded with apple trees, hawthorns, and evergreens. Other common fruits are high-bush cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, and, of course, partridge berries. As the situation dictates you may take a canoe to hunt patches in the middle of the Mirimachi River.
Drive time in between coverts is long enough for hunters and dogs to catch their breath and short enough so your legs don’t get stiff. The coverts vary in size, with some being a short, 45-minute hunt and others requiring a few or three hours. It’s the way bird hunting is described at the turn of the century through the 1950’s by Burt Spiller, Gene Hill, Tap Tapply and the like.