What a season 2014 was at Pineridge Grouse Camp. In reality the season started a few days after our first guests left in November 2013. We completed the new kennel, added a few dogs, started working with Elhew Hampshire Kennels, Robert Hall joined the team to help us with the kennel, training and getting some world class Elhew Hampshire guide dogs ready for camp. A new pigeon coop, more dogs and putting on the 2nd annual Double Barrel Blues Fest in july made the summer go by pretty fast. But once August hits its all about getting the grounds ready, more dog training, talking to guests as they make final plans to arrive and dotting the "i" and crossing most of the "t". We had some special motivation in early August with the airing of "The Flush" on the Outdoor Channel. It turned out great and if you have not seen it, you can view on the PGC homepage.
As always we have some great guest to go along with our great guides. Everyone was awesome this year. Its always good to see old friends who have have been coming to PGC for the last few years. Its like a grouse hunters reunion every fall when they walk in to the lodge. Big hugs followed by a few jabs on waist lines getting bigger, beards a little grayer and if they have any new dogs that can find some birds and not porcupines. One of the many perks about PGC is the people you get to meet and after a few short days busting brush you truly can call them good friends. In reality, they are family. We share stores about kids, grand kids, wives, old bird dogs that may have passed and new side by sides we "need" before we get to old to carry. We laugh a lot and shed a tear or two by the campfire when we talk about old hunting buddies that have passed or the best bird dog who is pointing birds in endless cover in heaven. Thats what the Pineridge family is all about. As always, one of the high points is the toast when one shoots his or hers first "king". Some may think its a tad corny but it really is special moment in time. One that they will never forget and will share for years to come. We are thankful we can be a part of ones first grouse and the memory that it creates for a lifetime.
One of the neat things about PGC is our guides. Im biased but I think we have the best in the world of grouse hunting. All are different in how they work a cover, handle a dog, and the stories they share in between coverts. The one common bond is they truly love the dogs, the birds, the guests and the camp. For these reasons I'm very thankful for all of them. Keep in mind they think about how they can do a better job next year and what we can do at PGC to make it a better experience. Plus, they are working and feeding dogs all year. If they get a day off in the fall they are scouting for new coverts and spending time on Google Earth trying to get that one advantage of a new cutting. In the dead of winter they will take the long way home to look for that one special alder run that will hold birds seven months away.
In fact I do have one quick story to share about someone we all love. Earl had it in his mind to cut this tree down above the guide bunkhouse one afternoon. Those of you that know Earl know you can't tell him a thing. We all told him to wait but he didn't and needless to stay he had some repairs to do before it got to cold. If you need some trees trimmed please give Earl a call, he's a maestro with a chain saw. After a few bourbons we joke that all we need is a TV producer. Those duck guys are way to scripted, Pineridge and grouse hunters have a new story line everyday!
The season for the staff is a grind. Like I told Skippy (Charles) from 12 midnight to 6am you can do what ever you want. Sleep, watch TV, take a walk, call your girlfriend , you can do it then. From 6:01am to 11:59pm PGC owns you. Its not that strict but they put the time and work in behind the scenes. Skippy, Shelly and Andy did a great job keeping the kennel spotless, every day and sometimes twice. It was always clean and when people would stop to check it out they would be amazed at how clean it was and the dogs looked happy. Robert was busy everyday working the young dogs and helping guest with any questions they might have on their own bird dog. As we all know, young dogs are fun, at times. When they point for the first time and the light comes on it great! When the lock up on a chipmunk, it makes for a long day but in the end it puts a smile on his face. He was a huge asset to the camp and we look forward to his arrival this spring with a new bunch of prospects.
A special shout out to the kitchen staff. Chef Matt did a great job with all the meals and the presentation was world class. Shelly, everyone hated Shelly. Not because the cabins and the lodge were spotless everyday. They were mad at her because the deserts were so damn good. Everyone thought they would loose weight after a hard walk in the woods but they seemed to ask for seconds on her deserts.
Kevin, what can I say. He's been with us for 4 years now and he does a little bit of everything. He was in charge of the appetizers and he did a great job and created some new wild game dishes that will be in the PGC cookbook. His smile, personality and his voice around the campfire make for a special evening all October and for him we are all very thankful.
Skippy and Andy did most of the behind the scenes work. Bird cleaning, kennels, airport runs, splitting wood, luggage, closing cabin, trimming trees, pigeons, deer stands……you get the message. Plus they helped out in the kitchen when needed and Yes, Skippy was the Continental Breakfast Chef. He had a jacket that said so.
I need to give a thank you to my wife Brenda and our kids. They are very understanding about the camp and how much it means to me and the time it needs to make it into a world class operation in the near future. I couldn't do it with out their support in the past and in the years to come. Its been a battle but one worth fighting.
2015 is about 20 days away. Its been cold at camp but not like last year. We have a few guide trips still on the books but like everything this time of year it all depends on the weather. Robert will be back in April, snow willing, training some new pups along with some customer dogs. We will once again have our woodcock banding program for May 14-17. This will be the third year and we are slowly booking up and its gaining a small following. After the banding program we will be doing a few weekends of woodcock banding along with some bird photography programs with Stan Tekiela, a noted photographer and naturalist. Robert will also be doing a dog training seminar this June in Anchorage Alaska sponsored by Pineridge Grouse Camp, Arctic Bird Dog Association and Ruffed Grouse Society Anchorage Chapter. Needless to say, with the young dogs, puppies, customer dogs and going to Alaska Robert will be busy with some nice Elhew Hampshire Pointers.
In July we will put on the 3rd Double Barrel Blues Fest @ Pineridge on July 24-25. But before the blues fest it looks like we will try a Double Barrel Bluegrass Fest on July 17-18. A different audience and music to keep the local whitetail deer population on their hooves and the mosquitos confused.
Brenda has joined PGC on a more formal capacity. She is working having success booking other events like scrapbooking, weddings, baby showers and other uses for the main lodge. Plus, she will be running the lodge next fall and helping out and putting her smile and personal touch on the whole camp. And thats always a good thing.
One last thing. I again want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who makes Pineridge such a special place. I know it means a great deal to many people for many different reasons and I'm overwhelmed every time I pull into camp and that thought crosses my mind. Its a honor to be able to share Pineridge with all of you. The whole PGC family looks forward to seeing you in the fall and hopefully before.