Running grouse are difficult. There is a balance between trying to get around the bird, block cover and not have your dog push the bird and of course not have the bird flush prematurely. It is a tight rope walk of tracking, releasing the dog, re-acquiring scent over and over till you either in position and the bird flushes on its own for you or you are able to block the bird and force the bird to flush.
When birds are running and stopping and running again they are looking for the right cover to lose you and the dog. Tag Alder, Swamp conifer, Tamarack bogs all areas that are difficult to work and lessen your percentages of being successful. Anything to put distance between you and the bird while they seek to escape to protective cover.
If you think about the grouse cycle, there are more years that are like this than there are years when the birds hold for you like you see in the paintings. So in essence maybe it is time to change our training of our grouse dog to reflect the worst case scenario of grouse hunting instead of the best case scenario.
Teach a dog to point on less scent
One of the training techniques we use for guiding is to teach our dogs to work less scent. The reason being it will help the dog pick up scent from a running grouse. A running grouse leaves very little scent behind. Technically the grouse is washing scent on every, fern, grass, moss etc. But there is very little left for the dog to work.
Then the next thing the grouse will do is stop for a bit thus leaving a little bit more scent behind but not as much as the bird would leave behind if it was just loafing in an area before you showed up with your dog. With these type of points your dog will lock up and give you the body language... "Yes, I have a great point! then in about a minute or two the scent will start to fade, the dog will start shifting its eyes and the muscles will start to go soft and then the head will start to turn and look around. The look your dog is giving you is "Where in the heck did the scent go... it was just here and I could smell it!"A dog that has been only trained on a lot of scent will typically react as follows: release from a point to fast...almost frantic to find the bird and many times range too far out...push the bird and then flush the grouse before the hunter even has a shot or chance to get into position. How often have we seen the dog pick up its pace and increase it's range when they can not get a bird to hold.
A dog that has been taught to work less scent will over time learn what amount of scent to ignore and when to stop and point. This gives the hunter an indication that there is a bird up ahead before being right on top of the bird and it flushes right away or runs and flushes wild.
A woodcock holds giving off a lot of scent and easy to work. Pen raise quail also tend to hold and produe a lot of scent. Pigeons in a trap a lots of scent. Pheasants big birds and a lot of scent and yes they teach a dog to push becasue they tolerate a dog pushing them. All of these birds for the most part are different from the grouse. The grouse will not tolerate being pushed, will run and put off very little scent and flush wild if it feels the need to.