Happy New Year to all! Best wishes to you and yours for this coming year: to your success, good health and happiness. Normally I would be starting my hunting trip in Patagonia, but as luck would have it, with a heavy Air Force influence, I have recently returned! Your hunting report: it was hard this year. Over 90 days without rain in the region, so to say it was dry would be an understatement, and it was unseasonably warm. I had 80+ degrees on my thermometer regularly.
The monsoon rains weren't in the right places, but came at the right time, so none of the quail populations benefited... in fact they were all given the short end of the stick. Meaning numbers of all species really weren't much to speak of. Still, no one is feeding their families on desert quail. You go for the dogs, some camaraderie with friends, the country and it's amazing vistas and maybe some of the wines of the region. A special shout out goes to Scott Conley for making the trip south to meet with me, he's tried for years now, but it seems there is always something that comes up. This past trip was no different, sicker than a dog he managed one hot day afield over Booker, we got into one covey and the shooting was terrible. Such is the game. None the less Scott is an amazing gentleman and it was a true pleasure to finally meet him in person after all these years!
So my concussion recovery more or less synchronized with a break in the terrible smoke conditions we have been having. We managed to head out to the North woods to see about some forest grouse. While the action was slow, it's hard to complain when a limit is taken. We happened upon a group of ruffed grouse, and took a pair of juveniles. Pure dumb luck brought us to a nice mature male, and later on Jorja managed to roust a juvenile out feeding. All in all, a really nice day!
That will happen to a guy with a toddler, four dogs, adding a bunch of new merchandise to the DPCNA portfolio, and some simblance of a life. But we are still getting out there. Here are a few photos from this season that I enjoy. I've not been carrying the DSLR this season, just the cell phone, which has it's plusses and minuses. It means much fewer photos, since I have to take my glove off to tap the screen, and outside the need to zoom, the quality of the phone is now on par, or even slightly better than our aged DSLR... Otherwise I hope you enjoy.
Powder and I got skunked on Valley Quail today, but pup was able to have lot of fun with Pheasant! I was hoping we might get lucky and find some Quail in the larger structure, or even pick up a random covey of Hungarian Partridge along an edge, but no there were Pheasant by the truck load, which was fun enough for us to almost be late to meet the Fosters. Here is a link to 1/3 of the video I thought I had shot - enjoy!
This video was shot on a cold and blustery day on 1,700 acres of private property not too far from home. All in all Booker must have made at least 50 points, over hundreds of Valley Quail. Enjoy the last shot, even though the covey pop-corned out, from my vantage point they were all within a two and a half foot diameter circle. Thanks Rob, at BOOyah Films, for the great day, and for those of you stopping by, enjoy.
This year I was committed to capturing dog work on video, nothing fancy, just using my phone. That idea lasted about two hours or so. I had another great idea, which complicated the great idea I just mentioned. To save the battery life of my phone, since most of the places I hunt have either no cell service, or only Mexican cell service I would put my phone on “airplane mode”, which is great unless your phone clip fails, and your phone is lost deep in the Manzanita, even retracing portions of my Astro GPS track recovery proved futile. On airplane mode, your phone cannot be tracked via GPS, an important note if you are planning to go on a crime spree. In lieu of recovering my phone, I did find a nice insulated camo jacket, a low quality but in good condition crusher hat, and a pair of colorful fuzzy socks (one at time in different locations) all recently jettisoned by drug smuggling coyotes. Garland proved to be an excellent good luck talisman, as we found covey after covey, the dog work was fantastic, and my shooting could hardly have been better if I had used a genie wish! I managed three doubles, one of which was on a pair of cock-birds, and went five for five one day. Too bad he had to return to Kansas. After hunting the Coronado extensively for the past six years, it took a hunt on a rainy day for Dave and I to come face to face with five coyotes, not the furry kind, the ones with bales of marijuana strapped to their backs. We kept our dogs from getting close, and they thanked us profusely and hustled off. At our first opportunity we reported our encounter to a passing Border Patrol officer, and within minutes the area was swarming with agents, truly an impressive response. I hope they were successful in capturing them. Despite the bird numbers “being up” I found fewer coveys than last year, and in odd places, but the ones I did find tended to be very large for Mearns quail and full of little bulls versus being fairly balanced. Thanks to Garland, Jim, Cindy, Marc, Tom and of course my adopted older brother Dave for a memorable time in Arizona this year.
Powder ferreted her first rooster pheasant out of a huge pile of tumbleweed filling a deep gully, my friend’s experienced dog, snooted around and left, but Powder just kept with it. Had either of us paid more attention, we'd had another big mountain rooster. Also, Powder did well on some huns once the covey was broke up. I was very pleased she worked well with my friend’s setter, Penney, honoring her point(s) and working with her on a long chase with a running bird. Not too many opportunities for me... but still a good day. Washington birds don't come easy.
We had a nice morning at Miller Ranch chasing pheasant. We got all of our birds, even if I did have to use the truck to get one. Other than the truck, Booker was responsible to all but three, if my count is right - nice work boy, especially that wily wild rooster who did not not to be gotten.
We had a glorious day afield! Each dog did an admirable job, but it was Booker whose nose had it for the pheasant. Sadly most of the shots I had were on the limit of my skill, and so I successfully scared my fair share of these lovely birds, but only bagged one. Jorja and Booker shared a nice point, the shot was sharply downhill below me, with the cock-bird hooking hard and fast to the left, a shot I had no hope of making. The roosters where there, but the shooting was tough. On the way out, we made a last minute hunt in an area I had hunted the year before, and Booker turned up a pair of roosters, but again, standing in grass as tall as myself, made for poor shooting. In the end we worked hard and hunted smart to bag the largest of the two roosters. Literally, I had just come to terms I had most likely made a tactical error, and blew it when suddenly Booker slammed into a nice point up ahead and off to my right. An arms length in from of him was my ditch chicken trying to make like a hummock of grass tucked under a small bush. Not a lot of time to think, and he was on the move, exploding out and winging hard to make safely again. Fortunately, for a change of pace I managed to connect. I'm sure my hot and tired dog was thankful I finally held up my end of the deal.
Powder had her first ever hunt yesterday. After ridding the area of its pesky deer population, she decided to get serious. With all of her demons run out, she didn't hesitate to locate and point a huge covey of valley quail. In fact, she made point after point, and I missed one easy shot after another. Fortunately Powder didn't give up on me, despite clearly having been given the "are you serious" look more than once. Who knew dogs were born with it? She also excelled at locating our downed birds, something my others have had to learn over time. Without her good nose and fanatical love of birds there is no way I would have been able to find any of her birds on my own - well done Powder!
As far as the book goes, the bills have begun to roll like an incoming tide, so it must then be for real! I have been promised to have the books in hand by mid-November, but it is possible I have them a bit sooner. At this point I don't expect any significant deviations, the book files have been with the printing company for well over a week now. I hope my next update will be to be posting the Amazon, and Dog Willing links so you can got your own copy. More importantly, I hope everyone enjoys the book as much as those who have had the opportunity to preview it. Only 150 copies will be available from the first run, and I am expecting them to go pretty fast.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Forty some odd years later this is what you get.