Monday, December 27, 2010

The Bird of the Bible

 Ex 16:13: "And it came to pass at even, that the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the camp."

Its really hard to explain to people who have never experienced wild southwestern quail hunting, the sheer " size" of everything. From the sights of the picturesque landscapes you have the pleasure of viewing while taking a second to catch your breath, to the massive size of the groups of valley quail. Unlike their brethren  they sometimes overlap cover with, the chukar, valley quail coveys are shocking to most who have never hunted west of the continental divide. It's not uncommon to witness groups number in the hundreds, and that happened three times yesterday in out day after Christmas hunt.
We got a late start as one of our group forgot to purchase his upland stamp from the state of California. A quick stop at a local sporting good store cured that problem and we were off, reaching our destination around 11 AM.
It didn't take long. Before we even got to our gate of private property we had permission on, we saw approximately 20 birds running off the road. As is usually the case, the birds you see are only the tip of the iceberg. We quickly threw our gear on and gave chase. These birds knew what they were doing,  one alarm call, and the group quickly took flight. They also gained as much altitude as they could, making our job a lot tougher. We did manage to scratch a few out of the group, but decided to push on to  some other spots that had always produced.
The recent torrential rains had really done a number on the roads. This area has received approx 7 inches of rain in the last two weeks, causing flash floods and washing away roads making it look like a universal studios theme ride. This caused us to make some alterations to our plans as some of our favorite spots were simply impassible.
Ryan and I decided on a spot that took a lot more effort, but has always produced for us in the past. A perfect mixture of grass, water, rocks, and pinion trees. Pictured:
It didn't disappoint.
Within 15 minutes we were covered in quail, so much so, that all three of us completely split up and spent the next two hours not only hearing our own shotgun blasts , but also our friends.  What a special place this is, I'll never forget it.
Do you think it's a coincidence that desert quail are mentioned in the bible? I don't, their that special!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dancing with the devil partridge

They were imported from Kazakhstan or Afghanistan,  sometime in the early stages of The United States formation. Upon hearing from many returning troops from operation Iraqi Freedom that Afghanistan is pretty much the hardest terrain you could ever imagine, I now know what they are talking about. I went to experience that type of terrain today in the Mojave Desert, although temperatures today were only hovering around 60 degrees. The grade and elevation that we hunted today was simply ridiculous as was my soaking wet shirt and pants.
I have been training with the treadmill on level ten, for an hour, everyday, for the last month. I might as well have not done anything at all. At the end of the first climb today where I estimate we climbed to about 5000 feet, at times with a 85 degree grade, my heart was pounding so loud it was actually audible over the winds among these mountain tops.
It seems to be my theme this fishing and hunting season, I got lucky, very lucky. Jerry (my father in law) and I had decided to split up and take separate ridge lines and meet at the peak of this first breathtaking jaunt, (Pictured)

as I cleared the top of the ridge I saw two chukars approximately 80 yards away feeding on a shrub of some type. I tried to be quiet (and shut my loud heart up) and move in their direction. I then had a very large bird erupt about 30 yards in front of me. I raised the citori superlight and released the charge of copper plated number 6's in its direction. To my surprise, the bird fell immediately.  Also to my surprise an entire covey of 25 birds flushed about 40 yards out and flew down the canyon we had just climbed.
I stayed glued to my trophy and ran to it as fast as I could, straight tunnel vision. At that time one more bird jumped and met second barrel and its contents. I was in shock, two shots/two birds. My day (and trip) was made.
We climbed three more passes today, but to no avail. Sore hips, knees, lungs,and pride were met with a beef brisket bar-b-cue sandwich and a cold sierra Nevada pale ale at the local joint. A great day. Next adventure, quail , coming Sunday, please check in, I'm sure I'll have more stories!

Friday, December 17, 2010

"SERIOUS" Grouse hunting, review

When I read the title, I thought, "yeah", ""whatever", THIS is going to be a fun book"! Insert sarcastic emoticon here. "Serious", is about the last word I would use to associate the way my hunting partners and I feel about our Autumn passion.
I decided to keep an open mind and was pleasantly surprised with this book that took a more 21st century approach to hunting the many times fabled Bonasa Umbellous. It seems these two young men do the vast majority of hunting without dogs, which really gives a new spin on things. I have only hunted grouse without a dog a few times late in the season, but it does have some valuable tips that I myself didn't know.
I wasn't thrilled about them using google earth (my best little dirty secret) on finding new cuts and ideal habitat. Although it's not news to those who are computer savvy, this book makes it elementary, so that even computer illiterate folks can understand the process.
My favorite focus of the book talked about NON aspen type cover, and how well they do in it. I definitely needed this part of the book. I think we have been programmed in our part of the country to think that aspen is IT, for cover. While it will always be a mainstay and VERY important part of the grouse diet, there are certainly many other viable options that can hold birds.
This will make a very nice stocking stuffer, and is extremely well written.
It's hard to get a a failing grade from me when anything is written about Ole Ruff, but this book truly gets a passing grade. Its available on all the usual Amazon type sites.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

California Dreamin

As I awoke to the meteorologist talking about our impending 4 inch storm, and temps next week barely able to reach the double digits for highs, I began to chuckle a bit. Its exactly 12 days, 11 hours, and 7 minutes until I'm boarding a plane for the sunny and upland dream that is California, ESPECIALLY this time of year.
I've been working my tail off on the treadmill with a 10 pound backpack strapped on my shoulders, the incline has been at ten, and my waistline has shrunk. I've packed away my cold weather upland gear and boots, and have packed my mother bird vest complete with hydration bladder, and the absolute lightest shotgun I can find.
In pursuit of valley, mountain quail, and chukar, there is simply no substitute for lightweight gear. When climbing from anywhere form 3 to 6 thousand feet, the depleted oxygen and grade can turn  men into mice.
Its a pursuit that while taxing, is usualy reaped with huge benefits of giant coveys, and one fantastic tasting game bird.
I'll give daily updates from my hunts, until then, Merry Christmas. Lets remember the reason for the season. God bless