Last weekend marked the end of quail season here, which is pretty much all she wrote until spring turkey and then the long slow spell (hunting-wise) before dove and grouse in September.
We didn't take much advantage of our opportunities, work again interfering with life. This was a surprisingly decent quail year and, if it will just rain or snow a bit in the next couple of months and we get a normal monsoon in the summer, next year might be pretty good. That said, my folks and sister came out for an early 76th weekend for Dad and only bumped three coveys in two days and a whole lot of miles. The first of those was gratifyingly large, well over 20 birds, but took off down a thirty mile an hour tailwind and flew way, way out there. We pursued nonetheless but never found them.
The second day of our hunt, the weather went from 70 degrees with a
thirty mile an hour wind to 28 degrees and overcast, all day long. One
of the coveys we ran into flushed at 200 yards and flew another six,
then flushed wild a second time and just about went out of sight. Late
season, tough hunting.
A month ago, back around the end of duck season, A and I headed north up to our old stomping grounds on the Rio Bravo and got together with friend Matt for a weekend of duck hunting. The first day didn't go real well, as we hadn't been out scouting. We found a spot in the dark where a half dozen mallards were roosting in a nook of the current, but ducks passing over once light came were few and not interested in our spot. The flood last September took out a lot of sediment and the river isn't as spread out as it has been in other years, making it a little harder to find a setup. Our second day, we had a much better place and had ducks trying to land as we were putting out the decoys.
It wasn't perfect, though, and several big bunches of mallards gave us hard looks and circled, but wouldn't commit. A pair of widgeon tried to land in the dekes- those we just flat missed. At the end of the day, we had a few birds and quite a bit of fun.
So, now the big game proclamation is out and the deadline to apply for next fall's hunts is fast approaching. Time to sit down with a calendar, a map, and the odds from last year's draw to try to figure out how to get the best out of a little time afield and maybe put some meat in the freezer.
Chad Love on the lack of advocacy for grassland and prairie conservation. He makes the point that there is little public land for the public to access to develop an appreciation for the grasslands. I think he's on to something. I've written before on how a regular connection to a place encourages advocacy for its preservation. Western states that limit out-of-state licenses are making a mistake in some respects, in my opinion, by shutting out or limiting a national audience that cares about habitat, which is often on federal land. As Chad notes, there is precious little federal prairie for people to tramp about, hunt across, camp on, or care for in contrast to the millions of acres we can access further west.
New to this blog roll, and off Querencia, find Hits and Misses: "Hunting, fishing, cooking and other critical aspects of life". Gee, nothing simpatico there at all. In any event, check out Gerard Cox's reworking of a sporterized Lee Enfield in the style of a British sporting rifle. Neat work.
Last weekend was the first weekend of quail season in New Mexico. A and I got out and checked for a couple of coveys we'd seen earlier in the year. We didn't find those birds, but drove and walked and, eventually, put up 4 coveys. One of those was only a few birds and got a pass, but the others were decent coveys of a dozen or more.
We lost the better part of one covey after they flushed, then ran, peeling out of the group until you're left chasing 1 or 2 birds (a desert quail specialty). After that we swung back through the area where they had first broken up hoping to find some singles or the rest of the covey. A pair got up and I dropped one a ways out. Booker had it marked and started a nice retrieve, then, on his way back, kicked up another couple of birds only ten yards away. Thinking we had a bird in hand, I shot one of those as well. Unfortunately, finding the bird is more fun than bringing it all the way back to hand, and Books dropped his bird to go find the new one. The bird dropped wasn't dead yet, and when we went to pick it up had left only a few saliva gummed feathers behind and was never to be found. Not a great performance in any aspect. On the other hand, it was the first day of the season.
Most interesting part of all this?
Blues and bobwhites, living together. Well, at least in proximity.
In celebration of running into some wild bobwhites, we fried our birds and ate them with cream gravy, rice, sauteed greens, black eyed peas and cornbread.
Here's to hoping we can find a few more this weekend. While far from a good year for quail, at least there are a few birds out there.
In a decent quail year, if one was willing to drive a couple hundred miles in a day and had just a little bit of luck, I think you could manage a 4 species, all NM quail slam with bobwhites, blues, Gambel's, and Mearns. One of these days, I'd like to find out, just 'cause.