In many parts of the country, hunting seasons for some birds open on September first. Not so celebrated as the Glorious Twelfth and driven in part by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the first of September marks the beginning of dove season for a lot of hunters. For many of us in the West, it also marks the beginning of squirrel season and grouse season. The season for Band-tailed pigeons also opens in some areas. In other words, September first is opening day. Except for perhaps one or two short periods, some kind of small game will be in season from now until early February.
As I've mentioned, I grew up with dove hunting and was spoiled by plentiful birds and nearby hunting locations. Stories from California hunters of driving for hours through the dark to catch a sunrise flight of birds in the desert struck me as really strange. Dove hunting was something that happened after school and after work, minutes from the house and always in the afternoon. Currently, I live in too large a city with too little nearby agriculture to have a lot of doves, despite all those mourners and whitewings crowded on my feeder:
In the last couple of decades, I've only shot doves once that I can recall. On the other hand, I've spent a lot of time, miles, gas and boot leather looking for grouse. In the Southwest we have blue grouse. In southern and western Colorado I've seen them in oak brush and pinyon margins near higher elevations. Further south, they appear almost exclusively on high ridges, usually around open meadows and in areas with mixed aspen and spruce occur. Generally, if you find grouse in an area one year, you'll probably find them there again. This is mitigated by the fact that populations are cyclical, the birds move around a good bit, and the birds are pretty easy to just walk past and you can't count on them flushing when you do. The Colorado Dept. of Wildlife estimates you walk by 5-10 birds for each one you see. (They also offer advice on finding the birds). In my experience hunting for grouse generally involves a lot of walking in high country while looking around, something worthwhile in its own right. Not a classic bird hunting experience for me, I generally carry a .22 rifle, sometimes a .22 pistol. On the one occasion I used a shotgun, I went three birds for three shots- since then I've avoided another go with the scattergun in the sure knowledge that I have many misses stored up for myself. For that matter, I've seen the birds launch themselves off tree limbs and out over canyons at truly impressive speeds, making me glad I wasn't carrying a shotgun with which to embarrass myself.
So, this post was designed to be about anticipating opening day and the start of fall. The kicker is that, in an unusual display of care and thoroughness, I decided I'd check over my state game proclamation (pdf at this link) before hitting "publish". A couple of years ago, New Mexico extended the blue grouse season to mid-October from the previous Sept. 1-30 limitation. The extra couple of weekends were nice. Now, checking the regs, I see that after thirty years during which there has been exactly one change in the regulations with respect to blue grouse, this year there's a permit requirement as well as opening the season on August 23 for one section of grouse range centered around the southern Sangre de Cristo mountains and the Pecos Wilderness. Folks hunting upthere can start early. Head that way and, what do you know, today is opening day!
Right at one year ago I got my Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Booker. I chose to get a rescue dog for various reasons and utilized the help and good offices of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief and Rescue organization. So far, things are working out pretty well for the dog and I both and we're looking forward to the start of the hunting seasons here in a few weeks.
Each year, CBR R&R raises funds by selling a calendar. Cleverly, they raise more funds by having folks pay to vote for their favorite photos as well as by selling the calendar. Go check out the Chessie photos. The money goes to a good cause and while you're there, you could always vote and support the organization's good works. Heck, you could even vote for this guy:
are still talking aboutmushrooms. It is clearly that time of year. On our recent trip to the mountains, A, Booker and I found plenty, though not much we could identify as positively edible. Wildflowers, too:
Here you see two puffballs, one having matured and the remains of the cap filled with water, one just appearing and still firm:
We had a few of the firm puffballs with our eggs for breakfast. I was wary of the Leccinum boletes, however. Though others eat them with enjoyment, the possibility of severe gastric distress was something I hadn't set a couple of days aside for. Perhaps a giant puffball or nice patch of kingboletes remains in the future. Paying attention to mushrooms certainly opens up a whole other level of complexity in the woods- at your feet, mushrooms; fifty feet out, grouse, squirrels, other small critters; at the limit of sight, deer, coyotes, elk, and other wary species- you have to move slow or you'll miss everything!
First caprese salad of the summer, garden green beans with a bit of butter and fresh pepper, homemade multi-grain bread, and a bit of elk, grilled rare. That particular cut comes from right off the shoulder blade. Two thin, triangular steaks lie right along side the bone of each shoulder, separated by a ridge on the shoulder blade. You have to fillet them away from the bone and because the grain of the meat lies perpendicular to the broad portion of the steak, they are always tender. They make great barbecue meat, especially when you are going to be up in the woods. Much of the time I find myself camped up in aspen and spruce territory, neither of which makes particularly hot or long-lasting coals. Those thin elk steaks cook a lot more quickly over the lesser heat.
A medium bodied Argentinian Malbec balanced the lean meat and fresh veggies nicely. It was all terrible-
On the other hand, if pressed for time, you can always just have a pizza-
the first again features the garden: pizza margherita of fresh mozzarella, homegrown tomatoes, homegrown basil, garlic, & a bit of olive oil; the other Greek inspired- mozzarella, tomato & garlic balanced by some tang from sheep's milk feta and Kalamata olives.
I've read around the web where some folks have expressed a lack of excitement over the Olympics for various reasons. I can understand that, as I've fallen off watching the Games myself over the last few cycles. A big tipping point for me was when professional athletes were allowed to participate. Watching a selection of NBA players competing in basketball seems about as far from the Olympic ideals as it is possible to get. Nonetheless, for a number of sports, the Olympics is the Big Show. This is true of many shooting disciplines. Go to Camp Perry for the National Matches or to the Grand American and, well, good for you, it's an accomplishment. Place in the President's Hundred or make the Palma Team and you've got bragging rights. Become a National Champion in a given discipline, then ditto and then some. However, qualify for the Olympics and you've entered a darned exclusive club. Olympic shooting is incredibly competitive and very demanding- the qualifying process is a killer. Big matches where you have to fire a lot of rounds and wait a long time between relays not only require concentration and ability, but endurance and then concentration on demand again and again over the course of several long days. That sort of shooting presents an entirely different level of challenge from an afternoon or morning's match.
In any event, I have family reasons to watch the games. I'll be paying particular attention this year because this young sportsman:
Has grown up to become this young man and Olympic skeet competitor. He's an amateur who's shot his way into and through college and from there on to the Olympic Team with lots of parental support.
Here's wishing Sean and the rest of the US Team the best of luck!
We headed up to northern NM this weekend to enjoy the mountains a bit. While there, Booker the Chessie reacquainted himself with the campfire, first by sticking his nose in it and singing off most of his whiskers:
notice the curlicues on the right side of his muzzle. A closeup:
Got the eyebrows, too:
He spent most of the evening chasing sparks out of the fire. If he caught any, they didn't cause any apparent burns. The cat cites this sort of behavior as proof positive of superior feline intelligence.
Apart from fun with fire, we managed to find a little creek or two:
flowing well from the rains, which have also rendered the mountains verdant and a bit buggy. Wild mint, myriad wildflowers, mushrooms, a hen grouse with two half-grown chicks (discovered via a nice flush by Booker, who didn't try to run them into the next county), a cow elk, long coyote choruses, rain, hail, and other fun things. More photos, I hope, at a later date.