Thanks to Chas over at Southern Rockies Nature Blog for nominating SFA for a "Superior Scribbler Award", which is one of those meme-ish sorts of things where one names five other blogs you think worthy. While I'm confident there are more than five other worthy blogs, this meme has been over at the Atomic Nerds, who tagged the Querencia crew, who named Chas and other good bloggers. So, I'm not going to tag anyone. I will say, check the blog roll over there on the right side. If I'm going on-line, I'll check SRNB and Querencia first thing, cruising their blog rolls for amusement. I really admire Fat of the Land, Hunter Angler Gardner Cook, and Trout Caviar for their commitment to using natural ingredients that they've hunted up themselves in creative and respectful ways and writing about it in a compelling fashion, in addition to their posting of good recipes. For that matter, I like dog blogs and it's pretty hard to beat the red dog adventures over at Regal Visla or the falcon and Brittany duck hunts at Operation Desert Dove. If I were going to nominate folks, those would be the ones and they're welcome to consider themselves nominated if they choose.
So, a Friday or so ago I was sitting at my desk at work when I got a call from a buddy in Denver. "Hey", he says, "Chris is on the mountain and he can't find you guys." I respond "Well, that's because the season doesn't start until next week." After a little discussion, I checked the proclamation to discover, to my dismay, that our elk season started in about sixteen hours rather than in a week. I'm not certain how or when I mis-calendared the hunt, but it was months ago and I was caught a bit flat-footed. I've never done anything like that before and hope never to make such a mistake again. As soon as I got home I threw things together in preparation for the hunt.
Booker makes his bid to pack his toy and have the dog go, too:
Despite staking out the duffel with the hunting clothes and staying right with it, he was unsuccessful in that request. Early the next morning, I headed north and west. Driving up:
and over the mountains:
I got to Grand Junction, where my father flew in. Unfortunately, his duffel (with boots, sleeping bag, and other necessities) didn't make the flight and he had to make the four hour trip to retrieve it the next day. In the meantime, racing fading daylight, we headed up into the hunt area.
Up the canyon, where we saw bighorn sheep:
We haven't seen the sheep in there before. I'm not sure if they're recently transplanted or we just got lucky. I'll have to see if the DOW has anything on its web site. We also saw a covey of chukar down in the private lands in the canyon, but they were a bit too fast to get any photos of them. Such pretty birds, and large, too. In any event, we got on up into hunting country:
and met up with our hunting companion and got set up. The next morning, we headed out into bluebird weather to hunt. It's big country up there, miles of oakbrush, aspen, pinyon and even spruce:
Even with lots of hunters, they kind of disappear into the space. Look in the center for the little orange dot:
Here's a little spring that was dug out probably forty years ago. The track leading up to it had trees five inches thick growing in it:
The water lies right up behind where we camp and the draw next to it nearly always has bear scat and turkey sign in it. That was true this year, which appears to be a very good one for acorns and pinyon nuts, which ought to help all the wildlife carry through the winter well.
I say a small bunch of cow elk at a bit over 500 yards, but they headed another direction and I wasn't able to get closer to them. Apart from close encounters with a couple of mule deer bucks, that was about it for game for me. My father picked up some grouse and our buddy had one great evening where he saw several elk including a couple of nice bulls. No elk were harmed on this hunt, though. The grouse had crops full of acorns and rose hips, which ought to make for some very tasty birds.
Glad I have a back-up elk hunt in NM next month. Now I just need to check the dates on that again.
This past weekend Booker and I headed up to the very northern part of the state to take a last crack at grouse. We got an early start, finding a warm, breezy, and humid morning as we loaded into the truck. As we went north the clouds lowered and gathered; hardly prospective for bird hunting. By the time we got to where I intended to hunt, we couldn't see the top of the ridge for the dark clouds scudding through the sky and rain showers were marching up from the south and west. Weather up there nearly always comes out of the west and if the trend is from the southwest, it is nearly always wet. After three hours on the road, we were faced with the decision whether to head up into likely rain and poor hunting or to turn around and go home without putting boots on the ground. We chose to go up and, before we'd made it across the mile and a half to the foot of the ridge, I had to pull on rain gear in the face of a chilly, sideways drizzle.
In a lifetime of hunting and fishing less than optimum conditions are bound to come up. You drive out to the water only to be confronted with chocolate-colored waves that are too rough to fish well and too off-color to hold many fish, or you get to the river to find that a sudden warm spell has dumped a bunch of cold, muddy snowmelt into it, turning off the fish and stopping any hatches, or get to the lake to be confronted by a forty-mile-an-hour wind that renders fly-casting problematic and dangerous, that same wind can blow for an entire weekend if you're turkey hunting and silence the birds while killing your chances of calling one in, or you go out for grouse and find yourself in wet weather that puts the birds up cozy in nice thick spruce trees, rather than down on the ground where the dog can find them. In most instances I end up going ahead and trying anyway. After all, you're there and you've set the time aside; you might see something or have some success despite the poor conditions. Every so often, it works out. Most the time, you do about as well as one would expect given the look of things.
In any event, as Booker and I started up a finger ridge we got out of the wind and the rain (mixed with pea-sized hail now) let off. I was able to pull of the rain jacket and entertain the optimistic thought that the dampness would improve scenting conditions for the dog. This particular spot requires a good hard hour's worth of walking to get to the top where we generally find the birds. Nearly there, we spooked a small bull elk lying on a point in some aspens. I didn't get a good look, mostly a big tan body, blonde butt, and flash of antlers through the trees. As we topped out, I slowed down and immediately got cold and had to pull clothes back on as the mist and clouds began to precipitate a fine penetrating drizzle. Booker flushed a grouse off the ground some twenty yards out and the uncooperative bird lofted high and off the edge of the ridge, disappearing into the mist. No chance of following him up, but at least we are able to say we found game. We hunted around that area carefully, checking all the spruce nearby for birds huddling in their shelter and walking around the little openings but finding nothing, apparently he was a single.
As we pushed along the edges of the trees and through the little meadows it would rain more and then let off, not great weather but huntable. Then it began to darken precipitously and the rain set in much harder as the temperature dropped fifteen degrees. Despite pulling on a pair of light gloves, I was starting to lose feeling in the tips of my fingers and my cheeks were numb. The dog found it invigorating, much more to his liking than the warm sunny weather I had been hoping for. Nonetheless, I decided that we weren't going to do any good and headed down the mountain. Just as we started down a ridge leading toward the truck, thunder started rumbling and we began to see flashes of lightning. Up high you can really feel that stuff and some of the strikes were too close for comfort, causing even Booker to tuck his tail and glance over his shoulder, so we started seriously bailing down the hill, moving as quickly as loose rock and frequent blowdowns would permit. We made it back to the truck dripping wet after three and a half hours of walking for an hour's worth of hunting. At least we got out there, though. Heck, we even saw something.
p.s.- Can't recommend these Rocky waterproof birdshooters. Only four years old, they have leaked like sieves the last two seasons and I blew that top seam the other day. Comfortable and light, but not durable at all.
The first fall season, that for doves, closed on September 30. Booker and I stole a bit of time on recent Sunday afternoon and got the heck out of town on a last minute hunt. It was really more of a scout than a hunt, as we went out to check a little corner of public land which looked like it might work for doves on paper, but which I'd never visited. Getting a late start, we left the house at four and were out of the truck a bit after five, ready for the evening shoot.
There was water, some trees for roosting, and about a hundred acres of pigweed, sunflowers, and other assorted dove foods in the area. Most of the sunflowers and such were chest high, though, which isn't a favorite for doves. After a bit, I saw a dove wing along next to a tall cottonwood, soon to be followed by five more in a loose bunch. We made our way down there and, sure enough, it turned out to be something of a flyway. There weren't very many birds and we were late, but we managed to scratch out a couple. We spent some time walking out in the sunflowers to see if we'd put any up and came across a big covey of blue quail. I'm not sure the dog had ever seen a quail flush before, as when they started buzzing up in his face he stopped, looking around in apparent surprise that birds would act that way and could be so loud. At least, that's what I projected from his behavior and my own recollection of my response to my first covey rise. Nonetheless, Booker's reaction resulted in a perfect reaction to a flush and I praised him heavily, hoping to encourage more such behavior.
Walking back to the truck we encountered another covey of blues. I saw them cross the road so, when we got to the right spot I sent the dog in and he flushed again in good form. I broke open my gun, not having seen a dove in a while, and thereby managed to miss the dusk flight of a couple of dozen birds. It's been a long time since I went out for doves and I had forgotten a few things.
Overall, it was about a perfect last minute try at a new place. Next year I'll probably head over there again- there weren't many people, birds should be around, and it's close enough to home to make a quick afternoon hunt viable.
Once again, we roasted a whole pig and had a few friends by. This last Saturday featured cool, cloudy weather and, later on, the first rain we've had in nearly a month. Plan a party....
In addition to the usual cast of friends and family, this year also featured a significant number of in-the-fleshappearances by a number of NM bloggers of things outdoor and ecclectic. It was awfully nice of all those folks to travel up and down state to socialize a bit. Though more-or-less local, Querencia country and the city of the Atomic Nerds are a good bit over a hundred miles away. No big deal on your way to a party, much less fun on the way home.
Here are directions for the method. This is the roaster, constructed out of stacked-up cinder blocks lined with foil for the first two courses. A sheet of metal, also covered with foil, goes in the bottom and you build a fire in each end, then rake the coals into the corners. Every forty minutes or so, you add more charcoal by removing a cinder block and dropping or tossing the charcoal onto the fire. Here's the roaster set up with the fire getting started:
My rack is built out of non-galvanized hog-wire, fenceposts, and lengths of rebar all wired together. Here's the pig after 24 hours in marinade, laid out and about to be wired into the rack:
Once the pig was securely fastened to the rack, we put it on the roaster and covered the whole thing with foil to keep the heat in. Booker kept watch over the pig:
Once the pig was off the fire, Booker also spent a fair amount of time under the carving station. At the end of the evening, I went to scratch his ears and noticed something stiff in his normally soft hair. It was fat that had run off the pig while we were carving and landed on his head as he scouted under the table for lost bits. While it didn't burn him, it was pretty disgusting and made him smell like barbecue instead of dog. The large-dog method of bathing was in order fairly promptly the next morning.
As it cooked, we occasionally wiped down the pig with a mojo of sour orange, garlic, black pepper, salt, and oregano:
Flipping the pig. The smallest pig I could get this year was 100 pounds which made this a bit of a chore and lengthened the cooking time quite a bit:
Testing- looks about done:
Cutting crispy skin for those who'd like a bite:
Getting into the meat of things:
Next year, a smaller pig and another hour or two on the fire. I want that meat falling off the bone. In the meantime, I have about twenty pounds of boneless roasted pork in the freezer. Now that the weather has turned cool, perhaps some red chile is in order.