A few days ago, Chad Love of the Mallard of Discontent posted about the lack of water in his early season ducking haunts over in Oklahoma. Full of hubris or too cocksure, I commented that "at least our river is still flowing". I should have checked first.
That's Booker and I standing right in the middle of the main, and only, channel! This'll be my eleventh or twelfth season hunting the Rio Grande and this is the lowest I've ever seen it at this time of year. The water will come up once irrigation season ends in November, but it's going to have to come way, way up for there to be enough water to float (or attract) many birds.
Nonetheless, we saw a few ducks on our scout and made some preparations for the season.
Duck season starts this upcoming week. It's usually slow at first, with the lack of water I'm guessing it'll be really slow, but we lucked into sandhill crane permits for later in the year and are looking forward to a chance at the "ribeye of the sky" as well as more ducks once they re-water the river and some (hoped for) bad weather up north pushes them down.
As with some other first mushrooms, this guy was pretty unmistakable when seen in the flesh.
Unfortunately, it was late in the season and that guy had been up for a while; the bugs had found him first and, rather than the crisp white flesh described in the books and on the 'net, he was a soft, bug riddled mass. Still, is was great to see and positively identify a new (and prized edible) species. Further, we've duly noted the location and will give it all due attention next year.
Today is the last day of dusky grouse season in New Mexico. A couple more days spent out in the woods didn't result in any more birds for us, even way up in one spot that I've pretty much always found birds. This is the first year I've been blanked.
Some other predator got to this one first:
Grass as high as a Chessie's eye:
Our weather has turned fall-like, cool in the evenings and at night. Summer's gone and the garden is putting on a last burst. Time to really savor those last tomatoes.
Duck season starts (in the zone we hunt) in just a couple of weeks. We'll go to making game then.
We've been out half a dozen times this grouse season, with one flush (three birds) to show for it. We've found dust baths, feathers, droppings, and miles and miles of country, but can't seem to come into contact with the birds. One of the things I love about hunting blue grouse is that you do get to work for them. Down in NM, they seem to frequent high mountain meadows and parks (think 9,000 feet or so), usually in areas where there are spruce and aspen both. For me, at least, a good grouse spot is one in which I find birds one out of three times I hunt it. Some places that look like good habitat never produce birds. Other places will only provide birds occasionally. So far, we've hit most of my "good" places and many of the "worth trying" spots.
Of course, even if a spot if full of grouse, you won't necessarily find them. The birds will lay low if they can and let you walk by without a flush. Also, the country is big- no way to completely work an area that might hold birds (at least, not with a flushing dog)- so you might pass them by. As it is, this year I'm not certain if it is a good year for the birds or if populations or low. I'm guessing low, but I'm not certain.
As the season is nearing an end, we're going to make a trip up north and take a long hike up a mountain that has usually had birds on it. I don't think I've gone through a grouse season skunked and would prefer to keep that the case.
In the meantime, scenery and other photos.
First, because while it may be the law in Colorado, it's just a strong suggestion in New Mexico (sort of like traffic signals), some fall color, which isn't in full swing yet:
A late-blooming wood rose:
Merriam's turkeys. If we were turkey hunting, we'd have been in good shape this year.
Big ol' vulture sitting up on a ridge. I don't know if he had a full belly, or if the lack of wind made it too much work to fly, or if something he'd eaten was disagreeing with him, but he allowed us to get pretty close and, fortunately, I found him before the dog did. The Chessie though he needed retrieving, and that wouldn't have been a pretty scene:
The fall has been fine. Warm, our last trip was the first one cool and damp enough for the dog to have a good day working, and lovely. We've seen elk, deer, and the aforementioned turkeys and heard elk bugling as well. Now all we need is to get into a few more birds.
Noticing quite a bit of smoke in the mountains to the north, I did a quick internet search for new stories on any forest or brush fires up there. I found out about the source of the smoke (a controlled burn), but also came across a news story from the past summer that made me wonder a bit. In relevant part:
"The Red Fern Fire about 13 miles east of Cuba (New Mexico) is reported at 120 acres and also is zero percent contained. The fire is threatening one cabin and is reported to have burned a historic outhouse Thursday. The Forest Service did not provide details on the history of the outhouse."
So, how does one find an outhouse historic? Someone famous used the facility? Died in there? I don't think there were ever any battles in the Jemez Mountains for an outhouse to have survived or been utilized during. Darn it, now I'm going to spend hours trying to figure this out.