Monday, June 20, 2011

ducking out

There is a little water down here. The river's blue line across the map is more thin than that drawn by the Rio Grande, but like almost anywhere else people settled in the Southwest, water flows. In addition, there are playa lakes in wet years and some more permanent ponds along the river valley. Consequently, there is some waterfowl hunting. On the last day of this last season, A, Booker and I headed out to some public access ponds to give the birds a try.

Unfortunately, the wind never did pick up, the weather was relatively warm and the birds, predictably, did not fly.

Those of us who hunt ducks learn that mirrored ponds, while photogenic, are of little help in attracting birds. Once it became clear that the wind wasn't going to kick up and the birds would not be trading around, we packed up to head out. Once I emerged from the reeds, a bird did flush from a bit further down the edge and flew, well, mostly flew, for cover. End of the season and all, I swung and fired, only to see him pitch into thick reeds where it took Booker a good fifteen minutes to nose him out.

Books did make the retrieve, though, the only one all season. I did it for the dog and, in the end, they all taste the same in gumbo, right?

Friday, June 10, 2011

"At length my dear Marquis..."

"...I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments...."
George Washington, Letter to Marquis de LaFayette, February 1, 1784

Already a private citizen, I'm a long way from retirement so this quote is mostly an excuse to show off our burgeoning figs, for which we have high hopes in this warmer clime. I first read the portion of Washinton's letter where he expressed his desire to return to Mount Vernon years ago and, for some reason, the bit about "my own vine and my own fig tree" has always stuck. No grapes planted, though. Melons, eggplant, green beans, black eye peas, squash, okra, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, dill, basil, thyme oregano, tarragon, artichokes, currants, serviceberries, cherries, and peaches, yes, but grapes no, at least not yet.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

quail around the new digs

So, this move has brought us down into quail territory, lower & hotter than Albuquerque with more grassland and more birds.The little bit of driving around we've done, I've seen a lot of country that looks to me like it ought to be really good for blue quail (provided it ever rains).

We did get out a bit during the last season, scouting some nearby BLM and Open Gate lands. Our first foray, we found tracks near a windmill and then bumped the covey, which outsmarted & outran us pretty quickly.

Life & work intervened and it wasn't until the very end of the season that we found ourselves out again. We hit the area around that windmill again, working through a fair amount of pretty big mesquite, when Booker the Chessie disappeared and didn't respond to calls. He turned up sixty yards away having cornered a big porcupine in a mesquite bush and unsure what to do with it.

Books managed to get too close, though:

This required getting back to the truck and breaking out a pair of pliers. The quills in his chest were barely into the skin, but a couple of those in his chin were deep enough to hurt quite a bit when I pulled them out. Books didn't offer to bite, he just tried to keep me from getting at the deep ones. After a careful check to make sure we got them all and that none of the quills had broken off, a big drink of water and we were off to see if we couldn't find some other birds.

Some miles of driving and a couple of big loops walking and all we'd found were more tracks, a sunning badger, and a few antelope. We were headed back toward pavement when a covey of fifteen or so birds flushed across the road and hit the ground running. As I pulled up, jumped out, and started jogging up on the birds it occurred to me that I was all alone. Booker and A are both neophytes to the ways of blue quail and didn't fully appreciate the need to get on the birds and get the covey broken up so we could hunt singles before they all ran into the next county. I might have been a bit short in my explanation and A wasn't really aware that it's ok to run with a loaded shotgun, at least when you're trying to get a bunch of scurrying blue quail to flush. We did get them up though, and, between that flush and catching up to a couple of singles, we managed to scratch down a couple of birds and get Booker a couple of retrieves. One of those retrieves involved a leap over a prickly pear followed by a running snatch on a bird that wasn't quite dead yet. Not stylish, but exciting. The rest of the covey just melted away and disappeared, as blues are so very good at.

You can see the reason for the name "scaled quail":

On the rest of the way out we came across another covey, this one classic late season- small and wise to the ways of the world. They flushed a hundred yards from the truck, hit the ground running, split up and then flushed wild again. Good seed stock.

Here's hoping for a little rain so we have some birds for Books to learn on.