The Planning Season

A few years back, a friend jokingly prodded me about the obsessive nature of my love for upland bird hunting. Because “hunting season only lasts 6 months” he said I would “be deprived of happiness during the off-season”, half of my life. It is true that nothing brings greater joy to my life than watching my dogs do what they were born and bred to do. A motionless point, contrasting our fast-paced world, immersed within the beauty of some forgotten western landscape, like a piece of framed artwork, is an irrefutable breathtaking scene. In my opinion, the experiences collected during the hunting season are worth a few months of insipid living.

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Opening Day on the Prairie

After a fairly productive morning of hunting northern bobwhites somewhere in central Kansas, the dogs and I returned to my pickup truck to rest for a while. It was still early in the day and I could already tell it was going to be an unseasonably warm day for November. I stripped off a few layers and put away my shotgun as the dogs enjoyed a well-deserved dip in a water trough. All three dogs, Ranger, Ruby, and Pearl had exceeded my expectations on their first hunt together. Each one did their fair share of pointing, backing, and retrieving. I wish I could say this quality had persisted for the duration of the season.

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One at a Time

Every year, I do my best to take an extended bird hunting road trip through a few western states. I enjoy exploring new places and hunting the birds that inhabit them. Besides, as the English poet William Cowper said, “(v)ariety’s the very spice of life”. And, in my opinion, being exposed to a broad array of conditions make the dogs and me better hunters. This December the first leg of the trip took us to the southwestern corner of Oregon in search of mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus), the largest species of quail in the United States and the only one I had not had the opportunity to hunt.

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Trans-Pecos Scalies

In the corner of southwest Texas, lies the unique region known as the Trans-Pecos. The Trans-Pecos is often revered for its mountains, ranging in elevation from 2500 to 8750 feet, and its hot and dry climates, some of the hottest and driest in Texas. The region is composed of Chihuahuan Desert grasslands, scrublands, and mountains. The locals of the region will tell you that everything down there will sting, stab, or bite. They aren’t wrong. Dominant plant species throughout much of the Trans-Pecos include cactus-like prickly pear, lechuguilla, dog cholla, tasajillo, and catclaw acacia. In contrast to the inhospitable vegetation, the region is home to many charismatic wildlife species like desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn, javelina, black bear, mountain lion and scaled quail.

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An Ode to Cash

As a young traveling wingshooter, I spend a lot of time in the field by myself. Convincing friends to join me on excursions to virgin grounds is often difficult. Although I always enjoy my adventures, I understand that it can be a hard sale for some. The phrase “I can’t promise we will shoot or even find birds, but I can promise we will cover plenty of ground” is less than attractive to some.

These kinds of situations eventually drove me to get my first bird dog. I had spent several years hunting quail without a dog. It just never seemed like the “right time”. After being drawn deeper and deeper into the upland community, I finally broke down and bought my first bird dog. Cash was a 1.5-year-old started French Brittany that came from a kennel in Alabama.

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Subtle Beauty

rolling in from beyond the horizon that beach themselves on the pristine sandy shores of the coast, create a magnificent scene. And the enormous western mountain ranges, slopes cloaked in vibrant forests, conceal innumerable mysteries within their deep crevices. Beyond the surface of these locales, even the minutiae maintain a certain level of reverence. The ecosystems, flora and fauna alike, draw to it, the attention of society. Regardless of social class or occupation, every citizen seems to have knowledge of these scenes and holds them in high regard. And rightfully so. Their ecological and economic importance are not lost on me. I do find it strange, however, that fascination with the natural world dissipates as we move away from such places.

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Reminiscing with Old Friends

I drew my bulky piece of weathered steel from its leather scabbard. It had been 5 months since I oiled the shotgun and put it away, the last I laid eyes on my reliable hunting partner. As I ran my hands the length of the old double-barrel, stories began to proliferate from somewhere beyond my conscious. The first thing that caught my attention was the tarnished buttstock. A nickel-sized chunk of wood was missing since the day I tumbled down a southern Arizona hillside, startled by an erupting covey of Mearns quail.

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Ursus of Arizona

What are you up to?”, my mother questioned over the phone. I replied, “me and few of the guys are heading to bear hunt in Arizona.” She chuckled in response and then there were a few moments of silence followed by an excited “Wait, really!?”. It was at that moment I realized how absurd the statement must have sounded.

A few weeks back, in early May, we hatched our plan from a makeshift office in our rent house in southwestern Texas. The purpose of the impromptu hunting excursion was to provide a hiatus from the grind of our graduate degrees. We were clueless as to what this pursuit would entail. In fact, between the five of us, we knew next to nothing about Arizona black bears.

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The Use of onX Mapping by Wildlife Biologists

As an avid upland bird hunter who likes to hunt a variety of species, the onX Hunt application has played a vital role in my hunt success. With this tool in my pocket, I have felt much more confident when travelling around the country. I am sure that many of you can attest to the app’s utility for finding, both public hunting access and the appropriate habitat, when hunting away from your home coverts. Though this is true, my first experience using onX was not as a means for hunting but as a tool for research.

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