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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A Love/Hate Relationship

I went into the season with my usual anxiety. It was slightly settled as I prepped for the more auxiliary components of deer camp, baking chocolate chip zucchini muffins for early mornings, and making venison Zuppa Toscana and venison Sloppy Joe’s for dinners. I reminded myself that I am more than proficient with my rifle, and it’s really about frosty sunrises and the unpredictable events that ensue.

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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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A Gentleman’s Sport

I’m not really sure why the sharp-tailed grouse doesn’t get the attention that other upland birds do. Heck, I’m still not sure why upland hunting in general isn’t more popular. Sure it’s not as “sexy” as public lands backcountry archery hunting, it doesn’t seem as hardcore as busting ice with headlamps and decoy bags in the dark and all-to-often it gets called a “gentleman’s sport,” but most of the time there’s pretty much nothing gentlemanly about it.

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