One of the lessons I’ve learned as an extremely mediocre fly fisherman is to be willing to work areas that others don’t.  Because if you put my ordinary skills on a virgin pool with naive fish, I’m a really super good fisherman.

Out of orneriness or just not knowing any better, I’ve been taking the same approach to quail hunting.  Quail hunting is supposed to be a sport of gentlemen, casual strolls with pipes and brandy in tweed coats, expensive antique guns with wood burl stocks, led by a salt-of-the-earth guide on someone’s private spread, but I just don’t have the patience (or taxable income).

What I want to do is find wild birds in a wild land.  That’s what I find most enjoyable.  I want to see critters doing their own thing on their own terms, and if I can get birds (or deer, or elk, or pronghorn, or javelina…) on those terms then I feel like I’ve accomplished something, and gotten closer to earning their sacrifice and protein.  A form of penance, perhaps.

It is usually easiest to find these wildeor (self-willed beasts) in places that people don’t visit.  Sometimes it is a matter of mileage.  Sometimes it is a matter of thinking, “Geez, I wonder what’s on the other side of that hill, off the trail, that no one ever seems to go.”

I am no mountain man or commando, but I am curious, and that curiosity will kick my feet uphill.  Sometimes it pays off.

A lot of preamble.  Short of it this past weekend I followed an elk trail 1,000 feet up over a ridge and found a high bowl, with water, forage, and cover.  There were many birds and the pup and I spent some time chasing them.  I don’t think anyone had been up there for months, as the full bull elk skeleton with antlers I stumbled upon suggested.  Nobody would leave that there.

In terms of the pup, he continued his Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde routine– finding birds in a passion, but then wilting after a couple shots are fired.  I’m a fool, I know, I need to back off and start back at zero with the gun.  But it’s so hard to leave him behind.  Again, patience is not a strength of mine.

So I got some birds.  I got this bull skull rack.  And the wildeors indulged my presence for a little while, and I got to pretend I was breathing the same air as them.  Which is enough to get me through another week until I can come back.

PS- while in the trailhead parking lot a young guy in a truck with federal plates rolled up.  We got talking, turns out he’s a BLM ranger for the area.  He was out there that Sunday morning cleaning public restrooms in his spare time as a volunteer— because they “don’t have the budget to hire people to do this full-time.”  The next occasion I hear someone bitching about public lands or federal employees, I’m going to think of this young ranger, and suggest the complainer grab a goddamn toilet brush and/or vote for someone who will appropriately fund the management of our nation’s great outdoors.

2 thoughts on “Skulldoggery

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