Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cactus, Jack

I spent the better part of last week chasing birds in South TX, something I've been fortunate enough to do for the last few years at various times. This year stood apart as far as the quail are concerned (more on that later) and, unfortunately, for one other reason.

Walking after some singles I cut a corner a little too close and knew it immediately. The cactus drove through my pants just above my knee and left the spines in there when I lurched backward. The long ones have surprising penetration ability and the short ones are just plain aggravating to get out. I got them all out after several minutes of picking and pulling that also involved dropping my pants in the middle of a Texas pasture, but that was just the beginning.

Not this one, a bigger, angrier cousin.

T + 3 hrs - I start to notice some soreness in the knee.

T + 20 hrs - What the ???

T + 36 hrs - I need an aisle seat on the plane.

T + 48 hrs - Wonder what a torn meniscus feels like? Or a strained medial collateral cruciate patella femur thingy?

T + 72 hrs - This damn thing ain't gettin' any better.

T + 4 days - Stairs is another word for Bataan.

T + 6 days - Finally turning the corner.

Lessons learned? 1000 denier cordura is no match for this stuff.  Filson tin cloth might be but on most days it's too hot in my neck of the woods so I don't own a pair. After this run-in I may see what's on eBay, though. And in the future I'll be giving a wide berth to these green hornets. I'll try not to complain about briars any more.

Worth it for some of the best bird hunting I've ever had? Oh yeah.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

One last post for 2014

The ink well has been running a little dry lately but through the wonder that is Craigslist I managed to pick up another media tool recently - a decent Canon dSLR that I've been having a little fun with. Photos below are from two recent excursions with the dog, one carrying a gun and another without.

We're not allowed to hunt in the national forest on Sundays, something I did for years until I learned about the rule. I always wondered why I never ran into anyone else. There's no rule against taking your dog for a walk, though.

Figures we'd stumble into a covey when I didn't have a gun on me. This photo tells the tale of just how fickle scent can be. When I rounded the corner and saw Wyatt on point, he was looking to the left, not the right as he is below. His head was gently drifting from side to side so I knew he didn't have the birds locked, but he wasn't coming off the point either. I stepped off the road toward him and the covey blew up about 3 yards off his tail, leaving him with the look below as they off.

Bird dog after the flush

I checked the wind and sure enough it was blowing left to right. My guess is the birds were feeding (it was about 4pm) and had just been in the area to the left. A few minutes after the flush the wind had shifted 180 degrees, so there's no telling what his nose picked up. I was extremely impressed he held point for as long as he did under those conditions.

This time of year you can occasionally find a few woodcock in the right places. They love the river bottoms and cane breaks and the shooting is usually pretty easy down there.

River bottom
Woodcock like this...
Cane breaks
...and love this
Well, we hunted the best spots and didn't move any so we eased on to higher ground to look for quail. It wasn't long before Wyatt went on point, at least I thought he was on point because he wasn't moving although I couldn't see him through the mess of young pine trees and saplings and briars and vines. I'm of the mind that unless it's dangerous you should always, always try to get to a dog on point. It just sends the wrong message if you wait for him to break or, God forbid, call him off.

A machete would have been highly useful as I pushed and clawed and bled my way through and after a few minutes I heard it, the chirp of a timberdoodle taking flight, and looked up just in time to see it float over the tops of the pines. Gun behind me, a shot was not a remote possibility. This routine repeated on a second bird. Eventually we escaped from the wooded prison and got two more flushes, the last of which actually presented a shot but the bird would have dropped right back in the middle of the trees and vines so I watched it sail off. Woodcock hunting.

Bird dog working the edge
Working the edge late in the day
River view from the bluff
Not all views are bad
Mushrooms on a log

Lost horse sign
Apparently they're not too concerned about the rider.
I didn't see either of them.

Brittany in the woods
Maybe this way..

sunset in the pines
End of the day

Monday, December 22, 2014

Time passing

The lack of activity here over the last few weeks is not an indication of apathy or boredom, just conflicting priorities. Between a few lackluster dove hunts and one highly unproductive quail hunt I've been tending to an aging member of the family. Finally had him put to sleep on the 18th, mainly to prevent the suffering that was coming hard and fast.

This one was never a bird dog. Any talent he was born with was stolen from him by his first owner. He came to live with me scared of his own shadow. a foster dog that I was supposed to rehabilitate to the point that he could go live with another family. After a year of steps forward and back he was ready but by then he was part of the family, so he stayed for the next 15 years.

As a youngster he would run in circles in my backyard for hours, literally to the point that he made berms in places. This returned in his old age but the circles were much, much smaller and the motion was a turtle's pace. His affinity for escaping the yard and spending the night out also returned, as I wrote about earlier this year.

The last few months were spent alternately soaking up sunshine and struggling with the basics. There were times, more frequent toward the end, when he could only point his nose toward some tangle of objects and become trapped in or under them. When the neural switchboard guides you away from open spaces and into things from which you cannot escape on your own, something is very wrong. His legs were slowly giving out and it occurred to me that it had been a long, long time since I'd seen that nubby little tail wag.

Where his soul goes from here is nothing but speculation. I'll disagree with anyone, though, who claims dogs don't have souls. I've seen too much to agree with such nonsense. His is now freed from a worn-out old body, free to jump on the bed and dig through the trash can and run in circles again. Godspeed, old man.