Monday, November 25, 2013

This is what opening day looks like...

View from my office window

....if you're in my shoes. Quail season cranked up on the home field today and wouldn't you know, the rest of the world refused to take a holiday, selfish capitalists that they are. It would be an impeccable afternoon to chase birds, too, with temps in the mid-30s and a mild breeze. To paraphrase Thomas Paine, these are the times that drive men to play the Powerball.

Truth be told, I've rarely been able to hunt the opener since they moved it from Thanksgiving to the Monday prior. Between a compressed work week and family convergence the holiday crunch leaves only the narrowest of openings, leaving me looking for a path of lesser resistance. Most years it would be simpler to convince the legislature to changed the opener back to Thanksgiving.

On Thursday and most other days of the year I'll give thanks for the family and the job, but the days of low vocational and familial responsibilities are a relic of the '90s. Early in that decade Datus Proper wrote a wonderful book called Pheasants of the Mind.  Today, sitting at my desk on the second floor of an old house on Pine Street, I'm playing the same game with a smaller bird.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


It's always good to have friends with land. Even better when that land has been managed for bobwhite comfort and better still when they let you hunt it. Such is the case with a tract in the eastern part of the state that a friend (actually his wife) inherited from his father-in-law.

It was shy on luxuries, the closest thing to shelter being two shipping containers and, more recently, a giant screened-in porch designed to keep out rain and mosquitoes. This structure, though long on tenure, we judged unsafe for habitation...

Old farm house falling down

Parts of it were leased to a farmer who farmed it a little too cleanly for my taste but I kept my mouth shut about that. A few more feet of weeds at the field borders would have done wonders for the birds. Nevertheless, in two seasons we found six different coveys hanging around.

bobwhite in hand

Last I week received the truly sad news that after a mere eight months on the market, far short of the three or four years I expected it to take, the property was sold. The real estate market never goes in the crapper when it would actually do some good.

Word is that a small company is buying it for use by the owners and, assuming they have a decent accountant, those customers near the top of the Christmas card list. Somebody's gonna hunt it. Hell, I can't complain. Like many things in this transient life, it was good while it lasted.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Back from the Serengeti

It's amazing what a difference a year makes, or in this case about 9 months. When I was last in south Texas the ground was barren, dust clouds wafted from beneath your feet and even the rattlesnakes had to get creative when hiding. A wetter than normal spring and summer have transformed the place into another land. It's not Africa, but at first glance it could be.

South Texas bobwhite country

Of course every silver lining has its dark rain cloud. Covey counts indicated a supreme number of birds going into the season, and for the first time ever I was there within days of the opener. All this grass, however, means there are many, many more places to hide and these kids are quite adept at hide and seek. One dog relocated seven times and we never caught up to the covey.

Not every covey gave us the slip, though.

pointer on point in South Texas

And quail weren't the only game in town with wings. Thanks to a late night, tequila-aided decoy set and blind fabrication by two of my fellow travelers we enjoyed a stellar morning of duck shooting, bagging five limits in an hour while watching a beautiful sunrise over our shoulders.

TX duck hunting

More plentiful than ducks or quail were the dove which, thank you Mr. Murphy, aren't currently in season. Several mornings while sitting outside enjoying my coffee I noted that I could easily have shot a limit in about 30 minutes without leaving the patio. The locals said they tend to a be a here today, gone tomorrow species in that area, highly sensitive to changes in the weather.

Back to that grass. Seems that the wet weather aided a bumper crop of other species, too, and made them somewhat reluctant to announce their presence. We came inside of three feet of two different rattlers, neither of which made a sound. Maybe I need to get hit once to ease my mind because snake boots alone sure don't do the trick.

South Texas can be a god-forsaken place when it's hot and dry even if you're partial to sweat. It sure does respond to a little precipitation, though, and it's a thing of beauty when it does. The one constant through any extreme of weather is this:

south TX sunset