Friday, October 31, 2014

The Devil's minions

Fire ant hill

If your part of the country doesn't have them, count your blessings. These mounds of granulated clay look harmless, inert, until you knock the top off of one. Just beneath lie thousands of agents of suffering.

They take over a field faster than kudzu. They've been rumored to eat the eggs of certain gallinaceous birds. Every living thing is supposed to have some value to the planet, but I've yet to find the good done by this tiny demon.

Water doesn't drown them. Bug spray doesn't deflect them. They move quickly and in silence.

They invade a boot without warning and those at the front of the charge wait until those at the rear have arrived to begin the assault. And then they bite. And it stings. And then itches for days.

Often they don't stop at boot level, ascending a leg until well past the knee only to release their venom in the most inconvenient of places.

I take great pleasure in their demise.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A little help please..

I try to avoid re-posting stuff from other bird hunting blogs. It's their creative blood and sweat and you should visit their blogs, not mine, to get it. But this morning I read a post from Greg McReynolds on Mouthful of Feathers that was a bit different.

About a week ago Greg left his gun at a parking spot in Idaho, and this wasn't just any gun:

Most of the people who read my blog also read MOF, so there's some redundancy here. Given the circumstances I hope you'll forgive me. If you came upon Greg's gun and you're an honest soul, I don't blame you for picking it up and keeping the dishonest at bay while you figure out how to locate its owner. Now you know who it belongs to, though, and it's time to get it home.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bobwhites in the news

Not often that bobwhites make the news twice in one day. The first article is on the PBS website of all places, a lengthy discussion of the movement toward landscape scale management of certain species. Like most of what's written about quail these days it's heavy on the vanilla and PBS monotone and light on the hot sauce, but if you're into conservation it's an interesting read:

Contrary to what you'd think based on the title, this isn't another "we're all doomed because of global warming" piece laden with liberal undertones of conservative culpability. It leans more toward the effects of recent droughts, something those of you in TX, OK, and as of late CA know too well.

The second is a news release from the NBCI about the funding it's been approved for under Pittman-Robertson (for the politically uninclined, this is the formal name for the excise tax on firearms and ammo).

This is a big deal for several reasons.  First, it provides needed funding for the continued work of the NBCI and provides some predictability to that funding. Living from grant request to grant request is no fun and consumes quite a lot of time and effort, both of which could be better put to use supporting the state-level efforts to restore bobwhite populations.

Second, it affirms that more and more attention is being paid to the plight of the bobwhite and the urgent need to do something about it. This is in many ways at least as important as the funding as it moves us closer and closer to the critical mass it will take to affect change on a range-wide basis. If you have a few minutes, visit their site ( and read the 2014 State of the Bobwhite report, particularly the segments on what's happening in each state.  Lots of really good results out there that just don't get a lot of ink.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Glorious 11th

As the first season wears on, turnout at the hunts drops to predictably low levels and Saturday wasn't the first time I had the field to myself on the closing day. My ancestors had their Glorious 12th of September, opening day in the isles, and this year I had my Glorious 11th, the last chance at shooting dove for the next five weeks, not knowing exactly what the day would hold but knowing I'd kick myself if I didn't at least show up.

It's been a lackluster season up to this point, the resident doves having moved on shortly after opening day leaving us to scratch out a living on scant gypsy populations. Week before last we killed a grand total of two birds in the whole field, so optimism is not exactly abundant this time of year. Most of the guys I shoot with opted for the Clemson game and several others were out of town or just had better things to do. Perish the thought.

dead sunflower
The field is spent
Experience teaches that you'd better bring along something to do when the birds aren't around so I packed the camera, figuring I could at least count on some leaves and dead sunflowers and stuff. When I walked into the field a dozen or so birds got up, which means one of two things will happen:

  1. the birds scatter and never come back and you don't see another bird all day (9 out of 10 times)
  2. this is an omen that there are still birds in the area and maybe, just possibly, this could turn out to be a decent afternoon (1 in 10)
So you settle in, snap a few pics and see what happens..

chairs and grills
Leftover from opening day

changing leaves
Sign of the times

Dead dove hidden in the grass
Sometimes they're hard to find

Dead dove on the ground
Sometimes they're not so hard

dove with a trail of feathers
Sometimes they leave a trail...

A dozen birds in the bag, a few photos, one fire ant bite and everything a fall afternoon has for the taking. While it wasn't perfect - 85 degrees and far more gnats than birds - it handily beat all expectations, reminding me why I show up against the wisdom of the crowd. And why I'll do it again.

doves on a tailgate
The take

Friday, October 3, 2014

October brings..

a morning where the chill sends you back for another layer.

white vapor proof that I really am breathing.

victory over this year's army of mosquitoes.

a cease fire in the battle with the lawn.

leaves sporting new finery.

ashes in the fireplace.

birds multiplying in the freezer.

It's finally here.