Big trout with snow in the background of the photo was my first exposure to Sportsman’s Paradise, nestled in Utah’s Cache Valley. My friend Guy would email pictures of his adventures, from fly fishing to bird hunting at the White Ranch near Logan, and I’d been intrigued from that first big rainbow”s portrait.
Now, it was my turn. A fortunate set of circumstances led me from my original destination to this idyllic valley north of Salt Lake City. Guy was limping, holding a shoulder and sharing stories of misadventures in pursuit of mulies and whitetails, wild turkeys and trout. He was also game for a morning hunt.
The rain started as we opened Buddy’s box. It lightened during the outward leg of our slosh through waist-high grass bordering a cut alfalfa field in the rolling hills surrounding the ranch. The ringnecks didn’t fly – or run – like their feathers were wet … Buddy’s first three points were brief as the birds towered into the air, then downwind and downslope.
We sidehilled a ways, and the Tri-Tronics beeper’s hawk scream announced another point, on the edge of a sage thicket. The bird rose 50 yards away, no shot … again.
Our truckward leg of the hunt was more productive. Wind in our (and Buddy’s) face, the points were solid and birds started holding. The first shot bird of the day is worth a paragraph:
After a tree’s worth, I did my best imitation of Sir Edmund Hillary and slogged up the slope, gun opened and Guy with the only shot. Buddy was like a clock’s minute hand, adjusting to the bird’s movement with quarter-hour moves ending in solid point after point, after point. I got above the skeletal bush, turned off the beeper, and shut up.
Finally unnerved, rooster peeled away from both of us, with the bush between he and me. In my best grouse-hunting style, I ignored the branches and slapped the trigger. A feather cloud signaled my luck.
Guy followed a bit later with a 50-yard shot he says he led by four side-by-side double barrel widths. It worked.
A great track on a wounded bird, more excellent points (and steady-to-flush) added spice to the increasingly yucky day. Rain turned to sleet and we turned for the truck.
I’m already planning my visit for next trout season.
[I’ll be awarding the next pair of Irish Setter boots and jacket early in the week, so tell me in the comment section below where you’d wear a new pair, and they might be sent to you!]