What does a guy do after two weeks on the road hunting in front of television cameras? Um, well, it was opening weekend of chukar and valley quail season, so take a wild guess.
Despite viruses (two out of three of us), sweltering weather, traffic jams and honey-do’s, we convened in the usual place for the usual activities. The upshot? Challenging. Fewer birds, scattered from valley floors to rocky peaks and everywhere in between. Young birds (multiple hatches, we hoped) seemed to dematerialize after vigorous chases. Dry beds where creeks usually provide life-giving fluid to animals great and small.
Birds flew – virtually always away from me, but Dave and Mike got shots. As the sun climbed, so did we … into the lava rock that seemed to hold vestigial heat from it’s original source. We heard chukars, flew many at a distance, ultimately earning a few long and desperate shots.
The next day, more of the same, Buddy and Manny racing in a doggie pas de deux, sometimes in unison, other times mirror images on opposite sides of the draw. As Mike and I wheezed up a slope Buddy locked solid, uphill from a flat boulder a football field’s length away. We hightailed it, still slower than the rattled nerves of a trio of partridges. They skirted the ridge. We followed, sidehilling over shale and sloppy soil. We flew that bunch twice more, me taking a couple Hail Mary shots to no effect.
When both dogs sought the scant shade of boulders every time we slowed, I knew it was time to head for camp and the creek, and call it a day. A small rattlesnake reminded me how warm and early it was in the season, standing (slithering?) his ground as I directed dogs away and left him to his quest for a den.
The small pool in the stream was a welcome sight to all parties, dogs slurping and splashing in relief and joy – their human, too.