I’ll never be a golfer. My brother Jeff plays the game, but is not over-the-top crazy about the silly game where you hit little white balls into holes while wearing silly clothes. So there was hope for him, which is why he got a shotgun from me for Christmas.
Our host at Red Bank Outfitters was supposed to be Brian Riley, the owner. But laryngitis struck and he was now on the injured reserve list. His son Bo stepped in, a young man now, who I’d last seen as he began a successful high school wrestling and football career five years earlier. But a set of circumstances rarer than the blue moon that often appears this time of year dictated another approach: Uncle Buddy the wirehair will hunt with his nephew Manny later today. This morning, I will inaugurate Jeff to the magic of bird hunting. By the end of the day, three different family trees will grow a branch.
With Red, a shorthair, doing the pointing and Koby the Lab handling flushing and retrieving chores, I knew Bo and handler Ric Gould would keep us on track and in birds. At Red Bank, the bird of choice is bobwhite quail. Yes, bobs in northern California. Introduced, sure, but tiny brown rockets that would test everyone’s shooting abilities, not just the rookie’s.
It wasn’t long before our saunter down the old ranch road was interrupted by Red’s first point. Camera operators, handler, guide and the Linden brothers scramble. Safety first, fields of fire defined, a few quick reminders and birds up! A covey rattled through the manzanita bush’s dry leaves, startling everyone … Jeff most of all. He was so dazzled he never even mounted the gun. Remember that feeling?
The day progressed and so did Jeff’s shooting skills. With help from Ric, and not too much nagging from his brother, he was relaxing and overcoming the shock caused by the whirr of bobwhite wings. He also marveled at the dogs, doing what comes so naturally, the magical way their work mesmerizes all of us.
I was on the other side of a manzanita bush when a small covey rose as one and a shot rang out. The feather cloud drifted downwind into my line of sight and my brother Jeff was officially the newest member of our fraternity.