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Posts Tagged ‘California bird hunting’

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. 

One of the garden spots on the Awesome Upland Road Trip

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.

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My brother Jeff was meeting us to start this leg of the Awesome Upland Road Trip. When he walked into the hotel lobby, all was good. 

I’d gifted the gun I shoot best to him last year in hopes he’d learn to use it on clay targets if nothing else … after all, he lives in California. He’d brought it along and said he was even willing to use it – should the need arise – on Central Valley pheasants.

 

The afternoon raced by, Jeff watching from behind the cameras, carrying gear, and even spotting several points by Buddy and Manny. One “find” was Jeff’s crowning glory as a hunter wannabe: he located Buddy locked up in tall grass, a quarter mile away. We hoofed it, and Manny raced toward the accumulating crowd, slamming into a magazine-cover honor of Buddy’s staunch posture. Puppy-like, he stole the point from his tolerant (and steady) uncle, the bird rose and both our host Brad Henman and I brought it down, sharing the glory with the dogs and my brother’s newfound bird “huntng” skills. 

With two dogs, I guess I should get used to situations like the final find of this day. Maybe you’ve seen it: nephew and uncle working a track, one snuffles right, the other left. As handler, I go out on a limb and predict a find for Uncle Buddy and his more experienced nose. But the bird erupts from the tall Sudan grass Manny’s been working, a hard left-right crosser that I put enough lead on, for a change.

What do you think? Did Buddy go up the track toward the bird’s starting point? By chance, was Manny’s route simply the stronger (and building as he closed on the ringneck) scent trail? Every flush, every point, was having its desired effect on my brother, with adrenaline flowing as birds cackled out of blackberries or threaded through eucalyptus trees, evading our shot strings. Our debrief over Monday Night Football clarified matters completely. Jeff would hunt tomorrow and finally join our fraternity.

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