Day five of the week of hunting in Idaho took us to my favorite covert, the Royal MacNab, where we can expect to find sharptails, ruffed grouse, and occasionally Huns on any given day. Along for this hunt were Shawn, my younger brother Jake, and his 10 year old son, Jakey.
I have decided to do something different this post. If I try to describe everything from this awesome day, then that could get—how do I put this? ― well, a little boring. So, rather than give you the play by play, I just want to share a few glimpses of a (near) perfect day.
It is 5:30 a.m. in the morning. As we sit at the Wayside Café eating a hearty breakfast, I decide to tease my young nephew, Jakey, just to see if I can get a rise out of him.
“Jakey, what are you doing here? Somebody told me that you hate bird dogs and bird hunting.” I say with a grin.
“No, that’s not true, I love bird hunting!” Jakey replies seriously.
“Well, how come somebody told me that?” I press.
“Dude, you’re just making up crazy crap!” Jakey fires back.
We all chuckle at his unexpected retort.
The sun is peaking over the mountain range to the east as we hike up a finger draw of the Royal MacNab.
“Hey, look at all of those big birds in that tree. What are they?” Jakey points out.
In the glare of the sun, we observe multiple plump birds, like the proverbial partridges in a pear tree, except the tree is a choke cherry or service berry tree. Upon closer inspection, we determine that they are sharptails and they are clearly on to us.
Shawn hunts the edge of one of the numerous draws of the Royal MacNab.
We approach the wary sharptails and they flush wild in groups of one, twos, or threes. There must have been twenty sharptails in that one tree and they all flushed into the thick quakie patch above us. We hunt them in the timber like ruffed grouse with about the same results as ruffed grouse hunting, but it is sure fun.
As we hike up a huge patch of CRP along a wooded draw, a solitary sharptail flushes toward the trees presenting both Jake and I— who are side by side―a close shot. We both instantly shoulder our guns. Although I have a great shot, I hold off for Jake, who doesn’t get to hunt as much as me. The bird tumbles at Jake’s gun’s report.
Heaven shines down.
I honestly feel as much (or more) satisfaction with Jake’s success than if I had pulled the trigger myself.
The mighty hunters, Jake and Shawn, are back at the truck with their two-bird sharptail limits, but my dogs, Sunny and Misty, and I have one more bird to go.
As we push up a CRP flat, the dogs start to get birdy and begin to zero in on the swirling scent. Both dogs flash point and two sharptails flush simultaneously in the wind making them look like they are flying in slow motion. . . .
Once I make it back to the truck with a bulging game bag, Shawn texts in to facebook: “3 Hunters, 3 Dogs, 3 Hours, 6 Sharptail . . . Priceless.” Indeed it is.
After a lunch of chile verde and enchiladas sunrise, we travel to a different alpine covert, in search of ruffed grouse. We hunt a ridge with some thick quakies interspersed with bushes of snow berries, service berries, elder berries, and mountain ash—a veritable ruffed grouse Mecca if ever there was one. Right off, the dogs flush a grouse, which presents us with no shot.
“I really want to get a ruffed grouse this trip.” Shawn says eagerly as we walk towards some thick mountain ash bushes with their bright orange berry clusters.
“Shawn, get up here so you get a chance at the next one.” I suggest.
We all walk through the quaking aspens in a line working the cover and a ruffed grouse gets up right in front of Shawn presenting him with a good straightaway shot. However, in his haste to mount the gun Shawn comically bumps his prescription sunglasses so that they are sitting skewompis on his face and he cannot see straight. Of course, he misses the shot. Groused again!
My French Brittany, Sunny Girl and I, work down into this shady gully, loaded with mountain ash bushes and their bulging berries. The place literally screams of grouse. I hear something creeping away as we approach and see a ruffed grouse sneaking away.
“Sunny Girl, go get the bird!” I command.
As Sunny approaches, the bird flushes into a mountain ash bush. Sunny strikes a picture perfect sight point.
“Get on out of here bird!” I yell to try and make it flush.
The grouse’s crest is raised in alarm and the bird positions itself for the flush. The bird thunders from its perch and I swing and snap a shot its way. The bird flutters down behind a tall bush thirty yards away. I am unsure whether I made a good shot or not.
Sunny girl disappears behind the bush and quickly reappears with a beautiful, limp ruffed grouse in her mouth.
Every day in the uplands with our bird dogs is special—some more so than others. And then some days afield approach perfection. Of course, every hunt has its ups and downs. However, when the ups far outweigh the downs, those are the days we bird hunters live for. Looking back, this day with my brothers and my bird dogs was one of those near-perfect days that I will always cherish. I hope you have enjoyed a few glimpses into this glorious day. In our short, allotted time in this life, may we all experience as many such days as the good Lord permits.
Here’s a few more glimpses . . .