Every October, Brother Shawn and I get together for a week of hunting in the Idaho uplands. To say we look forward to this every year is an understatement; we live for it! We have less than two weeks before the Holy Jihaud on the Gallinations begins this year. In contemplation of this great event, I wanted to share the story of our first hunt in October of 2011.
Last year, our week began on Tuesday, October 25th. I left work at noon and, with my son, Tommy as co-pilot, I drove down to Pocatello where we had lunch at Wendy’s while we waited for Shawn to arrive from Colorado. We met up with Shawn around 2:00 p.m. and headed west to a small farming community in South Central Idaho.
Our destination was a place our brother, Scotty, had described as being loaded with Huns and sharptails. I used my DeLorme map to get us into the general area, but Scotty had described perfectly for us where he had camped while deer hunting and we found it easily and observed piles of feathers from the hunters before us.
The area was dry land wheat fields on bluffs sloping up to quakie and chokecherry covered foothills. The area did not look like prime sharptail and Hun country to me, as there was hardly any CRP around. Boy was I wrong! We hiked uphill and hunted around the edges of the plowed fields, but did not find birds right off the bat. In a brushy draw that we dropped into, Tommy and I kicked up one Hun crossing right to left, which I quickly missed.
As we worked across the draw, eight year old Tommy heard a big covey get up and said, “I just saw some birds!” He then pointed out to us where they had flown. The two deaf, dumb and blind bird hunters did not hear or see anything. Although we hoped this wasn’t a case of the blind leading the blind, we decided to trust Tommy.
Following Tommy’s directions, we headed up onto another sage-covered bench. Shawn took the higher road and Tommy and I followed the more direct course to where he believed the birds went. Sunny, Misty and Brandy got birdy in this little grassy area and the gray rocket flushed hard to my right and—to my complete surprise—I promptly knocked it down. The Hun was only winged and bounced quickly down the nearby draw.
I have to admit that my record on Huns is anything but stellar. In short, they are my nemesis and have put me to shame for the last fourteen years. So when the bird dropped, I wanted desperately to bring it to hand.
I chased the bird downhill with shotgun in hand and then thought to myself: Running with a loaded gun is not the smartest thing to do. So I set my gun down next to a bush without properly marking it with my hat. Big Mistake!
Puppy Brandy, my dad’s German Shorthair Pointer, followed behind me, saw the struggling Hun, and then went in for a nice retrieve. I felt euphoric as this was only my fourth Hun ever and the pup’s first retrieve. In our excitement, Tommy and I took pictures and celebrated with high fives.
“We’re going to name this place, ‘Tommy’s Covey!'” I declared in honor of my hunting guide son. “We would not have found the birds without you buddy!”
Tommy and I then started to look for my shotgun, but to no avail. I thought I had left it up on the hill next to a bush. We looked hard for half an hour before Shawn showed up. Shawn reported that he had shot a double over his friend, Gary’s gigantic GSP, Pepper.
I then explained to Shawn that we were looking for my shotgun.
“Why didn’t you mark it with your hat?” Shawn chastised.
“I know, I am a dummy,” I apologized, “but I was chasing down a live bird—a Hun—to boot! This is only my fourth Hun ever!”
We all continued to look hard with no success. I was getting extremely frustrated with myself and the situation. Fortunately, the setting sun was extremely bright and Shawn spotted something reflecting the sun’s light down in the small draw where Brandy had made the retrieve. We followed the gleam and there was my gun, not even close to where I thought I had set it down. I was way off! We had lost 45 minutes of hunting because of my mistake.
We worked our way down the draw and swung up along the roadway we had traveled in on, hunting the hillsides untouched by the plow. It was on these inclines that we finally found the sharptails in full force. I had an easy right to left crossing shot, but missed it because I did not keep swinging. This error had plagued me all season. Brother Shawn, who is a consistent good shot, killed a sharptail up on the hill.
We tried to find the rest of the sharptails that we thought had flushed over by the truck, but could not relocate them. Notwithstanding, we were stoked about our new covert, Tommy’s Covey, which Shawn plugged in to his GPS in the truck for future reference.
On the way to Rupert, Idaho we listened to the Avett Brother’s song, “Shame” as the sun set before us to the west. The song seemed to compliment the experience perfectly, especially given the fact that I had lost my shotgun:
“Shame, Boatloads of Shame,
Day after Day, More of the Same!
At home, Dad had some wonderful stew ready for us.
What a way to kick off a week of hunting in the Idaho uplands!
I can’t wait to meet up with Brother Shawn this year!