Autumn was made for pointing dogs chasing birds of various kinds around the West for us Wayment boys.
Of course there’s October baseball…but since the Rockies and the Indians are through…we day dream for the short-lived moments when we can be afield with smoothbores and bird dogs taking in the fragrance of autumn and dogged worn feet.
Oh, of course I made the usual trip to my favorite blue grouse covers in Colorado. Colorado grouse opener was not epic in bird numbers or points made by bird dogs…but it was classical whirr of wings in gorgeous country. The berries were the thickest I’ve ever seen and even the black bears can attest to that.
My Educator friend, Bret, from McPherson, Kansas met up with me for his first time west of the continental divide. Bret had never chased grouse other than his prairie birds from his home state. Bret and I had a great time and our dogs found plenty of birds to keep us content. We had good dog work even though the temperatures reached it the 80’s by mid-afternoon. My favorite memory of the weekend was Bret’s Ginny pointing uphill on a single blue grouse. Bret is a great chef and we ate very well that weekend, cooking grouse over hot coals.
(Bret with Ginny)
My brother, Andy, called me “crazy” the remainder of September because I unsuccessfully chased big game animals with my recurve, but I truly enjoyed being in the Sangre de Cristo mountains with a recurve in hand. Besides, I had Idaho to look forward to. The uplands of Idaho are what I dream of as I drift into sleep. I love Idaho and the diversity she offers the upland gunner.
I was so excited for Idaho that I didn’t sleep well for weeks prior to our trip. Sterling drove out with me and we were to meet Andy (my favorite hunting partner-in-crime) at the folks house in south-central Idaho. Pointing Dog Journal writer and bird dog authority, Tom Davis, was meeting us the next day.
However, Tom was stuck near the Sand Hills of Nebraska in that freak snow storm that stranded and killed thousands of livestock in South Dakota. Sterling and I saw remnants of that storm in Wyoming: At least a dozen over turned and crushed semi-trucks along I-80.
Our plan was to meet Tom and a photographer, John Loomis, near Boise and begin our hunt on valley quail and gray partridge. Tom informed us the night before that he would not be able to hook up with us until that evening. We agreed to pick up the photographer and continue our quest for birds in the quail mecca of Idaho. On arrival to our honey-hole, it was very apparent that Idaho was thirsty. She needed a serious drink! Dusty and parched.
Meanwhile, I sent Tom to another spot on his way north to see if he could get into some huns and grouse while we struggled to produce a single small covey of California Quail. Andy’s dog made a nice find on a covey, but it was so small that he decided to leave the birds for the next reproduction season…seed birds.
We decided to head south and meet up with Tom for dinner at our favorite dive taqueria in Burley. The place was an instant hit with all of us weary bird hunters, and we made several subsequent trips there before the week was over. We struggled for the week finding birds for the dogs. We had two days that were mediocre. One day, we found two decent size coveys of quail and had great dog work. The highlight for me was seeing Tom’s setter Tina pointing the covey with her setterfeathers tickling the wind before the whirr. The other was seeing a small rattle snake with no rattles and the dogs escaping without incident. Tom’s setter is a world class bird finder that any birddog person would appreciate her class and style. Dreams are made by dogs like her.
The next day we went to the Royal MacNab covert and saw plenty of birds to keep us walking all day long. The photographer said we hiked 16 miles that day. We had good dog work and put a few birds in the ol’ poke.
Idaho’s birds were the worst we’ve seen in numbers since 2006. It sure makes you appreciate what you had after it’s gone! One thing I’ll never forget is what Sterling said to Andy and I. (Paraphrasing…)It was a great hunt even though the birds aren’t here this year. Some days chickens, some days feathers. Another bird-less day in paradise. Amen Sterling and thanks for keeping Andy and I grounded.
It was a good hunt and I enjoyed my friends and family. My baby brother was married on Saturday and the entire family was together for the first time in ten years.
Sterling and I left the following morning…and I still had another week of vacation to spend on the ArKansas River in the Sangre de Cristos…my beloved home waters.
Yesterday was a banner day on the Arkansas. There was a wonderful BWO hatch between 11 am and 3 pm and the fish fed non-stop, one of those rarities during Autumn. I had fish taking both dries and droppers for those three maddening hours. Incredible! Today the sky was cloudless and the fish were hard to come by.
October was made for pointing dogs & those rare days with little olives and October caddis.
Setter Feathers….see ya on the prairies.