I’ve been known to borrow some dogs.
The first offense was in October 2011. Gary Thompson was steelhead’n on the Grande Ronde River in eastern Washington and the plan was to meet up with Andy and I in western Idaho for a few glorious days of bird hunting on his way back to Colorado. I picked up Gary’s two young bird dogs (pointer Lilly and GSP Pepper) the week before and traveled west. Andy and I met in Pocatello and headed to a new covert (affectionately known now as Tommy’s Covey) our brother had told us about where he and his pals hunted mule deer the week before. They had literally bumped into loads of huns and sharp-tailed grouse. My best memories of that day are finding Pepper locked up on point in the chokecherries on an enormous coveys of huns. I snapped a photo of Pepper in the brush before the covey erupted. Pepper delivered the birds that I shot on the covey rise to hand. The second memory I have of that day is Gary’s warning to me about not letting Lilly run without a little Edison-Medicine persuasion…I didn’t listen. Lilly effectively chased every partridge and grouse out of the country. On a sagebrush ridge, the dogs were on point and Lilly finally caught back up with us…Lilly busted and laid chase to the largest covey of huns of the day. Andy and I agonized as Lilly disappeared across the horizon in partridge pursuit.
My only regret from borrowing Gary’s bird dogs: They were spent by the time Gary got to hunt with them. Sorry Gary!
The following year birds were thick. We had our annual October bird foray and the birds were so numerous, I decided to make a second trip to visit in December. A friend of mine had recently acquired a bearded lady….er, Brussels Griffon properly named Hazel. Glenn really wanted to get Hazel into some birds and I volunteered to borrow her for the week.
Hazel is a good natured canine cohort. The best memory I have of our trip is when I let her out of the dog box to do her business at 0’dark-30. After collecting up the dogs to head out to the next covert, I started to panic cause Hazel was no where to be found. I ran around the folk’s back yard hollering my head off to no avail. Andy and our friend Ryan went around the block whistling and calling for her. Forty-five minutes into the search I had an epiphany to check the dog box. There Hazel was sitting in one of the boxes next to Ellie with an expression on her bearded face as if to say “I’m here you idiots and have been here the whole damn time!” Hazel did have a very nice point on a male valley quail in the Big Uneasy and the bird hangs on my wall today.
Last fall, I retired my beloved Elhew pointer Gep. Two weeks of gunning is pretty taxing on a couple of bird dogs so I asked my Kansas principal friend (Bret McClendon) if I could borrow his English setter Jenny. Jenny is a gorgeous tricolor setter that is very reliable on birds and stylish too.
However, October 2013 was a tough year for birds in Idaho. This was the year that Andy and I hunted with author Tom Davis for a Field & Stream article. One of the best days we had that week was on valley quail. It was an unseasonably warm October day and Jenny came inches away from a juvenile rattler…close-call!
My favorite memory is finding Jenny on point on a ridge in the October golden aspens on a large covey of gray partridge. I missed the photo opportunity and whiffed the shots. The image of her tail tickling the wind and the roar of the covey with that annoying almost hazing rusty-metallic-gate-squeak they make as the covey sped to safety.
Even when I’m sitting in my recliner drooling and reeling in the years of upland memory…borrowed dogs will be there.