In bird hunting, there is no such thing as a sure thing. There are no guarantees that you will find birds, and even if you do, sometimes you can’t hit them. There’s just too many variables. But every hunter has a few coverts with prime spots where the odds tip in the hunter’s favor.
Since 2003, the Wayment Brothers have been hunting a covert we lovingly call the”Royal Macnab.” I have written about this place numerous times on the blog and in magazine articles. Most recently, I had an article published in the Ruffed Grouse Society Magazine entitled, “That Perfect Feeling,” in which I wrote about a banner hunt at the Royal Macnab in October of 2015. At the Royal Macnab, you can find sharptails, ruffies, Huns, and a few pheasants. If I had to pick one, I would have to say that the Royal Macnab is my favorite covert in the whole world, it’s that special.
Shawn and I hunt this covert a few times each October and we like to hunt it a specific way: We head over the top of the big draw and take a bird or two and then head back to the truck to water the dogs and drink a cold root beer. Below our parking spot is a large parcel of CRP with rolling hills that we save for last, and for good reason. Most of the time we can fill our limit of sharptails on this stretch. It’s not a sure thing, but for us, it’s Sure Enough, and that is exactly what we call this area.
I wanted to share a journal entry from the first day of our annual Idaho hunt to illustrate my point:
Saturday, October 1, 2016
For our first hunt of the week, we hunted the Royal Macnab. We met Josh May there at 7:00 a.m. We hunted the same way we always hunt, up across the big draw and then down the rolling CRP hills to a place we call “the Pinch,”because the large draw narrows to a point where you can cross. Within ten minutes, Shawn killed a sharptail along the sage strip. The main covey flew up on the bench along the big draw. Josh and I knelt down so the sharps didn’t see us and they landed close by. We marked them down. Josh got one and Harley made a nice retrieve. I missed one.
We waited for Shawn to catch up. While waiting, I hunted down the head of the large draw by numerous elder berry trees with fruit that acts as a bird magnet. Right where I had missed one the previous year, a ruffie flushed in front of me and I knocked it down. Probably the same bird. However, upon approaching where it dropped, I could not find it and Misty failed to retrieve. In desperation, I called Josh down hoping his three Brits could help and we hunted down the draw and then up wind. His Brittany Milly finally found it in the thick grass in the draw. She is a dang good bird dog! I was so pumped.
We hunted up and then down toward the Pinch, but didn’t find as many birds as we hoped and the ones we saw flushed out of range. We hunted to the bottom of the property and then up the property’s southern boundary that lies adjacent to a cut wheat field. Josh took his second sharp along the fence line. Josh’s dogs also found a ruffed grouse in the quakie thicket close to the property’s southern boundary. I heard Josh shoot and watched a grouse fly out of cover and then drop up in the CRP about 75 yards from the thicket. His great dogs found that one too.
Shortly thereafter, Shawn and I met up and hunted together back down toward the Pinch. Misty found a covey of four sharptails and worked them a long ways before they finally flushed. I marginally hit one on first shot, but thumped another with the back trigger, which is a good reason to celebrate given my problems last year with even finding the back trigger. Misty helped me find that downed bird. We then hunted back to truck.
[Author’s Note: Shawn and I then did one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Shawn is a veterinarian and he helped me put down my elderly French Brittany, Sunny Girl, who was blind, deaf, almost crippled and suffering. I will not share all the details here, but will note that we buried her at the Royal Macnab because it is the covert where she had her very first retrieve 13 years ago.]
After finishing burying Sunny, Shawn and I then drank a root beer and made a toast to Sunny Girl, who never gave up and was all heart.
Shawn then asked, “Do you want to keep hunting or should we just go?”
I replied, “Let’s keep hunting. Sunny would have wanted to keep hunting.” We then realized that Gretchen, Shawn’s setter, had somehow injured her leg and was done hunting for the week. So we had to deal with two hard things in succession. Notwithstanding, we were determined to finish out this hunt.
For our last jaunt, we headed down through Sure Enough and the birds were exactly where they were supposed to be. Misty had some beautiful finds and points. I shot my second bird down by the sage patch where we always find them. Within five minutes of that, Misty pointed another grouse and Shawn walked in and thumped it. Sure Enough was true to its name.
Like I said, this stretch is not a sure thing, but it’s Sure Enough.