Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
–Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”
Starting on Saturday, October 21, 2017, the Wayment Brothers began our annual week-long hunting excursion in Southern Idaho. Before the hunt began, Shawn sent me a text message: “You around? Need to tell you sum’n you’re gonna C-rap duder.” Then he called me to report that he had just bought me a 16 gauge Fox Sterlingworth with an English straight grip. “Santa came early for you!”
Needless to say, I was elated and at a loss for words. Shawn and I arranged it so that the gun would be in Idaho by Monday, October 23rd, but we would have to travel to Boise to pick it up, which would be work as we had planned to hunt our very favorite quail hunting spot that day. We hadn’t hunted it since before the whole area burned in 2015. We call this cherished cover, “The Trail to Quail.”
Saturday morning, Shawn and I hunted two of our favorite coverts in Eastern Idaho, the Royal Macnab and Tommy’s Covey but, despite hunting hard, the sharptails and Huns were pretty slim and we came up with the big ol’ goose egg. Shawn scouted and found a few Huns on Sunday before I finally made it to our mom’s that evening. Our friend, Ron Coiro, from Long Island, New York, beat me there.
Monday morning, we woke up a 4:30 a.m. and headed west to Boise with much excitement and hope for the day. We planned to pick up my new shotgun first thing and then head to The Trail to Quail. The gun was everything I could hope for and more. In the book, Game Gun, by Richard S. Grozik, he said something that captured my first impression of the gun:
There is something very comforting about the sound of a Fox action camming shut. The rotary bolt locks with decided authority, giving the hunter the feeling of security and peace of mind as he steps into the field.
I couldn’t wait to put the gun to work in our favorite quail cover.
We then drove to our destination only to find it posted for the first time in 16 years. For so many years, we had believed this cover to be BLM land open to the public, but Shawn had an app on his phone that clearly showed us for the first time that it was, indeed, private property. I quickly researched the landowner and called to ask for permission, but was promptly and resolutely shot down. And just like that, we lost our all-time favorite quail cover, a place where so many of our dogs had figured things out, Farley, Ginny, Sunny Girl, Geppedo, Misty, and even Dusty Boy (who was a knucklehead most of the time). I almost understood what it felt like for Moses to be kept from entering the promised land.
As Shawn and I discussed this hard blow, I finally said, “It was never really ours to begin with. We hunted here all those years thinking it was BLM when it was really private property. It was just a matter of time before we were shut out for good. I’m just glad we were able to hunt here for a long as we did. It was truly amazing!”
Having fruitlessly searched for places to hunt this area in the past, we decided against it that day, and drove east for some of our other quail coverts, The Miracle Half-Mile and another brushy creek bottom we’ll call Crazy Creek. By doing so, we lost a half day of hunting. We all were pretty quiet as we traveled, reflecting on our loss.
We found a few quail in the Half-Mile, but they flushed wild and I missed my chances with the new 16. Shawn shot a quail with his Ithaca Flues 12 gauge, but his young Setter, Cinder, ate half of it. The rest of the birds escaped through the narrow, impassible lava-rock canyon. We saw a few quail down in Crazy Creek, but we had no opportunities as they stayed in the thick stuff. After a cold root beer, we headed home for some Mexican food, which always makes a tough day better.
To sum it up, our first two days of the hunt were tough and filled with mixed emotions. Excitement turned to disappointment, loss, and mourning. At the same time, I felt gratitude for a new classic shotgun, for the beauty of Idaho’s uplands, for coverts lost and experienced, and spending time with family and friends.
As hunters, I believe that we are more in tune with the changing of the seasons. We know that things cannot stay the same. The poet, Robert Frost, wrote that “Nothing gold can stay.” While I agree somewhat with Frost, one of my favorite bands, Carbon Leaf, captured better my sentiments on the passing of the seasons (and life in general for that matter): “You know the seasons ought to be: Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat.” Every fall, we go afield once again hoping to capture (or recapture) that fleeting peace, joy and excitement we find in the uplands with our bird dogs. Some days we find it and some days we don’t. The trick is to relish those golden moments while they last.