‘The sun at home warms better than the sun elsewhere.”–Albanian Proverb.
When Shawn comes every year in October, we hunt all over southern Idaho, from the west to the east. During the week, we usually pursue valley quail, Huns, chukar, pheasant, sharptails, ruffed grouse, blue grouse, and sometimes spruce grouse. On the first two days, we didn’t do well in our most reliable coverts. Not to mention, we lost our best quail hunting spot due to posting on Monday.
With Idaho’s harsh winter last year, forest grouse numbers are low in my Eastern Idaho coverts. However, Shawn had heard good reports of Huns not far from Rupert, our base camp. So, on Tuesday, we decided to stay close to home. This gave us the opportunity to eat at our one of our favorite restaurants, The Wayside (which I always thought sounds like a place where lost souls gather). After all of the years of going there, the friendly staff recognizes the Wayment Brothers and expects us each year in October, which makes us love the place even more. Shawn, Ron and I were all in good spirits after a hearty breakfast.
After breakfast, we set out to try and find the plethora of Huns we had heard about. We had been in the general area many times over the years, but had not focused our efforts there. On our first jaunt, we went to where Shawn had found Huns on Sunday and we found one small covey of three birds. We decided to do some more scouting.
We soon found a nice nice grassy area that looked like good cover. While the harsh winter was hard on the forest grouse, the abundant moisture turned this area into a bona fide Hun factory. The grass was thick and the sunflowers were everywhere. In my experience, numerous game animals love sunflowers, Huns, pheasants, doves, quail, sharptail, and deer, just to name a few. When we saw the area and the thick cover, we knew we would find Huns. We even bumped a covey off the road.
We only hiked about fifteen minutes before the dogs flushed another covey. We tried to relocate that covey without luck. We hunted a big loop and the dogs got up another covey in a little draw stuffed with sun flowers. Shawn shot his 12 gauge Ithaca Flues and thought he missed, but Gretchen retrieved a Hun with a broken wing. Shawn’s shot spooked a few deer out of the sunflowers and–while they made their escape–they kicked up another covey that flew up onto this cedar-covered hill.
Our friend Ron (an honorary Wayment Brother) marked the birds down perfectly and we all approached the dead tree on the top of the hill. I walked into the midst of the covey and birds began flushing all around me. I missed the first shot and then picked another bird, swung ahead of it, and made a nice shot with the back trigger–my first bird with the Sterlingworth.
The huge covey split in two directions and we followed the bigger part up to an area crisscrossed with ATV tracks, but could not find it. So we then went after the smaller segment of the covey as we had them marked down fairly well. Shawn’s setter, Gretchen made a beautiful find and, while I watched from uphill, Ron and Shawn approached her point. Three Huns flushed. Boom! Boom! Boom! Two birds fell in quick succession. I thought the New York rabbit hunter had shot a double, but it turns out Ron missed on the first shot, but stayed with the same bird and connected on the second. Brother Shawn took the other bird. I enjoyed watching it all transpire.
When we made it back to the truck, we decided to see if we could find chukars up higher on the ridge. Ron and I hunted up on top of the ridge with Rainey and Gretchen. In a little divot where one would expect her to find a chukar, Rainey pointed a small covey of Huns and I dropped one with the 16. I hustled over to help Rainey find it, but even though she scoured the area with intensity, we could not locate the downed bird. I wanted to find that bird so bad because it was the first bird taken over one of Rainey’s bona fide points. Gretchen, the old pro, came over and picked up the winged bird about fifteen yards to the right of where it fell.
“How old is your pup?” Ron asked.
“Six months.” I answered.
“I can’t believe how well she is doing for that age. You should be proud.” Ron complimented.
Honestly, the dog work from both Rainey and Gretchen was the highlight of the day for me.
We hiked hard all day long and moved six coveys and took five birds. That may not sound like a banner day to most, but we were pretty excited to find a Hun covert not far from home. I was excited to take my first birds with my Sterlingworth, but even more so about Rainey and her accomplishments. We celebrated the day at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Nayar, with chicken enchiladas and tacos, a meal fit for kings.
I found a quote that sums up this hunt near home pretty well:
“He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace [and I’ll add some birds and Mexican food] in his home.” (Johan Wolfgang von Goethe).