Author Archives: Greg McReynolds

The gift of an ending

Fall has set.
Come to pass are the barren branches of winter trimmed in frost and the gray light of a shallow sun.
The best days are gone – though with fortune some remain far ahead.
We are threadbare. The months and years have been hard. The cold is less inviting and the wanderlust, while not subdued, is somewhat satiated.
Beneath the sage and the basalt, the earth itself seems to slumber.
The lean time of the year has come and the urgency is gone out of us.
For the first time in a while, the end is not only a thing to be looked on with sadness.
Maybe part of what makes the thing so special is the long break in which we cannot participate in the chase, but are relegated to yearn.
In the sparseness of the final weeks, like the leaves of the coverts, we have been slowly stripped the of need to stretch.
Let it snow. Let the wind howl and the cold deepen.
The land rests, and so shall we.

IMG_5779

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Enough

There’s half an hour of shooting light left but with the snow blowing in it might as well be midnight. A handful of chukar call from across the canyon to the half-dozen a hundred feet above me.
A few minutes ago, my young setter got an honest-to-goodness point on this covey of 15 or so birds before they broke and flushed wild.
I was above her, looking down when I saw her go on point.
I’m still out of breath from the hillside sprint toward her.
It was like being the weakest link on the seventh-grade mile-relay team all over again, pushing as hard as I could and still watching it slip away.
It wasn’t her fault though. These are tough birds, tricky in the best of conditions and difficult for even seasoned dogs to pin down.
I got close enough to see them flush at least. And we saw some light halfway up the slope where we now repose.
It was pure adrenaline that got us up here and as it starts to darken, I wonder how I’m going to get back down the snowy slope without sliding on my ass through the mud and the muck.
I can see the road at the bottom and on the other side I can just make out the hillside where we started a few minutes before.
My legs are burning from the climbing, my feet are soaking wet, the truck is parked a mile down the road and I haven’t fired a shot.
But the young dog got a point on chukar and I’ll call that a win.
So when the birds above me answer the call of their covey mates across canyon and fly directly over my head, silhouetted against the billowing white snow clouds, I don’t even raise my gun.
I didn’t come to pass shoot them.
I came to see them pointed and for now, it’s enough.

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Filed under Chukar, Dogs, Giving thanks, Talegate, Upland Hunting

Two forward, one back

Sometimes we regress.
After steady points and shot birds, I suddenly had a second flushing dog – a long-range flushing dog.
As a remedy we cruised the roads and looked for coveys of huns to point in roadside ditches on a check cord.
So when I saw a dozen roosters run from a tilled field into a 100 foot circle of CRP, I held out little hope.
But I knocked anyway and with permission granted I unhooked the check cord.
And watched her go on point.
My little setter every bit Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nowhere in sight, I walked in, flushed and shot the first rooster she had ever seen dead on the ground.
So we went a little further and she pointed again. This time a hen, no shot.
The next bird was a rooster that she didn’t point but flushed by pushing too hard. I knew I was pushing my luck, but before I could think about it too much, she went on point again. When I walked past her I noticed the tip of her tail pointing up at the sky and hoped for a shootable bird.
He got up further away than I expected, and I wondered if she pointed him from so far away or if he had been on the move.
It was an old bird and there was no cackle. He swung right and I pushed the barrels and squeezed the trigger.
He landed on his back in the tilled field and when I walked up my little setter was trying in vain to pick him up but getting nothing but a mouthful of feathers.
We’d come only halfway around this piece of cover and I knew there are more birds, but we’d pushed our luck far enough.
We headed for the truck, for once, moving forward.Iphone hunting

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Lunatastrophe

This is not a dog.
This is a nuclear-powered starship headed for another galaxy. It is only coincidence that brings her to earth where she will flush birds at high speed and low regard until she escapes from gravity and continues on her interstellar journey.
Iphone hunting
A covey of sharptails explodes like cosmic dust in front of her and for a moment, while their trajectory lines with her own, she gives chase. When they turn, she stays her course, occasionally leaping sage brush and other obstacles with the glee and grace of a cape wearing nine-year-old.
I watch her turn in a long loop, not because she is re-centering on me, but because she was running out of field and had no choice but to alter course.
“She’ll settle in,” I tell myself, just before she blasts through a covey of huns without so much as easing off the accellerator. A few days ago, she pointed a covey of huns so perfectly, so steady and confidently, that this disregard for her pointing accumen is startling to me.
I whistle her in and try to settle her down but when I turn her loose, I can already tell that she is going to make another break against the bounds of gravity.
So when she blows through another covey of sharpies then proceeds to flush two dozen pheasants one after another without even tapping the brakes, I know that last week was not a turning point, but an anomally.
And so we go home, back to the check chord.
Back to the blue grouse and the huns on the road, back to known birds, back to “whoa” in the garage and yard work.
Back to school for both of us, learning to pilot a rocket ship.

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Filed under Dogs, Glutton For Punishment, Open country, Upland Hunting

Out of place

A springer in quail country

photo (1)

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Early night

We hit the truck with 45 minutes of shooting light left and called it early, thinking about a cold PBR and a little dirt road cruise before sundown.
We’d let the setter run earlier and watched her crash into a few birds with no points, then finished the afternoon of with the steady old flusher.
Our legs were sore and the sweat from the middle of the day, uphill charges was starting to feel too cold against my skin. It was one of those perfect days where, for no particular reason, things just didn’t work out.
It felt good to climb into the truck, to shed layers and weight and be warm.
But then they crossed in front of us and the plan changed. Maybe 15 or 16 huns, flying low, dropping into a piece of public ground a few hundred yards in.
I grabbed a pocketful of 7.5s and a shotgun, no time for hats or vests.
I let Luna out with a few whispered pleas of “easy” as we slipped into the sage.
Dammit.
Two coveys flushed, 100 yards ahead of the dog.
We hunted the edge to the corner and watched as she made a high-speed swing across the stubble, coming to a hard stop on a fence line 200 yards ahead.
A short sprint later we slowed, walked in and huns rose in formation and swung to my left, as if they too wanted me to make a shot.
The stars aligned and two birds fell, one a runner that my young pup chased down and picked up, bringing it within about 10 feet of me before dropping it and watching in confusion as it darted away again.
Some days, it all comes together.

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Another mouthful

This post comes to us from Steven Brutger, a good friend and bird hunting buddy of MOF. We can’t tell if he’s making fun of himself, of a certain type of hunter, or of us specifically. Regardless, it’s funny.

Mouthful of Shit

By Steven Brutger

Scent fills her nostrils.  Her tail cracks back and forth like a windshield wiper.  She quarters into the wind.  My finger creeps near the safety.

Her ancestors, training, years of experience all lead to this moment.  Muscles ripple down her sides as she hones in on the target.  A lone, compact turd of cow shit.

Without missing a stride she scoops it up, swallows and quarters.

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Filed under Dogs, Ill-mannered Jackals, Keeping it Dirty, Talegate

A first

I could hear birds flushing ahead and though I couldn’t see her, I knew the young setter was gleefully chasing them off the edge of the abandoned road and watching them glide out over the 500-foot drop off to our right.
If I slowed to a walk and looked through the trees, I could probably have seen a few of the big bomber blues that hang out on this ledge nearing the end of their downhill glide.
This is part of it. Young setters will flush birds, by accident and on purpose; unintentionally and without remorse. I have learned to accept this season as a learning experience, one where I will possibly not shoot a single bird behind this dog.
So it came as a quite a surprise when I rounded the corner and found her holding an unsure point.
I stumbled up the hill to my left and when a big blue got up, it surprised up both.
I scratched it down at 15 feet, a shot so close it wouldn’t have been a stretch for me to whiff it.
The young setter raced to the bird and pounced, excited and confused. She wouldn’t pick it up, but when I put it in my vest she simply stayed with me.
We turned for the truck, my gun broken open over my shoulder, my young setter dancing along behind, wanting nothing more than another look at her first bird.

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Snow

In front, the snow is a clean white page, waiting for the words to be written.
Behind, a story of a man afoot begins to unfold.
The springer quarters ahead and when I cross her track I stop to look at the prints pressed into the powder, marred around the edges when her warm furry foot pulled at the edges of the cotton-candy snow.
I move on to clean snow, a new page.
Rooster tracks emerge from the sage, their edges sharp and intact as they race along a parallel story line to intersect with the quartering tracks of a springer.
I look up from the page and quicken my pace.
Dog, snow flying, shaking sage, a whir, a cackle, a long tail streams out behind mad wing beats.
A gun shot, a shout, a retrieve, an ending.
A crimson and blue bird lies on pure white snow, a single drop of blood colors the snow near a jumble of tracks from man and beast.
I pick up the bird and we move forward.
Behind, a story written in snow.
In front, a clean white page.

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The inmate needs constant supervision

During her evening yard walk, she must be shackled or watched by an armed guard.
Around the cell block, they whisper about her, “Her dad was a badger,” they claim when she’s out of ear shot. “No,” another says, “the sire was a setter, the dam was a beaver.”
One of the things that got her here in the first place was stealing stuffed animals from children and then mauling the stuffing out of said stuffed animals.
On more than one occasion, she has literally taken candy from a baby. As you would expect, she found it rather easy.
She’s jumped bail so many times that she doesn’t even have another parole hearing for a month.
Still, it doesn’t faze her much.
Even now – the tail end of a bird-dog summer – she lives life like a tethered rocket. You can shorten the rope but she’ll just run faster laps.
And time in the box can’t break her spirit.
Not that she hasn’t been there often enough for violations like digging, chewing, chasing, destroying and insolence.
Given even a moment of freedom, she will dig a crater-sized hole, remove whatever plant material that previously resided there and mulch it.
It happens so quickly that the guard often pleas on behalf of the inmate, sure that he has not fallen asleep on watch.
“It couldn’t have been her,” the guard says, not quite meeting the glare of the warden while hanging his head in shame.
He begins his protest anew, then glances at the inmate and sees the white paws covered in dirt.
So he turns away and goes to get a shovel.
He takes the inmate with him.

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Filed under Dogs, Glutton For Punishment, True stories