Category Archives: Reloading


There is much to mourn in this world, and in the even smaller world of those of us who chase wild birds with dogs:

– We mourn the loss of access.
_ The loss of our dogs, none of whom ever live long enough.
– The loss of so many Sage grouse, and the resulting loss of ample seasons.
– The loss of our own youth, our past injuries and aging bodies increasingly undeniable as we climb those first chukar hills of the season.

The list of course goes on, because we rarely ever find anything as good as it “used to be,” or at least as good as we selectively remember it. It can be tempting to think it’s all in a state of continual decline. We don’t shy away from such mourning on this blog, because sometimes those are some of the most intense emotions we feel in this pursuit, and our goal was always to peel away so much of the varnished excess that can epitomize portrayals of this sport, and expose some raw nerves now and then.

However mourning, while necessary, only gets us so far and the saying that “life is for the living” is an undeniable maxim. Sure, I do this because I love spending time walking in country that wild game birds live in, be it the desolate butresses of the chukar, the alpine living rooms of the various species of forest grouse, the sprawling open vistas of sharptail country. Yes, I do this because I love watching my dog vacuum up country with senses I can only dream of, and that I see best demonstrated when the two of us are working in tandem far from other distractions. Of course I love the satisfaction of a delicious meal I’ve obtained myself.

But really, all of those are just garnishes on the ‘meat’ of the thing. The truth is I do all of the above for one deceptively simple reason – to feel alive.


I believe it was Aristotle, or some other robe and sandals-clad aspirant to our modern Dude, who once said “the unexamined life wasn’t worth living.” Like so many other absolutist statements, this is really only a partial truth, best implemented in moderation. True, no examination at all is probably not a good thing, but neither is too much, lest it devolve into navel-gazing self-indulgence. It must be tempered by doing, or else all the self-examination in the world is worthless. Life doesn’t belong to the philosopher in a comfortable chair, it belongs to those of us who need to get dirty, exhausted, occasionally lost and sometimes even a little bloody. There is no frame of reference without visceral, firsthand experience.

I don’t want to sit around examining my life any more than I want to continue mourning losses I can’t control. Too many of us sadly don’t seem to live enough, to grasp this rare opportunity by the short hairs and wring what we can from it. But unlike just about anything else I can think of, there is no drawback  to over-living – walking away from the matching, over-stuffed luggage of past and future concerns, and utterly inebriating ourselves in the sensory stew of the present.

This more than anything, I’m convinced, is what our dogs have been patiently trying teach us all along.


Filed under Blues, Fodder, Keeping it Real, Reloading


Compasses are fascinating things, with much to teach for being an inanimate object. I’m speaking of course, of an analog piece,  little changed for centuries, not the app on your phone.

There can be a number of things that affect the proper reading of a real compass, causing one to lose direction. Unlike your phone, a dead battery isn’t one of them.


The Tru-Nord pin-on compass. Generally more reliable than I am.

Other things in your pocket may be interfering, pulling the needle from true. Take this as a sign that you may have too many things in your pockets, and that it might be time to simplify. Don’t let other things confuse your compass and cause you to lose direction. True direction is the highest priority.

It seems inevitable that cheap compasses develop bubbles over time. These too will affect the needle. Don’t trust your life, whether it be your ultimate safety or only your current direction, to cheap things. You’ll get exactly what you paid for.

Compasses are only useful when you can see them, and the less accessible they are, the less likely you are to use them. Keep your compass handy and refer to it often.

There is an old adage to the effect of, “if you keep checking your course regularly, it’s much harder to get lost than if you wait until you’re not sure where you are.”

Sage advice.


Filed under Fodder, Keeping it Real, Reloading, Tools of the Trade

To those of you who are here by accident:

Some of you are here intentionally, I know this because I have access to the site stats and you found us using search terms like “chukar hunting blog” or “how to hunt gambles quail.
Many of you will be sadly disappointed, like those of you who came here after searching “hunting breeks.” I’m also sad for those of you who came here while searching for the location of “Giffy Butte.”
It makes perfect sense to me that after “Mouthful of Feathers” and its variants, the most used search term that brought people to MOF is “WTF.” WTF indeed.

A fair number of the searched phrases are questions. I thought I’d answer some of the questions that folks have searched for and ended up at MOF seeking answers.

“What is a ditch parrott?” – Good question. It’s one of those pink decorative birds on a stake that rednecks put in front of their mobil homes.
“What does quail taste like?” – Imagine a marshmallow peep grew up then raised a clutch of little marshmallow peep chicks exclusively on a diet of butter and roasted peanuts. And then, when those baby peeps were as cute as they could possibly be, you ate them.
“What do feathers taste like?” – What kind of sick bastard are you?
“When is too old for bird hunting?” – The people who write here and many of the ones who read this blog would happily breathe their last breath while climbing a scree slope towards a dog on point. So I guess never.
“Is there chukar in Wyoming?” – This is a popular question, so I want to answer it correctly. No. The good news is with your fancy talkin’ skills you goin’ to fit right in in Wyoming.
“When you go pheasant hunting do you eat the birds?” – That’s like asking “When you go to bars, do you drink the beer?”
“Why does a ruffed grouse defecate in one place?” – I like this question and I hope whoever searched for it contacts us to become a contributor. This question has a real hillbilly Confucius feel to it.
“Are nice guns meant to be used?” – Yes. Use it, or give it to me and I’ll keep it safe for you.
“Wtf images?” – Is this a question about our photography or lack of? Some strategically placed punctuation could be really helpful here.
“How to keep a cigarette out of a mouthful.” – Don’t drink out of the urinal. This brings up another point, folks, keep your dogs off the interweb. It’s just not a safe environment for setters.
“What does chukar taste like?” – It tastes like victory. Sweet, delicious victory.
“Is bourbon flaskable?” – Does a ruffed grouse defecate in the woods?

Thanks for stopping by.


Filed under Fodder, Reloading, Talegate, We might have been jrunk.

No poetry

Last hunt

Last hunt

I wanted poetry. But that’s not the way it happened.
I wanted one last spin through stem and stubble, one last sudden pivot on wobbly legs. One last point.
One last rooster.
A burst of feather and wing to slate sky. A swing of double gun, a pull and a puff and the old boy on it, smelling it, mouthing it. His last rooster.
But that’s not the way it happened.
His ass-end gave out two hundred yards from the truck before we were in the really good stuff. We had to turn back, the old man pulling himself on his front legs, fickle back legs making drag marks in the snow. I offered to carry him, but he had none of it.
One last point, one last rooster. One last shot. I wanted that for him. I wanted that for me. But that’s not the way it happened and it occurs to me that poetry is a precious thing, a whisper on the wind, a blink.
A friend’s beautiful wife dies of leukemia before she turns thirty. There is no seventy-five years of shared life, no watching children and grandchildren grow and laugh. No poetry.
Another friend whose law enforcement career had spanned two decades spangled with accolades and decorations spent his last day investigating the disappearance of a woman while standing within feet of where her corpse lay hidden beneath a pile of trash. Days after the laughter had faded from his retirement party, his former colleagues discovered her body and arrested the boyfriend. No last day heroics, no “one last bust,” no poetry.
An Olympic miler steps off a city sidewalk and shatters her tibia. No poetry.
And so. An old bird dog on his last hunt ends up pulling himself home by his front legs. Two months shy of his thirteenth birthday and there will be no final pheasant. There was, but it was placed in the game bag months before without thought that there would never be another. Forgotten. Not even realized.
He sleeps now on his bed downstairs and I know that someday soon, he won’t be able to get up and walk from it, that he will have to drag himself and then I will know it is time. And I think about moments that have passed for him and I on our journey together.
And I think about the look of him then, all tri-colored and feathered, pivoting out in brambles, pointing and casting and moving in rhythmic upland music and I realize that in fact this is why I love bird hunting. For in that motion of dog into wind, in that movement of fur and nostril, it is there: Poetry. When all else in life lacks, upland behind a setter provides.
Sometimes life is just life. Sometimes it sings and the melody is bird dog.

—Tom Reed

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Filed under Reloading, Talegate

The Book

A project we’ve been kicking around for some time is finally happening, and frankly, we’re damn excited about it. In early December of 2013, Mouthful of Feathers: Upland Hunting in the West will be released, featuring a collection of original, full-length essays by:

  • Tosh Brown
  • Reid Bryant
  • Michael Gracie
  • Chad Love
  • Greg McReynolds
  • Tom Reed
  • Bruce Smithhammer
  • Bob White

With an introduction by Miles Nolte.

Cover art by Bob White.

The book will be published by Pulp Fly, Ltd. and available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble for Kindle, Nook and iPad platforms.

More to come soon – please stay tuned. And if you haven’t done so already, the best way to stay tuned is by signing up as a follower of this blog, which you can do on the menu on the right side of this page, and by “liking” our Facebook page. Thanks.


Filed under Recommended Reads, Reloading, Road Tales, Surviving the off season, Talegate, True stories, Upland Hunting

Chukar Dunketts

A serving of homegrown footage courtesy of our buddy, Brian Huskey. Pour a couple fingers of brown liquor, kick back and enjoy a little off-season succor. Er, chukar, that is…


Filed under Chukar, Reloading, Surviving the off season, Upland Hunting

Thought for the day…

While I’m normally a pretty accepting, unflappable person, there are two things I really can’t stand;

People who are intolerant of dog breeds other than their own,






Filed under Fodder, Reloading, Surviving the off season, We might have been jrunk.


Over the crunch of dry grass underfoot there is a distant, creepy moan.
Like Keith Richards dropping in over Ronnie Wood’s steady strum, the cry floats above the sound of the wind rolling through the gentle folds of CRP.

My mind races through the possibilities…a lost moose calf down in one of the dense cover drainages? Mating cats? The ghost of a jilted lover, screaming from the tumbledown remnants of the farmhouse over the rise? I try to keep track of the dog as he works the currents, and for a while the distraction abates.

There can be an expansive, desolate melancholy to big empty places like this, so different than the claustrophobic disquiet of being alone in thick, dark woods, though it can be none the less unsettling. The dog and I continue to work the field, but something still feels odd. And then the caterwauling returns, so far-flung and ethereal, carried on sporadic wisps of gust, that I’m second-guessing whether I’m imagining it.

The rusty windmill in the distance continues to slowly spin, keening out its unearthly wail. The dog goes on point, but there is nothing there.


Filed under Fodder, Reloading

Knowing It’s There

I could go on about how the season came and went too quickly, although now that I think about it, a lot has come and gone since it began last September. I could lament not having gotten out more, though I think I did pretty well this year. I could allow myself to be reminded, every time I look at the dog, of regret at not letting him revel in what he is bred for, every second and every day that he is legally allowed to do so. But then again, neither am I, and that’s life.

Instead of giving in to remorse, I opt to wander through the ever-expanding topo map of places I’ve hunted which lives in my head. I think of fields full of sharptail, warm and yellow and glowing on an October afternoon, now harsh and iced over and windswept. But still, these tough birds reside. I think about new chukar land I walked this past year. About how dry it was – even for that country; about how those birds of the Eurasian steppe are surviving in their adopted basin and range. Blue grouse now burrowed into snow, and a lone wolverine, high above tree line on a February morning, trying to sniff them out. Huns, normally spread out and elusive for much of the year, now coalesced into a large covey that has moved into the undeveloped sage scrub near my house to wait for the days to grow long again.

Somewhere deep in the big empty.

Maybe my drive is evolving. Walking country for days, with nothing in the game bag to show for it, doesn’t feel so much like “failure” anymore. While sitting down to a meal of chukar enchiladas, or pheasant pot pie, is a yearning I hope never to quench, it’s more important simply to know that the country is there. That the birds are there. That I know these things irrevocably, because I’ve personally been cold, dirty and hungry in such places, and it’s left its mark on me. I’ll wake up hungry again tomorrow, no matter how amazing the meal was. But these intimate connections to wild country are a longer-lasting feast. Either way, you are what you eat.

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Filed under Reloading, Surviving the off season, Talegate


Why have I developed a callus on the index finger I use to operate my e-collar transmitter?

How do Huns absolutely vanish without a trace, even when you and the dog saw exactly where they went down?

Why do they call it an “improved” choke if I don’t shoot any better when I use it?

Why does whiskey always taste better with a full game bag?

Why do the voices in my head sound like chukar?


Filed under Fodder, Reloading, Talegate, We might have been jrunk.