This is not the cover photo from a $9 upland hunting magazine.
Red, high-brass 12 gauge hulls litter the ground, always three together – as in BANG, BANG, BANG.
There are no Land Cruisers or Range Rovers parked in golden fields.
Just tall sage, Russian olive and the broken fence lines that litter this patch of BLM conveniently surround by private (and inaccessible) ground that doesn’t suck.
These public-land roosters have been chased by every labradoodle and aussie-cocker cross in four counties and fired on by snipers, road hunters and ground sluicers.
So when the dog goes into high gear and I know there’s a bird close, I look ahead just in time to see him slip away from the fence line into the sage 60 yards ahead.
I leave the dog to her business, working his trail up the fence while I head farther out into the sage on my right at an angle hoping to cut him off.
The dog puts up another rooster that held a little longer. He swings off to the left and I’m so behind that I never even take the shot.
I click the safety back on and as I start forward, I see the dog working back toward me. Just as I realize the first bird has cut back towards us, he gets up behind me.
I fire twice on a bad shot, miss the first but manage to clip him the second time.
He goes down and hits the ground running. I can’t see him through the sage, but I can hear the jingle of Roxy’s collar as she runs him down.
She brings him back with nothing but a broken wing.
Near a pile of beer cans and empty 12 gauge hulls I take the long-tailed, crimson bird from her mouth and wring his neck.
There are few niceties here.
This is a battlefield.