Forgotten

A friend called me a few weeks back from the road. “I thought you were elk hunting,” I asked.

“I was,” He said. “Until I climbed out of my sleeping bag, got dressed, unzipped my gun case and found a 20ga instead of a 30-06. So, I’m headed home.”

I laughed. Then tried to console him. I told him that it happens to all of us. I told him about the time I left my gun in the field and a whole host of other things, lost or forgotten.

Truth is, I’ve forgotten all kinds of things. I’ve had to backtrack to some obscure gas station to buy a hunting license. Twice. Last winter, on a week-long trip to hunt desert quail, I forgot my sleeping bag and had to share the dog’s sleeping bag.

I’ve brought the wrong gauge shells. I’ve forgotten my vest and hunted with a handful of shotgun shells in my jeans pocket and a sharptail held by its feet in my left hand.

Once, I drove 30 miles to get to an early morning rooster spot. I stopped a mile or so beforehand to get myself together, planning to drive up ready to go at legal shooting light. I put the collar on the dog, put my vest on, took off my house slippers and reached for my boots. But they weren’t there. No boots. 

So, I put my house slippers back on and manage to kill a rooster and miss some huns. But I did ruin a perfectly good pair of socks.

GM

 

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Two shots or three

Several of my hunting partners shoot semi-autos. I give them endless grief about it. I love Star Wars as much as the next guy (maybe more) but I don’t want to shoot Han’s gun. I’ll take my shotguns with two barrels, two triggers, fixed chokes and a straight stock. I’ll take checkered walnut and blued steel. I’ll take an action that closes like a vault, not one that works like a retractable pen and sounds like a new-fangled rat trap closing on an empty beer can.
And then there was Saturday.


A late season point. The cover was thin and the setter wanted to move, but she waited. The bird got up as I came even with the dog, 30 yards out, with a running start. I knew I needed to be quick, so I rushed it. Missed with the first barrel. I mentally leaned in, squeezed the trigger and saw him start to fall. He spiraled down, long tail streaming as he headed for earth.
And then he righted himself. Started flying again. Gaining altitude. Headed right for me. I looked down. My gun was broken open and the empty hulls were in my right hand. I shoved the hulls into my vest, then frantically grabbed for shells. Dammitt. Why am I wearing gloves? Why can’t I seem to grab the reloads? I clawed them out of the pocket, my eyes still on the bird as he flew over my head hitting top speed and gaining with a tailwind. I finally managed to get shells into the action and close the gun, but it was too late. He was gone. Still flying. Pumping his wings with authority. He headed downwind and down hill. At the very edge of my ability to see him as a black speck against the snow, he landed. Maybe a mile distant. Later, the dog and I would check this spot hoping to find him. But we didn’t. Maybe he was a coyote’s feast later that night. Or maybe he’s still running.
On the slog back to the truck, I reconsidered the semi-auto. Maybe black plastic is attractive after all. Maybe when you really listen, the clanging of an improved rat-trap action is actually melodic. Maybe double barrels are over-rated. Maybe that third shot wouldn’t be so bad after all…

On Monuments and fish and public lands

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. 

For me, all of these things are encompassed by the public lands where I go to feel alive, to be happy, and to feel true liberty and freedom. There is no freedom like the freedom to go. 

 

Yesterday morning the President signed a proclamation reducing Bears Ears and Staircase Escalante National monuments. Word is the administration is considering reduction or elimination of other monuments, including Cascade Siskiyou, Katahdin Woods and Waters, and Rio Grande Del Norte.
GmcReynolds
Rio Grande del Norte is a place that shaped me. It is a place where I have hunted and fished and camped and hiked and known the kind of freedom that makes you laugh out loud on a solo hike across an empty landscape. Rio Grande del Norte came to be in 2013, the product of a presidential designation that came only after congress failed to act.

The designation ensured not only the permanent protection of the place, but also of the historic uses of hunting, fishing, gathering, and grazing. The land belonged to all Americans before the proclamation, and continued to do so after. Access remained.

Those who tell you monument designations are “land grabs” are either uneducated, or full of shit. The truth is, monuments are protections put onto existing public lands to preserve the lands as they are and keep them available for public use.

Those who claim “lost access” are either too lazy to get out of their car when the road ends and walk, or full of shit. The truth is, monuments remain open to hunting, fishing and public access.

Those who tell you that sportsmen – or the American public as a whole – benefit from the dismantling of national monuments are either deliberately misleading you, or full of shit. The truth is, the only reason to dismantle monument protections is to allow those public lands to be drilled, mined, or sold.

I read the proclamation on Bears Ears and Staircase Escalante released this yesterday. If you cut through the bullshit, just skip past all the “whereas,” right down the to “now therefore shall it be resolved” section, you’ll see the meat of the thing.

…the public lands excluded from the monument reservation shall be open to:

(1) entry, location, selection, sale or other disposition under the public land laws;
(2) disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing; and
(3) location, entry, and patent under the mining laws…”
These newly unprotected lands still belong to the American public, just like they did before and after the designations. The only change is that now they can be sold, drilled and mined. When the president says, Our precious natural treasures will be protected and they, from now on, will be protected…”
What he actually meant is that the lands you could hunt and fish and explore when they were part of Bears Ears or Staircase Escalante, are now eligible for sale, strip mining and oil and gas development.

They are trying to take Bears Ears and Staircase, so don’t think they won’t come for your places too.

Stand up for National Monuments.

Miles

She was running big, maybe just for the fun of it. She’d been cooped up, in recovery mode with only short jaunts for the last week. But now she was loose. The beeper turned on silent and miles ahead. The setter sees that as permission to stretch and she was ranging way off to my right. There was no point worrying about bumping birds in country this big. No point worrying about covering it all or how to hunt it. Just pick a general direction and go at it.

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She knew where I was, so I plotted my own course heading west toward the aspens on the edge of the foothills a mile or so ahead. It was the last few days of sharptail hunting, a warm October day that is Idaho’s finest hour.

I carried the 16ga broken over my shoulder, not planning on shooting unpointed birds and knowing my chances of walking them up in this sea of grass was thin anyway.

I watched the setter swing across in front of me, covering ground that she had missed in her northern swoop.

She stopped 100 yards ahead, pointing back at me. She was steady but relaxed, watching me with her eyes. I walked in, talking softly to her as I closed the gun.

“Good girl. Good point. Thanks for waiting for me.”

The world shrunk down to a white dog on point and the familiar weight of a shotgun in my hands. The sun shone from a blue sky onto an ocean of golden grass. Time ticked slowly, counting down to an eruption of feathers.

And then nothing. No bird. No covey of sharptail. Just grass. The setter unwound, but not into the mile eating lope. She moved left, carefully. Relocated 20 yards, then steadied again. This time not looking at me. Sure. Her nose and eyes locked on something invisible to me.

This time it was a quick. A step, a flush. A squawking dandy of a rooster got up and for a moment I hesitated. This was sharptail country. What was this swashbuckler doing way out here? I recovered and swung my gun, connecting. The rooster hit the ground running, but in this cover he was no match for even a poor retriever like the setter. A bird in the bag. We walked on, miles behind and miles ahead.

Easter thoughts on wild places

“The wilderness will lead you
To the place where I will speak”

Come back to me, by Gregory Norbert

There is a beautiful piece in the NYT this weekend about Edgelands by Rob Cowen. It makes me think of the places I used to run my dogs in Abuquerque, or fly fishing in Houston, or mountain biking in San Antonio. We need wild places and it’s a good reminder that it doesn’t have to be Yellowstone to make a difference in someone’s life.

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Happy Easter everyone
GM

Dogs and M44s

My setter knows “come” and “whoa” and snake avoidance. She’s vaccinated against rabies and rattlesnake bites. She will turn on a whistle and even follow a hand signal when she’s close enough to see.
She works at a range I like, stretching to find birds in open country.
Unfortunately, she can’t read.
And apparently, the ability to read a sign might be all that separates her, or me, from a cyanide-filled land mine.
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Last week, a young man and his dog ran into an M44 cyanide trap. The young man escaped serious injury, but the dog died. It happened in my state, in my town, not far from a place I hunt grouse. And it scares the shit out of me.
My dog often runs at the edge of my vision. Hell, my boys are often running at the edge of my vision and they don’t read that much better than the dog. Worse yet, in this particular case, it seems like even the cursory protection of a sign wasn’t given.
I’m not anti-trapping. I’m not even anti-predator control, though I believe it does little to help upland birds. I am anti-M44. I can see no good reason for setting such a dangerous and indiscriminate booby trap out for a child or dog or anything else to find.
It’s bullshit.

Scalies

GmcReynolds (1)

A point on the ragged edge of tenuous obedience
Two dozen birds, running
A jog, a flush, swinging through
A shot, a miss…
dammit
She’s running again, and big
There are birds and her blood is up
Mine too
A speck on the horizon
getting larger, re-centering, maybe on me
Rocky sand, littered with cholla and creosote
scalie country defines inhospitable
prickly, hot, jagged and dry
she’s running west
birds headed north, running like tiny pheasants
I stay with them as she circles round
another point, this one false
Then another, real – but brief
Birds up, a shot and another
scaled quail in hand

 

GM

Waste, loss and legs

There are times when you make a good shot, mark it down, use all the dog power you have and still fail to retrieve a bird. We look hard for a bird that we hit, even a bird that we maybe hit. To do otherwise is the mark of a hack, a wannabe.

But it’s not a waste. gmcreynolds-4

Nature does not allow waste. A dead grouse that falls to the forest floor but doesn’t make it into a skillet will make it into the belly of a coyote or a fox. A lost bird breaks down – in a stomach or in the dirt – into the building blocks of life that fuel the forest itself. It is a disappointment, but it is narcissistic of us to believe that we are the best or only use of a wild bird.

That’s not to say there is not waste. Only humans are capable of removing an animal from the food chain and locking it away. Let a bird go to ruin in a freezer and then send it to a landfill wrapped in plastic – better to have left it afield to be eaten by a bobcat or have it’s bones picked clean by insects.

To skin a bird that could be plucked is a waste. Breasting out birds and leaving the legs to sour and rot in a plastic trash bag is the ultimate waste.

And to that point, legs are delicious. Quail legs, seasoned with Tony Chachere’s and fried in a cast-iron skillet with butter are a delicacy. Pheasant legs are excellent simmered with mushrooms and tomatoes and served over fettuccini.fullsizerender-8 Sharpie legs, slow cooked with red chili and shredded make incredible flautas. And don’t forget duck leg gumbo, spatchcock grouse, whole-roasted partridge, or battered and fried ruff quarters.

By all means, look hard for downed birds. But spend as much or more time at the end of the day cleaning your birds. Save the legs, pluck birds when you can. Enjoy all of your harvest. Don’t waste it.

Public lands are no accident

We at MOF occasionally write for other outlets and linking to some of our more MOFish content elsewhere on the web.

Here is a piece by Greg McReynolds on Trout Unlimited’s website from a couple of years ago when the fight for our public lands was just ramping up.

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The effort to rob Americans of our public land birthright is well-funded and the threat is real. In the last two years, there have been dozens of bills in state legislatures and numerous attempts in congress to sell, transfer or otherwise degrade the places where the vast majority of us hunt and fish. These attacks pretend that Americans don’t value our National Forests and Parks or that National Forests were never meant to be.