Looking Back

I’ve been granted an unexpected break in my normal life and it had given me some time to look back on a busy fall and winter. If only this shutdown had come when it was still bird season, but you can’t have it all. Our first full season with our first bird dog has been a learning experience. Part of that has been learning how to train her correctly. The other has been training ourselves to listen to what she is doing and trust her nose to find the birds. This has also been the beginning of trying to understand the often fickle upland birds of Arizona, specifically those that dwell in the high country.

Running the burns
Thirsty dog
Mixed conifer skyline, Ponderosa, Southwestern White Pine, Douglas Fir, White Fir, Spruce and Aspen
Dead and down hike through the gooseberry

We started the year searching all over the AZ high country for Dusky (Blue) Grouse. Despite covering a lot of ground we were unable to find any. Still the dog was doing great, we just needed to get her somewhere with some birds.

Running high county meadows
No birds but found the views
Dusty dog
Coffee on cool mountain mornings
More burn hiking

As temperatures dropped we transitioned from ice cold mornings up high into beautiful days down in the upper reaches of quail country. This is where she began to figure things out. From finding coveys to relocating scattered singles, Sage had a nose for these crafty desert birds. If only our shooting followed her success…

Prickly pear mornings
Sage’s first retrieve of a Mourning Dove
Thirsty dog back at the truck after a long mornings run
Very southwestern
Proudest moment of the year, Sage’s retrieve on a buddy’s quail
Dove poppers
Into the scrub oak

We did manage a few birds, but mostly I had the privilege of watching the dog do great work and saluted the quail as they flew away. She pointed quail, doves and even cottontail and jackrabbits, so far she is shaping up to like this high desert hunting thing.

Sage inspecting her find
To the Victor go the spoils, skunked on bird, victorious on sheds

All this season has done is get me fired up for the next. I’m looking forward to training days this summer and more walks in Arizona’s Backcountry this fall. Only four or so months till we can get back out there!

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