I’m sure I got brought along on many awesome little day trips as a kid that are lost to memory. Lugged along in a backpack of sorts by one parent or another over hills and canyons. While I can’t remember these experiences, I’m sure I’m richer for it. More than likely my love for wild places were fostered by these early memories I can’t clearly recall.
Weather and nap times finally aligned to allow for the little one to join us on his first upland bird outing. A slower pace and far more planning is the price to pay for him joining but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The dog on the other hand, may disagree. She was chomping at the bit to get going while we were gathering the baby’s plethora of gear and a last minute snack. She began running her tireless circles around the truck, sniffing every juniper and prickly pear within 100 yards.
We followed our zig zagging dog into the adjacent basin where we left the truck behind. The pointing dog running hard and the baby bouncing along on his mom’s chest. His near constant happy burbling and wide-eyed looks proved that he was enjoying the hike as much as we were. He was drinking in the sights and reaching out for every bush and tall grass we passed. Luckily his mom was on constant watch for the spiky plants he was trying to grab at, there will be plenty of time for him to learn about the folly’s of grabbing mesquite and cacti. For now though, every plant and stick looked like his next toy in his eyes.
The hunting wasn’t stellar but the weather sure was. Fifties and calm which was a far cry from the -2 we had woken up to. A cottontail jumped out at our feet but a snafu with wrangling baby’s ear protection meant no shots were fired and the rabbit ran on. The dog gave it a valiant effort with a 50 yard tail wagging, nose to the ground pursuit, but that cottontail was long gone. Usually a chance at meat gone awry has me cursing myself and whatever fickle beings control bird flights and my shooting, but this time I couldn’t be bothered. The baby was squawking away about all the excitement for in his mind I’m sure looked like a whole lot of nothing.
The final valley we worked on our way back to the truck looked like the perfect Arizona upland habitat. Tall bunch grasses spotted with prickly pears and the odd juniper. The swale bottoms were covered in patches of mesquite and the wind was blowing uphill into the dogs path. Baby was giggling away at the dogs frantic back and forth path, trying to sniff every scent in the county. My wife was managing the ear muffs and the dog had found birds. A group of ground feeding doves on the very last day and very last hour of dove season. I missed a snapshot at the first flying bird, reloaded and hit another which promptly disappeared behind a tree and into the tall grasses.
The baby unfazed by all of this noise and motion had gone back to staring at plants and gnawing on his pacifier. It took me and the dog a few moments for her to pick up the scent but she did manage to find the bird buried in the tall grass. His first hunt and a bird was coming home with us for dinner, he’s defintely nothing like his father. It took me many outings to finally wrangle a bird. The first dove and bird I ever shot was on the ridge top about a quarter mile from the spot where we got this dove. There was something special about my son’s first time tagging along yielding a dove in the spot I got my first bird as well. Truly a special little corner of the world.