Colder temperatures are starting to hit with real regularity and frosty mornings and frozen dog bowls are becoming the daily norm. This does provide near constant minor inconveniences and some major if you’re and 18 month old who wants to go swinging at seven in the morning when the mercury is still showing teens. On the flip side it provides the perfect excuse to take the 45 minute car ride to warmer climates and get the dog and the family out after some quail. Luckily I have a wife who is more than willing to hike around after the dog and I and a baby who (for the most part) likes to watch the world go by from his backpack perch.
While I said it would be warmer weather I was not counting on the cold north wind that made for chilly walking and cold backpack riding. The little fellow ended up all bundled up like the little brother from A Christmas Story and I’m sure if he could talk he would be squawking, “I can’t put my arms down!”. Luckily for us there were a multitude of birds to watch, unfortunately most were not of the huntable variety. The constant scurrying about of the Spotted Towhees with their rufous sides and flashy black and white flights kept the baby occupied. Along with the small swarms of Juniper Titmouse and sparrows (white crowned I think but honestly I can never be confident). The titmouse in particular were of great entertainment, other than the obviously somewhat comical name, these gregarious little birds bounce around in the scrub and are constantly flying in and around our heads.
While there were tracks all over, the excitement of good point had not yet been found, although not through lack of effort. The dog did her normal tireless zig zags through the seemingly impenetrable brush. Casually ticking off the miles while we slogged through the scrub oak and skirted the cat claw altogether. With morning turning to midmorning we began to plot our route back to the truck and the inevitable nap time that was coming in quicker than the little one wanted to admit. We crested the small ridge between the gradual draws that cover this landscape and began to head back in the general direction of the truck.
The first small wash bottom we came on was covered in tracks and we began to have some hope. They were just a draw away this whole walk (typical). The grass was finally greener on the other side. The stiff north wind that had plagued the walk all morning became our ally when the dog keyed in on something in the air. A series of 10 yard walks and points eventually turned into flushing quail. It wasn’t a particularly wild flush, but with the wind and it being my first covey of the season I did not do my best shooting, missing both my shots. To add to the chaos an observant redtail hawk got in on the action and shot over the ridge after the quail. Which only added to the excitement for the resident 18 month old!
With a real hunter chasing the birds I decided trying to pick up a straggler or two would be my best course of action and so the dog and I began beating the bushes around where the covey had taken wing. There was one grey feathered flight from a dove which I was able to hit (much to delight and surprise of the dog) but the quail were gone. The hawk had crested the ridge again and for a moment looked intent on grabbing the dove from the dog but decided to let that lie and went back to its perch on a juniper, waiting for those quail to show their heads. With nap time rearing its ugly head, a bird in the bag and the rest of the birds being hunted by something that needed them more than us we decided to take our leave and head back to the truck.
The little guy was really excited to see a dove close up and after getting to feel how soft they are it is going to be an uphill battle convincing him that every bird can’t be caught and petted. It was a wonderful first family hunt of the year and afternoon snack will have a little dove in it today.