When I hunt alone, which is often the case, there’s a certain ritual to leaving the truck. It’s become habit without much thought anymore. This invisible checklist guards against hiking miles from the truck and realizing I’m without shells, water, remotes or worse. It’s this same reason everything has an assigned place in the truck, it just simplifies the start of a hunt and helps prevent the bonehead moments from the past. The final step is always securing keys in a zipping pocket before dropping the tailgate to release the hounds.
Cutting out to the sagebrush with Wyatt and Rio the thought crosses my mind “let’s make this one count.” I may have even said it aloud because conversing with dogs becomes fairly commonplace on these long trips when they are the only companions. I’ve also told them this is the final hunt of the season, but I’m fairly certain the dogs still don’t believe. Though, they may be somewhat happy after being driven hard to close distances on late season chukar in this high desert, a game new to us all.
As I head uphill that counting sentiment kind of grinds on me. It’s been a long season afield, over 35,000 miles behind the wheel, seven states hunted from Alaska to Ohio. We’ve trekked through all kinds of weather in all kinds of terrain. Shot new species of birds. Made lots of new friends afield, and connected with old friends for first bird hunts.
Long gone are the days when shooting birds meters success.
I suppose I could score this hunt in burnt legs, ridiculous off-balance shots, face plants on rocky footing that carve new character in my gunstock. I could tally the wild flushing birds in front of overtired dogs mystified by this new game – or just too worn out to care. But it’s not so much the numbers as it is moments afield: imperfect, glorious and ours.