We talk a lot about “closing the loop,” reaching a logical and finite ending to all things business, social, financial, etc. The term is appropriate for yesterday, the last day of quail season here in Oregon.
I began the season at a spot that holds history and pre-history (read: dinosaurs), fond memories, and a sweet spot in my heart for the peace it brings me. I closed the season in the same place. And once again, it didn’t take much to bring satisfaction.
Buddy hunted hard, making up for too many road miles and not enough field time. He tore from objective to objective along the little creek laced with beaver dams and head-high brush. Once the breeze finally stirred he worked it well, and soon the beeper’s hawk scream signaled a find.
Trembling on the opposite bank, nose vectored into a tangle of reeds and marsh grass, Buddy’s right front paw saluted the hidden birds. From the other side, I praised him then wondered how the heck I’d get across to make the flush: three feet deep if it was an inch, the dark water held no attraction in late January for an involuntary dip.
Rather, I staked out a brush-free spot on my side and hoped the bird would blink first, offering a shot through one of the corridors in the creekside vegetation. A fruitless search for rocks, sticks, or anything else to lob into the bird’s hideout led to my throwing an empty VitaCal tube, but no flush resulted and now I had a cleanup project following any shot I might get.
Buddy held steady, even when released to flush, and I reveled in my brilliant training methods (hah!). I wandered the bank, finding half a beaver dam that might lead to a hummock or sunken log to get me all the way across. The mud-and-stick barrier held – sort of – and I was three steps into the crossing when two mountain quail fought their way free of the tangle. One arrowed upstream through the tunnel of alders arching over the creek. The other buzzed, kamikaze-like, straight for my forehead before firing the afterburners and launching for the stratosphere.
Ducking to dodge the first bird, then pivoting on the muddy dam, I slapped the trigger and watched the most beautiful game bird in the world fall to earth, still as it landed, the silence returning to claim my attention and focus my gratitude at the dog, the shot, the bird’s contribution of life, and for my not falling in the water.
This mystical place, full of spirits from woolly mammoths to shamans, delivered to me a perfect end to a season full of challenge and beauty. I think I’ll start next season in the same spot.
From the glossary of my upcoming book “What the Dogs Taught Me:”
Stake: Designation of a class or separately-judged competition in field trials.
Stand: To point a bird.
Started dog: A dog that is somewhat obedience trained, comes when called and will point birds. Also “green broke.”
Scott is the creator and host of America’s most-watched upland bird hunting TV show, Wingshooting USA. Send your questions to Scott, here. Order Scott’s new book here.