Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Panhandle Hunting Trip Report - Finally

Way back in mid-November, the hoped-for cold front never came. The first afternoon, Brad and I cast Jack and Maggie up a brushy draw in the breaks south of the Pease River and tried not to think about rattlesnakes. It was clear and about 80 degrees. I had already seen a rat snake crossing the road. The mesquite was still green, as was the waist-high broomweed and the thickest crop of ragweed I've ever seen. The Rolling Plains made excellent use of the spring and summer rains.

Of course the dogs were stepping on their tongues fifteen minutes later when they plowed into a big covey that made a joke of the old rule that says that bobwhites rarely fly further than 80 yards. After a fit of whoaing, cussing, and whistle blowing, we got the dogs started in the direction most of the singles had taken. Amazingly, they found and pointed a few of the those birds, which had flown across a wide draw then up and over a hill. Most of them were a good 150 yards from where we flushed them. Of course they probably ran after they lit, but you get the picture.

Two hours later, with the sun disappearing behind the red cliffs above the Pease, we made it back to the truck, sore-footed and out of water, but encouraged. We'd moved three big coveys in about two hours, in miserable heat and rank cover. Certainly not impressive by Texas standards but much better than last year. Big coveys usually mean a good quail population. In lean years, six-bird coveys are common, even early in the season. A couple of good frosts, a little rain or snow, and we'd be in business.

Maggs on point. Seconds later, a covey flushed. Note the rank cover.

Next morning, we woke to fog and cooler temperatures. We moved a couple of coveys, but by lunchtime, the sun had burned the fog away and we were faced with another November day fit only for golfers and rattlesnakes.

Even worse, Maggs was favoring her left front paw. She injured a ligament in that paw last season but seemed to recover after a six-week rest. Still, I suspected she'd re-aggravated her old injury. I checked on her after lunch, and sure enough, the outside of her paw was badly swollen. The hunt was over for good ol' Maggs.

But fear not. After a three week rest, Maggs was back in action.

Stay tuned for another update.

Typical Panhandle bobwhite country. Looking north over the Pease River breaks.


Matt Mullenix said...

I have a hard-drive full of very near copies of that image! The canyon country north of Amarillo has a very characteristic look.

Henry Chappell said...

I love that northern Panhandle country. Very spare, beautiful (in its way) and wild.

My quail hunting spot is in the southeastern corner of the Panhandle, along the Pease river. Rough breaks north and south of the Pease - far too rough for quail rigs or ATVs, but great for clamboring after bird dogs all day.

I really enjoyed the photos from your Texas trip. I wish I were more disciplined about carring a camera - and using it.