Back in the early nineties, when I started writing for the bird hunting and gun dog magazines, I had to provide photos with my manuscripts - for no extra pay, of course. On every hunting trip, I tried my buddies' patience by holding things up to photograph a dog on point or by bringing everything to a halt if the light was especially good. I have never been a good photographer, but a bunch of my simple shots saw the light of publication. But constantly worrying about photos took some of the fun out of hunting. I vowed that if I ever wrote for magazines that work only with real photographers, I'd leave the camera at home and concentrate on my hunting and any stories that might come out of it.
Well, I'm happy to say that I haven't submitted a photo in a dozen years or so. My stories seem to read better accompanied by photos by Wyman Meinzer, Russell Graves, and other pros.
But these days, of course, digital photography is easy and fun, and the results are immediate. And of course I like to include photos with my blog posts.
Still, I'm usually too lazy to carry a camera.
I paid for that laziness earlier today.
I took Cate to a creek bottom a few miles from home. It's within the city limits, so I can't carry a shotgun, but the place is covered with huge pecan trees, several kinds of oak, hackberry, and Osage orange, and it's loaded with fox squirrels.
Cate is really starting to tree. She's been treeing and barking at squirrels that she can see for several weeks, but lately, she's starting to tree by scent only, and she's learning to follow timbering squirrels through the treetops, barking every breath - a nice, clear, chop, almost as deep and smooth as a coonhound's.
Cate struck about 50 yards away amid a stand of huge post oaks. For several seconds, I couldn't find her even though she was raising hell. Then I heard scratching up in the trees - a squirrel running up a trunk or branch, I assumed.
No, Cate running up the trunk of a big oak that had fallen against another old giant.
There she was, my seven month-old pup, eight feet off the ground, standing on the trunk of a leaning tree and reared up on the tree that held the squirrel, barking her head off.
And I had no camera and no gun. Nothing to do but cheer her on.
Directly, the squirrel timbered. Cate ran back down the leaning trunk, following the squirrel by sight. She lost it after a few minutes, but had that been a real hunting situation, that squirrel would have gone in the bag.
Next time, I'm carrying the damn camera.