Thursday, December 15, 2011


Of course I had to comment on the H-A-I-R. Cade just shrugged and said that's the way he and his skater buddies wear it out in Southern California. I said he looked awfully 1974. He mumbled something about cavemen and barbers.

Cade and Cate in camp. Yes, the names cause all kinds of confusion.

I get my grandson a few days every hunting season, and a couple weeks every summer, during which we  set out jug lines for catfish, talk about hunting dogs, and make elaborate plans for our next squirrel hunt.

When Cade was eight, I told him I'd get him a .22 rifle when he turned 12. I thought I had plenty of time. This past September, it occurred to me that he'd be 12 when he arrived for Thanksgiving. A few weeks later I visited a certain gun shop. When the avuncular fellow behind the counter asked if he could help me, I said, "My Grandson just turned 12."

He nodded and said, "It's time, then."

"It is."

"May I suggest a bolt-action? We wouldn't want to encourage hasty aiming."

"My thinking exactly."

Half an hour later I walked out with a new rifle and the realization that I was about to lay a firearm - not a BB gun, not a pellet gun - in my grandson's hands. How did my father handle the task with such apparent equanimity?

Of course Cade did fine. He'd been handling air rifles for years while I harped on safety.

We need to work on form, but he's getting there.

For our hunt, I let Cade carry my light 20-gauge. Gray squirrels can be a challenge for even expert riflemen. He'd have a better chance with the shotgun. He carried his shells, but could load only after Cate treed and we were in position.

Ferns growing on a gnarled post oak.

We hunted a certain creek bottom in Anderson County. This phone camera photo doesn't do justice.

Good hunting, good country, great company.

Cade is back in California now, and his .22 is locked away in the safe. The best hunting of the season lies ahead, in late December and January. But the best part of the season ended the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Magazine Updates

After much procrastination, I've updated my website, adding links to recent magazine work. I hope you'll take a look at "Black Bear Recovery in Texas," "The Texas Horned Lizard," "A Light in the Wilderness," and a bunch of Texas Wildlife working dog columns.


Age and throat cancer have taken their toll, but the great John Prine's voice has only grown more interesting. This is one of  my favorites.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mid-Season Progress Report

Timber over the entrance to Donny Lynch's East Texas Hunting camp

Here in North Texas, despite recent rain, we're still in the midst of what has been shaping up to be the new Drought of Record, one worse than the disastrous drought of the 1950s. Other parts of the state have been in even worse shape. Ranchers have been selling off cattle. Tens of thousands of acres have burned. Wildlife has suffered horribly.

I probably won't hunt quail this year. The annual census reports the lowest count on record. Although I might hunt woodcock in the Pineywoods this coming January, I consider Maggie, my beloved old bird dog, retired. She may be my last bird dog. There have been too many years of running talented dogs into the ground for one or two coveys. It takes wild birds to make a good bird dog, and my last two have come nowhere near their potential.

I can't believe she's already four years old. She hit her stride last season in large part because I can get her into game a couple times a week without driving halfway across the state.

Still, this season started off hot, dry, buggy, and slow - an extension of the summer that wouldn't end.

What happened to the lake? The view from Harris Creek, Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, a grim, early October scene on the way to my favorite local hunting spot. On the upside, dabbling ducks will have plenty to eat when (and if) the lake covers all those weeds.

But there were plenty of fox squirrels in the oaks along creeks that feed the Red River. And a billion leaves that made finding squirrels nearly impossible. And hollow trees:

A hollow excuse. Hasty snapshot of Cate cussing One that Got Away. One of many, actually.

Nevertheless, Cate and I added game to the freezer, and I applied various ineffective goops to bug bites and poison ivy welts.

Mid-October, I headed to deep East Texas to hunt with my old friend Donny Lynch and his nephew Nathan Lynch. Hunting with the Lynch Boys is serious business.

The Lynch Boys and the dogs after a morning hunt in the big woods near Marshall, Texas. Cate's expression sums it up. The other dogs are Queen, a feist (at Donny's knee), Ranger, a feist (lying on the tailgate), and Red, a rat terrier (with Nathan).

A good season so far. Now we're having our first real cold snap, and I find myself looking at a graying bird dog and thinking about the Pease River breaks in the Panhandle, rough pastures of little bluestem,  prickly pear and cholla, and bobwhite quail that used to be there.

Back on the Road

Driving out of a creek bottom after a morning squirrel hunt in Anderson County, Texas.

Here we go again. Another blog revival. Why bother after a year-long hiatus?

Beats me. It just feels like something I need to do. This past year has been the busiest of my writing career, and I don't see things letting up anytime soon. Still, I have some things to say that don't quite fit in my books and magazine articles, and there's the restorative effect of fall after a brutal summer here in Texas.

Many thanks to my fellow bloggers who've kept me on blog rolls during my long absence. I hope you'll bear with me as I get back into the rhythm. As always, I'll be all over the place, from the hunting and nature writing people expect, to more philosophical postings. As much as possible, I'll avoid politics, but I'm sure something will send me around the bend, and I won't be able to help myself. In those instances, I'll have to ask for your indulgence. I promise not to be nasty and hope you'll return the favor.