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.


Luisa said...

So good to read you! Sorry about the drought, but happy that you and Cate are hunting. I'm looking forward to more progress reports. Give Maggie and Cate a pat for me --

[Got myself a copy of Working Dogs of Texas -- that book is pure heaven for a dog person.]

Henry Chappell said...

Luisa, many thanks. It's great to hear from you! I'm glad you're enjoying Working Dogs. I'll not only give Maggs and Cate a pat for you; I'll give them a good ear-scratching as well.