|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.
Treeing dogs are another matter. A few years ago, I realized that I simply wanted to hunt with dogs, and that I needed to adjust to changing realities.
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.
|A hollow excuse. Hasty snapshot of Cate cussing One that Got Away. One of many, actually.|
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.