Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Some Truly Painful Research

I'm working on another ranch book with the Wild Man of Benjamin, Texas. I spent several days last week at the Wagonhound Ranch in southeastern Wyoming, near Douglas. Tough going, let me tell you. Here's a little iPhone video from early Wednesday morning, complete with a shot of Your Humble Scribe's boots at the end.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Okay, varmint, I'm a comin' in after ye!

Cate having a fit over a squirrel holed-up in a hollow tree. Why are frustrated dogs so entertaining?

Winding Down

After 25 years of long quail hunting expeditions to West Texas, I'm enjoying short hunts close to home. I'm sure age has something to do with it, but, nowadays, with "serious" bird hunters paying tens of thousands of dollars per year for the best leases,  riding ATVs along baited ranch roads, and running small armies of pointers, an afternoon squirrel hunt with one or two dogs has a nice sense of proper scale.

The hunting is getting tough. Nature has done it's annual October to February thinning. Only the fittest remain.

Yesterday afternoon, I followed Cate into a gorgeous piece of woods. She treed only three times - first, a holed-up squirrel; then one  I simply couldn't find in a giant post oak; finally, just before dark, a fox squirrel that will go nicely with biscuits and gravy.

Small game season ends this Sunday. Cate is in her prime, lean and tough from regular hunting. But the frayed, faded collars on my bookshelf remind me how quickly the years pass. We'll enjoy one or two more squirrel hunts this week, if we're lucky. There will be a few nighttime 'coon hunts in February, but I have a book to finish and some challenging magazine work. Like an old dog that can't hunt two days in a row, I can no longer put in a good day's work after spending half the night in the woods.

I regret every second I've wasted.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


This past Friday, December 30, my father would have been 91. I had a challenging piece of work planned, but at sunrise, halfway through my second cup of coffee, I knew I'd be going to the woods.

In Northeast Texas, where Blackland Prairie gives way to the Red River breaks, steep-banked creeks cut fine, broad hardwood bottoms.

After a brutal summer, fall rains reassured us that life might go on.

Early afternoon, in shirtsleeve weather, I cast Cate east along a certain creek in Lamar County. I didn't expect much in the way of game then. There were no pleasant surprises the first couple hours, but no shortage of pleasure. Were I a more efficient hunter, I'd have saved our energy for the last two hours of the day, when squirrels and other diurnal wild things stir before denning.

Someone shake a vine. Cate says there's a squirrel up there.

Late afternoon, things picked up a bit.

Why do dogs always prefer the far side of the creek, especially when you aren't wearing hip boots?

An unexpected gift: A woodcock hen.

Gumbo or burgoo? We added a few more squirrels before dark.

Just after sundown, with barely enough light, I cleaned the day's bounty on the tailgate. For a few minutes, I knew only a snoring dog, tired back, bloody hands, the feel of feathers and fur, the smell of life and death, cedar and a cooling creek bottom. We humans are simple creatures, but we have long memories.