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.