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dog.breath
16-01-2012, 01:13 PM
My buddies & I finally all made it out on a quail hunting trip. It's the first trip this season that all 4 of our usual crew were able to go on, and only the second trip for me this season. And this season has been a pretty dreadful one for our gang: up to this point, no quail, only a handful of dove (the season is over now) and a couple of rabbits. I'm pretty sure we're the worst hunters ever.

(The first trip back in November was a complete bust, and really only amounted to a nice hike with guns) :
http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6037/6372196051_027fae3e90_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6372196051/)

This weekend's trip almost became just camping with guns, but in the end everybody took something home. We started by driving up to Willow Springs Rd, a graded dirt road about 40 minutes north of Tucson, and followed it another 20 or so miles up to the hills past Willow Springs Ranch. On the way I nearly hit a huge, fully antlered mule deer stag and two does that were crossing the road. About 10 minutes later we encountered some deer hunters who hadn't had any luck and told them where to look for the stag. Unfortunately, they hadn't seen any quail, but we continued into the hills and walked around a bit.

This area is fairly hilly, and somewhat overgrown with catclaw and snakeweed.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7147/6703990815_eff6a5c549_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703990815/)

There's a fair bit of beargrass, too, which is actually a member of the agave family and not a grass at all. Also the ubiquitous prickly pear.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7169/6703989245_ab539822f7_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703989245/)

After hiking around for a while it was lunchtime, and nothing was moving but the wind. So we decided to do some exploring, and ended up driving a long way north through a lot of flat scrubland where we eventually hooked up with the Florence-Kelvin Highway, which is just another graded dirt road. It took us east, back to the hills above the Gila River.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7173/6703986069_b28f5e3183_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703986069/)
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7014/6703984931_4984a7cdea_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703984931/)

The afternoon was getting on, so we found a nice little 4wd road that got us down to a drivable wash, which we followed a ways until we found a suitable place to camp.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7006/6703987873_b21fc134ed_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703987873/)

There was a lot of Desert Broom growing nearby - a pretty common plant in riparian areas here. In the fall it produces a little fluffball of a flower, though most of the fluff on the plants in this wash had already blown away.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7035/6703983873_81ebe83569_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703983873/)

With about of half-hour of sunlight left, and a big pile of mesquite deadwood we'd collected, I decided to practice starting a fire with some mesquite shavings.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7035/6703982491_658ca5960a_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703982491/)

I was hoping to use some of the Desert Broom fluff as tinder, but it turns out it flashes away almost instantly and the mesquite never has the chance to catch.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7157/6703977945_ba1272015c_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703977945/)

In the end I used some frayed jute twine from my kit, which worked immediately.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7163/6703976307_b906099cef_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703976307/)

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7173/6703974579_25e2061ef2_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703974579/)

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7152/6703973361_e80210b67c_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703973361/)

While I was practicing fire-making skills, one of my friends went looking for quail, but came back a half-hour later and reported nothing stirring, at which point we pretty much resigned ourselves to hanging out in camp, sipping beer and enjoying the fire.

By this time I was getting pretty hungry, so I decided to put my dinner together: chicken sausage with scallions, mushrooms & jalapeņo which I wrapped in foil and tossed on the coals.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7170/6703970479_9248d33170_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703970479/)

I love to cook this way.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7158/6703969009_9888c0edd6_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703969009/)

And right then, the quail started calling, right on the edge of our camp. The sun had just dipped below the horizon and there was still a bit of twilight left, so everyone but me scrambled for their guns and went stalking into the brush. Almost immediately I heard M take a shot off to the left, followed by S taking a shot off to to right. Each had a bird. Then I heard some low calling from a tree-sized wolfberry bush about 30 yards from camp, so I grabbed my gun from the truck and as I approached, two birds flushed on the other side where I had no shot. After that all was quiet, and I feared my food was burning on the coals, so I went back to camp to tend my dinner.

And it was good.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7026/6703963385_2bf39fb197_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703963385/)

There was no more shooting, and everyone wandered back in, amazed at how quickly the covey had scattered into the hills. Then they started over-admiring my sandwich. I told them how delicious it was and how they could all go to... make their own dinner ;)

After eating, I set out my sleeping bag and settled into my chair to enjoy the fire and a few cold beers.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7148/6703966697_c5a6faaea2_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703966697/)

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7150/6703964389_cf22e51eda_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703964389/)

I woke up about an hour before dawn to a light, spitting rain that lasted just 5 or 10 minutes. It wasn't wet enough to fret over, so I just folded my tarp over me and tried to go back to sleep, but I ended up getting restless & got up about a half-hour later to make coffee. P was also up, and we had our coffee brewed just as it started to get light.

And as I took my first sip, the quail started calling. So a-scrambling we did go again, into the brush. P was a ways off to my right when I heard a bang. I continued on to the left, heading up the wash. The first birds I found had already fled up a small side gully with steep, gravelly slopes, and then flew over the hill when I came into view. I didn't hear any more calling then, so I backtracked to the adjacent side gully in the direction the birds had gone. This gully was much larger, so I thought I'd better get to some high ground to have a better look around. So I headed up the spine of the closest, walkable slope out of the gully. As I was nearing the top of the slope, I saw a single bird fly across the spine and down through the bushes toward the far slope where it disappeared again. I hiked another 30 feet up and then happened to look to the right just as the same bird started to fly up the farther slope and then... BANG! I finally had a bird. I collected it and thanked its spirit, then slowly made my way back down to the wash. All was quiet now, and eventually everyone else turned up. M and P had each gotten a rabbit. And I had the only bird of the morning.

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7033/6703961709_63c71807ac_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703961709/)

We had a slow morning after that, each taking his own time over breakfast and enjoying a small fire. But eventually it was time to go, so we packed up, buried the few remaining coals in the sand, and were on our way.
http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7006/6703960343_133cd92c69_z.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spirituscanis/6703960343/)

And well, it was only one bird, but a heck of a lot of fun to be out and about and enjoying a mild winter weekend in the desert.

Ben Casey
16-01-2012, 01:41 PM
I love your write ups it looks like great fun over there a lot more than here :)

Martin
16-01-2012, 01:42 PM
What an amazing looking place. It's like a different planet compared to where we live and prickly pears are anything but ubiquitous here. :)

Thank you so much for taking the time to make such a detailed account of your trip.

Martin

dog.breath
16-01-2012, 03:22 PM
I'm glad you guys enjoyed these pictures! I sometimes wonder if the desert somehow has a special resonance for the British. My buddy P in this story is actually a Yorkshireman who married an American from Virginia. They've been in Arizona for about 11 years now. It's not uncommon to hear P quoting from Ray Winstone's opening lines from Sexy Beast. I don't think he'd rather be anywhere else in the world.

jbrown14
16-01-2012, 03:45 PM
Hey Dog Breath, just sat here at work and read the write-up; thanks for the daydream.
I love the desert southwest, though I've only made it out there a couple of times. (New Mexico when my grandparents lived there. My grandfather is buried in Santa Fe.)
Absolutely beautiful country, and looks like it was a great trip. Nice over-under too.

All the best,

Josh

Metal mug
16-01-2012, 04:14 PM
Another great story Patrick. And like Martin says Arizona is a different planet compared to SW England. :)

JonnyP
16-01-2012, 04:38 PM
I enjoyed reading and looking at all that.. Thanks for putting it up. :0)
That looks superb hunting grounds. I would love to spend some time mooching about there with my air rifle.
Does anyone use ferrets to hunt with out there..?

dog.breath
16-01-2012, 05:02 PM
I enjoyed reading and looking at all that.. Thanks for putting it up. :0)
That looks superb hunting grounds. I would love to spend some time mooching about there with my air rifle.
Does anyone use ferrets to hunt with out there..?

I've never heard of anyone hunting with ferrets here, but they're not unknown as pets, so I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility. The State game laws have special provisions for falconers, and while I've never known anyone who did hunt with hawks or falcons, I take that as evidence that some people do. A lot of people hunt quail with the help of dogs, but I've never had that pleasure - my dogs seem to think that the sound of gunfire and is akin to medieval torture and try to run for their lives should they ever hear it :ashamed: :D

luresalive
16-01-2012, 05:11 PM
Superb, so good to see an environment that isn't deciduous woodland!! great pics too.

Roadkillphil
16-01-2012, 05:29 PM
Amazing, thanks for sharing. It lead me on to checking out your Flickr stuff as well, lots of great pics of great places and ansum gear :)

Cheers

Phil

dog.breath
16-01-2012, 07:02 PM
Thanks, guys.

And Phil, glad you enjoyed the pics on Flickr, too!

Suba
23-04-2012, 01:40 PM
Wonderful photies and story Dog Breath (great name :D).

More of that please!

m0txr
23-04-2012, 05:21 PM
Very enjoyable post, hope to see more about future trips as and when they happen. Thanks for a great read. Mac