Idaho – Mule Deer

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As expected, the mountains in Idaho were as steep as they were beautiful. The weather was fickle and the hunting was tough, but we persevered in search of a mature mule deer buck. We covered over 60 miles, and in seven days, we saw a big cinnamon bear, a wolf, a bunch of grouse, a whole mess of does, and 7 bucks. The last morning the biggest buck of the trip gave us the slip, and with about a half hour left, we found a small forked horn to put my tag on.

I went to Idaho with no expectations and was rewarded with a week in some of the prettiest country I’d ever seen. The freezer is piled high with fresh hand wrapped packages of meat, and I strengthened a friendship in a way that only happens when you share a hunting camp. This won’t be my last trip to Idaho.

Just fishing

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Arizona Brown Trout

Went fishing with an old friend at an old spot. Life changes quite a bit even over the few short years, but the creek seemed unchanged. Hoppers were plentiful on the bank and every rock I flipped over was wriggling with life. The fish were content to greedily rise to the surface and slap our flies around. The fishing was average, but it was good to catch up with a friend and check up on a creek I hadn’t been to in a while.

Rock Flipping
Release

Summer

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Brook Trout

Squatting on the bank while looking at the water, I could feel the soft squishy earth through my shoes. It felt good to be there, grounded in that moment and place. Playing out a bit of line, I flex the fly rod in a familiar rhythm and dropped the fly in the darkest corner of the pool. The fly lay bushy and lonely on the water’s surface and doubt began to creep in to my mind as I waited for an unseen quarry. My patience was rewarded when the fly on the end of my line disappeared and was replaced with a spirited trout. The light 3 weight rod pulsed and bent until the small brookie found his way to the net. A quick photo, a quick release, a quick check of the fly and then repeat it all again.

Mearns

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Jim, Landon and me with a pile of birds. The dogs did all the work.

The season has been over for a few weeks now. The dog knows it. I know it. We’ve both settled in to the routine of the off season. I cleaned the shotgun, put it in a gun sock, and stowed it in the safe. I bathed the dog and now she smells like that oatmeal shampoo. She’s already back to roaming the backyard and intermittently stalking song birds and lizards.

My mind is wandering to turkey season. Instead of the yellow grass and oaks of southern Arizona, I’m wondering what the weather is doing in the high country. I’m thinking about getting down the decoys, breaking out a slate call, and seeing if I have enough shells to go pattern the shotgun like I do every season.

But I dare not start digging out gear and making piles of camouflage clothing. I won’t open the safe and rummage through shells. I refuse to start scratching the slate just yet. The dog will know. She’ll sense I’m cheating on her. She’ll sit there patiently, watching with her sad orange-brown eyes, knowing I’m going hunting without her. I can’t do it to her yet. Maybe in a week or two.

It breaks my heart to see her so sad. But I do love turkey hunting, and September grouse season is a long ways away.

Slice of heaven
God got creative when he colored up Mearns quail
Cane sugar for the win. Viva Mexico
10 months away

A bird dog

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Sunny and I after a successful day in the field

Every time she hunts, she gets better. She hunts wild birds and gets to hunt with other experienced dogs. Racking up miles and miles in the field, she runs her guts out and has turned into an absolute killer.

I know everyone loves their bird dog, but I love mine most.

Sunny on point
“I swear that bird fell right here. Get the dogs back over here”
Walking back to the truck
Mearns quail
Mearns quail
Sunshine in the sunshine

Mearns Quail Hunting in Arizona

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Mearns Quail
Arizona Mearns Quail

I pulled the truck off the side of the dirt road in roughly the same spot I had marked on the map. Shrugging into my vest and slipping the shotgun from the case, I flipped the tailgate down, dropped the dog dish into the dirt and opened the nozzle on the blue water jug. As the water splashed into the metal dog dish, I hoisted Sunny onto the tailgate and secured her GPS collar and watched the screen on my handheld to make sure everything was working. Sunny jumped off the tailgate and slurped water before turning away from the truck into the tall yellow grass. I slammed the tailgate closed and hit the key fab to lock the truck before turning and walking into the grass myself.

I scanned ahead looking for the brown body of my dog and felt the familiar buzz of the GPS. I looked down and Sunny was on point, 20 yards from the truck. I snapped the shotgun closed and walked towards her. The ground erupted in front of me as 12 Mearns quail popcorn flushed straight away. I picked one of the last ones to get off the ground and dropped it from flight. Sunny was on it in a moment, rolling, mouthing and savoring the taste of fat male Mearns quail in her mouth. That alone was worth the drive to the border.

Mearns Quail Hunting
Sunshine Lady with a solid retrieve
Male Mearns Quail
A pile of males
Mearns Quail Hunting Arizona
A solid group of guys and dogs
Mearns Quail
One more of my girl and me

Sunshine Lady

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3 for the morning

Sweet Sunshine Lady found the one and only cholla bush in 4 square miles and wound up with a leg and mouth full of spines. We spent a half an hour together in the shade of a mesquite tree, pulling everyone of those barbed needles I could out of her hide and tongue. After that episode, she slowed down and we hunted a couple of large coveys together, knocking down three Gamble’s quail together.

I don’t know if everyone feels the same way about their dog, but I love my sweet idiot. We’re both have our flaws, but love hunting together.

Gamble’s Quail Country
Sunshine Lady with a point and retrieve
Scolopendra heros – Giant Desert Centipede
Lots of water

Rambling Review: Marsupial Gear

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Rambling Review 

Why: Most western hunters carry a pair of binoculars on their chest while scouting and hunting. Between harnesses and pouches, there is a plethora of options on the market right now. They all serve the same general purpose, but the well thought out design of the Marsupial Gear Binocular Pack shines in comparison.

First impressions:

Flip forward opening: Both the Marsupial Gear Binocular Pack and the Rangefinder pouch’s lids fold forward and can be secured with one hand out of the way. The lids of both the bino harness and the range finder are fastened with high quality magnetics for a solid closure.

Made in the USA: All Marsupial Gear products are handmade right here in Phoenix, Arizona.

Field Use:

I’ve been running the Marsupial Gear Binocular Pack and Rangefinder Pouch for the past year and absolutely love this combo. The first thing that stands out is the overall layout of the binocular pack. The streamlined exterior does not have any hard corners for gear to get snagged on. The front of the pouch has one zipper pocket which is perfect for a tag/license or a couple extra rifle rounds. Two stretchy side pockets sit on either side of the Binocular Pack which hold a wind indicator bottle perfectly. The interior of of the Binocular Pack is lined with a high quality fleece making for soft protection for optics and quiet access to them when needed.

The second reason that I really like these Marsupial Gear products is the front opening lid. It’s an extremely smooth one-handed movement to open and access my binoculars. A bottom magnetic closure allows the front opening lid to be secured open. In comparison, some of the other harnesses on the market fold back (and into the chin/face of the user) and can be obtrusive when trying to quickly and quietly access binoculars. Marsupial Gear has a well thought out lid design.

Lastly, the suspension system of the binocular harness might be the most important aspect to consider. I’ve worn the Marsupial Gear Binocular Pack on multiple javelina hunts, turkey hunts, an elk hunt, a coues deer hunt and multiple scouting trips, and it has proven to be an extremely comfortable harness. Personally, I like the bino pouch to ride higher on my chest and the fully adjustable harness allows the user to find the perfect position for the their personal preference.

Pros:

Sleek and well thought out design

Comfortable and adjustable harness

Made in the Phoenix, AZ

Multiple sizes and color/camo options

Cons:

I’ve got nothing bad to say about this piece of gear

Prognosis:  I’m all in on the Marsupial Gear Binocular Pack and Rangefinder Pouch. If you are looking for high quality, well designed, Arizona-made gear for your optics, check out all that Marsupial gear has to offer.

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Arizona Wanderings is not sponsored by or associated with any of the stated companies and is accepting no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review.  My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.