Texas Turkey: Rio Grande


60 miles from the Rio Grande

TSA flagged my carry-on as I stepped through the metal detector. I could see several folks crowded around, pointing, and discussing something on the screen. A woman dressed in a blue uniform with blue latex gloves picked up my duffle bag, carried it to a stainless steel table, and set it down with authority. The x-ray image of my duffle bag and it’s contents appeared on the TV screen above the table.

In a slow thick Texas drawl, the TSA agent took her pen and pointed it at the screen. “Sweetie, what is this mass right here in your bag?”

“Oh, that’s two frozen turkey breasts, ma’am”

“And what are these objects?”

“Those are his feet.”

“Thank you sir. You may go.”

Posted up
Hunter and his Rio




The day dawned bright, cold and dry. Sunny was hesitant to leave the warm confines of her kennel, and I had every article of clothing on as we left the truck. About halfway through the morning, the first flurries showed up, and within the hour the ground had a light dusting of snow. We hunted until one and moved 5 coveys, but decided to call it a day after lunch to give the birds a rest. I had two pretty males in the vest and am not particularly greedy. Sunny barely stirred in the back seat when I stopped for a coffee on the way home.

My truck still has a faint stink of wet dog. I don’t particularly mind.

A couple of male Mearns
A blue bird start to the day
Brady and JJ

A Mearns Point


Sunny on point

Sunshine and I took a solo trip down south to chase Mearns quail a couple weekends back. In spite of all of the things that I do wrong as a dog owner and all of the missteps I take in her training, the instincts coursing through her veins won out, and she held a quivering point long enough for me to walk up, flush a covey, and shoot a fat male Mearns. It was a simple thing, but arguably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in the field. There was a moment where she sat there holding that bird in her mouth looking at me and I reached for it. That moment will always be ours.

Now I look forward to repeating it another thousand times with her.

This bird was a special one
Power Nap
It was a good day.

Sunny’s First Weekend of Mearns


Friday Rain

Sunny and I headed south early on Friday morning to brave the weather and try and find a few Mearns quail. We were both soaked through after the first push, but we persevered and were rewarded with a covey after lunch. By evening, we were both exhausted, soaked, hungry, and ready to rest. We made camp and crashed out shortly after dinner.

With blue bird skies on Saturday morning, we met up with a few friends and their dogs. We made a couple of runs through a few quality canyons and the dogs found plenty of Mearns quail. It filled me with pride to see Sunny work and retrieve. There’s plenty of work yet to polish us both up. We’ll be hitting the hills again soon.

Sunny’s first Mearns. She’s ecstatic. 
More rain.
Drying out at the end of the opener
Sunshine puppy
Mearns quail 
She knows she did all the hard work.
Kyle’s famous tailgate tacos 
Mearns feet
The perfect day to hike the hills

Arizona Coues Deer


Coues Deer
Poor pup thinks she’s going with me…

We had known for several months that we’d drawn this tag. My good buddy Austin and I had hunted the unit during the January archery season several years back and were anxious to see what we could find hiding in the mountains on this November rifle tag. We’d spent quite a bit of time looking over maps and marking waypoints and believed we had a good plan for the weeklong season.

On the evening of the second day, we spotted a small forky working the ridge below our glassing point. It was pretty thick cover, and when I checked back on him after a while,  I saw he had a bigger buddy with him. I quickly moved into position and was nothing but jitters. Austin coached me through it, and once I got steady, I squeezed off a shot. The buck piled up and we hiked down to him.

It’s always stunning to me how fast things happen in the field. One minute you are just trying to find one through the binoculars, and the next you are staring down at mature deer. I couldn’t believe my luck and was extremely happy with my 2018 coues deer. After a couple of quick photos, we broke down the buck and hiked our way back to the truck by headlamp.

We spent the rest of the week looking for a buck for Austin, but never found the one he was looking for. What we did find was some remote country with lots of potential, and a burning desire to get back after coues deer next season.

Coues Deer
Backroads in Arizona

Coues Deer
Lots of glassing

Coues Deer
Backcountry Camp

Coues Deer
Midday naps in the shade

Coues Deer
A blind squirrel found a coues deer

coues deer
My 2018 Arizona coues deer

Coues Deer
Thinking about how hard this packout is going to be

Spartan Javelin Bipod
Spartan Javelin Bipod

Coues Deer Country
Coues Deer Country

Coues Deer Country
Coues Deer Country

Arizona Coues Deer
Still work to be done


Arizona Quail Hunting – Gambel’s School


Sunny Dog
Tough to smell when you’re tongue’s hanging out

Arizona quail season has finally arrived. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to let Sunny run around and chase Gambel’s. We were out early and scared up a couple of covey’s. Sunshine found out quick that Gambel’s quail would rather run than sit around for a point. We were lucky to followup on a covey bust, knock down a straggler and get a mouthful of a desert bird.

It was a fun time exposing the pup to the desert. She ran her heart out and has plenty to learn.

Gambel's Quail
Found one

Sunny Dog
Crashed Out

Arizona Blue Grouse in the White Mountains


Arizona Sunrise
Arizona Sunrise (photo by Kyle Graf)

The elk bugled all night long which made sleep hard to come by. My little brown shorthair remained in a tight cozy ball next to me in the tent, snoring away while a bull worked cows in the adjacent meadow.  We all woke early, anxious for the hunt ahead, and huddled around the tailgate eating oatmeal and discussing the plan for the day.

I had been out on several Arizona blue grouse hunts over the past few years without success. With Sunny dog joining our family, I jumped at the chance to join my buddies, Kyle and Sheldon, on a trip to the White Mountains in search of this high country bird. We put Sheldon’s seasoned French Brittanys and Kyle’s GSP on the ground while Sunny tagged along. Our second push of the morning yielded a large covey of blue grouse. Although the birds flushed wild, we were able to follow up and put a bird in the bag each. I was beyond ecstatic when Sunny retrieved the bird, and felt boundless joy and pride to see some of our training pay off.

We spent the rest of the day exploring a few more spots without any luck.  But with a tired, happy pup and a bird in the cooler, it didn’t matter much to me. On the long drive back to town, I reflected on the day. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face after spending time with good friends in the mountains and following your dog through the aspens with a shotgun in your hand.

Sunshine on the stake
Sunshine on the stake

Arizona Blue Grouse
GSPs on the loose

Arizona Blue Grouse
Arizona Blue Grouse (photo by Kyle Graf)

Arizona Blue Grouse
Sunny Dog

Arizona Blue Grouse
The whole gang (photo by Sheldon Clouse)

Arizona Blue Grouse
Sheldon with a stellar tailgate lunch

Arizona Blue Grouse
Lunch break

Arizona Blue Grouse
A productive morning (photo by Sheldon Clouse)

Arizona Dove Hunting: Opening Day


Arizona dove hunting
Breakfast of champions

Over easy eggs, floppy bacon, and a double pot of coffee is the only way to start the opening day of dove hunting season. With a big breakfast and the coffee starting to do it’s work, I met up with two buddies, and we bounced the trucks through the desert, just outside of city limits. As the sun started to peak over the distant horizon, a few doves followed the edge of the wash and provided the first few shots of the morning. We shot for an hour or so, until the sun got a bit higher in the sky and the doves stopped flying. We cleaned up, had a beer and were home before the wives knew we were gone.

For me, dove season signals the beginning of fall. Although the temperatures here in Arizona will stay over 100 through the rest of the month, dove hunting on Labor Day weekend provides the opportunity to breakout the shotgun and get some shooting in before quail season opens up in October. While I’ll have to wait a bit longer for the taste of quail, dove pot pie will be on the menu soon.

Quilomene by Q5 Outdoors
Quilomene by Q5 Outdoors

GSI Outdoors Microlit bottles
GSI Outdoors Microlite bottles

Arizona Dove hunting
I foresee a dove pot pie in my future