Daydreaming – Arizona Gambel’s Quail

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Gambel’s Quail

The sun cuts the chill out of the desert as it slowly peaks over the horizon. The gravel crunches under my boots, and as I crest the small rise in front of me, I can see Sunny’s rigid body glowing in the morning light. The intensity of her point is in stark contrast to her typical, unbridled, energy. She is singularly focused on the creosote bush fifteen feet in front of her. Her orange-brown eyes bore an intense hole through the center of the desert brush, and as I get closer, I can see her nose twitch incessantly as she breathes the deep scent of wild birds in front of her.

The tranquility of the morning is broken as I step forward and the four hiding quail burst into the air. I whiff the first barrel, but the second barrel finds its mark. In a flash of brown fur, Sunny is on her quarry, and as she trots back to my feet, I could see her smiling through a face full of feathers.

I daydream this moment at least once a day. It’s just about six months until September.

Arizona Quail Hunting

Arizona – Coues Deer

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Arizona Coues Deer

Within the first few moments of daylight, I spotted this buck feeding into the sunlit hillside about a mile away. At that distance, I could see he had a mature frame, and with wind and rain in the forecast, I took but a moment to pack my gear and take off after him.

The prickly pear cactus and cat claw hiding amongst the waste high yellow grass grabbed at my clothing as I hiked briskly through the canyon. I slipped and slid over the loose rocks and finally worked into a position amongst a small cluster of trees where I could see the hillside that the buck had been feeding on.

Ten excruciating minutes passed while I scanned the landscape looking for any sign of the deer. Every conceivable scenario played out in my mind and I had almost convinced myself that the buck had simply fed over the hill, until he stepped out at 275 yards. With the rifle steadied on my pack, the bullet found its mark, and the buck dropped in the tall grass.

I drug the buck into the bottom of the canyon beneath the shade of a large oak tree and quartered the small bodied desert deer, leaving nothing to waste. It was a long walk back to the truck but a heavy pack is the sweet gift of success. Well, that and a freezer full of meat.

Funk
Venison

Rambling Review – Lowa Camino GTX

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Lowa Camino GTX in Mearns country

Rambling Review 

Why:

Hiking miles in uneven terrain with a heavy pack and a weapon requires a high quality, sturdy, and yet comfortable pair of boots. I’ve had quite a few pairs of Lowas over the years, but the new Lowa Camino GTX boots check all the boxes.

First impressions:

The weight – At 1550 grams (52 ounces) for the pair, this heavy duty boot is lighter than my other favorite pair of Lowas. The Lowa Tibets come in at 1900 grams

GORE-TEX – The Camino GTX boots have a waterproof and breathable GORE-TEX membrane which was originally “created to help thru-hikers, alpinists, mountaineers, ice climbers, and hunters keep their feet dry and warm in high elevations and coldest conditions.”

Vibram – The Camino GTX boots come standard with the Vibram AppTrail sole. Lowa states that the AppTrail sole provides increased contact area with a self-cleaning tread for excellent grip on all surfaces as well as a pronounced front heel edge for good traction downhill.

LOWA Flex Lacing – The Flex lacing system allows the laces to easily pull through the ball bearing lace loops that are set on free moving tabs which reduces overall pressure against the foot. This turned out to be one of the absolute game changers for me.

Manufactured – Lowa Boots have been handcrafted in Europe since 1923 under the world’s most stringent manufacturing, environmental and labor regulations.

The Lowa Camino GTX on top of the world in Idaho

Field Use:

The first chance I had to wear the Lowa Camino GTX boots in the field was during Mearns quail season. I spent many days in Southern Arizona following Sunshine dog up every draw and canyon looking for birds. Even through the long days in the field carrying a shotgun and a heavy vest over uneven ground, the Camino boots were extremely comfortable, even right out of the box.

I wore them again during turkey season and on multiple hikes through spring and summer. Even as the temperatures climbed, the GORE-TEX lining were quite breathable and comfortable.

The real test for the Lowa Camino GTX boots came this fall. I spent a week in Idaho hunting mule deer and a couple days in Arizona after coues deer. Between the two hunts, I logged over 80 hard miles with lots of vertical hiking under heavy load as well as wet weather. I packed two deer out of the backcountry. Through it all, the Camino boots were supportive, dry, breathable, and most of all comfortable.

Somewhere in the Idaho high country

Pros:

Little to no break-in time

Vibram AppTrail soles

Heinen Terracare Nubuck Leather Uppers

GORE-TEX Lining

LOWA Flex Lacing

Cons:

Cost – good boots are not cheap

PROGNOSIS: I love the Lowa Camino GTX boots. Extremely comfortable and absolute workhorse boots.

* 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.

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