A Pyramid Lake Photo Essay

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Pyramid Lake
Headlamps at dawn

We made our annual pilgrimage to Pyramid Lake. Here are a few snapshots from the trip.

Pyramid Lake
Ladder Line
Lahontan Cutthroats
Whale Tails
Pyramid Lake
Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
Pyramid Lake
Mirror Mirror
Pyramid Lake
Scales
Pyramid Lake
Landeen striking a pose
Pyramid Lake
Bent
Pyramid Lake Popcorn Beetle
Beetles
Pyramid Lake
Fishing the dropoff
Pyramid Lake
Fish
Pyramid Lake
Splash
Pyramid Lake
Lunch of Champions
Pyramid Lake
A well stocked bar
Mahogany Smoked Meats
“The Stroke” courtesy of Mahogany Smoked Meats in Bishop, CA
 Mahogany Smoked Meats
I slept the whole way home

Arizona Quail Hunting: End of a Season

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Mearns Quail
Montezuma’s Quail

Hunting with Pat Flanagan on his guide’s day off is no picnic. After walking through Mearns country all day, I began to imagine that if he took off his boots, you’d see goat hooves instead of feet. I guess that’s what happens when you guide for quail in southern Arizona and chase your pack of shorthairs up and down those hills.

Watching his dogs work out the birds was a thing of beauty. Their dark bodies weaved and crossed in front of us through the yellow grass, occasionally circling back for a gulp of water before plunging back into the golden landscape. Pat’s dogs lived up to the hype and found us multiple coveys. The ice cold Modelas and tailgate full of birds at the end of the day was worth the work.

As quail season winds to a close, I can’t help but ponder over the days in the field spent by myself and with friends. I know that it’ll be a couple long months before I’m watching a covey flush and bringing the shotgun to my shoulder. Until then, I’ll be living off of days like this, replaying the day’s events over and over again in my mind.

Pat runs Border to Border Outfitters and you can hunt birds with him from Minnesota all the way to Arizona and everywhere in between. Check him out at Border to Border Outfitters.

Border to Border Outfitters
Pat of Border to Border Outfitters
Mearns Country
Canyons on canyons on canyons
Mearns meeting
A Mearns meeting with Pat and Rooster
Mearns Quail
Checking out the findings from the day

Javelina Hunting – Stickbow pigs

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Grasslands
Grasslands

I spent a few days in southern Arizona with my good buddy Austin and a few of his friends from Idaho chasing coues deer and javelina. The guys had been down there for the week, and I caught up with them for the tail end of their stay. It didn’t take but a few minutes over a cup of coffee to become fast friends with Blake and Chad.

It’s cliche to say, but the next few days were less about the hunt and more about time in the field with good friends. We spent the next couple of days doing more laughing and telling stories than actual hunting. In the times that we did spend glassing hillsides we found a few herds of pigs and were able to connect on a couple of javelina.

The few days I spent in the field flew by and before I knew it, I was packing up my gear and pointing the truck north to home. When it’s all said and done, I came home with a few physical objects: a cooler full of meat for my family, a skull for the bookshelf, and a handful of pictures. But ultimately, I left with something greater: A couple new hunting buddies and the memories of a successful hunt.

Arizona Hunting
Glassing some sunny hillsides
Javelina Hunting
A last minute pig
Blake after a successful stalk
Austin gets it done
Javelina Hunting
Upward
Arizona Hunting
The Valley Floor
Javelina Hunting
Bacon wrapped javelina on the open fire
Someone helping unpack the truck

Arizona Quail Hunting: Javelina Scouting

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Sunrise
Sunrise

It’s usually around Thanksgiving that I found out whether I drew a January archery javelina tag. It’s pretty convenient that javelina and Gambel’s quail habitat overlap, so during the month of December, I usually quail hunt the unit I drew and tuck a small tripod and pair of binoculars in my bird vest. When the morning slows down or I’m waiting for the birds to start talking, I’ll have a seat and scan a hillside or two to try and get the lay of the land and maybe even find a herd of pigs.

This particular morning was a bit on the cloudy side and the sun never did warm the hillsides. I sounded out a few calls on my Jim Matthews custom call and recieved an answer from a quail a couple hundred yards up the wash. After walking to that location, I was rewarded with a double as the covey flush in front of me. I marked where the covey flew and retrieved the two downed birds.

I zig-zagged my way through the calf-high grass and prickely pear and flushed a single quail straight away in front of me. Three shots and three birds. I never shoot that well, so decided to stop while I was ahead. I spent the rest of the morning glassing for pigs.

Gambel's quail
A trio of Gambel’s quail
Javelina country
Javelina and Gambel’s country
Cholla
Cholla

Rambling Review: Turtleskin Snake Gaiters

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Turtleskin Snake Gaiters
Turtleskin Snake Gaiters

Why:

Hunting, hiking and fishing in Arizona often puts me in close proximity to rattlesnakes. I’ve run across several while fishing, and I always bump into one or two in the early portion of the Arizona quail season. The statistics tell me that as long as I’m not drinking and trying to poke it with a stick, I should be alright. But when hunting in some remote areas by myself, I believe in a more proactive defense strategy. I had the opportunity to check out the Turtleskin Snake Gaiters this quail season, and although I couldn’t find a rattlesnake to bite me in the leg, I was pretty impressed with how these gaiters performed.

Turtleskin Snake Gaiter
Turtleskin Snake Gaiters

First impressions:

Patented Material – Turtleskin Snake Armor is a super-tight weave of high-strength ballistic fibers and polyester. This patented fabric has been tested and have proven to successfully repeal a diamondback rattler bite.

Lightweight – At 6 ounces each, the Turtleskin Snake Gaiters are some of the most lightweight snake gaiters on the market.

Made in the USA – The Turtleskin Snake Gaiters are made in the USA.

Turtleskin Snake Gaiter
Turtleskin Snake Gaiters

Field Use:

After running the Turtleskin Snake Gaiters in the field this season, I was really impressed with their quality and durability. Although no snakes tried to bite through them, there were plenty of stickers, thorns and cholla that grabbed, scratched, and poked at the gaiters. After multiple trips in the field, these things still look like new and really help to protect the bottom portion of my pants.

The early portion of the Gambel’s quail season is miserably hot, and the only thing that helps is to get out early and drink lots of water. It was surprising how well the Turtleskin Snake Gaiters breathed. There was a very noticeable difference between the Turtleskin gaiters and other non breathable gaiters such as oil finished cloth and heavier briar proof material.

The one thing about these gaiters that I noticed after the first day was the noise. The “swish-swish” with each step is not really an issue during quail season. I’m constantly crashing through the brush, chasing and flushing birds and being quiet is not super important. It would be a tough decision to bring these on an early season spot and stalk hunt with the amount of noise they make.

Turtleskin Snake Gaiters
Turtleskin Snake Gaiters

Pros:

Lightweight

Made in the USA

Breathable

Durable construction

Cons:

A bit noisy

Prognosis:  If you spend anytime hunting or hiking in snake country, it’s worth your time to check out the Turtleskin Snake Gaiters.

 

* Disclaimer:

The reviews at Arizona Wanderings are my honest opinion. Turtleskin provided the Snake Gaiters for the purpose of this review. 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.

Arizona Quail Hunting: A Wrong Turn

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Gambel's quail
A pair of Gambel’s from the morning

It took about 20 minutes before I realized that I had turned off on the wrong two track. Instead of improving, the trail dumped into a wash and became impassable for the truck. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I put the truck in park, grabbed my coffee, and opened the door for a quick listen. I was greeted by the sound of a Gambel’s quail covey getting out of their roost tree about a hundred yards away. It was an easy decision to shoulder my vest and grab my shotgun and look at some new country

I scratched out two birds out of the covey and found myself a new hillside to hunt in the future. Sometimes taking the wrong turn takes you to the right place.

Arizona Quail Country
Arizona Quail Country
quail-poppers-and-deer-steaks
Coues Deer steaks paired with jalepeno quail poppers

 

Rambling Review: Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest

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Rambling Review – Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest

Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest
Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest

Why:

There are several good options for quality strap vests on the market. I’ve written about several of them on this blog already. For the early Arizona bird hunting season, I’ve had the opportunity to wear the Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest and I’ve been really impressed with what this light weight strap vest has to offer.

Quilomene San Carlos
Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest

First impressions:

Q5 Outdoors Products – Dan and Joanne Priest started Q5 Outdoor Products several years back and introduced the original Q5 Upland Strap Vest and the Q5 Centerfire Vest. Recently, the Priests brought the Quilomene line up of vests into the Q5 Outdoor Products fold, and now offer these highly renowned, field tested vests for sale. One of the coolest parts about all of the Q5 and Quilomene Vests is that a portion of each sale gets donated to Arizona Outdoor Adventures, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing healthy outdoor activities for underprivileged children.

Customizable and Adjustable – The Quilomene San Carlos Vest comes in two styles. One is a “Y” back and the other is an “H” back design. Both styles offer quite a bit of adjustments. When purchasing your vest, you are also able to choose a size based on your waist measurements. This ensures that the vest fits properly and carries any weight comfortably.

“Y” back and “H” back

Storage – There is a total of seven pockets on the San Carlos vest, which makes it easy to carry all the essentials in the field. Lash straps are located on the back of the pack for stashing a jacket once the day gets warm. The bird pouch is spacious and capable of carrying a limit of quail easily. Although there are no water bottle pockets, there is a large hydration pocket on the interior of the bird pouch, and handy hose clips located on the shoulder straps.

Made in the USA – All of the Q5 Outdoor Products are made in the USA.

Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest
Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest

Field Use:

I’ve enjoyed using the Quilomene San Carlos bird vest so far this season. From the early dove season, to grouse hunting at 8,500′ in the mountains, and back to the valley for the quail opener, the San Carlos really shines in the field.

The first things that really stood out to me while chasing birds was how lightweight and slim fitting this vest is. It is a very simple design and even when loaded, it does not have a lot of bulk. This is beneficial whether you are hanging in field waiting for the next flight of doves, or slipping through the dark timber looking for grouse.

Another thing I really was impressed with was how comfortable the vest is, and how well it carried a load. With early season quail especially, I loaded up on lots of water, shells, and other odds and ends, and the vest was pretty heavy. Even with the vest fully loaded, the waist belt carried the weight really well. Although there are vests on the market with more pockets and carrying capacity, the Quilomene San Carlos handled the everything I threw at it.

Although I was extremely happy with the how much the vest was laid out and how much it could carry, I could see how a hunter with a dog might want a little bit more carrying capacity for extra water or designated water bottle holders. Quilomene has quite a few different accessories that allow these vests to be totally modular and customizable for each individual customer. Check out their accessories page for water bottle holsters and more.

Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest
Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest

Pros:

Made in the USA

Quality material and durable construction

Lightweight 

Water bladder pocket and hose hooks

Portion of each sale goes to non-profit

Cons:

Lack of water bottle holders

Prognosis:  The Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest is an excellent lightweight strap vest option and worth looking at if you are in the market for a new vest. 

* 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.  The Quilomene San Carlos Bird Vest was provided by Q5 for the purpose of 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.

 

Arizona Coues Deer Hunting

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Coues country
Coues country

I’ve been living in Arizona long enough, and it was time to hunt coues deer. I was able to pick up a tag for one of the southern units and with a little help from my buddy Ed at Gameplanner Maps and countless hours of the Jay Scott Podcast, I had a pretty good idea of where I needed to go and what I needed to do. Although I’ve spent a little time behind binoculars, I still never feel real confident about finding animals in the field, especially coues deer who are touted as some of the toughest creatures to find.

I snuck out of work on Thursday and was setting up camp mid afternoon. This allowed me a little bit of time to get out and glass the evening in hopes of turning up a buck before opening day. With no luck, I  turned in for the night. The next morning found me on a high hill glassing some ridgelines, but I only saw one deer at first light and never saw it again.

Around mid day, I decided to switch up positions and get to another vantage point with better afternoon sun and shadows, but found another set of hunters there. Dismayed, I decided to work some lower country and work my way back into some different country. Within an hour I had picked up two does, and I watched them as they fed into some thicker brush. Confident they didn’t have a buck with them I repositioned myself to look at another hillside and I immediately found two small bucks feeding down the hill toward a canyon. I watched them for a few moments and knew that if I didn’t act, they would get into the bottom of the drainage and I would lose them. Grabbing my rifle and binos, I snuck down the hill into a managable 200 yard range, found the deer again in my binoculars and made a quick shot that dropped one of the small bucks where he stood.

I gathered my pack and tripod and hiked over to where the deer lay. I sat there looking at the deer incredulous at how fast everything had unfolded and said a quick prayer of thanks before beginning the work. With a heavy pack, I walked the mile back to my truck with a huge smile on my face. My good friend Kyle was there to greet me, as he had come down to help me out the next day. With the hunt complete, we enjoyed venison backstraps cooked over an open fire and talked about the upcoming Mearns quail season. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding hunt and am grateful for venison in the freezer.

Coues Country
Coues Country
Gameplanner Maps
Gameplanner Maps
Coues Country
Coues Country
First coues buck
First coues buck
Coues deer
Coues deer
Packed out
Packed out
Driving out
Driving out
processing
Processing