Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tis the Time Fly Fishermen...

...all suddenly realize Ol  Man Winter is at last on the way out. Spring is just around the corner and...Note to Self: C'mon dummy, those half-starved fly boxes you put away start of hunting season are still half-starved. The leaky waders still leak; the worn out wading shoes, still worn out; the tippet spools still empty; the leader wallet...Well, I'm sure by now you got my drift. Better cracking or you will find yourself  fishing and a wishing you'd taken care a business instead of sitting around fretting all the silly stuff you've no control seems to consume your winters...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Missin' One Fine Montana Fishin' Dog...

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A few days ago Kate would have been 13 . And, like me, no doubt revved to go fishin'. I've run a pile of bird dogs in my day but not one loved to fish like Kate. While she was wild for chasing chickens, any chicken, anytime, we often wondered if she could talk would she rank bird hunting or fishing highest on her annual bucket list. Of course we'll never know but if I were to guess without hesitation she would answer "either one boss, bring...it..on. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Montana: Time to Break Out the Fly Rod...

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With forecast highs near 50 later this week and a new license year beginning Friday, like magic my thoughts have turned from chasing desert chickens and other far less worthy distractions to, dare I say it? Breaking out the ol' fly pole. Actually for me kick starting the season end of February, beginning of March is a bit late. In years past it was a rare January I didn't fish at least a few times and while am sure there has been a February or two or three without wetting a fly line in the past 40 years or so I honestly can't remember when...Anyway starting today and for the next 6 months and change this rant WILL have little to do with stuff not fishy...promise.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Big Hole Valley Winter Fest...

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is annual event held in Wisdom. It revolves around insane (my take) activity commonly known as skijoring. Skijoring is of course popular throughout snow country. Reindeer, dogs, horses and even automobiles provide the tow power. Meanwhile gritty skiers of all ages (in Wisdom from eight to eighty year-olds compete) mostly hang on for dear life; I suppose praying they don't catch an edge or perish the thought get tangled in the rope. No the red streak in the snow is NOT blood but rather orange die to give the skier's a better chance to spy the gates and jumps required to complete the run. Calcutta betting yesterday was announced as high as $450...OK, maybe "insane" is a bit too strong, especially considering how many brown vitamins a few hundred bucks might buy in the local watering holes.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


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...cities and highways rank right up there with the busiest anthills. The good news just a few miles outside Phoenix--in my opinion the worst of the worst when it comes to traffic hell-holes--take a gander in any direction and idyllic scenes such as this one--a few miles outside Tucson by the way--pop up both sides the highway. FYI...Gale shot this one mid-morning a partly cloudy though really bright day with her now not so new toy--Nikon Coolpix P510--as such renditions go not too shabby, eh? 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Gambel's Quail Hunting 101...

Gambel's numbers ebb and flow largely dependent on timely winter and spring rains...

...which hopefully are abundant enough to produce prodigious amounts filaree...Filaree is high in Vitamin D. The more Vitamin D Gambel's hens munch, the more hens are susceptible to breeding, the larger the egg clutches, all of which leads to more and larger the brood sizes and, naturally...

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...barring unforeseen disaster once the chicks hit the ground (and yes other mitigating circumstances, poor shooting, hunter breakdowns you know out of shape, over the hill, etc., poor dog work, perish the thought, eh, Annie ol' girl)...Of course we ain't going to let any that stuff happen, right. So hell, no reason then our game bags should not be brimming and our quail feasts...plentiful and tasty.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013


...beyond the occasional fleeting glimpse, I have not seen many bobcats out and about in broad daylight. For me this still holds true, e.g. Gale shot this pair at the Sonoran Desert Museum, though I did catch yet another brief glimpse of one vacating a sand wash where Annie was busily trying to uncover the whereabouts of a quail covey which had given us the slip a short time before. However a few days prior Shawn's Brittany, Zoey, treed a big male and then a couple days later sighted another and a day or so after that yet another...All three widely separated by the way. Also talked to a trapper who claimed to have caught over two dozen cats since late fall. At 700+ plus bucks a pop not a bad paying hobby, eh? So I guess the moral of the story is bobcats are indeed alive and well in southern Arizona.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sonoran Desert Museum...

...in Tucson is the best place I know to learn, view and photograph the intriguing flora and fauna comprises the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. Soaring Harris's hawks are just one of many, many critters found here...Click to enlarge photo.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sonoran Desert...

...teems with life. Birds, raptors, songbirds, waterfowl, wading birds, you name it show up, sometimes in mind-boggling large numbers where suitable habitat exists.

Rock Wren's are constant companions in nearly every rock pile.

Desert bighorn sheep, mule and whitetail (Coues) deer, javelina, coyote, gray fox, bobcat and mountain lion, while not easy to find, are nonetheless common enough sightings are not all that rare. For example, Shawn's Brittany, Zoie, treed a large bobcat and saw a couple others (both smaller) over the course of this season's quail hunt. I got a fleeting glimpse of one (all widely separated by the way) one the last days of season.

Smaller mammals such as this antelope ground squirrel can be seen scurrying about nearly everywhere.
Naturally all pale in comparison when the dogs uncover this guy...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Prickly Pear Cacti...

...is an important component of the Sonoran Desert which dominates the lower 2/3s of
Arizona. Javelina and cattle eat it; how this works is beyond me but from all the munched down pricklies the spiny plant is if not "the" favorite ranks right up there...OUCH! While javelina take rather dainty bites out of the paddles cattle often much down the entire plant! leaving little more than a few leftovers of plants often chest high and five six feet across.

Believe it or not but folks in the know convert the spiny paddles and fruits in all sorts of stuff: syrups, marmalades, jellies and jams, various cocktails, stuffed paddles (huaraches, nopales (Dave made some of these one evening in camp, best to ask Pam how they turned out), baked paddles (yeppers?), chili, compote,  candy, salsa, agave, fruit leather...you name it, apparently prickly pear works (at least for some, eh?).

The fruit shown here is left over (and probably not ripe for picking anymore) from last July. When fruits do ripen there are 5-6 fruits on each paddle. Mind-boggling amount when you consider some spots the plants are all but touching each other over many acres and there are dozens of paddles on each and every plant. Picking is so popular however one jelly and jam guru at a local farmer's market told me, "you plan to get yours anywhere near a road best get there early or plan to take a hike."

So there you have it...over and out...Chuck

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Arizona Quail Hunt...

...ends on a high note, especially for our pal Gig. On the last afternoon of season hunting almost within sight of camp Emma the Wirehair pointed and...surprise, surprise up jumped a covey scaled quail instead of the usual Gambel's we had all been chasing around for the past month or so. Gig and I have hunted this area many times over the last decade or so and while we have both shot scalies in Arizona not once have our dogs found them even close to this spot. Gig hunted Mearn's earlier down near Nogales and thus laid claim to our gang's (7 Dillonites, 1 Washingtonite) only desert quail trifecta this time around. FYI, I have managed it twice. Anyway the hunting season closed on the 10th and we finally got home yesterday...How long the funk lasts who knows?

Mearn's (aka Montezuma or clown), Scaled (aka cottontop), Gambel's

Friday, February 1, 2013

Arizona claims to be the rattlesnake capital of the U.S.; hard to argue given anywhere from 13 to 18 species depending on who is counting. AZ also claims to be the Gambel's quail capital and from what we have seen past few weeks another claim hard to argue. While I have not heard Arizonians laying claim to the "Sunset/Sunrise Capital" from the many we've enjoyed since setting camp a month or so ago I'd say they really are missing the bet...This is a typical view to the west whilst Dave, Pam, Gale and Me sit the campfire sipping sundowners...Imagine!