2019 Desert Quail Hunt #2

Jan 29, 2020

Away by 730. No easy way via Google maps. Fredricksburg to Del Rio to Marathon is better than I10. Fed and ran Dot first but dog farts.

Arrived with enough daylight to scout a little

Scouting. Lol. I just got back to camp 4 by 5 PM. This place is huge!

And it’s rugged as all hell – walking is going to be very tough

Depart HQ @ 520. Just missed javelina crossing the road at Stillwell. It’s always a bit weird to come back here. Temps drop fast in the desert. 15 deg w sunset and rise to Alpine. Check in but no coffee machine so nought one $20 at grocery store.
Todo – Download onX maps, Prep all cam batteries, Shop lunch, PDF detail map on iPad, Decode paper map

We just scratched the surface.

Jan 30, 2020

6a wake but lazy and delay leaving until 8. Got taco and bread. Out of Alpine @ 820. 32 and foggy. Download onX for Black Gap!

Javelinas running for cover

Javelinas on the road again. Arrive HQ by 10. Bird watchers said they saw a covey near camp 14. Going there first. Dump out loop. Drive and spot. Big Valley near Dell and Camp 14. 20m Loop around camp 14. Brutal hard walking on BBNP lava burp rocks. Another big valley south after bad ass climb. Loop near sheep pen. Driving loop near sheep pen. 1230 Dog farts even with windows open! Hunted a road covey in the pass. Uphill. Stalked and shot on flush. Missed. Searched but couldn’t find again. Steep hillside

Travel from HQ to the river requires going over at least 1 pass like this.

Lunch and drone flight at primitive camp on Rio Grande. Out at 245. Driving loop past camp 8 and back to HQ at 5PM.

Loma Linda, MX in the sunset.

Nothing at the End of the Road. International Bridge Closed Permanently

That’s a long road to one guy’s house. Gets dark in Black Gap early behind BBNP. 2 big loops with Dot and she didn’t have dog power for quail on the hill. No loops just drive. Hunting the desert is humbling in many ways. Size, time, scarcity, survival, and distance.

Lots of slow driving and looking

Jan 31, 2020

Out by 730. Cold and sun slow to rise.

Glamour photo at the faux Target between Marathon and Alpine, TX.

There are many strange animals in Texas.

This is the Actual Black Gap.

Dump loop at Camp 7. 40 deg cold but perfect w scattered clouds. Big covey in canyon stream hills south of camp 14. Right turn 50 birds split 3 ways up, around and down the canyon. Went up first Shot 2 Hit 1 Retr 0. Searched around but only found a single. Searched downstream and jumped covey again. Shot and missed. Missed again on late near birds. Pay attention!

From the top where I shot and you can see my truck in the upper left corner.

The second covey had the grace to bust in flatter ground but they still beat me.

With the exception of the East TX bird watchers, nobody else is here!

Lunched and droned at Primitive Camp 3-4

Rio Grande River near Black Gap WMA

1p Offward! Big horn sheep area turn around !

Approximately 1/3 of the WMA is off-limits to hunting for Desert Bighorn Sheep preservation projects.

Bighorn sheep blocked at camp 23. Makes sense. 230 Covey on old high road between Camps 23 & 13. Cliffside and went up, then over and around. Video of this hunt and shot. 1 shot and a miss. Droned from a water collection source between Camps 23 & 13. 315 onward to Camp 10/11. Seems too grassy up here but could be wrong. Tight canyon they like. Bighorn blocked again at water before Camp 12. 345

I’m the only one here today

I’m the only one here today. It’s a good reason to only hunt weekdays. Up to camp 8/9. 4p Road through arroyo Seco up to camp 9 is too brushy.

Too many scratches on my truck to go this way.

Examples of my attempts to hunt on foot.
I call these Lava Burps from BBNP just west of here.

15 m loop to find a late bird. No luck. Pooped out at 525 and de-registered at Black Gap HQ.

Similar to yesterday but the next canyon over.
The evening drive in sunset is enchanting.

Highway covey still out at 615! Perry diner, groceries and Home @ 730

Feb 1, 2020

Out w taco by 845. Big loop through Marfa and Presidio to scout Gambles and then into Elephant Mountain late pm. Marfa lights stop.

What don’t they want you to know?

Onward at 930. Rio Grande pics near Candelaria.

Rio Grande surprisingly wide near Candelaria, TX.

Candelaria at 1145 and End of the Road (paved).

Rugged Rio Grande river valley near Lajitas, TX

Gamble covey on the road just north of Riudosa and Chianti Hot Springs. OnX waypoint but no owner data. Canyons are like Rio Grande Gamble canyons in NM. Blue quail road covey saved at onX waypoint. San Jacinto Enterprises. Presidio at 1p. Jumped a time zone in there somewhere.

Early Bluebonnets but I bet these are more likely Mountain Lupines.

Blowout flat right-front tire. No cell service. Alpine 45 miles away. Spare flat too! One car passed. Second car stopped! Jeep guy pumped me up! 445 restart.

Elephant Mountain WMA

Alpine at 530. No open tire stores.

A handy 12v compressor from Tractor Supply!

Feb 2, 2020

Spare held at 32 psi overnight. Blessings! Out at 930. 1030 @ Sanderson 40# good! Ranch at 330 out at 445 to home.

2019 Desert Quail Hunt #1

I’ve hunted desert quail with Bob King at the Santa Fe Guiding Company several times and it has always had a great adventure. This time was no exception. Dot is my new Deutsch Drahthaar pup and is in her first full hunting season at 1 1/2 years old. She hunted ducks yesterday morning and now we’re headed to the desert for quail!

Travel Day – Dec 28, 2019

It took Dot 2 hours to finally settle down and realize she’s not going hunting today – we have a lot of travel to Truth or Consequences, NM.


Dot is napping and we’re passing through Fort Stockton into the desert and she’s going to wake up in an entirely different area than the pond that she hunted on Friday morning.


It’s cool to see the mountains again

I did not bring my drone and I already regret it.

There’s now a border patrol inspection station north of Las Cruces on I 25


Lots of big skies like this is in New Mexico

Arrive at Truth or Consequence, NM 4p. Travel Lodge this time.


Hunt Day 1 – Dec 29, 2019

Meet my guide Gary at 7:45 in the hotel breakfast area. We drove 1 hour South to the Farm along the Rio Grande in the Mesilla Valley. Snow on some of the taller mountains after last night’s moisture.

Saw my first covey of Gambles, about 25, as they flushed across the field into the canyons and we will hunt them later. I missed two easy ones because the safety on the Beretta 20 gauge is in the wrong place compared to my Benelli! 2 coveys, 2 shot Gambel, and Dot retrieved both. A Cripple and hidden dead.


Shot and retrieved one on the third loop

The mighty mighty Rio Grande River

Dot really hates road runners! Jump shooting gambles quail in the brush by the Rio Grande River is a unique sport. You can’t really expect dogs to point them as much as just kick them up for you to shoot. And even then you always have to look behind you and poke in every corner.


Big loop around camp while Gary fixes lunch

Lunch. Beans and tamales! Double tamale!

Loop 4 started when I saw a covey of 8 from the truck. We didn’t find them but jumped some others and Dot pointed a single but it ran.

330
Dot is enchanted by the desert.
Small loop off of a Quail covey on the road but no luck.
Last loop in arroyo but no luck.

3 shots. 3 retrieves, 1 point.

445


Dot is whooped

Hunt Day 2 – Dec 30, 2019

Hunting in the Gila Nat’l Forest east of T or C.


Near Hillsboro back up in the Gila Natl Forest foothills and canyons

Loop one zilch. Big Loop!

Loop 2 zilch. Even Bigger Loop!


Big country up here – very different than hunting the Rio Grande just 20m away.
There are many abandoned mines in NM & AZ

Elk fajita taco lunch. Delicious!

Loop 4 zilch.

I’m done because I’m stumbling.

Dot is also very tired and wanting to hunt from the road instead of get down in the canyons and look for birds. She covered a LOT of ground for me today while I watched her from the peaks.

My strategy of working her natural circling ability while I watch & direct is working well.  Hope she points long enough for me though!

I’ve never seen her curled up like that in the truck – tired pup! Mission Accomplished!

3p


Gary is one of those guys you worry about driving behind!

Hunt Day 3 – Dec 31, 2019

Dot prefers to sleep on top of one of my pieces of clothing. Particularly my hunting jacket.

Back to the Mesilla Valley

Hunting along the Rio Grande again.

Loop 1 along river jumped 2 but no shot. Dot wanted some wet anyway.

Road covey zilch

Lots of tracks but no birds.

Big loop under dam. Lots of tracks but no birds. We went all the way around the mound and it turned into a sandy desert full of bunnies and Dot had a magnificent time!


Lunch at the dam. Red chili huevos rancheros. Excellent.

Ha-way is Tiwa for thank you


Last loop way above the dam had many many tracks but no birds

That is a tired skinny puppy! Three days running in the desert.

I’m slow road hunting on the way back but I don’t think I have enough dog power to retrieve a bird if I shot one.


There are lots of sandhill cranes in the Mesilla Valley. Fun to hunt!

You really must have turtle skins to hunt that thick nasty spiny brush along the river.


Sunset along the Rio Grande with no wind

You can see little cracks but no big injuries. She covered a lot of rough ground.

Mother Nature takes her toll on man & beast alike.

4p out and done. What a great trip and looking forward to coming back!

2019 Himalayan Snowcock Hunt

Preparation

Prep for this year’s trip was easy. I used the same outfitter and packed from the same packing list as last year’s hunt. I’m out for revenge!

The flights from Austin, TX to Elko, NV we easy and predictable. I learned from last year’s extra luggage charges to pack differently and it worked! My single large bag weighed 57# and I had a little backpack inside it to pack the overage. They didn’t charge me for the extra bag to unload the heavy bag. Remember that!

I unloaded and repacked my gear into 2 smaller bags of 30# each to load onto the mules the next day.

I spent a few hours walking around Elko, NV to kill time. It was a booming place at one point but most of the old casinos and motor hotels are losing their luster.

Day 0 – 9/3/19 – Packing Up and In

The trip from the park entrance at Lamoille Canyon back to Furlong Canyon takes about 3 hours and crosses over 2 passes.

We had 7 horses and 1 mule. We rode 3 and used 5 for packing equipment.

Mules are special beasts…

A large range fire blocked our exit last year and this is the result.

Every step they take is one I don’t have to take myself!

There was quite a bit of snow left on the ground. Mitch, the outfitter, said it had only cleared in the passes in the past few weeks. This is the first mountain pass to cross.

The second mountain pass we crossed.

Furlong Canyon and home for the next 5 days.

Fresh water whenever you need it. It was delicious!

A brief 12 minute video tour of Furlong and Mahogany Canyons where we camped.

Day 1 – 9/4/19 – The First Big Loop

A big loop checking for snow cocks from the top rims of the canyons.

Looking down from Wines Peak on Furlong Lake near camp.

Me, high AF.

There was a lot of snow on the peaks. Nasty old dirty crusty snow.

Incoming rain storms are always equal measures of mesmerizing and anxiety inducing.

Day 2 – 9/5/19 – The Chase!

The Chicken Chasing Loop

We heard a Snowcock above our camp right after breakfast. He’s there but you can’t see him. Neither could I for about 15 minutes!

Garrett stayed in camp to watch the snowcock through a spotting scope while Mitch and I went after him.

We’d sneak up the cliff trying to get near him when he was eating. Garrett would tell us via radio when he was watching us and we’d stop until he went back to eat.

He’s up there and you still can’t see him. Neither could I.

The last 100 yards were uphill at 60 degrees.

We got right underneath him and he took off. I fired a long shot but didn’t connect. He flew a couple hundred yards and landed. This is what it looked like as I was resting for the next leg.

He’s over there on that bald knob. You can’t see him and neither could I.

On that knob.

Just as we were leaving a small rain shower blessed us with a rainbow for luck. Didn’t work.

We went up this rock slide in pursuit of the snowcock.

Size perspective on that rock slide. They are better going down than up, but not much.

He’s on that knob.

And he busted us and took off for the next canyon. Too far to pursue.

Furlong Lake again. We’ve circled the upper rim of Furlong Canyon above camp.

These are the ridges where he lives and we chase him.

They’re here for sure – that’s snowcock poop.

Fresh Snowcock poop in detail.

We need to hustle back to camp before this storm. More anxiety than mesmer this time!

That doesn’t look hard but those rocks are the size of footballs and larger.

We beat the rain back to camp and were rewarded with some very cool clouds rolling over the canyon rim.

Looking back on the cliffs I just climbed.

Drone pic with ski map style trail marked.

Day 3 – 9/6/2019 – Another Big Loop

Another big loop checking the rims.

This cold brand was on the mustang. I have no idea and neither did Mitch or Garrett.

Scoping the canyon rims and faces for Snowcocks. The constant amazing scenery never loses it’s beauty.

No, that’s right. We even hiked over and looked in there!

And there too.

Clouds played around the mountain tops and ridges all morning long.

Sunshine breaks through and now we can really get to where we can see!

Rainstorm and clear skis roll over us.

Blue grouse poop. We saw several but I shot one last year. This mass must be from a winter nest. The snow cleared from the passes only within the past few weeks.

Our riding and packhorse herd (and mule) resting in the waning evening light.

Our camp and tent with my favorite rockslide in the background. I went up that thing!

Long evening light in Furlong Canyon.

Day 4 – 9/7/19 – Going the Distance

We tried to cover as much ground as possible on this last day. You can tell!

It was an early start into a pick dawn.

A quick look around on top as the sun rises through the clouds to warm us up.

The backside of Furlong Canyon. That snowbank is over 40′ deep at the top!

The sun trying it’s hardest to warm us.

Mountain Goats! I’m above the damn Mountain Goats!

Scouting the rims and faces while waiting for the sun to hit.

A precarious footpath we shared with the Mountain Goats.

More Mountain Goat trails!

Mountain Goat “nests” where they spend the night.

Every step he takes is one I don’t have to. God Bless him!

Feathers and poop. That’s what I got.

Day 5 – 9/8/19 Up & Out

A new way for the clouds to play with the mountains!

Over the first pass.

Bluebonnets! A reminder of home for a Texas Boy! They call them Lupines.

Indian Paintbrushes! They call them properly up here.

And that’s it. It was disappointing to fail again – especially seeing one and missing because of a bad strategy. My fault and lesson learned. Overall though, what a magnificent adventure and I’m pleased that I gave it another try. I hope these notes will help the next guy or girl go get their’s! The Himalayan Snowcock is a very worthy pursuit!