Size ten boot tracks were starting to stretch longer as we made our way through the yucca and cholla that rooted tough in the high plains of eastern Colorado. The unseasonably good weather had spread the birds out, expanding our search for coveys’ of scaled quail from typical to unknown, encompassing a backyard that endlessly blends earth to sky, and land to man.
White and brown flashes played in the distance, as the three dogs bounced their way through the hard landscape chasing scent. Happy tongues flew like flags from the sides of their mouths, indicating that their purpose in life was out here, connected to the birds in which our guns hoped to track. And it is through this purpose that they push both man and bird, pushing man to a point, and bird to the illusion of safety in native grasses and cactus.
The small Brittany broke down the east side of the slope, leaving the Pointer and Shorthair up top. She nosed down the hill, only to be lost to the height of a three foot cholla. Watching the far side of the plant for her to reappear, our footsteps quickened as we got into position to see her lowered shoulders and eyes locked on a small yucca thirty yards ahead. I came in below, walking directly towards her nose, watching for a sign. Gary stayed higher to my left, walking straight to her point, gun sliding into position. As she leaned closer, I leveled my shotgun. And as her right shoulder started to shake, two quail broke hard, flying directly over her head. Two quail lucky to miss her teeth as she went airborne for the frightened birds. Crack. The echo of the shot could be heard as the second bird fell lifeless to the ground.
“Nice shot,” I yelled up to Gary. He smiled.
The end of our day came into view, as I realized the weight of the unspent shotgun shells that were at home in the front two pockets of my vest. The miles we put under our boots hadn’t been counted, but creeping pains indicated a healthy day in the field. And as we jumped the last fence of the day, a tired dog stopped thirty yards from the truck, satisfied with the days hunt, not wanting to leave her home.