Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Permian Basin Blues: A Photo Essay

Yours truly recently got back from a trip to Midland, Texas -- North America's bastion of dust, petroleum, high school football, and blessedly, scaled (AKA blue) quail.  Here are a few sights from the trip.

This is the third year I've hunted as a guest of Steve Snell.  His lease, a rugged 30-some thousand acres, is within eyesight of downtown Midland. 

My first year hunting with Steve yielded a bumper crop of quail.  We'd simply step out of the truck, and within a couple hundred yards, the dogs would find birds.  That process would repeat itself indefinitely.  This year was a more typical experience.  While we managed our fair share of birds, we had to work for them.  And that typically means covering a ton of ground to flush these little birds that would much rather sprint than set sail.

This year, though, we had a secret weapon. We borrowed a custom-built quail buggy from the ranch boss, and it definitely proved to be the ant's pants.  Fashioned from an ancient VW Bug, the vehicle looked like it would be equally at home in Kandahar or on the set of Mad Max. 

The buggy allowed us to rotate six dogs (three platoons of two each) and really cover some ground, while still keeping the pooches fresh. 
Choosing which dogs to put on the ground was simply a matter of heads...

...or tails.

Our two veteran dogs -- Dottie and Em -- shone brightly, in what we affectionately dubbed the "senior tour."

Don't worry, purists -- there was still plenty of old-fashioned ground pounding once the dogs went on point.  And the buggy allowed us to put up spent dogs at the first sign of fatigue -- keeping them fresh meant we were treated to some fine dog work.

While the dog work was exceptional, our shooting was only passable.  Even so, we managed to knock down a few.  It's easy to see why these critters are named "blues" or "scalies," isn't it?

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