Out of Bounds

If You Could Only Have Just One

The impossible question is, of course, “If you could hunt only one bird, what would it be?”

By Rob Breeding

It’s popular these days to ask folks to make impossible choices between their favorite things. 

You’re stranded on an uncharted desert isle with a solar powered boombox and one greatest hits CD. Linda Ronstadt or Carly Simon?

You get a lifetime supply of one and can never again consume the other. Burgers or pizza?

Bass or trout? Baitcaster or fly rod? Double barrel or auto? 

You get the picture.

Judging by their popularity, these imaginary questions are a good way to generate traffic on social media. Sometimes that traffic can evolve into bare-knuckle brawls: “Only an idiot would choose ‘You’re No Good’ on an endless loop when ‘You’re So Vain’ is an option.”

Some try to game the question. “What if I put marinara, pepperoni and mozzarella on a bun? Would that be considered a burger or a pizza?”

Since contention rather than insight is prized by algorithms it’s no surprise this flotsam keeps washing up on the social media beach.

Our answers may also help data miners develop profiles so they can more efficiently target our impulse to spend. I don’t know what exactly Ronstadt, pizza, trout, fly rods and double barrels says about me, but I’m sure a computer somewhere has already used my preferences to devise a scheme to separate me from the last vestiges of my paycheck by month’s end.

There’s one more bit of information the data miners should know.

Quail.

The impossible question is, of course, “If you could hunt only one bird, what would it be?”

I hope my omnipotent game master isn’t omnipotent enough to know that quail, in the U.S. at least, means six species.

Still, if I had to choose one, it would be Montezuma quail, or Mearns, as they were commonly known when I started hunting them.

The dogs and I were out hunting quail the other day, bobwhite in this instance. It wasn’t an ideal day to hunt the Nebraska prairie. There was a fierce wind out of the Dakotas you had to lean into pretty severely to stay upright. 

I pointed the dogs west and we worked across the wind. After about 100 yards both dogs veered right, working north toward a patch of willow. 

They weren’t hot on scent as they sometimes get when they have a nose full of feathers. In that wind it had to be tough, so their gait was more a steady mosey. But it was two bird dogs headed in the same direction, and into the wind.

You don’t need a Ph.D. to know you’re supposed to follow.

They disappeared into the willows and when I caught up, I could see both about 5 feet in, on point. 

Those “trees” were clones, about 10 feet high with barely room for me to squeeze through. I did, but the birds had moved. The dogs found them again and I heard the helicopter flush of a covey, a frenzied liftoff whir that connects with some primordial part of my brain.

It made the hair on my neck stand straight and scream: Quail!

I could make out males and females as they buzzed overhead. I heard them chattering as they went. On one I thought I could draw a bead, until I tried to swing and double barrel met willow. That’s when it registered what the birds were chirping.

“See ya around sometime, sport.” 

I never took a shot, but it was close to a perfect day. Perfect because we found quail.

The good thing about imaginary choices is that they are imaginary. For instance, there is no power that can make you choose between celebrating either Christmas or New Years. I hope you choose wisely and celebrate both, in a safe and responsible way.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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