Out of Bounds

The Solace of Familiar Spaces

I don’t always want the new. Sometimes I seek comforting familiarity.

By Rob Breeding

There’s a school of thought that the true outdoors person is always seeking. Seeking new games. Seeking new challenges. And most of all, seeking new places.

You can’t, and shouldn’t, hunt or fish the same place over and over. You must find the new if real adventure is what you seek. Returning to the same ground dulls experience.

To that I say hooey.

There are as many ways to experience place in the outdoors as there are places in the outdoors. Establishing rules governing how you’re allowed to proceed sounds an awful lot like work to me.

I have a few places I return to as often as possible. The Chukar Grounds, for instance. The North Fork Flathead River, for another. And my favorite quail haunt, Parker Canyon, Arizona. 

I don’t always want the new. Sometimes I seek comforting familiarity.

I made a late season visit to the Chukar Grounds last week. I might have gone exploring. There are isolated hills and canyons nearby, and all likely hold birds. Chukar were spread around by bird cage biologists as Johnny Appleseed did his fruit trees. These birds tended to stick in the most foreboding terrain. 

That’s why they flourish in the desolation of the Chukar Grounds. 

I had three days to hunt. A friend was also in the area. He prefers seeking the new. I could have joined him, but the lure of the familiar was too strong. I hunted all three days where I always do when I’m near the Grounds.

Revisiting the familiar doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing the new. Each time I return, something unexpected is revealed. This time it was confirmation of new behavior from the Rock Wall Covey (I’ve identified nearly a dozen coveys on the Grounds).

It gets its name from the rim rock where I almost always find this covey. The spot is close to a road and I suspect it’s become an increasingly popular spot for chukar hunters. I say that due to the litter of shells near the Rock Wall and the covey’s increasing wildness. Most often they now flush wild and fly down to the base of the bench. You can chase them there, but it’s almost always a futile workout. 

You might see where they landed, but they won’t still be there by the time you’ve scrambled down after them.

In the old days that covey would hold pretty tight to the big sagebrush near the Rock Wall. I’d often get shots over points, and predictably the birds would fly to a nearby flat where I could follow. Then the birds would climb back uphill, over a rock formation I nicknamed Vishnu Temple because it somewhat resembles the prominent butte on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

Eventually, I realized I didn’t need to follow those chukar all the way to the flat. I could just sit on the bird’s favorite route up Vishnu Temple for the ambush, but that seemed like cheating.

The covey adapted. So did the Chukar Tree Covey, a group of birds almost always found within sight of an old juniper, one of the few trees on the Grounds. Then the folks running sheep in the area rerouted their bleating charges through a favored foraging spot, displacing vegetation and creating a muddy, 5-foot-wide, mutton highway. 

I haven’t found those birds near the Chukar Tree since, but I’m still looking. The last time I was on the Grounds, I went exploring across a sage-covered slope I’d never hunted before. About a quarter mile from the tree, in a dry wash, the sand of an area about the size of a small bedroom was covered with chukar poop.

A roosting site. I think I know where the movers dropped off the Chukar Tree Covey’s things.

That’s where I’ll start hunting next time I’m back.

Rob Breeding’s website is www.mthookandbullet.com.

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