When people hear that you are going hunting, they always ask, "What for?"
I will always answer "For the experience." For those who have never spent much time in the outdoors, it's a puzzle to them.
My favorite time to chase animals and birds is during the winter, when the weather cuts down the playing field, brings animals down from the higher elevations, and makes them accessible for observation.
Just a couple of weeks ago we headed out on Hwy. 12 toward White Pass, to join our family in Granger for a four-day hunt for ducks, quail and geese. There was plenty of snow on the ground, as might be expected that time of the year, and the scenery was just spectacular. Heading down from the crest of White Pass, the glistening ice on Clear and Silver lakes looked like diamonds sparkling in the dimmed winter sunlight.
As we passed through Rim Rock Canyon we slowed to watch to ram sheep licking salt off the roadside - one being a three-quarter curl and the other a half-curl. High on the cliffs you could spot numerous sheep walking on the hillside.
It wasn't another 10 miles down Hwy. 12 when we arrived at an elk viewing area that was graced with two bull elk, one being a 6 by 6 and the other a 5-point bull (right by the turn off to Naches).
The following morning we started out for quail where they had been present on many past hunts. We were working with four very excellent dogs - two labs, a springer and a German shorthair. The quail were spooky, kept running and flushing ahead of us and the birds would just not hold. Two of the younger members of our group, with good wheels, sprinted ahead and managed to pick off six birds.
The sky was clear and high with no wind, and at about 9 a.m., the sky became filled with many large flocks of greater Canadian geese, winging their way to corn and grain fields to feed. The sight of them and their sounds are the type that will remain with you at night after you climb in your bunk and close your eyes.
After lunch on the trail, we decided to try jump-shooting ducks in a irrigation canal which ran from the Yakima River. The ducks were not in the frozen ponds; only in running water. I let the others walk the canal (a long walk) while I followed 50 yards behind in the truck to spare them the return walk on frozen ground. As the alarmed birds jumped from the canal it was surreal to watch the shooters react in disarray, while the birds winged their flight to freedom or fell to the better hunters. About 100 yards away, two magnificent mule deer bucks burst out of cover, one sporting a high wide rack of a four-pointer and the other a three-point followed by four does. It is illegal to hunt deer and elk on the reservation unless you are a member of the tribe.
During the usual campfire talk that evening, the group decided to set up decoys for geese at the edge of a grape field the following morning.
That morning was chilly with a clear sky and a slight breeze, 75 decoys were set out into a plowed field. Under cover, we waited as groups of geese filled the sky, fighting the wind during their flight. After a bit of calling by my son, a group of about 15 birds locked their wings and set up to come in directly to the decoys.
Now these Canadians are the big boys and weigh 16 to 19 pounds with a wingspan of over 5 feet. As they got closer and closer with their wings cupped, we sat there in anticipation with adrenalin pumping, fingers ready to pop off the safeties and stand. A torrent of wind sprang up and turned over one of the decoys belly-up. Well, that took care of those birds and off they went, to fly again another day.
I forgot to mention that the previous evening, after hunting ducks on the river, I started back to the truck a little early to warm it up for the other guys, who were a bit on the chilly side. After starting the truck and turning on the heater, I decided to give a coyote call (female invitation) just to see if there was anything about. Well, I called and in about 15 seconds a big coyote, with a great winter coat, out of the river bed and sat down about 45 yards from the running truck. I was dumbfounded, having my gun still in its case and in the back seat, there was no chance. So I just watched as the coyote casually noticed the truck and slowly sauntered back into the brush. So be it!
The boys ending up getting two Canadian honkers, 18 quail and eight ducks - and guess what? I never fired a shot, but it was an outdoor adventure to remember.
Ron Malast can be reached at 665-3573 or email@example.com.