It’s Hot – But Upland Birds are Not Far!

There’s not much doubt that we’ve just had one of the hottest and driest Junes we’ve ever had in western Montana, along the Continental Divide. In fact, this past June was the 2nd driest and 7th hottest on record. In more typical years, June is a cool and rainy month. Usually, in June, the delicate plants such as tomatoes and chile peppers in my mile-high garden are hunkering down against the cold, waiting for warmer weather in July to really start growing.

While most of us have been wilting in the heat, some people aren’t worried about the present. They’ve already circled September 1 on their calendars, the opening day of the 2021 Montana upland bird season.

Many of those upland bird hunting enthusiasts are spending time with their bird dogs throughout the summer, training puppies, or reinforcing training with older dogs. With our continuing hot weather, it’s important for dog owners to be careful when working with our dogs.

 Dogs come with fur coats, of varying types, but whether Fido’s hair is short or long, it’s easy for your dog to get overheated in this hot weather. They don’t have sweat glands, so they have to pant and drool to cool off after exercise in the heat. More often than not, they also love their summer training and don’t know when to stop.

 It’s up to us, the dog owner, to know when to quit a training session. Then, make sure that the dog gets re-hydrated with cool water. If available, it’s a good time for a swim in a cool lake or stream. If it’s possible, do your training in early morning, before the heat builds up.

 On the topic of hunting, I’m happy to share information about a new book I’ve enjoyed.

 I’ve occasionally written about Charley Storms, my good friend who lives in Evansville, Indiana. We share passions for flyfishing, and we’ve been able to have some adventures together, such as on the AuSable River in Michigan, and fishing for monster pike in Saskatchewan, plus the Big Hole River, and fishing for bluegills at a pond near his home.

Charley in Saskatchewan.

 Charley is also an upland bird hunter and a dog man. He’s had a long string of bird dogs and he lives for hunting bobwhite quail, though he has also made many trips to North Dakota for sharptailed grouse and pheasants, and to Montana for ruffed grouse.

 He has written a book about his hunting experiences, Friends, Best Friends and Feathered Friends, 50 Years of Upland Bird Hunting. I’ll note that I had a small part in encouraging Charley and making suggestions during the writing process.

 Charley lists lessons he’s learned over the years through mentors he’s had as well as experiences, such as never hunting another hunter’s territory, appreciating good dog work and not criticizing a friend’s dog, and being a mentor to new hunters.

I think Charley’s book is a great addition to the hunting literature, in that it covers an overlooked niche in quail hunting. There’s a lot of literature on southern quail hunting, with classic authors such as Havilah Babcock and Archibald Rutledge, and their stories of hunts on old plantations and a now mostly vanished way of life, and mostly vanished quail, as well.

Charley writes about his passion for bobwhite quail in the southern Midwest, and the few dedicated hunters who maintain relations with farmers for decades and hunt specific coveys of quail for years. He also notes that it’s kind of a losing effort, as land use changes often mean loss of quail habitat.

 For information on ordering Charley’s book, contact him directly at cstorms@flandersinc.com.

 During a long-ago stint in southern Iowa, I occasionally bumped coveys of quail while hunting pheasants, and it’d seem like I’d just stepped on a hive of bumblebees, and once shared an outing with a dedicated quail hunter much like Charley. I also have fond memories of a pheasant hunt on an Iowa farm with one of the farmer’s sons accompanying me, and warning me, “Don’t shoot any quail from Mama’s house covey,” so the book resonates with me in several ways.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

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