The Ranch Road

Toward the end of quail season, Rob Haney called saying that he had a free Saturday and it looked like the expected, big “norther” wouldn’t hit his area until Sunday night. We, the we being myself and Sonny, my Brittany Spaniel, hurried up to Rick’s ranch Friday afternoon, for a go at the quail. Predominantly white, Sonny, is pictured on my back porch.

Low clouds greeted us Saturday morning along with a medium, south wind that offered us wonderful scenting conditions. Sonny found the quail and we scored heavily during the day. As shooting time ended, our near limits stuffed in our game bags, we decided on something different for our evening meal.

Instead of our usual steak cooked over mesquite logs on Rob’s “old timey”, fired brick, bar-b-que pit, we grilled eight quail halves. They were spiced up with a half of jalapeno pepper, then wrapped with a piece of bacon and grilled until the bacon was done. We added a baked potato, along with chopped, green, Ortega, chilies and onions and we had a feast!

Up early on Sunday, Rick going to church, and Sonny and I heading out for a quick repeat at the quail. Parking my Suburban along one of the ranch roads, we were greeted by more low clouds and a steady, light northwest wind. Uh-oh, it looked like the “norther” had arrived early, beating the forecast by a good eight hours!

An hour later, we were hunting into a strong northwest wind with large flakes of snow blowing all around us. Sonny, mostly white, with a few reddish brown spots, was getting hard to see as he worked fifty yards to the front.

We bumped into two coveys, I knocked down four birds, but the balance of both coveys just melted away into the falling snow. We soldiered on for the next hour, fighting the wind, snow and poor visibility, until we were “whited out”. No Sonny out in front, one mesquite tree, out of the thousands on the ranch, close by, nothing but white, up, down and around me! Stopping in my tracks, I whistled for Sonny to come in, sat down in the snow and surveyed my situation.

As I debated my options, Sonny and I huddled together in the snow for nearly ten minutes,. Those minutes of debate and indecision, along with never having, or dreaming, that I would be caught in a situation like this, caused my feelings to race from panic, to fear, until logical thought took over. Then I used my head for something other than a hat rack, and figured out what to do.

No compass, of course, since I was ONLY hunting on Rick’s two thousand acre, ranch. I knew northwest was to the front, since I had been hunting into the wind. I knew the ranch road, where I had left the Suburban, was behind me. So, I decided to try to walk back to the truck. Even if I missed the truck, I could stay on the ranch road until I got back to the main ranch house.

Always carrying a check cord for the dog, I snapped it on to his collar, he “heeled” along, and keeping the wind to my back, carefully walked the mile back to the ranch road, guessing correctly, I turned right and within two hundred yards found the truck. Of course, it was white too!

Before heading back to Houston, I waited for over an hour for the snowstorm to break, then for the next eight hours (normally an easy six hours) slowly drove home.

All of my life I have tried to beat nature and weather forecasts, and, one more time, I lost again!