The picture above is, obviously, an album cover, for the wondrously talented, criminally underappreciated Austin-based (but Oklahoma raised) singer-songwriter Jimmy LaFave. If you haven’t heard Jimmy’s music, give it a try. It’s good stuff. I think even David Petzal would like it. The picture, incidentally, was taken by yours truly.
That’s great, you say, but what does that have to do with the blog? Because I took that picture a number of years ago in the Oklahoma panhandle while on a road trip with my old pointer, and that picture takes me back. It’s almost June, you see, and while many of us are probably preoccupied with fishing and other summer pursuits, bird seasons in many parts of the country are only four months away, which means it’s time to start making road trip plans.
Most bird hunters I know are inveterate road trippers. There’s just something about the fall, the dogs and the promise of lonely roads and empty country that turns us into seasonally nomadic wanderers. There is nothing in all of Huntingdom that I’d rather do than load up the dogs, fill up the tank and head out on some obscure and forgotten prairie highway in search of adventure. To dust off a tired old cliche that virtually every wannabe literary-type has voiced at least once in their lifetime, the bird-hunting road trip gives me Walter Mitty dreams of finding myself (and birds) somewhere out there and then penning my deep thoughts into some shotgun-centric, Jack-Kerouac-with-a-shotgun tome.
In truth, most of my road trips turn out to be less like Kerouac and more like Ken Kesey’s bumbling merry pranksters, minus the acid and copious body hair. But that doesn’t stop me from planning (and dreaming) them months before the first leaf turns. This year is no different. I’ve got several out-of-state trips that are definite, a couple others I’m working on, and one or two that are unlikely, but just enough on the cusp of possibility that I don’t feel foolish dreaming about them.
When I plan a bird-hunting road trip I want the experience to be both spontaneous and planned, equal parts due diligence and roll-the-dice exploration. It sounds mutually exclusive, but it’s really not. I’ll do all the usual prep work: call state game biologists, talk to fellow hunters, farmers, do my fair share of discreet Internet scouting, pore over maps, Google Earth, monitor NOAA and NWS sites for drought and precipitation info in the areas I plan to hunt, etc. But some of my best-ever bird hunting experiences were the result of sitting at the crossroads of some unmarked county line road in the middle of a blank spot on the map, not knowing how, exactly, I got there, and most definitely not knowing where, exactly I was going. Just flip a coin, pick a direction, and take your chances.
Of course, some of my worst-ever bird hunting experiences have happened by doing just that. But hey, curiosity’s never a sure thing, right? Have any special bird hunting road trips planned this fall? Where to? How do you plan yours? Are you a control freak or a free spirit?