The afternoon’s hunt is one of long trudging, in a corrugated country that trends toward the sky. Our party spreads way out, Trejo and I trying to keep up with Gila’s love of taking off, a pale streak through the mix of juniper and oaks, as tireless and focused as her master. I find some diggings, and then we locate birds, high up this time. I shoot poorly, while Trejo dumps two, decisively, that take some finding in the thick undergrowth, even with the dogs. Looking for the birds, I stumble on an immense pack rat’s nest, waist-high, dotted with javelina turds and snail shells—all the weird detritus that for some reason these strange rodents feel compelled to collect. The country has taken me over. I feel like I have begun something new. I could get better at shooting Mearns. It is a matter of getting used to how they rise and fly, how much time you have, how to control your mount and find, again, that gap between thought and instinct where the shotgun is a part of your body and your will. Finding the birds means an apprenticeship to landscape, of learning the details of their lives and figuring out where they are likely to be, and after that, to embrace the mystery and know that they could be almost anywhere. I am hunting in a place where jaguars sometimes stalk Coues deer, where there is so much public land that one could walk and hunt to the horizon, following the dogs, resting when exhaustion overcomes you, sleeping where night falls upon you. This is the gift. But the birds—dramatic, beautiful—are the key to that gift, the reason we are here, the grail that opens all the rest of the wonders of the wild borderland to the hunter.