AFTER THE SQUEAKERS II

From: Meridian, ID:

(Continued from previous post.)

(A squeaker.)

(A squeaker.)

We had some difficulty correlating the actual roads leading into the open land – little more than wheel tracks, mostly – with those shown on the BLM map we were trying to follow. Eventually, we simply chose one that seemed to head in the direction we were trying to go. The country was very flat, with only one defining characteristic…the profusion of whistlepig holes. Like the areas where I’ve been plinking the pigs all spring, one could hardly walk more than a few feet in a straight line without stepping on (or in) a squirrel hole. (To be completely accurate, I should explain that the holes big enough to step in were almost certainly dug by badgers, seeking a whistlepig snack…the squirrels, themselves, have no need for such a large opening. Their dens are usually no more than a couple of inches in diameter.)

(A pair of burrowing owls, one of them obviously flirtatious.)

(A pair of burrowing owls, one of them obviously flirtatious.)

We encountered a couple of young ladies in a Boise State University pickup and learned that they were doing work involving raptors. (As I’ve mentioned previously, a good deal of the land south of Boise and north of the Snake River is set aside as a National Birds of Prey Conservation Area.) They were setting up remote cameras for the purpose of filming raptors, with a special interest in the Burrowing Owl. We learned (from the girls) that these seldom-seen little owls routinely make their homes in the large holes left over from badger foraging. (Seems a bit dangerous for the owls, considering that the badger that dug the hole could, conceivably, return for a whistlepig dinner.)

We also watched a gang of four curlews foraging in the desert. Like when Jerry and I saw a pair of them in April, we thought it strange to see birds that appear to be designed for living in a marsh out in the desert, apparently feeding on insects. Their long legs and long, curved bill just don’t seem all that well suited for the area, or for that kind of diet. We had the impression that they were quite a long distance from us – don’t know why – but the illusion made them look like huge birds. And we knew they are not that big. At any rate, we had no ground squirrels to watch so we watched the curlews for a few minutes.

(There are eight species of curlew...this is one.)

(There are eight species of curlew…this is one.)

The rain continued to fall in a very light sprinkle, at times hardly noticeable. Evidently, though, the ground squirrels don’t care for even a sprinkle, as the landscape was completely devoid of any squirrely kind of creature. We decided to head back to the area we had hunted the day before, but first driving through the headquarters area of the Army National Guard Training Base. (Our primary motive for that route was to check on the “No Shooting” area where we had seen the hundreds of whistlepigs on Tuesday.) Before checking that field, we visited the headquarters building. An excellent stop, as it turned out, and thanks to Jerry for suggesting we do it. (Despite large signs to the effect that no visitors were welcome without an express invitation from the Commanding General.) The major we spoke with couldn’t have been more happy to answer our questions, and he provided us with a detailed map of the entire base, along with telephone numbers that could be used to call ahead and determine which parts of the base (if any) were being used by troops. A very good stop, I must say…and one that would be worthwhile for anyone searching for an area to shoot…targets or whistlepigs.

When we left, we immediately drove to the Field of Whistlepig Dreams I alluded to above. The rain had nearly stopped altogether by the time we pulled up and began to look for them. At first, we thought that they were, indeed, all still in their holes. But soon we realized that there were, in fact, quite a number above ground…they just weren’t moving around as much as they had been the day before. Most were kind of hunkered over, as a person caught in the rain would do. By that time, the raindrops were few and far between, leading us to the conclusion that these rodents really hate to get wet. I suppose only severe hunger must drive them topside during even such a light rain.

Ah, well…no sense hanging around a field where we were not allowed to shoot. We continued on to “Howard’s Hot Spot” and “Big Meadow.”

The southern part of Big Meadow was virtually empty…we drove out and sat for a while, taking an extra long shot every now and then. Later we crossed into the northern half, driving on a lane that was riddled with buried lava rock. Er…make that half-buried lava rock. It impressed me enough that I’ve decided to refer to that area as, “Ron’s Rocky Road.” It was awful to drive upon – I doubt Janet will ever go there with me…unless, perhaps, if she walks in from the main road – but as luck would have it, the rain finally stopped completely, the clouds blew eastward, and the hungry rodents came out of their hidey-holes.

(Bud and Jerry, armed and ready.)

(Bud and Jerry, armed and ready.)

At times during our travels in the morning, we had occasion to try shooting from the truck. Not while underway, mind you, but when sitting still. This has never been a very comfortable – or accurate – way to shoot. Not for whistlepigs, for sure. And it’s worse for a right-handed shooter riding shotgun. Jerry struggled with it quite a bit, finally following Ron’s example of Tuesday (when he was in the shotgun spot), and trying to shoot left-handed. Jerry quickly learned that it was not all that uncomfortable for him. He even bagged a couple pigs in that manner.

Then, after we had stopped for the afternoon, he continued practicing left-handed. Eventually, he bagged a pig at about 30 yards, left-handed, from a standing position (“offhand”). When Ron and I inspected the corpse later, we discovered that it had been hit in the head. Now I don’t care who you are…that kind of shooting is just showing off, pure and simple. Regarding the left-handed shooting, Ron, too, was quite adequate; but I was a miserable failure at it. I had a heck of a time just trying to see the image in my scope, let alone hit anything I might have aimed at.

After we returned home, we three grunges cleaned ourselves up a bit, whereupon our visitors took us all out to dinner. We went to “Good Wood Barbecue.” I can’t report on whether or not the wood was good…but the food certainly was! Janet had baby back ribs, Ron had a cut of smoked prime rib, Jerry went with a beef brisket, and I opted for Texas-style beef ribs. I’ve always been of the opinion that the company one is with is the best part of eating out;  in this case, both the company and the food were just excellent! Thanks a lot for the treat, you guys!

Thursday morning dawned, and it was time for Jerry and Ron to hit the road for home. Of course it was no surprise to me that the weather was beautiful. Ain’t that the way? Always? But then, the less-than-ideal weather on Tuesday and Wednesday hadn’t dampened the fun, anyway. The fun was spending time – and laughs…lots and lots of laughs – with two life-long friends. As it should be. Besides…the weather is bound to be better next year.

Bud

 

Oops! Forgot…we both thank you for the beautiful flowers, Jer; and thank you for the wonderful smoked fish, Ron. Love ya both!

3 Responses

  1. Jerry Howard says:

    Thank you for the wonderful time. As with all hunting and fishing trips it really doesn’t matter if we get anything. It is the going that counts. Hanging out with the boys in the outdoors is so much fun. It was fun visiting with Ron on the drive to and from. I hope my driving didn’t scare him too bad. See you on Skype.

  2. Ron Boy says:

    I just returned home from Yakima and this is my first opportunity to read any of your recent blogs Bud. You again have told the story so well, it is almost like I was there with you guys. I want to thank you and Janet so much for making our stay so comfortable and making us feel so welcome in your home. Like you and Jer have both said, sharing time with two very close friends was and is such a treat for me too. I loved every minute of just sharing time, fun, and laughter with both of you. Thanks again… Love ya, Ron Boy

    • Bud Larson says:

      Hi Ron Boy, You guys are ALWAYS welcome at our house! Thanks for coming down and spending time with us. (I know it’s a long drive!) Love ya back, Ol’ Bud

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