Written By: Dave Brown, Dave Brown Outfitters
I started hunting birds–namely ruffed grouse–many years ago in Ontario, Canada. At that time, I owned a yellow Labrador named Molson. He and I would fumble around the woods, but we rarely accomplished more than some good walks together. It wasn’t until I moved to Calgary, where I started my career as a fly-fishing guide, that I got serious about bird hunting after a fishing client took me out and reintroduced me to the sport. I eventually got my first pointing dog, a Brittany named Zane. He and I really got at it, mostly chasing Hungarian partridge on the Alberta prairie.
Today, I am very fortunate to guide/outfit wild bird hunts in three amazing and varied locations: Saskatchewan, Northern Montana, and the Chihuahuan desert of southeastern Arizona. All three areas have complex ecosystems with a harsh but beautiful feel to them, and each is unique for what it offers the traveling wingshooter. I love it when clients get their first species of a certain game bird, whether an Arizona Mearns quail, or a sharptail grouse in Saskatchewan or Montana. These under-the-radar hunting grounds provide a welcome respite from the bustle of more popular tourist spots, giving my clients and me a good taste of rural life.
The two game birds I enjoy hunting most are Hungarian partridge and scaled (blue) quail. Both birds are very “streetwise” and require a lot of effort from both hunters and dogs to connect with them. I spend a great deal of time getting my young dogs into wild birds, but the end result is worth it: a true wild-bird dog that points, backs, and retrieves. My favorite hunts are when a young dog puts it all together for the first time.
My most memorable wingshooting trip was a few years ago when a buddy and I hunted Eastern New Mexico. My friend’s dog got lost and was gone for 36 hours! We were panicking trying to find him, and even managed to convince some nearby oilfield workers to put the word out to their colleagues about our dilemma, not knowing what else to do. We hunted the same area over and over in the hopes of connecting with the lost dog. Finally, on the last loop of the last day, the dog suddenly reappeared when he heard me shooting. My friend and I were both ecstatic. It was a great ending to the trip.
Dave Brown is owner and operator of Dave Brown Outfitters in Patagonia, Arizona.