October 29, 1997 in Sports

Play’s Not Only Thing

Fenton Roskelley Staff writer

For my 15-year-old grandson, Jess, Sunday was a day of upsides and downsides. It also was a day of up hills and down hills, some of them nearly perpendicular.

It was to be a day of hunting, but it turned out to be just as much a day of tutoring as a day of hunting.

My son, John, arrived at my house with Jess and Jess’ yellow lab, Ruff, at 6 a.m. and we soon were heading for the Snake River breaks.

It wasn’t your typical ride to a hunting site. After talking for a few minutes about past hunts, John asked me to turn off the radio and then began dissecting a classic play that Jess had to know something about for one of his high school classes.

What Jess had to understand was the meaning of the play. To make it interesting for him and to hold his attention, John recited all of the characters’ lines, his voice changing dramatically for each character.

As he played the parts of the characters, I became fascinated. And each time after he asked Jess what one of the characters meant by a comment, I waited to hear Jess’ answer.

Finally, after a 2-hour ride, we stopped at a ranch house and got permission to hunt. The rancher-farmer owned some of the steepest land on the breaks.

This is a good water year, thanks to heavy rains last spring. Nearly every draw, it seems, has a little stream trickling or running down toward a bigger stream. They’re draws that are usually dry in October.

In addition, vegetation, where it hasn’t been cropped by cattle, is thick and high, ideal conditions for pheasants, partridges and quail. It also is too thick in many places for three hunters and a young, inexperienced dog to cover adequately.

We weren’t expecting great hunting. John, Chris Kopczynski and I had hunted from Lower Granite Dam to Pomeroy on opening day and saw only a half-dozen roosters. Conditions were bad that day. Thirty-mile-per-hour winds caused the birds to move out of cover that made noise as gusts hit the grass and bushes. And the few birds in the cover were skittish.

On Sunday we learned that there were more pheasants than we thought there would be. I drove a quarter of a mile up a brushy canyon, stopped my pickup, loaded my shotgun and walked down nearly to the small stream that was covered by high grass and bushes. Jess and John hiked up the draw, Ruff running back and forth.

Suddenly, four hens erupted out of the grass. A rooster ran out of the cover near John and flew out of shotgun range. A few moments later a rooster jumped about 30 yards from me. I fired and he dropped into the grass. Jess picked it up.

Fifteen to 20 minutes later a rooster, its feathers shining, jumped in front of Jess and he fired. I saw the bird drop into the grass on a side hill. It hit with such a loud thump that I thought it was dead. But it vanished. We hunted for it for a half-hour before giving up.

John and Jess, just getting warmed up, hunted two steep side draws before we left that canyon. Each produced a rooster. Most birds, which had been hunted hard since opening day, were wary of hunters and ran and flew out of gun range.

To John and Jess, the steep country was no obstacle. Only recently they had trekked into high country in the Himalayas. They had gained altitude so fast that Jess suffered a mild case of cerebral edema and John, an old hand at high-altitude climbing, quickly took him down to a lower elevation, where he recovered. The trek hardened their leg muscles.

We ate our lunches and discussed strategies after they hunted those steep draws. Time was running out and we had only three roosters.

We decided to drive down the main road and hike the first promising draw. A while later we stopped at the foot of a draw that seemed to have plenty of cover. I hiked with them until they began moving too fast for me. I hunted back down and waited for them.

Suddenly, the canyon reverberated with shotgun blasts. As the firing continued, I assumed they had jumped a quail covey. A little while later they returned, their orange vests bulging with birds.

Jess had shot a rooster and three Hungarian partridges and John had a rooster and one Hun.

It was Jess’ best day of hunting. He bagged two roosters and three Huns, heady stuff for a 15-year-old.

John didn’t give Jess a chance to daydream as we drove home. He played the parts of the characters in the play, pausing frequently to ask Jess what the characters meant. But I sensed that Jess’ mind kept wandering back to the moments when birds jumped and he fired his 12-gauge.

When we arrived at my home, I remarked to John that his day as a tutor was over.

“No,” he said. “I’ve got to work with Jess on math. For me, it’s like going back to high school again.”

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.

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