Where I Live: Querencia Country Part 1

This is either overdue or redundant. But when I sent some of these to not very “Anonymous” commenter- in- chief Lane Batot, to satisfy his curiosity about the country, he thought I should blog them. The physical “structure” of the land, and its use patterns, will be utterly familiar to Westerners but perhaps a bit alien to Eastern or European readers.

From my note to Lane:

“I live downtown in a town of less than 1000 on a dirt road– the only pavement except two cross streets less than a mile long is the road through. It is 30 miles east to the county seat, 2500 feet below on the Big Rio, and there are only two towns between us and the Arizona border, 120 miles west. This east -west road, Rte 60, divides two Connecticut- sized blocks each of which has basically ONE paved road through, with well under 6000 population in the southern one. They are “filled” with big ranches, mostly public land (National Forest to the south, BLM everywhere) and a small Indian rez N. Average elevation is probably 7000 feet, peaks up to almost 11,000, cold winters, dry not too hot summers, late summer monsoons if we are lucky. No jobs & fewer people than in the cattle & mining days.”

“When Aldo Leopold was a predator controller, in 1914, he gave a talk in the no- longer existing “Magdalena Sportsman’s Hall”, to 700 people. There are just over that number now in the whole town! Then, there were upward of 5000– some say at its height almost twice that! It was a cattle shipping center with a rail spur up from the valley and a mining center.”

“No suburbs here or in most of the rural west– nothing but open land between towns. I can hawk or course within walking distance…”

Pix: town & high desert plains. I will do more town, and montane forest, later (because of our vertical range from 5 to almost 11,000 feet above sea level, we have the entire gamut of Rockies ecosystems from Canada to Mexico within 40 miles– elk and peccary, Nutcrackers and Hepatic tanagers and Vermillion flycatchers…) Please click on photos to see them larger, especially the first one.

Panorama of town in winter by Jackson, looking south. Entire town– nothing but ranches east or west for 30 miles, LESS in terms of human presence north or south. The high peaks of the Magdalena mountain range are cut off by clouds.

Looking east and down from the Magdalena mountains over Lee’s ranch in the next set and toward the Rio behind the peak…

Lee’s ranch on the plain where we hunt; Lee showing Vadim Gorbatov his print based on sketches V made there.

Box canyon cut below plain; Lib by seasonal “river” that cut it:

Book And Review Preview

The Gos & Claret again, appropriately added to cover of an advanced reader’s copy to preview the forthcoming US publication, by Skyhorse, of Luke Jennings’ Blood Knots.

When it was published in England a few years ago it blew me away– a melancholic, elegiac meander through several lives, beginning with a scene of urban slum pike fishing at dusk and moving through.. oh, fathers, sons, wars, terrorism, prep schools, mentors, Catholicism, falconry, and, always, fishing. I will write about it more than once but for now, a gratuitous and absolutely true quote: this is the best book with fishing in it since A River Runs Through It.

Yes, that good.

Falconry Wonk Quote

Utah attorney Jason Jones on the proposed regulation of domestic hybrid falcons by the federal government:

[The Fish & Wildlife Service’s] “…attempting to regulate the possession of non-native hybrids,… based on FWS’s assertion that their law enforcement agents may have difficulty distinguishing hybrid raptors from native raptors, is the equivalent to the DEA attempting to regulate baking soda because their agents could possibly confuse it with cocaine in the field.” (Emphasis mine).

I think I agree. These are DOMESTIC ANIMALS, often for generations. And as far as I know all of ONE hybrid in all of falconry history attempted to breed in the wild (unsuccessfully, in Scandinavia). This is bureaucratic overreach, not a conservation problem.

And I should also note that FWS has a DNA database of all native raptor species but the Osprey, which is not used in falconry and does not hybridize.

Michael’s fly; more connections…

As promised, the “Goshawk & Claret”, on its cover letter from Michael Simon back in 2000 [I had put 1990, meant to type 1999, and it was actually 2000!]

The reason for the Khyber Pass falconer- with- Gos in “Teaser”, below, is that Michael spent a good bit of his youth in Afghanistan before war tore its ancient and (if perilously) balanced society apart, as did several of my friends from the west and one long distance falconry mentor, Sirdar M Osman.

John Lockwood Kipling, Rudyard’s father and the model for the old curator of the “Treasure House” in Kim, wrote about Punjabi and”Border” Goshawk falconry in Man and Beast in India, here, with Pakistani bell and Afghan snuffbox of Lapis:


So once again shared interests and the mysteries of the Intarwebz connect old friends; unbelievably, an incoming message from him crossed mine to him in the same ten- minute period. Michael at 65 in VA, in the style of Picasso; his “Art” side? He also has a self- portrait in his other persona, as Edwardian fly fishing giant and “father of nymph fishing” G E M Skues; if he sends it I’ll post…

If this model were law…

None of my dogs could breed (or have been bred); nor could virtually any dog I have had in New Mexico, nor my friends’ dogs, all working hunters, all sound. EVERY DOG YOU HAVE EVER SEEN IN Q BLOG.*

Think about that when somebody says such “guidelines” are no threat…

Click on diagram to enlarge:

(Thanks to Jess)

*(No “titled” ancestors in Asia; no saluki registration so no “standard” to adhere to; and the longdogs and lurchers are not “purebred”. The so- called “crosses” of Asian tazis and salukis are not considered so by the SCOA either although they are no more, or less, crosses than ones of Arab X Kurdish blood).

Tiny Girl Army

I’ve read that women are learning to hunt in record numbers and account for most of the growth in hunting interest nationwide.  Great programs like Becoming an Outdoors Woman probably exist more in response to this trend than are responsible for it; but whatever case, it is a welcome development.

Here in the Sportman’s Paradise (!) we are doing our part to balance the gender distribution among bloodthirsty, mud-splattered, briar scratched children.  I call them the Tiny Girl Army, and they are awesome to behold.

Comprised of my own twin girls, B and Maggie, our friends the Williamson’s towheaded twins, Kate and Emily, and new recruit Ali (second from left), the daughter of my falconry apprentice Jeff.


There’s a perfect field for little legs to navigate in the town of Rosedale, about 20 minutes west of Baton Rouge.  The land is flat, the grass is not too thick and there are few briars.  The place holds rails and woodcock and a few rabbits along the edges. Best of all, we have landowner permission and a place to park the minivan.

“Going down to Rosedale, got my riders by my side…”

When the army marches, the fun begins.  Holding Ernie on the T-perch before them like a regimental standard, there is little that escapes their attention or their efforts at the re-flush.  Ernie is in Hawk Heaven with a trained staff of beaters keeping him in birds and cotton rats.

These have been great days in the field.  Although I’m often grouchy around my own children (and moreso around others’ offspring), there is just no way to keep from smiling when you hear a chorus of kids in unison yelling, “Yeah!  He got one!”
I’ll leave you with another picture of young Ali with her neighbor Mr. Landry in their native habitat.  In the foreground is her dad’s red-tail on a very apropos swamp rabbit.  There’s something timeless about the image, as much a picture of the future of Louisiana hunting as of the past.


Michael Simon’s “Bodio’s Gos & Claret” fly surrounded by Bodio & Gos in Bozeman ca 1999, and (clockwise) Khyber Pass Gos by Catherine Lassez (70’s), Afghan Lapis snuff bottle, Pakistani bell. And remember one of Michael’s old ID’s was “Afghan Trout”…