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Hunting For, and From, Memories

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Published on: Sep. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 22, 2010

The two flushed bobwhite quail veered away from me in the weedy alley between rows of young cottonwoods—one to my right and the other straight ahead.

The bird on the right was the first to get airborne, so I swung on it and fired as my shotgun barrel caught up with its flight path. As it crumpled into the tall Johnson grass, I quickly aimed at the second. It was in my sights before my conscious mind caught up with my instinct, and I lowered the gun and pushed the safety back on. I had my limit; that second bird would have to wait for another day.

It was a memorable hunt. There haven’t been many times when I have shot a limit of quail, so those days stand out more than most. But I have countless other bird-hunting memories, many of which are nearly as vivid today as they were decades ago.

While I can pull up to an ATM and not remember the four-digit PIN number I used a few days before, I can recall for years the exact spots where I flushed a pheasant or a covey of quail. I know which way they flew and whether or not I made my shots.

Mingled with these details are the feel and heft of the shotgun, the sight of my dog bringing me a bird, the look of the brown and gray landscape, the sounds of flushing birds and the feel of a warm bird on a cold day.

I don’t think that my memory of hunts is any sharper than that of other hunters. The connection between hunting and memory is strong in most of us. Perhaps it dates back to the first hunters who gathered around the campfire to eat their game and share the details of successful hunts.

Experience and memory were as important as physical ability for those primitive hunters. Given the millennia through which people have hunted, it’s not surprising that memories of hunts are hard-wired into our brains more securely than PIN numbers.

Today, modern hunters often replay memories of hunts in front of campfires, at hunting camps, in local diners and in hunting journals. Those memories enrich our lives, but we also can use them to make our hunts more successful.

For quail hunters, it’s valuable to remember where we found coveys of birds in the past. Quail coveys typically occupy a home range of 100 acres. Where habitat is

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