Field & Stream

The Borderland

“THERE’S AN EXPLOSIVE FLUSH, AND THE COVEY IS SUDDENLY EVERYWHERE, FLYING IN THE SUN-DAPPLED CATHEDRAL SPACE BENEATH THE CANOPY OF THE OAKS.”

THE COUNTRY STRETCHES OUT WIDE IN the sweep of early sun, the big Animus Mountains of purple and deep orange cliffs towering there like a fortress. The Chihuahuan Desert, at least this part of it, is misnamed: Here in the Boot Heel of New Mexico, it is a vast grassland savanna, high enough to catch the rains and snows, rich with black grama grasses and oak woodlands, cut with stone arroyos that roar with floodwaters and hold precious pools almost year-round—the watering holes of javelinas, black bears, toad muleys, and rugged little Coues deer.

This is the northern end of Mexico’s Sierra Madre, and the isolated mountain ranges—the Animus, the Peloncillos, the Big Hatchets—soar 8,500 feet and higher. We are here, in the bright days of early February, to chase quail with good dogs, to camp and eat and drink by the fire, to hunt and wander and see what adventures can be found on these great wild public lands, smack-dab on the border between the United States and Mexico.

We drive old dirt roads south from the little community of Animus, stopping to glass a pair of Gould’s turkeys shaded up under a juniper and watch a Border Patrol truck negotiate a two-track along a faraway ridge. We eventually make a simple camp—a fire pit, a propane burner, a table for cooking, and some tents pitched on a flat spot with big Gambel oaks behind us and a few huge Ponderosa pines across the road. This isn’t what I think of as desert, but it is almost perfect Mearns quail country, and Rey Trejo, who brought us here, has been hunting

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