I turned 50 this week with an Italian over-and-under in my hands, my dogs spreading out in the sage and native grasses. The little postage stamp plots of state land and BLM acres that might or might not hold wild coveys of sharp tail grouse have saved the season. As it goes with bird hunting, I was stooped over, removing a cactus thorn from Rocket's foot when the covey exploded. They set their wings and sailed into the next draw. But when I went there they were nowhere to be found. Just a big mule deer buck and his seven does. An excellent birthday.