"Better not wander," Pop said, sipping the sweet coffee. "Some of these sky shooters might mistake you for a stray and try to pot you in the brush."
"There's ponds over yonder," said Sean, pointing toward the southeast. "Nobody's shooting down that way. Singles have been going in all day over there. I'll bet we get some shooting down there. I'll bet we do, Pop."
"How much?" asked Pop. "You might and you might not. But you go ahead and find out, why don't you?"
"With three of us we just might get one up."
"You can do it just as easy with two."
Sean and I tracked down a nice string of ponds to walk, and I took another mallard hen going off on the diagonal. She had trouble gaining altitude and gave me plenty of time to establish my lead and squeeze off without relying on instinct. I did it all in my head, which was satisfactory enough. She tumbled, a blur of feathers, and splashed behind the reeds. I let Sean go in to pick her up.
We walked a mile and a half of sage; there were no birds anywhere, and it seemed just as well. I could see that Sean had his eye out for ringnecks, though he knew they were impossible to flush without a bird dog.
Finally we sprawled on the highest of the black dunes. Here you could see the whole length of the wasteway glistening down toward the Saddle Mountains.
"We're not getting the shots," Sean said, lying back with his hands behind his head. "I hate a slow day. I really do."
"It's good just being out," I reminded him.