Upland Bird Hunting in Eastern Washington with Elias Carlson

ec-filson-01Elias Carlson is a 31 year old freelance photographer, graphic designer, and videographer from Seattle, Washington. He has a thing for mountains, road-trips, and his wife Theresa. He is easily distracted by moving water of any kind, especially the sort with fish in it.

When he’s not outdoors with a camera, he makes some pretty great things, for some pretty great companies using nothing but his mind and a MacBook Pro. Follow Elias on Instagram for more of his adventures.

As a Western Washingtonian, born-and raised on the rainy side of the Cascade mountain range, Eastern Washington has always held a special allure for me. Over the years it’s become synonymous with adventure, a place to escape to. I have yet to tire of the gradual transition from granite to canyon-land, green to gold, as I-90 slides down the Eastern side of the mountains. My eyes still wander eagerly across the landscape looking for familiar outlines against the horizon: coyote, red-tailed hawk, mule deer, and if I’m lucky that dapper little fellow the American Kestrel. It’s country that’s a little wilder, a little freer. I think that’s what keeps me coming back.

I’ve never been one to pass up an adventure. So when my brother-in-law Josh invited me to join his father Tom, and their lab Rosie on an upland bird hunt near the Columbia River Gorge, I was all-in. I’ll take any excuse to get outside with a camera, and I’ve never been bird hunting, so I was eager to see what all the fuss is about. The fact that we’d be camping out in Tom’s VW Eurovan was just an added bonus for this road-trip junkie.

Watching a trained dog at work is an incredible thing. The intelligence, tenacity, and endurance Rosie displayed is something I won’t soon forget. It was clear she was in her element, completely absorbed in the hunt. During one short break I watched as she stretched out in the sand, muzzle flecked with blood from the lashes of a thousand branches, and one crotchety porcupine. Despite the wear and tear I swear she was smiling.

Tom has been taking Josh hunting since he was 12 years old. Their relationship is a joy to behold. At this point in their lives they’re more like best friends than father and son. It was an honor to be included in what is clearly a special time for them.

After just one bird hunt, I think it’s safe to say I get it. The beauty of the landscape. The gradually mounting tension as your dog locks in on a scent. The sharp smell of gunpowder. Even if you don’t bag a bird, it’s a great excuse to spend time in the wild. And the rush of a big rooster exploding from the brush should probably be classified as some kind of drug. It’s electric.