This past weeks 2-3 day ice and snow event here on the Rolling Plains was a tough way to get a little moisture, but it was worth it..... Officially in the USDA's SEVERE Drought map area, the Bird hunting conditions have really been pretty poor all season. The first moisture of any kind since September really perked up the Quail hunting quality. Yesterday afternoon providing the most satisfying outing of the season thus far. Dogs felt invigorated, scenting conditions easily the best of the season, and birds were out feeding.
Put the dogs down at 3:30 and picked them up at 5:45. 10 coveys pointed and all the rises shot, 2 more coveys put up a bit "prematurely" by a trainee addition to the aging dog string. Birds were in great body shape and coveys all above 12 birds ( substantial for this late in the season). Held to my self imposed "limit" of one bird per covey for this season, I managed to put 10 in the bag with the same number of shells (something I don't do as often as I once did) 7 juveniles and 3 adult birds which just about matches my season long bag of 72.6% juveniles. Another perfect afternoon shaping up and we are going to hit the ground in just about half an hour , hoping for more of the same. Sometimes all this effort seems to be really worth it.....
I am rather familiar with the Rolling Plains Quail Research ranch. it is located @20 miles from where I sit at my ranch office typing this. The idea/concept for the project was "Hatched" here on my ranch following a great Bird Hunting day. I hope the idea carries on after my time, we dedicated quail guys are an aging group. The work aimed at maximizing wild quail populations on my ranch are my largest single discretionary expenditure annually.
Well Mr. Fox, your questions are well covered by the gentlemen who responded above.......I will simply add anecdotical information as to how my hunting style has evolved......I don't actively hunt "singles" following a covey rise. There are however situations where previously flushed single birds will be pointed by the dogs while in pursuit of the next covey. My call on shooting that flush is dependent on the dog(s) involved. More directly whether it offers a training opportunity for an unfinished prospect. I find such occasions opportune for ingraining the Dog-Bird-Gun triad in the mind of an impressionable dog. The connection of the point, the flush , the shot and hopefully the downed bird for the dog to mouth/carry and receive praise for the success he/she has contributed to helps make a country dog come around quicker. In that same vein I frequently look at a covey rise with intent of picking a target bird that is in the easy peripheral view of the dog I want to school on. Hopefully to carry out the same procedure as outlined above. An interesting take on the process of concentrating on shooting cocks over hens was first shown to me by its originator, Dr. Dale Rollins. His game of "Quail Snooker" is to encourage shooting roosters over hens. Usually causing one to "lose' the match after taking the third hen of a shooters outing. It will make you look a little closer. Since I generally gun alone (by preference) I am given a good deal more flexibility in my gunning choices. Not the least of which is a higher shooting percentage since the gunner does not have to make a "safety check" of his companion gunner's location before picking a target. If I have a good view of the dogs on the ground, knowing my horse ( or vehicle ) is behind me, and the shooting field is anything 5-6 feet or higher off the ground. Makes for a higher kill percentage. Conditions look favorable for this afternoon, and i intend to put in a couple of late afternoon hours behind a rested dog pack. Hopefully the birds will cooperate and some will fall into the scent cone of my loyal canine pals. Yours in good Sport
If near death, and needing heart stimulation, I would like them to play the sound of a covey flushing. It always makes my heart beat faster and brings a smile to my face. It might not save me but at least I’ll go with that smile. The cutting edge things I tried to bring back birds is almost funny now. Predator control and cover ended up being my most beneficial inputs. Extra feed plots showed almost no improvement in results. Maybe Bob is not that picky of an eater. In great years we got two successful nestlings. In poor years we left them be in season and tried again. I’m glad some others are being much better than I was in getting results.
That sounds like a great afternoon. Amazing how a bit of moisture can so positively impact things. I hunted for about an hour this morning and had fun; it's always a treat to get out. Found 4 coveys, though one of those I bumped as the wind was wrong for when the dogs went by. Here's the last covey of the morning (wish this site would allow Vimeo):
Owen, I hope you are indeed able to bring Mr. Bob back to your North Carolina hills..... I have several friends my age or near about there , that are north Carolina quail hunters....now forced to seek birds for their dogs in Texas and Kansas mostly......All tell a tale of growing up hunting Bobwhite with parents and grandparents on family holdings.... i wish you luck and success in your worthy endeavor. I have a little easier time of it out here, still LARGE blocks of rangeland and mixed dryland farming mixed in infrequently. Grazing management, burning, ( which I practice devoutly) and then we are just at the mercy of rainfall in this semi-arid land. I use cattle as a means to an end, a management tool designed to keep the balance between grasses and forbs needed to maximize quail production out here.
Regarding your question about the chosen arms of Texas Quail hunters, I am going to have to think hard. I say this because I am always drawn to a fine gun when I encounter one, but they are not that common in the hands of the hunters I encounter out here. There are quite a few 28's carried , in the form of Best, or near best SxS, not very often. Few encounters with SxS gunners at all really. Majority of the guys I run across in the store or café have pretty modern, choke tubed O/U's, of Italian or Japanese origin. One fellow who enjoys seeing his name in print owns a property an hour or so away from me, plays with Fine guns, his choices generally leave me unimpressed. He champions an Italian maker whose products are made more for show than shooting in my experience. (Several qualified BEST gun gunsmiths agree with my analysis.) The only truly BEST guns I still own are 3 SxS's all by a noted Italian Maker. I enjoy them , and I shoot them some, but I generally find myself carrying a 20 bore Browning O/U. I have several.... They just get it done for me in the quail fields. I came by this thru pretty damn extensive field use.....and at this stage in life, and for quite a few years, I can shoot ANY gun of my choosing. One Browning I most frequently use is pretty non descript basic gun , modified in some manner to suit me , and I guess time proves me right......As Dr. Dale Rollins noted in the podcast he finally got me to do after years of asking, he mentions my fairly detailed record keeping regarding my quail hunts...... those records show that I have killed over 13,000 wild quail with that one gun......
I love good bird dog work like yours displayed. We have stopped hunting quail on my farms entirely for the last three years. Friend ran his dogs on all four farms in the middle of January just to give them a bit of work. Found three coveys over four farms. 20years ago I had 12-14 coveys on those same farms. State game mismanagement service introduced turkeys on to my land and my birds crashed. Might just be a coincidence like Bic lighters and lung cancer but I never have had good turkey numbers and good quail numbers. So I gave up managing for quail after 20 plus years and enough money to buy a 32' Grady White boat, to let nature take its course. Some years we are up to six or more coveys and this year we are down. Sad to me, I miss the call of a Bob calling all friends.
“About a quarter century ago I shared a quail field near Albany, Georgia, with an aging quail plantation owner who, like me, also enjoyed hunting big game across the American West and beyond. As we walked toward a brace of his pointers that froze simultaneously at the scent of yet another covey of bobwhite quail, the man whose name I have long since forgotten, advised, “You can hunt all over the world for all manner of game…but, in the end, you’ll always come home to bobwhite quail over pointing dogs.” His inference was that when a man’s horizon nears, hunting bobwhite quail blurs the line between heaven and Earth.”
I experienced a bit of that a few years ago when a bunch of us over at 16ga were ordering new knives with “game bird of choice” engraved on them. I’d ordered one with another bird on it but the longer I dwelt on it the more Gentleman Bob and his call haunted my quiet. I changed my selection.
Mr. Zap, That is indeed some excitement......don't quit too quick to "heal up".... the older you get , the more precious those outings become.....don't pass up any opportunity......you are a long time dead..... I keep pushing it as hard as I can.....
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