Great quail opener, with young guest
I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to hunt today. I work in Scouts, and one of my scouts had his Eagle project this morning. So I knew I’d be painting fire hydrants till noon.
Then I had promised my wife I’d do some garage cleaning. That booked me till 2pm. Then there was a not-to-be-missed football game at 6pm (BSU vs. Wyoming.) So the window of opportunity was small. And I didn’t have anyone to go with. Upland hunting solo is not as effective as a small group. Too easy for the birds to dodge you.
On the other hand, I had been dove hunting (solo) the week before. I saw one dove (missed him) and dozens of quail. So I knew where they were.
While at the Eagle project, I worked with another adult in the church. Young guy (he’s ‘30s, I’m 50s) with a very nice family. I told him I was thinking of quail hunting this afternoon. He had never hunted before. He expressed interest, so I invited him to come. He wasn’t sure—he had honey-do’s to do, too. He didn’t have a shotgun. But I had an extra or two ;-) So he asked me to call him before I left at 2pm.
I did, and he could come. He asked if he could bring his oldest daughter, age 8. At first I talked him out of it. We’d be walking a long way up & down hill…didn’t think it would be fun for her….truth is, I didn’t want to have to wait for “a girl.” As soon as I hung up the phone, though, I realized I had been a fool. We weren’t going THAT far, and an 8 yr. old girl could probably keep up with a guy old enough to get senior discounts. I knew the girl, and she was a good one. My daughters had baby sat her. So I called him right back and said bring her. My wife told me I was awesome for doing that. ;-)
Was going to outfit him with my 870, but it was set up for long range ducks last year, with a full steel choke, and I couldn't find my medium choke. So I brought for him my inherited Win 1300 Defender. 18” barrel, cylinder bore. I had shot skeet with it, and it seemed to do OK. He knew chokes, so he knew what he was in for. I brought my old, twin trigger SxS. Its just a part of me, now.
I had hunted this place the previous year. Bad news is, you had to park at the top of the hill, then hunt down the draws. Then it was uphill all the way back. We had walked at least 4 miles each way last year. Phew! ‘Bout killed me. BUT, the previous year we had found a dirt road at the bottom of the hunt. Google Earth showed me the back way in. So the plan was to park down, and hunt up.
The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay, and what Google Earth didn’t show was the access to the back way in was private, and the gate was locked. So we had to drive back up to the top, and hunt down.
So we did, and on with the hunt. I was expecting to hit quail about ¾ mile into the walk, at a water hole. We didn’t get half that far before we ran into a covey. Took me totally by surprise. We chased them a mile or so. This was my first hunt of the year, (other than one missed dove) and no warm up with clays, so I was missing EVERYTHING. He was, too. I was making all the newbie mistakes. Shooting at the flock instead of picking a bird, leading the straight away shots, etc.
Finally, about the 3rd flush, I got one. Picked a bird, led him proper, down he went. Had a hard time finding it.
Daughter had been following behind Dad for safety. Dad asked if she would mind walking between us, and a bit behind, to better flush ‘em. She was all over that.
Next flush, I got another, and he got his first. Daughter found my bird, and brought it to me. Better than a bird dog! I made sure to compliment her.
By now we had made the water hole, and it was full of birds. We chased the birds another mile. Each of us got several more. Daughter was a good member of the team. She knew where to go, and had good eyes for finding downed birds. He was hitting regularly, now. It helped that the birds were holding a little tighter and flushing closer. And in waves. I love it when they flush in waves! I was hitting regularly, too. It comes back...
It was a great hunt. By now, It was getting close to game time, and we were about 2 miles downhill from the truck, and we were getting a little low on shells, so I suggested we head back.
We went back up a different draw, quite by accident on my part, actually. Next draw over from the one we came down.
Wouldn’t you know it, about ¾ mile from the truck, we flushed ANOTHER big covey. Not at all prepared, and they flushed far, so we didn’t shoot. But we spotted ‘em, stalked ‘em, flushed ‘em again. I got one, he got two.
We were beat, but it wasn’t far to the truck. We got there mostway through the first quarter, and BSU was up 17zip. It was worth it, for the hunt. I asked daughter if she had fun, and got an enthusiastic head bobble. Satisfying.
When we got home, I showed him how to clean quail by standing on the wings and pulling the legs. Just amazing. But I re-learned that is best done when they are warm. By the time I got home, and settled in, the birds were cold, and only about half of mine cleaned properly that way. The other way sure is harder.
What a great day. Good hunt, new hunter, future huntress.
I’m reminded why I love upland hunting. It’s that amazing combination of relaxation and excitement. A glorious, relaxing walk in the beautiful world, punctuated with moments of blazing excitement, and the soul-satisfying finale of a good meal, procured the original way.
Sharing it with others multiplies the fun.