As they say, “It’s
a tough job but someone has to do it”…. In January,
after the Dallas SCI Show, I offered shooting lessons and gunfittings
at the Dallas Gun Club. While there, we received a phone call
from a gentleman who wished to book a gun fitting for himself
friend. He lived in Texas, but a considerable distance from Dallas.
They didn’t want to come into Dallas, but suggested that
as we were driving from Dallas to Santa Fe, we would drive right
by his ranch so why not do their gun fittings there! And, to sweeten
the pot, he said “Get here early and shoot some Blue Quail
with us.” I’ve never been known to refuse an invitation
to hunt, so of course, I accepted immediately.
Sunday morning, January 16th, we were in Big Springs, Texas.
was savagely cold, even with many layers and a polar fleece jacket
the wind knifed through me… the rolling West Texas
ranch land offering little in the way of protection. We met our
hosts, Bradley Bates and Carless Gibson at a service station
just off the main road out of town. We all loaded up with coffee
donuts (The Real Breakfast of Champions) and followed them to
Being English, it is difficult to comprehend the
vastness of a Texas ranch or of Texas itself, for that matter, but suffice
say, there was a whole lot of Quail habitat. Their quail population
had suffered through a 13-year drought and hunting had been lean
in those years.
Well, in 2004 the bad run broke! It rained so much it caused
flooding, but somehow, the rains conveniently stopped for the
This combination of flooding and drying created a bumper Quail
population … what everyone described as “the best
Quail shooting in twenty years!”
most exciting thing for me was the chance to hunt the famous Blue
Quail. After more coffee, then filling thermoses with even more
coffee, (it appeared to me that Texans run on coffee like NASCAR
race cars run on high-test.) we loaded up the Jeeps with guns,
dogs (and coffee) and set out to “chase the Blues”.
While Bob Whites favour the draws, arroyos and creek beds, Blue Quails
like the higher ground. Given the rawness of the wind, Brad and Carless
decided to hunt for Bob White first, where the bluffs gave us some
protection. This was not hunting in the Grand Southern Tradition,
following the dogs from a “bird bus” or on horseback…no,
we chased those dogs on foot. We took two jeeps and drove a mile
or so, leaving one. Then returning to our start, we hunted our way
back to the stationed jeep. This method was repeated throughout the
day and, given the biting cold, the fast pace was welcome.
Without a doubt, we had the first string out with us that day! The
dogs, English Pointers, were superb. West Texas terrain is cruel
on a dog, and these had to be admired for their never-flagging efforts
to find us the birds.
We were into the shooting almost instantly. A solid point and honour,
close to a dried- out river bed, delivered one of the most amazing
covey rises I have ever witnessed! Not only the numbers, but the
incredible speed and direction of flight! I now truly understand
the term “wild birds”…. they were gone - “hasta
la vista” gone!
We failed to put a pellet into a single bird on that first covey.
We were more successful on the singles we found, but there were not
many of those, given the distance and speed these birds can fly.
We continued to hunt all morning, finding covey after covey, finally
around the 3rd or 4th covey, one of us shot a Blue Quail.
referred to as a Scaled Quail, the Blue is a little larger than
a Bob White, with very distinctive grey-blue scales and a little
top knot. Our hosts explained that, though two distinctly different
subspecies, it was not uncommon to find a Blue mixed in with the
Bob Whites and vice versa. In fact, they sometimes cross-breed
and the resulting bird was known locally as a Blob!
After a break for lunch (cheeseburgers and more coffee), and a change
of dogs, we moved to higher ground to hunt the Blues. There is a
different technique required for hunting Blue Quail - it is called
running! All of the previous week, when I mentioned that I was going
to hunt Blue Quail, I received the same comment: “Hope you
brought your running shoes!”
Well, they were spot on! The Blues will not hold for dogs like the
Bobs will. They run... and the secret to getting a shot at them is
to pressure the covey until it breaks up. Singles on their own will
hold for the dogs and once the covey is broken, hunting the singles
is much easier then shooting into an exploding covey rise of 15 or
The hardest part was breaking up the covey in the first place! You
have to keep up with the dogs. They point, you move up fast…they
are released… they find and point the covey once again…you
move up fast! This routine is repeated time and again until the covey
breaks and you can hunt the singles. Hunting Blue Quail is not for
the unfit or faint of heart and, thank God for snake boots! They
are just as effective guarding against cactus as they are against
stopped mid-afternoon, did the gunfittings and then one last hour
of hunting took us to dusk…the end of the day…and the
end of a fantastic experience.
There is little money in what I do, but a hell of a lot of “lifestyle”.
I must say that among the precious and treasured moments that “lifestyle” brings,
hunting Blues, Bobs and Blobs in Texas
definitely counts as was one of the best.