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The Gazette
Good Hunting • Blue Quail and Bob White in Texas

Blues, Bobs and Blobs

      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 and a 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.

      It 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 and donuts (The Real Breakfast of Champions) and followed them to their ranch.
     Being English, it is difficult to comprehend the vastness of a Texas ranch or of Texas itself, for that matter, but suffice to 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 quail hatch. This combination of flooding and drying created a bumper Quail population … what everyone described as “the best Quail shooting in twenty years!”

sunset hunters     The 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.

      Sometimes 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!”
Man and dogWell, 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 16 birds.
      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 snakes!
2 quailWe 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.

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