If things get any better, I may have
to hire someone to help me enjoy it, that's how good I was feeling
around mid-March. I had just finished the last of the High Definition
Television shoots for the 2006 series 'Wingshooting the World'
with yours truly - three sensational back-to-back quail shoots
with the Grand Finale at South Carolina's spectacular Brays Island.
I have to say a big "Thank
you!" to everyone that made these shows possible. All three
Quail Shows take place in private locations, each place special
in its own way, and yet all offer some of the finest Quail shooting
to be had anywhere.
Like all good adventures, we should start at the beginning, in
Big Spring, Texas, on the trail of...
When I called Bradley Bates to
ask if there was an opportunity to do an HD TV Show in Big Springs
this past January, I received an education in Texas Blue Quail
from the top. Brad is an avid Quail hunter, a master dog handler
and an expert on Texas Blues.
He started right in... "Last
year, the number of Blues was good because it was the end of a
thirteen-year drought and we got plenty of well-timed rain during
the birds' breeding period, just at the right time for the hatch
and to produce plentiful cover. Quail numbers are very dependent
upon this moisture at the right time of the year and that's the
reason for these Boom-or-Bust years in Texas Quail."
"My friend Carles Gibson and I have endured the Boom and
Bust for many, many years.
We have held onto these leases through the Bust years and are now
reaping the rewards! This should be the best year for Quail in several
“The Quail breeding season can
last from April until early October, and the hens will often attempt
to raise several clutches of chicks. However, there is not a predator
in Texas that does not love Quail eggs and the chicks are equally
Bradley is very fortunate that on
one of his best leases, Tom Holt, the owner, manages the ranch specifically
for Quail. When he removed the mesquite to create grazing pastures,
he left wide strips between the fields. Then he rotates his livestock
to maintain the grass height above 7 inches. As the quail are about
6 inches tall, this standing grass cover makes all the difference
to their survival.
Well, bountiful Blue Quail does not
mean they are easy to hunt or shoot. First you need a specialized
Bird Bus, something akin to a dune buggy. Then you need access to
the hardest hunting pointers in Texas. Luckily, Bradley Bates has
both of these!
The tactic is, you put a pair of dogs
down, jump into the Bird Bus and follow these "horizon dogs"
until they point. Then you drive straight past the dogs and bust
the covey! You repeat this several times until you have slowed the
covey down enough to keep up with them on foot.
Now it's a real chase - the dogs point,
you get to them as quickly as possible, but the covey has run on.
You repeat this exercise several times, until the covey breaks into
Now the fun begins! The singles will
hold better than the covey but will still get up and fly at distances
that would put an ATA competitor on his toes. This is no place for
I used a 16 gauge and an ounce load and was pleased to have
every bit of it! We finally shot our limit as the sun was going
What a fabulous experience - great
dogs, great company and unbelievable Blues! I hope I don't have
to wait through another thirteen-year drought to sample it again.
Many thanks to you both, Brad and Carles and to you too, Tom!
Our next stop was the piney woods
of the Georgia Low Country, at Dorchester Shooting Preserve, after
Bob White and the mythical...
Dorchester Shooting Preserve in
Midway, Georgia is one of the best kept Quail secrets in the South.
Here the Father and Son team of Charlie and Chuck Gaskin have
created one of the most exciting and testing commercial bird hunting
operations around. At the mention of the word "commercial",
most hunters roll their eyes and imagine kicking up thinly-feathered,
poorly-conditioned pen-raised birds in an effort to make them
fly! Not at Dorchester! You never, ever have to encourage their
quail to fly! In fact, you may wish they were not quite so wild!
Here the Gaskins have developed
a completely new approach to "put and release" Quail.
Ask Chuck his secret and he is frank
enough to tell you that the majority of "put and release"
Quail, are just that - "put and released" on the morning
or afternoon of the hunt. If those birds are not shot, no effort
is made to create any habitat, to develop cover or to cultivate
feed crops - those birds are not supposed to survive for more
than a few days.