Now as any owner or manager of a truly Wild Quail Plantation will
tell you, you do not want to even consider what a Wild Quail shot
actually costs! The only way to run a commercial preserve is by
"put and release". The difference is in how you do it.
The Gaskins started with some prime
Quail habitat. Then they spent two years shaping, managing and manicuring
the land for any Wild Quail, but they prefer that bigger "cousin"
from the North, a very hardy sub-species called the Tennessee Red.
Five hundred were introduced in October of last year, though I had
never heard of or seen one before, it is definitely a distinct sub-species
of Quail. Very red in color, with a small top knot and a white mark
at the cock's throat, it is smaller than a Bob White. It is also
a faster, harder flier. To prove this last point, there are still
two or three hundred of them left five months into the season!
The Gaskins only select prime, healthy Quail, flight-conditioned,
bred and raised as far from the sight and smell of man as possible.
When they are delivered, they keep them in the same isolated conditions
in which they were raised to check for disease or defects. If all
is well, they are released into the wild a month before Quail Season
Chuck says they will lose a minimum of one third to predators, but
what Quail are left are as close to Wild Quail as you are going
to get. With ample food, water and cover, and after five or six
years of trial, error and tribulation the Gaskins have created some
of the hardest-flying, most testing Quail anywhere!
Now, if you really want to see them take off, do it like they do
at Dorchester...bring in the flushing dogs! When the pointers locate
a covey, instead of the usual practice of the guide walking or whipping
in to burst the covey, Dee, our guide, has a Labrador retriever
Dee asks if you are ready, then
he commands "Flush Em Out". Well, I can assure you, this
brings a whole new dimension to Quail shooting.
Spend a day at Dorchester pursuing pointers after Tennessee Reds
and you'll come as close to shooting Wild Quail as you can get without
having your own Plantation...it's a lot of fun and a lot less money!
Thanks, Chuck and Charlie...see you in High Definition this Fall!
Our last stop on our Quest for Quail
took us to Brays Island, a private paradise of...
Southern Bob Whites
At Brays Island, I found myself riding
on a picturesque, mule-drawn wagon, creaking along through some
of the prettiest Southern Bob White Quail habitat I have ever seen.
We were accompanied by a brace of outriders - English pointers,
quartering through the manicured pine forest cover ahead like WWII
fighter planes guiding a bomber back from a mission.
This is old-fashioned, traditional Southern Plantation Quail shooting
at its best. This is the sport as it has always been - the preserve
of the wealthy - as formal and elegant as a Driven Grouse or Pheasant
Shoot back in England.
I was fortunate enough to be the guest of Perry Harvey, and by extension,
the other owners of Brays Island, a 5,000-acre Sportsman's Paradise,
where over 3,750 acres are in conservation easements, and the residents
are entirely devoted to outdoor pursuits.
There were many such Plantations at the turn of the Century, but
the financial pressures of operating a Plantation for the sole purpose
of offering Quail hunting for the family or guests at weekends and
holidays for a few months of the year were substantial!
meant that many Plantation owners had to diversify their investments
into more profitable areas like cash crops, which required larger
fields, fertilization, herbicides and pesticides or they got into
commercial timber farming or property development.
Today, many of these fine old Plantations
have been broken up and many of the hunting opportunities have simply
disappeared. Brays Island is one of the unique exceptions and here
everything is geared towards preserving that Turn of the Century
Full credit goes to the hard-working
and knowledgeable team that cultivates this pristine habitat, manages
the kennels, trains and runs the dogs and not to forget, keeps up
the mules, wagons and horses, all of which goes to maintain this
Southern Quail Plantation hunting heritage.
At a sudden movement, the mounted
guide holds his hat aloft. There's that thrilling sight of pointers
locked on scent. Then comes the swift descent from the wagon and
horses, shotguns are deftly removed from scabbards and loaded, the
hunters moving into the positions indicated by the guide.
"Are you ready, gentlemen?"
On our nod of agreement - the flush! That buzz of wing beat and
swirl of feather, that always makes your heart race and blood pound!
You move, the mount and swing, choosing your bird from the flashing,
bursting covey, you lock on and squeeze the trigger. A puff of feathers
on the first barrel, but the bird's still flying strong! Keep the
swing going and squeeze off the second trigger. Then that magic
moment when the Quail seems to fly into a wall and drop! The retrieve,
with a hen Bob White brought to hand! As they say in the South "That
is gooder ' n grits!"