We’re all familiar with the old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Being a conservative person, I for sure would take the bird in hand; I would imagine some of our great entrepreneurs’ like Andrew Carnegie or Donald Trump would opt for the possible and give the two in the bush a try. This current quail season had been…up to this past Saturday, the 10th of December, a frustration as I had been out two times and came up empty on both occasions, so any bird, be it in hand or in the bush would have been intriguing. My percentage improved dramatically within the first 10 minutes Saturday when Cedar bumped into a stray quail and sent it buzzing down the fence row towards me at a high rate of speed.
Normally I wouldn’t have taken a shot at a bird that one of the dogs had bumped…but this year hadn’t been normal and my ‘one in the hand’ was flying directly at me. It was a perfect skeet station, high house, number 8 shot. For those of you not up on your clay pigeon terminology, the bird was about 10 foot off the ground, flying directly at me at about 45 mph. I gave the bird no lead and threw the gun up and toward the quail, pulled the trigger and turned around with enough time to see the projectile hit the ground, stone dead. I walked over to the hen, picked her up and took a moment to admire her soft yellow colors around her neck and breast area…placed her behind me in my game bag at about the same time all three of my Shorthairs showed up. The scent left on the ground put their metabolisms into high gear and we turned and once again headed toward what I hoped was the rest of the covey.
I love hunting by myself…usually, however there are times when, no matter how well thought out, birds just don’t present a shot and this was the case as the remainder of the covey, approximately 6 or 7 more birds, all flushed out the other side of the cover and left me listening to their escape. Ah…but we had found birds!
We hadn’t gone another 100 yards when I looked up and their stood my little Macy, she was in a rigorous pose and facing towards me, right paw hovering above the frozen ground. This is a sight that I will never get tired of seeing and marvel each time at the technology of nature that allows this critter that I have trained from a puppy to know that there are desirable birds hidden somewhere within a mass of cover. Eerily she looked so much like Elsie, who I lost about a year ago, even more odd is how she has stepped up this year and seems to be stepping into the leadership role. Either way…it was a beautiful scene and after snapping a couple photos I walked in and flushed another small covey of about 8 birds; dropped one cleanly and watched as the others flittered their way up the fence row and dropped back down into the cover.
I could see pretty closely where the remainder of the birds had lit but decided to leave this group for another day. Quail are a resource and need to be managed as such and to shoot many more from a small covey would be tough on the group as they depend upon their numbers to survive the long and cold winters.
The dogs and I made a short spurt across the bean field and picked up another fence row with some heavier cover; one that was lined with trees and lots of honeysuckle. We were just up and moving at road speed when I watched Cedar come screeching to a halt with both of the girls stacked up behind him. The trio was about 30 yards away and through some heavy cover; I gave the dogs a quick and sharp whoa and slid in front of their point when the woods came alive with quail. I snapped my 28 gauge to my shoulder and dropped a fleeing bird with the first shot…out of the corner of my eye I saw another zigging in and out, when he moved into a small opening I dropped him for a nice double.
Cedar had already returned to me with the first quail when I saw my second bird sprinting through a tangle of vines and moving away from us quickly. This makes me nervous; the only thing you can do at this point is depend upon the noses of three good dogs. I made my way through the jungle of vines to see Royale in a pretzel point, nose to the ground and an intensity that always tells me she is right on top of the bird. I made a step closer and the bird popped up; Royale made short work of the bird and brought it to me with a twinkle in her eye.
We turned things around and took a nice walk back to the truck…it was a little after noon and I was only a few miles from one of my favorite lakes. I love these crisp fall days and I will love the day even more next week come supper time…fried quail is a real treat. I will always miss Elsie but today was sweet as the four of us ambled along, shot a few quail and spent the day Enjoying the Great Outdoors.