A couple of weeks later I received another call letting me know that we would be bird hunting in Kansas at a preserve named Flint Oak and that I would be hunting with the host Lee Horsley. Having seen the show on a couple of occasions I was well aware of Lee and his accomplishments in the entertainment industry. He had starred in several major television series and major motion pictures.
My research showed he was from a small town in Texas and grew up in Colorado, and was and still is, an avid outdoorsman. At one time he was a professional rodeo rider and had gotten his theatrical start on Broadway in musicals.
A few weeks later I was on my way to Wichita to connect with the film crew to make our way to Flint Oak. Flint Oak is located about a 45-minute drive from Wichita in the heart of the Kansas farmland. Surrounded by beautiful rolling fields and open spaces it was easy to envision huge flocks of pheasants and quail.
Upon arrival at the main gate we were met by our guides and outfitted with the necessary licensing for our upcoming three days of bird hunting.
We were then driven up to the lodge, but certainly not an ordinary lodge. The Flint Oak Lodge is a massive building housing many rooms for guests, a very large dining room such as you might find in any top shelf hotel and a well stocked pro shop to provide anything you just have to have for your hunt.
The staff was very well trained and the food was amazing. The bar near the dining room was reminiscent of the comfortable bars found in the finest private hunting and other clubs so many of us wish we could enjoy regularly.
After we put our gear in our rooms, which included a wall mounted gun rack, we were to have a production meeting to discuss the plans for the next three days of shooting. It takes a minimum of three days to film enough footage in order to edit for about 21 minutes of actual airtime.
The plan called for us to hunt over pointing dogs for the quail and pheasants. We would need to get an early start and be prepared for a very brisk early morning temperature. After a great dinner we adjourned to the bar I mentioned to take some time to get acquainted. My concerns about hunting with a “TV star” quickly vanished.
Lee was a very approachable and likable man and had a warm and interesting way about him. He truly enjoyed poking fun at himself in the stories that he told and was very sincere in his interest in the rest of us. He clearly was comfortable in this environment and put us all at ease as we planned our hunt. It was equally clear he was an experienced hunter and had a great appreciation for the outdoors.
The next morning after a very hearty and tasty breakfast, we climbed into the SUVs for our ride to the hunting area.
On the way we could see the fields of milos and sorghum and the method of planting that lent itself to comfortable hunting for the guests. Rows upon rows of milos that provided cover for the pheasants were about 35 yards wide and had open space between plantings for easy walking and observation of fellow hunters for safety.
After a short drive we unloaded our gear and the guides readied the dogs. Meanwhile the camera crew got the main camera and a tripod loaded onto an ATV which would enable them to shoot from a higher position and move quickly into position as dictated by the direction of the hunt.
Lee and I were asked to walk side-by-side about 30 feet apart and the guide would work the dogs back and forth across our paths of travel. We had decided earlier to only take roosters during the hunt.
We were hunting the rows of milos and as we all know roosters love to run down the rows until a break and then once the opening is reached will flush to escape the dogs.
It wasn’t long before the dogs flushed several and we all were able to bring down these fast flying birds.
Flint Oak is a preserve and they do plant birds each day however many birds over time escape the hunting pressure and quickly adapt to the area and really become wild birds. Without telling how great we all shot it’s important here to let you know that when you see bird hunting on television and it seems like the hunters never miss you can pretty much be sure it is because of a practice called the “re-create”
For example the cameraman has his camera focused on Lee and a bird flushes and Lee shoots and brings it down. Hopefully the cameraman has captured the bird going down, but if he did that means he did not get Lee in the act of shooting. That calls for a re-create. Everyone backs up to as close as possible to the position they were in at the time and now with the camera focused on Lee he will take a shot at nothing in particular simulating the previous flush.
Now in the editing room the film editors can put the two together for the show and the viewer is able to see both and make the connection. Meanwhile whoever is not on film in this shot helps with the background for example “Nice shot Lee.” It’s not meant to be deceptive simply a bit of show-making magic to tell the story.
The most fun of bird hunting for me is working with the dogs. That afternoon as Lee and I walked the rows of milos the sun had warmed the day to where we really would have liked to lose some of our outer clothing but could not for the sake of continuity.
Lee noticed a rooster in the milos trying to sneak backward between us. We called to the guide to send the dogs back behind us as we had a rooster on the run. Quickly both dogs came flying by us with one of them right on the heels of the rooster.
The other dog ran out and away from the milo rows and ran far ahead of the rooster to where it was headed. I looked at Lee and we both just stood there in shock. The dogs were performing as a team with one following the rooster, and the other gone ahead to act as a blocker.
Sure enough very quickly the rooster flushed, Lee made a fine shot and the dogs ran to retrieve it. To see these two dogs working as a team was an event we would continue to talk about repeatedly the next couple of days. In fact we have talked about that incident many times since.
Remember the camera crew is riding on an ATV. The guides put Lee and I on a path that would take us through some solid quail cover. In front of us, about a hundred yards, was the ATV with the camera and crew.
The plan was they would drive towards us and as we flushed a covey they would be able to get it on tape from a solid angle. Well sometimes plans change. Lee and I started our hunt through the cover right behind the dogs and at the same time the ATV began moving towards us.
A few minutes later a huge covey flushed however it was not us or the dogs that got them up. It was the ATV and the crew. As Lee and I mounted our guns to try and harvest some of these fast flying birds, the crew saw us bring our guns up in what they thought was their direction and quickly bailed out and off the ATV to the ground. Lee and I started laughing so hard we never pulled a trigger and the fantastic covey flush yielded not one bird.
The crew was not convinced they were never in any danger as we were both aware of what direction we would shoot and that joint confidence became the bond for two guys to enjoy hunting together and would continue today.
For many, the comfort level of a hunting partner is the trust and belief that each knows what he is doing and that you have confidence in your partner to be safe and considerate. Lee is a very generous partner and often over those three days he would insist that I take the better side of the field to have the best opportunity.
Even though we clearly both understand that whichever way the bird flushes determines who shoots, his generous nature afforded me many opportunities.
I am proud to say that this first hunt with Lee was just the first of many. We have since hunted and fished together and I am pleased to count Lee as a friend. We talk regularly and I hope when he reads this he is not too embarrassed.
He recently received “The Golden Boot Award” for his work in westerns. Just so you know John Wayne and many others have also received the same award.
Flint Oak is a first class place with a wonderful staff and very professional guides and well trained dogs. If you have a desire to hunt in the west, this is a great place to spend a few days. Give them a call or go online to www.flintoak.com.
Besides bird hunting they offer a world class sporting clays course, fishing and they accommodate large business meetings as well. Don’t forget the great food. It was certainly a Dream Hunt.
Al Hague is an avid outdoorsman and published author as well as outdoor photographer. Al resides and hunts mostly in the western half of the US and Canada. His photos can also be seen on http://www.shutterpoint.com and http://www.theartshop.com.