The West Highland White Terrier cast back and forth around the broomstraw and Johnson grass. It caught a whiff of scent and moved rapidly in a manner customary with all short-legged dogs. That Westie smelled a covey of quail as I do a morning plate of biscuits and gravy and he was looking for a way in. A gust of wind must have pushed the scent around for suddenly the pup found the entrance to a maize. In an instant it zig zagged to the covey and the birds busted every which way into the air. His owner, the noted sporting artist Gordon Allen, took a crosser. The Westie is now immortalized in a line drawing and might reappear in an oil painting or in an etching.
There is no greater event for a bird hunter than this year’s Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic that took place February 16-18 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The annual convention is a large educational and entertainment attraction organized by Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, which are dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.
There are hunting seasons for greater prairie chickens and sharptailed grouse in several states. However, among all the locations where both species are found, I know of only one outfitter that hunts from horseback. That outfitter is Bob Tinker of Tinker Kennels and Horsefeathers Lodge near Pierre, South Dakota. This past September I spent several days hunting on the more than 100,000 acres of private lands that Tinker has leased. He concentrates his efforts on prairie chickens and sharptails and while South Dakota is known for pheasants, he leaves them to other outfitters.
As another hunting season comes to a close, shooters typically reflect back on the memories, and assess the season: What went right, what went wrong, and how to improve things for the next season. If you hunt with your own dog, that usually means assessing your “partners” performance. More specific, what you would like to improve. For some hunters, the post-season reflection confirms their dog’s old age has finally indicated the time to start looking for succession.
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” Jeremiah 33:3
To the locals one of the best-known features of Buck Mountain is the listening rocks, an outcrop of granite on the end of what we call Rocky Ridge. I call the rocks The Old Man because if you look at them from the right angle, you can see the old man’s face. He is the guardian of the Hell Hole and here is where our story begins.
Spring shotgun hunting is almost an oxymoron. Snow geese in the cold, wet, Dakota wind is one wild, sometimes productive option. Even better is shooting 20 ducks in a morning, a half dozen upland birds at midday and a few hundred doves and pigeons in the evening — without the cold and wind. You can do that in the spring − in Argentina.
This cutover cornfield hunt in rural Orangeburg County, South Carolina could take place just about any agricultural area. The Canada goose population continues to increase everywhere, which results in liberal bag limits for wingshooters. Goose hunters have to spend time scouting the field before any sunrise hunting plans can be executed, and while there is no guarantee that shots will be fired, it helps to know that if conditions cooperate then a box or two of shotgun shells is warranted.
Rather than hunt alone, the Old Duck Hunter said he needed “a good pair of eyes” to share his blind on this cold December day.
Almost as if by feel, he maneuvered the ancient, battered aluminum boat through dark winding channels. His mind’s eye remembered these familiar twists, snags and channels after 70 years of running this backwater. These eyes dodged trees that weren’t even growing when he hunted this swamp as a child. Ahead, something lifted from the water with whistling squeals.
Every March in the Red Hills Region around the bobwhite quail hunting capitol of Thomasville, Georgia, an invitation-only field trial has taken place for the past 36 years that celebrates the rich tradition of African-American bird dog trainers who have been thriving on the local plantations for generations.
If you’ve strolled the tents at the Southern Side by Side or the grassy vendor row of Orvis’ Sandanona Game Fair you’ve seen ruddy Gregor McCluskey manning the BraeVal collection of sporting apparel – the Buffalo Plaids, Shepherd’sTweeds and Uplander Gun Checks.
Safari Club International, long-known for big-game hunting and conservation programs, is making a significant push into wingshooting, which we expect to accelerate next year with the appointment of Paul Babaz as the organization’s next President.
Step outside, smell wood smoke and your brain screams FIRE! While most of us would rush to call 9-1-1, Elmore DeMott is more likely to grab her camera and head for the nearest quail plantation.
Ms. DeMott is the most prominent chronicler of “prescribed burns.” These managed fires, a staple of Southern quail plantations, are like man-made lightning that’s used to nurture the habitat and reduce wildfire risk.
Story | Photos by John N. Felsher
“Shoot,” I yelled as birds exploded in all directions from thick reeds just a few feet from us. “There’s another one. Fire! Here comes a straggler. Get him.”
In seconds, my son Steven pumped out three rounds from his Remington Model 870 20 gauge, scoring a double. More birds flushed from the dense cover while others raced into the canes to escape on foot as Steven tried to reload as fast as he could. Hastily dropping one shell into the chamber, Steven nailed another bird struggling to get airborne.
“No” is the favorite word of Englishman Robin Watson when it comes to teaching his British Labrador Retrievers their gamebird craft.
“I train a lot around the word ‘no’ because it’s like in the wild when animals growl at each other,” he explained.