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Friday, February 24. 2012
This season, 1978/79, weâ€™d been having some success bagging a few quail around Thomaston, Georgia, but the entire season had been a wet and drippy! The ground stayed damp and, in some places, mushy and these conditions led me to find out something that Iâ€™d been missing
James Walton and I were out early with my two Brittanyâ€™s, Rooster and Gus. Earlier in the year, Crystal, Jamesâ€™s German shorthair had been killed in a close encounter with a wounded buck, see my post of, October 29, 2009, â€œFight To The Finishâ€. Gus, 1-1/2 years old, was learning fast and would prove to be another great one, just like his dad, Rooster!
Our first covey of the morning was caught in fairly open cover between their roost and feeding grounds, Rooster pointed, Gus backed and, walking in, the bevy exploded in every direction. Picking a cock bird out and firing, down it went, and James bam, bammed twice, knocking another down. The covey, escaping our onslaught, split into two groups, one cruising across the field into a creek bottom and the other glided 200 yards into a low, brushy area on our right.
After each dog retrieved a bird, we went after the group on the right and followed them into the, we found as we entered, mushy woods. The dogs were birdy and not saying anything to James, I had noticed several holes, a little bigger than a pencil lead, in the soft ground. Hmm, these were the same kind of holes I saw last year before that crazy, woodcock took flight. As I was studying this development, I heard, a "tweeping" sound and wings beating much like a quail, just as James boomed and down the bird tumbled.
Gus was right on it, picked it up, then spit it out and wouldnâ€™t touch it. Rooster brought it to me and I looked down, surprised, at a woodcock! It looked like a Wilson snipe to me. The same snipe that can be hunted with a â€œtoe sackâ€ (ha-ha) and the same one that leaves coastal gunners shooting holes in the sky.
James who had lived in the northeast, said as he bagged his kill, â€œTheyâ€™ll be more in here. Get ready!â€ Rooster figured it out and within 50 yards locked down, hard on a point and up wobbled another that tumbled to my shot, my first woodcock! Rooster retrieved it as Gus was locked down, James walked in on the point and up buzzed a quail that he dispatched. Gus picked up the quail, brought it to me and I tossed it to James. Out of this patch of mushy woods we collected two more quail and I knocked down my second woodcock. Our drippy morning, turned into a rainy day, so before noon we called it quits and drove on home.
My story doesnâ€™t end there. Not knowing how to prepare a woodcock, my ex-wife and I decided to cook them just like we cooked Wilson snipe. We put the quail in with the woodcock and seasoned all with salt, pepper and garlic, added some cubed potatoes, onions and little carrots, covered it all with some â€œfair to middlinâ€ white wine and then cooked them real slow, until the potatoes were done. As usual, the quail were wonderful, but the family agreed that the woodcock was good beyond belief!
After supper we consulted the family encyclopedia (no Google or Yahoo then) and found out that woodcock migrate yearly from the eastern part of our country and Canada, to the wooded, coastal prairies along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico shores. This late in our season, these birds were headed north. There was one week left in the bird season and it certainly would be nice to get a crack some more woodcocks!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 09:57 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, February 21. 2012
If you are a quail hunter, there is a tendency to name all of our coveys of quail after a significant landscape or man made feature that corresponds to where, over time, we usually find the birds. However, we only found â€œThe County Road Coveyâ€ once.
James Walton and I were heading to another likely quail spot and slowly cruising along a county road in south Georgia, cruising in his â€œQuailmobileâ€, a, 1979, 280Z with a matching 3 dog trailer. Weâ€™d even cruised to Arizona in it! What a blast and how many funny looks did we get during the, almost 3,000 mile round trip? However, this time we were looking for a sign that would locate our next hunt for us.
Driving slowly along, ahead of us, we both noticed what kindaâ€™ looked like a sloppily, coiled snake. As we got closer, we stopped and it was, of all things, a covey of quail, coveyed up or roosting, in the middle of the road! For both of us, this was a new one, this was a first, this was something weâ€™d probably never see again, so we stopped the Z and sat there stunned!
Getting out of the car, walking within 20 feet of the covey and looking closely at the birds, they were roosting, probably a midday snooze prior to their afternoon of foraging. But here came the alarm call and they exploded off the road, flew about 200 yards, then lit, along a fencerow behind a farmhouse.
Without our guns, we walked up and knocked on the door of the house. We explained what had happened and inquired, successfully, if we could go after the birds. The farmer thought this was one of the funniest stories he had ever heard, and followed us after the quail.
Good dog work by Rooster and Crystal, Jamesâ€™s German shorthair, helped us to bag 4 birds and as we, dogs, farmer and hunters, walked back towards the farmhouse, I began to notice some big, doodle bug looking holes in the mushy ground. Then, tweep, tweep, flutter, flutter and a strange bird got airborne in front of us. â€œShoot him, thatâ€™s a woodcock,â€ cried the farmer as James and I fumbled with our guns and missed our first two shots. Then as the bird reached itâ€™s best flight attitude and altitude instead of flying away, it circled us once and we missed our second shots too!
This event getting our attention we hunted back to the farmhouse, but with no results. The farmer told us how to get to the land we were looking for. We scored on some more quail, but didnâ€™t see another woodcock, until almost one year to the day later.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 08:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, December 11. 2011
In late 1974 we moved from The Valley Of The Sun, to Atlanta and my friends in Phoenix said that I left claw marks on the floor of my office as they drug me out. The first year in Atlanta was spent getting acclimated to a new job, new friends, new hunting and fishing opportunities and new schools for the kids. By the fall of 1976, I had met and hunted with several quail hunters and had hit it off especially well with one, James Walton, a neighbor and not in the computer business, but VP of an old, established, construction company.
James had two German Short Hairs, the older one, Crystal, an excellent hunter, was the mother of his young one. The younger, like all young ones was wild and rambunctious, but our dogs had helped to cement our friendship. Crystal hunted in close and Rooster, my Brittany, would range out a hundred yards or more. Both honored the others points and hunted dead until the bird was found or the â€œlook-forâ€ called off.
James and I had joined a hunting club that provided many acres of supposedly good quail hunting land. Our results were only fair, however, we did get to see a lot of the state. On this particular hunt, we had reserved a spot for Friday and Saturday, a several hundred acre track of harvested soybean fields along with some nice wooded cover. At the time, Brad was a sophomore in high school and his JV football season had ended, so I got him out of school on this particular Friday and we headed to South Georgia for some quailing.
Arriving near Thomasville around noon, we found our hunting area and made camp. We were staying out Friday night, which should be fun since the weather featured warm days and cool nights. We didnâ€™t even think about the warm afternoons bringing out the rattlers.
Rooster, Brad and I took off to one side of the large bean field and James and Crystal went the other way. Shortly we heard, Pop, Pop, James had found a small covey and it looked like heâ€™s got one or two. Brad and I proceed along the edge of the field not finding any birds, but toward the corner of the field, Rooster locked down hard on a point. Quickly approaching, whirrrrr, the covey, probably a dozen birds, broke wild before we could get off a shot. Marking the spot where the covey flew into the woods, all three of us Rooster, Brad and yours truly hurried after the birds, passing through where the covey was flushed, whirr, a late riser, Bam, and he fell to my 20 gauge, pump.
As Rooster and Brad continued chasing the covey, I saw my bird on the ground and ran over to pick him up. Retrieving the bird, I headed back toward Brad who was in the thick brush and not being able to see him, I headed in his general direction.
â€œBark, growl, growl, bark,â€ from Rooster. â€œDad, Dad, up here quick,â€ from Brad! Coming out of the woods and running towards the sound of his voice, I saw Brad straddle of a barbwire fence. Rooster was snarling and then he added a bark, bark, as I jumped around the fence, then looking down under him a big rattler was coiled and rattling! â€œDad, thereâ€™s a big rattler right under me,â€ Brad shouted! Hurrying faster, I saw that he had laid his gun down on the ground prior to climbing the fence and the rattlers had treed him. He was right, it was a big one, coiled and making a lot of noise and at that moment, more interested in the dog. Rooster knew about snakes having hunted with me for 3 years in Arizona and bam, one shot from my 20 and the snake was done for!
Rooster was still barking as Brad was getting down from the fence. We stretched the snake out and he was a good 5 feet long and bigger around than my forearm. My aim was true and the shot shredded the snakeâ€™s head, leaving the skin undamaged. Brad said, â€œThat snake couldâ€™ve bit me or Rooster. Letâ€™s eat him Dad.â€ We both thought of an old Indian saying, â€œEat your enemies and gain some strength from them.â€ Why not?
We cut off the rattles and saved them, whew, it smelled like urea, and the fertilizer plants in Pasadena, Texas. We skinned him, rolled up the skin for now and it really stunk! We gutted him and except for the smell we had a hunk of pretty, white meat. To eliminate some of the smell, I took a canteen of water and washed off the snakeâ€™s body. Later, I learned that snakes donâ€™t have kidneys and liquid waste is secreted out of their body through the skin, no wonder the smell!
Most times when hunters have a close encounter with a serious predator or big rattle snake, the huntâ€™s over for the day, as was our case, however, we went back to camp and set out to preparing our supper, fried rattlesnake. Small problem, no corn meal, but we had flour in the camper, which should work just fine as long as long as the grease doesnâ€™t get too hot. We cut up the snake into 1-1/2 inch pieces, then rolled it in the flour and wrapped up the 5, plus pounds of meat in foil, popped it into the cooler and waited for Walton to get back. Feeling confident we would get some more birds the next day, we saved the quail for back home.
Having heard James shoot several times, he and Crystal returned with three quail. He said, â€œYou all came in early. Whatâ€™s up?â€ We told him our exciting story and told him we were having rattlesnake for supper. He blanched and said, â€œIâ€™m not eating any snake!â€ Not hesitating, we showed him the large quantity of white meat and began to fry the it and fries, the aroma turning him, he added, â€œIt does smell pretty good!â€.
After supper, James said, â€œThat rattlesnake wasnâ€™t bad.â€ He was right. All white meat, sweet and tender, not bad at all. We not only ate the snake, but the rattles now grace a special display in my great room, and, we made one hatband and one belt from the skin.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Hunting at 14:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
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