The Best Gambel Quail Spot

Thinking about Quail hunting, my thoughts jumped back to my stay in Arizona and the fabulous hunting I had encountered. One thing that made it so memorable was that, at the time, the season ran from Oct 1 to Feb. 28/29. Hearing in the past that you could get tired of hunting Quail and eating them, I tried and tried, but never did and most of my spare time was spent chasing these little “buzz bombs”.

My hunting partner, Jack Schindler and I had narrowed down, what we believed was, the best place in Arizona to hunt Gambel Quail and it was in the Tonto National Forest on the south side of the Tonto Basin, along the west side of the Salt River Canyon. This was our “Place” and it was an “easy” drive from our Paradise Valley homes.

“Our Place” was off of the main road from Payson to Roosevelt Dam and on to Globe, Arizona. Once on the Payson, Globe road, heading east, we would take a dirt road south for eight miles before it turned into a four wheel drive only road, following the west rim of the Salt River Canyon, for four more harrowing miles. When the four wheel drive road ended, we were there. We probably made many trips to the “Place” and never saw another soul there.

It began as a wash feeding into the Salt River and continued west up into the hills for several miles, turning into a mini canyon almost two hundred feet deep, with nicely terraced sides along the north rim. We, our dogs and hunters, would spread across the wash and head up it until the coveys of birds were found. The coveys were unbelievably, enormous, at the time, one hundred to two hundred birds.

Our second choice for “Best Gambel Spot” was on the north side of Tonto Basin on the slopes of Sombrero Peak. There were a lot of birds and easier hunting, but it was over a 2 hour, drive from our homes. Another drawback was in the late after noon, many shots were into the sun, limiting our effectiveness.

Jack, Ned Pepper, Rooster sleeping, display over a half of a 2 man limit of Gambel Quail. This was the results of a morning hunt near Sombrero Peak. Note, to protect from thorns, the “Boots” on Ned Pepper’s feet

All of these spots were on public land and there were many other excellent places to find a lot of Gambel Quail. Some of these were; Bumble Bee Creek east of Prescott, Thumb Butte west of Prescott, the low hills east of Camp Verde, and real close to home, the slopes of the McDowell Mountains.

None outshone “Our Place”

The Free State Of Van Zandt

The following story, one of my favorite family stories, has been handed down in my family since, I imagine, these events took place. On one occasion, I also saw a version of the story in print in the “Texas Co-op Power” magazine.

When the Southern soldiers returned from the War Of Northern Agression, they found a serious situation, carpetbaggers, crooked politicians and a general lack of law enforcement. The returning Van Zandt County soldiers gathered together and formed The Free State of Van Zandt. The Unionist quickly responded by sending Colored Federal Cavalry to suppress the “revolt”. Shots were exchanged and the Federal troops were driven off which ignited a party by the victors, causing most of them to become very drunk.

The Federals returned, and without a shot being fired, captured the entire lot of the revelers, hand cuffed them all and put them in a hastily built stockade. Big trouble for the former Confederates! However, during the first night, a violent rainstorm hit the stockade, causing the hastily built facility to, literally, come apart. Since the Federal troops had sought shelter from the storm and weren’t guarding it, and the stockade came apart, the Confederate prisoners simply walked out and went back to their homes. There were no further arrests and the matter was dropped, so ended The Free State of Van Zandt.

My Great Grandfathers, Levi Lindsey Sanders and Shaw Wallace, were former comfederate soldiers from Van Zandt County, and since another of my Great Grandfathers, Brinson Murrill Bryan, also a Confederate, was from directly across the Trinity River from Van Zandt County, and family legend has he never missed a fight or party. My family history doesn’t say if my Great-Grandfathers were involved or not.

These 3 were ardent Confederates and two of them from Van Zandt County, so the reader will have to draw his own conclusions.


One Eyes Sextet

Over the past year, I have posted several stories written by my Great Uncle, Lee Wallace. I believe this is one of his best!

One Eyes Sextet, By Lee Wallace

“Lee, I’ll give you a thousand years to guess who I overtuck ‘tween Grand Saline and Edgewood, Friday. I mean I’ll give you a thousand guesses. Don’t you ‘member that Eli Moss? That pidgin-toed feller with one eye out, that tangled-headed feller with unmatched jaws, that bowlegged chap, you used to go cotton-pickin with every fall?”

“Yes” I said, “very distinctly do I remember Eli.”
“Out into Ellis County every fall. Saddle up your old grass bellied fan tails, each of you with his fiddle in a flour sack hung to the horn of your saddles, and light out. Great days: Always a big dance the night before you left and a bigger one the night after you got back.” (Here I dragged him back on his subject.)

“Oh yes, Eli. He’s got a show, a good one at that. ‘Texas Museum’ he calls it, built like a wagon, cages on wheels; a one eyed nigger without salary for a driver, which adds to it. The go from place to place “Exhibiting”. The nigger drives, and Eli with a one-eyed dog hunts on first one side then tuther on the road. He’s got an old capped and balled rifle. He furnishes plenty of meat for them and the meat eating part of the show. Yes, and his two mules they just got one eye each. Says he got ‘em cheap for that. He’s got hawks, owls, and badgers and woofs, and snakes and spiders, and just one Vinegarroon, that bites you just one time and after that you just got seven minutes for prayer.

The day I over tuck him, I stayed all night with him and his show at Edgewood. After supper and the show, and we had talked, he got his fiddle, (same one he had when he was a boy) and jerked off a few paragraphs of them Van Zandt melodies. I then called for his specialty, “The Dying Cowboy”, the one he always sings while he plays. I joined in, the nigger joined in, the dog, too and the woofs and the rattle snakes and even the mules, and it shore nuff seemed to me like the doxology to a “Wild West” show.”

“He makes no charges, he says it’s like salvation free. His style is hung out: ‘If the show helps you, you may help the show. If you are going to give anything, wait ‘till you go out and then you’ll know what it’s all about’.”

“Great fellow, that Eli. You always said he’d amount to something. He makes money, too, ‘cause his nigger is slick, his mules and show-folks are fat, he’s got red topped boots, he’s got wire strings on his fiddle and shaves himself, and listen, Lee, for this is in confidence, he’s going to get married, and his coming wife has got two good eyes.”

Author’s note: Exactly true, this was and is strange, strange story especially as to a one-eyed aggregation of unfortunate creatures.

Now I’m adding another fact in line with the facts above recited. Alf Reed, the boy who told me this story and who was the best shot in Van Zandt County, at the time, had only one eye himself.

Blogger’s Note: Several times I remember my Mother talking about when she was a girl and her mentioning Alf Reed.


“Webster’s Dictionary” says a Trustee is, “A person, usually one of a body of persons or group, appointed to administer the affairs of a company, administration, etc.” In Texas, a Prison Trustee is an inmate that performs certain functions outside of the inmates normal prison duties. A position of trust.

In 1951, my Dad, John H. Bryan, went on, it turned out, an unusual Quail hunt, on some very private property. The property in question was owned by the State of Texas, and on it was a State Prison Farm. My Dad’s Brother-in law, and my Uncle, A.C. Turner, was Rehabilitation Director for the prison system and he had arranged for my Dad to hunt birds there.

Another unusual item was that the State blood hounds, would hunt Quail, and wouldn’t you know it, the Warden of the prison farm assigned a “special” Trustee, along with two dogs to accompany my Dad. The Trustee in question, the Warden’s favorite, was in for robbery and would soon be paroled and had been training the dogs to track escapees (along with Quail).

Returning from the hunt with a nice mess of Quail, my Dad said, “We had a great time today!” I questioned him, “What’s this “we” business? You went hunting by yourself.” He grinned and said, “Me and the Trustee. His dogs did such a good job that I let him shoot a couple of birds.” My Mom was horrified. She exclaimed, “Bryan, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. He could have shot you and been half way to Dallas before they missed him or you!” He grinned again and said, “Aw Honey, he’s getting out in three months and was really a nice young man and wouldn’t mess up his parole.”

The incident passed, but two weeks later the hunt was brought vividly back to our minds. The headlines of the afternoon newspaper, “The Houston Chronicle”, blared, “Trustee Escapes From Prison Farm.” Wouldn’t you know it, the Dog trainer Trustee was the one. My Dad called the Warden of the prison farm, who was just as surprised as my Dad was by the event.

The Warden told my Dad the story (which wasn’t in the paper) of how the Dog trainer Trustee just walked off and when the officers sent the dogs after him, he just told them to “kennel up” and they went back to their kennels. Three times the dogs were sent out and three times they returned. By then the officers figured he was long gone and he was!

Years later I asked my Uncle A.C. whatever happened to the Dog trainer Trustee. He laughed and said that he was never found.

Maybe the Soverign State of Texas didn’t look for him too hard?

Dusty Boots

My Dad told me the following story about him and about my family’s past association with the Klan, yes the Ku Klux Klan. It all began on the hot, dusty, smoke covered battlefield of Chickamauga, where our Southern, Army of Tennessee, routed the Union forces, driving them out of Georgia, back across the Tennessee River and into Chattanooga.

In early 1862, my Great Grandfather, Brinson Murrill Bryan, had been in Sumpter County, Alabama, visiting relatives when he enlisted in the 40th Alabama Infantry Regiment. He was a sharpshooter and was attached to and later permanently assigned to the 10th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Dismounted), and finished the war with them.

During the opening morning of the battle of Chickamauga, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, became separated from his cavalry division and assumed command of Ectors’ Brigade (Texas), the 10th Texas Cavalry, Brinson’s unit, being part of this Brigade. They held a key bridge over a creek and prevented Union reinforcements from reaching the main breach in the Union lines. The tenacity and courage of the Texans excited Forrest, who later said, “When the Texans charged at Chickamauga, it excited my admiration.”

One year later, during Gen. Hood’s disastrous retreat from Nashville, Forrest was assigned to command the rear guard. His choice of troops for this grinding, week long battle was a Texas Cavalry Brigade and two Texas regiments of dismounted cavalry, the10th being one. The Texans won each battle and skirmish and was even recognized by Union Gen. Thomas, who said, “Hood’s Army on the retreat from Tennessee was a bunch of disorganized rabble. But the rear guard, however, was undaunted and firm, and did its work bravely to the last.”

After the war ended, the South was in chaos, Reconstruction was beginning and noticeably absent was law and order. Influential Southern leaders, Forrest being one, joined together and formed a protective association that grew into the Ku Klux Klan.

Brinson, who had “Rode With Forrest”, returned to Alabama to marry, and, if Bedford Forrest was a founder, that was all Brinson needed, and he joined this new association and for a time was an active member. My Dad told me that my Grandfather, Peyton Bryan, had also been a member.

When my Dad was 19, he joined the Klan in Falls County, Texas, and his first assignment was to take part in a Klan rally and march in a parade through the town of Marlin. My Dad put on his sheet and joined in the rally and parade. After the parade was over, the Klansmen removed their hoods and sheets and retired to the local saloon.

Soon the Sheriff entered the saloon and said, “There was no parade permit issued so I’m arresting everyone who took part in it! Everybody line up against the wall!” My Dad, being smart, said, “Sheriff, I have been standing at this bar during the parade, drinking this cold glass of butter milk and I’m not guilty of anything.”

Grabbing him by the arm, the Sheriff escorted him bodily to the wall and said to him, “Johnny, my boy, your boots are dusty. They didn’t get that way from standing at the bar! You’re under arrest!”

After spending the night in the Falls County Jail, the “paraders” were released and my Dad resigned from the Klan. He didn’t even get to finish his cold, butter milk.

What’s The H Stand For Johnny?

My Dad was a good man and a good Dad and he had “seen the elephant”! He was a character, very colorful, a great hunter and fisherman and everyone should enjoy these next few posts about him.

During WW I, when he was 16, my Dad, John Bryan, ran away from home and joined the Texas National Guard. That particular unit had been called up for duty in France. He was loaded on the train in Waco, headed for overseas training, when his Dad, My Grand Dad, Peyton Bryan, appeared and physically drug him off of the train. It took him 5 years and many letters to finally get a discharge from the Guard so he could join the Marines.

John H. Bryan was his name. “What’s the “H” stand for Johnny?” I heard his friends laughingly ask him this many times. Well, when he joined the Marine Corps, the Recruiting Sgt. told him “Son, you have to have a middle initial to join my Corps”. Puzzled my dad replied, “Sgt. my only name is John, but if I need a middle initial make it H, H for hellion.”

Pictured is Pvt. John H. Bryan, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Tennessee, on his first cruise after boot camp. He was one of “The Old Breed” U.S. Marines.


Daddy, as I called him, rose to the rank of Sergeant, E-5, in the Marine Corps and in the 20’s was the Marine, Fleet, middleweight boxing champion. My Dad also had combat experience in Latin America during one of the last “Banana Wars”. He tried to enlist with the Marines on December 8, 1941, but was told, even with his past record, that he was forty years old and too old to serve in the Corps. I remember him being very upset over this!

In the fall 1942 the movie “Wake Island” was released and shown at the Metropolitan Theatre in Houston. We went to see it on the premier night because Daddy wanted to see one of his old CO’s from the Corps. I met the CO, a Lt.Colonel, Chesty Puller, who ended up being the most famous Marine of WW II. He was on a war bond drive and temporarily back from Guadalcanal. My Dad would have joined back up that night also.

He finally matured and worked for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for 35 years, finally retiring as a mid level Manager.

I have always remembered one day after a real tough Dove hunt and we didn’t do very good and he gave me some of the best advice I have ever received. He told me, “Boy, don’t worry about today’s bad hunt. Just remember, if it were easy each time out, it would be called shooting instead of hunting!” Some days we have a world of success and some days are complete washouts, but the real fun is being out in God’s great outdoors!

An Update On Brad, Feb. 10, 2008

My oldest Son, Brad, finished his third round of chemo last week. He had sailed through the first 2 with a minimum of discomfort, but had a couple of bad days with this last one. He’s over it now and feels fine.

Brad and a nice buck we rattled up in 2006.

We visited his Oncologist last Friday and he told us that the lesions on Brad’s lungs had been reduced! Praise the Lord! He said one spot on Brad’s vertebrae wasn’t reduced and that some tumors respond slower to chemo that others. The doc recommended radiation to eliminate the spot.

We then visited his Radiologist and were told the treatment would be a 10 to 15 minute “shot” daily for 15 days and this procedure, for this type of tumor, had over a 90% chance of success! This radiation procedure is not nearly as destructive and painful as Brad’s first treatments, 2 years ago.

I’ll be with him most of the time and will have an update around March 1. In the meantime, keep praying for Brad and expecting a miracle! His faith remains unshakable and he has been blessed with the Peace of Jesus!

Thank all of you all for your prayers!

As in the past, I will pre post some stories on Outdoor Odyssey, but since I will be out of town, the frequency of postings will slow down and my visits to other blogs will be minimal.

Sittin’ On The Water

The last time I used my eleven plastic decoys was in a fresh water pond, near Greens Cut, just off of the Intercoastal Waterway, west of Tiki Island. Dana Sawyer’s brother-in-law, Jerry Feagin, had asked me to accompany him to this special spot, for in his words, “Some fabulous Duck hunting.”

To get to this “fabulous” spot required a five mile trip, in the dark, west on the Intercoastal; then up Hall’s Bayou, crossing over a reef that at high tide had twelve inches of water covering it, navigate through, Hall’s Lake, anchor the boat, carry guns, shells and decoys, up and over a lake dam to our destination. Remember, all of this in the dark!

Our destination was a fresh water lake, the only fresh water on the mainland side that bordered West Galveston Bay. We were told the next fresh water pond was over five miles to the west. Ducks need to drink fresh water daily. Finally arriving at our spot, our only problem was literally bouncing Dana’s twenty-three foot fishing boat over the shallow reef in the bayou. It is a wonder we didn’t permanently damage the lower unit!

In the blind, with the decoys in the water, we loaded our guns with the “new” steel shot, Jerry, a twelve gauge, pump and me a, 12 gauge, O/U, that I used for shooting doubles in Trap. We weren’t sure about the killing power of the new shot, but it was now the law, and now, I know, fifteen years later, it has really helped the Goose and Duck population!

As it got light, we both noticed some “No Trespassing” signs posted strategically around the lake. Jerry said, “Those are new to me.” We quickly forgot the signs as the Ducks poured into the fresh water. The first bunch, Gadwalls, swished into our decoys and Jerry let loose on them seriously wounding some of my decoys and hitting two Gadwalls on the water. As the remaining Ducks took to flight I shot and knocked one down,

Admonishing Jerry for “pot shooting” the ducks and probably ruining some of my decoys, we reloaded as more Gadwalls swarmed us. We both raised up and Bam, Bam, Jerry shot and knocked down one Duck and nothing happened when I pulled the trigger. Obviously, there was serious damage to my gun.

I could only sit and watch as Jerry shot several more Ducks and finally I said it was ceasing to be any fun for me and we better head back. Two of my decoys had sunk and another was riding low on the water, which didn’t help matters. Our trip back was uneventful and I let Jerry have all of the ducks and I thought, this is the last time I will ever use these decoys. I’ll retire what’s left of them and buy me some more, which I did.

The large, steel shot, BB’s” that were recommended for ducks, really tore up my decoys. Two were shot beyond repair and one I successfully repaired, I think lead, number six, shot wouldn’t have done as much damage! But anyway, he shouldn’t have shot the Ducks sittin’ on the water!

My real nice, over and under was easy for a gunsmith to fix a broken trigger sear.

High Wind And A Lot Of Doves

Last Sunday morning, after Bible Study Class, Warren Blesh, owner of{ RRR Trophy Ranch,} mentioned that his ranch was covered up with mourning doves and was looking for some hunters to come out and help alleviate his problem.  Immediately volunteering, I asked him what time and “4:30 PM” was his short reply.

Sunday afternoon was windy, sunny and bright as three other hunters and myself, all good Baptists, showed up and Warren took us out and strategically placed us around a just planted, winter wheat, field. And, wouldn’t you know it, here came the doves from their roosts, south of Warren’s property, riding a 25, gusting to 35 MPH, wind.

Under normal conditions, mourning doves provide a very difficult target, but with the high wind, our scoring shots dropped to beginner’s numbers.  I still rate myself a good wing shot, but my first 5 were clear misses! Â

My numbers were echoed by all 5 shooters and at the end of the hunt we tallied 24 birds and ‘admitted’ to over 70 shots.  Excuses flowed, the sun was too bright, the wind made hitting them almost impossible or the trees obstructed the shots, but there are still hundreds of doves on the ranch.

We’ll try our luck again and then have a big dove cook out.  We’d better get some more or we’ll go hungry!
Maybe I’ll even get some good pictures?