Apparent Permission

James Walton and I returned from our Saturday hunt near Thomaston and then, the following Monday, got real lucky, being tipped off and apparently being given permission to hunt quail in the soon to be, very exclusive, Chattahoochee Plantation Subdivision, just north of The Atlanta Country Club in Cobb County.  Our luck was compounded because this spot was within a 7 minute, drive of both of our houses

Once across the Johnson Ferry Road Bridge over the slowly flowing, Chattahoochee River, during the last week of bird season in 1979, the first left turn was into the Chattahoochee Plantation Subdivision.  The Plantation, just being developed, was outside of any municipal area, the roads were in, one custom home was being finished and lots were sold by appointment only.

James had been tipped off by a friendly real estate agent that he’d better hurry out to the Plantation and get some of the birds before the building project kicked into gear.  We took this as permission to hunt there and late the next afternoon, Tuesday, found us meeting at the front gate and entering the spacious grounds.

A half-mile into the subdivision, out of sight from the main road, we stopped and let out my 2 Brittany’s.  It was different hunting along paved streets, and soon Rooster was locked down on a hard point.  Gus had, like a young dog, run off to explore the area.  James and I walked in on the point and a dozen birds came whirring up, we banged, twice and two birds fell and were quickly retrieved by Rooster.  Gus came charging up, alerted by the banging, as we marked the remaining birds down in some heavy brush ahead.

Rooster and James swung wide right, Gus and I to the left and I was moving along with my head down, an old trick I picked up in Arizona while looking for arrowheads and at the same time trying to avoid rattlers, I spotted, what had to be, the bill imprints of a woodcock and before I could alert James, whirr, tweep, tweep and up jumped one and I leveled him before he could level off.  Gus ran over, again wouldn’t pick up the bird, so I fetched it.  James yelled, “We’re changing your nickname from Beechnut” to “Woodcock!”  Not 100 feet later this scene was repeated and I folded another timberdoodle as he yelled, “That settles it!”

This pic came from Wikipedia because we failed to record any of our woodcock successes.

As dark rushed in on us, being excited over my success, I promptly banged twice at a single quail, successfully putting holes in the overcast sky.  We each picked up another quail then called it quits.

This was a good tip, but too bad we didn’t find out about it until almost too late!  We agreed to meet here on Thursday afternoon, but when I went into work the next morning I was sent to Chicago to provide some remedial training for a couple of managers not making their numbers.  Funny thing, 4 years later I went to work for one of them!  This was the end of the 78/79 hunting season for me, but not the end of the woodcocks and me!

Holes In The Sky

This season, 1978/79, we’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 I’d been missing

James Walton and I were out early with my two Brittany’s, Rooster and Gus. Earlier in the year, Crystal, James’s German shorthair had been killed in a close encounter with a wounded buck, see my post of, October 29, 2009, “[Fight To The Finish]”.  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 wouldn’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 “toe sack” (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, “They’ll be more in here.  Get ready!”   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 doesn’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 “fair to middlin” 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!

The County Road Covey

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 “The County Road Covey” 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 “Quailmobile”, a, 1979, 280Z with a matching 3 dog trailer. We’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 kinda’ 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 we’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, James’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. “Shoot him, that’s a woodcock,” cried the farmer as James and I fumbled with our guns and missed our first two shots. Then as the bird reached it’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 didn’t see another woodcock, until almost one year to the day later.


In my area of Mills County, Texas, bobcats abound, especially in the spring when the sheep and goats are birthing.  Spring being right around the corner, driving along our County roads, we are seeing more bobcats, in fact, I’ve seen 2 young ones since the end of deer season and had one come by the feeder this year, but for all we see, many more avoid us!  These 15 to 40 pounders even have 2 scientific names, felis rufus or lynx rufus, the latter name is generally accepted.  James Crumley’s son shot this one on January 20th.  James is my neighbor to the west.

A little over 2 years ago, the last day of deer season in 2009, I shot my first bobcat.  See my post of January 3, 2010, “[Wesley Breaks The Ice]”, for the rest of the story.  The male bobcat taken that day is displayed in our great room and the floor mount is by Mickey Donahoo.

Yesterday, a neighbor on my east, R.C. Edmundson, stopped by all excited, because he had just lured a female bobcat into his trap.  Last month he had released 6 or 8 turkeys, 2 guinea fowl and 2 dominicker hens on his property trying to establish a free range, turkey farm, but because of, probably this female, bobcat, his plans failed!  The cat, or cats, ate all of the birds except one hen that he used for bait in the trap.  The pictures show the bobcat and the one remaining hen and the bobcat ready to pounce on me!


More Outdoors Pictures, February 15, 2012

While braving the falling snow, yes it does snow in central Texas, I was humming the famous tune, by the renown, composer, Irving Berlin I was thinking up some new lyrics.  Lyrics like I’m, dreaming of a white February 12th or something like that.  Being from Houston, where snow is a rare occurrence, when it snows I want to get out in it, but this snow was wet and had big flakes, so much for braving it.

Sunday afternoon there were near blizzard conditions, but being a “flatlander”, I don’t really know what a blizzard looks like. It got real dark, the snow was blowing and swirling, it looked like a blizzard to me, so I took this pic of the conditions, flash and all!

Having planted onions last week and having just finished tilling the garden last Friday, I got real lucky and took full advantage of the snow and the half-inch of rain.  These 2 pics show the onions and the nearly ready to harvest spinach.  Natural moisture is far better that the drip system seen in both pics, but just having come off a record drought, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Monday morning the storm had passed, the snow had melted and as we were getting ready to drive to Dallas, I got a drink of water, looked up through the big window and to my surprise a nice 10 pointer was running along the fence, not 30 yards from the back porch.  This was a buck I’d not seen before and he was running, chasing after a doe, my camera was in the truck, so just mind pictures of this one.  Some may ask, isn’t it late for bucks chasing doe?  My answer, deer seem to know when conditions don’t favor survival of fawns, conditions like the severe drought we just endured, I say, “Just endured”, because across most of our State, December and January have been very wet months, so breeding may be extended.

More Outdoors Pictures, February 12, 2012

Catching up on my e-mails, I ran across a couple of very interesting pictures.  The first was from Randy Pfaff, a pastor and hunting guide from southern Colorado.  This was taken in late September 2011 and shows sandhill cranes heading south to their winter homes in northern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle.

The next one was from a fishing trip James Crumley, a neighbor, participated in with his 2 sons.  This picture shows a big redfish, or channel bass, that they caught, this one’s probably 40 inches long, not that unusual around the jetties on our Gulf coast, but what is unusual is that the fish had been “caught” before!  Notice the artificial plug, probably a variety of a Gulp plug, already in its mouth, the broken line attached to the plug, the scaring and the treble hook imbedded in the upper lip! Very, very unusual, but the fish was successfully released, of course, minus all hooks!

More mundane sightings around my ranch were the large number of mourning dove on the telephone line behind my house, I counted 32 one afternoon last week, but the camera lens wouldn’t cover them all, here’s 26 of the darting devils.

Then, last Saturday afternoon, sitting in MaMaw’s blind a good number of dove came into the feeder.  The second “shot” shows 2 of them picking up the corn and I guess the protein pellets too.  Of course with all of this dove activity, the season ended in mid January!

The last picture is of a gadwall hen that was sitting, all by her lonesome, on my neighbor’s stock tank.  These ducks are short range, migrants, breeding mostly in our northern plains and wintering in Texas, Louisiana and Mexico, California also has a ‘huntible’ population of these birds.

Listo … Continued From March 7, 2012

Unceremoniously finishing my practice birds, 5 more shooters, then the real shoot would start. Getting to watch some very good shooting, I picked up some useful pointers. Don’t be glued to the middle of the shooting area. Change your position once the colombaire says “Listo” and he can’t change his. Your initial aim point is the center of the middle rope. Block out the colombaire’s movements and just watch the bird. Keep both eyes open and concentrate on the pigeon. And a truism of all wing shooting, swing through your shot, don’t stop your swing until the bird is hit and always be ready for a second shot!

My turn came up as the lady in front of me finished with the lead having knocked down 7 out of 10 birds thrown. Being nervous, I took a half breath, walked to my position and looked the colombaire in the eye. His lips moved, but with ear protectors on and being hard of hearing from too much shooting without them, I heard nothing. I told him to speak louder and he smiled and said “Listo.” “Pull,” I answered and the bird sailed over the rope and dove to the ground and Pow, Pow, I missed both shots!

After the miss my nerves were gone and I hit 8 straight birds including a long, long shot of over 75 yards with the bird falling just inside of the flags. Concentrating completely, being deaf and having ear protectors on I could only hear the “Listoes”. But Brad told me later that I really had all of the other shooters attention. “Who is that guy with the wide shoulders?” “ I have never seen him shoot before.” “That old guy can really shoot!” “What a long shot!” The crowd murmured.

On my last bird, 9 of 10 should win the shoot for sure, the colombaire stood right in front of me, smiled and said, “Listo”, I moved 2 side shuffles to my left, clearing him, he took 2 spins forward as if to release the bird like a discuss, then of all things, released it behind his back. The bird was flying between the colombaire and me, and I’m completely faked out, in the wrong position to shoot a hard right bird and Pow, Pow, 2 feeble misses. The colombaire then did something I had not seen him do with the other shooters, he came toward me, held out his hand, and smiled saying, “Good Shooting.” Everyone was patting me on the back, shaking my hand and congratulating me, but I was worried that one of the last 5 shooters would tie or beat me.

The last 4 shooters had sixes and sevens and, as in all good stories, the last shooter a young man probably in his mid twenties, and sporting an old, beat up, 12 gauge, pump, tied me. He missed his first bird, then shot seven in a row, missed number 9 and hit an easy straight away for 8. We tied and to determine the winner, a shoot off was needed.

Having come to the shoot to support Brad, I found myself in a shoot off for the championship. This wasn’t planned, but I would definitely do my best. The colombaire was primed to make both of us work hard for the victory. While he paced around in the throwing area, he was getting the bird ready, pulling tail feathers out and swinging it around,. We both missed the first 2 birds, our colombaire stepping up the level of his throws. Shooting first, I nailed a low bird right past the rope and my opponent hit a high, climber. I got a discuss type, behind the back bird to my right and dusted it on the first shot, but hit it square on the second and my opponent hits on his second shot also.

Still tied, I moved to the shooters position, and the colombaire was smiling and pulling tail feathers out. I’ve seen everything he has I thought, so he spun and released the bird with his right hand, a hard left one and I hadn’t seen that! Pow, Pow, I missed. My opponent won the shoot with an easy climber. My young opponent was the best shooter that day. Second place still paid handsomely, but I donated my winnings to Jubalee Junction!

However, second guessing, I think that if I had hit the hard left bird, our colombaire would have pulled one of his tricks on my opponent. Who knows?

The Jolly Rancher

My neighbor, Fred Walters had earlier signed on to a 600 acre quail/dove lease outside of Lockhart, Texas, then late in the season had asked me to join him on a quail hunt, and reminded me to bring along some heavy shot for, maybe, a passing duck.  Following his orders, along with 20, 8’s for quail, I slipped 5, 6’s, into my hunting coat pocket.

Having no dog, we had busted into a couple of average sized coveys and had reduced their numbers by 4.  Luckily we found all of them, and as we looked for the last quail, in the brush some 300 yards ahead, we spotted the damn of a stock tank.  Fred hollered over to me and said, “While I look for this bird, why don’t you walk on up and see if there are any ducks on the tank?  If there are, go ahead and shoot ‘em.”

Shuckin’ out the 8’s, I slipped 3, 6’s into my pump and clipped the other 2 between the fingers of my left hand.  Quickly, but quietly, I walked up behind the damn, eased my eyes over the edge for a look and to my surprise there were many, many different varieties of ducks swimming and feeding in the small tank.  Quickly ducking back down, my mind racing, I tried to wave for Fred to come on up, but he couldn’t see me through the thick stuff, so I decided to tie into them by myself.

Taking a deep breath, I eased over the tank dam, and the surface of the water exploded as the ducks took to air!  Up they came and boom, boom, boom, my 12, gauge barked!   I had picked out a duck for each shot and as they caught the wind and swung back over me, 40 yards up, I quickly slipped the 2 shells that I had jammed between the fingers of my left hand into the pump and let fly, boom, boom and 2 more fell.

Glancing back into the tank, I counted 11 ducks down and counting the 2 that had plopped near me, 13 ducks in total.  On each shot I was careful to pick out just one duck, but the spread and pattern of the shot had knocked down 8 more.  Dreading retrieving them, because I knew we’d be over the limit, I started picking up the ones close to shore and then started “chunking” the ones left out in the middle.

Fred ran up, having heard the shooting and correctly figuring I had gotten into some ducks, we counted, 2 greenheads and 2 pintail drakes along with 9 other of ducks, a mixture of teal, gadwall and widgeon!  We each had a lot of ducks in our freezers back in Houston, so we were over our daily bag limit by 3.  Having shot too many ducks, I was crushed, but Fred assured me there would be no problem.  He said, “We’ll just clean ‘em all and leave 3 big ducks with the rancher.  Hopefully, then we’ll be OK!”

The rancher happily took the ducks we gave him and then he said,  “Don’t forget that I like quail too!”  We got him some quail the next week!

The Big Country – A Short Hunt

Quail season ended on February 15th, Monday a week, so Layla and I were driving out to Millersview, a short hour drive from our ranch, to have a go at some birds. Sonny and Red were snuggled up in their kennels in the Jeep being pulled by our Suburban and we were all ready for some bird action!

We always stopped by the ranch house to visit before we went out to hunt on the lease and this trip was no different, but the rancher cautioned us not to hunt his near trap. In his vernacular, that meant, the field closest to the ranch house. He added that the State Trapper hadn’t picked up his traps out of that one, but he had removed all of the cyanide traps for the coyotes. The coyotes played “hob” with the rancher’s goats, wantonly and indiscriminately killing the young ones, just for the fun of it! The cyanide traps were baited with rancid meat and would draw a dog to them too, especially a far ranging bird dog, but again, the rancher assured me that, by physical count, all of the cyanide traps had been picked up.

Feeling better, we began our hunt one trap removed from the near one. Scenting conditions were near perfect and the first dog out was Red. Not over 10 minutes later he locked down hard on point. Hurrying up to the point, we walked in expecting a bevy, but only 3 birds exploded out of the knee high grass, our guns boomed 3 times, 2 fell and were quickly retrieved by Red. He hadn’t run over a hundred more yards, when he spun around and locked down. We hurried on up to the point, walked in on them and 7 or 8 birds were in this covey. We boomed 4 times, 2 more fell, were retrieved nicely, this was a good start, 4 birds out of a covey of 10 or 12, we’d better not shoot anymore and leave these to seed for next year.

We kenneled up Red, drove to another trap and Sonny was next out. Out he came like a rocket, he was hyper because of our shooting, so I whistled him back and we got down to serious hunting. He was working cross wind about 50 yards ahead of us, when he yelped and jumped into the air, my first thought was rattler as we both broke into a run toward the dog.

Sonny kept flopping around, yelping to high heaven! Running up to him, we quickly saw the problem – the trapper had left one of his traps and Sonny had, literally, run across it. It was no problem unlocking the trap from its hold on the dog’s front leg then digging up the spike anchoring it in the ground.

Fuming, we stopped hunting, loaded up Sonny, hurried to the ranch house and I’d cooled off by the time we showed the rancher the trap we “found” and was in no mood for any more quail hunting until the trapper had removed ALL of his traps from the property. If he could remove them by next weekend, maybe we could get one more hunt in?

Alarm Call

In 1953, the early December opening of goose and duck season, was hailed by hunters for the rain and high winds that back, to back, to back, weather systems fostered. The wind would blow from the southeast for 2 or 3 days days, then blow from the northwest for a few days, the cycle repeated continuously for the entire season, then add in a couple of real northers and you had real goose weather! Our group of hunters, sneakers would better apply, took full advantage of the weather to try the patience of many of the rice farmers, game wardens and our parents.

The area north of Westheimer, west of Highway 6, along FM 1091, all the way to Fulshear on the Brazos River was prime goose country, now it is subdivisions and shopping malls and the geese have vacated the premises. Back then, after a driver passed Post Oak Road, street signs changed from Westheimer to FM 1091, today Westheimer extends for miles past Highway 6 and is the center of commerce for west Houston!

Around 11:00 AM, the last day of goose and duck season, four of us were heading home from a reasonably successful goose hunt, success being measured by; a vehicle not being stuck beyond retrieval, none of the hunters injured, not being stopped by the law and, maybe even a few geese. We were coming in, heading east on FM 1091 and wishing we could get permission to hunt on Cinco Ranch, the large ranch on our left, twenty sections or more, laying north of 1091, all the way to Highway 6. The ranch now sports malls, country clubs, shooting ranges and some very, large, pricey, subdivisions.

Probably 400 yards north of the road, inside the fence of Cinco Ranch, we spotted a huge gaggle of geese and right away one of our group said that we should sneak ‘em. After a quick uwey, we stopped on the soggy shoulder, donned our hip boots, slipped on our hooded parkas and grabbed our shotguns. Going over and under the barbwire fence, then hitting the ground, we started our sneak.

A long crawl is 400 yards, shotguns cradled in our arms, military style, keeping our heads down, we inched along and with each inch the noise of the geese cackling grew louder. No alarm calls so we were doing OK, inches turned into feet, feet into yards as we reached the 100 yard mark, only 60 or so, more to go, then raise up and let fly!

Hearing a strange peeping sound, I knew it wasn’t a rattler, then, the whirring of 20 or more quail bursting into the air startled me so much that I leaped to my feet and shouted a few choice expletives! That’s all it took for the dreaded alarm call to sound and thousands of geese spooked and got airborne. We all stood, we could only watch as they gained altitude and honked their way to safety.

That was our first, and last, and only sneak on Cinco Ranch!