Back before the turn of the century, 20th century of course, Jake Shroder invited me out to Arizona to go quail hunting, 1999 was the specific year, but this was to be a different kind of hunt. Jake was big into field trials and his Brittany’s had won many of them in the Midwestern states. He and his wife, Peggy Jo, would drive up, starting in Montana, then attend the local trials there, then slowly make their way back to Arizona, attending field trials and winning many, the field trial portion of the trips were always made on horseback.
He had one particular dog, big for a Brittany spaniel, Ned Pepper, that was a champion field trialer and Jake decided that on this hunt we would ride, ride horses that is. Not having been on a ‘hoss for years, not since my “cowboying” days, it sounded like a fine plan to me, but by day 2 the saddle, a McClellan saddle, and I’m sure the U.S. Cavalry used the same one during the Civil War, it had rubbed me raw! Rubbing pain aside, we would be hunting Gambel quail, an elusive, hard running bird that had confounded many a hunter! Confounded us too!
Jake’s idea was fine, we’d be “a horse”, even on the horses Ned Pepper would be running way ahead of us, we’d see him point the birds, then ride up, unscabbard our shotguns, walk into the birds, then shoot them on the covey rise. At least that was the plan, the plan was sound, but the Gambel quail would simply run off during the time we’d ride up.
Arizona has lots of Federal and State land, semi arid, almost desert and we tried this approach for 2 days, and I might add, getting “0” birds. As I said, the plan was sound, but the Gambel’s wouldn’t have any part of it. So, the 3rd day, my last in Arizona, we went back to our traditional hunting style, driving and walking!
We’d pick out a likely looking wash, drive down it until we flushed a covey, then get out of the truck and chase the birds. It seemed as if Ned Pepper never tired, he chased birds for the first 2 days and was ready to go on the 3rd day too, what a dog! The 3rd day was a charm, we must have run across 5 or 6 bevys, had some real good shooting and limited out easily.
My troubles, badly chapped thighs, didn’t end with the quail hunting. Our government had just begun checking articles packed in carry on baggage, remember this was 1999, but checked they did. In my haste I’d neglected to remove 3 shotgun shells and put them into my luggage. Of course, the Southwest Airlines attendant, this was before TSA, checked and found the shells in my carryon and this created quite a stir! Before you know it, I was up against the wall, hands and feet spread like a common criminal, but cooler heads soon prevailed and I was allowed to board, without the shells of course. A fitting end to a “raw” hunt!