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!