The Big Country – A Late Riser

Opening morning of quail season, I was driving up to Goldthwaite to pick up my son-in-law, Mike Mitchell, for an afternoon hunt out to my lease in Millersview. This year’s quail season opened up a week before deer season and with no deer hunters around, we’d have the place to ourselves,

Driving west to my lease, our guess was correct, but the quail weren’t responding. We’d already tried a couple of likely places, but our dogs, Sonny and Red, my Brittany Spaniels, hadn’t found any quail sign, where were the birds? An hour and a half before sundown, we were worrying that the opener this year would be a bust, but 30 yards ahead, as we bounced along in the jeep, there was a bevy of bobs running down the road.

Quickly stopping the jeep, we both piled out, unsheathed our shotguns, fumbled with the latches on the dog boxes and, the dogs, being as excited as us, bounced out, quickly took care of their business, then took off down the road after the birds. Pushed by the dogs, the covey took wing and me, feeling like Capt. Angora of goat rodeo fame, told Mike that we’d do better if we slowed down and let the dogs do their work.

A hundred yards out, Sonny, a real pro of a bird dog, pointed first, Red, his son, backed as Mike and I hurried up to them, then 3 birds burst from the cover and boom, boom, boom, down they dropped. The dogs, being more interested in going after the rest of the covey, were reluctant to fetch the birds in, but after repeated, “Dead birds”, they complied.

The quail, probably 20 or more, now minus the 3 we just shot, had spread out over a wide area and we let the dogs find them. Up ahead, Red pointed and Mike and I walked in on them, a single got up on my side and, boom, chalk up another. Red didn’t go after the dead bird, but was glued to the spot right off his nose, Mike walked in making a swishing sound and a bob flushed, Mike’s gun boomed, Red brought it in and chalk up another one. Telling him that 5 was enough out of this covey, I whistled in both dogs, we walked back to the jeep and kenneled everybody up.

This was a good start, but we were running out of time, but the next hour scenting conditions would be good and this was prime time for the birds to be moving around. More bouncing along when we came up to a cross road, with some thick cover off to one side, the other side being an old cattle feed lot, then a covey, a big one, thirty birds or more, ran across the road toward the thick stuff, maybe we could head them off!

We unkenneled, unlimbered our shotguns, let the dogs out and hurried to our head off point, where we were in time and as far as we could tell had succeeded in cutting off the birds. This was a big covey and from what we could tell, we knew they hadn’t been busted up, both dogs pointed, this looked like, as Saddam Hussein once said, “The Mother of all coveys!”

Mike and I walked in on the birds, then pandemonium as the quail flushed wildly, most heading west into the setting sun. Six times our guns boomed, four birds fell, the dogs fetched them to us and to let the birds bunch up again, we sat for 10 minutes, precious hunting time, but we sat! As we got up to press on after the rest of the covey, a late riser, a hen, buzzed off, but we let her fly to safety.

As the light faded, we kicked up the remnants of the big covey, downing 5 more, then we called it a day. It turned out to be a nice afternoon hunt, even though I hadn’t been in the field welcoming in the new quail season.