Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Crickets

That's pretty much all you heard if you dropped by here recently. No calamity behind the scenes, just the periodic lack of anything to say. Got a few things coming up, though, that ought to tickle the pen.

The second meeting of the SC Quail Council is late next week and the activity is beginning to build. Lots of good things coming out of this and more than a few challenges ahead.

And with a little help from Mother Nature there's a distinct possibility that I'll have a very small four-legged addition to the hunting unit before the days get shorter. I'm supposed to go see the mom and dad in a week or two and we should know by then if the breeding took. If it did, pups will be on the ground in mid-April. Just a bit excited about this one.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yellow shells

In the beginning there were reds, greens, blacks, blues and even an occasional purple. Whatever was in the box, and often whatever was cheapest.

There was one gun in the closet, a 12 gauge, and it served its purpose well. Anything with wings got the business end of it. The pump action never jammed and I lugged it through fields and swamps and woods and prairies through all seasons. We were inseparable.

And then came the lure of two barrels. Too many magazine articles, too many pictures of a man and his dog and his gun and that gun wasn't a pump action 12 gauge. For some reason I just had to have one, couldn't possibly be complete without one.

So pennies got socked away until a decent Browning came into the picture, a lighter gun than the 12 which seemed like a fringe benefit at the time. Part by chance and part by design this smaller gun took only one color.

20 ga shells

Over a period of years it became the gun that gets the call on nearly every outing. It was lighter, easier to tote all day, and when a shooting slump came along it emerged as the franchise player. Ducks and turkeys, on the rare occasions they are the main event, still demand the bigger stick. But for all else the pockets are filled with those yellow shells.

And now we are, for the most part, inseparable, although I've heard that once you try a 28 you'll never be the same.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tennessee Red

It's not whisky, as far as I know, and the BBQ joint in Portland with that name closed last year. More on this in a bit.

There are a number of places around our state, mostly well off the beaten path and not well-publicized, where a few intrepid souls have done the hard work of making the land friendly to quail. Through many, many conversations with wildlife and forestry people I'm slowly learning each of them, and learning that they're mostly on the other side of the state. Lick Fork Lake is one of these.

Sunrise through the trees
Conflicting weekend schedules sometimes demand pre-dawn departures, which isn't the worst thing that can happen to a guy and his dog. Scent conditions are ripe in the early morning hours and the birds are out feeding, casting their airborne trail in broader paths.

Got one pinned
We pulled in around 8:15 and by 8:30 the dog was locked up on point. A single bird flushed, I knocked it down, and it vanished in a gulley.  We looked and sniffed and poked around for 15 minutes and never found it.

Back to work and pretty quickly the dog was on point again and another single got up. And I whiffed with both barrels. Bag still empty.

A few minutes later another point, this time on a pair. I knocked down the first and missed the easy double, but marked that first one well. When I picked it up I noticed how well-fed it felt, a hefty bird for this time of year. Looking more closely I saw that it wasn't exactly what I thought it was.


Not quite a wild bird
These are what we call Tennessee Reds, a strain of quail bred in captivity and preferred by some breeders because of their hardiness. The chest and head feathers are a rusty brown on the hens and a cotton-white patch dominates the throat. After another hour of hunting the area and not finding any more birds, I started piecing it together. Someone must have been working his dog and put these birds out to train with. They were all good fliers, good enough that I thought they were wild until I picked up this one. They'd obviously been out for a while, maybe since last fall, and whether these were the lone survivors of a larger group or the lone survivors of that training session I don't know, but they put a smile on my face for one morning.