Saturday, February 16, 2013

Giving up

More than a few years ago someone decided that this route was no longer the best way to get there. Whether they took this bridge down and left it or whether it slowly wore itself down over time I don't know, but here it sits, keeping company with the river that borders a piece of public game land.  I hunt here often, not because it's productive but because it's very large and only an hour from home.

Last Saturday I stopped to snap this picture before heading back to the truck.  After a morning of moving no birds in two of the areas, and debating whether to give up and head home, I stopped by a third area on the way back to the interstate.  Several rabbit hunters were packing up and I asked if they'd seen any birds.

"Hadn't seen the first quail.  You might try over there off Larry Cope Rd."

"I just left there.  Didn't see any."

"You huntin' them draws?  That's where I seen 'em."

"Yep."  I'd hunted the draws, the edges, the middles, and all the way down to the river. This gentleman wasn't the first to tell me he'd seen birds there.

It was time to give up and get on home.  I knew of one more area I hadn't hit yet that had never produced a single bird for me and figured what the hell.  It was only a mile out of the way and as long as I was down here...well, what the hell.  Pulling in I saw a pickup parked by the sign and then it really was over for the day.  As I eased down the road looking for a place to turn around I scanned the woods, wondering if they were rabbit hunters or bird hunters, wondering if they were having better luck than I was.  At the turnaround I still hadn't seen anyone. Maybe they'd gone the other direction from their truck?  Maybe they were hikers? Maybe the truck broke down and there wasn't anyone here after all?  What the hell.

Walking up the ridge with Wyatt out in front I remembered what the rabbit hunter had said about seeing birds in the draws.  My plan was to walk up the ridge and try the draw on the right side, working back into the wind, then walk back up the ridge, wind at our backs, and try the draw on the left side.  A few hundred yards in a lone bobwhite jumped up, catching both of us off guard.  We watched it sail away up the ridge and as Wyatt sniffed the grass where it had appeared, I heard another flush behind and to left of us, turning in time to see eight or ten birds blast from the draw over the ridge. Before any sat down I heard another flush further up the ridge, turning back around to see Wyatt standing still while fifteen or twenty birds got up in front of him.  Wow.

All of this happened in a span of maybe seven or eight seconds, at the end of which I stood staring with my gun still broken over my shoulder.  We hunted the singles from the first flush for a while but most likely they flew farther than I guessed.  This was the largest wild covey I'd seen in South Carolina in...well, maybe ever.  In a place I'd never seen birds before, on a day when I tried to quit hunting three times already.  The words of Winston Churchill and Jimmy V whispered in my ear, "Never give up."

Last night I laid out all the gear for an early start.  I'd beat all the rabbit hunters and bird hunters to the spot and find that covey again, working into the wind this time.  One bird, one good shot and one retrieve and I'd leave them alone.  In the dark of the night a 30% chance of rain turned to this:

Indian Creek is about square in the middle of all that green.  So this is what we're doing instead...


  1. "All of this happened in a span of maybe seven or eight seconds, at the end of which I stood staring with my gun still broken over my shoulder."

    This hardly ever happens to me when I shoot sporting clays. Probably a good reason not to take up hunting.

    "Next time" is a deeply rooted concept in both fishermen and hunters. Great post.

    1. When the clay pigeons start flushing wild, it's time to find a new gun club.

  2. Your day was like mine today except I didn’t hear the roar or see the feathered explosion of a coveyrise. Every spring during gobbler season, I hear the early morning calls of quail surrounding me in this particular spot. In this winter and last, I have yet to find the covey. While hopeful, expectations were realistic, but I anticipated a beautiful walk behind Abby through wiregrass and longleaf, and it was. The next time there, I hope to hear a gobbler, and I probably will. Turkey season is just around the corner.

    1. I've always found hearing and seeing quail to be entirely different propositions. Fall covey counts at the property I mention above recorded 16 coveys. In the last 3 seasons I've found two of them.