Wednesday, January 28, 2015


If you do anything long enough, eventually all of the pieces line up for a performance that you never thought possible. Chamberlain scores 100, Bo Jackson on a Monday night in '87, Tiger at Augusta ten years later. Sometimes things just click and then keep on clicking and you feel like you couldn't ruin it if you wanted to, so you revel in it knowing the next time will be a long way off, if ever.

Reports out of South Texas last fall were beyond encouraging. Factoring in the standard embellishment and overexcitement multiplier they still suggested a pretty good season, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit optimistic when I got the nod for an early January trip. I put off writing about it these last few weeks mainly to avoid sounding like a 7 yr old who's just spent a day with the Justice League, and I'm not sure I succeeded so just indulge me.

In quail hunting success is relative, geographically speaking. What passes for a good day here in SC would be considered somewhat of a disappointment in TX, so a good day in TX - and we're talking in terms of coveys found - is nearly unfathomable where I'm from. With the exception of one or two places where they take intensive management to a different level, and where I don't have hunting privileges, it just doesn't happen that you'll find 4-5 coveys an hour for as long as you choose to hunt. And just to be clear, I'm talking about wild birds.

What's truly surprising is that the only management done for these birds in TX is a little supplemental feeding on the roads during the season, and this is only to make them easier to find. The property is managed for trophy deer and the birds are simply a byproduct of proper cattle grazing and nature's benevolence.

Any day I can ride around big open country and find a few coveys of birds gets filed with the keepers. Any day I can find so many coveys that I stop counting gets its own file. Sure, after the first few coveys it's easy to keep up, but eventually you just lose yourself in finding the last bird someone shot or locating the dog on point. Each day I had to ask the handlers for the tally, which I've come to consider a good sign.

Without horses, GPS units for the dogs are a necessity.  You just can't see them even from the top of a rig, and once you get in the grass on foot they can disappear twenty yards in front of you. Every day we'd have a stretch when shooting singles or looking for dead birds that the handler would say "I got a point 100 yards that way" and we'd high-step it through the grass to another covey. This would happen three or four times before we'd decide to load up and head in another direction. It's the kind of shooting I've always read about and now through some strange combination of karma I'm the one telling the story.

I'd say it ruined me but that's not true. It's something close to the high water mark of my bird hunting adventures, no question, but I came home and loaded up my dog and went out looking for birds the next weekend.

Didn't find quite as many.


  1. There is nothing like Texas quail hunting when it is good! I am glad to hear they are recovering from the drought. I wish the hunting there was not so darn expensive. Very nice post.

  2. The closer you get to the coast, the better the bird hunting. That land responds very quickly to the least bit of moisture and places that were barren a few years ago now are filled with waist-high grasses. Plenty of places for birds to hide which is a big part of why there are so many.

  3. Mark, your Texas trip sounds great. Those tracking collars are also useful here in the low country hunting woodcock. Friday, the day before season's end, we had a jam-up hunt partially because of a lot of birds and gps tracking collars. We had two dogs on the ground in the morning. My 4 year-old Brittany and a 13 year-old Brittany who was deaf as a post did the morning hunt. Without a tracking collar, her owner would spend a lot of time trying to find her. She couldn't hear a whistle or a call and relied on sight to find him. In the woodcock woods, that's a problem. During Friday's hunt, the old dog would get "lost" and I'd have to track her down. She was beyond our hearing her woodcock bell. Twice, she was locked down on birds. It took me over 5 minutes to find her once, in thick cover. She was not visible until I was within 30 feet. Over the course of the morning, she logged half the running distance of my younger dog and found more birds. Old age, treachery, and a gps collar will beat youth and exuberance everytime. ;) Gil

    1. I'm gonna have to bite the bullet and invest. My dog won't wear a bell and it's usually not a problem but occasionally he disappears from sight, never more than 100 yards away but still lost.

      Envious that you found woodcock on Jan 30. I thought the cold snap earlier in the month had run them out of here and didn't even bother looking in the river bottom last weekend.