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. 


  1. No matter what I hear to the contrary I maintain hope that SOME of the pen raised birds I put out go on to be *wild*. If you're going to be on that side of the state you should give a shout.

    1. I think a few make it, but whether they go on to breed is a matter of much debate. I don't get down that way often but given how nice that Renew area is I'm sure I'll be back. Definitely give you a call when it happens.

  2. I see those Tennessee reds advertised a lot for training birds. One of these days I'm gonna buy me some of those snowflake quail (Google 'em. White color phase bobs). Beautiful birds, and I bet the local sharpies and Cooper's hawks would thank me for making lunch so easy to see...

    1. Thanks for that tip - never seen those before. Might be able to hunt those without a dog.