Editor’s note: LSON Executive Editor Craig Nyhus wrote this piece about his first wild quail hunt two weeks ago.
We have been watching South Texas quail all fall and winter and were excited for the hunt auctioned off at the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation Wild Game Supper in October.
For me, I would have been mostly watching my first wild quail hunt, although I had hunted pen-raised quail in the past, but hoped to get in on some covey rises.
A few days before the pair of hunters were to arrive with their dogs in late January, unforeseen circumstances caused the hunt to be canceled.
Friends and foundation supporters were at the South Texas ranch helping harvest some does, and brought an 11-year-old Brittany and a feisty yellow lab.
We decided to give it a try.
Buster, the Brittany, moved at a pace that could only be described as pedestrian.
“I have never walked this slowly while quail hunting,” one of the hunters said.
“The dog probably can’t remember his last quail hunt,” Theo, Buster’s owner said.
Piet, the yellow lab, didn’t really figure out the mission until some birds were dropped.
The 2 ½-hour hunt showed what we thought — the quail have made a nice comeback in this area of South Texas, with ample grass and brush providing hiding places. Eight coveys were flushed and 20 birds dropped. The dogs, not great at pointing or flushing, were excellent at retrieving and nearly all of the downed birds were recovered.
I loaned my gun to one of the friends and watched for the first hour or so of the hunt. After he had a few quail, we switched places.
One thing was apparent. These birds weren’t behaving like they had when we would kick up coveys walking to and from a deer blind. Then, they would fly off without a care in the world and settle back in the grass.
Putting a few dogs in the field totally changed them. The birds busted out and were gone in an instant. One covey flew high from left to right. I picked out a bird and it fell with my second shot.
“I got two,” Theo, one of the hunters who proved to be a crack shot, said.
It was hard to argue with that, but I did tell him a story about a dove- and duck-hunting buddy who always claimed all of the birds.
A few coveys later, one fell on my shot, but as the dog went to retrieve it, it ran and flew low and to the left. Another’s gun dropped it.
Another bird dropped in some brush on my solo shot. Finally. As the dog got to the brush, he too ran and made a half-hearted attempt at flight. Going toward others, I couldn’t shoot. Another friend finished him.
The last covey of the day sent a bird my way. On my shot, he dropped.
“Did you shoot at that bird, too?” one of the hunters asked.
That figures, I thought.
My first wild quail hunt and I’m still not sure I shot a wild quail.