QUAIL SEASON OFF TO A BOOM

Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Luke Clayton, Nov 3, 2007.

  1. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

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    QUAIL SEASON OFF TO A BOOM

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    Luke Clayton​


    Whitney, Texas - Gator, a German Shorthair Pointer with a nose like a radar and body conditioned to run, threw his head high in the air as he cast for scent downwind of a little grove of Sumac bushes. Then he got really ‘birdy’. His nose went to the ground, he took a couple of quick steps forward then he locked into a point that plainly stated: “Hey, boys, there are quail in that tangle of brush”. Dot, another equally well trained and conditioned Shorthair got the scent also but she didn’t rush in ahead of Gator, she backed him politely, keeping a yard or so behind. Sandie, a pointing lab was on point, but not so rigidly as her teammates. Labs are retrievers without equal but some exceptional dogs such as Sandie serve double duty by pointing upland birds. Scott Hutchinson, my friend that is the wildlife manager at the W.B. Ranch near Whitney, motioned that he was about to signal Sandie in for the flush. With a dash, the yellow lab was in the midst of the cover and the covey of quail in the air.

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    Scott Hutchinson at the W.B. Ranch near Whitney, Texas takes aim at a fast flying quail.
    Photo by Luke Clayton​

    This was my first quail hunt of the year and the upper, or improved cylinder barrel of my little 20 gauge over/under blasted a string of number 8 shot well behind one of the quail. I had shot too soon, without taking time to remember to track the bird, push the barrel just in front of him, and then pull the trigger. The lower barrel, choked modified, did the trick at about 35 yards and I had my first quail of the season in the bag. Scott’s shotgun spoke twice and we had a total of 3 birds in the bag from our first covey of the day.

    Wet weather back in the spring and summer created near ideal nesting conditions for the quail hatch and numbers are high. The W.B. Ranch is a commercial hunting operation and flight conditioned birds are stocked to supplement the wild quail. Scott says the ranch hosts upland bird hunters from all over the country. “We offer morning or afternoon hunts, where folks can show up and hunt but we also offer lodging and meals at the lodge for those that have a bit more time to stay.” said Scott.

    Locating good spots to hunt quail has become increasingly more difficult during the past three decades. Back in the sixties and early seventies, there were huntable numbers of quail across most of Texas. I can remember some pretty good quail hunting in Eastern Texas where I was raised. Today, one would be hard pressed to locate a single covey in many areas. Some blame this decrease in numbers on fire ants attacking newly hatched quail or, the eggs before the young birds hatch. Most biologists state it’s loss of habitat because of modern farming practices such as cultivating right up to the fence lines, without leaving ‘hedge rows’ that offer cover for ground nesting birds such as quail. Regardless the reason for the decline in quail numbers, the fact remains that unless one leases a large tract of land in an area of the state with high quail numbers, or finds a good operation such as the W.B. Ranch to hunt, finding a spot to hunt is challenging.

    Cost is another big factor to consider when deciding where and how one wishes to hunt quail. The cost for yearly quail leases in Texas has increased with the demand. The cost of fuel getting to and from a lease situated several hundred miles from home has also skyrocketed. Tack on vet bills and training for bird dogs and it’s easy to see how keeping a quail lease these days easily equates to several thousand dollars per year. For most of us, this is just not practical. Thanks goodness for ranches such as the W.B. that provide great quail shooting that is, compared to the alternative of leasing, a bargain.

    I used to keep and train my own bird dogs and found the experience greatly rewarding, albeit a bit costly. Many folks today continue to keep pointers and setters, but opt for ranches such as the W.B. to work their dogs. “We allow hunters to bring their own dogs and hunt with them if they choose, but we also keep a kennel of well trained pointers and setters. When our clients factor in all the things that make for a quality quail hunt, most choose to let us handle our dogs so that all they have to do is enjoy shooting. We work with them regularly and, as any quail hunter knows, experience on birds is the best teacher for bird dogs. Our dogs come from champion blood lines and have the opportunity of being on quail frequently. Our clients like to come, watch the dogs work and concentrate on shooting rather than handling dogs. I can certainly relate.” Scott continued.

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    It’s important to keep working bird dogs well hydrated. Hutchinson keeps buckets filled with water for his dogs. Here Sandie, his pointing lab, is getting a bit too hydrated!
    Photo by Luke Clayton​

    I can remember many ‘do it yourself’ quail hunts when I hunted with my own dogs. On many occasions, I spent more time screaming at the dogs to WOAH, than I did actually hunting quail! A quail hunt at the W.B. Ranch can best be appreciated after such experiences!

    To schedule your quail or Brazos River duck hunt at the W.B. Ranch, call 800-WBRANCH or go online www.wbranch.com

    Check out Luke Clayton’s Outdoors show and magazine CATFISH GOLD at www.catfishradio.com