I thought I’d send you a note on this past season — it was, as all are, unique and satisfying. To be hunting wild birds not too far from home is a real privilege, and as I get more seasons behind me, I cherish each one even more. This past season was marked by a very dry and warm start that hindered dog work and made for uncomfortable conditions for dogs and the aging humans that follow them. On many of our early and mid-season hunts the dogs kicked up clouds of dust as they ran, but the heat gave us lots of “tailgate time” as we enjoyed the pleasant days (if not the good hunting conditions). The warm and dry conditions also encouraged some farmers to disk their crop fields, causing shifts in bird patterns — always a challenge.
We did, however, locate coveys in those early season hunts, and they were marked by good numbers of birds. I’d watched the weather closely last spring and summer, and noted some flooding summer rains in areas where we hunt. In spite of those ill-timed rains, the quail numbers were decent on the farms we hunted, similar to the year before. Those rains were enough to make great cover in spite of the dry conditions later in the summer, and it should bode well for overwintering birds to begin the nesting season. I’m always encouraged when I read the daily blogs and see that other Association members mention limiting themselves and monitoring bird numbers. That’s a good sign for the future.
We watch the covey sizes pretty closely, and have decided that it’s entirely satisfactory to take a brace of quail on a day’s hunt, but only one on a covey rise. I know for guys driving long distances from other parts of the country for a week of hunting this may sound crazy, but I’m entirely satisfied if I take two birds a day over points, and shot fairly. We do, however, work singles even if we have reached our two bird daily limit to be sure that the dogs get as much experience as possible, and to stay out in open as long a possible. It doesn’t make for pictures of limits of birds, but after many years hunting, a few birds well taken is a great reward for me — and my wife who tags along and takes pictures.
We hunted some new-to-us farms this year, and would have hunted more, but a prolonged bout of the flu and the bitter cold snap in late December/early January robbed us of some of the seasons best days. We did manage a few hunts at season’s end that will leave enough good memories to get us through to next year. We also have a new Gordon pup who should be ready to be braced with one of our older Gordons. That just adds to the optimism for the future.
I am so grateful that I can hunt wild birds on private land. I know you have a challenging job to secure land when there are so many competing forces for the best land. Thanks for keeping bird hunters in mind. By the way, as I’m sure is the case with other bird hunters, we see lots of deer, deer sign, big bucks (and occasional sheds at seasons end) while following bird dogs. I deer hunted hard for many years before I took up bird hunting, and I never saw the amount of sign or the numbers of big deer like I see on Association farms. Although not all good deer land is good quail land, it’s pretty often the case that good upland bird land also provides great deer habitat. I’m appreciative of your work, experience, and judgement in getting good land — thanks!
A brace of Bobs from an early season hunt.
Every dog has her day, and we get to linger with them on the tailgate on nice days like this.
Singles in the open are a rare, but welcome treat…and mean no excuses if you miss!
Most singles wind up in cover like this which makes it feel more like a ruffed grouse shot than one on a prairie Bob.
And you don’t often catch a 21st Century covey in the open like this.
And we see lots of great deer sign while following the dogs on Association land.
Thank you very much for the feedback Gary. You display the protocol of a true sportsman. Both our landowners and other members reap from your morals.