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Texas Sportsman
A Quail Hunter's Paradise
That's just how some shotgunners regard the South Texas Plains -- and with good reason. We review the great quail action to be found across the region. (January 2006)

Photo by Steve Lamascus

Crashing along one on each side of me with shotguns held at high port, M.D. and Bo Beale charged through the blackbrush, huajilla, and cenizo like a pair of canvas-clad bulldozers. Ahead of us Sweetie, my yellow Lab, and Sergeant Rock, M.D.'s yellow Lab, slipped more quietly and easily through the brush underneath the thorns, their noses enthusiastically sucking up the molecules of quail scent that the huge covey had left in its passing.

We knew we were close, as the dogs' search had turned almost frantic. We had seen the covey from the truck earlier as we drove along a ranch road. Unfortunately, by the time we dismounted, loaded the guns, and released the dogs, these blue quail, running like the little track stars they are, had disappeared into the quagmire of vegetation and thorns that gives the South Texas Brush Country its name.

So we were trying to catch up -- not an easy task when you're being held back by brush thick enough to stall an Abrams tank -- and, we knew, we were gaining. The real trick was to stay close enough to the two Labrador retrievers to get some shooting when they finally ran the birds down.


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A hard 200 yards later, the first of a blue took to the air with the indescribable stuttering roar of air against its wings. Its takeoff triggered an exodus in staggered volleys by the rest of the covey. Suddenly the air was full of whirring wings and banging shotguns.

I picked a single going straight away and dumped him with my first shot. Then another roared away at an angle to my left and I missed him with the second barrel of my Ithaca side-by-side 12 gauge. Thumbing the release lever, I broke open the shotgun and let the ejectors kick out the empties. Then, without looking, I stuffed two more dark green shells full of No. 8 shot into the chambers and snapped the gun closed. In an instant I was again loaded and ready for the stragglers that usually waited for their more nervous brethren to draw fire.

I'd taken a couple of steps when a second group of quail roared from the sage at full throttle. This time I managed to miss a hard left with both barrels when a small Texas persimmon tree jumped in front of my gun. Then it was quiet again, and the dogs were bringing in the quail we'd knocked down.

Sweetie brought my one quail to me, dropped it in my hand and then headed back into the brush; in a moment she was back with one of Bo's quail. In the meantime, Rock had found M.D.'s single. We had knocked down four quail with nine shots and found all of them.

Now, for those of you who are accustomed to hunting semi-tame birds with pointers trained in table manners by Emily Post, this probably sounds like a pretty poor exhibition of shooting skills. But let me tell you this: In the heavy brush that covers much of South Texas, especially along the Mexican border, four for nine is pretty good shooting -- and finding all four downed quail is even better!


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