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A Banner Season For Bobs
West of Fort Worth awaits some of the best quail shooting that the Lone Star State has to offer. If past seasons mean anything and current conditions hold, this could be a season to remember! (December 2005)

Photo by Mark S. Werner

According to Robert Perez, quail program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the past couple of seasons have been the best in recent history for quail in the Lone Star State. Perez stressed the fact that banner quail hunting occurred on ranches with proactive quail management practices across the state.

And, thanks to ample and timely rains during the birds' breeding period, prospects for this season range from very good to excellent in most areas of the Rolling Plains and Cross Timbers regions.

I've hunted quail in Texas most of my life. When I was a youngster growing up in rural Red River County, quail were so plentiful that shooting a mess for a winter's supper was as simple as loading the old pump 12 gauge and easing out to the pasture behind the house. That old plum thicket was always good for a few birds, but we never overshot the home covey. My dad taught me that it was important to leave at least one-third of the covey for "seed."


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Back in the fall of 1982, a few friends and I leased a section of land in northern Jack County. As luck would have it, that was the best year for quail numbers in several decades.

I'll never forget the red-hot shooting I enjoyed with Mr. Huckabee, an old-time dog trainer who lived and breathed quail hunting. Mr. Huckabee was 74 at the time and could easily outwalk most 30-year-olds -- including yours truly. He shot an old Belgian-made Browning Auto Five that he never cleaned. He did carry a can of WD-40 along on hunts and when the gun would eventually jam, I galloped back to the truck and saturated the action with oil. Then we would be right back in the field with a brace of his excellent pointers.

He would always carry a dog box with six or eight dogs and he believed in letting all of them have a workout during the course of a day's hunt. Until the past couple of years, I have never enjoyed quail shooting that came anywhere close to those glory days, when the coveys were plentiful and the shooting easy.

If the hunting this year is anywhere near what I experienced on several hunts last season, we all have reason to keep our shotguns oiled and dogs well-conditioned. My last hunt of the season was one that has served to stoke my quail hunting flame through the heat of this past summer and to remind me of those memorable hunts back in '82 on our lease in Jack County. As the phrase has it: It just don't get no better than this!

Fast forward to this past season: My buddy, R.R. "Smitty" Smith, my son Drew and I walked up behind Smitty's two fine setters, Suzie and Annie. Each dog was frozen solid on point, each staring a hole in the patch of excellent quail habitat in front of its nose.

I backed away from the action and watched my son swing on a breaking single that had nestled in tight to a patch of broomweed. We had just flushed a 15-bird covey on the edge of a small, heavily wooded creekbed and were hunting up singles that had scattered along the grassy hillside.

Smitty, the head bird guide for Quail Ridge Ranch near Glen Rose -- a preserve operation that has a very healthy population of wild birds -- is the most experienced quail hunter I know. His quail hunting history is a long and colorful one that stems back to the old days when Gentleman Bob was truly king. In those days, when someone said they were going "bird" hunting, it went without saying that they were referring to quail.


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