South Georgia Quail Hunt

Discussion in 'EXPAT Knives®' started by Expat, Sep 8, 2016.

  1. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    Here's something I wrote about a quail hunt that I never published so I figured it would do fine right here.

    Hunting Georgia's Gentleman Bob
    By Expat​


    I often forget just how much I miss my beloved South until I find myself visiting her again. I am currently deeply ensconced in a leather couch located next to a mammoth fireplace in the great room of the Dorchester Shooting Preserve. I am enjoying the local accents being spoken politely as guests exchange niceties with staff. These are the manners of my youth. Where “no” and “yes” are never quite complete unless followed by “sir” or “ma’am.”

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    This is indeed the Deep South. Quail country. Or, the “Plantation Belt” as they are wont to call it in these parts. The South where sweet tea, while perfectly acceptable in a glass, seems to be preferred in a Mason Jar or a plastic Solo cup. Where “gentleman” is a valued title to strive toward, not just a generic rubric handed out indiscriminately to anyone of the male population. Where you address everyone when you enter a room and where you stand up when a lady enters one. Where college sports are infinitely more important than professional ones. The South of Spanish Moss and tall pines. Of long dirt roads, boiled peanuts and humidity.

    Dorchester's Lodge:

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    I’ve come to Dorchester to hunt quail. The owner, Chuck Gaskin, greets me in true Southern fashion: all manners, respect, and hospitality. Chuck operates 1,200 acres of sagebrush and wiregrass, shaded by loblolly and longleaf pines--prime habitat for the birds we are going after. He makes everyone feel welcomed immediately. And also (true to Southern tradition), he tries to get some food and drink in you as soon as possible after walking through the front door. In my case, it was a table loaded with fried chicken, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese and of course, biscuits. All homemade. And while as good a lunch as you’d ever want, all just a prelude to the warm peach cobbler and ice cream served with more sweet tea and smiles.

    No makeshift deer camp here:

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    Chuck spent some time with me in the sitting room where we got to know one another. He told me how his business had grown from little more than a field that he and some friends had purchased to hunt in, to an operation where up to 1,000 quail a day can be shot with enough hunters and the right conditions. He also taught me a lot about quail. Quail are fragile birds, requiring just the right conditions to thrive. They are susceptible to all sorts of dangers, both predatory and environmental. Coyotes, hawks and other animals will feed on quail. Red ants will eat their eggs. Pesticides on the crops the quail eat kill them off. Urban development destroys their habitat and hunting pressure has contributed to the thinning of quail. There is virtually no wild quail left in the US these days. There are a few pockets of truly wild quail in parts of GA but almost all quail hunted these days are “semi-wild”. Plantation owners will purchase thousands of quail from growers and release them into the wild around September. These quail then covey up with others and start to thrive in their natural habitat. After several months, they are living and flying as wild. Some plantations don’t spend as much energy into the quail development as others. Dorchester has a reputation throughout the country for very fast-flying quail. The quail most like authentic, wild quail.

    Tools of the Trade:

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    Of course, all of this land and wildlife maintenance does not come cheap. Gone are the days when a man could grab his hat and shotgun and ride out into the woods with his grandson in the old Model A to shoot a few wild quail for dinner. Today, quail hunting is done predominately on plantations with rates in the $600 to $1,500 a day range. Yearly memberships can even be purchased in the five-figure dollar amounts.


    After lunch I was shown to my cabin. A 2,100 square foot, recently built house with a fully-equipped kitchen and 3 bedrooms, each with their private baths. A screened-in porch provided a nice view of the local woodland wildlife scampering around. Each room is available to reserve individually but, as no one else was there that night, I had the entire house to myself. More leather furniture complimented the fireplace and the large flat-screen TV that hung over it. The front door key is kept outside, hanging on the porch light. Crime is just something on TV this far out. (Seriously, who would drive out to the middle of the woods to try to rob a place where everyone was armed with at least one gun and everyone is capable of hitting small objects that fly at 40 mph with those same guns?)

    (continued)...
     
  2. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    My Accommodations:

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    A typical, South Georgia waterfront restaurant was located 3 miles down the dirt road and served a great dinner of locally caught shrimp and flounder. With more sweet tea, of course.

    The next morning began with barking. The hunting guides had arrived with their various bird dogs. Briar chaps and hunter-orange vests filled the parking lot. Quail wagons were hitched up to small jeeps. A quail wagon is a wonderful piece of Southern ingenuity. A wagon with tiered, stadium-styled, bench seating, rising in height from front to back. While seated on the plush benches, everyone is afforded a clear view of the woods you are riding through. Underneath the benches are the kennels for the dogs. Coolers of ice and drinks are also toted in the back. Along each side of the wagon are special boxes to safely cradle expensive double barrels and shells. While some traditional wagons are still pulled by mules, here the emphasis is on a more efficient hunt. The dogs are ready, we are all dressed and the shotguns are packed. But first things first…


    The spread for breakfast is somehow larger than yesterday’s lunch. Several kinds of sausages are set out along with eggs, bacon, and more biscuits (this time with white gravy). The pure cane syrup on the table not so much excuses you from eating an extra biscuit or two so much as it completely absolves you of any guilt and makes you relish the chance to do it again.


    Properly fed and provisioned, we head out to our individual guides. One can hunt in a small group or by themselves. But all groups are guided. As I was alone, I had a guide all to myself. David is the type of person who probably shot his first animal before he said his first word. He’s hunted on several continents and can speak to the habits of animals as comfortably as he can the ballistic performance of any bullet made in the last 40 years.


    David’s wife is a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Driving to our hunting area, David related to me how they met: When his first wife was in jail for trying to kill him, his current wife was the Agent that handled the prosecution. (Yep, re-read that sentence if you want.) Stories like that happen all over the South. I told him he should write a song about it. He seemed to take my suggestion seriously.


    David told me that he knew he had a “good ‘un” because, on the first day of deer season, when he told her he couldn’t go out with her because he would be up all night cleaning deer, she said that she would love to come over and help. And she did. You might be able to make that story sound more Southern, but you’d be hard-pressed.


    Anyway, back to the quail. Once we get to our area of the plantation (about 200 acres of longleaf pines and sagebrush) we dismount and David sets about tending to the dogs. I dump a couple of boxes of shells along with a water bottle into my vest and grab my double barrel. We use two dogs for the first part of the hunt—a pointer and a retriever. They are both full of energy and seem to be more excited than any of us to be out there. The system, as David explains it to me, is this: the pointer will smell the quail and point. All she will do is point, she holds this point until I’m in position to shoot. I will then come up behind her and get ready for the flush. The retriever will then run ahead and cause the covey to fly up and away at which point I’m supposed to shoot the birds. And, by the way, says David, if you shoot the dog, you have to pay $3,000. It is basically the cost of having a new dog trained; a good quail dog doesn’t just happen.


    We walked for about 10 minutes through the sagebrush before Lacey went on point. Her nose and tail were both extended as straight as you can imagine. Her body was rigid and trembling. I ran up behind her and started walking forward. 2 birds exploded up from the ground. Anyone that’s ever hunted quail understands immediately what I mean. I pick one bird and swing the barrels around on it. Bang! Bird still flying. Bang! Bird still flying. God made quail fast. Very fast. David told me that my shot was waaaaay behind the bird.


    We walk a few more minutes and the above scenario repeats itself. I’m starting to think this is going to be a very long day. A few more misses and then a glorious thing happened. A bird got up, I swung the gun even farther in front of the bobwhite than before, squeezed the triggers and…feathers. The bird falls to the ground and the retriever finally has something to do to justify his name.


    We walk back and forth through acres and acres of brush. The temperature was warm, the sun was shining and a gentle breeze was blowing through the pines. It was about as perfect a setting as anyone could hope for. David was telling me about the 500 lb wild boar he had killed the night before when…WHAM!! The earth before me erupted with birds. Before I had time to think about it, I had downed one bird and was swinging in on a second. This one is really moving, out about 40 yards now. I squeeze the trigger and…that one falls, too. My first double of the day. Suffice it to say that feeling is a far piece north of pleasant.


    After a short break to change out the dogs so some others can work and a “Co-cola”, we get back at our work of filling the cooler with “Gentleman Bob”. All in all, I shoot 29 of them throughout the day. I am supremely satisfied.


    A word on shotguns: Anyone that spends much time going after quail will eventually look for a shotgun that is geared specifically for that pursuit. Much has been written about the perfect quail gun, but in reality, little has changed regarding the ideal parameters in over 80 years. Because you walk a lot and you are carrying your gun at the ready, it needs to be light. This generally means a smaller-framed gun than a 12 gauge. 16 and 20 are the norm but 28 gauges are occasionally seen. 12 gauges less so. Birds are often close in, with 40 yards out generally considered to be a long shot. A short barrel or open chokes deal with this requirement beautifully. Pellets spread wider, quicker. And, traditionally, the shotgun used has been a double barrel. While some folks will use a semi-automatic these days, tradition figures large in quail hunting and most still stick with a double barrel, generally a side-by-side. Although development of outdoor equipment seems to move at light-speed in our day and age, the well-appointed quail hunter of today can do no better than the quail hunter’s equipment of 1932. A $15,000 modern shotgun can do no better than a Depression-era L.C. Smith or A. H. Fox side-by-side 16 gauge.


    We stow the dogs and gun back on the wagon and head back to the main house for…what else? Chicken and dumplings, collards, a gallon of sweat tea and homemade lemon pie. Chuck spends some more time with each guest and then settles up with me as I have to leave to get to other commitments. To say that it was a great time is an understatement.
     
  3. Jeff Randall

    Jeff Randall ESEE Knives / Randall's Adventure & Training Staff Member

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    Damn, quail in South Georgia must be made out of gold
     
    Stim likes this.
  4. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    You want to make some real money, scrap all this knife silliness and turn the farm into a quail plantation.
     
  5. Jeff Randall

    Jeff Randall ESEE Knives / Randall's Adventure & Training Staff Member

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    Would you believe me if I told you back in my youth this farm was one of the largest quail producing farms in the southeast. I'm talking thousands of birds laying eggs, live bird sales, pickled egg sales and supplying BobWhite and Chukar eggs all over the United States. We got out of the business because it was too much work. Literally.
     
  6. Jeff Randall

    Jeff Randall ESEE Knives / Randall's Adventure & Training Staff Member

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    I've still get several incubators though
     
  7. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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  8. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    You might want to put Patrick and Hugh to doing something when they're just sitting around all day.
     
  9. Jeff Randall

    Jeff Randall ESEE Knives / Randall's Adventure & Training Staff Member

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    Hey, lunch is included for 770 a day. That's a bargain!
     
  10. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    I'm thinking "Expat™Knives and Quail Hunting"
     
  11. Rook52

    Rook52 Member

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    You southern boys, give me a grouse any day. That's how Wisconsin does it. Ha ha
     
  12. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    Well, waiting for the invitation......
     
  13. Rook52

    Rook52 Member

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    Once the leaves fall, come on up. I have 70 acres full of those timber chickens
     
  14. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    Dude, don't say it unless you're serious. My truck will be sitting outside of your house. I've never hunted grouse. It's on my bucket list. Looks really challenging from what I've seen on TV. Do you hunt them in the thick timber?
     
  15. Rook52

    Rook52 Member

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    Serious, I don't have a dog anymore but I just walk the thickets and flush hunt. Early October is pretty good but the leaves are so thick you have to wait till they fall.
    I have a old browning sweet 16, I love the way it pulls up.
    Your on for this fall, come on up!
     
  16. nathan shepherd

    nathan shepherd Member

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  17. nathan shepherd

    nathan shepherd Member

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  18. timdgsr

    timdgsr Member

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    Birmingham is on your way to Wisconsin. Just give me a days heads up and I'll pack a bag.
     
  19. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    Done.
     
  20. Wisdom

    Wisdom Member

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    I thought I was the last Quail hunter left alive! I have two pointers, but few birds in the area. Even the last trip out west was less than stellar. I've been carrying a blank pistol to fire on the flush. I hate to kill what few birds we have left around home. My dogs quickly got wise to that. Basically ruined them on wing and shot. Few things in life I enjoy more than busting a wild covey. However, most of the birds I actually shoot are low/slow flying 'preserve" birds.
     

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