Wednesday, March 13, 2013
A few years ago I spent time hunting with a dear friend in the Upstate. One morning while gearing up for a hunt, I noticed an interesting trophy mount in his equipment room: a bobcat taking a swipe at a quail. While hunting that elusive Bobwhite many years ago, right before taking the shot when the bird flushed, the bobcat popped up out of the brush, and ended up in my friend’s sights along with the quail. Both animals made a fine prize during that hunt, and a great story for years to come.
I have since been intrigued with quail hunting. The only quail hunting that I have done was not so glamorous. I was about 16-years-old, and my dad and I were to meet a friend at his property to hunt with his dogs. Dad and I arrived early, followed by our host.
Greetings and small-talk lasted a few minutes before we grabbed our guns and headed toward the truck. Dad asked our host if we were going to pick up his pointers at the kennel on the way to the field. Dad’s buddy let out a few choice words, and some animated expressions as he explained that he had forgotten to load the dogs. We had a nice stroll through the countryside that day.
Three 10-year-old boys had a different first time quail-hunting experience. Bryan Collins, Tim Collins and Jody McInerney took their boys to Cedar Swamp Quail Preserve in Kingstree for a weekend of father-son time, fine food and excellent Lowcountry hunting.
Owner, Leon Grayson, hosted the group providing a fine steak dinner Friday night and a hearty lunch on Saturday. Accomodations were provided by Bryan Collins at his nearby hunt club, White Oak.
After a country-style breakfast of venison sausage and hashbrown casserole, the group headed to the preserve to hunt with guide Raymond Cantley and his three dogs: two English Setters and one German Shorthair Pointer. The day would consist of two hunting sessions: boys in the morning, and the dads in the afternoon.
The three boys, Chase Collins, Hutson Collins and Ryan McInerney, headed out with their guide and dogs. The group decided that two shooters would hunt in front, with the third boy at the rear waiting to rotate to a front shooting position. The shooters, for safety and to practice accuracy, would each load one shell in their shotguns.
The dogs got to work, pointing and flushing Tennessee Reds and Bobwhite Quail. The boys took turns shooting, and rotating.
Despite the fact that collectively the boys had an impressive amount of hunting experience under their belts, such as multiple deer harvests, doves and ducks, shooting old Mr. Bobwhite proved quite the challenge.
McInerney stated that during the first part of the hunt the boys “didn’t cut a feather.” Chase Collins broke the ice and dropped the first bird. The boys continued shooting, and rotating until all of them had shot a bird – their first quail each. The dogs retrieved each bird, bringing them back to the handler.
McInerney stated that their guide, Raymond Cantley, was “so very patient.” He further stated that he (Cantley) was “just as patient, caring, and careful as you could ever be.”
The afternoon was reserved for the dads, despite much pressure from the boys to have another crack at the field.
Each dad took turns in similar fashion, and brought home some great birds. According to McInerney, there were some “bonus” birds taken, as well. Some pheasants that were leftover from a recent “tower shoot” were flushed and put in the game bag. Collins said that they may have even come into a covey of “natural” birds, in addition to the pen-raised birds reserved for the hunt.
Game bags full of birds, and a truckload of stories, the group headed home. Bacon wrapped quail with a little jalapeño makes a fine meal. Fortunately for these young hunters, nobody forgot the dogs on their trip. I am sure that they are busy planning their next Lowcountry adventure.
(Michael M. Cochran is an avid outdoorsmen and hunter.)