Over 60 years ago, there was a boy living in Pike County (Pittsfield) that learned how to hunt. He lived on a farm and started to go after rabbits along with his big brother. This boy was me.
We had an old Stevens single-shot shotgun with no front sight which we would share. We would walk around our farm looking for rabbits. Occasionally, we would come upon a clump of grass and a covey of quail would burst out. This scared us quite a bit but also excited us too.
When my brother graduated and left the farm, I started hunting with my 4-H leader, Ralph Kern. He was an avid and exceptionally good quail hunter. He taught me a lot before I left for college.
Fast forward several years and I now live in Princeton. I found several places where I could go hunting pheasants, rabbits, and quail. I partnered up with Jim Smith and two things happened. One, I found a good hunting partner and two, he informed me where I could get a good pointer. He and I bought litter mate pointers. Jim and I had many a hunt together enjoying watching the dogs work and the fact that we got game. In the ’70s,’ there was more habitat and less coyotes. so we enjoyed our hunts together.
From the ’70s to the present, things changed. The numbers of pheasants and quail have dropped to very little. I do not hunt for them in Bureau County any more.
Recently, my son, who is stationed in Georgia, informed me that the area where he lives in the best quail hot spot in southern Georgia. This interested me a lot so I asked him to set up a hunt. I borrowed a beautiful 20 gauge shotgun from my friend Jerry Pattelli. It just so happened that the Marines where he is stationed was planning a hunt and I could go with them. Last week, my wife and I headed to Albany, Ga.
Kipp and I drove to this huge plantation to meet up with the rest of the Marines. We were divided into groups of four for the afternoon. Each group was given a guide (and dog handler), along with a jeep and trailer to carry us.
We got aboard and the guide headed out to part of the 1,000 acres to which we were assigned. The terrain was gently rolling with knee high grass with many pines that were quite a distance apart.
The guide zig-zagged to our area. We got out, loaded up, and started the hunt. Two hundred yards later, the pointers locked up. They held tight and he sent in his Brittany to flush them. I couldn’t shoot because of my other hunters but they dropped two.
Two hundred yards later, the pointers locked up again. Same procedure again and we got three more. We kept walking til the pointers lock up again. I got as much fun watching them as I did hunting. They were beautiful on point. We circled around and went back to he jeep. End of first hunt.
We were scheduled for three one-hour hunts. The guide drove to another spot and we got out again. I didn’t go this time because my hip was hurting. One hour later and many shots, they returned with several quail. We loaded up and drove to another spot.
Hunt three was similar to the others. Dogs point, flush, shots, retrieves, then continue. By the time our time was up, I think the dogs and hunters were tired enough to quit. We drove back to the plantation and disembarked. We put our shotguns away and headed into the building. Then we met our wives.
We sat down and relaxed in a room as large as a gymnasium that was filled with taxidermy mounts from the USA and Africa. After an hour of resting, they called all of us into a large dining room for the evening meal. After filling our plates with sides, they passed a gigantic platter of prime rib. What a feast.
I have never been treated like this on a hunt before. I have no idea the cost per person for the entire day but if people have it, I guess they can spend it. All I know is, I saw more quail in one day than in a previous lifetime. This was a hunt I will never forget.
• Don’t forget the Bureau County Pheasants Forever banquet on Feb. 22 at the Bureau County Metro Center. Doors open at 5 p.m. There will be raffles, products, and prizes galore.
Lee Wahlgren is the BCR Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com